Rebecca Bowe

Drowned out

GREEN ISSUE: Endangered whales may be threatened by a noisy side-effect of globalization

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rebeccab@sfbg.com

GREEN ISSUE The tiny, rigid-hull inflatable boats that researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography use for whale tagging are a mere fraction of the size of the blue whales they are deployed to search for. But Scripps PhD candidate Megan McKenna says there's no reason to worry about the mammoth creatures — which can weigh as many tons as 27 elephants put together — bumping up against the boat when she reaches overboard with a pole to tag them.Read more »

Man who threatened Pelosi sent hate mail to Guardian

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Remember when we told you about that very special piece of fan mail from the guy who didn’t like our cover story about undercover cops targeting San Francisco nightlife?

Well, he appears to be the same person who just got picked up by the FBI for making threatening and harrassing phone calls to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.Read more »

Access denied

It's becoming harder to get an education in California, even at community colleges

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rebeccab@sfbg.com

If tuition goes up to $40 per course unit at the community college where Dielly Diaz is working toward her associate of arts degree, she's not sure she'll be able to afford it. But Diaz isn't just worried about her own shot at an education. She also wonders what's in store for her 19-year-old daughter, a student at Laney Community College in Oakland. For parents scrambling in the face of the economic downturn even as their kids prepare for the future, she said, "it's like we're getting hit both ways."Read more »

Roundup of depressing environmental news

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At the Guardian, we’re busy putting together our annual Green Issue to commemorate Earth Day. It’s great that recycling and general concern for the planet have been on the rise over the past 40 years, but I can’t help but notice a few Prozac-worthy reports on the environmental front recently. Read more »

Why is the Potrero Power Plant still going strong?

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The Potrero Power Plant, a longtime source of pollution and health concerns for residents of San Francisco’s southeastern neighborhoods, is slated for partial closure once the Trans Bay Cable begins transmitting electricity into the city.

The Trans Bay Cable is an undersea cord that will transmit 400 megawatts of power underneath the San Francisco Bay from power plants in the Pittsburg / Antioch area. Last we heard, from a January article in the San Francisco Examiner, the project was running a full month ahead of schedule. Read more »

Study: Cuts to health programs a bad plan for state economy

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It doesn’t take a Ph.D. to understand that people who earn less shell out a greater percentage of their income from month to month than those occupying more elite ranks. Anyone fortunate enough to be holding down even a low-paying gig in a state where unemployment stands at 12.5 percent knows that basic living expenses can quickly consume a paycheck in San Francisco.

A study released by the Center for Labor and Research Education at the University of California at Berkeley has found that cutting relatively low-paying jobs in the state’s health and human services sector would deal a harsher blow to California’s financial health than alternative budget-balancing measures, like raising taxes on the wealthiest residents. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has proposed cutting $6.4 billion from California’s health and human services budget, part of his solution for closing a roughly $20 billion budget gap.

“The budget proposals that the governor is making would … significantly worsen the economic crisis in the state, rather than pull us out,” said Ken Jacobs, chair of the Labor Center at UC Berkeley. Read more »

Deadline looms for San Francisco’s green power program

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Negotiations between city government and Power Choice LLC, a contractor selected to implement San Francisco’s Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program, began Feb. 9. Almost seven weeks later, there’s still no end in sight -- but if a deal isn’t secured soon, San Francisco could risk losing an opportunity to implement a cutting-edge green power program that would significantly reduce the city’s reliance on fossil fuels and give customers an alternative electricity provider.

About a half-decade of studies, debate, public meetings, and input from all sides have brought San Francisco’s CCA to the threshold of finally becoming a reality. The program would offer an energy mix comprised of 51 percent renewable power by 2017 for those who opted in.  

Assuming the program can operate successfully without an adverse impact to customers’ wallets, San Francisco could become a shining example of how to transition to a more sustainable energy model. It could represent giant step -- rather than an inch-by-inch crawl -- toward carbon-free power generation serving the needs of a major U.S. city. Read more »

When do we get to vote on PG&E’s latest rate hike?

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The Chronicle’s David Baker reported today that Pacific Gas & Electric Co. has proposed a new fee structure that would raise the average residential customer bill by $10.73 more each month, bringing it to a total of $88.13.

This new rate-hike proposal comes as the utility prepares to spend $35 million on Proposition 16, a ballot initiative that would essentially lock in its monopoly against competition by requiring a two-thirds vote before local governments could set up alternative power providers. John Geesman, former executive director of the California Energy Commission, called PG&E’s current rates “excessive” when he blasted Prop 16 before a joint hearing of the California Legislature. Geesman commented that the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) doesn’t set rates “at a level calculated to provide a $35 million slush fund for sole-sponsored political adventurism.” Read more »

The new War on Fun

Party people, watch out: undercover cop Larry Bertrand has declared war on San Francisco nightlife

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news@sfbg.com

For several years, the Guardian has been running regular stories chronicling what we've dubbed the Death of Fun, a trend of official crackdowns and shakedowns on people who throw parties and festivals in San Francisco. In the last year, that trend has started to morph into an often brutal War on Fun, with a growing list of atrocities and casualties associated with this overzealous new approach to killing the city's entertainment industry.Read more »

Utility PR 101: Glossy mailers galore!

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PG&E’s public-relations playbook (“Defending Your Shareholder-Owned Electric Company Against New Municipalization Threats, authored by San Francisco PR firm Solem & Associates), Tab IV, Section 17, instructs: “Design and implement a direct-mail program.” Read more »