To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Pasadena Council to take position on 710 tunnel 


By Lauren Gold, staff writer
Updated:   12/05/2012 08:40:11 PM PST
  PASADENA - The City Council will take a position Monday on whether or not a tunnel should complete the Long Beach (710) Freeway.

Though it opposed three other alternatives at a meeting in August, the council has shied away from taking a position on the tunnel connecting linking the San Bernardino (10) and Foothill (210) freeways.

While some residents believe the council kept quiet so that the freeway extension wouldn't become an issue in the state Assembly campaign of former City Councilman Chris Holden, city officials said they were awaiting a legal opinion.

Councilman Terry Tornek said he is glad the council will finally take a stand on the tunnel, but he's not sure it will affect Metro's decision to extend the freeway.

"Frankly, I've been asking to have this brought forward much sooner, I think the public deserves to have an opportunity to know how we feel about this stuff," Tornek said. "But I also think there is a misconception about the influence the council can have in all this. This isn't our project and we are not the decision-makers here."

The council must reconcile whatever position it takes with voter-approved Measure A, which was passed in 2001. Pasadena residents took a position in support of "completing the 710 freeway between I-10 and I-210."

At an August City Council meeting, Councilman Steve Madison proposed a resolution to oppose the tunnel.

Holden said such a resolution could pose legal issues.

In turn, the council requested that staff solicit an outside legal opinion on Measure A's restrictions.

Since then, Metro has narrowed down the options for the 710 gap closure project to five, none of which was among those the council opposed. The final options, to be detailed in a final report this month, are "no build," bus, light rail, traffic management solutions and the tunnel.

Though Metro maintains it is still considering all options equally, Southern California Association of Governments Executive Director Hasan Ikhrata has said the tunnel is the only viable approach and SCAG's Regional Transportation Plan includes the freeway completion as a tunnel.

With the tunnel continuing to gain support, many of the more than 500 angry and vocal freeway fighters who attended the August meeting have been urging the council for months to take a stance, accusing them of "stalling."

Resident Weston DeWalt said he thinks the council wanted to avoid taking a position on the issue while Holden's election to State Assembly and Metro's Measure J were up for vote.

"I think the delay has been purposeful," DeWalt said. "I think it's wrong, I think the public was entitled to have their opinion prior to that and to see how individual council members would vote."

DeWalt believes the "delay" is a violation of city codes which prohibit the council from "impeding governmental responsiveness or efficiency." Regardless of the results of Monday's vote, he said he plans to file a report with the public integrity division of the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office.

"I have increasingly become concerned with the City Council's lack of consideration of public concern when deciding on critical issues," he said, adding that he also disagreed with the council's recent vote to approve the Rose Bowl as a temporary NFL stadium.

City Manager Michael Beck said it is "factually inaccurate" to say the council has been stalling the process. He said the council could not act until it received the opinion.

"The council in their due diligence has been thoughtful and considerate of the issue. It is a significant issue for them to evaluate, having them consider this now is not untimely in any way shape or form," Beck said. "I think its been appropriate that they have not automatically jumped to a conclusion."

Tornek said the council received a preliminary outside legal report in closed session "some time ago" but that he had not seen anything since.

City Attorney Michele Beal Bagneris said the city consulted with Los Angeles attorney Fred Woocher for the
outside legal opinion on Measure A.

Beck said the council could vote to take a position on the tunnel or petition for a ballot measure to put the issue back to the voters.

Either way, Councilman Victor Gordo said he hopes the meeting will be an opportunity for the community, the council and Metro to have a healthy discussion.

"This is a complex issue that involves not just the city of Pasadena but the region, and I would urge people on all sides of the issue to attend the meeting to give us their feedback and then allow for a debate that results in a decision that is in the city's best interest," Gordo said.

The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Dec. 10 at the Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green St.

Port workers back on the job after deal ends costly strike

By Brian Sumers Staff Writer
Updated:   12/05/2012 09:15:05 PM PST
 Thousands of longshore union members returned to work Wednesday at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach as terminal operators began clearing a backlog created by a weeklong strike, which ended late Tuesday night when union and management officials reached a deal with help from Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa.

Around 8 a.m. Wednesday, members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union began unloading cargo from ships, many of which had been waiting in port since the union's small Office Clerical Unit set up picket lines. All 10 terminals at both ports struck by the unit Office Clerical Unitwere once again open, and many terminal operators were expecting to soon accept ships that had been anchored for several days off the coast of California, waiting for the strike to end.

"It's a little noisier today than it has been the past eight days," said Alan McCorkle, senior vice president of APM Terminals Pacific Ltd., the largest terminal operator at the Port of Los Angeles. "It's good to have the cargo back, and it's good to have the people back. It's good to get back to doing what we do."

The deal, announced by both sides at 10:30 p.m. Tuesday, still must be ratified by the Office Clerical Unit, a relatively small bargaining unit whose members handle a range of back-office duties for major terminal operators. An ILWU spokesman said the process likely will take several weeks - workers will need time to read the agreements, review them and ask questions -but it is expected that members will ratify the contracts.

The 800-member unit actually reached agreements with 14 separate employers. Unlike other longshore unions, who negotiate one agreement for all workers along the West Coast, the OCU negotiates contracts with each employer.

Sources involved in the negotiations say three main factors helped the sides settle. The first, they say, was Villaraigosa, who arrived at talks late Monday after returning from a nine-day trade mission to
 South America and stayed until late Tuesday morning. Negotiators on both sides say Villaraigosa, a former high-ranking union official, bounced from room to room, seeking to persuade both sides of their weaknesses and urging them to achieve a quick deal.

Sources also say that, behind the scenes, some members of the ILWU may have been pushing the clerical unit to settle. Most of the union's 10,000 members were not part of the strike - they were only honoring picket lines - and some wanted to start earning paychecks again, some close to the talks say.

The third factor was the arrival of George H. Cohen, director of the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service in Washington, D.C. Union officials had resisted management calls for a mediator, but they eventually relented Tuesday morning after talks stalled.

Negotiators said they suspected the mediator might change the scope of talks, possibly forcing both sides to agree to more than each wanted. The sides were able to wrap up their deal just before Cohen was set to intervene.

Stephen Berry, lead negotiator for the 14 employers and an attorney at Paul Hastings LLP, said workers will receive pay increases of about $1 per hour, to about $42 per hour, along with generous increases in their company-funded pensions. He said the average total compensation, including benefits, for each clerical worker will increase from around $165,000 to $190,000.

In return, Berry said terminal operators will not need to replace every clerical unit worker who retires, takes a leave of absence or goes on vacation. Berry declined to say exactly how many workers will not need to be replaced, but a source close to the talks said terminal operators will still need to hire for most open positions.

"Both sides recognized that there was not going to be an agreement without some compromise," Berry said. "We're extremely pleased with the fact that the parties were able to reach an agreement that reopened the ports and allows cargo to flow."

The action at both ports began quickly.

About 10 minutes after Villaraigosa announced the deal, port pilot operators began assisting container vessels that had been at anchor into the empty berths and getting them ready for the dockworkers, Port of Los Angeles spokesman Phillip Sanfield said.

At Yusen Terminals in Los Angeles, President and Chief Executive Patrick Burgoyne watched at 8 a.m. as about 250 union members arrived to begin their first shifts in a week.

Burgoyne said it will take about seven to 10 days before operations return to normal.

"We're in direct contact with many of the cargo owners," he said. "They're delighted to see the ports opened again. Everyone is eager to get their containers moving and see their goods on the shelves."

J. Christopher Lytle, executive director of the Port of Long Beach, said terminal operators there were also seeking to return to normal operations soon. Three of six terminals had been closed in Long Beach since Nov. 28.

"We're encouraging terminals to increase their hours of operation so cargo can flow almost 24-7," Lytle said, adding that the port's gate is open from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. "No other port in the U.S. has those kind of hours."

Nearby, Geraldine Knatz, executive director of the Port of Los Angeles, said she was similarly happy that cargo was moving. Seven of eight terminals there had been closed.

"I don't think there are words to describe how pleased I am," she said. "I can look up the Main Channel, and I can see a ship at every terminal."

At the ILWU dispatch hall in Wilmington, about 40 longshore workers waited Wednesday afternoon inside the cavernous building and in its parking lots, waiting to be called back to work. A security guard kept watch out front, keeping observers from peeking inside.

Several longshore workers said they were pleased to be going back to work, but noted that union officials had barred them from speaking publicly about the strike or the settlement.

Sasago Tunnel collapse triggers infrastructure policy review


By Ida Torres  /   December 6, 2012  /   

The death of nine people due to the collapse of several concrete slabs in the Sasago Tunnel outside of Tokyo last Sunday has raised concern over the safety and maintenance of other public roads and tunnels which may lead to infrastructure repairs that Japan cannot currently afford.

The tunnel, a major link between Tokyo and central Japan, opened in 1977 as part of a post-war construction boom that the country experienced. But it was not alone in this state of neglect. Last month, the Infrastructure Ministry formed a panel, together with three government highway operators, to discuss how to best handle the problem. Analysts have advised the panel that of the 5,415 miles of expressways, about 40 percent has been in operation for more than 30 years. Furthermore, according to Toyoaki Miyagawa, a structural materials engineering professor from Kyoto University, the tunnels and roads were built according to the specifications of a country that was only experiencing light traffic and are in urgent need of repair.

But despite the urgency and severity of the situation, the costs involved may be far beyond the capacity of the country whose public debt has surpassed more than twice its gross domestic product. Some political analysts have blamed the government’s severe budget cuts which has affected public works. Infrastructure and public work spending was considered the mark of the Liberal Democratic Party that had led the country for decades. When the Democratic Party of Japan gained power in 2009, it implemented budget cuts that starved public works, leading to a lack of funding for maintenance and repairs.

Pasadena Unified axes construction contracts, places administrator, consultant on leave in Measure TT billing probe 


 By Brian Charles and James Figueroa, Staff Writers
Updated:   12/05/2012 06:02:34 PM PST
  PASADENA - A top Pasadena Unified School District administrator and a consultant with a $312,000 schools' contract have been removed from their posts pending an investigation into improper billing practices by contractors on the $350-million Measure TT capital improvement program, officials said Wednesday.

PUSD Facilities Chief David Azcarraga has been placed on paid administrative leave and bond consultant Robin Brown's contract has been suspended.

The district also terminated four contracts related to Measure TT, including consultant Peter Condis and project assistant Arturo Arce, plus two companies, LCC3 and Seville Group, PUSD spokesman Adam Wolfson said.

Those four handled administrative functions rather than working on any specific school project, Wolfson said; he said PUSD Chief Financial Officer John Pappalardo will temporarily manage the Measure TT program, approved by voters in 2008.

No criminal complaints have been filed in connection with the investigation, according to Los Angles County District Attorney's Office Spokeswoman Jane Robison.

Board members and top district officials declined to comment Wednesday, calling it a a personnel issue.

The district's Citizens Oversight Committee, which reviews an annual audit of Measure TT funds, didn't see anything unusual in a fiscal 2011-12 report, committee chair John Fuhrman said Wednesday.

The decision to place Azcarraga on leave and either suspend or terminate the contracts was made during a school board closed session on Tuesday night, officials said Wednesday.

The board did not report publicly the actions taken in the private meeting.

The California Open Records Act requires that the board "publicly report any action taken in closed session."

The act defines an action as "a collective decision made by a majority of the members of a legislative body, a collective commitment or promise by a majority of the members of a legislative body to make a positive or a negative decision, or an actual vote by a majority of the members of a legislative body when sitting as a body or entity, upon a motion, proposal, resolution, order or ordinance."

The allegations of improper billing mark the second time in less than two years that questions have been raised about about payments by the district to its consultants.

In 2011, the PUSD launched an internal investigation into $824,860 in payments to SCMC Inc., a Thousand Oaks consulting firm brought in to oversee the work performed by contractors.

The district scrutinized invoices from SCMC, which indicated the one-man consulting operation's Gerald Schober worked 28 of 31 days in August 2010, including a stretch of 13 consecutive days.

No criminal charges were filed against SCMC. The contractor and the district parted ways in late 2010.

Meanwhile, the terms of Brown's consultant contract have rankled some at the district. Brown, who was brought in to provide fiscal oversight to the capital improvement program, signed a contract with the PUSD in January 2012 which made him eligible to earn up to $312,000 this year, $80,000 more than PUSD Superintendent Jon Gundry.

What To Do If You Fall On The Subway Tracks



In 2011, 147 people were hit by New York City subway trains, a 15 percent increase over 2010. 50 of those incidents proved fatal, according to a recent report. The fact of subway deaths was brought dramatically into focus this week with the demise of 58-year-old Queens man Ki Suk Han, whose final moments at the 49th Street stop were captured in a controversial New York Post photo.

Han was allegedly pushed onto the tracks by homeless man Naeem Davis after a heated exchange. According to Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, Han then tried to "tried to climb out of the well and was pinned between the station and the train." More than a minute — and possibly as long as 90 seconds — elapsed before the train slammed into him, a police source told DNAInfo.

So what should you do if you fall--or are pushed--onto the subway tracks? Surprisingly, the M.T.A. does not offer a comprehensive contingency plan.

"No, we don't have anything like it," Aaron Donovan, an M.T.A. spokesman told Capital New York.
Kevin Ortiz, another spokesperson for the Transit Authority, said that this is because what might work at one station might not work at another.

"Due to the varying lay-outs of stations and roadbed construction there can be no single policy for a person finding themselves on the tracks," he told Capital. "What we do say officially is that customers should stand well back from the edge of the platform when waiting for the train. Also, if a customer drops something onto the tracks they should contact a transit employee who will call personnel to retrieve the item."

Slate published its own guide laying out what it says are the four real options:

 Obviously, the optimal choice is to get back onto the platform, often with the help of bystanders. Dramatic subway rescues are somewhat common.

If you can’t boost yourself up in time, look for a space beneath the platform edge. In some stations, particularly in Manhattan, there is enough room between the train and the platform to accommodate a person.

If the platform appears flush with the approaching train, you could take shelter in the space between the two sets of train tracks. This is a dangerous choice, though, because you’d have to traverse the third rail, which carries 660 volts of electricity, more than enough to kill a person.

A final option is to simply lie flat—there may be enough clearance for the train to pass over you.

Throughout the years, there have been cases of straphangers being hoisted to safety, or pinned down in the narrow gulley between the tracks.
Last year, however, an IAmA on Reddit featuring a man who claimed to be a New York CIty subway conductor contradicts this advice. User Fusoyaff2 said that in fact, the best option is to run down the tracks away from the oncoming train:

 The best thing you can do is run as far down the platform as you can (in the opposite direction from where the train enters the station) and wave your arms frantically to get the train operator and passenger's attention. Believe me, the passengers WILL be doing the exact same thing, as nobody wants to see you get run over and their train get delayed. If you can get to the far end of the platform, it gives the train more room to stop, and there is a ladder at the end of each platform where you can climb back up -- do NOT try to climb up from where you are. So many people have been killed trying to jump back up rather than getting away from the entrance end of the station.

Do NOT trust the pits between the tracks --- they are often right next to the third rail which can be just as dangerous (and note that the wooden planks are not designed to hold a human's weight - they are there to protect the energized rail from drips and weather) and the train operator is less likely to see you if you're in there. And don't duck under the train, because most stations do not have enough clearance for the average human. And do NOT jump down onto the tracks to try to save someone else. The best thing you can do is run on the platform towards the tunnel where the train enters so you can get the operator's attention sooner. Waving your arms over the tracks will tell the operator to stop immediately.

 In some countries, countermeasures have been taken to prevent fatalities. In Asia, for example, sliding doors on the platforms have proven an effective tool in preventing both accidents and suicides. In London, drainage pits dug between the tracks increase the clearance between cars and the ground--while they were not installed as a safety measure, the pits have cut deaths in half.

 My photo (Peggy Drouet) of a Singapore subway station: notice the doors on the right that open only when the train is already in the station. Very safe.