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THE NOONER for December 31, 2014
Good morning from the re-electrified Nooner Portland HQ. You have 12 hours left of 2014. I for one am happy to see this year come to an end and am looking forward to a much better 2015. For last-minute tax year contributions, I suggest:
It was a fascinating year in the State Capitol and politics. Here are some of my top moments:
#CAKEDAY: Happy birthday to Rocky Fernandez, Christian Griffith, and Louis Mendez!
TOP HEADLINES ON AROUNDTHECAPITOL.COM AS OF 12:00PM
California's Budget Surplus? Look Again
Editorial @ latimes.com
Actuaries hired by outgoing state Controller John Chiang have found that paying for all the health benefits promised to current state employees when they retire will cost almost $72 billion, taking a much larger slice from the state budget than is now spent on retirees' coverage. The revelation is just the latest sign that the state's budget surplus isn't a real windfall, given the long-term fiscal problems festering in Sacramento. Gov. Jerry Brown is expected to unveil a plan next month to start paying down the retiree health program's unfunded liabilities, which have grown by a third in the last eight years. It's commendable that the state at last is owning up to this issue, but its dithering has raised the price tag considerably.
Could 2015 Be The Year Of The Ferret?
Alexei Koseff @ sacbee.com
With dozens of new lawmakers at the Capitol, might 2015 mark the dawn of a new era for California ferrets?
Peter Fimrite @ sfgate.com
Disaster and drama were prevalent on the pages of The Chronicle throughout the year, but no story touched Bay Area readers in 2014 quite like the tragic death of comedian Robin Williams. The comic actorâÂÂs suicide was chosen by Chronicle reporters and editors as the biggest news story of the year, beating out CaliforniaâÂÂs historic drought and the magnitude-6.0 Napa earthquake, which were chosen as the second and third most impactful stories. The ChronicleâÂÂs annual top 10 list is full of the unusual and extraordinary âÂÂ and, letâÂÂs face it, most of the news is bad âÂÂ but the glorious World Series victory by the Giants stands out as an oasis of good. The Williams story is tragic, but it highlighted the ephemeral nature of fame and fortune and inspired people to talk about and get help for depression. The discovery of Robin WilliamsâÂÂ body inside his Tiburon home Aug. 11 was a shattering blow to his fans, especially when it was revealed that he had committed suicide. California suffered throughout the year from one of the worst dry spells in the stateâÂÂs modern history, a three-year period that has depleted the water supply. The drought led to drastic reductions in water allotments, forced residents to ration water and caused farmers to leave vast tracts of land fallow. The regionâÂÂs strongest earthquake in a quarter century rumbled through Napa at 3:20 a.m. Aug. 24, sending glass shards flying, wine barrels tumbling and large chunks of historic downtown buildings crashing into the street. The Napa ValleyâÂÂs fabled wine industry took an $80 million hit in shattered barrels, bottles and equipment. At least 120 of the valleyâÂÂs 500 vineyards, wineries and production facilities reported quake damage to their wine or structures, most of it caused by tumbling barrels. The saga of state Sen. Leland Yee is a kaleidoscope of racketeering, bribery, weapons trafficking, money laundering and a few other schemes and intrigues, according to FBI records. The FBI investigation began with alleged Chinatown gangster Raymond âÂÂShrimp BoyâÂÂ Chow, who is accused of agreeing to launder $2.3 million in criminal proceeds, and then proceeding to include Keith Jackson, a former San Francisco school board president, and Yee. The FBI says Yee and Jackson solicited contributions to the senatorâÂÂs unsuccessful campaign for San Francisco mayor in 2011 and his recent campaign for California secretary of state in exchange for promises of political favors. The star this time was Madison Bumgarner, who won Game 1 of the Series, tossed a four-hit shutout in Game 5 and then shut the door on the Royals in the final game on short rest, a feat that won him Sports IllustratedâÂÂs Sportsman of the Year award. Thousands of demonstrators blocked streets and highways, broke windows and played cat-and-mouse with police in San Francisco, Oakland, Emeryville and Berkeley for weeks in December to protest grand jury decisions not to indict police officers for the killings of unarmed black men. The sign-waving throngs marched, chanted and, at times, confronted merchants who got in their way during a series of actions designed to draw attention to the deaths of Eric Garner, in New York, and Michael Brown, in Missouri, and the decision not to prosecute the officers who killed them. The protesters, at various times, blocked Market Street in San Francisco, shut down East Bay freeways and chained themselves to the front doors of Oakland police headquarters. Anger is percolating in the Mission, Excelsior, Richmond, Cole Valley and Sunset districts of San Francisco as technology workers with lots of money replace longtime blue-collar residents. The most dramatic transformation is occurring in the Mission District, where increasing rents and soaring real estate prices are changing the community into a more upscale district. Some were submerged in several feet of water in part because not enough grout had been pumped into protective sleeves to keep them dry, officials told members of a bridge project oversight committee. [...] an investigative report on the quality-control processes for the Bay Bridge project said Caltrans âÂÂgagged and banishedâÂÂ at least nine engineers who raised concerns about cost overruns or construction defects on the new span. The Boles Fire forced 2,000 residents of Weed and the surrounding communities to flee as homes and buildings erupted in flames and crews struggled to control an inferno that caught them by surprise. Fanned by gusting winds, the Boles Fire jumped Highway 97, raced into the community and damaged or destroyed 100 structures before firefighters had a chance to respond. The problems during the regular season opener were echoes of previous complaints of gridlocked traffic, overwhelmed transit service, and parking and access problems during the first four events at the stadium, starting with a San Jose Earthquakes soccer match.
Indian Casino, Nixed By Voters, May Not Be Dead
John Myers @ ww2.kqed.org
Long before Californians weighed Novemberâs referendum of a proposed Central Valley tribal casino, powerful forces on both sides quietly admitted something that wasnât being talked about: the ballot measure wouldnât be the final word.
The New Health Care: New Enrollment Numbers Show Importance of Coming Supreme Court Case
The subsidies that the court may eradicate are helping a large majority of HealthCare.gov customers pay for their health insurance.
William Gerberding dies at 85; longtime University of Washington head
William Gerberding, president of the University of Washington during a tumultuous era in the 1980s and early '90s when the university faced state budget cuts and football-team sanctions, died Saturday in Seattle. He was 85.
New Health Laws Set To Take Effect In California
Lisa Aliferis @ blogs.kqed.org
The new year will bring in hundreds of new laws in California, including a landmark law that permits undocumented individuals to obtain a driverâs license and another requiring that all eggs sold in California come from chickens living in bigger spaces.
Governor’s Choice To Lead CpUC Dismisses Concerns Of Improper Ties With Pg&e | News Fix | Kqed News
The PG&E logo is displayed on a hardhat at a work site.
Hollywood Isn't A Threat To America
Just off the top of my head, how about unregulated derivative trading, gerrymandering and voter suppression, unlimited dark money in political campaigns, an unequal education and justice system and a "news" media more interested in making a buck than informing, just to name a few?
Enron billionaire frets about public pensions' solvency
MITCH HOROWITZ @ politico.com
The Texan gives generously to politicians who support pension benefit cuts.
How to get more Angelenos to the ballot box
Los Angeles' budget for 2014-15 tops $8.1 billion, which is bigger than the budgets of about a dozen states. In the coming months, the city must grapple with some serious questions, many related to how to spend that money, such as the funding of pensions; hiring and retention of police...
California Gas Prices Going Up In 2015
Josh Richman @ mercurynews.com
But how much more we'll pay, and whether it's worth it, remains bitterly debated among oil companies, some state lawmakers and environmentalists.
Sierra Nevada Snowpack Levels Are Greater Than A Year Ago
Matt Stevens @ latimes.com
Measurements of Sierra Nevada snowpack on Tuesday showed more snow than surveyors recorded a year ago. But state water officials said it was far from enough to signal a potential end to California's continuing drought.
All'Acqua serves wood-fired pizza, pasta and budino in Atwater Village
Name of restaurant: All'Acqua. Because, apparently, it's Italian for Atwater, which is of course where you're eating. You're on Glendale Boulevard in Atwater Village. The place opened about five weeks ago.
Add Street-sweeping Tickets To Dense Neighborhoods' Parking Problems
Few things cause more anxiety for Los Angeles motorists than the sight of a parking enforcement officer writing tickets on street-sweeping day.
Maryland Governor Commutes Death Sentences, Emptying Death Row
Malley came two years after Maryland lawmakers abolished the death penalty in the state.
Arts Districts activists encouraged by zoning hearing delay
Arts District residents battling a proposal to rewrite downtown Los Angeles zoning laws to permit up to 1,500 new residential units say they are encouraged by two recent developments.