Guardian Editorial

Subpoena PG&E's maps

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EDITORIAL If you're worried about the safety of the natural gas mains running below San Francisco — and you should be — you might take a look at a city on the Peninsula, one about 22 miles south of the site of the gas explosion in San Bruno. Since 1927, the city of Palo Alto has been running its own gas and electric utility — and instead of worrying about pipelines blowing up, the city recently won an award for safety.

Palo Alto workers inspected every inch of every gas pipe in 2009, and the steel pipes are replaced every 37 years — well ahead of the rated lifetime of the material. Oh, and by the way: gas and electricity are way cheaper in Palo Alto.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co., the private utility that operates most of the pipelines underneath northern California, has a different approach. In the past, the company has been nailed for diverting ratepayer money from public safety and maintenance into executive salaries and profits. And the backlog of deferred pipeline maintenance (despite the fact that the company has been given rate hikes to pay for replacing old pipes) suggests that the pattern may be continuing.

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PG&E's deadly failures

The CPUC should investigate how PG&E has been spending the money it collects from ratepayers for maintenance and system upgrades
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EDITORIAL In 1994, a fire raged through the tiny community of Rough and Ready in Nevada County. The inferno destroyed a dozen homes and caused $2 million in damage. The cause: tree limbs that Pacific Gas and Electric Co. should have trimmed brushed against high-voltage power lines.

A furious local district attorney filed criminal charges — and in a dramatic trial, evidence emerged that PG&E had intentionally taken $80 million in ratepayer money designated for tree trimming and diverted it into executive salaries and profits. Read more »

PG&E's deadly failures

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The CPUC should investigate how PG&E has been spending the money it collects from ratepayers for maintenance and system upgrades

EDITORIAL In 1994, a fire raged through the tiny community of Rough and Ready in Nevada County. The inferno destroyed a dozen homes and caused $2 million in damage. The cause: tree limbs that Pacific Gas and Electric Co. should have trimmed brushed against high-voltage power lines.

A furious local district attorney filed criminal charges — and in a dramatic trial, evidence emerged that PG&E had intentionally taken $80 million in ratepayer money designated for tree trimming and diverted it into executive salaries and profits.

After a natural gas line that was installed in 1948 burst last week in San Bruno, killing five and devastating a community, local and state officials should be asking if the company is still taking money that should be spent upgrading and maintaining its system and spending it elsewhere.

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No smart meters in SF

TURN is urging customers to boycott the meters
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EDITORIAL Smart meters are a dumb idea. That's what The Utility Reform Network says, noting that the high tech devices are expensive (California utilities, including Pacific Gas and Electric Co., will be charging consumers $5.4 billion to install the meters), don't save energy or money, and can lead to privacy risks. PG&E bills have soared unexpectedly in places where the meters have been installed in the past year, forcing an investigation by the California Public Utilities Commission, which concluded on Sept. 2 that the meters are okay, but PG&E's customer service isn't. Read more »

No smart meters in SF

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TURN is urging customers to boycott the meters

EDITORIAL Smart meters are a dumb idea. That's what The Utility Reform Network says, noting that the high tech devices are expensive (California utilities, including Pacific Gas and Electric Co., will be charging consumers $5.4 billion to install the meters), don't save energy or money, and can lead to privacy risks. PG&E bills have soared unexpectedly in places where the meters have been installed in the past year, forcing an investigation by the California Public Utilities Commission, which concluded on Sept. 2 that the meters are okay, but PG&E's customer service isn't. Still, TURN and other experts say the report is inconclusive, and state Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter) wants legislative hearings before any more meters are installed.

San Francisco hasn't faced the smart meter problem yet since the utility hasn't been installing them here — but that will start soon enough, now that the CPUC (never known as a harsh critic of PG&E) has given the green light. TURN is urging customers to boycott the meters, so the San Francisco supervisors should tell PG&E that the city doesn't want this flawed technology.

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School board race shouldn't be personal

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The backroom anti-Brodkin campaign has to stop

EDITORIAL There are plenty of issues to talk about in the San Francisco School Board race. The new student assignment process marks a dramatic shift in the way parents and kids get to choose schools. The district's decision to pursue federal Race to the Top money was a mistake. There are too many charter schools, and not enough money for basic programs. The district has made great strides in closing the achievement gap, but there's more to do. Many school facilities still need upgrades, meaning — potentially — more bond acts. The austerity budget has meant teacher layoffs. Overall, the district is in better shape than it was five years ago, but the goal of quality education for all kids is still a long way off.

This is what candidates and interest groups ought to be talking about. Instead, it seems as if the entire race is about one candidate: Margaret Brodkin.

Brodkin, the former director of Coleman Advocates for Children and Youth and former head of the Mayor's Office of Children, Youth, and Families is by all accounts among the most experienced people ever to run for the office. She's also strong-willed, forceful, and sometimes difficult. That's what's made her such a successful advocate. Over the past 30 years, she's been involved in almost every progressive cause involving children and youth in the city, from the creation of the Children's Fund to the battle against privatization in the public schools.

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School board race shouldn't be personal

The backroom anti-Brodkin campaign has to stop
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EDITORIAL There are plenty of issues to talk about in the San Francisco School Board race. The new student assignment process marks a dramatic shift in the way parents and kids get to choose schools. The district's decision to pursue federal Race to the Top money was a mistake. There are too many charter schools, and not enough money for basic programs. The district has made great strides in closing the achievement gap, but there's more to do. Many school facilities still need upgrades, meaning — potentially — more bond acts. The austerity budget has meant teacher layoffs. Read more »

Editorial: Beyond Chief Gascon's reforms

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There are cops at every level on the force who ought to be fired for misconduct — and the discipline process has been so slow that it's utterly ineffective.

EDITORIAL You have to give San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón credit: he talks more about reform, and seems to take discipline more seriously, than anyone who has headed the department in at least 30 years. In the wake of the crime lab scandal, he did what the department should have done years ago: ordered a complete investigation of the background of every officer on the force to determine if anyone has skeletons that might affect his or her ability to testify in criminal cases.

But if the list of problem officers becomes nothing more than a closely guarded secret used only when the district attorney fears for the future of a criminal case, the exercise will have only limited value.

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Beyond Chief Gascon's reforms

There are cops at every level on the force who ought to be fired for misconduct — and the discipline process has been so slow that it's utterly ineffective
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EDITORIAL You have to give San Francisco Police Chief George Gascón credit: he talks more about reform, and seems to take discipline more seriously, than anyone who has headed the department in at least 30 years. In the wake of the crime lab scandal, he did what the department should have done years ago: ordered a complete investigation of the background of every officer on the force to determine if anyone has skeletons that might affect his or her ability to testify in criminal cases. Read more »

New approach for the new U.S. attorney

Melinda Haag will have a tremendous amount of discretion on law enforcement priorities

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EDITORIAL Joseph Russoniello, the U.S. attorney who terrorized immigrants, city employees, and medical marijuana growers, is finally out of office, replaced Aug. 13 by an Obama nominee screened by Sen. Barbara Boxer. Melinda Haag is the second female U.S. attorney in California history and the first since the 1920s. She's taking over an office that pushed all the wrong priorities and served as an outpost of Bush administration values in Democratic Northern California, and she needs to turn that around, quickly and visibly.Read more »