10:03am

Thu January 26, 2012
Politics

Connecting the Dots: Top news stories for Thursday, January 26, 2012

Is the Bay Area 'Book Smart?' An annual roundup published by Central Connecticut State University offers mixed results. San Francisco scored higher than Oakland and San Jose in terms of educational degrees, number of booksellers, and newspapers per capita, but in general, the Bay Area and California did not rank as highly as one might hope. In terms of Internet access, though, the three cities tied for third place...

Another report -- this one issued by the Ecological Society of America -- found that nitrogen emissions from car exhaust and industrial sites may be causing forest fires in the California desert by fueling the growth of non-native grasses. Agricultural runoff containing nitrogen is also contaminating California's groundwater, the study found...

But the California Air Resources Board may soon take on this very issue. The Board is expected to vote today on a landmark bill that will require 15 percent of all vehicles in the state to run on electricity, hydrogen, or other clean-energy systems that don't produce smog by 2025. These "advanced clean car rules" will begin in earnest by 2018..

Not to be outdone, the Alameda County Waste Management Authority Board, also known as StopWaste.org, voted Wednesday to ban all single-use plastic bags in the county's large pharmacies and grocery stores. The ban will take effect on January 1, 2013... 

While some argue that environmental regulations like these eliminate jobs, economists beg to differ when it comes to California. Many areas across the state have become wastelands of industrial pollution, which can create wastelands of business development, too. In this and other ways, toxic site cleanup is a strong driver of the Bay Area's economy... 

Oakland officials, in an effort to maintain the city's economy, have opted to reduce the number of employee layoffs originally anticipated as well as hold on to a few programs they'd planned to slash. Although City Administrator Deanna Santana's proposal still requires a $28 million budget cut, 81 city employees may lose their jobs, instead of 100 to 200, and Children's Fairyland and the 211 information system, along with a few other programs, may also be preserved...

The Oakland Police Department may not fare as well, though, as US District Court Judge Thelton Henderson could begin the process of federal takeover this month due to the department's repeated failures over the past decade to implement court-mandated reforms...

But campaign finance reform may soon be mandated in California, thanks in part to the eyebrow-raising super political action committee (PAC) advertisements showing up during the Republican presidential primary. A new bill introduced in the state legislature this week would require corporations and super PACs with shareholders in California to publicly disclose their activity in an annual spending report.

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