What to Do About Underground Yellowjackets, Now

Yellowjackets are beneficial insects that eat garden pests and pollinate certain plants through daily foraging. If left undisturbed, yellowjackets are typically not a problem; however, these wasps will defend their nest if they sense a threat to the colony.

Yellowjackets can sting and bite multiple times. and their stings can be painful and may be life-threatening for individuals hypersensitive to wasp venom.

The Contra Costa Mosquito & Vector Control District (District) provides inspection and treatment of ground-nesting yellowjacket nests specifically because of the risk they pose to public health.

The District’s yellowjacket service is specifically for ground-nesting yellowjackets because:

  • They establish colonies in abandoned rodent holes, in voids at the base of plant root systems, among railroad ties, and other assorted holes or openings in the ground.
  • Ground-nesting locations put yellowjackets in close proximity to people.
  • When a person is working in the yard, unknowingly near a ground-nesting yellowjacket nest, the colony can be disturbed causing the yellowjackets to defend their nest.
  • Yellowjackets can bite and sting repeatedly.

Early each year, there is an opportunity to trap yellowjacket queens to reduce the number of yellowjacket colonies, but right now, the best thing to do to reduce the risk of ground-nesting yellowjackets is to follow these tips:

  1. Keep garbage cans covered with tight-fighting lids to prohibit yellowjackets access to the garbage.
  2. Pick up fallen fruit that will attract yellowjackets, particularly late in the summer.
  3. Avoid swatting at or killing an annoying yellowjacket. When threatened, yellowjackets release a chemical (pheromone) that attracts other yellowjackets to come to their aid. That is why more arrive on the scene once you swat at one.

And if you encounter a ground-nesting yellowjacket nest on your property, contact the District to request ground-nesting yellowjacket service.

To make sure the District employee has the ability to find the nest for inspection and treatment, we need you to:

By following these tips and requesting the District’s ground-nesting yellowjacket service, you can reduce the risk of ground-nesting yellowjackets on your property for yourself and your family.

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2022’s Best States for Summer Road Trips – WalletHub Study

With nearly 80% of U.S. adults saying they will take some sort of road trip this summer, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Best & Worst States for Summer Road Trips, along with accompanying videos and expert commentary.

To help travelers plan a fun and wallet-friendly road trip, WalletHub compared the 50 U.S. states based on 32 key metrics. The data set ranges from the number of attractions to road conditions to costs.

WalletHub’s road trip report found that California ranks 30th nationally for summer driving, and you can find out why below.

Road Tripping in California (1=Best; 25=Avg.):

  • 1st – Number of Attractions
  • 18th – Lowest Price of Three-Star Hotel Room
  • 48th – Avg. Gas Prices
  • 6th – Nightlife Options per Capita
  • 9th – Vehicle Miles Traveled per Capita
  • 48th – Car Thefts per Capita
  • 2nd – Access to Scenic Byways
  • 47th – Lowest Price of Camping
  • 1st – Driving Laws Rating
  • 26th – Fatalities per 100 Million Vehicle Miles Traveled

Expert Commentary
 
Do you have any budget-saving tips for those looking to hit the open road? 
 
“With hotel prices back to pre-pandemic levels (and higher) as travel demand spikes, it is worth one’s while to plan ahead and explore accommodation options before the trip and not just wing accommodation while on the road. Also, if one is flexible, then traveling during off-peak times – weekdays, not during peak school vacation, etc. – can help get some really good rates on accommodation and better experiences in restaurants and destinations that are otherwise packed. For meals, making sure to carry food that can help keep the hunger at bay for as long as possible (avocados, nuts, trail mixes, etc.) can help cut down on that extra meal, which, over multiple days, can add up. Finally, given these extremely high gas prices, using an app (like Gasbuddy or Waze) to track the best places to fill up can help ease the burden on the wallet, particularly if the road trip is longer.”
Makarand Mody, Ph.D. – Associate Professor; Director of Research; Chair of Undergraduate Programs (Interim), Boston University School of Hospitality Administration
 
“Loyalty programs and credit card discounts can save money at the pump. Investigate offers available in your area, at your destination, and en route. For those flying, book as early as possible. Early morning and sometimes late-night flights are often cheaper because those flight times are less popular. If more than one airport services the area, check them all out when you compare fares. Prices can vary dramatically. Avoid purchasing food and beverages in airports. The prices charged are among the highest you will pay anywhere.”
Robert Hartwig – Director, Risk and Uncertainty Management Center; Clinical Associate Professor, University of South Carolina
 
Do you think more people will take road trips this summer than in previous years? 
 
“COVID has made road trips a popular travel option, particularly for those who are more anxious/vulnerable to the virus. While 2020 and 2021 saw record road trips being taken, 2022 has seen the return of air travel in a big way. As vaccination has become commonplace, we have better COVID treatments and the strains get supposedly weaker, Americans are likely to want to venture out to destinations beyond what road travel allows. I think we will not see the same increase in road trips that we saw in the last two years; in fact, we may even see a decrease as more people seek out more long-distance options.”
Makarand Mody, Ph.D. – Associate Professor; Director of Research; Chair of Undergraduate Programs (Interim), Boston University School of Hospitality Administration
 
“More Americans will travel than in 2021 and 2020, but high gas prices, rising airfares and prices, and pricey hotel stays will like to keep travel demand somewhat below 2019 (pre-pandemic levels).”
Robert Hartwig – Director, Risk and Uncertainty Management Center; Clinical Associate Professor, University of South Carolina
 
How can local officials enhance safety and promote tourism during the busy summer road trip season? 
 
“With most states and local jurisdictions getting rid of safety precautions in the form of masks or social distancing, COVID-related safety is certainly something that will be difficult to implement. I think tourism promotion and making up for the lost time is going to be top of mind for most destinations. At most, they can make suggestions for safety precautions; keep reminding people of the need to wear a mask, wash hands frequently, and socially distance wherever possible.”
Makarand Mody, Ph.D. – Associate Professor; Director of Research; Chair of Undergraduate Programs (Interim), Boston University School of Hospitality Administration
 
“Different regions have different ideas about what they want for their communities. As tourism professionals, we should not be dictating what is right or wrong. Rather, we should be listening to our stakeholders and especially our community members and business owners. We should work with them to promote tourism in the form and fashion they are most comfortable with.”
Justin Taillon – Professor; Department Head, Hospitality & Tourism Management, Highline College   

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The Drawbridges of the Delta

Three-Mile Slough Draw Bridge

By Aleta George from Estuary News Magazine 

The moveable bridges that cross the rivers and sloughs in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta were built in the first half of the 20th century, and most are operated by control panels as old as the bridges themselves. A day spent touring these strong-boned grande dames on backwater levee roads or zigzagging across the Sacramento River on scenic State Route 160 is time well spent. But that’s leisure time, and for the tens of thousands of commuters who use the heavily trafficked corridors of the Delta, the four-to-twenty-minute wait for a bridge to open for marine vessels can be frustrating.

Although vehicles far outnumber vessels these days, watercraft has the right of way. “When we open the bridge, we follow United States Coast Guard rules and regulations,” says Rio Vista Bridge operator Phil Pezzaglia, citing federal regulations for navigation and navigable waters that a drawbridge must open “promptly and fully” upon request from a vessel.

When road vehicles proliferated a century ago, bridges were needed to cross the waterways of the 55 constructed islands in the Delta. Today, on Georgiana Slough and the Sacramento, Mokelumne, and San Joaquin rivers alone, there are 22 narrow moveable bridges that represent three types: Bascule bridges that leaf open with the help of concrete counterweights; swing bridges that pivot from a fixed, central point; and vertical lift bridges that raise a segment of the roadway between two towers. On average, the two-lane bridges are 23-feet wide, a tight squeeze for two seven-foot-wide full-size SUVs to pass.

All the bridges in the Delta are controlled by operators or tenders, who are either stationed at the bridge house or on call. Hope Kirch, 77 years old, has been an operator at the Walnut Grove Bridge for 21 years. Built in 1951, this Bascule bridge connects east and west Walnut Grove. 

“The Walnut Grove Bridge is our gem,” says Bill Rowton, bridge operations supervisor for Sacramento County, which manages the bridge along with four others. 

I visited the bridge one spring morning with Kirch on duty in the bridge house. Before opening upon request from a vessel by phone, radio, or a long and short blast of their horn, Kirch sounds a warning bell and goes outside to ensure the bridge is clear. Once the cars have stopped and the bridge is free of pedestrians, she lowers the traffic safety gates and moves inside to open the bridge from the original control panel. 

The two leaves open and rise in the middle with a grinding metallic sound, causing nesting swallows to panic and fly in circles. When Kirch isn’t opening or closing the bridge, she enjoys watching river otters, sea lions, and swallows from the bridge house.

Roughly 6,600 vehicles cross Walnut Grove Bridge daily, but on an early Saturday morning only about 20 vehicles had to wait for the four-minute opening. In 2021, the bridge opened 591 times, less than two times a day. 

Different agencies own, manage, and operate the bridges. Caltrans District 4 is in charge of six, including the Mokelumne River Bridge. Built in 1942, this swing bridge crosses the Mokelumne River on California SR-12 and has the greatest number of openings among all Delta bridges. In 2019, the bridge made way for boats approximately 1,600 times, says Pezzaglia. Nestled into tules on the banks of the river below the bridge, I clocked a seven-minute swing. While seven minutes doesn’t sound like long, traffic can back up fast with up to 21,000 vehicles driving SR-12 daily, with nearly all of those crossing the Mokelumne and Rio Vista bridges.

The Rio Vista Bridge (also called the Helen Madere Memorial Bridge) is one of five vertical lift bridges in California, and you can see its two lift towers from miles away. The original Rio Vista Bridge was a Bascule bridge (like the Walnut Grove Bridge) built in 1918. Construction of a new bridge started in 1943 on the east side, but due to World War II steel shortages didn’t conclude until 1960, when it was named the most beautiful steel bridge in its class by the American Institute of Steel Construction.

The 306-foot-long lift span provides 135 feet of vertical clearance for vessels, a height that is necessary to accommodate cargo ships traveling to the Port of Sacramento in the Sacramento River Deep Water Ship Channel. Last year the bridge opened 974 times, an average of less than three times a day.

The process of lifting and lowering the span for marine traffic requires vehicles to stop for about 20 minutes, a significant wait made longer when cars ignore the amber, then red, lights signaling that the bridge is about to close to traffic. “At an intersection, people stop their cars at a red light. When you have a bridge with a red light, it seems people say, ‘Put your foot on the gas!’” Pezzaglia says. “I have counted as many as 50 cars that blow through the red light.”

Once the cars do stop, Pezzaglia engages the safety gates on the roadway and walkway, and raises the safety barriers. These precautions are warranted. According to a 1944 article in the Sacramento Bee, a tomato farmer travelling across the old bridge didn’t notice that the span was opening. By the time he did, he had to jump out of his truck. His truck smashed into the side of the bridge, the farmer got 36 stitches, and the bridge was left with a ketchup clean-up.

On the modern-day bridge, the operator pushes buttons and levers on the control panel (the original from the 1960s) to lift the span at 50 to 60 feet per minute. A safety feature ensures that both sides are rising equally. If a five-inch skew is surpassed, the process will stop.

But it wasn’t a screwy skew that infamously gummed up the Rio Vista Bridge in 2018; it was a failed gear box. At about 2:30 pm on Thursday, August 9, the operator opened the bridge, but couldn’t get it down and traffic backed up for miles. Specialty crews from Caltrans District 3 (which owns the bridge) and District 4 (which maintains and operates it) were able to lower the lift span by Saturday. Then it was stuck in the down position. To accommodate vessels, a team of electricians and engineers devised a workaround with fuel-powered winches, and crews with radios on both towers coordinated a lift  that would not exceed that five-inch skew. They used the technique to raise and lower the bridge for more than three weeks until the repaired gear box came back from the manufacturer.

To ensure that nothing like this recurred, Caltrans put in place an emergency repair plan to upgrade the bridge’s mechanical and electrical systems. New backup drives for each tower have been installed, and next year Caltrans will put in new drives for the main system. Upgrades to the bridge house include an automated identification system for tracking vessels and a camera system to monitor the bridge. The estimated cost of the emergency upgrade is $32 million, which will include a new lightweight pavement for the lift span. 

The steel bridges in the Delta are old, but safe and sound, says Caltrans project manager Soka Soka. “On the Rio Vista Bridge we’re putting in a new electro-mechanical operating system to catch up with the available, modern technologies. It’s like we’re giving life to an old thing with new blood circulation.”

Yet even with a new circulatory system, the Rio Vista Bridge will take 20 minutes to lift and lower, a wait made more bearable if only commuters would embrace the views of pontists (old-bridge enthusiasts) who travel to the Delta to enjoy the unique history of these grande old dames.

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Real hot weather – How to stay cool and sleep at night

Weather.com forecast

Tuesday – forecast 104 record high 110

Wednesday – forecast 102 record high 114

Thursday – forecast 98 record high 117

Friday – forecast 97 record high 110

Saturday – forecast 96 record high 102

Creative Ways to Stay Cool 

  1. Cool your pulse points by running cold water or ice cubes over your wrists for a few minutes. Because the veins are closest to the surface of your skin here, the cooling sensation works much faster to lift the heat from your whole body.
  2. Place a cold cloth or cold pack on the back of your neck and leave it there for at least 5 minutes.
  3. Eat small meals rather than large ones as digestion raises the body’s core temperature.
  4. Freeze a couple of water bottles (freeze one for Fido, too, and put it in the pet’s bed to keep him cool) and use them to cool down pulse points.
  5. Fill a bowl with cool water, and dip your little piggies right in. Add some ice if you’re brave, but don’t overdo it. 
  6. Freeze your sheets, gather your bedsheets into a bag and place them in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before bed.
  7. Pick a fight with your significant other just before bedtime. That way you don’t have to sleep with that heavy-breathing, heat-radiating mammal for once. Sleeping alone has its perks, including plenty of space to stretch out. Snoozing in spread-eagle position (with your arms and legs not touching each other) is best for reducing body heat and letting air circulate around your body.
  8. Turn off the lights. Take advantage of natural light as much as possible. Keep rooms cool after dark by using lights minimally or not at all.
  9. Cool a whole room by hanging a wet sheet in front of an open window. The breeze blowing in will quickly bring down the room’s temperature.
  10. Sleep like an Egyptian. Those Nile-dwellers knew how to do it right. The “Egyptian method” involves dampening a sheet or towel in cool water and using it as a blanket. Place a dry towel under your body to avoid soaking the mattress.
  11. Place a Fan In Front of a Bowl of Ice, put a bowl of ice (or frozen water bottles) in front of a regular fan. The air from the fan will blow several degrees cooler, providing some relief from the heat.
  12. Get a leg up on hydration by drinking a glass of water before bed. Tossing and turning and sweating at night can result in dehydration, so get some H2O in the tank beforehand.
  13. Protect your pets. A couple of ice cubes in their water bowl can also make a big difference and, of course, keep them out of hot cars.

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A Spare the Air Alert is in effect Tuesday, June 21, for the San Francisco Bay Area.

A Spare the Air Alert is in effect Tuesday, June 21, for the San Francisco Bay Area. 

Concentrations of ground-level ozone pollution are forecast to be unhealthy. High levels of ozone pollution are harmful to breathe, especially for young children, seniors and those with respiratory and heart conditions.  

Exhaust from vehicles on Bay Area roads accounts for more than half of the air pollution in the region. Bay Area residents are asked to drive less to reduce smog and improve air quality in the region. Residents are also encouraged to consider an all-electric vehicle as their next vehicle purchase to help reduce the amount of gas-powered vehicles that contribute to unhealthy smog.   

Change your daily commute by carpooling, vanpooling, taking transit, biking or walking instead of driving alone. Doing this will help reduce pollution levels and health concerns when temperatures are high. To learn how to change your commute online, visit 511.org.

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All Abilities Day at Big Break: June 28

June 28, 2022. 10:00am-2:00pm

Free – Unlimited openings

Explore nature at your own pace and way. This program is inclusive for all abilities, offering something for everyone! Travel along paved trails to visit stations to touch fur, listen to birds, draw wildlife, sit on benches to scan the water, or paint the view. Drop in anytime between 10am and 2pm. Indoor and outdoor options, wheelchair accessible.

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Sunday Reading – 06/19/2022

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

Why Cursing Is Actually Beneficial for Your Mental Health – …But mindful profanity, of the sort that is meant for one’s own emotional release, or to inject levity or understanding into a conversation with another, can be a potent tool. Brooks cites a study where various participants plunging their hands into frigid water actually experienced less pain when they swore. In interpersonal relationships, meanwhile, people choice swearing has been shown to engender camaraderie and neutralize social distress.

…But in identifying reasonably appropriate situations, or going out on a lark where you think you (and those around you) just might benefit from some profanity, you might find a couple curses here and there well worth it.

Brooks recommends retaining some metacongition on your expletives (that’s to say — making sure you’re always aware you’re saying them, instead of just letting them fly without any meaning attached), rationing them so they’re “nice and fresh” and never using them to abuse or harass another person, at which point all of your credibility is lost. Not to mention: if you do want to curse as a response to anger and frustration, consider creating a “swear space” in your life (a room, a time you’re in your car), where you can deploy them as a form of scream therapy. Read More > at InsideHook

Does Affordable Housing Make the Surrounding Neighborhood Less Affordable? – Could building affordable housing make the surrounding neighborhoods less affordable? That’s the finding of a recent research brief from the Urban Institute showing the construction of income-restricted affordable housing units was associated with rising prices for nearby homes.

The Urban Institute brief from April 2022, written by researchers Christina Stacy and Christopher Davis, looked at the impact of 40 developments on home prices in Alexandria, Virginia. The examined projects include both wholly affordable projects—where all units are offered at below-market rates to lower-income renters—and market-rate projects that included some affordable set-aside units.

The two researchers found that these projects increased home prices within a sixteenth of a mile by .09 percent. When largely market-rate developments were excluded from the analysis, home prices increased by an even higher .11 percent.

Affordable housing projects also increased housing prices more in lower-income census tracts than in higher-income census tracts. They increased home prices by .17 percent in census tracts where median incomes were below Alexandria’s median income and .06 percent in census tracts where median incomes were above Alexandria’s median income.

Stacy and Davis frame their findings as a refutation of a common criticism of publicly subsidized affordable housing development: that it will decrease nearby homeowners’ property values. Read More > at Reason

The Criminal Order Beneath the ‘Chaos’ of San Francisco’s Tenderloin – The epicenter of the political earthquakes rattling San Francisco’s progressive establishment is a 30-square-block neighborhood in the center of downtown known as the Tenderloin. Adjacent to some of the city’s most famous attractions, including the high-end shopping district Union Square, the old money redoubt of Nob Hill, historic Chinatown, and the city’s gold-capped City Hall, it is home to a giant, open-air drug bazaar. Tents fill the sidewalks. Addicts sit on curbs and lean against walls, nodding off to their fentanyl and heroin fixes, or wander around in meth-induced psychotic states. Drug dealers stake out their turf and sell in broad daylight, while the immigrant families in the five-story, pre-war apartment buildings shepherd their kids to school, trying to maintain as normal an existence as they can.

The crime and disorder of the Tenderloin may appear to be symptoms of deep and mysterious sociological forces. Chesa Boudin, who was ousted last week as San Francisco’s district attorney because of his lenient policies, argued, “We can’t arrest and prosecute our way out of the problems that are afflicting the Tenderloin.”

But there is a fairly straightforward kind of order beneath the chaos: an illicit market economy operating in plain sight. The Tenderloin is home to two sprawling, overlapping transnational organized crime networks – one centered on drugs and the other on theft – which thrive in that neighborhood because of the near-total absence of the enforcement of laws.

Crowded onto its street corners and inside the tents congesting the sidewalk, countless petty criminals play their roles in a structured and symbiotic criminal enterprise. Its denizens fall into four main groups: the boosters, typically homeless and addicted, who steal from local stores; the street fences who buy the stolen merchandise; the dealers who sell them drugs for the money they make from the fences; and, at the top of the stack, the drug cartel that supplies the dealers and the wholesale fences that resell the goods acquired by street fences. Each has a role to play in keeping the machine moving, and the police know exactly how to disrupt it.

Experts say the city could, in fact, arrest and prosecute its way out of most of the problems in the Tenderloin if it chose to. It thrives, instead, as a zone of lawless sovereignty in the heart of a major American city – the criminal version of the area commanded by Seattle anarchists in the so-called Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, in 2020. Where those extra-legal districts were eventually dismantled, the Tenderloin’s structure is entrenched. Read More > at Real Clear Investigations

Geico must pay $5.2 million to woman who got HPV from sex in man’s insured car, court rules – Geico must pay a Missouri woman $5.2 million after she caught HPV from unprotected sex with her then-boyfriend in his insured automobile, a state appellate court ruled.

The woman — identified in court papers only as “M.O.” — said that she “engaged in unprotected sexual activities in Insured’s vehicle” in November and December 2017 and that he “negligently caused or contributed to” her catching the human papillomavirus (HPV), a common sexually transmitted infection, court papers said.

After Geico turned down her claim, M.O. took the matter to an arbitrator, who found in her favor before a court affirmed the $5.2 million judgment, the appeals court said. Read More > at NBC News

Amazon’s Prime Air service will begin making drone deliveries in California this year – Starting later this year, the company will begin making drone deliveries in Lockeford, California, Amazon announced in a blog post spotted by The Verge. The pilot program will see the company’s UAVs carry “thousands” of different items directly to the backyards of Amazon customers in the area. “Their feedback about Prime Air, with drones delivering packages in their backyards, will help us create a service that will safely scale to meet the needs of customers everywhere,” Amazon said.

Before the pilot can get underway, Amazon still needs to secure Part 135 certification from the Federal Aviation Administration. On that front, the company is playing catchup with competitors like Walmart and Wing, both of which announced recent expansions to their respective pilots. Amazon also hasn’t said what products it will offer through the service. It’s likely to share those details soon.

According to Amazon, part of the reason it has taken it so long to get Prime Air to this point is the more complex drone service it wants to build. The company notes it has spent much of the last decade developing an “industry-leading” navigation system that will allow its drones to avoid both static and moving objects. Developing that system hasn’t been without its challenges. In 2021, for instance, five of the company’s drones crashed over a four-month period, according to reporting from Bloomberg. But today’s announcement would indicate Amazon is confident enough in the system to begin using it out in the real world. Read More > at Engadget

There Will Be No Just Energy Transition Without Mining In Our Backyards – Reducing carbon emissions to reach a 2050 “net zero” world – while realistically meeting ongoing energy demands – will require a massive ramp up in the production of electric vehicles (EVs), solar panels, wind turbines, geothermal plants, and their associated infrastructure. But this welcome transition comes with a catch; these systems all rely on prodigious amounts of critical minerals plus other metals.  And we cannot get anywhere close to the quantity of these needed materials in a sustainable way unless wealthy developed countries are willing to allow, indeed pursue, a significant increase in mining within their borders.  

The supply problem is relatively straightforward.  To obtain metals we can do two things: recycling or mining.  Recycling – reusing the stock of metals that we have already extracted from the earth – is an important source. But the world does not dispose of enough recyclable metal products to supply what we need (even if all countries pursued aggressive, western-style recycling policies).   Consider that it would take recycling the copper of at least four internal combustion engine vehicles to produce enough for one relatively modest electric vehicle.  

Additionally, many of the elements used in modern devices were not used in older products.  And for those that do exist in older products, the technology does not yet exist to economically release the metals for re-use elsewhere.  Limiting consumption is important but it is unrealistic to expect reductions sufficient for recycling to meet the needs of developing societies and growing economies where most of the world’s population lives. 

So achieving shared climate goals via energy transition will require extracting more – much more — of the needed materials from the earth.  Yet the most recent report of the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group contained no reference to mining.  This unfortunate omission signals a significant blind spot on the part of government officials, corporate leaders, and activists alike. 

Ultimately, these materials will have to come from somewhere.  For example, Chile and Peru contain the world’s largest reserves of copper. The Democratic Republic of Congo hosts the greatest known resources of cobalt.  Russia and South Africa have the largest reserves of platinum, palladium, and the other platinoid metals. China is the dominant processor of EV battery minerals and source of rare earth elements.  These are not the only countries in which these materials can be found.  In many cases, ample deposits also exist in wealthier democracies.  But lower production costs – aided commonly by laxer environmental and labor standards – provide a decided economic advantage compared to technologically advanced democracies in the West.  Read More > at Real Clear Energy

Not backsliding on clean energy’: Officials say California’s proposed 5 GW reserve could be heavy on gas – California’s energy system is facing a host of simultaneous challenges. While the state has added more than 4 GW of net qualifying capacity since last summer — more than 2.7 GW of which is available at 8 p.m., a particularly precarious time for the state’s grid given high electricity demand coupled with waning solar generation — the grid is still vulnerable due to extreme drought, heat waves and other disruptions, California Independent System Operator President and CEO Elliot Mainzer said Thursday.

The grid operator has determined that the state is currently facing an estimated 1,700 MW capacity shortfall compared to meeting industry reliability standards. That figure could be as high as 5,000 MW if California experiences simultaneous extreme events, like regional heatwaves and large wildfires. And these challenges are occurring against the backdrop of several planned retirements, including the 2.2 GW Diablo Canyon nuclear plant and a suite of gas-fired plants in the coming years. 

“The bottom line is that despite considerable progress, we continue to face risks to reliability this summer and for the next several years,” Mainzer said. 

Newsom’s revised budget proposal included $8 billion for the state’s energy system, including the $5.2 billion electricity reserve. The reserve – a statewide resource capable of providing up to 5,000 MW of emergency generation – will not take the place of power providers’ current procurement obligations. Read More > at Utility Dive

California budget: Big surplus, big differences – California lawmakers approved a $300 billion state budget today, but it is far from final as legislative leaders continue to negotiate with Gov. Gavin Newsom over items including a proposed multibillion-dollar rebate to taxpayers.

The Legislature adopted the record spending plan anyway, to meet a constitutional requirement that members pass a balanced budget by Wednesday or forgo their pay. The bill will be sent this week to Newsom, who then has 12 days to sign or veto it — another critical deadline that should propel the two sides toward a deal.

The start of the next fiscal year looms on July 1, less than three weeks away. Yet the budget process will likely extend well beyond that date, as lawmakers pass follow-up measures amending provisions of their spending plan to reflect compromises with the governor. That’s what happened last year, when Newsom and legislative leaders announced an agreement in late June and continued to put finishing touches on it into August.

Newsom and the Democratic-controlled Legislature share general values for state spending and their budget proposals have broadly similar frameworks. But with an unprecedented amount of money at their disposal — unexpectedly strong recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, especially among the wealthiest Californians, has produced a discretionary surplus of almost $49 billion, state officials estimate — they have yet to agree on many of the details. Read More > at CalMatters

After the surplus, buckle up for the deficit – California has a near-$100 billion budget surplus, which has set off a completely predictable pit fight in Sacramento over how to spend the extra cash. Let’s take a vote.  The best thing to spend the surplus on is:

A) Expanding social programs or 

B) One-time expenditures (to be safe).  

The Democratic majority in the Legislature will choose option A. Gov. Gavin Newsom has been trying to play the adult at the budget table and is pushing for option B. Unfortunately, there should be an option C: none of the above. 

While it is understood that our surplus is temporary, even Newsom’s approach misses the underlying issue. The surplus is being driven by California’s personal income taxes. On average, they make up 25% of the state’s revenues, and in fiscal year 2022-23 they will constitute a full two-thirds. 

The surplus is driven by the high marginal tax rate on high-income earners. When financial markets are hot, tax revenues surge. 

The Department of Finance made this clear in its revenue report when it showed the history of capital gains for taxpayers in the state. This is income earned from various forms of capital transactions — selling property far above its buying price, for example, or income from a tech firm going public. Such income accrues mainly to very high-income Californians, who are subject to the state’s excessively high marginal tax on high incomes. Over the last two years, state income from capital gains taxes has been close to $250 billion, twice as high as ever before and four times the average. A record surplus is no surprise.

What the markets giveth, however, the markets taketh away. 

The last two periods of high capital gains occurred in the late 1990s and then again when the dot-com and subprime mortgage bubbles overheated the economy. 

When those markets crashed, so too did asset values and, of course, capital gains. Huge budget surpluses were followed by huge budget deficits. 

Here we go again. Read More > at CalMatters

The Great California Exodus… to MEXICO: Thousands flock south of the border to escape the crippling cost of living under Biden and Governor Gavin Newsom – Thousands of Californians are fleeing to Mexico amid the soaring cost of living in the golden state. Americans taking advantage of work from home are reaping the benefits of US salaries, while living off Mexico’s cheaper lifestyle.

Others are living in Mexico, while commuting to work in the US. But critics have argued that the influx of Americans in cities south of the border has begun to price out local Mexicans.

It comes amid a wider exodus of Californians to other states across the US, including Texas, Washington, and Arizona.  

Many feel forced out by rocketing inflation in the golden state that has gas, grocery, and living costs soaring under Governor Gavin Newsom. Read More > in the Daily Mail

Healthy Brains Can Get as Hot as 105 Degrees, Study Finds – People might be more hotheaded than we thought. In new research this week, scientists say they were able to create the first maps of healthy people’s brain temperatures. Their findings indicate that brain temperature varies widely depending on many factors, like the time of day and region of the brain, but that it’s typically warmer than the rest of our body.

…Overall, the average brain temperature for both groups was right around 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit (38.5 degrees Celsius), which was higher than their temperature taken orally. But there was a lot of variability in the readings. People’s brain temperature was typically lower at night, for instance, and higher in the deeper regions of the brain than near the surface. Women and older people tended to have higher temperatures as well. The team’s findings are published in the journal Brain.

Other research has shown that our body temperature isn’t quite as static as people assume, and that it often varies from the supposed gold standard of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. But most of our knowledge about the brain’s heat comes from studying people in the hospital, since it’s much easier to monitor them constantly. Newer techniques have made it much easier to non-invasively take the brain’s temperature, and using these findings, the team was able to produce a 4D temperature map (showing changes over space and time) of the healthy brain, which they’ve dubbed HEATWAVE.

The findings will have to be validated by other researchers, but they could have important medical implications. For one, it’s long been assumed that having a hot brain in general can raise the risk of serious complications. But in healthy brains, the team observed that temperatures could go high as 105.62 degrees Fahrenheit with seemingly no problems. And even in patients who were in critical condition, the team didn’t find a clear link between higher brain temperature and their odds of survival. What did appear to be more predictive of survival was whether a patient’s brain temperature was changing as expected throughout the day—their rhythm, in other words. Read More > at Gizmodo

Ohio Teachers Can Carry Guns With 24 Hours of Training – The state says in a new law that teachers need only 24 hours of training—not 700—in order to carry a gun in a school setting. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed this change into law on Monday.

Seven hundred hours of training certainly seems excessive. Surely, whatever needs to be covered in terms of gun safety should be able to be taught in a much shorter amount of time.

But should teachers be allowed to be armed in the first place? Some argue that it will help stop school shootings. It’s “probably the most important thing we have done to prevent a school shooter in Ohio,” said state Sen. Niraj Antani (R–Dayton) on the Senate floor.

Others may suggest that teachers don’t lose their Second Amendment rights when they go to work. Of course, many workplaces prohibit firearms on premises without anyone considering it a big affront to the Second Amendment.

And many teachers are agents of the state, charged with watching the children of families that may have little choice but to send them to the local public school. That shades the situation a little differently.

Are teachers with guns just exercising their rights and protecting their students? Or does this amount to stationing ample armed guards at sites of public education? Read More > at Reason

Self-driving tractors could be widespread on California farms by next year – It’s a technology that appears to be out ahead of the vaunted self-driving passenger car. Notoriously, the auto industry’s onetime forecast that there would be 10 million self-driving passenger cars on the road by 2020 did not come to pass. But while Waymo and Cruise sedans continue to plod experimentally through the streets of San Francisco, a Livermore company called Monarch is aiming to deploy fleets of its driver-optional electric tractors to vineyards and farms by the end of this year.

That’s pending a decision expected Thursday from the state’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health. Monarch has asked the board to amend a regulation from the 1970s that prohibits the use of autonomous agricultural equipment without an operator. Monarch CEO Praveen Penmetsa contends it’s time to change that rule, given his tractor’s safety record and potential to help advance farming. Groups including the California Farm Bureau and the California Association of Winegrape Growers agree.

But critics say Monarch hasn’t proved that its tractors are safe enough in their autonomous state.

The Monarch can do a lot of things, according to Penmetsa, who has been working in the electric-vehicle space since the early 2000s. Its electric batteries will reduce farmers’ reliance on fuel, cut down on emissions and eventually even enable them to sell power back to the grid, he said. Its smart functions may allow farmers to detect problems in their crops early, to identify water stress, to apply sprays with more precision and offer other advantages.

But it’s the Monarch’s driver-optional feature that has become its most salient point of differentiation — and, with the Cal/OSHA petition, its source of controversy.

The appeal of an autonomous tractor for those who own farms is clear. Amid a long-term shortage of agricultural labor, farmers could use their workforce more efficiently. Instead of having one driver on every tractor, a single employee could oversee multiple tractors remotely. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

50 Years Later, the Motive Behind Watergate Remains Clouded – One strange thing about Watergate, the scandal that led Richard Nixon to resign as president, is that 50 years later we still don’t know who ordered the core crime or why.

This was the crime: On June 17, 1972, a squad of five bagmen, all with at least past connections to the CIA, broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) in the Watergate office building. They were supervised by James McCord, director of security for Nixon’s reelection committee.

McCord made a series of baffling decisions that made being caught far more likely.

To start, he taped open locks on doors to ease the way for the burglars, who were delayed in breaking in because a staffer was working late to cadge phone calls on the DNC’s dime. A passing security guard easily detected the unsubtle subterfuge and re-locked them….

Even Nixon administration figures who ended up doing time in prison due to the shock waves from that peculiar break-in, such as former White House counsel John Dean, former special counsel Chuck Colson, and former Attorney General John N. Mitchell, never seemed to understand themselves the whys behind the scandal that ended up with them disgraced and imprisoned.

Some of his notorious office tape recordings reveal Nixon himself seemingly unsure. Though the recordings show a ruthless president determined to protect himself at any cost, they also demonstrate a frequent bafflement about what his supposed subordinates are doing. “What in hell is this?” Nixon asked Dean, the chief architect of the cover-up, as they discussed the Watergate burglary itself. “What is the matter with these people? Are they crazy?”

Five decades later, despite 30,000 pages of declassified FBI investigative reports, 16,091 pages of Senate hearing transcripts, 740 pages of White House tape transcriptions, and scores of histories of the scandal and memoirs by its participants, we still know more about the cover-up than we do about the break-in. Read More > at Reason

USA Today to Remove 23 Articles After Investigation Into Fabricated Sources – USA Today has removed 23 articles from its website after an investigation into a reporter’s work revealed fabricated sources, according to people briefed on the decision.

The internal investigation, which took place over a period of several weeks, began after USA Today received an inquiry related to the veracity of details in an article by Gabriela Miranda. Ms. Miranda was a breaking news reporter at USA Today, according to the people who would speak only on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Ms. Miranda resigned from USA Today in recent weeks, as the investigation progressed, one of the people said. Her most recent article for USA Today was published on April 17.

During the investigation, USA Today concluded that Ms. Miranda took steps to deceive investigators by producing false evidence of her news gathering, including recordings of interviews, one of the people said.

Ms. Miranda’s articles that have been removed include coverage related to Texas’ ban on abortion after six weeks, the reaction of women in Ukraine to the war there and a guide to sunscreen. Read More > in The New York Times

15 people on terror watch list were captured sneaking across the southern border in May – Border Patrol agents nabbed 15 people at the southern border in May who were on the FBI’s terrorist screening database, showing the free-for-all along the U.S.-Mexico boundary is unabated.

The number of people on the terrorist watch list caught crossing the border is a record for any month, equaling all of 2021 and more than the Border Patrol found from 2017 to 2020 combined.

They were among nearly 240,000 total border jumpers Customs and Border Protection nabbed in May, marking the worst month on record for the Biden administration.

Beneath those numbers is something worse.

CBP had nearly 12,000 people in custody on any given day but ousted less than half of the illegal immigrants it encountered. The rest were either released outright at the border or transferred to other agencies, most of which would release them. Read More > in The Washington Times

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Summer Solstice Sunset Walk – BIG BREAK: June 21, 2022, 7:30-9:00PM.

Celebrate the longest day of the year with an evening exploration of the delta.

Drop-in Program. Free Program. Meet at the Visitor Center.

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Get ready for another gas tax increase

From CalMatters

July 1 is shaping up to be a big day for California.

That’s when the Golden State’s sky-high gas prices are set to tick up even more due to a scheduled increase to the excise tax rate, which will tack nearly 3 cents per gallon onto prices at the pump. On Wednesday, drivers were already paying an average of $6.44 for a gallon of regular gas, compared to the national average of $5.01.

July 1 also marks the dawn of California’s new fiscal year — although the state’s spending plan is far from finalized. Lawmakers on Wednesday sent to Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk a $300 billion placeholder budget, which the governor criticized earlier this week for failing to include “more immediate, direct relief to help millions more families with rising gas, groceries and rent prices.”

A similar message was struck Wednesday by a group of Republican lawmakers, who gathered outside the state Capitol in front of a huge “100” constructed out of bright orange traffic cones. According to the GOP legislators, Friday will mark 100 days since Newsom first floated the idea of gas tax relief in his March State of the State speech.

  • Assembly Republican Leader James Gallagher of Yuba City: “We are still waiting with no relief in sight, fighting over $400 or $200 that they’ll send to you. And that’s not enough. We need action now. We’ve been calling since January to suspend the gas tax, the quickest, easiest way to provide relief to every California consumer on gas prices right now. If we had done it … everyone would have saved over $2,400 right now.”
  • GOP Assemblymember Suzette Martinez Valladares of Valencia: “The cost of a gallon of gas in my district is equivalent to five cans of baby formula, or roughly two weeks of feedings. I know single moms are choosing to fill up only half of their tanks so they can make sure they have the money for baby formula. This is heartbreaking.”

But it isn’t just Republicans who have pushed to postpone gas taxes during an election year when many voters cite the cost of living as a major issue.

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How to buy a used car online

by A. Tarantola @terrortola June 13th, 2022 from Engadget

Despite what Dunkin’ Donuts would have you believe, America runs on gasoline. We are a nation of drivers with a transit infrastructure geared overwhelmingly towards automobile travel (with fewer than one percent of those on US roads today being of the electric variety). We’re awash in cars (276 million were registered in the US as of 2020) with around 14 million new light duty trucks and passenger vehicles being sold annually, and nearly three times that amount (around 40 million) in used cars.

Those figures slumped noticeably during the COVID lockdowns in 2020 and 2021, but now that travel restrictions have eased and life returns to a semblance of the old “normal,” demand for vehicles has spiked dramatically since the industry’s massive nosedive in April 2020. Combine that with low supplies of new vehicles due to the ongoing global processor chip shortage, and compounded by rising interest rates brought on by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the price for used vehicles has skyrocketed.

For used cars up to ten years old, the average price in March stood at $33,653, 40 percent higher than the year before. Newer used cars, those 1 to 3 years old, the average price was $41,000, up 37 percent year-over-year. “With nearly empty new car lots across the country, dealers have been holding prices of newer used cars high,” CoPilot CEO and founder Pat Ryan, told CNBC in April.

People are looking longer for used cars — around 171 days on average, up from 89 before the lockdowns, according to car shopping site, CoPilot — and paying top dollar for what they find. It’s not quite as bad as the new vehicle market where paying over MSRP has become the rule, rather than the exception. Prices for used vehicles have declined slightly in recent months, down 6.4 percent from January, but remain well above the pre-pandemic average.

“It’s potentially becoming a bit deflationary in that regard,” Jonathan Smoke, chief economist at Cox Automotive told CNBC in May, though he doubts it will immediately lead to a strong price correction. “This is not a commodity market that people are speculating, and used vehicles are assets that actually provide utility to folks.”

“We had an unusual circumstance over the last two years that stimulated demand, and we have limited supply,” he said.

Between the stiff competition, a short supply of available autos and a rapidly evolving market that takes place as much online as it does dealer lots, today’s car buyer faces some daunting prospects in their pursuit of a freshly used car. But there are still plenty of deals to be found, you just need to know where and how to look. But first, you need to decide what you’re looking for and how much you’re willing to spend for it.

What kind of car you need depends on what you plan to do with it. If you’re being unfairly forced back to the office and are looking for a daily commuter, you’re obviously going to want to look more towards smaller hatchbacks and sedans rather than commercial duty pickups — the reverse being true if you own a landscaping business. If you’ve got “$7-a-gallon-doesn’t-phase-me” money, maybe you’re better served commuting in an SUV instead. I don’t know, you do you.

Point is, you want to start with a nebulous idea of what you’ll generally use the vehicle for, then drill down through body type, drivetrain and engine types, into specific makes and models, options and model years until you’ve gotten a solid idea of what you want in a car and which cars will provide that (an excel sheet with all of this information — make, model, years to avoid or specifically look for, average price used, etc — can help you organize the process.) Then you get to take a looooong look at your bank balance and adjust your expectations accordingly.

While you’re doing your initial research, make sure to familiarize yourself with your local consumer protection laws, such as California’s Lemon Law. Doing so will help you spot any seller shenanigans before money changes hands.

Cox Automotive

As you can see in the chart above from the March 2022 Manheim Used Vehicle Value Index report, which follows the wholesale price of used vehicle sales, valuations have risen rapidly over the past two years. Before you start actively looking at vehicle listings, take a look around reputable car valuation sites like Kelley Blue BookEdmundsConsumer Reports or JD Power’s NADA guide to get a sense of what the vehicles on your list will likely set you back. Similarly, CarFax can provide vehicle history reports indicating a vehicle’s mileage, whether it’s been in any severe accidents, its previous owner and whether it was used in a fleet like a rental car or taxi.

“When dealing with a reputable dealer, you can ask for those kinds of reports,” Todd Ingersoll, CEO and President of Ingersoll Automotive, a GM dealership group out of Danbury, CT, told Engadget. “Another good indicator is what kind of work has the dealership done to the vehicle. So you can and should ask for the repair order of what was done to the car. If it’s a reputable store, and they’ve done great work to get the car up to snuff for sale, they want to put that on display.”

While competition for used cars is currently fierce, prospective buyers have more ways than ever to search for their next vehicle. We’re no longer limited to the selection of whatever the local dealerships and used lots have available. The traditional car buying experience is not going away.

“Most consumers, when they’re buying a very expensive item, they want to see it, they want to put their hands on it, want to drive it,” Ingersoll said, but it has been augmented in recent years by the rise of online listing aggregators like CarGurusShiftAutotraderVroom, and Carvana as well as hybrid companies like CarMax, which operates both an online showroom and a network of physical car lots throughout the country.

The modern car buying process has become a mixture of in-person and online channels, CarMax EVP of Strategy, Marketing and Product, Jim Lyski, told Engadget. Customers are going to “want to do some things in the store, and a retailer can provide a way to allow them to personalize their journey where they can leverage any channel that they want, and those channels are tied together in a really seamless way.”

We can already see evidence of this in the new car market, where online sales made up 30 percent of the total in 2020, up from 2 percent the year before, Alan Haig, president of automotive retail consultant group Haig Partners, told ABC News in 2021. What’s more, a Cox Automotive study from the same period found that customer satisfaction had reached record highs in 2020, with the overall process being more efficient with less time spent in physical dealerships.

Aggregators like Cavana and Vroom pull the vehicle listings of local dealer inventories and assemble them in a centralized, searchable database so you’ll be able to see what’s available both locally and in the wider region. There are going to be a lot more used cars for sale in San Francisco, CA than there will be in Sonora, CA — and there’ll be even more in the Los Angeles metroplex — so if you can’t find what you’re looking for locally, you’re going to need to expand your search area and be prepared to go to where the cars are. These sites are built to do just that. They’re also typically outfitted with handy loan and down payment calculators as well as quotes for the car you already own. You’ll want to check these listings regularly and be ready to make an offer quickly when you find what you’re looking for because the good deals on these sites go fast.

But even those don’t list every vehicle for sale in the area. Public boards like Craigslist or NextDoor are a treasure trove of highly affordable used cars that you won’t find on the larger aggregators. Of course, these are going to be private transactions so you’ll want to take the standard precautions. Meet in a public area, insist on a presale mechanic’s inspection, don’t with a big wad of cash and bring your most imposing friend along for “moral” support because seriously, this is Craigslist.

Speak to your family, friends and co-workers as well, as word of mouth is still a great way to find a used car and evaluate a dealership. “We always say the second, third and 12th cars are sold through the service department,” Ingersoll said. “How you take care of people long term, that determines how many people they refer to you.”

So, once you’ve found the car of your dreams, realized you can’t afford it, lowered your expectations and purchased something more sensible, now comes the paperwork! Depending on what state you live in you’ll have to do more than transfer title. In California for example, the DMV is going to want the bill of sale, vehicle registration, vehicle title and application and a smog certificate. You’ll also have to include the various fees like $15 for title transfer, $58 for the registration, $6 to the air quality management district and another $23 for the California Highway Patrol fee. Check with your state DMV to get a complete list of government fees and instructions for paying them online.

Dealership fees are another matter. In California, at least, rolling a dealership’s advertising costs into the price of a vehicle is illegal. If you’re buying a car from a dealership, be sure to ask for a comprehensive list of their fees and set about chipping off every extraneous one you can get the salesperson to accept.

So now comes the fun part wherein this reporter, one in desperate need of a car and no patience to wait for the next Maverick model year, puts his money where his keyboard is and attempts to follow his own advice in purchasing a car online. Will he find the 4Runner of his dreams? Will he get ripped off because Craisglist? Stay tuned to Engadget and find out later this summer!

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California Is 2022’s Most Fun State in America – WalletHub Study

With summer just around the corner and 86% of Americans planning to take a vacation, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2022’s Most Fun States in America, as well as accompanying videos and expert commentary.

To determine the states offering the greatest variety and most cost-effective options for enjoyment, WalletHub compared the 50 states across 26 key metrics. The data set ranges from movie costs to accessibility of national parks to casinos per capita.

Fun in California (1=Most Fun; 25=Avg.):

  • 1st – Restaurants per Capita
  • 1st – Movie Theaters per Capita
  • 15th – Golf Courses & Country Clubs per Capita
  • 1st – Amusement Parks per Capita
  • 1st – Performing-Arts Theaters per Capita
  • 1st – Fitness Centers per Capita
  • 11th – Casinos per Capita

For the full report, please visit:
https://wallethub.com/edu/most-fun-states/34665

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Introducing the Oakley eGift Program!

pend, Gift and Support Local Businesses!

New mobile Buy One, Get One Free gift card program sponsored by the City of Oakley offers a fun and easy way to keep local spending local.  For a limited time, purchase an e-card valued at $25, $50, $100, or $150 and the City of Oakley will match your purchase with a bonus e-card in the same amount. Limit 2 per purchaser. While supplies last. A bonus gift is sent separately upon completion of your purchase.

Oakley Community eGift Card Program link: https://app.yiftee.com/gift-card/city-of-oakley–ca-oakley

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Oakley Summer Fest Saturday, July 2nd

The City of Oakley is excited to announce our new event, Oakley Summer Fest, happening Saturday, July 2nd from 11AM to 5PM.

Oakley Summer Fest will be in Civic Center Plaza and on Main Street from O’Hara Ave to Vintage Parkway. This event will be a daytime six-hour family-friendly festival replacing our Cityhood Celebration.

This event is designed to be a celebration of summer and our Oakley community with a wide range of activities for attendees. We decided to locate this event in the heart of downtown to activate our downtown businesses and provide a safe environment for community members to enjoy.

This festival will include live music on the main stage, a vintage car show on Main Street, a giant kids area, local artisan makers, delicious food vendors, a 5K run, cornhole tournament and more! There will be no fireworks at this event.

Check out our website at the link below to learn more about Oakley Summer Fest and to sign up for .

OakleySummerFest.com

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Sunday Reading – 06/12/2022

The following links are just news items and opinions that pass my desk throughout the week. I don’t necessarily support or advocate any of the items, they are just interesting reads.

How San Francisco Became A Failed City – But I do need you to love San Francisco a little bit, like I do a lot, in order to hear the story of how my city fell apart—and how it just might be starting to pull itself back together.

Because yesterday, San Francisco voters decided to turn their district attorney, Chesa Boudin, out of office. They did it because he didn’t seem to care that he was making the citizens of our city miserable in service of an ideology that made sense everywhere but in reality. It’s not just about Boudin, though. There is a sense that, on everything from housing to schools, San Francisco has lost the plot—that progressive leaders here have been LARPing left-wing values instead of working to create a livable city. And many San Franciscans have had enough.

On a cold, sunny day not too long ago, I went to see the city’s new Tenderloin Center for drug addicts on Market Street. It’s downtown, an open-air chain-link enclosure in what used to be a public plaza. On the sidewalks all around it, people are lying on the ground, twitching. There’s a free mobile shower, laundry, and bathroom station emblazoned with the words dignity on wheels. A young man is lying next to it, stoned, his shirt riding up, his face puffy and sunburned. Inside the enclosure, services are doled out: food, medical care, clean syringes, referrals for housing. It’s basically a safe space to shoot up. The city government says it’s trying to help. But from the outside, what it looks like is young people being eased into death on the sidewalk, surrounded by half-eaten boxed lunches.

A couple of years ago, this was an intersection full of tourists and office workers who coexisted, somehow, with the large and ever-present community of the homeless. I’ve walked the corner a thousand times. Now the homeless—and those who care for the homeless—are the only ones left.

During the first part of the pandemic, San Francisco County lost more than one in 20 residents—myself among them. Signs of the city’s pandemic decline are everywhere—the boarded-up stores, the ghostly downtown, the encampments. But walking these streets awakens me to how bad San Francisco had gotten even before the coronavirus hit—to how much suffering and squalor I’d come to think was normal. Read More > in The Atlantic

Downtown S.F. on the brink: It’s worse than it looks – Against the backdrop of shuttered, graffitied storefronts and other detritus left in COVID-19’s wake, including on this two-block stretch of Kearny Street, professionals can once again be seen en route to their now sparsely populated offices or the few cafes and restaurants that survived their absence, now eager for their precious patronage. Some new businesses have opened, and tourism has ticked up.

Don’t be fooled. The downtown area, the city’s primary economic driver, is teetering on the edge, facing challenges greater than previously known, new data shows. The wounds suffered by the economic core are deep, and city officials have yet to come up with a plan to make the fundamental changes that some economists and business leaders argue could make the area thrive again.

Before the pandemic, office work was responsible for a whopping 72% of the city’s gross domestic product, according to the Controller’s Office — work that was heavily concentrated in the Financial District, the Market Street corridor, the Embarcadero and Mission Bay. A  precise definition for downtown doesn’t exist, and various city agencies use different boundaries, with some regarding it as the northeast portion of the city.

When all office work shut down, BART ridership dropped catastrophically, and it is not projected to recover fully until the 2029-30 fiscal year at the earliest. The transit system’s looming deficit has given rise to whispers of a new regional tax to fill the gap. Without commuters spending money near their San Francisco offices each day, other downtown businesses closed, destroying the incomes of many who could ill afford it.

It has been a year since vacant office-space rates soared to their highest levels since the 2008 Great Recession, as some business activity has picked up. And while other major cities face large numbers of workers not going back into offices, San Francisco’s numbers are among the highest nationwide.

The San Francisco metropolitan area has consistently lagged behind nearly all other major urban centers in worker returns, according to office-occupancy trend data from Kastle Systems, a security company that monitors access-card swipes at client buildings.

In San Francisco’s downtown area specifically, office attendance has been even lower than reported. At The Chronicle’s request, Kastle provided swipe data for the eight ZIP codes that make up the city’s office-heavy northeast. The data shows the rate of worker return, relative to pre-pandemic levels, has not broken 30% and was 26.4% the week of May 18, the most recent period the company provided. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

A Rise in Suicides by Young Children Leaves Families Searching for Answers – Before 10-year-old Kelly Wright killed herself, there was no warning, says her father, Stuart Wright. The bubbly child who loved to draw, hike and go canoeing was showing her parents dance moves the night before she died, Mr. Wright says. 

Kelly didn’t seem sad or withdrawn; she excelled in school and made friends easily. And Mr. Wright couldn’t imagine that a 10-year-old could even consider suicide. 

“I’m never going to make any sense of it,” said Mr. Wright, 63, who was living near Tampa, Fla., at the time of his daughter’s death in January 2020.

The number of children dying by suicide has risen dramatically in recent years. Parents often don’t know that their children are having suicidal thoughts, new research shows. Among females ages 10 to 14, the rate of suicide more than tripled between 2007 and 2020, from 0.5 per 100,000 to 2 per 100,000 according to data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Among males the same age, the rate jumped from 1.2 per 100,000 to 3.6 per 100,000 over the same period.

Although the numbers are tiny compared with the number of older adolescents and adults who die by suicide, it is now the second leading cause of death among children in this age group. 

Psychologists and psychiatrists say they don’t know for certain why the incidence of suicidal thoughts and behaviors is rising among American children. The numbers upend a long-held belief that children who haven’t hit puberty yet don’t think about killing themselves or, if they do, that those thoughts are fleeting.

New research is uncovering risk factors in younger children like family conflict and early exposure to alcohol. Depression is most commonly associated with suicidal thoughts in older teens and adults, but in younger children scientists are finding that ADHD and behavior problems are also closely linked to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Electric car mandate: California air board questions cost, practicality – Members of California’s Air Resources Board today questioned the practicalities of their staff’s proposal to ban gas-powered vehicles, raising concerns over challenges in buying and charging electric cars. 

Air Board Chair Liane Randolph asked staff to find more strategies to ensure that the state’s proposed mandate includes strong equity measures so that low-income residents face fewer barriers buying electric cars. 

At a public hearing that stretched on for nine hours in Sacramento, auto company representatives, environmentalists and car owners showed up in droves to voice their concerns. Some said the rapid transition could harm the disadvantaged communities it aims to help, while others said the air board needs to take bolder action to address air pollution. 

The rules would mandate increased sales of electric or other zero-emission vehicles in California, beginning with 35% of 2026 models. In 2035 sales of all new gas-powered cars would be banned. Currently only about 12% of new car sales in California are zero-emission vehicles.

…Throughout the economy, an estimated 64,700 jobs will be lost because of the mandate, according to the California Air Resources Board’s calculations. On the other hand, an estimated 24,900 jobs would be gained in other sectors, mostly in the power industry, so the estimated net loss by 2040 is 39,800 jobs, a minimal amount across the state’s entire economy.

Mechanics would be among the most affected — more than half of their current number of  jobs would be lost over the next two decades if the mandate goes into effect, the air board estimated. Read More > at CalMatters

Shrinkflation: Cereal Brand Cuts Amount Per Box By 17%; Toilet Paper Brand Slashes Roll Size 24% – There’s inflation and then there’s shrinkflation.

Inflation is easy to spot: The product you bought last month now costs a dime more.

But shrinkflation is much more nefarious. The product you bought last month is the same price — the package may even appear to be the same size — but there’s less of it. In some cases, a good bit less.

“Notable brands to ‘shrinkflate’ their products in recent months as the American dollar continues to lessen in value include Charmin, Bounty, and Gatorade, which have all been downsized in recent months but have retained their previous prices,” the Daily Mail reported on Wednesday.

“Joining the parade of downsized products is cereal stalwart Honey Bunches of Oats, which has seen the weight of its standard box, previously 14.5 ounces, lessen to 12 ounces — a reduction of roughly 17 percent,” the U.K. paper said.

Angel Soft toilet paper has also reduced its size from 425 sheets per roll to 320, while Bounty paper towels have cut their rolls from 165 sheets per roll to 147 late last year. Gatorade also cut its bottle size from 32 ounces to 28 ounces. Read More > at the Daily Wire

The Empire of Fees – When I wake up in the morning at my home in Austin, Texas, I turn on the lights, and thereby provide a few cents to the city government’s electric company. I flush the toilet, owing a few more to Austin’s sewer service. When I pour myself a glass of water, the city water department gets a piece. After I get dressed and step outside, I watch the city take my trash, my recycling, and my compost—each pickup costs a few dollars. Sometimes, I discover a $25 ticket for parking my car in the wrong spot. Then I swallow my anger and drive down the MoPac highway, where I pay a toll to the Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority. I park in a garage downtown owned by the Austin Transportation Department, pay them a few bucks, and walk to my office. If I need to take a trip out of town, I pay $1.25 for a Capital Metro District bus to the city-owned Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where, along with the price of my plane ticket, I pay a $5.60 fee for the benefit of being patted down by a TSA agent, a Passenger Facility Charge, and a small part in any rents the city charges restaurants and retailers. Only when I’m in the air does the drain to the government stop.

In one typical morning, I handed over money to several government bodies. But I didn’t pay any taxes—only fees, charges, and fines. These are the future of government in the United States.

The idea that government operates just by taxing and spending money is anachronistic. A growing share of its revenue comes from charges that the government imposes in exchange for its services or as a penalty for breaking its rules. In 1950, about 1 percent of Americans’ income went to charges from state and local governments. Today, that number is 4 percent. Include federal fees and charges, themselves the fastest-growing part of federal revenue, and that number rises to over 5.5 percent. Though largely hidden from the public, fees and charges account for most of the growth in government over the past 70 years and have become the top source of revenue for state and local governments.

Two factors drive this new reliance on special charges. First, governments are expanding the “businesses” they run—hospitals, universities, airports—and forcing users to pay more for them. Second, governments are using charges to avoid voter opposition to, and constitutional restrictions on, raising taxes. Those hoping to restrain the size of government need to understand the role of fees and charges. Though governments complain about private citizens evading taxes, the biggest tax evaders are governments themselves: charging citizens while avoiding anything that might be called a tax. In the process, they’re nickel-and-diming Americans from cradle to grave. Read More > at City Journal

California regulators approve state’s 1st robotic taxi fleet – California regulators on Thursday gave a robotic taxi service the green light to begin charging passengers for driverless rides in San Francisco, a first in a state where dozens of companies have been trying to train vehicles to steer themselves on increasingly congested roads.

The California Public Utilities Commission unanimously granted Cruise, a company controlled by automaker General Motors, approval to launch its driverless ride-hailing service. The regulators issued the permit despite safety concerns arising from Cruise’s inability to pick up and drop off passengers at the curb in its autonomous taxis, requiring the vehicles to double park in traffic lanes.

The ride-hailing service initially will consist of just 30 electric vehicles confined to transporting passengers in less congested parts of San Francisco from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Those restrictions are designed to minimize chances of the robotic taxis causing property damage, injuries or death if something goes awry. It will also allow regulators to assess how the technology works before permitting the service to expand. Read More > in the Associated Press

Watchdog Report: At Least 20 Percent of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Dollars Wasted – The federal government sent billions in unemployment aid to ineligible beneficiaries and outright fraudsters during the pandemic, according to a new watchdog report. At least $78 billion in jobless benefits, and potentially much more, were misspent during fiscal year 2021, according to a Tuesday report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

“Not only is the system falling short in meeting the needs of workers and the broader economy, but the potential for huge financial losses could undermine public confidence in the stewardship of government funds,” said GAO head Gene Dorado in a press release yesterday, who called the report’s findings “extremely troubling.”

The Congressional watchdog agency has rated the unemployment insurance system as “high risk” for waste, fraud, and abuse and called on lawmakers and the administration to undertake immediate reforms.

The federal government’s unemployment insurance system—jointly administered by the Department of Labor and a patchwork of state agencies—has long struggled with making improper payments. This problem only got worse during the pandemic, when Congress dumped billions more into an expanded number of unemployment assistance programs.

The GAO found that the improper payment rate jumped from 9 percent in the pre-pandemic fiscal year 2020 to 18.9 percent the next year. That means nearly one in five unemployment insurance dollars went to an ineligible or overpaid beneficiary. Read More > at Reason

Oil Prices Are ‘Nowhere Near’ Peak Yet, Says Key OPEC Member UAE – Oil prices haven’t peaked yet because Chinese demand has yet to return to normal, said the energy minister from key OPEC member the United Arab Emirates.

The comments indicate that consumers can expect little respite from the soaring cost of energy. The UAE is the third largest producer in OPEC and one of the few countries in the world with the capacity to significantly increase crude output, yet it expects supply scarcity to worsen.

Al-Mazrouei warned that without more investment across the globe, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies are not able to guarantee sufficient supplies of oil as demand fully recovers from the coronavirus pandemic. 

The group agreed last week to open its oil taps a little faster in the summer months. That modest supply boost amounts to just 0.4% of global demand over July and August and comes after several months in which OPEC+ has struggled to hit its production targets. Read More > at BNN Bloomberg

The energy in nuclear waste could power the U.S. for 100 years, but the technology was never commercialized – There is enough energy in the nuclear waste in the United States to power the entire country for 100 years, and doing so could help solve the thorny and politically fraught problem of managing spent nuclear waste.

That’s according to Jess C. Gehin, an associate laboratory director at Idaho National Laboratory, one of the government’s premier energy research labs.

The technology necessary to turn nuclear waste into energy is known as a nuclear fast reactor, and has existed for decades. It was proven out by a United States government research lab pilot plant that operated from the 1960s through the 1990s.

For political and economic reasons, the technology has never been developed at commercial scale. Today, there’s an increased urgency to address climate change by decarbonizing out energy grids, and nuclear power has become part of the clean energy zeitgeist. As a result, nuclear fast reactors are once again getting a serious look. Read More > at CNBC

India and China Coal Production Surging By 700M Tons Per Year: That’s Greater Than All U.S. Coal Output – If you think the world is moving beyond coal, think again. The post-Covid economic rebound and surging electricity demand have resulted in big increases in coal prices and coal demand. Since January, the Newcastle benchmark price for coal has doubled. And over the past few weeks, China and India have announced plans to increase their domestic coal production by a combined total of 700 million tons per year. For perspective, US coal production this year will total about 600 million tons

The surge in coal demand in China and India – as well as in the U.S., where coal use jumped by 17% last year – demonstrates two things: that the Iron Law of Electricity has not been broken, Second, it shows that it is far easier to talk about cutting emissions than it is to achieve significant cuts. 

…As I point out in my latest book, A Question of Power, electricity is the world’s most important and fastest-growing form of energy. After writing that book, and doing further reporting, I coined the Iron Law of Electricity, which says that “people, businesses, and countries will do whatever they have to do to get the electricity they need.” The Iron Law matters because the electricity sector is the largest emitter of carbon dioxide emissions. And as the Iron Law states, politicians in countries like China and India are going to do everything they can to prevent (or reduce) blackouts, including burning more coal. Read More > at Real Clear Energy

Europe’s Unquenchable Natural Gas Thirst Is Sending Prices Soaring – The Henry Hub gas benchmark hit the highest in 14 years on Friday. If this was oil, everyone would be yelling about it. But gas has yet to garner the sort of attention oil receives on a regular basis. Maybe it will soon.

Natural gas prices in the United States are breaking record after record without losing momentum as factors serving to push them higher remain active and multiply. The surge in liquefied natural gas exports to Europe is one big reason, and rising demand as the weather becomes hotter is another. Meanwhile, drought has joined the list of factors at play.

The drought that began earlier this year is still gripping the Southwest, compromising hydropower generation and expanding, indicating that even less hydropower will be available as summer advances and with it, demand for air conditioning. 

Swathes of the Southwest and the West Coast and the Pacific Northwest were in a state of drought ranging from severe to exceptional as of May 24, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, and while some parts of this region have gotten some precipitation, the situation remains challenging.

Natural gas inventories, meanwhile, are falling. In its latest weekly natural gas report, the Energy Information Administration reported that working gas inventories stood at 1.812 trillion cu ft in the week ending May 25, adding 80 billion cu m during the reporting period. Inventories are now 18 percent lower than they were a year ago and 15 percent lower than the five-year average for this time of the year. The agency noted in its report that demand in the Southwest and Texas was growing faster than supply could catch up, contributing to higher prices. And it was no longer about the drought. Read More > at Oil Price

How a battery shortage is hampering the U.S. switch to wind, solar power – U.S. renewable energy developers have delayed or scrapped several big battery projects meant to store electrical power on the grid in recent months, scuttling plans to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar energy.

At least a dozen storage projects meant to support growing renewable energy supplies have been postponed, canceled or renegotiated as labor and transport bottlenecks, soaring minerals prices, and competition from the electric vehicle industry crimp supply.

One previously unreported dispute over a delayed California storage project has even wound up in court.

The slowdown in utility-scale battery installations threatens the pace of the U.S. transition away from fossil fuels as the Biden administration seeks to decarbonize the grid by 2035. The delays could pose a threat to power reliability in states that already depend heavily on renewable energy like California.

Storing power is considered vital to the expansion of solar and wind energy because it allows electricity generated when the sun is shining or wind is blowing to be used at the end of the day when consumers need it most. Read More > at Reuters

Oregon overdose rates soared by 700% after decriminalizing ALL drugs last year: Officials admit millions in funding for treatment centers was held up and few offenders even bothered to use them but insist they will continue the scheme – Oregon’s first-in-the-nation scheme to decriminalize drugs and encourage those caught possessing them to seek medical help has been blighted with problems, officials admitted on Thursday – as one Republican politician said there had been a 700 percent in overdoses in her district in the last year.

The pioneering scheme, Ballot Measure 110, was approved by voters in November 2020, and went into effect in February 2021.

A person found with personal amounts of heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine and other drugs receives a citation, like a traffic ticket, with the maximum $100 fine waived if they call a hotline for a health assessment.

Yet of the 1,885 people who received tickets for personal possession in the first year, only 91 called the hotline, according to its non-profit operator, Lines For Life. 

And on Thursday, those behind the scheme admitted that they had underestimated the effort required to distributed the $300 million in funds for the program, and only $40 million has been spent. Read More > in the Daily Mail

California bill to create heroin injection sites heads to State Assembly – A proposed California bill to authorize heroin injection sites in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Oakland, passed its final committee approval earlier this week and heads to the State Assembly.

Senate Bill 57, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener, (D- San Francisco), would authorize cities and counties to establish “safe consumption sites” where addicts could use illegal narcotics under supervision. Those accessing the “hygienic space supervised by trained staff” could consume pre-obtained drugs. Program staff would be trained to administer an “opioid antagonist” in the event of an overdose.

The sites would offer substance use disorder services and referrals to obtain overdose reversal medications. If the Assembly passes the legislation, it will return to the Senate for approval before heading to Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk. Read More > at PM.

Monarch butterflies make huge comeback – The monarch butterfly population in Mexico is on the rise again, following several years in which the number of butterflies had dwindled to worrying lows.

In a report from the World Wildlife Fund-Telmex Telcel Foundation Alliance and the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas in Mexico, experts say there has been a 35 increase in the number of butterflies wintering in Mexico’s mountaintop forest compared to previous seasons.

At wintering sites in central Mexico, entomologists from the WWF-Telmex Telcel Foundation Alliance and National Commission of Natural Protected Areas have been measuring the acreage of trees covered by these butterflies since 2004.

According to a newly released report, the monarch butterfly population this year covered 2.84 hectares (7 acres), compared to the 2.1 hectares (5.2 acres) that the butterflies covered last year. Read More > at UPI

Unexplained tax revenue growth vexes budget scorekeepers – The term “unexplained” doesn’t appear too often in official government documents, unless they are dealing with possible paranormal events, like UFOs. Yet the reference is sprinkled throughout the Congressional Budget Office’s latest budget and economic outlook to describe the recent strength in federal tax receipts that’s blown away prior estimates.

Individual income tax collections for the fiscal year ending Sept. 30 are projected to land at their highest level as a share of the U.S. economy since the advent of the income tax in 1913. Overall federal tax revenue this year is expected to hit 19.6 percent of gross domestic product, a figure that’s been topped only three times: twice during World War II and again in 2000,  before the dot-com bubble burst.

It’s not entirely unexplained; the CBO attributes much of the revenue growth this year and in the coming years to faster economic growth, higher wages and profits and capital gains realizations from elevated asset prices — and, yes, higher inflation.

Additional revenue comes from one-time measures like payroll taxes deferred during the pandemic that are now coming due, and from changes in estimations of foreign corporate profits in tax havens and low-tax jurisdictions. Read More > at Roll Call

Russia’s Ill-Fated Invasion of Ukraine: Lessons in Modern Warfare – Russia has failed to achieve most of its objectives in Ukraine because of poor military planning, significant logistical problems, low combat readiness, and other deficiencies, which undermined Russian military effectiveness. These and other challenges—including Ukrainian military efforts and Western aid—severely impacted Russian air, ground, cyber, and maritime operations. Russia’s failures will force the Russian military to fundamentally rethink its training practices, organizational structure, culture, logistics, recruitment and retention policies, and planning efforts. Nevertheless, Russia is still attempting a de facto annexation of parts of eastern and southern Ukraine that it controls.

First, the Russian military faced considerable logistics challenges, in part because of poor training and planning. During the Russian push to Kyiv in the early phase of the war, for example, Russian ground forces faced massive logistical and command and control challenges operating in contested areas inside of Ukraine. Without access to rail transport and with roads clogged with Russian vehicles, Russian ground forces failed to move fuel, munitions, spare parts, and other matériel quickly and efficiently to forward-deployed units. Supply lines could not keep up with the long combat pushes, and logistics vehicles were not properly protected. The effectiveness of Russian long-range strike—a key aspect of Russian military operations—was also severely impacted by logistical challenges, including an insufficient supply of precision-guided munitions.

Second, the Russian ground offensive appears to have been planned and executed based on poor assumptions about how the Ukrainian military—and the population—would respond, as well as how the West might react. Seizing and holding territory was a major political objective of Russian policymakers. But controlling territory in a foreign country with a hostile Ukrainian population was deeply problematic for the Russian military, particularly since the conflict began to resemble a “people’s war.”3 In addition, Russian forces failed to effectively integrate combined arms to seize and hold Ukrainian territory, including coordination between land power, air power, and long-range fires. The Russian invasion force was also far too small to achieve its objectives and neglected to block Ukraine’s western border and prevent the supply of foreign weapons, systems, fuel, and other aid to Ukraine. Read More > at CSIS

Mortgage demand hits 22-year low as interest rates rise – Mortgage demand sank to its lowest level in 22 years this week as rising interest rates and a lack of inventory cool demand among potential homebuyers.  

The volume of mortgage loan applications sank by 6.5% for the week ending on June 3 compared to the previous week, according to the latest data from the Mortgage Bankers Association’s weekly survey.

The downturn occurred as the average contract interest rate on 30-year fixed-rate mortgages with conforming loan balances rising to 5.40% from 5.33% over the same period. Higher rates are adding to the financial squeeze on home shoppers who are facing record prices on the open market.

The MBA’s purchase index, a measure of the volume of applications for mortgages to buy homes, dropped 7% compared the previous week and was down 21% compared to the same week one year ago.

Refinance applications also moved lower, dropping 6% compared to last week and a whopping 75% year-over-year.

Mortgage rates have risen in recent months as the Federal Reserve initiates its plan to tighten monetary policy by hiking benchmark interest rates. The central bank is aiming to make credit more expensive in a bid to cool the economy and tamp down inflation that has reached four-decade highs. Read More > in the New York Post

Haven’t paid your Bay Area bridge tolls? Your car registration could be blocked – With a backlog of more than $184 million in unpaid bridge tolls and fines, Bay Area toll officials are mounting a crackdown that could result in hundreds of thousands of drivers having a hold placed on their car registration.

The Bay Area Toll Authority voted Wednesday to move ahead with the enforcement effort despite complaints from some advocates for low-income communities, who said the move could be devastating for those unable to pay.

The backlog has mostly piled up since March 2020 when the authority immediately removed human toll collectors from the seven state-owned bridges and began collecting all tolls electronically, using Fastrak toll tags or license plate readers to identify the vehicles.

Bridge users without Fastrak accounts are mailed an invoice. If it’s not paid within 21 days, they receive a late notice and a fine then a second late notice and fine, each with 30 days to pay. If the invoices remain unpaid, the authority requests that the DMV put a hold on the vehicle’s registration, which adds the unpaid tolls and penalties to the registration fee. Read More > in the San Francisco Chronicle

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511 Contra Costa Summer Bike Challenge

511 Contra Costa is offering the 2022 Summer Bike Challenge in partnership with Contra Costa Transportation Authority and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The Summer Bike Challenge will get you outside and on the move!

How does it work? 

Throughout summer, you’ll bike to points of interest featured on Oakley’s gameboard, visit in-person prize events, and share your pictures in the online Photo Gallery. Weekly Bonus Prize drawings and an iPad Grand Prize add to the fun. The Summer Bike Challenge is free, fun, and healthy – the perfect summertime activity for people of all ages.

Register now to get started! Visit 511contracosta.org/sbc or click the link below.

Register Today

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In the night sky for June

The ‘supermoon’ season of 2022 continues with the Full Strawberry Moon on June 14. June’s full moon is the second of four back-to-back “supermoons” and comes just a week before summer in the Northern Hemisphere

Five planets will align in the pre-dawn sky this month to offer a dazzling astronomical scene.

Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn will all be visible to the naked eye at the same time for the first time in 18 years. Making it even more special, the planets will appear in their natural order from the sun, according to Sky and Telescope.

The last time this alignment was visible in planetary order was in 2004, and the next one won’t come around until 2040, according to AccuWeather.

The best time to see the celestial phenomenon is in the hour just prior to sunrise. In the Bay Area, that means getting up around 4:30 a.m.

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Yolo Bypass Bat Talk and Walks

Multiple dates available – register early!

The Yolo Bypass Bat Talk and Walks are back this summer! If you’ve never come out to see the spectacle of a quarter-million Mexican free-tailed bats emerging from the shadows to hunt at dusk, this is your chance. These walks will be hybrid format with a virtual presentation and opportunity for in-person walks with a guide. Dates are available June through September. The cost is $15 per adult and free for children. Be sure to preregister for the Bat Talks and Walks.

Learn More About Bat Talk and Walk Summer Programs

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Excessive Heat Watch – from Friday, June 10, 11:00 AM PDT to Friday, June 10, 10:00 PM PDT

What

Hot conditions with daytime temperatures from 93 to 103. Overnight lows in the 60s in the valleys with 70s in the hills.

Where

Interior portions of the North Bay, East Bay, South Bay, Santa Cruz Mountains and interior Central Coast.

When

From Friday morning through Friday evening.

Impacts

Extreme heat will significantly increase the potential for heat related illnesses, particularly for those working or participating in outdoor activities.

Additional Details

The Heat Watch is being issued to give heat sensitive individuals time to plan accordingly. The combination of warm nights and hot days will be most prevalent on Friday. This heat event is forecast to be fairly short in duration with Friday being the hottest day for the interior portions of the Bay Area and Central Coast.

Tips

Monitor the latest forecasts and warnings for updates on this situation. Be prepared to drink plenty of fluids, stay in an air- conditioned room, stay out of the sun, and check up on relatives and neighbors. Young children and pets should never be left unattended in vehicles under any circumstances. This is especially true during warm or hot weather when car interiors can reach lethal temperatures in a matter of minutes.

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Traffic Alert: State Route 12 Closure – 9:00 PM Friday, June 24 to 4:00 AM Monday, June 27

Caltrans is continuing work on a project to replace the bearing pads of the State Route 12 (SR-12) Potato Slough Bridge located near the Tower Park & Terminous communities, west of Interstate 5 (I-5) in San Joaquin County.

This project will require overnight one-way traffic control closures, and two 55-hour full weekend closures of eastbound and westbound SR-12 between SR-160 and I-5 as the Potato Slough Bridge is jacked (raised) for the replacement and testing of new bridge bearing pads.

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Check Out the Oakley Digital Market!

The Oakley Digital Market can be accessed at www.commerce.glass/oakley.

The City of Oakley is working with, government software startup — Glass, to launch the Oakley Digital Market, an e-commerce marketplace where local business owners can seamlessly showcase and sell their products and services online.

Through the marketplace, local businesses can digitize their catalogs of products and services, and start receiving orders and digital payments in a streamlined and compliant fashion. On the other hand, buyers can discover Oakley’s local businesses, see their latest products, services and pricing, and buy from them with a couple of clicks.

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