When the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission openly defied state lawmakers with a slim 10-6 vote to use toll dollars to buy and rehab a San Francisco building for use as regional agencies' hub, it triggered a big question: What will it cost?
And we're not talking only about money.
The chairman of the Legislature's audit committee, two East Bay Assembly members and a trio of powerful state senators, including the chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, oppose it.
"For the life of me, I cannot understand why you would want to incur the wrath of my colleagues in Sacramento," Assembly Member Sandre Swanson, D-Oakland, told the commissioners.
In what form that wrath will materialize remains unknown, but no one doubts it will arrive.
Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, is researching whether state lawmakers could strip the commission of its authority over toll dollars or place tighter controls on its use. The Legislature gave them the job a few years ago because the regional agency had a superior credit rating and could borrow construction cash for less cost.
Joint Legislative Audit Committee Chairman and Assembly Member Ricardo Lara, D-South Gate, also specifically asked the commission to hold off on the purchase until the state finishes an audit requested by DeSaulnier.
In the meantime, DeSaulnier has started another round of regional governance reform hearings that could revive contentious talk of merging agencies including the commission, Association of Bay Area Governments and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District.
"As someone who has served on three regional Bay Area agencies over a span of 10 years, I can tell you that regional governance is going to change dramatically," DeSaulnier said.
"And I don't believe that, in the end, that building in San Francisco will be the regional agencies' headquarters."
That building is 390 Main St., a former U.S. Post Office and military supply depot where the commission, air district and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission propose to relocate.
But the commission's vote on Wednesday only authorized the commission to bid. The private investors who bought the building in June 2010 for $60 million say they have other suitors.
Normally, one would admonish the buyers to beware.
But given the heat on this deal, the sellers may want to keep the adage in mind.
no probe: California's political watchdog will not investigate allegations that Richmond Councilman Corky Booze accepted a gift in excess of contribution limits and attempted to shake down a local company for campaign dollars.
The Fair Political Practices Commission declined to pursue a complaint filed by Richmond Councilman Jeff Ritterman, saying it lacked jurisdiction.
If the state won't do it, Booze says he'll ask District Attorney Mark Peterson to launch a probe.
"I'm going to call Mark personally and ask him to conduct an investigation," Booze said.
"I welcome it. The truth will come out. Someone has to stop the Richmond Progressive Alliance, which, as far as I'm concerned, is like a cult."
It's not a cult. It's a very vocal, very liberal organization that backs a three-member voting bloc on the seven-member council -- Ritterman, Jovanka Beckles and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin.
It's unlikely the district attorney will intervene. The allegations would be difficult to prove and prosecutors have bigger fish to fry.
But with hostilities between Booze and the alliance gaining momentum, we'll likely see plenty of demands for investigations.
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and finally: While most cash-strapped public agencies are cutting back on employee health, vision and dental benefits, the tiny Discovery Bay Community Service District is offering benefits for the first time to its 13 workers.
That's a good thing.
But when its board on Dec. 20, 2010, also extended publicly funded benefits to themselves, the agenda stated: "Employee medical coverage implementation documents."
It failed to specifically disclose that elected board members were included. Although the language probably meets the letter of the law, it doesn't inspire confidence.
Yes, it's legal to provide benefits to elected board members, but it is also controversial. Two of the five Discovery Bay directors have signed up for dental and vision -- Ray Tetreault and Chris Steele.
Community watchdog Bill Richardson pointed out the deficiency in a tersely worded letter, one of the dozens of lengthy communiques he sends to the district.
If Discovery Bay ever hopes to see Richardson retire his overheated typewriter, this is a poor way to go about it.