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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Douse That Fire, the Snitches Are Coming

You knew it had to happen sooner rather than later. Air quality control scolds are touting Bay Area residents who turn in their neighbors for burning wood, or what appears to be wood, on days when such behavior is supposed to be verboten. In other words, the enviro heavies want us to emulate some of the less attractive aspects of the old Soviet regime. They are seeking to make us a region of snitches who rat out residents on a regular basis. Great. Keep your eyes on those tell-tale chimneys, folks. You just might spot something terribly foul. Like actual smoke. Just call us "Moscow West." What's next? Squealing on people who fail to use low-flow toilets? This could become a cottage industry. Lenin would be so proud.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Yep, the NBA is a One Percent Operation

Christmas was terrific. Lots of food, family and friends. And, yes, the NBA returned, belatedly, for another season. Fabulous. Or maybe not. It suddenly occurred to this Scrooge clone that, wonder of wonders, the NBA is actually a rather tall collection of none other than the much-despised One Percent. You remember them. These are the people who make at least $1 million per year. They're the purported targets of the so-called Occupy Wall Street movement. But wait a minute. Just-released TV ratings indicate that, lo and behold, people viewed those Christmas NBA games in healthy numbers. So where was the outrage about the bloated salaries of the athletes on display? There wasn't any, at least as far as we could tell. And the average annual pay for one of these guys is far more than $1 million. Oh, well, maybe it's just a case of selective hatred. Or a lack of proper perspective. You be the judge.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Saving the Sharp Park Golf Course

It's not often we can say this, but, surprise, surprise, the mayor of dysfunctional San Francisco, Ed Lee, has done the reasonable thing. He has nixed a plan to turn Pacifica's Sharp Park Golf Course over to the National Park Service. The proposal, advocated by a slim majority of activist SF supervisors (that's probably redundant), would have been a major step toward the eventual closing of the links which are located on SF land close to the Pacific Ocean. Environmentalists, who tend to call the tune far too often in these parts, have been lobbying to force the links' shutdown for years. They believe that the desires of golfers are trumped by a perceived need for pristine open space which can become home for certain animals who can't get a fair shake from the hackers under present conditions. The assumption, of course, is that the critters can't possibly dwell somewhere else along the San Mateo County coast. Twaddle. There's plenty of room for everyone. Golfers need some consideration too. These humans are, after all, animals too.

Monday, December 19, 2011

A Walk on the Mild Side

At about 12:45 p.m. today, the bayfront near the Burlingame/Millbrae border was busy. Jetliners from nearby SFO were landing and taking off in their usual mid-day cadence, a sort of transportation ballet monitored by unseen air traffic controllers. Meanwhile, along hotel row, there was a vague stirring. The San Francisco 49ers were preparing to leave their lodgings at the Marriott and the Pittsburgh Steelers were doing the same a block away at the Westin. Charter buses for the Steelers were slowly backing into the Westin parking lot, blocking traffic on Old Bayshore in the process. The two NFL teams had a date at Candlestick Park at 5:30 p.m. Out on the bayfront trail there was a familiar figure walking in relaxed fashion. Jim Harbaugh looked as though he didn't have a care in the world. He's the head coach of the suddenly-fashionable 49ers, the re-discovered darlings of the Bay Area sporting set. Harbaugh, rather jaunty on a bright, warm December afternoon, nodded as passersby recognized him as the energetic young man who has made the San Francisco franchise relevant again and wished him well. It was the calm before the storm. But it's good to be the king.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Libraries as Temporary Homeless Shelters

Suburban libraries have changed a lot over the years. They are no longer just ultra-quiet places where study, research and academic reflection are hallmarks. Cellphone use is a problem. Internet access has made a difference. So have special programs for rambunctious young children. And after-school tutoring. But one thing hasn't changed much: When the temperature drops, the homeless can be found settling in. Libraries are warm, friendly places. Hence the presence of the down-and-out. This is true even in the most affluent communities up and down the Peninsula. It's been particularly noticeable this month as near-freezing mornings and evenings are the norm. Regular library users have to get used to the reality of the homeless on their turf. These folks often don't have access to daily bathing facilities. Their clothing can be tattered and dirty. They tend to bring their worldly goods with them. You have to learn to read and work around them. Sometimes, that's not all that easy to do. But, in an economic downturn that continues to hammer those on the margins, the dispossessed are here to stay. For them, a heated library can become a temporary home away from home. At least for a few blessed hours a day.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Should English Be Our National Language?

Newt Gingrich was in typically effusive form Saturday night during another "debate" between the usual suspects seeking the 2012 Republican nomination for president. As it has been in recent months, this particular session shed little light on the nuances of the candidates' actual policy positions, both foreign and domestic. There are simply too many pols on stage at this point. We would learn more if there were, say, just three, or maybe four. Gingrich, though, did toss out several provocative thoughts. One of them involved the English language. It was his opinion that English ought to be made the national tongue of the U.S. What a concept. Some of us had been under the impression _ mistakenly, apparently _ that English really was our common language. We have been wrong. Prevailing custom and political correctness, along with a series of unfortunate court decisions, have chipped away at that premise over time. That's unfortunate. A common language is essential to bind any collection of people together into a single, cohesive entity. Moves to erode that simple notion have been ongoing. This has been especially damaging for a place like San Mateo County, and California generally, which has seen a huge influx of new immigrants and their children. Without a firm facility in English, they are handicapped in a variety of different and important ways, not the least of which are educational and economic. Failure to demand early literacy in English hamstrings not just immigrants but the society at large. If nothing else, it makes following political campaigns and the important issues being discussed nearly impossible. Gingrich, love him or loathe him, at least had the inclination to bring up the subject on national TV. Whether anyone was paying attention at that point is another matter.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Caltrain and the San Jose Athletics

It is becoming increasingly likely that the Oakland Athletics may receive the blessing of Major League Baseball to move the struggling franchise to San Jose. Certainly, it's not a done deal by any means. But all of the signs are pointing toward such a seismic shift. The San Francisco Giants still own the territorial rights to San Jose and the rest of Santa Clara County. But, if the most recent reports are true, MLB is leaning toward some sort of accommodation for the Athletics in the South Bay. A decision could come as early as next month. There is a lot at stake. The Giants would have to be compensated for their losses (potential fans, sponsorships, media rights, etc.). The proposed location of the new San Jose baseball facility, near the current downtown sports arena, would be an economic boon for that area. And Caltrain would be a big winner too. The San Jose Caltrain depot would serve the baseball team's Peninsula followers as it does the Giants now. In fact, if, way down the line someday, both the Giants and A's wound up facing each other in a World Series, it would indeed be the first-ever "Caltrain World Series."

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Let's Call Them What They Are: Evictions

There is an off-putting tendency in today's media to describe the removal of illegal encampments established by imitators of the Occupy Wall Street movement as "raids" by law enforcement authorities. Sorry, it won't wash. These are evictions, pure and simple. The squatters aren't following the rules. In doing so, they are setting themselves up for mandatory, and sometimes forcible, expulsion from the premises in question. If police have to move in and take down tents and other temporary shelters, so be it. But they aren't raids. They are evictions. It would be accurate to describe them as such.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Congress Presses to Whack Fast-Train Funds

Conservative Republicans in Congress are continuing efforts to derail funds for California's planned high-speed rail network. At issue, according to today's Los Angeles Times, is $3.3 billion in current federal allocations already ticketed for the Golden State. The aim of the GOP representatives is to either kill off the money altogether or have it shifted to the Amtrak corridor on the East Coast. The latter option would be a fallback position to lure aboard members of the Senate who may be wavering on the California project which has escalated in cost three-fold to about $100 billion since voters approved Proposition 1A in November 2008. That measure authorizes the state to utilize just under $10 billion in matching funds; about $3 billion of that total, along with the federal $3.3 billion, would be used to get the high-speed train plan up and running with an initial phase, now set for the Central Valley. Conservative congressmen (and congresswomen) are highly dubious of the project and want it ended now before it can even start next year. Their view is that it's a guaranteed financial sinkhole. While the House may well vote to de-fund the California construction, the Senate would be much more of a challenge for the naysayers. Furthermore, President Obama, whether oblivious to the dire fiscal implications or simply hell-bent on forging ahead with fast-train work no matter how outrageously expensive it would be, remains a strong advocate of high-speed rail.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Be Thankful for Those Who Foot the Bills

During this traditional period of gratitude, let us pause for a moment to consider the weary San Mateo County taxpayer. Yes, he, or she, is worthy of praise on any number of fronts. The dedicated taxpayer, presumably a loyal citizen of the U.S., foots the bills for all of the public services provided by any and all layers of government. The unappreciated taxpayer does so regardless of who gets those services, whether the individuals are in this great nation legally or illegally, and how many needy children they may have. The taxpayer is hit from a variety of voracious sources: Federal, state and local. The typical employed middle-class homeowner along the Peninsula is faced with paying out nearly 50 cents of every earned dollar to some form of taxing entity. That's a lot. And, typically, the taxpayer pungles up the dough without a grotesque amount of kicking and screaming. For that, we should all be thankful. Because without that dedicated taxpayer and his legions of cooperative peers, much of society would halt in its tracks. Happy Thanksgiving, by the way.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Joe Simitian Could Do Us a Big Favor

State Sen. Joe Simitian will be wrapping up his career in Sacramento in 2012. The legislator who represents a portion of San Mateo County is being termed out of office. As a parting gift to his constituents, and to everyone in California, he might want to consider doing the brave and correct thing. He ought to defy his Democratic Party overlords and tell the truth about high-speed rail and what that project means for the financial future of the state. So far, Simitian, a seemingly bright fellow, has been unable to absorb the full fiscal impact of what awaits the state if HSR plans proceed as planned. There have been plenty of dire warnings, not the least of which came from the fast-train folks themselves earlier this month when it was predicted that a San Francisco to Anaheim high-speed line would cost close to $100 billion (and that doesn't include lines to Sacramento and San Diego which had been promised originally). That's nearly triple what the HSR gurus had estimated prior to a 2008 state election that provided close to $10 billion in high-speed bond seed money. Not only that, a steady stream of unbiased experts have come forward to sound the alarm bell about high-speed construction costs and, in the end, onerous operating deficits. Simitian knows all of this. In spite of that, he has balked at coming out against the plan. He continues to lean toward favoring it and touts a "blended" rail arrangement along the Peninsula. In that scenario, high-speed trains, for the most part, would use Caltrain's tracks in order to minimize the impact of HSR through Santa Clara and San Mateo counties. But even that doesn't wash. Fast-train officials offer that such an arrangement would be only temporary until they could find the cash to build separate tracks for their system. Why doesn't Simitian take the bold step and oppose HSR altogether. Maybe it's because he's got his eyes on a seat on the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Yep, it looks like more of the same.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Burlingame's Dilemma is a Microcosm of California

It would not be a stretch to point out that what happened in Burlingame Tuesday night was a microcosm of what bedevils the cash-strapped state of California. For nearly two hours, the City Council pondered the conundrum of finding fair and reasonable ways to cut its retirement costs, particularly its huge unfunded retiree health care guarantees. It was an illuminating session, held in a basement meeting room in the community's Main Library. In fact, at times, it resembled a contract negotiating session as public employee union members (all of them non-safety types) went back and forth with city officials, including City Manager Jim Nantell, who has been sounding the alarm about retiree benefits for more than a decade. For Burlingame, it turns out that there are as many retirees receiving guaranteed health care benefits as there are current workers. The unfunded liability for those perks is approaching $80 million and rising, according to Nantell. Councilman Jerry Deal noted that the city's annual operating revenues are about $41 million, roughly the same as they were a decade ago. The disconnect between what's owed public employees in the future and annual revenues is at the core of Burlingame's long-term fiscal problem which has been made worse by the ongoing economic downturn. And that's one of the main reasons the town's workers are balking at any agreements that would trim back those lucrative retirement benefits. If all of this sounds familiar, it should. The state is facing the same thing, only on a grand and highly disturbing scale.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Media's Selective Treatment Is Telling

As the Occupy Wall Street movement continues in fits and starts, revelations of its habits and behavior are slowly coming to light. It's not pretty. Reports of deaths, rapes, drug overdoses, assaults, destruction, intimidation and a general climate of lawlessness and disregard for the rights of others are becoming routine. But, always, there is a media emphasis on "the bigger picture," "the overall perspective," the notion that, somehow, the cause is terrific and it's just a few outliers who are causing problems. Perhaps. But consider this: If this outrageous body of work was the MO of last year's Tea Party participants, can you imagine the mainstream media outcry? Can you picture the absolute condemnation of that citizen political effort? There would have been no hesitation, no free pass whatsoever. It would have been a cascade of negative press right from the get-go. That's the nature of the info beast today. We're all used to it by now. But it is instructive nonetheless.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Little-Big Game Remains an Iconic Event

With the weather cooperating, the 84th version of the Little-Big Game between neighbors Burlingame and San Mateo high schools was a smashing success. The capacity crowd at San Mateo, well-behaved and attentive, numbered well over 4,500 enthusiastic souls. There was food, music, hoopla and, yes, even some prep football. Burlingame won, 33-28, by stifling a last-ditch Bearcat push which ended inside the Panthers' 10-yard-line as time ran out. But, as is typically the case, the game was almost incidental. It's really the community atmosphere that matters most. It becomes a throwback event, something right out of the 1920s when the rivalry began during the administration of Calvin Coolidge. You almost expect Andy Hardy to be in attendance. But cellphones and iPads have a distinct way of altering one's perspective. All that said, it would be fair to say that, unlike the ever-changing nature of California suburbia generally, the Little-Big Game seems certain to endure as one of the Peninsula's truly iconic diversions. And that, for sure, is a very good thing.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Grim Result for San Bruno Public Schools

Tuesday's election tally provided some very bad news for advocates of public education in San Bruno. A rather modest $40 million bond measure failed miserably at the polls. It didn't come close to generating the necessary 55 percent approval from voters. In fact, it barely secured a plurality. It was the worst showing by a San Mateo County public school district in a 55 percent bond election ever. The result does not bode well for anyone envisioning a possible parcel tax for the San Bruno Park Elementary School District in the future. Why did Measure O lose so badly? A combination of San Bruno's traditional anti-tax posture, a terrible economy and a concerted effort against the bond by determined foes, including some former city/school officials, turned the tide. In some ways, Measure O's crushing loss was a vote of no-confidence in the current district administration and board of trustees. For those officials, there is a lot of work to be done to restore confidence in the district's operations. Measure O left little doubt about that.

Monday, November 7, 2011

One Tiny Ray of PG&E Sunshine Is Emerging

It's very tough to find anything good about last year's massive natural gas explosion and fire in the San Bruno hills. A neighborhood was devastated. Eight people died, dozens were injured and more than three dozen homes were destroyed. The incident has left a lasting effect on the area. However, in the horrific aftermath of the tragedy, the worst disaster in San Mateo County history, there has been at least one positive result: PG&E, under enormous pressure, has proceeded on a comprehensive examination of its natural gas pipeline delivery system. And, not surprisingly, flaws are being found on a regular basis. The same pipeline that burst in San Bruno has been shown to have even more problems. Last weekend's pipe rupture in the Redwood City/Woodside region not far from Canada College and Interstate 280 was just the latest example. The line was being tested at the time and it failed. It would be fair to state that, without the San Bruno calamity, PG&E would not be going through this painstaking examination. That's small comfort for all of those families affected by the 2010 disaster.

Friday, November 4, 2011

It's Time to Occupy the Kardashians

As a mixed bag of purported activists calling themselves "Occupy Oakland" continues to squat in that benighted city's downtown business district, these folks are wearing out their welcome. Fast. Even the dysfunctional mayor, Jean Quan, seems to be getting religion lately. It is her latest view (which changes on a daily basis) that the Occupiers need to go. Where, precisely, is another matter. So is when. She's open to ideas. We may have the answer for her and others who are fed up with the vandalism, destruction, health hazards, harassment and general mayhem caused by the protesting crowds: Occupy the Kardashians. If there is a symbol of perverted capitalism run wild and out of control, it is this vapid collection of reality-TV show oddballs. They have become celebrities for no apparent reason whatsover. Perhaps it's because they simply say they are celebrities. One of them, after all, went so far as to have her ample buttocks X-rayed to prove they were not enhanced by artificial means. Fabulous. No wonder rational people roll their eyes in abject frustration at the very mention of the name "Kardashian." It has become a synonym for "pointless" and "absurd." The Occupiers could do us all a big favor by shifting their attention to something that really does need cleansing. Are you listening, Mayor Quan? Probably not.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Nostalgia Runs Rampant at Two Events

Somehow, the San Mateo County Times, nee San Mateo Times, survives after 122 years. In spite of a dismal climate for newspapers in general across this great land, the Peninsula's daily paid newspaper manages to hang in there, albeit in a somewhat abbreviated form. In its latest incarnation, it is included as part of the Mercury-News, with a separate masthead but common pages throughout. At least that's the plan as of Nov. 2. To celebrate the history of the newspaper _ and to commemorate the razing of its former headquarters on South Amphlett Boulevard in San Mateo earlier this year _ two separate reunions were held Tuesday night, one at The Broadway tavern in downtown Redwood City and the other at the restaurant bar at the El Rancho Inn in Millbrae. The former involved veterans of the San Mateo Times; the latter welcomed folks who worked, or still work, at the San Mateo County Times. Many of the editors attended one, or both, of the festive events. These included the likes of Michelle Carter, Terry Robertson, Alan Quale, Bob Rudy, Jack Russell, Terry Winckler, Jennifer Aquino and a gaggle of others. Tall tales and nostalgia were the order of the evening. Good times.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Almost $100 Billion for High-Speed Rail

The Associated Press is reporting that the latest estimate of construction costs for a proposed high-speed rail system in California is close to $100 billion. The projection is part of a California High-Speed Rail Authority study scheduled for official release Tuesday. The huge new figure is based on inflation-adjusted dollars and a 20-year build-out. When the state's voters approved Proposition 1A three years ago, which authorized almost $10 million in bonds for work on HSR, the cost estimate was a much more modest $43 billion.

Good Heavens, It Pays to Be Left-Handed

It's that time of year, if you are a follower of Major League Baseball. Teams are in the process of firming up their 2012 rosters. That means they are shelling out massive wads of cash. The Giants, of course, are right there with the rest. But they are shackled by a fiscal albatross. Barry Zito, a left-handed starter, is still under contract for next season. He will be paid close to $20 million for his services. Unfortunately, his skills have been fading dramatically. In 2011, he faced just 107 major league hitters. If he duplicates that workload next year, his payout would be about $187,000 per batter. At roughly 10 pitches per guy, that's $18,700 per offering. Maybe it's time to Occupy Barry Zito.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Pay for It and Now Leave It Alone

You have to wonder sometimes about the ability of private contractors working on public projects to see the big picture. The other day, a labor crew replacing damaged portions of sidewalks in a Burlingame neighborhood finished a small concrete patch and headed off to the next section on a street near Rollins Road. A teenager emerged from the house behind the sidewalk and proceeded to start scrawling something, friendly initials perhaps, in the wet concrete. Time out. A workman saw the deed, walked over to her and warned, "You can't do that. You're defacing public property. You can be cited for that." The chastened kid, unprepared for the verbal blast, backed off. Her effort was then smoothed over. But wait. The sidewalk repair job in front of her home was being paid for, in part, by her parents. That's the way it works now in many Peninsula cities, including Burlingame. The idea that the youngster was somehow out of bounds by tweaking the fresh concrete is absurd. Technically, it is city property but it's now being partially maintained by the homeowners (the repair fee is shared 50-50). So get a grip, folks. Relax. Try to maintain some perspective.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why Not Invite the Occupiers to Your House?

Worried about the treatment some of the imitation Occupy Wall Street protesters are receiving from their friendly, neighborhood police operatives? Fretting that the fuzz lack a proper amount of empathy and restraint in the pursuit of law and order for the greater society? Here's your answer: Invite the rag-tag mob to demonstrate and camp out for weeks on end in front of your own house. Sure, it only makes sense. If you feel that the anti-capitalist activists are misunderstood by the ham-handed authorities and are being manhandled by the cops, provide them with a safe harbor on your personal property, whether it's in the city or the suburbs. Think about it: You could have hundreds, if not thousands, of people of all stripes blocking traffic on your block; you could watch with great satisfaction as the legions of the grossly unhappy lay waste to your frontyard and, perhaps, your backyard as well, as they set up makeshift living enclosures. As the fabled "Seinfeld" quasi-lawyer Jackie Chiles might have put it, "It's a case of urination, defecation and fornication _ it's an abomination." And you could be the proud owner and enabler of all of the above. Absolutely fabulous. Just what the Leninist doctor ordered. So, all of you bleeding hearts out there, take matters into your own tender hands. Invite the fetid folks on down. Nourish them. Comfort them. Encourage them. Give them loads of TLC. Welcome them all to your Thanksgiving dinner. Let 'em squat. An endless supply of double-ply Charmin wouldn't be a bad idea as well.

Another Reminder of a Shifting Reality

So who needs an alarm clock? We've got regular earthquakes instead. Yep, another small one (reportedly, a 3.6 on the Richter Scale) hit the Peninsula and the Bay Area shortly after 5:30 a.m. Thursday. What makes bedtime temblors interesting is that they tend to be felt with some emphasis. After all, there you are gently lying between the sheets when, suddenly, it's rock and roll time. Or maybe it's just a simple rough bang and bump. Whatever the effect of the shaker, it's an attention-getter. You tend to notice. More than anything else, it's a reminder that earthquake insurance is a good idea, unless the equity in your property has disappeared due to the Great Recession, or, as some of us like to say, the Great Depression Lite. Now where did I put that supply of emergency batteries?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Boooo! Halloween Is Scarier Than Ever

By all accounts, Halloween isn't just scary, it's potentially deadly. If you pay attention to media reports, parents have every reason to be positively paranoid about the day, and evening, before All Saints Day. They should fear all manner of awful consequences if their precious offspring are permitted to actually walk about their neighborhoods, knock on front doors and ask for a treat. God only knows what will happen to them out there. Every house, after all, is probably inhabited by a latent pedophile or a distant relative of Jack the Ripper or The Zodiac Killer. The threats, according to vivid reports all over cable-TV, the Internet and other sources, are almost too many to mention. The bottom line is always the same: Keep your delicate kid on a very short leash on Halloween. And, by all means, make sure he or she is dressed appropriately, that is, politically correctly. Gender-neutral, non-bullying, racially attractive, you get the idea. The last thing you want is a slobbering zombie with terrible breath, bad hair and a speech impediment who resembles Barack or Michelle Obama. Now that is simply out of bounds, and maybe grounds for an official complain with the Halloween police. You can't be too careful. Maybe Lindsay Lohan or Charlie Sheen costumes would be OK. On second thought, maybe not. How about Bernie Madoff? Ah, yes. Now there's a no-brainer. This guy is doing time in the Big House for scamming clients out of billions of dollars. He is loathed by more people than Michael Savage. If Madoff isn't frightening, who is? Boooo!

Monday, October 24, 2011

You Just Can't Please Everyone

So far, it appears that Burlingame's new Safeway supermarket is, well, super. It's gotten rave reviews, most of them because the big store is a vast improvement over the previous grocery outlet on the same site at the corner of El Camino Real and Howard Avenue. But, earlier today, your tireless Peninsula correspondent was wandering down one of the long aisles in search of organic salami _ OK, there's no such thing but it sure sounds trendy _ when a guy one row over blurted, "Geez, this store is too big." Too big? What do you want? A gas station mini-mart? If anything, the establishment could use a bit more Chinese food at the deli counter. Yeah, more chow mein and crispy garlic shrimp. That's the ticket.

Friday, October 21, 2011

But Do You Need a Supermarket Club Card?

You have to hand it to the marketing expertise of certain Libyan retailers. As of Friday, a nondescript storefront in a shopping center in Misrata has been displaying Moammar Gadhafi's corpse. The cadaver has been reclining in a freezer. It has been available for public viewing. In other words, shoppers at this particular Misrata venue have been able to stock up on Pepsi, Pop Tarts, Cheerios and Ding Dongs while taking a quick glance at the frozen visage of the one-time dictator who was shot and killed earlier in the week. Wonderful. There's nothing quite like checking out bargains over on aisle 5 with a dead celebrity nearby nestled there in a walk-in fridge. Talk about "Since we're neighbors, let's be friends." Fortunately, there are no reports that customers need to flash a club card to take a gander at the ex-el presidente. Still, the sight of Gadhafi's lifeless body would seem to be something of a turnoff if you were seeking out the best deal on a three-pound beef brisket. Fortunately, we don't foresee Mollie Stone's or Safeway imitating this particular promotion anytime soon. The ad would be off-putting for sure: "Buy a twin-pack of mayo and ogle the body of Gadhafi, half-off, one-time only. No coupon needed." The mind reels.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Occupy Hillsborough? Highly Doubful

As the Occupy Wall Street movement, scattered and amorphous though it may be, seems to pick up steam, with enthusiastic help from the eager media and some left-leaning politicians, it appears highly unlikely that the protesting persons will venture very far from their favored urban capitals of finance. New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, et al are magnets for the dispossessed, the chronically unhappy and the outright radical. It's a mixed bag out there in the makeshift tent cities that are popping up like daisies after a spring rain. But don't expect these rag-tag folks to wander into places like Atherton or Hillsborough. It would be just too much trouble. For one thing, the authorities wouldn't tolerate it. Can you imagine several hundred Occupiers protesting loudly in front of the mega-homes of the Peninsula's captains of industry and banking? Squish a geranium or two and the plastic handcuffs would come out faster than you can blurt, "Trust fund babies are the Devil's spawn." Trespass on a carefully manicured driveway and you could kiss your socialist tush goodbye. Block the path of a BMW or Mercedes for more than a moment and you might find yourself posing as a novel, upscale hood ornament. The activists know their place. And it's most definitely not in suburbia.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Step Lightly After Geese Leave Their Marks

They're back. And they're bolder and more intrusive than ever. We're talking about Canadian geese. They make an unfortunate habit of touching down _ and staying for awhile _ in several San Mateo County communities. It wouldn't be so bad if they weren't so unneighborly and, frankly, filthy. Look at the San Mateo High School softball/baseball fields for some samples of their annoying behavior. A couple hundred of the creatures were wandering about that landscape where children and teens play games early on Monday afternoon. The birds, however, could care less. They ate and pooped to their avian hearts' delight. The vast expanse of grass became one mammoth toilet for the critters. Their fecal residue was everywhere, just waiting for young athletes to slip, slide and step in the noxious stuff. If you happen to spot a school custodian with a shotgun (not likely), you'll know why.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Scott Feldman Is Set to Face the Cardinals

Scott Feldman, a Burlingame High School and College of San Mateo alum, is set to pitch in his first World Series which commences Wednesday. Feldman and his Texas Rangers will face off against the St. Louis Cardinals of the National League. Feldman, a seven-year Major League Baseball veteran, has had an injury-plagued career. He returned to the Texas roster late this past summer after another extended period of rehabilitation due to surgery, in time to prepare to pitch in relief against Detroit in the American League Championship Series. He threw 52/3 innings, allowing just one hit and no runs. The Rangers won all three games. Feldman, if he sees action vs. the Cardinals as anticipated, would become the first Burlingame High grad to pitch in the World Series. He was not on the Rangers' active roster in 2010 when they played the San Francisco Giants in the World Series. Texas lost in six games.

Beware of Safeway Complex' Parking/Traffic

Safeway's newest Peninsula supermarket has opened for business in downtown Burlingame. The store itself _ pleasant, large, airy and filled to the brim with an array of products and amenities you would expect _ is already a shopper's mecca. Located at the busy corner of Howard Avenue and El Camino Real, the venue, a sort of attractive strip mall situated on a corner, has been lauded by any number of customers, city officials and others. And rightly so. The place is terrific. However, two sets of adjacent stores and eating establishments along Primrose Road, including a popular Five Guys burger outlet, have yet to debut. Free parking in the Safeway complex (not to mention easy access) is going to be a challenge once these new offerings come on line soon, particularly during the lunch hour. Maybe the goal of the town's authorities is to force lots of visitors to park in metered slots nearby. The city could use the revenue, of course. But, after 14 long, frustrating years of planning arguments and contentious meetings which have culminated in the market's official Oct. 14 opening, you might have assumed that traffic/parking congestion would have been resolved. Safeway, in fact, was forced to provide rooftop parking as one way to alleviate the anticipated crush of cars. But it does appear that, with the addition of the nearby businesses on the same property, a big-time mess could be on the immediate horizon. We'll see.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Does Size Really Matter?

For San Mateo County taxpayers, it's a fair question to ask: Does size really matter when it comes to education bond measures? The County Community College District is seeking $564 million in new bonding capacity, on top of an existing $675 million. If Measure H is approved by at least 55 percent of the county electorate Nov. 8, the total would be in excess of $1.2 billion. With interest, the actual obligation would be in the neighborhood of $2 billion. Those figures are far and away the largest in county history for a public school district, regardless of the academic level. The district also recently passed a parcel tax, the only such levy for a two-year college entity in the state. Obviously, county taxpayers have been exceedingly generous. But will their fiscal goodwill continue this time around, especially when the grim economy persists? We will know very soon.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

TV's "Pan Am" Is Not Panning Out

It is with some sadness that we must note that "Pan Am," the new ABC-TV series, is now on an unofficial critics' death watch. Its ratings have plunged as its audience has dwindled over the last several weeks since its rather awkward debut last month. For those of us who well recall Pan American World Airways' regal presence at San Francisco International Airport during its glory days at the start of the jet age , the television series has been a distinct disappointment. Too bad. Pan Am's gaudy story _ it was the world's premier international carrier for decades _ is woven into the fabric of the nation's air transportation history. The TV effort has been a jumbled and confusing mess thus far. It hasn't come close to doing justice to the former worldwide airline's legacy. Unfortunately, unless things changed mighty soon, we will be better off without it. Nonetheless, love those uniforms.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Academic Ballgame Has Changed

Just to be clear: Nothing stays the same. Trying to maintain the status quo is usually a wasted enterprise. San Mateo County's school-age demographics brings home that point very well. The area is no longer a homogenous, middle-class enclave. In 2009-10, according to statistics provided by the state, 35 percent of all Peninsula public school students in kindergarten-through-grade 12 qualified for free or reduced-price luncheons and/or other special services because they are considered to be economically disadvantaged, illiterate in English or hampered in some other significant way. In the state as a whole, the situation is even more stark. The comparable Golden State figure is a stunning 55 percent. As for youngsters who are not fluent in English, 25 percent of the county student body falls into that category. Statewide, it's the same. In California public school kindergartens, the figure is 40 percent. Which means two out of every five kindergartners enters public school without adequate, or any, English skills. In all cases, 85 percent of the pupils who are learning English are of Hispanic descent. The Peninsula/California ballgame has definitely changed. And there is no going back. It's not 1961 anymore. It's food for thought.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Illegal Immigrant Pupils Gain a Perk

The dysfunctional California Fun House just got more bizarre. Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a bill providing the state's illegal immigrant students with taxpayer-funded grants and fee waivers at the state's four-year universities and junior colleges beginning in 2013. They also are allowed in-state tuition, heavily subsized by taxpayers, if they attended a California high school. U.S. citizens who live outside the state don't get that benefit. As for the grants and fee waivers, those monies come from a finite budget item. In other words, cash doled out to illegals, no matter how emotional and moving their personal stories may be, is money that some worthy pupils who are in California legally will be denied. There is only so much dough to go around. It's not a bottomless trough. This is happening when the state's middle class, the legal middle class, is hurting badly. It's a terribly unfair slap in the face of families which have paid their taxes for decades and now have to watch in frustration and shock as young people in the state illegally (for whatever reason) get treated as though they were legal residents. One estimate indicates that up to 40,000 illegal students may apply for grants and fee waivers. The projected cost ranges from $14.5 million to $40 million at a time when California's fiscal condition is grim at best. Can you say "utterly outrageous?"

Friday, October 7, 2011

Obama's Ouster Would Serve HSR Foes

It's been an instructive phenomenon to watch. Traditionally left-leaning folks along the Peninsula are becoming increasingly unhappy with President Obama because of his strong support for high-speed rail. Liberals who are fighting the high-speed train in California, primarily for environmental and esthetic reasons, are conflicted because their president is a staunch defender of the increasingly dubious program. What to do? As they argue against the plan, which has been panned by a number of highly-respected analysts who have concluded that it would be a financial disaster for the state, they fully understand that they are fighting with a White House they helped to elect in 2008. That was the same election that brought us Proposition 1A which provided just under $10 billion in state bond seed money for the high-speed rail system. Today, estimates of a full build-out of that effort run from about five times that amount to well over 15 times. And the projections continue to escalate. Federal money is key. Without huge infusions of cash from the federal till, the high-speed setup will go nowhere. For the anti-HSR people, Obama and his minions are vital fiscal enablers. So, if logic is any guide, it would be in their best interests if Obama were ousted from office in November 2012. They are relying on conservative Republicans, especially in the House, to thwart moves to fund HSR. Suddenly, pols on the right are the new best friends of the recently-re-branded "progressives." Ironies abound. It's a real conundrum for them.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

One Teen's Anti-GQ Fashion Statement

There can be little doubt that the San Francisco Giants have had an impact on the fashion world. Quirky relief pitcher Brian Wilson's eye-popping attire at this year's ESPYs apparently has hit home for at least one 14-year-old. The young man, a relative who lives in Orange County, recently announced that he will be attending an eighth-grade dance while sporting a tuxedo body suit, the same sort of rig Wilson wore during the TV sports awards ceremony. This begs a big question: Will the ladies happily flock like lemmings to the creative teenager or will they avoid him like a bad case of hives? Pray for the former. We'd hate to have him lose his novel GQ perspective.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Where's the Urgency in South SF?

Over the last year or so, South San Francisco has become ground zero for gang violence in the northern portion of San Mateo County. In December of 2010, three individuals were slain in one bloody incident. It was the worst single case of multiple-murder in the town's history. A 14-year-old boy was gunned down in September. The community is on edge. Police and politicians are scrambling to address the problem. You might think the upcoming election would produce a spate of fresh faces eager to run for office in light of what's been transpiring there. You would be wrong. In the race for two seats on the city council, incumbents Richard Garbarino and Kevin Mullin are being challenged by just one man, Johnny "Midnight" Rankins, who lists himself as a "retired arborist/entertainer." That's the extent of the political "surge" in South San Francisco. Maybe the citizenry there is satisfied with the job being done by its elected officials. Or, perhaps, residents simply feel powerless to do anything about what's bedeviling the place. Still, it is surprising that there hasn't been a groundswell of outrage that translates into viable candidates for public office.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Foti Most Definitely Not Taliban-like

No matter how you might feel about Ross Foti, the Peninsula anti-abortion activist, he is certainly not Taliban-like. A letter-writer, upset about Foti's persistent picketing in front of Planned Parenthood abortion clinics, recently likened the fellow's tactics to those of the Taliban. Not even close. If anything, Foti's behavior could be tabbed as anti-Taliban because of the very cause he espouses. He is against abortion on demand. He is positively adamant on the subject. He spends a great deal of his time displaying grotesque, enlarged photos of dead fetuses near Planned Parenthood sites. The pictures, intended to dissuade women from undergoing an abortion, are stark, ugly and unsettling. But Foti, in his view, is trying to save lives, not take them. The Taliban, for their part, are more than pleased to take off the heads of offending heretics. Foti does not walk down that road at all. We can debate whether Foti's opinions regarding abortion are valid _ and goodness knows many of us do. But there is no doubt where he stands on the value of human life. A Taliban fellow traveler he most assuredly is not.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Construction Costs Are Rising Fast

Surprise, surprise. Even as California's economy continues to shudder under the weight of the collapse of the housing market and its depressing aftermath, construction costs are heading higher fast. We got a good example of the phenomenon recently when the trustees in the San Mateo Union High School District learned that bids for a number of big projects came in roughly 30 percent more than projected not all that long ago. Why? It turns out that, over the last several years, financially shaky contractors and subcontractors have gone belly-up, leaving only a few stable firms to bid. Those survivors can now afford to seek more lucrative prices for their work because they aren't being undercut by the weak sisters who have been weeded out. In addition, the cost of building materials (concrete, steel, copper, etc.) is rising quickly. Suddenly, the days of routine low-ball bidding wars are over. A tough, new reality has set in.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Postal Service Decline is Accelerating

That didn't take long. Just days after the U.S. Postal Service announced that regional service centers, including one in Burlingame, would be targeted for closure due to extreme fiscal stress nationwide, regular mail delivery in our Peninsula middle-class neighborhood has deteriorated dramatically. Over the last two days, the mail has shown up at at 6:10 p.m. and 6:45 p.m. It would not be a surprise if the mail carrier shows up wearing a miner's helmet, complete with amplified light and a GPS system, by tomorrow night. Mail delivery has never been this tardy in our 44 years living in Burlingame. Will it improve? Lots of luck. If Saturday service was quietly terminated, who would notice? Not this correspondent.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

It's Good to Have Handy Info on Our Debt

As the California/U.S. economy continues to hover between bad and horrific, it's instructional to wake up on a Wednesday morning in balmy Burlingame and discover a free copy of the China Daily lying in the driveway. Every house on our block had one. Wonderful. We can use the fiscal wakeup call. Fortunately, the newspaper is written in English. Still, no matter what language is used, the financial news is not terrific. China (Japan isn't far behind) is a prime holder of U.S. debt. In other words, China is one of our biggest and most important bankers. At least this latest publication is now available so that we can monitor our important mortgage issues more closely. Maybe it's time to burn the credit cards once and for all. Or not.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

They Grow 'Em Big at Serra High

What's in the water at Serra High School? The Padres' freshman football team appears to be one of the largest, in terms of physical size, in school history. Although there is no way to pinpoint where this team stands in that regard going all the way back to the San Mateo Catholic institution's founding early in the 1940s, the 2011 freshman aggregation remains an eye-popping outfit. Of the 68 boys on the roster, which is available online, 17 of them weigh at least 190 pounds. Six-footers abound. A pair of tackles are listed at 6-3 and 6-7 in height and 270 and 250 pounds respectively. These are 14-year-olds. They are just beginning their prep football careers. If you didn't know how young they are, you might conclude this is a varsity unit. It isn't. These kids, barely out of the eighth grade, are mere neophytes. They have played one contest so far; they won it easily. There has been no mention of the cost of the post-game snack. But it must have been substantial.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Times Sign Ready to Go Away Quietly

In Redwood City, there is a movement afoot to find some way to preserve the towering sign at Mel's Bowl on El Camino Real as a developer prepares to demolish the business. The sign, part and parcel of the old bowling alley, has been a Redwood City landmark for about 50 years. The feeling among preservationists is that the sign has some historic value. Maybe. But, perhaps not all that surprisingly, there doesn't appear to be a similar effort to retain the signature sign and its one-time digital clock/temperature indicator at the former San Mateo County Times property on Highway 101. In one way, it's rather sad. In another, well, life goes on. The Times, as a daily newspaper on the Peninsula, has faded away slowly. It is scheduled to lose its individual identity completely as of the morning of Nov. 2 when it is to be totally absorbed into the San Jose Mercury News. Four years ago, the newspaper, which traces its roots all the way back to 1889, abandoned its facilities on South Amphlett Boulevard and moved its editorial office to leased space at the corner of Ninth Avenue and South Claremont Street. The land was then sold. It was just a matter of time until the South Amphlett buildings, first opened in 1964, were razed. Now, the only thing left to tear down is the defunct sign. The clock, so to speak, is ticking.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Neukom's Legacy Deserves a Final Thank-You

The abrupt departure of Bill Neukom as Managing General Partner and CEO of the San Francisco Giants has been disconcerting for followers of that Major League Baseball franchise. And for good reason. Neukom, in his three years as the Giants' top executive, did what no one else in that chair had been able to accomplish since the team moved west from New York in 1958: Win a World Series. That 2010 feat, by itself, has established Neukom's legacy for all time. For those on the Peninsula, Neukom's place in Giants' lore was unique because of his local background. He grew up in San Mateo Park and attended San Mateo High School in the Class of 1959. He was inducted into the Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in June. Neukom, though the circumstances of his surprising exit remain in question, at least for public consumption, is regarded as something akin to a sporting savior by West Bay baseball fans. His relatively brief tenure with the Giants will not be forgotten anytime soon. We owe him a final thank-you as he heads out the door at China Basin.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

San Mateo Club Wound Up With a PR Disaster

In retrospect, the hubbub surrounding the disruptive and surprising Sept. 10 fireworks display by the Peninsula Golf & Country Club in San Mateo could have been largely avoided (or at least softened a bit) if club authorities had made sure that the surrounding community had ample notice of the event weeks in advance. They made only a very minimal and belated effort, at best. There are plenty of mechanisms to get out the word, including cable-TV, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail, flyers, yes, even newspapers. Municipal officials should have been clued in early on. By doing so, those city folks could have issued alerts as well. The club, on the occasion of its 100th birthday, did not seem to realize what it was heading for one day before the national observance of the tenth anniversary of the terror attacks on the East Coast. Just a modicum of public relations savvy could have saved the club a whole lot of subsequent grief. A check of its own Website showed there was no indication even there of what was about to transpire. It was as though the club, located in the middle of a quiet residential neighborhood, had no notion at all that a sustained fireworks show involves heavy-duty explosions that would rock homes, disturb residents, frighten small children and animals and generally shellshock entire neighborhoods. So, unfortunately, the club missed out on an opportunity to generate goodwill. Instead, its big celebration turned out to be a PR nightmare.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Aragon High to Celebrate 50th Anniversary

Was it really 50 years ago when Aragon High School was christened? Indeed it was. The San Mateo school, the city's third and youngest public high school, began its educational mission in 1961. Since it opened its doors on Alameda de las Pulgas during the Kennedy Administration, an estimated 17,000 young adults have graduated. Aragon is preparing to observe its 50th birthday in October. According to Aragon alum Heidi Bowman, the festivities will commence Oct. 14 when the Dons' football program will host South San Francisco High School; the frosh-soph game will begin at 4:30 p.m. and the varsity tilt is set for 7 p.m. On Oct. 15, there will be tours of the school from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A light lunch will follow. Later that same night, beginning at 7 p.m. An anniversary gala will be held at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Foster City. You can get more information via e-mail at Aragon50th@gmail.com.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Flying on 9-11 Makes Good Sense

There is every indication that Americans tend to shy away from flying on Sept. 11. That seems to be because of a lingering worry about the East Coast terror attacks of ten years ago on this date. However, if you care to dwell on it for a moment, a rational person might prefer to hop aboard a Boeing 757 and jet from SFO to a destination of choice. Why? Because airport and airline security is exceedingly tight on the anniversary of the horrific 2001 events. It would not be a stretch to state that, if anything, it may be safer to fly on Sept. 11 than on any other day of the year. Where's my ID?

Chatham Road Is Ready to Party

Never let it be said that remembering and respecting a national tragedy has to be all gloom and doom. Far from it. Neighbors, families and friends got together on Sunday afternoon, the well-chronicled tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks on the East Coast, to party, palaver and celebrate life on Chatham Road in Burlingame. And that's the way it should be. We can't forget, but we can't allow those who despise our way of life and our people to win by stifling the little things, the really important things, that we all cherish. The boistrous Chatham Road event, complete with full band, dancing in the street, an inflated bounce house, food, adult bevvies and little kids running amuck, filled the bill quite nicely, thank you very much. When in doubt, as they say, keep on rockin'. On Chatham Road, they did so with vigor. Good for them.

No, That Wasn't World War III Breaking Out

Just after 8 p.m. Saturday evening, just hours before 9-11 remembrances were scheduled to commence on the East Coast, all hell broke loose in the area surrounding the Peninsula Golf & Country Club in San Mateo. Residents blissfully unprepared for a very local _ and extremely loud and disruptive _ display of fireworks provided by club officials on the occasion of its 100th birthday were stunned when explosions began to rock their neighborhoods. It was a sustained and unrelenting barrage. Homes and cars were rocked by the nearby explosions, some of them so heavy and loud they almost seemed to be emanating from right next door. Dogs and other frightened animals cowered as the force of the blasts persisted. The bombardment went on for at least 20 minutes. Residual smoke wafted over the proceedings, drifting through residential neighbhorhoods after the pyrotechnic celebration had ceased. Telephone access on the San Mateo Police Department's non-emergency line was jammed. Finally, we got through to a dispatcher who explained what was happening. A call to a club spokeswoman produced an explanation and this proviso: "We sent out notices to the neighbors." Really? No one we talked with in the area eight blocks east of the club knew anything about an impending fireworks show. Unless we missed it, we couldn't find anything about it on the club's Web site. Shellshocked longtime residents said they had never experienced such an intrusive event before. For most of those affected, this one came right out of the blue. Sorry, someone dropped the ball.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

No Need to Fret About Nudists Here

It's hardly a secret that San Francisco families with children are quite prone to leaving that community for the suburbs once the youngsters get close to school age. SF has one of the lowest percentages of kids in the overall population of any big U.S. city. SF is viewed as being anti-child in many different ways. Now there's a new one: Too many naked people out on the street. The phenomenon has gotten so intrusive and unpleasant that there is a move afoot to try to regulate these uncomfortable displays of flesh. Good luck. SF residents are well-known for their independence and contrary behavior. So, hey, parents, come on down to the Peninsula. We've got terrific weather, good schools, wonderful parks, ample parking and friendly neighborhoods _ and very, very few naked guys (and gals) texting away out on El Camino Real. Yes, you can take your tiny nursery school denizen with you over to Starbucks and you won't have to worry about him or her asking you about the sight of those weird, flabby buttocks on the wrinkled geezer sitting in the next chair. See, life in San Mateo County is even better than you thought.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Be Careful What You Wish For

Depending on your point of view, the decision by a Brisbane firm to move out of that North County village to much larger quarters in Visalia is either a wise business move or a betrayal. Brisbane officials, some local politicians and the union which represents the 150 or so workers who are scheduled to lose their jobs here naturally see VMR International's impending departure as the latter. But there's a problem: VMR, which provides about $2 million in annual sales taxes to Brisbane, is doing absolutely nothing wrong or illegal. The company is taking advantage of a state-approved incentive program designed to assist regions with severe unemployment. Opponents believe the shift southeast into the Central Valley is a perversion of the intent of the rules (which are supposed to encourage out-of-state businesses to move to California). Still, it's not unlawful at all. Efforts by key Democrats in Sacramento to change the regulations have come to naught, at least so far. If they are successful, though, they might get more than they bargained for. Enterprises seeking better deals, if they are stymied and frustrated in California, could simply head for greener, and more business-friendly, pastures in places like Nevada and Arizona, or, heaven forbid, Texas. And that's the last thing VMR's Peninsula foes would want to see. So be careful what you wish for.

Here Come the Kids

Here in the suburbs, you see them everywhere: Kids attired in short pants, jerseys, cleats and shin guards. It must be time for youth soccer. And, by far, the biggest outfit promoting and diecting the sport is AYSO, American Youth Soccer Organization. It's been around since the 1970s. It's impact in San Mateo County is huge. With a longtime motto heralding that "Everyone plays," AYSO has an estimated 10,000-12,000 participants on the Peninsula. San Mateo AYSO's Web site proclaims it has more than 2,000. Redwood City has 1,500. San Bruno is close to that figure. Through the decades, the program has expanded its age brackets. Today, pre-schoolers as young as 41/2 are eligible to play. Any attempt to coach these tots is like attempting to herd cats. For most, it's their first taste of athletic competition. We can debate whether it's wise to start the nippers in any organized sport at such a young age at a later date. Suffice it to say, however, not everyone sees the wisdom in such a practice. Still, in an era when obese children are a growing national concern, just about anything that gets them outside and exercising away from the lure of video games and iPads can't be a bad thing.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

PG&E's Bosses Have Little Shame

You have to hand it to the honchos at PG&E. They have little shame. After an exhaustive study by federal authorities, it has been made clear that the utility company was at fault when one of its natural gas pipelines exploded in the San Bruno hills a year ago. The result was eight fatalities, dozens of injuries and dozens of homes destroyed or severely damaged. The explosion/fire was the worst disaster ever experienced by a San Mateo County community. PG&E's bosses, now fully aware that a lack of proper care and maintence along the pipeline in question caused the historic calamity, want their customers (including those in the shattered San Bruno neighborhood, presumably) to foot much of the bill for a complete repair and retrofit regimen for its natural gas delivery system. The early estimate of the cost for such a comprehensive program (which should have been in place all along) is about $2 billion. If ever there were a case to be made for the state Public Utilities Commission to reject a PG&E rate hike request, this is it. The very idea of having the blast victims, along with everyone else, pay their "share" for PG&E's abject failures is unthinkable.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Adults Are Aware

Don't be misled. In spite of what you might note in ongoing media reports regarding high-speed rail in California, there are actual thoughtful adults in Sacramento who understand the very serious stakes involved in this ultra-expensive project. Many of these people, because of their affiliation with the Democratic Party, are reluctant to voice their true beliefs about the high-speed train and its ever-escalating costs. But they know. Some have even gone public with their doubts. Local Assemblyman Jerry Hill is one; he has expressed deep reservations about high-speed rail. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer is another; he has made it clear that HSR is not going to fly financially. And that's the bottom line. No matter how you care to parse the situation, this project would be prohibitively expensive, both to build and, just as importantly, to sustain on an annual basis. It would be a drain on the state that would hamstring its tattered fiscal condition even more dramatically than it already is. Every objective analysis has concluded that HSR is unsustainable, that it's a huge mistake. Debating the merits and demerits of allowing high-speed trains to utilize the Peninsula's Caltrain corridor is pointless. Why? Because HSR is a monetary black hole, a fiscal catastrophe in the making. In the long run, Caltrain would be better off severing ties with the high-speed project and seeking its own solutions for system upgrades.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Where Are the Sharks?

If you visit the Fitzgerald Marine Reserve out on the San Mateo County Coastside right now, no matter the tidal conditions, a moving feature there involves harbor seals. They tend to gather in that area to care for their pups. Which means that hungry sharks must be lurking nearby. They are natural predators and much-feared by the seals. But, on several recent excursions to the Moss Beach locale, we did not spot a single, tell-tale fin inside the extended reef line. Apparently, though seals gambol there with impunity, it's too tough for the sharks to maneuver in those relatively shallow waters. If they could, mercy, the dining opportunities would be many and readily available. Can you say "seafood buffet?"

Monday, August 29, 2011

Leann's Cafe

With the economy in the dumper _ and showing few signs of a revival anytime soon _ a good deal is valued more than ever. So, all hail Leann's Cafe out on the Burlingame bayfront. The diner, open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is located at 777 Airport Blvd., inside the Red Roof Inn. The food (traditional American dishes and some wonderful Chinese specialties) is tasty, plentiful and fresh. And, what's even better, airline employees receive a 15 percent discount on all menu items. The staff is courteous, attentive and prompt. The atmosphere is casual and friendly. Check it out.

Just Do the Math

For those of you who follow the fortunes of the San Francisco Giants (and the Peninsula is definitely Giants' Country, make no mistake about that), the numbers are getting downright grim these days. As of the morning of Aug. 30, they were five full games out of first place in the National League West Division standings. There were 27 games left on their 2011 schedule. Which meant that, to get to 90 wins (a figure that would be two fewer than the club attained a year ago), they would have to go 19-8 the rest of the way, which seems rather unlikely, considering the present depressed state of the ballclub. Arizona, the surging first-place outfit, would require a finishing mark of just 14-13 to get to 90 W's. Nothing is impossible. Major league baseball has seen more daunting challenges. The Giants and Diamondbacks have six games between the two remaining. But SF optimists are in very short supply today. The 162-game schedule, a grueling marathon, has taken a toll, less than one year removed from that 2010 World Series triumph.