Marc Albert’s Articles

Washington sends unclear signals in war on weed

The legally murky world of medicinal marijuana cultivation has grown even more Byzantine. A recent old memo, penned by James Cole, a deputy U.S. attorney general, threw a curve-ball to everyone from growers to dispensaries to their customers, raising fears that federal authorities are about to upend a laissez-faire ethos announced in 2009 and begin raids and prosecutions, according to Peter Hecht of The Sacramento Bee.

The memo, somewhat contradicting the earlier statement that federal officials would not intervene in states where medicinal marijuana use is permitted, said state laws are “not a defense” from federal prosecution and that “Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug.” (more…)

After San Bruno explosion, trying to force regulators to do their jobs

San Bruno, CA October 2010

Assailing federal and state regulators, San Francisco’s city attorney is threatening to file a federal lawsuit both the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration and the California Public Utilities Commission for lax oversight, regulatory capture and a cozy relationship with Pacific Gas & Electric Co., according to reporting by Jaxon Van Derbeken of the San Francisco Chronicle.  “The public is at risk because the mandates of federal law have not been followed by PG&E or enforced” by regulators, [San Francisco City Attorney Dennis] Herrera said, adding, “it has become increasingly clear that regulators bear some fault here and were either asleep at the switch or too cozy with the industry they are supposed to regulate.”   Herrera said the goal of the suit he intends to file is to prompt regulatory authorities to do their job or be forced to do so — under court-ordered supervision. (more…)

Downbound train: Federal money headed for light rail line that’s heading nowhere

A planned billion-dollar-a-mile San Francisco light rail spur, to be built almost exclusively with federal dollars, should be scrapped, according to a stinging report from a civil grand jury which found the project wildly overpriced and hugely flawed, according to reporting by Rachel Gordon of the San Francisco Chronicle, Will Reisman of the San Francisco Examiner and in an un-bylined story on KTVU.

The report bashes the project’s inflating price tag, which has ballooned from $648 million eight years ago to $1.6 billion — this still one year before any construction even starts. (more…)

Sea turtles come before sea-based energy sources

A proposed settlement between environmental groups and the federal government over protecting much of the waters off of California’s coast for endangered leatherback sea turtles could scupper plans to harness the Pacific as an energy source, writes John Upton of The Bay Citizen.

Essentially, the plan would designate over 70,000 square miles of ocean as critical habitat, including the entire coast of Washington, two thirds of Oregon’s and about two thirds of California’s. (more…)

Grapes of Wrath? You can’t afford ‘em

Can a California family of three survive on $480 a month? The 1.5 million recipients of CalWORKs, the state’s welfare-to-work program, are about to find out. (more…)

In California, critics not sure it’s the little train that could

Could it be a mirage?

California’s planned 800-mile bullet train system has been dodging flak from administration opponents since President Barack Obama announced his support. While the massive project has generated much skepticism, and many questions have been sloughed off as reflexively political.  But as Lance Williams of CaliforniaWatch reports, state Treasurer Bill Lockyer, a prominent state Democratic leader, has some serious reservations — and we don’t mean tickets bought way in advance. (more…)

With outsourcing to China, a bridge too far in the Bay Area

In a story that should be a wake up call to policy-makers, outsourcing has gone public. As David Barboza of The New York Times reported on Saturday, seeking out low-wage workers off shore isn’t just for iconic American brands such as Apple, General Electric and Levi-Strauss; the phenomenon is increasingly prevalent among public agencies across the nation. (more…)

Border Patrol shooting ignites controversy

The FBI and San Diego police as well as Mexican authorities are investigating the fatal shooting of a Mexican citizen by a US Border Patrol agent late Tuesday night.

According to a Los Angeles Times story by Richard Marosi, 40-year-old Jose Yanez Reyes, while perched on the actual border fence, had allegedly thrown a rock and a nail encrusted piece of wood at agents after one of his two compatriots was caught and arrested just inside US territory. When he prepared to throw a second rock, a shot rang out and Reyes was struck in the head. The force of the blast sent his body tumbling back over the fence into Tijuana. (more…)

Earthquake preparation means big efforts before the Big One in California

A sobering report by The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says that the 4.5 million employees of 430,000 Southern California businesses could wind up enduring lengthy periods of unemployment and other disruptions should the so-called ‘big one’ sever the regions freeways, cut rail lines and damage port facilities in Los Angeles and Long Beach.
As one of the nation’s few remaining manufacturing hubs, major damage in Southern California would have ripple effects across the nation, worsened by the popularity amongst other manufacturers and retailers of just-in-time delivery. (more…)

Army Corps v. California trees

Six years and thousands of miles away from the poorly designed flood walls and levees whose post-Katrina failure inundated New Orleans, environmental groups in California have filed a federal lawsuit to prevent what they contend is an unproven, costly and potentially damaging flood protection strategy ordered by US Army Corps of Engineers.

The Corps, under scrutiny after a natural disaster became a man-made catastrophe, decreed in 2007 that local levee districts would in the future lose guarantees of federal aid and loans unless all trees and shrubs were removed from levees under its nominal jurisdiction around the nation. (more…)