Category Archives: Taxes

Beyond “normal” deviations: New Oakland bridge expected to be two years late, $6M over budget

shocked face

If there’s anything that’s normal: massive project overruns in California.

The environmental impact review did not indicate toxic dirt was at the site? Sounds suspicious to me.

From SF Gate: A bridge in Oakland that was supposed to cost no more than $24 million could now come to well over $30 million, and the city says toxic dirt is mostly to blame.

On top of the extra dollars, the project won’t be completed until December — two years later than the original target. Though some City Council members said they felt Oakland was being overcharged, they nonetheless approved the cost increases, reasoning, in part, that most of the funds are from the federal and state governments and that abandoning the contracts midway through construction would be more disastrous than pumping additional money into the work.

“It’s extraordinary,” said Councilwoman Lynette Gibson McElhaney. “It’s way beyond what I consider normal deviations.”

The undertaking to demolish and replace the 50-year-old Embarcadero Bridge that ran over the Lake Merritt Channel, just south of Interstate 880, is part of a years-long seismic safety retrofit program in California to upgrade some 2,000 bridges so they can withstand big earthquakes.

To get it done, the city hired Flatiron as its primary contractor, along with T.Y. Lin International Group, AECOM and Biggs Cardosa Associates. The firms did not respond to requests for comment.

In Oakland, the new bridge will be wider and taller than the old one, giving space for bike lanes and an underpass to connect Lake Merritt and the estuary for small boats. The project also includes better street lighting, landscaping, restrooms and rainwater treatment areas.

The bridge is seen as a critical connection between the Embarcadero Cove, the massive Brooklyn Basin development, Jack London Square and Jingletown.

At the outset, construction was supposed to begin in April 2015 and be done by December 2016. But workers at the site soon came across soil and groundwater contaminated with hydrocarbons — likely from old fuel leaks — plus lead and other metals, according to Sean Maher, spokesman for the city’s Public Works Department. The level of contamination was unexpected.

That required the contractors to erect a special dam and containment booms to prevent the pollution from getting into the bay, Maher said. The soil then had to be tested and sorted by how hazardous it was to determine which type of landfill could safely hold it.

The start of construction was delayed 15 months. A report from the city, which is disputing some of the contractors’ new payment requests, said that as of November just 40 percent of construction was done yet 65 percent of expenditures were gone.

Contamination was only half the story. City officials have repeatedly referred to a permit dispute with the contractors, but have declined to provide details. The parties are now in mediation over the issue as well as disagreements over the cost increases.

“We’ve been fighting with them for months about how much they’re asking, and we haven’t been accepting,” Mohamed Alaoui, a city engineer, told the City Council last month.

The city is trying to figure out what went wrong with an initial environmental review, which didn’t catch the amount of toxins present.

“It can be a challenging science,” Alaoui said. “You go out in the field. You have specific locations where you take samples. You make interpolations from that. You assess risk levels from that, and then you move on. And in this case it did not work.”

Read the rest of the story here.

DCG

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Worker who “hit wrong button” (twice) about Hawaii’s missile threat feels terrible, will face counseling

hawaii missile alert error

I predicted this person would not be fired. Alas, he’s being “reassigned.”

It’s good to be a government employee.

From Fox News: After Hawaii emergency officials confirmed that an alert about an inbound ballistic missile was a mistake, they said the employee who pushed the wrong button feels awful about the panic-inducing incident.

Vern Miyagi, who oversees the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency (EMA), said at a news conference late Saturday that the civil defense employee who pushed the wrong button regrets what took place.

“This guy feels bad, right. He’s not doing this on purpose – it was a mistake on his part and he feels terrible about it,” said Miyagi in a press conference Saturday afternoon.

Miyagi, a retired Army major general, said the employee would be “counseled and drilled so this never happens again,” but he did not say whether there would be disciplinary measures.

Rather than triggering a test of the system, it went into actual event mode. He confirmed that to trigger the alert, there is a two-step process involving only one employee — who both triggers the alarm, then also confirms it.

“There is a screen that says, ‘Are you sure you want to do this?'” Miyagi said. The employee confirmed the alert, inadvertently causing a panic in a state already on edge over saber-rattling missile threats from North Korea. 

Hawaii Gov. David Ige said there wasn’t a process in place to send out a message stating “that this is a false alarm.”

“You know, we were not prepared for that, the fact that an alert was issued that was incorrect,” Ige said. “So we have that built now.”

Read the rest of the story here.

DCG

This is Chiraq: 16 people wounded in MLK Day weekend shootings

mlk jr violence quote

This was the stat when I scheduled this post on Sunday afternoon. Don’t be surprised if the number is higher on Monday morning.

From MyFoxChicago: At least 16 people have been wounded by gunfire across Chicago since the start of Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.

The most recent shooting happened early Sunday in the Little Village neighborhood on the Southwest Side. Two men, ages 19 and 23, were sitting in a parked car about 12:40 a.m. in the 2800 block of West 21st Street when someone fired shots, according to Chicago Police.

The younger man was struck in his left forearm, and the older man suffered a gunshot wound that penetrated through his shoulder to his chest, police said. Another person in the car drove them to Saint Anthony Hospital, where the older man was listed in serious condition and the younger man’s condition was stabilized, police said. The older man was later transferred to Mount Sinai Hospital, police said.

Nearly 4 hours earlier, a 16-year-old boy was wounded in a shooting in the North Side Rogers Park neighborhood. The boy was sitting in his vehicle at 8:24 p.m. in the 6700 block of North Hermitage when an unknown male approached and fired shots, police said. The boy suffered multiple gunshot wounds to his body and was taken to Saint Francis Hospital in Evanston, where his condition stabilized.

Two people were shot about 20 minutes earlier during an altercation in the West Side Austin neighborhood. The 29-year-old man and 25-year-old woman were at a gathering in the 5300 block of West North Avenue when the altercation broke out, and someone took out a gun and fired shots, police said.

The man was shot in the head and taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where his condition stabilized, police said. The woman was taken to West Suburban Medical Center in Oak Park with a graze wound to her head. She was in good condition. The shooting ended a stretch of almost 16 hours on Saturday in which nobody was shot.

At 4:39 a.m. Saturday, a 27-year-old man was shot at a Back of the Yards restaurant drive-thru on the South Side. The man was sitting in the drive-thru lane in the 1400 block of West 47th Street when he heard shots and felt pain, police said. He was taken to Stroger Hospital with a gunshot wound to his left armpit, and his condition stabilized.

Three people were shot just after 4 a.m. in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. Someone fired shots at a party in the 3900 block of West Arthington, striking three people, police said. An 18-year-old woman was shot in the neck and taken in serious condition to Stroger Hospital. A 37-year-old man was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital in serious condition with a gunshot wound to the right side of his face. The third person, a male whose age was not immediately known, was shot in the chest and back and was also taken to Mount Sinai in serious condition.

The weekend’s first shooting happened about 5:45 p.m. in the West Garfield Park neighborhood. A 25-year-old man was shot in the buttocks near Madison and Kilbourn, police said. He took himself to Loretto Hospital, where he was in good condition.

At least six other people have been wounded in shootings across the city since 5:45 p.m. Friday.

Last year, 39 people were shot — 10 of them fatally — during Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.

DCG

Illegal alien, previously deported, hijacks Greyhound bus in Wisconsin & threatens to kill riders

illegal margarito vargas rosas

Illegal alien Margarito Vargas-Rosas

From Fox32Chicago: The man accused of threatening to kill passengers on a Greyhound bus is a Chicago resident in the country illegally, law enforcement officials said Saturday.

Margarito Vargas-Rosas, 33, is accused of threatening to kill the other 36 people on the bus from Milwaukee to Chicago on Friday night. The situation led police to chase the bus, and then stop it with spike strips on the Illinois side of the state line.

The Racine County sheriff said on Saturday that Vargas-Rosas is an illegal immigrant who has been deported before.

No one was injured in the incident, which ended at the Illinois/Wisconsin state line when police laid out spike strips.

More details from WISN ABC News:

“A man who threatened to kill other passengers on a Greyhound bus Friday night was in the country illegally and has been previously deported.

Racine County Sheriff Christopher Schmaling said Margarito Vargas-Rosas, 33, lives in Chicago but works at a restaurant in Milwaukee.

The incident started around 9:40 p.m. Friday when authorities received reports of an armed subject on board a bus from Milwaukee to Chicago. The Racine County Sheriff’s Office said a caller said a man on the bus claimed to have a gun and made threats to kill people. Officials chased the bus from Racine County into Lake County, Illinois.

Passengers said that people were yelling at the bus driver to stop, but he kept going. Schmaling said the driver though it was a training exercise.”

h/t Twitchy

DCG

Spokane decides to outlaw immigration detention by police

illegal immigration

From NBC News: The city of Spokane has agreed to change its policies to make clear that police officers will not question or detain people to enforce federal immigration laws. That’s part of a final settlement the city reached Tuesday in federal court with the ACLU of Washington and the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.

The case stems from a 2014 traffic accident when the vehicle of Gabriel Gomez was struck by a minivan that failed to yield the right of way.  A Spokane police officer responded and contacted the U.S. Border Patrol to ask whether the agency had any interest in Gomez.

The officer issued a ticket to the other driver and then let that driver leave the scene. However, the officer detained Gomez until the Border Patrol arrived and took him into custody.

“I have lived in this community for many years, and to suddenly have the police turn against me after being a victim in the accident really turned my life upside down,” Gomez said in a press release. “I want to be able to trust the police.”

City officials did not immediately return a message seeking comment.  Spokane is Washington’s second-largest city with about 210,000 residents.

Gomez was eventually transferred by immigration officials to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, where he remained until he posted bond. Gomez is seeking legal status to remain in this country, the ACLU said.

The lawsuit contended the officer unlawfully detained Gomez for purposes of investigating his immigration status and prolonged his detention to assist federal officers. The lawsuit also alleged that city policies unlawfully authorized officers to take such actions.

As part of the settlement, the city agreed to modify its policies to clarify that police officers “shall not contact, question, delay, detain or arrest an individual because s/he is suspected of violating immigration laws,” the settlement said.

ACLU Washington issued this statement on their web site:

“This is an important step towards ensuring that all community members receive equal treatment from police officials,” said Matt Adams, Legal Director for Northwest Immigrant Rights Project (NWIRP). “The changed policies will help the City to move forward in working to serve all the community members, regardless of their perceived immigration status.”

“We’re pleased that the City has recognized the need to change its policies to prevent such unfair treatment of immigrants in the future,” said Enoka Herat, ACLU of Washington Police Practices and Immigrant Rights Counsel.

DCG

Pelosi: Wage increases and bonuses from tax reform are “crumbs” and “so pathetic”

Please continue to let this woman continue to be the representative of your party, demorats!

h/t Twitchy

DCG

ICE raids 100 7-Eleven stores: Trump Admin says it’s just getting started

deport t-shirt

Works for me.

From Yahoo: Federal immigration agents stormed into nearly 100 7-Eleven stores nationwide in an unprecedented search for undocumented workers illegal aliens under President Donald Trump, the Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

And Immigration and Customs Enforcement says it is only getting started.

“This is what we’re gearing up for this year and what you’re going to see more and more of is these large-scale compliance inspections, just for starters,” Derek Benner, acting executive associate director for ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations, told the AP. “It’s not going to be limited to large companies or any particular industry, big medium and small. It’s going to be inclusive of everything that we see out there.”

It is illegal for employers to knowingly hire unauthorized workers living in the United States illegally. The parent company of the raided convenience stores, the Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Stores Inc., did not immediately respond to Newsweek’s request for comment.

Wednesday’s raids represent the largest single-operation by ICE against employers under President Donald Trump.

According to the AP, the 7-Eleven stores served on Wednesday “will be required to produce documents showing they required work authorization.”

Benner said these kinds of sweeps will become more common during the Trump presidency.

“We need to make sure that employers are on notice that we are going to come out and ensure that they’re being compliant,” Benner told the AP. “For those that don’t, we’re going to take some very aggressive steps in terms of criminal investigations to make sure that we address them and hold them accountable.”

The administration has drastically stepped-up immigration enforcement in the United States. ICE arrests of suspected undocumented illegal aliens are up 40 percent since Trump took office, federal stats show. The administration has also given federal immigration agencies the green light to arrest anyone suspected of being in this country illegally.

The raids came hours after U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco blocked a Trump administration move to end protections for children brought to the country illegaly by their parents. The University of California system, more than a dozen state attorneys general, and at least one participant in the so-called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program are currently battling the Department of Homeland Security in court.

DCG