Archive | Alameda County

San Bruno, Ratepayer Advocates Challenge California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E: Demand CPUC Rescind Appointment of Sen. George Mitchell in Blockbuster PG&E Announcement

A blistering attack by the City of San Bruno, ratepayer advocates and Assemblyman Jerry Hill called into question the California Public Utility’s appointment of Sen. George Mitchell and his law firm DLA Piper as mediators in the PG&E explosion and fire settlement.

Mayor Jim Ruane of San Bruno, Thomas J. Long, Legal Director of consumer advocacy group The Utility Reform Network (TURN), and Karen Paull, Acting Legal Counsel, The Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) all stood in front of the CPUC this morning and lambasted the “unholy and cozy alliance” between regulator CPUC and the regulated Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

The City of San Bruno and consumer advocates signed a letter demanding the CPUC rescind the appointment of Sen. Mitchell immediately because the CPUC  went behind their backs in appointing the mediator to oversee the talks and presented evidence that CPUC and PG&E had ex-parte contact in making the decision. The groups objected to the choice of mediator and said they should have been consulted before regulator CPUC appointed the mediator.

The California Public Utilities Commission had announced Monday that it had appointed former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to serve as mediator in the talks.

San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson and attorneys with San Francisco and the consumer groups said the CPUC had notified PG&E before it appointed Mr. Mitchell, but didn’t notify San Bruno, San Francisco, or ratepayer advocates and officials.

“The unilateral announcement by the CPUC Monday that it had selected a mediator without consulting any of the parties at the negotiating table is consistent with the cozy and unholy relationship between the CPUC and PG&E.  This action is symbolic of the broken, dysfunctional and dishonest relationship between PG&E and the CPUC, the agency that is supposed to be the watchdog and protector of the public’s interest,” said Mayor Ruane of San Bruno.

“San Bruno is rightly concerned that the DLA Piper law firm has previously represented utilities–and that the firm was selected unilaterally by the CPUC and PG&E without the participation of any other party, which goes against the fundamental principles of mediation,” said Mayor Ruane at the press conference today.

“It also is of deep concern to us that DLA Piper has a lengthy list of corporate clients, including Southern California Edison, which the current chairman of the CPUC, Michael Peevey, once headed, according to news media reports about the appointment.

“In order for any mediation to succeed, the mediator will have to assure all the parties to our satisfaction that they have no conflicts, that they can be an unbiased mediator, and that the process will be open, transparent and fair,” Mayor Ruane said.

He continued: “We find that there is too much of a coincidence that one week before the announcement of DLA Piper as mediator, we were told that “a mediator with gravitas” is necessary to settle the negotiations, and now, with the unilateral start of mediation, that PG&E shareholders are paying for the mediation. This leads us, we rightly believe, to the conclusion that the CPUC and PG&E have had improper ex-parte contact as part of this process.

“We state unequivocally for the record that no fine or settlement with PG&E will ever be legitimate or credible without the participation of the City of San Bruno.

“We call into question the integrity of the entire CPUC process that has occurred over the past two years since our community was ripped apart by the negligent and systematic safety failures of PG&E and the inability of the CPUC to independently protect and represent the interests of the residents of San Bruno and the people of California.

“The healing process has physical manifestations in the reconstruction of our Crestmoor neighborhood. However, the scars and horrors of the explosion and fire remain. The City committed to its citizens that it would be an active and relentless participant in all of the investigations that followed.

“We remain at the table to represent the interests of the citizens of San Bruno, the memory of those whose lives were taken by PG&E’s negligence, their families and friends, and equally important, every other city, town and community in the State of California so we can help others prevent what happened to us,” Mayor Ruane concluded.

Mayor Ruane and the consumer advocate attorneys said Sen. Mitchell’s previous work for Southern California Edison, a utility where CPUC Chairman Michael Peevey was formerly an executive, made them question whether he would be impartial.

PG&E and CPUC investigators said Friday that they had started fresh talks to settle the investigators’ allegations that the utility violated numerous state and federal safety rules prior to the fatal 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

The CPUC had been holding public hearings following three investigations investigators completed after a section of the utility’s gas pipeline in San Bruno ruptured on Sept. 9, 2010, igniting a giant fireball that killed eight people and injured 58. The fire destroyed 38 homes and damaged 70 others. The neighborhood where the blast occurred hasn’t been fully rebuilt, although some houses have been rebuilt.

Both federal and state investigators blamed PG&E for the blast and found that defects in the utility’s aging pipeline and inadequate pipeline safety management contributed to the pipe’s rupture.

A CPUC judge suspended those hearings last week, after state investigators, who are employed by the CPUC, asked to stop the hearings to allow time for a fresh round of talks with PG&E.

Members of the CPUC have said they plan to order fines and possibly other penalties against PG&E over the San Bruno disaster.

Continue Reading

ART INSTALLATION TO LIGHT UP THE BAY BRIDGE

(From KTVU/WIRES)  About 25,000 LED lights will be strung along the western span of the Bay Bridge over the next several months as part of a two-year art installation inspired by the bridge’s 75th anniversary.

“The Bay Lights,” an $8 million project expected to be unveiled in March 2013, will help bring attention to a bridge Bay Lights,” an $8 million project expected to be unveiled in March 2013, was expected to help bring attention to a bridge that is often overshadowed by its neighbor to the north, the Golden Gate Bridge, said Ben Davis, whose organization, Illuminate the Arts, was overseeing the project.

The Bay Bridge, which opened in 1936, “didn’t get quite the recognition that I felt it deserved,” Davis said. “I wanted to find a way, at least for a brief while, to bring the consciousness back to this bridge.”

The privately funded “light sculpture” is being designed by Leo Villareal, who has created light installations in museums and public spaces around the country and world.

The lights, which will not be visible drivers on the bridge but can be seen from a distance, will be mounted on the vertical cables of the western span and will operate for about seven hours per night.

Permits for the project were awarded in August, and installation was begin next month, organizers said.

Two former San Francisco mayors, Willie Brown and now-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom were on hand at a news conference Tuesday to announce the project.

“This is the kind of thing we need to do to remind people what a special place this is,” Newsom said. “I think this thing is going to blow people away.”

The lights will be installed during weekday overnight hours and will cause some lane closures on the upper deck of the bridge, but the effect on traffic is expected to be minimal, Davis said.

Illuminate the Arts has collected $5.5 million for the project and is still seeking donors for the rest of the funding.

“We are going to raise the $2.5 million,” he said. “I think we’re going to do it relatively quickly, this is an inspiring piece and it does make a difference to our city.”

The March lighting ceremony will come just months before the new eastern span of the bridge was expected to open on Labor Day weekend in 2013.

Donations for “The Bay Lights” project can be made at www.causes.com/thebaylights.

Continue Reading

Historic Hotel Durant in Berkeley to be Sold

HVS Capital Corp (www.hvscapital.com) has been exclusively appointed to sell the Hotel Durant in Berkeley, Calif. The 143-room property is a historic, contemporary, boutique hotel adjacent the University of California at Berkeley, within walking distance of all student housing, the newly renovated football stadium and the basketball arena.

In 1924, the Berkeley Hotel Corporation was formed and hired the firm of William Weeks, one of the most prolific and versatile architects of his generation, to design the hotel. The property’s namesake, Henry Durant, was the first President of the University of California at Berkeley and a former mayor of Oakland. The Hotel Durant opened in 1928 with a gala celebration, music, refreshments and tours throughout this new hostelry.

The Hotel Durant embarked on a comprehensive $7 million renovation in 2007. Subsequently, the property was once again unveiled to the local community, this time showcasing Berkeley’s first green-certified boutique hotel, with touches of the city’s whimsical, bohemian spirit, in a more collegiate-themed setting. Henry’s Publick House, one of the most well-known local bars, was reintroduced as Berkeley’s first modern gastro pub and restaurant.

“There is a limited amount of lodging supply in Berkeley, high barriers-to-entry, and no hotel is closer to the University than the Hotel Durant,” said Bill Sipple, Managing Director of HVS Capital Corp. “The Hotel Durant and its competitive set have experienced double digit RevPAR growth for the last 33 months. With the $321 million renovation of California Memorial Stadium now complete, East Bay hotels should continue to thrive.”

 

From SEND2PRESS NEWSWIRE

Continue Reading

Communications Workers of America in California Question CWA Union Leadership Over Failure to Sign Contract with AT&T

 

There is growing dissent among California Communications Workers of America against their union leaders’ intransigence and failure to approve a new contract with AT&T.

While every single CWA District and Local in the United States, with the exception of Connecticut and California, has signed a new contract deal with pay increases and generous health care benefits, California AT&T workers are starting to strike back at their own union and demand settlement.

Just this week, more than 20,000 AT&T workers in California, Nevada and Connecticut started two-day strikes Tuesday to protest what the union called harassment by the company. But a number of union members opposed the two day strike and question their union leadership’s action, which cost them two days of pay.

The phone company is negotiating new contracts with the Communications Workers of America. The company is restricting standard bargaining-support activities such as wearing union stickers and buttons, said Libby Sayre, president of the CWA district covering California and Nevada.

The contracts expired in April, and negotiations have been going on since February.

Dallas-based AT&T Inc. is the country’s largest employer of unionized workers. About 140,000 of its 256,000 employees are union members.

California AT&T workers are quietly saying they don’t care about the ‘sticker issue’ raised by CWA District 9 President Libby Sayre and are pushing back at union leadership and demanding an immediate conclusion to contract negotiations with AT&T.

“We are at odds with our own union leadership, not with AT&T,” one worker, requesting anonymity, said.  “The deal that was accepted by AT&T workers in other states is a good one and we want it here, too.”

The growing dissent by CWA workers against their leadership was visible in northern California this week as a number of members protested the two day strike and instead held signs protesting against CWA’s leadership, holding signs that read: “Our Union Has Us Striking Over a Stupid Sticker!” and “We Just Lost 2 Days Pay: Thanks CWA.”

Continue Reading

Blu Homes Protest Greets 30,000 at Pacific Coast Builders Conference Opening Day in San Francisco

The 30,000 attendees today at the annual Pacific Coast Builders Conference (PCBC) were greeted by a major protest from the employees of a green home building company seeking unionization of its northern California production facility.

More than 100 Blu Homes employees and members of the Carpenters Union Local 180 armed with giant 30-foot tall inflatable effigies of The Grim Reaper and a pig leafleted outside the largest gathering of the home building industry in the western United States today, the opening day of PCBC.

Blu Homes’ production workers are in a labor dispute with Blu Homes after company management has refused to recognize the union even after 38 of 45 workers at the company’s Vallejo signed a petition this year demanding representation by the Carpenters Union. More than 17 unfair Labor Charges have been filed with the National Labor Relations Board against Blu Homes.

The Carpenters Union charges that Blu Homes’ President Bill Haney and his behavior toward its workers and environmental practices do not match the pro-environment and pro-worker projects that have marked Mr. Haney’s career or the efforts of people on the company’s Board of Advisers, including Robert Kennedy, Jr., whose father played a pivotal role in the unionization of California farm workers.

Blu Homes Inc., a Massachusetts-based company that designs and builds pre-fabricated single family green homes, opened a new facility inside Vallejo’s historic Factory Building 680 on Lennar Mare Island in December 2011.

Shortly thereafter, workers approached Carpenters Local 180, asking for help in resolving issues of poor bathroom facilities, lack of gender specific bathrooms, job safety and the lack of a retirement plan.  The overriding factor was a lack of respect for the workers from management, according to Carpenters representatives.

Haney has been described in the NY Times as one of America’s leading environmental entrepreneurs.  In addition to his business and investment successes that made him a multi-millionaire, he is also a documentary filmmaker, taking his camera to places where social injustice was met with resistance by those on the ground.

From the Dominican Republic, where he focused on the struggle of Haitian sugar workers in “The Price of Sugar,” to the mountains of West Virginia, where he chronicled a community’s fight against mountain top removal mining, Haney’s films emphasize the power of ordinary people. Along the way, he has spoken forcefully against the evils of corporate greed, against environmental degradation and union busting, and for the powers of workers organizing into a union.

Haney, being interviewed about his documentary, “The Price of Sugar” and the struggle of Haitian sugar workers in the Dominican Republic said: “…one of the most interesting things that took place for me was to be present at the birth of a union. It was extraordinary to see the power and vitality of a union and how desperate these workers were without it and what improvements could be ripped from the plantations owner’s hands if there was one…”

Haney, commenting on Massey Energy and the fight against mountaintop removal mining: “…you know, there are miners working there who are getting a pathetic fraction of what they would have gotten even 10 years ago when they had protection with the unions. So, they’ve destroyed the unions, they’ve beaten up on the environment, they’ve violated federal health and safety standards, to what appears to be really the enrichment of a very small number of people, primarily the executives of the company.”

The Carpenters’ union thinks Haney is a hypocrite. Haney has positioned himself as a champion of the environment, an ally of the poor, and a defender of unions. So one must ask: why can’t he live up to his own words at his own company?

The Blu Home workers in Vallejo have overwhelmingly petitioned for union representation and they are being denied this right by the very same man that encouraged unionization in the Dominican Republic and in the hills of West Virginia. That’s not irony–that’s hypocrisy, some on the picket line said today.

In March 2012, Blu Homes raised $25 Million in Capital from new investors Brightpath Capital Partners and The Skagen Group in the Netherlands. According to the company, this brings total investment in Blu Homes to $50 million since 2007.

One can only hope that Mr. Haney and Robert F. Kenney Jr. and the other board members will recognize the right of workers to organize and have decent and safe working conditions and benefit from the growth of Blu Homes.

Continue Reading

Family Demands StoneMor Cemetery Buy Back Mausoleum After Son’s Ashes Stolen in California

 Gonzales Family Blames StoneMor Partners (NYSE: STON) Cemetary for Desecration and Theft of Son’s Tomb

Lafayette, Calif. – A family is demanding a StoneMor California cemetery take back a $3.2-million mausoleum once containing their son’s ashes.

The family of technology pioneer and Commerce One founder, Thomas Gonzales II, says pure negligence allowed thieves to plunder the family’s mausoleum at the Oakmont Memorial Park Cemetery in Lafayette, Calif., in January of 2011 and steal an urn containing Gonzales’ remains.

Thieves walked off with the remains only days after an initial break-in attempt went unreported by the cemetery to police.

Now the $3.2-million marble mausoleum in the Lafayette cemetery stands empty with only broken glass on the floor—relatives say it’s a cold reminder of their son’s tragic and untimely loss. Gonzales died on Dec. 5, 2001 at the age of 35, after an eight-month battle with gastric cancer.

The Gonzales family poured four years and multi-millions into the design and custom-build of a white marble mausoleum befitting their son’s memory.

“Now, the mausoleum has no value to my family,” said Gonzales’ father, Tom Gonzales, Sr. “The sight of it causes my family so much pain and suffering we think it’s only right for Oakmont to be held accountable.”

The family sued StoneMor California, a division of StoneMor Partners LP (NYSE:STON), on Tuesday (6/12/12) for a minimum of $3.2 million, accusing the national cemetery operator of negligently allowing thieves to walk off with their son’s remains and for failing to alert the family of a previous security breach.

Days prior to the January 16, 2011 theft, a groundskeeper at the Oakmont Cemetery noticed damage to the mausoleum’s steel frame doors. Yet, no one from Oakmont cemetery notified the Gonzales family.

Three days later, thieves once again broke onto the property and stole the bronze urn containing Gonzales’ remains. Police never recovered the ashes, despite a full-scale investigation and a large reward, which the family still is offering today.

“The sheer lack of regard for the Gonzales family and the unconscionable negligence of the StoneMor operators has led to this tragic theft,” said the Gonzales family attorney Harvey Stein of Oakland.

“No monetary value will be enough to compensate the family for the pain caused by this tragedy. The sadness of Thomas’s early death is only compounded by the desecration of his tomb,” Stein added.

Gonzales and his father co-founded Commerce One Inc., a pioneering Internet company in Pleasanton that became one of the fastest-growing firms in Nasdaq history.

 

 

Continue Reading

A WEEKEND FULL OF ACTIVITIES FOR SAME-SEX BALLROOM DANCE FANS!

womenphoto

Same Sex Ballroom dancers from all over the world will come to the Bay Area the weekend of April 27 for three days of competition, dances, shows and classes. The weekend highlight is the April Follies, the 11th annual competition and show.

Friday, April 27

Welcome Dance hosted by Trip the Light Fantastic 7-10:30 PM

Saturday, April 28

  • Competition:  10 AM – 5:30 PM
  • Community Dinner:  5:30 – 6:30 PM
  • Beginning Lessons: 6:30 – 7:30 PM
    • *Free to anyone holding a Showcase Ticket
  • Showcase of Champions:  8 – 11 PM

o Includes “A” level championship finals plus a show and social dancing!

Sunday, April 29

  • Community Meeting:  10:30 – 11:45 AM
  • Lee Fox Workshops:  12:00 noon – 3 PM
    • Intermediate country 2-step and intermediate west coast swing classes, and includes time for supervised practice
  • Sundance Saloon Closing Dance:
  • 7:15 – 8:15 PM Ballroom Dancing
  • 9 – 10 PM West Coast Swing

Daytime spectator ticket $15

Evening Showcase ticket $25 including lessons (will be $30 at the door)

Combo day and evening $30 (will be $40 at the door)

For more information on the Competition, Showcase or volunteer opportunities please visit the April Follies website.

Continue Reading

Oakland East Bay Symphony to “Heros and Giants”

HEROS AND GIANTS Program Features WIlliam Harvey, Principal Trumpet

william-harvey
Focusing on works by two of the brightest figures in a generation of European musicians whose careers were prematurely terminated by the rise of the Nazi regime, and Music Director Michael Morgan will present Heroes and Giants
at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre on February 24th at 8:00 pm. Erwin Schulhoff and Mieczyslaw Weinberg created dynamic, unique works in climates of despair. Schulhoff was one of the first European classical composers to be inspired by jazz before his premature death in a concentration camp, and Weinberg survived years of imprisonment under Stalin to create one of the finest trumpet concertos in the musical repertoire. Oakland East Bay Symphony’s own William Harvey will help bring Weinberg’s trumpet concerto to life by serving as the featured soloist on this inspiring work. A third piece, Beethoven’s Eroica symphony, will complete a musical evening of challenging, sublime music. An informative pre-concert talk by John Kendall Bailey will begin at 7:00 pm.

William Harvey has been Principal Trumpet of the Oakland East Bay Symphony since 2001. An active freelance performer, Mr. Harvey is also Principal Trumpet of Opera San José and is affiliated with the California Symphony, Lamplighters Musical Theatre, Festival Opera, and American Bach Soloists. Previous experience includes positions with Western Opera Theater, Modesto Symphony, Sarasota Opera, and the Epic Brass Quintet. From 1991 to 1994 he was Sub-principal Trumpet of the Cape Town Symphony in South Africa. An East Bay native and Oakland resident, Mr. Harvey is a graduate of Boston University where he studied with Roger Voisin and members of the Empire Brass, attended San Francisco State University where he studied with Donald Reinberg, and is a graduate of Berkeley High School where he was a member of that school’s award-winning Jazz Ensemble. Other private instructors include Arnold Jacobs, Laurie McGaw and Edward Haug. He has participated in the Aspen, Chautauqua and Spoleto Festivals as well as the Monterey Jazz Festival.

The Program

ERWIN SCHULHOFF
Suite for Chamber Orchestra (1920) – Czech composer and pianist Erwin Schulhoff died in the Wülzburg concentration camp. He was one of the first classical composers in Europe to be inspired by jazz.

MIECZYSLAW WEINBERGConcerto for Trumpet, Op. 94 (1967) – Weinberg lost most of his family in the Holocaust but survived the torments of two brutal dictatorships. He fled the German occupation of Poland in 1939, only to fall victim to Stalin’s post-war campaign against the Jews. He was released after years of imprisonment, and later created one of the finest trumpet concertos ever written. OEBS Principal Trumpet William Harvey is the featured soloist in this inspiring work.

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN – Symphony No. 3 – Now known as the “Eroica”, was originally written in honor of Napoleon and titled “Bonaparte”. However, when Napoleon declared himself Emperor in 1804, Beethoven was enraged and changed the name of his work. The “Eroica” is known as one of Beethoven’s most challenging masterpieces – long, technically demanding and sublime.

ABOUT OEBS

Under the artistic leadership of Maestro Michael Morgan
, Oakland East Bay Symphony activities reach over 75,000 people annually, with more than one-third of the operating budget dedicated to education and outreach programs. These programs include several acclaimed education programs under the umbrella of the MUSE (Music for Excellence) Program: In-School Mentor and Instrumental Instruction, Young People’s Concerts, Ensembles in the Schools, Young Artist Competition, Free Ticket Distribution and regular school visits by Michael Morgan and other musicians. These programs serve over 21,000 young people each year.

OEBS has fostered collaborations with local arts organizations from children’s choruses to jazz ensembles to dance and opera. The Symphony showcases new American works in performance and encourages young artists. In its efforts to support new music, OEBS formed a multi-year partnership with The James Irvine Foundation in 1998 to initiate various commissioning projects including the newly established New Visions/New Vistas initiative. In June of 2010, OEBS forged a closer partnership with Oakland Youth Orchestra and Oakland Symphony Chorus in a merger that resulted in the formation of East Bay Performing Arts.

Continue Reading

Falling From Grace X 2

February 5 (Posted on SF Gate)After a weekend during which Occupy Oakland protests turned violent and led to injuries and more than 400 arrests, regional support for the movement is waning, a new poll finds.

Twenty-six percent of Bay Area residents surveyed for the poll said they used to support the Occupy movement but have now changed their minds, a KPIX-sponsored SurveyUSA pollfound.

Thirty-two percent of respondents said they have backed Occupy from the start and still do, 32 percent said they have opposed it from the start and still do, and 3 percent said they used to oppose it but have now signed on, the poll said. Eight percent were not sure.

Occupy Oakland’s attempted takeover of the long-closed Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center over the weekend was even less popular. Only 21 percent of respondents said they supported Occupy efforts to seize empty buildings for headquarters, while 71 percent said they opposed them and the rest were unsure, the poll said.

When it comes to police response during protests, survey respondents were almost evenly split: Twenty-eight percent said police have been too harsh, 33 percent said they haven’t been harsh enough, and 35 percent said the response has been just about right. Four percent weren’t sure.

The survey polled 500 adults in the Bay Area on Monday by telephone and electronic device. The  margin of error was 4.1 to 4.5 percentage points.

WE HOPE THAT OCCUPY CLEANS RANKS AND DELIVERS A CLEAR CUT MESSAGE.   DESTROYING PROPERTY MAY FEEL GOOD, BUT IT WON’T INCREASE YOUR SUPPORTER BASE.


komen1

February 5 (Posted on Seattle PI website) Last week’s nationwide flap, including a protest letter signed by 26 U.S. Senators — Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., helped organize it — registered on 82 percent of those surveyed Friday and Saturday by Public Policy Polling.

“Do you support or oppose Susan G. Komen’s decision to stop funding breast cancer screenings by Planned Parenthood?” PPP asked.

Fifty-three percent of those polled opposed the decision, 39 percent supported Komen’s position, with just 8 percent undecided.

The pollster asked whether the controversy helped or hurt the image of the cancer charity.  Just 30 percent replied that it helped Komen’s image, 53 percent agreed that it hurt the charity, with the remaining respondents saying it made no difference.

The third question should cause a bit of quaking at Komen:  “Does this decision make you more or less likely to donated money to Susan G. Komen for the Cure in the future, or does it not make a difference?”

Forty-nine percent of those surveyed answered “less likely,” just 29 percent “more likely,” and 19 percent said no difference.

And 43 percent said they were less likely to participate in the Komen Foundation’s popular Run for the Cure events.

Planned Parenthood remains controversial, but attacks from Republicans on Capitol Hill and anti-abortion activists have not turned the organization into a pariah.

WE HOPE THAT KOMEN CLEANS RANKS AND THAT THE GENERAL PUBLIC HAS DELIVERED A CLEAR CUT MESSAGE.   POLITICIZING WOMENS HEALTH MAY FEEL GOOD BUT IT WON’T INCREASE YOUR SUPPORTER BASE.

Continue Reading