Index
Wednesday
Sep172014

LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Orange County): Orange County government, grand jury recommendation, stronger ethics oversight: "Supervisors Turn Down Independent Ethics Oversight" ....

* Voice of OC:  "Supervisors Turn Down Independent Ethics Oversight" - From VoiceofOC:

The County Board of Supervisors Tuesday rejected, for the second time since last year, a grand jury proposal for stronger ethics oversight of county government.The vote apparently was 5-0, but Supervisor Janet Nguyen objected to certain sections of the supervisors’ response to the grand jury, causing confusion over how her vote should be recorded. Exactly how the overall vote will be officially recorded won’t be known until Wednesday.

In their June report, the grand jury called on the Board of Supervisors to help create a strong, independent county ethics “program” to police the conduct of county officials and lobbyists. “Ethics bodies work effectively to deter, detect, and punish ethics violations,” said the detailed report. “Vigorous ethics monitoring and enforcement is necessary to develop and maintain trust in government.”

Supervisors disagreed. “I would agree that creating something new - just another level - is duplicative” and not probably getting to the heart of issues, said Supervisor Pat Bates at Tuesday’s county supervisors meeting. “I would be very, very concerned with anybody that’s appointed to have subpoena powers that are currently restricted to our law enforcement officials.”

The issue is pitting supervisors against grand jurors and the county’s rank-and-file employees ..............................

Wednesday
Sep172014

POLITICS (State,, Local/Bay Area): PG&E, California Public Utilities Commission, shakeup, "inappropriate" communications: "CPUC president's ousted aide may come back as judge" ....

***Following up on most recent earlier item noted here (shakeup at PG&E and at the California Public Utilities Commission, resignation, chief of staff to CPUC President Michael Peevey)....

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "CPUC president's ousted aide may come back as judge" - From the Chronicle:

The top aide to the head of the California Public Utilities Commission, forced from her post after e-mails showed she intervened in the selection of an administrative law judge to hear a Pacific Gas and Electric Co. rate case, is on paid leave from the agency but retains her current civil service rank - administrative law judge, The Chronicle has learned.

Carol Brown resigned as commission President Michael Peevey's chief of staff Monday after it became known that she had worked to assign a judge preferred by PG&E to determine how much customers should pay for the billions of dollars the company is spending on post-San Bruno disaster pipeline improvements. The commission released a statement calling the communications "inappropriate."

PG&E ousted three vice presidents who it said were involved in the effort, including Tom Bottorff, the longtime head of the regulatory relations who ranked near the top of the company's hierarchy. One of the other fired executives, Brian Cherry, e-mailed Brown repeatedly in January to critique judges who might be assigned to the rate case. He objected to one as being "a major problem for us " and a second as having a "history of being very hard on us," according to e-mails released by PG&E. "This is a problem. Hope Carol can fix it," Cherry told Peevey in an e-mail about one of the judges.

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As Peevey's top aide since 2009, the 67-year-old Brown earned about $120,000 a year. Sources close to the matter said that when she returns from leave, she is likely to return to her old job at the commission - administrative law judge - and retain her salary.

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State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, a frequent critic of the utilities commission, said the possibility that Brown could return to being an administrative law judge shows the agency is "an organization totally out of control with no sense of reality." "That is the most obscene thing I've ever heard," Hill said. "How can she be objective as an ALJ now? After the double dealing she has been involved in? It's amazing. That's crazy."

San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson said it would be wrong for Brown to preside over cases. "Her job is to look out for the people of the state of California," not PG&E, Jackson said. "It has clearly been demonstrated that she doesn't understand or doesn't value the responsibility and the ethical standard," Jackson said. "Common understanding of 'gone' is gone, but not at the PUC, apparently."

Wednesday
Sep172014

LOCAL GOVERNMENT (Sacramento): Reinstatement of Central Labor Council executive secretary, "Labor leader Camp reinstated, announces retirement"; also, Measure L, November municipal ballot, "Unions line up against, for strong mayor plan" .... 

***Following up on earlier items noted here ("ouster" of Sacramento labor leader Bill Camp, local area politics)....

* Sacramento Bee:  "Labor leader Camp reinstated, announces retirement"

***ALSO: Related:

* Sacramento Bee:  "Unions line up against, for strong mayor plan"

Wednesday
Sep172014

INTERNATIONAL: Ultra-luxury resort, Rolls Royce Phantom vehicles to chauffeur guests: "Hong Kong tycoon buys 30 Rolls Royce Phantoms" ....

* The Guardian:  "Hong Kong tycoon buys 30 Rolls Royce Phantoms" - From The Guardian:

A Hong Kong tycoon has placed the biggest ever order for Rolls-Royce cars, agreeing to buy 30 Phantoms to chauffeur guests at a luxury resort he is building in Macau. Stephen Hung's $20m (£12m) purchase surpasses the 14 Phantoms bought by Hong Kong's Peninsula hotel in 2006. Hung signed the deal with Rolls-Royce executives on Tuesday at the company's Goodwood factory in England.

The extended wheelbase Phantoms will be used for guests at Hung's "ultra-luxury" Louis XIII hotel, which is scheduled to open in early 2016. Rolls-Royce said two of the cars will be the most expensive Phantoms ever commissioned, complete with gold-plated accents on both the exterior and interior.

Louis XIII Holdings said it would pay the carmaker a $2m deposit, $3m more by the end of the year and the remaining $15m when the cars are delivered in the first half of 2016.

The Phantom's list price is about $600,000, but many buyers order custom features that push prices much higher. Customers have been known to spend more than $1m on bespoke models.

With casino revenues of $45m last year, Macau is the world's most lucrative gambling market, outpacing Las Vegas seven times over. . . . . . . . .

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Hung, a former investment banker, is known for his flamboyant style and the resort looks to be the flashiest of the wave of expansion projects now under construction in the tiny Chinese territory near Hong Kong. The resort will boast a 1,860-sq metre (20,000-sq ft) villa billed as the world's "most extravagant" hotel suite, which will reportedly cost $130,000 a night.......

***ALSO:

* Business Insider:  "A Hong Kong Tycoon Just Placed The Largest Order In Rolls-Royce History"

Wednesday
Sep172014

POLITICS (Bay Area): Ride services, impact on San Francisco taxi industry: "Ride services decimate S.F. taxi industry's business" .... 

* San Francisco Chronicle:  "Ride services decimate S.F. taxi industry's business" - From the Chronicle:

The fall of the taxi industry in San Francisco, as less-regulated ride services have taken hold, has been both steep and sharp. The number of trips taken by taxi plummeted 65 percent in just 15 months, according to a report presented to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board Tuesday.

It's been evident that the booming popularity of app-dispatched ride services like Lyft and Uber have dramatically eaten into the taxi industry's business. But the report on the status of the taxi industry reveals the depth of the impact.

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While the MTA regulates the taxi industry, the state Public Utilities Commission has claimed jurisdiction over the new ride services, which typically contract with people to use their personal cars to carry passengers who hail them with a smartphone app. The new companies, unlike taxi operators, have lesser insurance requirements, no restrictions on the number of vehicles they put on the streets, no clean-air standards and less-stringent background checks. The newcomers say they're replacing a failed industry, while the taxi companies claim they're underregulated scofflaws.

Among biggest impacts of the ride services has been the drop in taxi rides taken by people in ramp taxis, which carry people in wheelchairs. As the ride services have grown and the number of cabs has diminished, so has the availability of wheelchair-accessible taxis, which are costlier to operate. . . . .The ride services are not required to pick up people in wheelchairs. MTA officials have offered incentives to cab companies to keep more ramp taxis on the road.

The agency has already taken steps to keep taxis part of the city's transportation landscape. . . . . . . .

But MTA directors and some taxi drivers and managers said more is needed............