The Coastal Post - October, 1999

News Briefs

By Staff

El Nino Road Damage

California's extended winter of El Nino storms resulted in at least $550 million damage to the state and local roadway systems. The Road Information Program (TRIP), a national research group, worked with the California State Association of Counties and public works directors to survey statewide road and bridge needs. On a statewide basis, counties can pay for only 12 percent of their needed road resurfacing and 4 percent of need construction. Hardest hit were the state's rural coastal counties.

Steven Szalay, executive director of the California State Association of Counties, said, "California counties have discovered that much of the road deterioration that resulted from the El Nino storms is not eligible for federal or state aid."

In 1990, voters approved a massive transportation package, the Transportation Blueprint for the 21st Century, which raised the gasoline tax by nine cents and authorized the letting of bonds to pay for transit projects.

Because of changes in the economy, driving patterns, the failure of transit and other transportation funding bonds, and increases in fuel efficiency this decade, funding for roads and bridges has been only 70 percent of the level intended under the 1990 plan.

Despite an apparent abundance of funds in state and highway transportation accounts, significant funds have been withheld at the federal level to create the appearance of a lower national debt. With the recent passage of new federal legislation, California stands to receive a 45 percent increase in federal funding each year for the next six years.

Cannabis Buyers' Clubs Open

In a dramatic hearing on August 31st, Hon. Judge Breyer declined the federal motions that would have allowed US Marshals to forcefully close the Cannabis Buyer's Clubs in Oakland, Marin and Ukiah on September 1st.

Judge Breyer also ruled that four "intervenors," critically ill patients who claim substantial harm would occur should their club be closed, will be allowed to join the case and testify in evidentiary hearings. This indicates that the judge may rule for a civil jury trial on September 25, although the Federal government is strongly opposing any further proceedings.

The City of Oakland tactic, official adoption of the Oakland CBC program and appointment of director Jeff Jones to City staff, proved to be unsuccessful. The "immunity clause" cited in federal drug law was ruled not to be an exemption for the OCBC or Mr. Jones. Attorneys for the Oakland program are currently discussing an appeal.

Marin Coalition Seeks Local Control of MGH

The Marin Coalition, a local civic organization comprised of business, professional, non-profit and community leaders, which has been active in Marin County for over 30 years, has come out strongly in favor of the elected Marin Healthcare District Board's decision to take legal action to return Marin General Hospital to local control.

At the Board of Directors meeting on September 2, the Coalition voted unanimously to support the Healthcare District's actions to void the lease with its tenant Sutter/ MGH Corporation of Sacramento. Citing concerns about the millions of dollars taken out of our local hospital by Sutter for use elsewhere, Dr. Norman Carrigg, a physician on the Marin General medical staff for 38 years, made the motion in support of the District's legal action to have the lease declared illegal, based on violations of State anti-corruption laws.

In taking this action, Dr. Carrigg stated: "There are those who falsely have made it appear that the MGH medical staff opposes the District's action to regain control of the hospital in order to better serve Marin patients. The staff doctors never voted to that effect." Carrigg went on to say that: "We need to show the elected District Board our support and let the public know that the majority of citizens and patients in Marin want improved healthcare and emergency/trauma care-which will happen if the District is in control and spends our money here at MGH instead of having Sutter Health Corp. ship it to their far-flung chain hospitals."

The Marin Coalition has long been on record opposing the 1985 "giveaway" of $11 million in public funds belonging to the publicly-owned Marin General Hospital, along with total control and the profits of MGH for 30 years, to a private corporation for nothing. The Coalition opposed the deal by resolution in 1985, and by their latest resolution supports the return of this $200 million community asset to the public.

Pac Bell Sued For Misuse of Customer Records

The US District Court in San Francisco ordered SBC/Pac Bell to pay more than $1.5 million for illegally using customer billing records in a promotional campaign. The ruling follows one earlier this year in which the court issued a restraining order forcing the giant phone monopoly to stop the practice.

The $1.5 million penalty caps off a month in which SBC/Pac Bell and its business practices have been under attack from employees, a group of small business customers and the California Public Utilities Commission.

"This is a classic case of SBC/Pacific Bell exploiting its monopoly power to mislead customers and continue to thwart competition in California," David Condit, an AT&T; vice president was quoted as saying in the San Diego Union Tribune. "SBC/Pacific Bell's actions underscore the fact that its continued monopoly of the local telephone market in California is a bad deal for California and consumers and a bad deal for fair competition," Condit said. The San Jose Mercury News reported that "lawyers for the two sides continue to butt heads and point fingers, [but] Pac Bell remains the only choice for local phone service in most of its service territory."

The reward was granted to three long-distance companies that had filed suit against SBC/Pac Bell for illegally using their billing information for its own promotional program.

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