Free Wood Chips this Saturday November 23rd from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.

Need some wood chips/mulch for your landscaping? The City of Oakley and Diablo Water District have teamed with West Coast Arborists, Inc. to offer free wood chips to spread as mulch around trees and shrubs.
Wood chips are available for pick-up this Saturday, November 23rd from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m., at the City Yard at the corner of Neroly Road and Main Street (entrance on Neroly). Residents need to bring their own tools/shovels and bags/containers to load and carry the mulch, and a tarp to cover if necessary.
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Saturday, November 23 – Holiday Fair

Get ideas for a perfect holiday gift
Saturday, November 23
10:00 AM – 3:00 PM

Bring your family and friends to get ahead in your holiday shopping this year and explore the Delta. Local vendors are offering up a variety of goods and treats for sale. Stay until the end of the event – one lucky winner will receive a raffle prize.
For additional details, visit the Holiday Fair event page.
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Updated Wednesday November 20 – Oakland/Berkeley Hills and Part of Contra Costa County Added to PG&E Shutoff Map For Wednesday

PG&E will move forward with a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) beginning Wednesday morning (Nov. 20) in portions of the Sierra Foothills, the North Bay and the North Valley.

The decision was based on weather forecasts indicating the potential for high winds and dry conditions leading to increased fire risk.

Customer impact reduced by 50 percent

As of 9 p.m. Tuesday, the safety shutoffs are expected to include approximately 150,000 customers in 18 counties: Amador, Butte, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Tehama, Yolo and Yuba. They are anticipated to begin as early as 6 a.m. Wednesday for many customers; customers in other locations may not be impacted until around 4 p.m. Wednesday. The expectation is that the weather will clear around mid-morning Thursday, allowing the patrol and restoration process to begin.

For a list of customer counts and cities per county, see

Customers no longer in scope

Customers in six other counties, originally notified that they would be part of the PSPS, were notified that they will not lose power as weather conditions have improved. Those counties no longer impacted are: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Mateo. These customers are being contacted by PG&E via text, email or automated phone call to confirm that they will not be impacted by the PSPS.

PG&E’s potential shutoff map for Wed. Nov. 20

As should be expected, the impacts of a still-in-planning Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) by PG&E on November 20 are a moving target, and now we’re learning that Alameda and Contra Costa County are in the mix.

As of late Sunday/early Monday, a press release from PG&E listed 19 potentially affected counties, and those did not include any in the East Bay. But as of Monday afternoon, PG&E’s Potential PSPS Area Map clearly shows a large swath of Contra Costa County, as well as the hills all the way from Hercules down to San Leandro are potentially facing outages. That brings the number of counties impacted to 21.

If you’re wondering whether your home will be affected in the Wednesday PSPS event, you can fill in your address here to find out.

From SFist


This morning (Nov. 18), PG&E began 48-hour advance notifications to customers about a potential Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) in portions of 22 counties.

Worsening dry conditions and expected high wind gusts pose an increased risk for damage and sparks on the electric system that have the potential to ignite fires in areas with dry vegetation.

High fire-risk conditions are expected to begin early Wednesday morning and continue throughout Thursday. Once the high winds subside, currently expected to be Thursday mid-morning, PG&E will inspect the de-energized lines to ensure they were not damaged during the wind event, and then restore power. PG&E will safely restore power in stages as quickly as possible, with the goal of restoring most customers by end of day Thursday, based on the current weather conditions.

The shutoff is expected to impact about 264,000 customers in 22 counties:

Contra Costa — 23,230, including 740 medical baseline in Canyon, El Sobrante, Lafayette, Moraga, Orinda, Pinole, Pleasant Hill, Richmond

From PG&E

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California Unemployment hits another record low

From Beacon Economics

Job Growth, Labor Force Continue Expansion; Annual Labor Force Growth Still In Negative Territory

The latest figures released by the California EDD reveal that nonfarm employment in California expanded at a steady pace in October, growing by 23,600 jobs, according to analysis released jointly by Beacon Economics and the UCR School of Business Center for Economic Forecasting and Development. Since October 2018, California has added 308,000 jobs, which is equivalent to a 1.8% year-over-year increase, exceeding the nation’s growth rate of 1.4%.

California’s unemployment rate dipped to 3.9% in October, which represents a new record low. Still, declining labor force growth is a cause for concern. While the state’s labor force expanded for a second straight month, growing by 40,800 workers in October, since October 2018, California’s labor force has decreased by 0.3% or -57,400 workers.

“At 3.9%, California’s unemployment rate has dipped below 4% for the first time on record,” said Taner Osman, Research Manager at Beacon Economics and the UCR Center. “October’s figures also extend the record highs in the number of jobs in the state and reveal that employers in California have added over 300,000 jobs this year, a pace that exceeds the rate of growth in the national economy.”

Key Findings:

    • Government added more jobs than any other sector in October, boosting payrolls by 5,400 positions. State Government was the largest contributor to these gains, where 5,600 positions were added over the month. Since October 2018, Government payrolls have expanded by 1.4%, with State Government leading the way (2.8%), followed by Local Government (1.1%) and the Federal Government (0.8%).
    • The Health Care and Leisure and Hospitality sectors also saw strong employment growth in October, adding 4,800 and 4,600 jobs, respectively. The Finance and Insurance (2,800), Real Estate (2,500), Manufacturing (2,300), Wholesale Trade (2,200), and Construction (2,100) sectors also posted gains in October.
    • Over the period from October 2018 to October 2019, Construction has been the fastest growing industry, where employment has grown by 4.0%. Strong growth has also occurred in Educational Services (3.5%), Health Care (3.3%), Real Estate (2.6%) and Leisure and Hospitality (2.5%).
    • Despite job growth in the state, payrolls decreased in a handful of sectors in October. Administrative Support posted the largest declines, where payrolls shrunk by 3,300. Despite the one-month decline, employment in the sector has grown by 2.4% since October 2018. Payrolls in Professional, Scientific, and Technical Services (-2,900) and Information (-1,800) also contracted in October. The Retail Trade sector is the only sector to have declined since October 2018, shrinking by 0.3% jobs from October 2018 to October 2019.
    • Regionally, job growth was led by the San Francisco Bay Area. The East Bay saw the biggest gains, where payrolls grew by 2,900 during the month. San Francisco (MD) (2,800), Vallejo (700), and San Jose (500) also saw job gains. Over the past year, San Francisco (MD) (3.5%) saw the fastest job growth in the region, followed by San Jose (3.0%), San Rafael (MD) (2.8%), and the East Bay (2.2%).
    • In Southern California, it was a mixed month. Ventura saw the biggest job gains, where payrolls increased by 1,200. Gains also occurred in El Centro (200) and San Diego (200). At the same time, payrolls declined by 3,400 in the Inland Empire. Over the past year, the Inland Empire (2.0%) and San Diego (2.05%) have experienced the fastest rate of job growth, followed by Los Angeles (MD) (1.3%) and Orange County (1.2%).
    • In the Central Valley, Modesto saw the biggest gains, where payrolls increased by 1,200 positions. Fresno (700), Merced (700), Stockton (700), and Visalia (500) added jobs as well. Over the past 12 months, Merced (4.1%) saw the fastest growth, followed by Fresno (3.0%), Visalia (2.8%), and Madera (2.6%).
    • On the Central Coast, San Luis Obispo led the way, where payrolls grew by 800 jobs over the month. In Salinas, 500 positions where added to local payrolls. Over the period from October 2018 to October 2019, Salinas (2.9%) added jobs at the fastest rate, followed by San Luis Obispo (1.9%), Santa Barbara (1.7%), and Santa Cruz (1.3%).
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Sunday Reading – 11/17/19

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.

The Witnesses – What, exactly, did the Navy encounter 15 years ago off the Southern California coast, when fighter pilots spotted a UFO? These men were there, too⁠—and it’s time they tell their side of the story.

The five men share an easy rapport with each other, playfully ribbing one another while also communicating a deep sense of mutual respect. It’s clear they all share the bond of having once served in the armed forces. Yet for Gary Voorhis, Jason Turner, P.J. Hughes, Ryan Weigelt, and Kevin Day—assembled together in a private group chat by Popular Mechanics—something much bigger ties them together beyond simply serving in the U.S. Navy.

These men also share a connection of being witnesses to one of the most compelling UFO cases in modern history: the Nimitz UFO Encounters, an event that the Navy recently confirmed indeed involved “unidentified aerial phenomena.”

Largely overshadowed by a grainy black-and-white video, and a former Topgun fighter pilot eyewitness, these veterans offer new and intriguing details on what occurred with the Navy’s Strike Carrier Group-11 as it sailed roughly 100 miles off the Southern California coast in 2004—details that a former career intelligence agent who investigated the Nimitz Encounter while at the Pentagon can neither confirm, deny, or even discuss with Popular Mechanics.

Ultimately, these five men—the “other” Nimitz witnesses—could be key to understanding an event that a leading aviation defense expert says “likely wasn’t ours.”

So whose was it? Read More > in Popular Mechanics

No Californians Need Apply – As public-sector problems go, Idaho has a good one: too many people want to live there. According to Census Bureau data, Idaho is now tied with Nevada as the fastest-growing state in the union, in percentage terms. From 2010 to 2018, the state’s population grew by nearly 12 percent. The growth was concentrated in the state’s capital and largest city, Boise, which saw an 18.5 percent population increase over that period.

There’s a catch, however, at least in the eyes of many Idahoans: a disproportionate number of newcomers are coming from California. In the 12 months from July 2017 to July 2018, Californians accounted for nearly 60 percent of Idaho’s net migration. The state is far from alone in this regard. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, six of the seven fastest-growing states in the nation in percentage terms—Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Washington, and Colorado—are in the West. In all six, California is the largest source of new residents.

None of this should be particularly surprising. With a population of approximately 40 million, it would be strange if California wasn’t the biggest supplier of expatriates—especially to nearby states. But far from making these demographic shifts unremarkable, California’s size comes with equally significant consequences for its neighbors. For while the number of departing citizens might seem like a rounding error for a state like California, they’re a significantly larger percentage of the population in the states to which they decamp. Nowhere is that felt more acutely than in Idaho, a mostly rural state without a major metropolitan area. (A “major” metro is generally defined as having a population of over 1 million; the Boise area has around 730,000.) Los Angeles County alone has more than five times as many residents as the entire state.

Predictably enough, this has fueled a backlash. As a recent report by Maria L. La Ganga in the Los Angeles Times notes, many longtime residents aren’t thrilled with the breakneck pace of change brought by California’s hordes. While La Ganga devotes a bit too much time to colorful but unserious signs of the blowback—a fringe Boise mayoral candidate, for example, who flippantly proposes erecting a wall to keep the Californians out—there’s no doubt that the deluge of movers creates genuine concerns. Median home prices in Ada County, where Boise is located, have increased by over 19 percent just since February 2018. Not only does the influx of Californians increase demand, but their inflationary influence is also compounded by housing budgets swollen by the sale of their Golden State properties. Read More > in City Journal

Myles Garrett has been suspended. Could he also be charged with a crime? – At 11:39 p.m. on Thursday, at 100 Alfred Lerner Way, with some 67,000 witnesses surrounding him and millions more watching on TV, a 23-year-old Cleveland man ripped off a visitor’s helmet and used it to bash that visitor’s head. He did not seriously injure the victim. He did ignite a brawl. He left a community somewhere between ashamed, angry and aghast. Because of his violent outburst – and because it occurred on an NFL field – Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has been suspended indefinitely.

But had it occurred on a downtown Cleveland street, or in a back alley, or at a dingy sports bar, Garrett would be facing much worse. “Technically,” says Joseph Patituce, a criminal defense attorney in Ohio, “swinging an object of that form could constitute a felonious assault.”

Which raises an interesting question: Did Garrett’s status as a football player, or his participation in an NFL game, grant him legal immunity?

The answer, according to several Ohio attorneys interviewed for this story, is likely no. At least not absolute immunity. There is, according to the lawyers, a chance Garrett could face charges.

NFL players, however, have rarely, if ever, been charged with crimes for on-field acts. Only NHL players have. Which is one of many reasons Garrett’s case is murky.

The state of Ohio defines assault as an act that “recklessly [or] knowingly cause[s] or attempt[s] to cause physical harm to another.” Garrett, by any reasonable interpretation, did just that on Thursday. The only question is what level of offense his helmet bash rose to.

…None of which detracts from the fact that Garrett’s lash-out constituted a crime. It did. As attorney Brad Koffel says, summarizing the consensus: “Ohio criminal code does not end at the playing field. What happened last night absolutely is an assault and potentially a felony assault. That is not part of consensual physical contact players assume when they walk onto the field.”

However … “Will charges be filed?” Koffel asks. “Unlikely.” Read More > at Yahoo! Sports

Report: A 17-Game NFL Regular Season Is on the Way – According to The Washington Post’s Mark Maske, the NFL and the NFL Players Association may reach an agreement on an expansion of the league’s regular season before this year’s postseason is even over.

Labor agreement talks between the league and the NFLPA are gaining “positive momentum” which has “buoyed optimism” the sides will agree on a new collective bargaining agreement, which will probably include a 17-game regular season, according to multiple sources.

“I think there’s some real intensity and opportunity over the next few weeks,” a person familiar with the state of the negotiations told The Post. 

Expanding the season could also mean an expansion of the league’s international series. “A 17-game regular season could mean that each team would play one neutral-site game per season, with some of those games to be held in London, Mexico City and potentially other international venues,” according to The Post. “Or teams simply could alternate seasons with eight or nine home games and continue to surrender home dates for international games.”

Adding an extra game to the league’s regular season would probably mean that one or more of the four NFL preseason games would be eliminated. Read More > at InsideHook 

The flu shot: How effective is it? Here’s what Doctors say – The CDC advises nearly everyone over the age of 6 months to get vaccinated against the flu, except in rare cases of allergies or specific health histories. Interestingly, the World Health Organization in Europe‘s guidelines are narrower than the CDC’s.

Here’s the thing: The efficacy of the shot varies drastically from year to year, ranging from  10% to 60%. It all depends on whether the vaccine ends up aligning with the strains of the virus that appear. Given last year’s incidence, you might wonder if the shot is really worthwhile.

In short: Most experts say it is. According to Dr. Aditi Joshi, medical director at JeffConnect at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and assistant professor at the Department of Emergency Medicine, the flu shot saves lives. She urges everyone to get the vaccine if they are able.

“I cannot stress enough how virulent, contagious and potentially devastating the flu can be,” she explained, given her experience as an emergency medicine physician.

In addition to the vaccine’s potentially life-saving benefits, she shared a handful of others: “The vaccine can decrease the length of having the flu, decrease the risk of complications and the severity of the flu, and decreases the risk of spreading it to others.” Read More > at  MSN

Can New CEOs Save Bed Bath & Beyond, Gap, or J.C. Penney? – Three troubled major retailers just got new CEOs or are about to, but investors are right to wonder whether the businesses are far too damaged for a fresh face to make a difference at this point.

J.C. Penney hired a former fabric and crafts store executive; Bed Bath & Beyond  added a former Target executive; and Gap stunned everyone last week when it abruptly announced it had fired its CEO right in the middle of a big corporate transformation.

Considering the condition of retail generally, and these three retailers in particular, new executives might not be enough to salvage them.

The department store is no longer a particularly relevant way to sell merchandise. As Warren Buffett noted a couple of years ago, “The department store is online now.” While J.C. Penney finally moved online in earnest a couple of years ago, that hasn’t been nearly enough to revive the retailer that is still heavily dependent upon its brick-and-mortar footprint.

Bed Bath & Beyond squandered any hope of resurrection when it chose to rest on its laurels after the demise of Linens ‘n Things, delaying investing in any real e-commerce capabilities until it was almost too late. Then it jumped into hurry-up mode and began a bizarre acquisition strategy that compiled an amalgam of disparate businesses: Cost Plus World Market, Chef Central, online flash-sales retailer One Kings Lane, and personalized tchotchkes site PersonalizationMall.

None of it stopped the hemorrhaging of its customer base, and it was forced to rely upon its ubiquitous discount coupons to get them through the door. And even that became less effective over time.

The transformation of Gap looked to be well underway with the looming spinoff of Old Navy, but the decision by the jeans and khakis retailer to fire CEO Art Peck has thrown the entire process into doubt. A replacement will need to be found, but there might not be enough business left to make the retailer viable again. Read More > in The Motley Fool

Uber Loses Another $1.2 billion, Stock Dives Again – Here it is in a nutshell, the philosophy of “growth at all costs.” Uber’s total revenue increased 29% to $3.81 billion in the third quarter compared to a year earlier, the company reported this afternoon. And that’s very good revenue growth. But to get this revenue growth, the company threw everything at it that it had. So, expenses increased even faster, and the operating loss ballooned.

Revenues by segment:

  • Rideshare revenues: +19% to $2.9 billion.
  • Eats revenues: +64% to $645 million
  • Freight revenues: +78% to $218 million
  • ATG and other Technology: $17 million

And here is what it threw at it: Total costs and expenses soared by 33% to $4.92 billion. This includes $401 million the company paid its employees in stock-based compensation. In other words, to obtain a $969 million increase in revenues, the company spent an additional $1.2 billion.

At this rate, when expenses grow faster than revenues, there is going to be a problem trying to get to this mythic breakeven the way the company is structured now. Read More . at Wolf Street

Boomers Prefer To Die At Home: Enormous Glut Of Senior Housing – The rise of technologies that help the elderly stay in their homes threatens to upend one of commercial real estate’s biggest bets: Aging baby boomers will leave their residences in droves for senior housing.

“People don’t want to go to a place where there’s only a bunch of other old people,” said James Crispino, head of the senior practice at design firm Gensler.

The aging-in-place technology trend marks a challenge to the numerous real-estate developers who have been rushing to build senior housing to accommodate the roughly 72 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, representing about 20% of the U.S. population. In about one decade, boomers will start reaching their mid-80s, the typical move-in age for senior housing.

Senior-housing developers added 21,332 new units in 2018—more than double the number that was added in 2014, according to the National Investment Center for Senior Housing & Care, an industry organization. Senior housing is now one of the fastest-growing commercial real-estate sectors, ahead of office, retail, hotels and apartments, according to Green Street Advisors.

But developers might have jumped the gun a bit and now some worry there is an emerging glut of senior housing. Senior-housing occupancy fell in the third quarter of 2019 to 88% compared with 90.2% in the fourth quarter of 2014, according to the National Investment Center for Senior Housing & Care.

Some companies specializing in senior housing are suffering. Shares of Ventas Inc., a big health-care real-estate investment trust, fell close to 9% one day last month after it said the occupancy rate of its senior-housing communities declined to 84.1% on June 30, compared with 84.5% a year earlier and 88.5% in June 2014.

Moreover, the average age that people enter senior housing has been rising, partly because of improving health. It is about 84 to 85 years today, compared with 82 one decade ago, according to Green Street analyst Lukas Hartwich. Read More > at Zero Hedge

Wild card public defender wins San Francisco’s District Attorney race – Public defender Chesa Boudin has been elected San Francisco’s next district attorney. The public defender bested four other challengers in the Nov. 5 election, including Interim District Attorney Susan Loftus.

Boudin was an unconventional candidate, to say the least. He’s the son of two Weather Underground activists who were arrested more than three decades ago for an armed robbery and the killing of a police officer. He was raised by the group’s leader Bill Ayers and his wife Bernardine Dohrn, both of whom were implicated in terrorist acts, including the bombing of the New York City Police Headquarters. Boudin said his parents’ incarceration led him to seek reform of the criminal justice system.

Before attending Yale Law School, Boudin traveled to Venezuela to work as a translator for the late socialist president Hugo Chavez. He later joined the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office, becoming a deputy public defender. To this day, he has never prosecuted a criminal case. Read More > at California County News

Truckers file 1st suit contesting California gig economy law – The California Trucking Association on Tuesday filed what appears to be the first lawsuit challenging a sweeping new labor law that seeks to give wage and benefit protections to workers in the so-called gig economy, including rideshare drivers at companies such as Uber and Lyft.

The legislation violates federal law and would deprive more than 70,000 independent truckers of their ability to work, the association said. Many would have to abandon $150,000 investments in clean trucks and the right to set their own schedules in order for companies to comply with a law it says illegally infringes on interstate commerce.

“Independent truckers are typically experienced drivers who have previously worked as employees and have, by choice, struck out on their own. We should not deprive them of that choice,” association CEO Shawn Yadon said in a statement.

The law set to take effect Jan. 1 makes it harder for companies to classify workers as independent contractors instead of employees, who are entitled to minimum wage and benefits such as workers compensation. Read More > from the Associated Press

Vapers Turn to Home Brew as Flavored Nicotine Bans Mount – As more states, cities and even the federal government consider banning flavored nicotine, thousands of do-it-yourself vapers like Jones are flocking to social media groups and websites to learn how to make e-liquids at home.

Users on the forums — many of whom have been mixing their own e-liquids for years — describe the process as simple, fun, cheap and, with the proper precautions, safe. But if not done carefully, making e-liquids at home may pose risks including accidental exposure to high doses of liquid nicotine, the use of dangerous oil-based flavors and possible product contamination.

“To have people mixing their own e-cigarette liquid is crazy. These are very toxic chemicals,” said Stanton Glantz, a professor of medicine and the director of the Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education at the University of California-San Francisco. “If you drop a little bit of nicotine on your skin, it can send you to the hospital.”

But Dr. Michael Siegel, a professor of community health sciences at Boston University, said many people are able to make vaping liquids safely at home, by seeking advice from other vapers and following a few safety measures, such as wearing gloves and goggles.

Siegel worries, however, about the risk of contaminated products as some people use the bans as an opportunity to make their own concoctions cheaply and sell them on the black market. Read More > at KQED

Juul to Cut Roughly 650 Jobs, or 16% of Workers – Juul Labs Inc. is cutting around 650 jobs, or about 16% of its total workforce, according to a Juul official, as the embattled e-cigarette maker braces for a hit in sales after voluntarily stopping the sale of its most popular flavor in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal reported late last month that Juul planned to eliminate around 10% to 15% of its workforce by year’s end. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

Tobacco Flavor Bans Multiply, But Menthol Continues to Divide – As states and communities rush to ban the sale of flavored tobacco products linked to vaping, Carol McGruder races from town to town, urging officials to include what she calls “the mother lode of all flavors”: menthol.

McGruder, co-chair of the African American Tobacco Control Leadership Council, has tried for years to warn lawmakers that menthol attracts new smokers, especially African Americans. Now that more officials are willing to listen, she wants them to prohibit menthol cigarettes and cigarillos, not just e-cigarette flavors, to reduce smoking among blacks.

McGruder and other tobacco control researchers are using the youth vaping epidemic — and the vaping-related illnesses sweeping the country — as an opportunity to take on menthol cigarettes, even though they are not related to the illnesses.

Nearly nine out of 10 African American smokers prefer mentholated cigarettes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But even as tobacco control activists see opportunity, some African Americans, including smokers, fear discrimination. They predict that banning menthol will lead to a surge in illicit sales of cigarettes and result in additional policing in communities that already face tension with law enforcement. Read More > at Route Fifty

Seattle’s Course: Harder Left – Three weeks before the elections for Seattle city council, moderate candidates appeared to be poised for victory. An opinion poll from the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce showed widespread discontent with the existing council. Voters in every district told pollsters that Seattle was on the “wrong track,” and they expressed an unfavorable opinion of city leadership. According to the conventional wisdom, this would be a “change election” that pitted a slate of moderate, business-backed candidates against progressives and socialists who promised to revive the failed “Amazon tax” and to impose rent control, legalize homeless camping, and even abolish the Seattle Police Department. The business community, united with moderate Democrats, neighborhood groups, and public-safety unions, appeared successfully to have framed the election as a choice between a “dangerous, divisive status quo” and a “return to responsible government.”

But just as ballots were going out, Amazon, believing that victory was within reach, made the mistake of contributing another $1 million to the Chamber’s political action committee—and the entire narrative collapsed. Suddenly, the local election was nationalized, with figures including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren decrying Amazon’s “out-of-control corporate greed” and promoting the message that the Internet retailer was “trying to tilt the Seattle City Council elections in their favor.” The progressive and socialist candidates capitalized on this change, reframing the election as a choice between Amazon and the #Resistance. All substantive criticisms of the council on homelessness, public safety, and economic policy disappeared from public discourse. Within days, the referendum on a failed city council had been transformed into a referendum on corporate power.

Given this choice, Seattle voters turned out for the progressive-socialist slate. All but one of the most progressive candidates won their districts—including Trotskyist incumbent Kshama Sawant, who demands the nationalization of Boeing and Amazon, and Democratic Socialists of America-affiliated candidate Tammy Morales. Seattle elected its most liberal city council in history, leaving the business-moderate coalition—which outspent its opponents by a margin of 4-to-1—in tatters.

The progressive-socialist alliance has wasted no time laying out an ambitious agenda. It includes ordinances for rent control, drug-consumption sites, decriminalization of prostitution, legalization of homeless encampments, defunding critical police programs, free public transit, and an array of new taxes, including a “mansion tax,” “excess compensation tax,” and an “Amazon tax” three times larger than the original levy that was repealed last year. Amazon tried to unseat Seattle’s progressive regime, but the progressives have only strengthened their hold on municipal power—and now they’re out for revenge. Read More > at City Journal 

Denmark reinstates border checks at crossings to Sweden after bombings – Denmark has temporarily reinstated checks at its border crossings with Sweden after a spate of bombings and shootings in the Copenhagen area that authorities say were carried out by members of Swedish gangs.

The spot checks at ferry ports and on trains and vehicles crossing the Øresund bridge separating the Danish capital from Malmö, Sweden’s third-largest city, were aimed at “preventing serious and organised crime from spreading”, the police said. All travellers should be prepared to show identification, they added.

Lene Frank of the national police said: “We are targeting organised crime and aim for normal travellers to be affected as little as possible by the border control. Officers will be focused on cross-border crime involving explosives, weapons and drugs.”

There have been 13 explosions in and around Copenhagen since February, including the bombing in August of the Danish tax agency by what authorities described as “criminals who had crossed the border from Sweden”. Two Swedish nationals are in custody. Read More > in The Guardian 

San Francisco: Where It’s OK to Crap in the Streets But They Arrest People for Eating on a BART Platform – This week, a video went viral of a man being detained by police on a public transportation platform in San Francisco, Calif., for eating a sandwich. You can see the police officer in the video below insisting that eating is a violation of the California penal code.

It turns out that while he might be slightly off base, it’s mostly true. The California penal code lists eating on public transport property as a “miscellaneous crime” in section 635-652. 

(2) This section shall apply only to acts committed on or in a facility or vehicle of a public transportation system.

(b) (1) Eating or drinking in or on a system facility or vehicle in areas where those activities are prohibited by that system.

According to the code, the man eating is breaking the law because he is at a facility owned by the public transportation system and he is not in the designated eating area. However, this law is rarely enforced. In the same code, a few lines down is this gem:

(3) Urinating or defecating in a system facility or vehicle, except in a lavatory. However, this paragraph shall not apply to a person who cannot comply with this paragraph as a result of a disability, age, or a medical condition.

To recap, it is illegal to eat a sandwich on your commute, and punishable by a $400 fine, but perfectly fine to defecate on a train in public if you just can’t help yourself. Read More > at PJ Media

Would a Bigger Legislature Mean a Smaller Government for California? – There are 80 seats in the California Assembly and 40 seats in the California Senate. The last time the Golden State adjusted the size of its legislature, in 1862, there were about 400,000 people living there. Today, more than twice that number live within the city limits of San Francisco alone.

With a population of nearly 40 million, California’s state legislative districts are the largest in the country. Since voters in the state send 53 representatives to the U.S. House of Representatives, the state’s upper chamber is one of just two (the Texas Senate is the other) where members represent more people than does the average member of Congress.

The seemingly out-of-whack ratio of legislators to constituents has resulted in an accumulation of power by the state’s executive branch and has diluted the electoral power of rural areas and political minorities, according to Michael Warnken, a California-based libertarian activist who is part of a group that’s trying to get federal courts to force the state to add more seats to the state legislature. “It’s impossible for the people of California to have a relationship with their state lawmakers,” he says.

…t’s probably true that there is no magic ratio of legislators to constituents, and American states are all over the board when it comes to representation. New Hampshire has a whopping 400 members in its lower chamber, one for every 3,400 residents. To match that ratio, California would need more than 11,000 seats in its state Assembly.

But there is some evidence that more representation results in more limited government. A 1999 study by economists Mark Thornton and Marc Ulrich found that “smaller legislatures result in larger constituencies, poorer representation, and higher levels of government spending per capita.” Read More > at Reason

The Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District is another canary in the pension coal mine – Twenty-four years ago, several fire districts in the Central Valley joined together to create the Stanislaus Consolidated Fire Protection District. Today, the District — which serves parts of East Modesto, Riverbank, Waterford, and previously Oakdale — is on the brink of insolvency as a result of swelling pension liabilities, CalMatters’ Dan Walters reports.

In 2015-2016, SCFPD was hit with a $330,858 charge from the California Public Employees Retirement System. Its “unfunded actuarial liability” (UAL) grew further, increasing to $397,981 in 2016-2017 and $517,834 in 2017-18. The District was forced to set aside a whopping $842,404 for UAL in its budget for 2019-2020. That figure will soon hit $1 million.

Because of its deficits, the City of Oakdale recently cut its contract with the District. That resulted in further losses, necessitating a station closure and service cuts. Now some residents are nervous that SCFPD’s troubles could put them at greater risk in a fire.

It is yet another example of what can happen when ever increasing retirement costs choke out government services. Read More > at California City News 

California’s Blackouts: How Did We Get Here and What Can We Do to Keep the Lights On? – PG&E, responsible for at least 1,500 fires since 2014, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2019, as it reportedly had “no choice … given the flood of lawsuits and wildfire liabilities it estimates could be up to $30 billion.” About six months later, it agreed to pay $1 billion in compensation to “more than a dozen California cities, counties and agencies for losses resulting from deadly wildfires sparked by its equipment.”

In September 2019, the utility agreed to pay an $11 billion insurance settlement to resolve insurance claims over the Camp Fire and the wine country fires of 2017. It’s possible prosecutors will file eventually criminal charges against the utility and its executives for their role in the fire.

Roughly one month later, PG&E began a series of “public safety power shutoffs” to reduce the risk of wildfires. “Given the continued and growing threat of extreme weather and wildfires, and as an additional precautionary measure following the 2017 and 2018 wildfires,” the utility announced, “we are expanding and enhancing our Community Wildfire Safety Program to further reduce wildfire risks and help keep our customers and the communities we serve safe.

“This includes expanding our Public Safety Power Shutoff program beginning with the 2019 wildfire season to include all electric lines that pass through high fire-threat areas—both distribution and transmission.”

The power outages that began on the morning of October 9 caused roughly 2 million people to lose their power at its peak.

The blackouts continued throughout the month. By October 26, the power to roughly 2.8 million customers was being turned off in what was called “the state’s largest—and potentially longest— deliberate blackout ever.”

Two days later, the Los Angeles Times reported that “never before in California history have more than 2 million people gone five days without electrical power because of the intentional safety policy of a utility.”

No state outside of New York has a more regulated energy sector than California, even though the state electricity market was supposedly “deregulated” in 1996. The legislation that purportedly deregulated the system was “not some radical rewriting of the rule books,” according to Reason Foundation researcher Adrian Moore. Far from deregulating the electricity market, the new policy “restructured” it. The result is a regime that “discourages entry into the market … restricts expansion of capacity, and …sustains the old systems and rules that prevent competition.” Political control over power was actually increased by the Electric Utility Industry Restructuring Act while construction of new power plants was discouraged.

…Regulated utilities are known for their misallocation of resources as decisions are made for political rather than economic or customerbased reasons. A glaring example of this is “the nearly $3 billion price tag for California’s utilities to perform fire-deterrent work,” which “is heavily weighted toward projects that afford them financial advantages and tax benefits.”

…PG&E “has a long history of putting off crucial maintenance and failing to keep trees trimmed along utility corridors,” former Popular Mechanics editor James B. Meigs recently wrote in City Journal, adding that it is unclear “whether the company has the managerial discipline to develop what experts call a ‘safety culture.’ A consulting firm recently concluded that, despite some progress, PG&E still lacks ‘a comprehensive safety strategy.’”

A power provider working within a free-market system would have been more interested in performing basic maintenance to avoid disasters that lead to bad press, liability that result in bankruptcy, and deaths. But incentives are skewed under California’s regulatory framework. Read More > at PRI CAPITAL Ideas

Bay Area rainfall: When’s it coming and when should we start to worry? – Normally between Oct. 1 and mid-November, if historical averages are any guide, the Bay Area has received nearly 2 inches of rain, and Los Angeles and Fresno each have received about an inch.

But so far this year? None.

To be sure, there was one-hundredth of an inch recorded in San Jose and San Francisco — about the thickness of a few sheets of paper — over the past six weeks. But nearly every city from Sacramento to Silicon Valley to San Diego is showing lots of zeros in the rainfall column for the first two months of California’s winter rainy season.

Remember the “Ridiculously Resilient Ridge?” That was a wall of high pressure air that parked off the West Coast for an unusually long time between 2012 and 2016, blocking storms and causing California’s historic drought. When that ridge went away in 2017 and soaking atmospheric river storms, also known as “Pineapple Express” storms, barreled through, the drought was broken.

This fall, a similar ridge of high pressure has been sitting off the West Coast.

Mehle said that long-range computer models show some hope that the ridge may break down in a few weeks. But usually, any forecasts beyond a week or so aren’t particularly reliable.

How does this dry autumn compare historically?

The amount of rain San Francisco received from this July 1 to Oct. 31 — .12 inches — ranks as the 21st driest such period back to 1850, according to Jan Null, a meteorologist with Golden Gate Weather Services in Saratoga. Read More > in The Mercury News

How Much Cannabis Do Californians Use? Researchers Want To Ask In Order To Set Safe Pesticide Limits. – Starting this January, California cannabis users can get a $20 gift card by anonymously sharing their consumption habits with a state-funded survey team.

Researchers from the California Department of Pesticide Regulation and Sacramento State are trying to calculate how much cannabis the average California user consumes on a daily basis. The information will help them set more accurate safety levels for pesticide use on cannabis crops.

The state has had concerns about pesticide levels in marijuana since the drug became legally available to non-medical users in 2016. The federal government sets pesticide levels for fruits and vegetables based on calculated American consumption, but that data doesn’t exist for cannabis. To calculate a safe quantity, scientists need to know how much cannabis people are ingesting, said department spokesperson Charlotte Fadipe. Read More > at Capital Public Radio

California might not require solar panels on new homes, after all – California became the first state in the nation last year to require solar panels on newly built homes.

But it’s starting to look like the mandate wasn’t quite a mandate.

The California Energy Commission also gave home builders the option of supplying solar power from an off-site facility, mollifying critics who said rooftop solar would raise the cost of housing. Now the commission is poised to approve the first off-site solar program for new housing — over the objections of home solar installers, who say the agency is creating an escape clause so broad it could render the rooftop solar requirement meaningless.

Under a proposal from the Sacramento Municipal Utilities District, home builders could choose to take credit for electricity generated by existing solar farms, instead of building houses with rooftop panels. Homeowners or renters would receive guaranteed energy bill savings of at least $5 per kilowatt of solar power a year, or about $20 annually for a typical household. Read More > in the Los Angeles Times

Today’s Electric Car Batteries Will Be Tomorrow’s E-Waste Crisis, Scientists Warn – Electric vehicles will play a crucial role in humanity’s fossil fuel-free future, but no technology comes without cost. The lithium-ion batteries that EVs run on are made from metals that are mined at a serious environmental and human toll, and from supplies that won’t last forever. When those batteries die, they’re liable to join the tens of millions of tons of spent electronics piling up as e-waste in landfills around the world.

That’s why we badly need to develop better methods for recycling EV batteries and start scaling up the recycling infrastructure now, a team led by researchers at the University of Birmingham in the UK argue in a review paper published today in Nature.

As the paper notes, the one million EVs sold around the world in 2017 will eventually result in 250,000 tons of battery pack waste that the world’s recycling infrastructure is ill-equipped to handle. And while EV batteries can last for up to 20 years, the potential battery waste in the pipeline as EV sales grow year over year is enormous. Read More > at Vice

Google’s ‘Project Nightingale’ Gathers Personal Health Data on Millions of Americans – Google began Project Nightingale in secret last year with St. Louis-based Ascension, the second-largest health system in the U.S., with the data sharing accelerating since summer, according to internal documents.

The data involved in the initiative encompasses lab results, doctor diagnoses and hospitalization records, among other categories, and amounts to a complete health history, including patient names and dates of birth.

Neither patients nor doctors have been notified. At least 150 Google employees already have access to much of the data on tens of millions of patients, according to a person familiar with the matter and the documents. Read More > in The Wall Street Journal

‘Victim-shaming:’ Nike makes things worse after Mary Cain’s abuse claims – Former middle-distance runner Mary Cain, once dubbed “the fastest girl in America,” detailed her tragic experience as a member of Nike’s Oregon Project in a video for The New York Times published Thursday.

The 23-year-old Bronxville native recalled the physical and mental abuse she endured when she was 17, while training with Nike’s Alberto Salazar, claiming that the highly touted track and field coach forced her to lose weight and ignored her acts of self-harm.

“I joined Nike because I wanted to be the best female athlete ever,” Cain said in the video. “Instead, I was emotionally and physically abused by a system designed by Alberto and endorsed by Nike.”

Nike announced Thursday that it is investigating Cain’s allegations against Salazar, who received a four-year ban in September for, among other violations, possessing and trafficking testosterone. The company had already shut down the Oregon Project last month.

Multiple prominent runners, including New York City Marathon winner Shalane Flanagan, have spoken out in support of Cain. Olympic runner Kara Goucher backed up Cain’s allegations and criticized Nike’s handling of the situation on Twitter Friday.

“So [Nike] responds to [Cain],” Goucher wrote. “Takes the time to victim shame Mary, before saying they will investigate. I hope you come to me, because I have stories to match all of Mary’s claims and so much more. Don’t let this be more lip service, actually do something.” Read More > in the New York Post

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Leonids Meteor Shower November 2019

November’s wonderful Leonid meteor shower happens every year around November 17 or 18, as the world crosses the orbital path of Comet Tempel-Tuttle. In 2019, the peak of the shower is expected to be from midnight to dawn on Monday, November 18.

The expected peak morning is Monday, November 18. That’s the morning (not the evening) of November 18. However, a waning gibbous moon will light up the morning sky this year, to obtrude on this year’s Leonid meteor shower. In a dark sky, absent of moonlight, you can see up to 10 to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. Skywatchers may be able to see some meteors on days just before and after the peak, although the moon will continue to obstruct views.

The Leonid meteor shower gets its name from the constellation Leo, where its meteors appear to originate. But you can look in just about any direction to enjoy the show, Cooke said. If you directly face Leo, you may miss the meteors with longer tails.

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BART to single track in Lafayette Saturday 11/16 for last major work on track rebuild


BART will reduce service between the Orinda and Walnut Creek stations on Saturday, November 16th to make way for a vital track rebuilding project near the Lafayette Station.  Trains will run on a single track between Orinda and Walnut Creek.  Riders should expect delays of 20 to 30 minutes.  Additionally, some trains might be turned back at Orinda Station to maintain our overall schedule.  If that occurs, riders will be asked to leave the train and then board a different train.

The work will require overnight closures of the two left lanes of eastbound Highway 24 at Oak Hill Road in Lafayette.  The hours of the lane closures will be from 11 pm Friday, November 15 until 6 am Saturday, November 16 and then again from 11 pm Saturday, November 16 to 6 am Sunday, November 17.  This work will not require daytime lane closures of Highway 24.

The single tracking is needed because work that had been planned to take place during BART’s last track shutdown on the weekend of October 26-27 was limited due to the elevated fire danger.  This Saturday is expected to be the last time work on this track rebuilding project will impact service.  More work will take place in the coming weeks during overnight hours when BART is not in service.

Workers have been active around-the-clock during four previous shutdown weekends.  They’ve also been working for weeks during overnight hours when BART is not in service to replace nearly 50-year-old track components in Lafayette that have outlived their useful lives.  The track rebuilding project is funded by voter-approved Measure RR.

Project highlights

Once the work is complete, here’s some of what will have been accomplished in the trackway:

*Replaced six track switches.  These are large track components that can measure up to 200 feet in length and are instrumental in allowing BART trains to move from line to line.

*Installed 5,000 feet of new rail, replaced 10,000 feet of train control cable, and 3,200 feet of third rail.

*Replace about 2.8 million pounds of rock ballast, which is essential for stabilizing the rail.

The noise level of trains will decrease, and passengers will experience a smoother, safer, and more reliable ride once work is complete.  The Antioch-to-Millbrae line that extends through Contra Costa County into San Francisco is the busiest in the BART system.  These track improvements will benefit tens of thousands of riders every day for decades to come.

RR at work

BART District voters prioritized rebuilding BART when they approved Measure RR in 2016.  The measure provides $3.5 billion in bonds to replace outdated infrastructure across the BART system.

RR-funded projects like this one are having a real impact on the daily riding experience.  BART has already successfully completed track rebuilding projects between the Pleasant Hill/Contra Costa Centre and Concord stations as well as between the West Oakland and 12th Street/Oakland City Center stations.  Replacing aging track equipment that in some cases dates to the beginning of service in 1972 is one reason BART’s customer on-time rate is at 92%.

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