New Year, Same Old Stories

As we kick 2013 under a steamroller and leap into 2014, it seems like a good idea to check on the biggest stories of the year gone by.

  • The Bay Bridge is still standing. That’s a good start. The famous “saddle” retrofit is complete, and the seismic stabilizers are actually attached to the bridge structure now. Of course, the retrofit went over budget, but did anyone actually expect anything different? The original estimate was $10 million, so the final cost of $25 million is only over by 150%. That’s a damn sight better than the cost overrun for the bridge itself.Our buddy Jaxon notes that Caltrans is still testing rods and bolts. They’ve identified an additional 700 fasteners that might need replacement. Such fun. The bridge is a project that just keeps on giving.

    No updates yet on any of the basic questions we started our study of the Bay Bridge Bolt Botch with. Is it too late to make the whole East Span a single “Who QAed This Shit?” item?

  • Meanwhile, over in the wonderful world of BART, we’ve had a few things happen since we last checked in. As you may recall, the unions ratified the contract, but BART management did not, thanks to a family leave clause that BART said they never meant to include.Words were exchanged, lawsuits were filed, and behind the scenes, negotiations went on. In exchange for deleting the familiy leave clause, BART offered a package of tweaks to the contract, including expanded bereavement leave, new break rooms in some stations, and a modification to the way bonuses for meeting ridership targets are calculated.

    BART directors are supposed to vote on the final, final contract today. Based on the rhetoric flying around, it’s unlikely to be approved unanimously, but I’m guessing there’s a 75% chance it will be approved.

    Meanwhile, BART has been pushing for legislation to make strikes illegal and require mandatory arbitration. Unions have greeted that idea with great enthusiasm. Rumors that union members’ cars are now sporting “You’ll have to pry my right to strike from my cold, dead hands” are entirely false (and were, in fact, invented by this author just now). In reality, the unions are greeting the notion of mandatory arbitration with all the excitement they would give to mandatory dentist visits or a return of the Macarena. A Bay Area “advisory” ballot measure seems likely to pass by a landslide, but getting a bill through the state government seems highly unlikely.

    My take is that if both sides really want to avoid another strike four years from now, they need to start negotiating now. Don’t wait for 2017, just get the teams talking first thing Monday morning. Don’t reference the just-signed contract, forget traditional perks, rules, and barriers, and start with a blank sheet of paper to build a contract acceptable to both sides. They’ve got three and a half years; that’s almost long enough. Go to it!

  • Finally, there was a small story buried on page 4 of the Chronicle’s sports section on 22 December. Its headline is “Pill to Korea”, and my first thought was that somebody was proposing chemical therapy for Kim Jong Un. Apparently not, and the Giants don’t need to worry about the AMA investigating them for practicing medicine without a license. Turns out they’ve sold first baseman Brett Pill to a Korean baseball team. Interesting choice of words there. If we can believe the story, they haven’t sold his contract to the Kia Tigers, they’ve sold him. The AMA may be the least of the Giants’ problems.For Mr. Pill’s sake, we’ll hope that the Kia Tigers are a baseball team with a need for a first baseman, and not actually a section of the Gwangju Zoo with a need for raw meat. Maybe we can interest the zoo in a package deal for Kim Jong Un and Dennis Rodman.

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