The decline in state prison inmates is easing the burden on the prison system but increasing the load on counties, which under the new realignment program is where the inmates are winding up in custody. That old cliche about robbing Peter to pay Paul seems to apply here.
From Tracey Kaplan in the Contra Costa Times: "The state's prison population has plummeted -- by 22,440 inmates, or about 15 percent -- since October, according to the report by the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. That's when the state responded to a court order to reduce overcrowding by adopting realignment, which shifts responsibility to counties for imprisoning and rehabilitating nonviolent felons."
"But now, according to the ACLU, the state is funneling billions of dollars to counties, much of it for building or expanding jails, instead of for cheaper alternatives called for in the realignment law -- including electronic monitoring, drug treatment and vocational training. The report is the first comprehensive critique of realignment since the massive plan was adopted six months ago."
"The state says locking people up hasn't worked," said Allen Hopper, police practices director of the ACLU of Northern California. "But on the other hand, it turns over billions to maintain the status quo," he said."
Hoping to put the bullet train in the Bay Area on a faster track, local and state officials have decided to split some $1.5 billion in costs to electrify the Caltrain line. The Mercury News' Mike Rosenberg tells the tale.
"The agreement calls for the state to spend $706 million in available high-speed rail bond funds while local counties would kick in $180 million in sales tax revenues and $500 million in federal grants. The money is there, and the only thing standing in the way is approval from the state Legislature, long divided on the state's plan to spend $100 billion on high-speed rail."
"The idea for the Peninsula is simple: Electrify the popular 52-mile Caltrain diesel line, complete with bigger stations in San Jose, Millbrae and San Francisco. That could allow the financially struggling commuter agency to turn around its fortunes by running more trains at a cheaper cost to taxpayers."
In politics, timing is everything but, yet again, the California State University appears to have ignored that basic rule: At the same time that fees are rising and classes are eliminated, trustees approved 10 percent pay increases for two campus presidents.
From the AP's Christina Hoag: "Students, faculty members and unionized employees criticized the board for the salary increases, saying they were excessive in light of a looming $750 million cut in state funding for the next academic year. Administrators are planning to halt most spring 2013 admissions to cope with the cut, a move that will affect some 16,000 students."
"They're forcing us to make cuts because they don't have the money to pay for academic services," said Antoine Wilson, a senior at Cal State Dominguez Hills. "But they're approving salary increases. It shows you where their priorities are."
"CSU administrators say the increases are necessary to attract and retain top executive talent. The trustees approved a base salary of $303,660 for CSU East Bay President Leroy Morishita and $324,500 for CSU Fullerton President Mildred Garcia, as well as $12,000 car allowances and $60,000 housing allowances for each."
Meanwhile, the state Senate's sense of timing isn't much better than CSU's: Lawmakers on the Education Committee rejected an attempt to curb pay hikes at public universities. Theyn acted just a day after the trustees voted.
From the Bee's Dan Walters: "Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, argued that his measure, Senate Bill 967, was needed to send a message to trustees that hefty raises are inappropriate while student fees are being increased and enrollment is being curtailed. But just four members of the Democrat-controlled committee, two short of a majority, voted for Yee's measure and three voted against it."
There's a new sheriff in town in San Francisco, at least for now, after Mayor Ed Lee booted out Ross Mirkarimi and swore in Vicki Hennessy as the interim sheriff. She is the first woman to lead the department. Mirkarimi, you'll recall, had been tangled in a domestic violence dispute and the mayor accused him of official misconduct.
From the Chronicle's Rachel Gordon: "The suspension is the first step toward forcing Mirkarimi from office. The Board of Supervisors will ultimately decide whether to remove him.
Mirkarimi, 50, was sentenced Monday to three years probation for the false imprisonment of his wife, a misdemeanor charge to which he pleaded guilty last week in a plea bargain. He was accused of inflicting a bruise on his wife's arm when he grabbed her during a New Year's Eve argument in front of their 2-year-old son. At the time, Mirkarimi was a member of the Board of Supervisors.
Mirkarimi, who was sworn in as sheriff on Jan. 8, has vowed to fight for his job. He rebuffed Lee's request to leave office voluntarily and did not show up for work at City Hall on Wednesday.