By Doug Porter
The SPRINTER transit line serving commuters between Escondido and Oceanside has suspended service for at least two months, effective last Friday, due to problems with the braking systems. Accelerated wear patterns on brake rotors were discovered during an inspection last week by officials with the California Public Utilities Commission.
Nearly eight thousand users of the North County rail system will be re-routed to express bus services until repairs can be made. (UPDATED) The North County Transit District outsourced many services with this system, starting from day one in 2008. A restructuring in 2010 moved bus operations to private contractors.
Maintenance and operations of SPRINTER vehicles was handed over to Veolia Transportation, which sub-contracted the work out to Bombardier Transportation. A spokesman for the Transit District told KPBS the companies under contract failed to report the issue of the non-compliant brake rotors to North County staff.
A recent KPBS report by i-newsource raised questions about the oversight of outsourced contracts at the agency for security. Now it would appear that maintenance contracts also need to be reviewed for oversight considerations.
These incidents cut to the core of issues connected to outsourcing of public services. They seem like they save money in the short run, but the consumer/taxpayer often gets left holding the bag in the long run. It’s a safe bet to say those North Country commuters displaced by this transit re-arraignment aren’t so thrilled about the money ‘saved’.
A celebration of the light rail’s fifth anniversary of operations, scheduled for this weekend, was cancelled. Ridership on the system is lagging behind initial projections, which hoped for an estimated 11,000 daily passengers back in the planning stages of the project.
Immigration Deal Prospects Improving
The Los Angeles Times is reporting today that the bi-partisan group of eight Senators working on crafting a comprehensive new immigration law has reached agreement on a path to legal status for the estimated 11 million undocumented people in the US. While much of the rest of this package has yet to be agreed upon, there was a general consensus that an agreement on this particular aspect of this issue was potentially the most difficult part of any reform deal.
According to aides familiar with the closed-door negotiations, the bill would require illegal immigrants to register with Homeland Security Department authorities, file federal income taxes for their time in America and pay a still-to-be-determined fine. They also must have a clean law enforcement record.
Once granted probationary legal status, immigrants would be allowed to work but would be barred from receiving federal public benefits, including food stamps, family cash assistance, Medicaid and unemployment insurance.
The group’s current draft is largely in line with President Obama’s call to set a pathway to earned citizenship as part of a broader immigration reform package, as well as with recent efforts by prominent Republican lawmakers to resolve an issue that hurt GOP candidates in November’s election.
Congressional sources told the Times that a working draft of the entire bill was a month away, citing technical advice and cost estimates as considerations on top of still to be resolved questions permanent residency status, border security and visa considerations for software engineers and other high-skilled employees.
Press Pass Issues Push Police Patience
The article indicates that, in the face of lawsuits and questions over who is or isn’t a working reporter, the San Diego Police are considering just getting out of the press pass business altogether. Via the Mercury News:
…The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security stopped issuing credentials last month and the Orange CountySheriff’s Department in Southern California did so in December.
“With the advancements in digital media and the proliferation of bloggers, podcasters and freelancers, it has become challenging to determine who should receive a press pass,” the sheriff’s department said.
At stake for journalists is whether they can cover certain stories. At stake for the general public is who delivers their news.
The account goes on to quote SD County Sheriff’s spokeswoman Jan Caldwell at a forum sponsored by The Society for Professional Journalists last month:
You can sit with your Apple laptop and your fuzzy slippers, you can be an 800-pound disabled man that can’t get out of bed, and be a journalist because you can blog something. Does that give you the right—because you blog in your fuzzy slippers out of your bedroom and you don’t go out and you haven’t gotten that degree—should you be called a journalist?”
Owners of Apple computers, fuzzy slipper lovers and fast food epicureans everywhere were outraged. Ernest Hemingway called from the great beyond, wondering if all his reportage should be discounted because his journalism education stopped in high school.
A Happy Ending at the Hilton
Employees at the Hilton Mission Valley have learned, via the incoming new ownership of the property, that their jobs will be secure as Tarsadia takes control.
More than 100 people showed up in support of the hotel workers recently and 20 were arrested at a sit-in in the lobby of the Hilton. More than 700 people sent emails to executives at Tarsadia urging the company to retain the employees.
Hotel employees were warned by the current owners, HEI Hotels, back in January that the entire staff faced layoffs. The company followed up on this threat by filing paperwork with the state of California giving notice that layoffs were imminent.
Some Sequesters are More Equal than Others
The Washington Post has a front page story today detailing how the F-35 fighter has dodged the sequestration bullet, even though safety considerations, design flaws and questions about the plane’s reliability have plagued the project.
The Defense Department and Lockheed Martin, the giant contractor hired to design and build the plane, also known as the Joint Strike Fighter, have constructed what amounts to a budgetary force field around the nearly $400 billion program.
Although it is the costliest weapons system in U.S. history and the single most expensive item in the 2013 Pentagon budget, it will face only a glancing blow from the sequester this year. And as the White House and Congress contemplate future budgets, those pushing for additional cuts may find it difficult to trim more than a fraction of the Pentagon’s proposed fleet, even though the program is years behind schedule and 70 percent over its initial price tag.
The reasons for the F-35’s relative immunity are a stark illustration of why it is so difficult to cut the country’s defense spending. Lockheed Martin has spread the work across 45 states — critics call it “political engineering” — which in turn has generated broad bipartisan support on Capitol Hill…
Outrage Over Drone Medals
California’s two Senators are NOT among the bi-partisan group of twenty two members of that body who’ve written to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to voice concerns about the newly created Distinguished Warfare Medal, approved last month by then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
The medal is supposed to honor members of the military for achievements beyond the battlefield since Sept. 11, 2001.
A wire service story in the Veterans of Foreign Wars newsletter last month noted that “the award could be handed out and the public may never know about it because the actions envisioned in the types of cyber, intelligence or drone operations that might qualify for the honor would often be classified as top secret.”
However, veterans groups and others are howling mad about the fact that this decoration will outrank battlefield combat medals such as the Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
Senators who signed the letter to the Department of Defense included: Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Mark Begich (D-Ark.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), Angus King (I-Maine), Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), John Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.).
Another Odious Internet ‘Security’ Bill in the Hopper
Yet another piece of legislation aimed to ‘protect’ Americans from the internet is moving forward in the House of Representatives this month. Last year saw a similar bill pass the lower chamber, triggering web-wide protests. This year’s bill is “new” and “improved”.
Here’s what the Electronic Freedoms Foundation says about it:
CISPA is the contentious bill civil liberties advocates fought last year, which would provide a poorly-defined “cybersecurity” exception to existing privacy law. CISPA offers broad immunities to companies who choose to share data with government agencies (including the private communications of users) in the name of cybersecurity. It also creates avenues for companies to share data with any federal agencies, including military intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency (NSA).
Here’s Jeff Saginor at The American Prospect, mincing no words with his loathing:
Indemnifying private corporations for their part in government surveillance will probably serve to make the web even less safe. Companies will be under no obligation to fix the security holes they discover in their systems, and the risk of costly litigation that has been an effective motivation to address such issues in the past will be lifted.
This Machiavellian turn all but guarantees the sharing of more information with the government, not less, purely in the interest of self-preservation. The more a company shares, the more it’s protected. Mark Zuckerberg would be an idiot not to sign up.
While corporations would make out like gangbusters if the bill passes in Congress, the public will end up screwed—and not just out of its privacy. The municipal power grids and water treatment plants that make up our aging national infrastructure hardly get a mention, even though they are by far the weakest link in the cyber-security chain, having evolved in a patchwork over decades when hackers were less threatening than migrating salmon.
SDFree Press Calendar Up and Running
Thanks to the efforts of Brent Beltrán, the San Diego Free Press now has an on-line calendar of events. You can see events in the arts, performances and political gatherings of every persuasion by clicking on the ‘Calendar’ Tab at the top of the page. To get your event listed, drop us a line: firstname.lastname@example.org
On This Day: 1907 – President Theodore Roosevelt induced California to revoke its anti-Japanese legislation. 1968 – Otis Redding posthumously received a gold record for his single, “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay”. 1969 – Levi-Strauss started selling bell-bottomed jeans. Far-out, Man.
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