Another day, another negative story about California's high-speed rail program. This time, it's about the departure of the project's top executive, who announced he was leaving just months before construction is scheduled to begin.
From the LAT's Ralph Vartabedian and Dan Weikel: "The political and management challenges facing California's bullet train project grew more complicated Thursday, when the chief executive of the $98.5-billion effort suddenly announced his resignation, just months before construction was supposed to begin."
"Roelof van Ark, 60, an engineering manager with considerable international high-speed rail experience, announced his departure, raising new questions about the program's stability at a crucial juncture. At the same time, Thomas Umberg, a former state legislator, said he was stepping down as chairman of the California High Speed Rail Authority board, which is directing the project."
"Van Ark said he wanted to spend more time with his family, and declined to comment further. But some lawmakers and state transportation officials said he had lost the confidence of the Legislature. A spokesman for Gov. Jerry Brown said there was "common agreement" that the time was good for a change."
Computer viruses seem to have found a home at City College of San Francisco: Officials have discovered widespread infestations in the college's computers and network compromising the personal data of thousands of students and faculty members. Nanette Asimov in the Chronicle tells the tale.
"At work for more than a decade, the viruses were detected a few days after Thanksgiving, when the college's data security monitoring service detected an unusual pattern of computer traffic, flagging trouble."
"It appeared at first that the problem was contained in a single computer lab at Cloud Hall on the Phelan Avenue campus, one of a dozen City College sites around the city. David Hotchkiss, the chief technology officer, immediately shut the lab down and reported the problem to Chancellor Don Griffin, General Counsel Scott Dickey and Board of Trustees President John Rizzo."
"But a closer look revealed a far more nefarious situation, which had been lurking within the college's electronic systems since 1999. For now, it's still going on. So far, no cases of identify theft have been linked to the breach. That may change as the investigation continues, and college officials said they might need to bring in the FBI."
"The college's payroll, admissions and accounting systems have yet to be analyzed for the viruses."
Gov. Brown has a message for welfare clients: Work or else.
From HealthyCal's Dan Weintraub: "Brown wants to cut $1 billion from the program — nearly one-third of its general fund budget — by shortening the amount of time recipients can remain on aid and focusing the state’s cash assistance and child care subsidies on people who are moving from welfare to work."
"His plan has won initial praise from the state’s independent budget analyst. But advocates for the poor say it would further marginalize the state’s already struggling underclass. And Democratic leaders in the Legislature have said they will delay any action on the proposal until after the governor’s March 1 deadline, in the hopes that state tax revenues will come in higher than Brown anticipates."
"While a common perception of welfare is a program that supports poor, unproductive people, the program has morphed over the past decade into one that provides not just cash grants but job training and services to help people enter the workforce. And more than anything, it is a program that supports children. More than 1 million of the 1.4 million people helped by the program are children."
"It is also a program which, while never a major part of the state budget, has shrunk dramatically over the past generation."
A new report by state regulators says PG&E has collected millions of dollars from ratepayers for improvements it never made. From Steve Johnson, Joshua Melvin and Paul Rogers in the Mercury News.
"The report by the California Public Utility Commission's safety division also disclosed that PG&E in recent years has collected more than a half billion dollars from ratepayers for system improvements that were never made or that exceeded the amount of money it was authorized to earn. That finding, from an audit, could make it harder for the utility to saddle its customers with 90 percent of the cost of its $2.2 billion pipeline-renovation plan, as it recently has proposed."
"Much of the report repeats previous findings by the National Transportation Safety Board and an expert panel the commission appointed to look into the accident, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes. But the disclosure about the audit sparked outrage among some elected officials."
"It is truly unconscionable that PG&E was allowed by the CPUC to steal ratepayer monies that should have been spent on safety and, instead, was put in the pockets of PG&E shareholders," said Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Hillsborough. "All these monies identified in the audit should be returned to ratepayers, presumably as a credit against the work that PG&E should have done, but didn't."
The retirement of veteran House Rep. Jerry Lewis has opened the floodgates for a passel of potential successors, reports the Press-Enterprise's Imran Ghori.
"The Inland area will have no shortage of candidates for two open congressional seats following today's announcement by Rep. Jerry Lewis, R-Redlands, that he will retire.
San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt and Assemblyman Paul Cook, both Republicans, announced that they plan to run in the 8th Congressional district."
"The district includes Yucaipa, San Bernardino County's High Desert and small portions of Inyo and Mono counties."
"Rep. Gary Miller, R-Diamond Bar, announced that he would run in the 31st Congressional district, covering Redlands, San Bernardino, Rialto and surrounding communities. The National Republican Congressional Committee announced that it would be backing him in that race."