10 worst ideas of the week: Aug. 24, 2008

Nonlethal weapon too slow to arrive at confrontation, House earmarks for projects are on the rise and thieves target graveyards for precious metals.

Dim bulb of the week

Fiona Ma

What: The state Assembly member was reportedly in talks with Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier before Alioto-Pier introduced legislation that would allow Pacific Gas & Electric to install so-called smart electrical meters in The City. The problem is that Ma is dating Patrick Koch, whose company — Current Grid — sells the smart meters. 

Background: PG&E wants to install the meters, saying it would provide energy-usage information to the consumer and the provider. With that information, PG&E says, it would allow both parties to more closely monitor and adjust energy usage, which could save money. The City, however, now has a study that says, in part, that the cost of smart meters outweigh the benefits.

Solution: No matter what comes of the smart-meter debate in The City, Ma needs to totally separate herself from any issues that come up about the meters. Her chief of staff, Bill Barnes, told The Examiner on Thursday that Ma was the target of personal attacks and did nothing wrong. Even so, Barnes said Ma has since “taken a step back from it.” Ma needs to make it clear to all parties involved that she can have no part in any decisions about the meters.

Ten worst ideas

Bean bag guns

1| Nonlethal weapon too late for police.

The details: Before police officers shot a mentally ill 56-year-old woman, they had requested a gun that fires nonlethal bean bags. The gun, however, did not show up in time. The Police Department, which gives the weapons to specially trained officers, either needs to expand the number of officers who have the guns or speed up how fast the trained officers can respond. The woman was still hospitalized more than two weeks after the incident.

More earmarks

2| Study finds pork-barrel projects on the rise.

The details: A study by Taxpayers for Common Sense shows that the number of projects funded by earmarks has “drastically increased” in spending bills passed or under consideration in the House this year. The Senate seems to have caught on and decreased the amount of earmark spending, but representatives need to learn to also cut back on the pork.

Vehicle fees

3| Car costs could climb with new legislation.

The details: Gas prices may be down a bit, but the cost of owning a car could increase if legislation that is making its way through the state Capitol is passed. The bill would allow regional transportation agencies to increase vehicle-license fees by up to $90, depending on the fuel efficiency of the vehicle. It would also allow a 3 percent increase per gallon of gas.

Sick time

4| States push laws for mandatory sick time.

The details: More and more states are looking to force businesses to provide sick time for their employees. The heavy-handedness of the states, however, is tying the hands of businesses, hindering them from providing an array of benefits that could be used for time off when an employee is sick.

On thin ice

5| Raiders’ coach says he doesn’t have enough talent on the roster.

The details: Just months after he came out of a power struggle with Al Davis with less authority, Raiders coach Lane Kiffin essentially called out the team’s owner for the lack of quality talent at the bottom of his roster. “You’ve got to be willing to release people,” Kiffin said of fringe players who are unable to get onto the practice field due to a minor injury or some other inconvenience. Later, Kiffin did soften his stance a bit, but considering the relative NFL novice was almost fired following his first season as a head coach, it probably wasn’t the smartest of ideas.

Airline crash

6| Gauge had showed overheated air.

The details: The Spainair jetliner that crashed and killed 153 people had been delayed from taking off just one hour before the doomed flight. A gauge on the plane showed that overheated air was entering the plane, and pilots decided to abort the takeoff. About an hour later, the plane crashed during takeoff. Officials, however, have yet to say what the cause of the crash was.

Wrong turn

7| Driver veers in front of Muni train, causing accident.

The details: Police say a 20-something woman made an illegal left turn in front of a T-Third light-rail vehicle, which caused an accident that injured 10 people. Witnesses to the crash said that the woman sped up in order to cut in front of the train. The kicker: The intersection that the woman tried to make a turn doesn’t allow for left turns for non-Muni vehicles.

Grave robbers

8| Urns stolen for metal recycling.

The details: Thieves across the Bay Area have been targeting mausoleums, stealing urns and other metal objects. Some urns were stolen in Union City, including one that contained cremated remains. Two men, who happened to be from Union City, were arrested in Colma for allegedly trying to steal the bronze gates off a mausoleum. No amount of explaining can justify this type of theft.

Inflated home prices

9| Appraisal system remains unscrupulous.

The details: Congress set up a system to catch rogue home appraisers after the nation’s last big bankruptcy disaster. But an Associated Press investigation found that there are still people out there inflating the value of homes for real estate agents and mortgage brokers. The people who are supposed to be policing the appraisers are also not doing their job, and there is little done to punish those caught inflating prices.

Forced environmentalism

10| Giving out green could put cities in the red.

The details: A pie-in-the-sky proposal to help reduce overall energy use in San Mateo County could end up costing cities a significant amount of money. While the goal to conserve energy is commendable, the proposal includes ideas such as forcing cities to create energy to sell to utilities, which could hurt the municipalities financially.

SINKING SHIP: The San Francisco Zoo is looking to stop its financial losses by hitting the people who bring in the revenue. The zoo board approved raising fees by $4 or more across the board. The move, which is expected to raise nearly $1 million, comes as the zoo attempts to close a $1.5 million budget shortfall.

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