10 brightest ideas of the week: Sept. 7, 2008

Muni cracked down on fare evaders, the mayor of Detroit agreed to step down and New Orleans sidestepped another disaster due to some smart preparation.

Bright light of the week

Sarah Palin

Who: The Alaska governor who has been selected by Sen. John McCain as his running mate in the race for the White House.

What: The mother of five and self-described “hockey mom” went on the offense during her speech at the Republican National Convention, firing back at media critics, Sen. Barack Obama and Washington, D.C., insiders. Palin even managed to discredit critics about her lack of experience, saying being a small-town mayor was kind of like Obama being a community organizer, except that her job had “actual responsibilities.”

Why it matters: It was her first big prime-time address as the vice-presidential candidate, and Palin proved she was worthy of being on the ticket. Palin — who asked the question: “Know the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull? Lipstick.” — demonstrated she is above the fickle questions about how her being a woman and a mom would affect her being fit for the role of vice president.

10 brightest ideas of the week

Catching fare evaders

1| Muni snagging cheaters who don’t pay.

The details: Muni riders are rightfully miffed when they see fare evaders sneak a free ride when they’ve lawfully paid for theirs. Finally, Muni has gotten serious about cracking down on such scofflaws, with new data showing that they’ve hit their highest rates for fare enforcement. With more enforcement officers, Muni issued $35,000 worth of $50 tickets during the last quarter; 44.3 percent more tickets issued than in the same period last year. Another 20 fare enforcers are being hired this fiscal year, according to officials with the transportation agency. Considering the agency’s ongoing fiscal woes, it seems like more enforcers would result in even more money for Muni’s coffers.

Call ’em

2| Governor tells people to call lawmakers about state budget.

The details: Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who is fed up with state lawmakers being at loggerheads over the state budget, has taken his fight to the people of California. The governor, who already offered a budget compromise that was shot down, asked Californians to prod their lawmakers into passing a budget, which is more than two months overdue.

Storm watch

3| Emergency response to Gustav a vast improvement over Katrina.

The details: Three years after America watched with horror as the waters of Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on New Orleans, the news of another storm — Hurricane Gustav — hitting New Orleans was rightfully cause for alarm. This time, however, emergency responders and government officials got it right with the timely evacuation of nearly 2 million people. Although the storm was not as bad as feared, better-safe-than-sorry was the best approach.

Detroit disgrace

4| Mayor pleads guilty and resigns.

The details: Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick — facing criminal charges for obstruction of justice stemming from a whistle-blower lawsuit from two former police officers and a revealed affair with his chief of staff — agreed to resign and serve jail time as part of a plea deal. In exchange for pleading guilty to two counts of obstruction of justice, the previously defiant mayor will get four months behind bars, pay the city $1 million in restitution, lose his license to practice law and cannot run for elected office for five years. Kilpatrick did vow a political comeback, but in light of his shameful actions, voters should not give him a second chance.

Click it to fix it

5| City residents have alternative to 311.

The details: San Francisco launched its 311 hot line in March 2007 to give residents one number to use for questions but also problems they’d like to see fixed. Next in line, says Mayor Newsom is a web-based 311 system. San Francisco will face some already established competition, a new Web site called SeeClickFix.com, which has already posted more than 1,000 complaints from San Francisco residents since its August launch. From potholes, to graffiti, to loud noises and litter, we say the more tools San Franciscans have to reform the way government works (or doesn’t) — the better!

Time to step up

6| Niners QB Alex Smith challenged by GM.

The details: While those plopped on their bar stools have been saying this for months, 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan made it public this week: It is time for quarterback Alex Smith to prove himself. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2004 draft was beaten out in the preseason by J.T. O’Sullivan, who was playing in NFL Europe two years ago, for the right to start today’s season opener. So McCloughan said if Smith doesn’t grab the job, he will be cut loose in the offseason. “The amount of money we’re going to invest in him, he’d have to be proven that he’s the guy,” McCloughan said of Smith’s future with the team.

One card is smart idea

7| Translink card almost ready to make its Muni debut.

The details: Six years after its first test run, it looks as if Bay Area residents will soon be able to use one smart card on several different public-transportation systems. TransLink, a single-card, multiagency fare-payment system, will launch full-scale on Golden Gate and Alameda-Contra Costa transit district buses and ferries in the coming months. Next up is for Muni to come online. According to the agency’s top official, Nathaniel Ford, Muni has finished some initial testing and plans to allow its employees and select passengers to try the system out for a while before opening the card — a plastic card that allows riders to upload value to — to the general public.

Possible park perks

8| Golden Gate National Recreation Area may receive improvements.

The details: Officials with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area are creating a 20-year plan and are weighing ideas to boost visitor perks at those parks, focus on conservation or play up parkgoers’ experience of the natural environment’s history. From extending a Muni line into Fort Mason to building a hotel on Alcatraz, the ideas seek to find the balance between conserving the park lands and making them available — and attractive — to residents.

Hybrids are hot

9| Bay Area second highest in nation for eco-friendly car sales.

The details: According to a new study, more hybrids were sold in the Bay Area last year than in any other U.S. metropolitan area apart from Los Angeles. Sure, we could chalk it up to the sunshine state’s eco-loving ways, but considering the two California cities pay some of the highest gas prices in the nations, its not surprising that drivers are looking for fuel alternatives.

Roche move

10| Drugmaker looks to move headquarters to Peninsula.

The details: Swiss drugmaker Roche, which has a pending offer to buy South San Francisco-based Genentch, says it will move its U.S. headquarters from New Jersey to South City if the takeover goes through. South San Francisco just lost Pfizer to San Francisco, so it could use the money, especially since biotech companies’ taxes provide a significant portion of the city’s revenue.

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