Tag Archives: energy

Behind Government Budget Problems

Sutro Baths Steps by sirgious
Sutro Baths Steps, a photo by sirgious on Flickr.

This month’s post by Gail the Actuary explains our country’s (and the world’s) economic situation better than I ever could, so here it is.

This obviously speaks for Oakland as well, since we’re one of hundreds of US cities built upon a once lustrous but increasingly potholed and cracked foundation of cheap (and now all burnt up) oil and gasoline.

We’ll need to find other means of social lubrication, and in the meantime, don’t be poor!

The ramifications touch every part of our society, and thus I’ve tagged this with all categories. Put on your systems thinking cap and get reading!

BART fare raise vs BART exec. pay

Trains over Rockridge BART car parking lot

Trains over Rockridge BART car parking lot

We all know BART is raising fares 6.1% July 1st. What I didn’t know of until today is a website called “BartBudgetWaste.org” run by BART workers union AFSCME 3993 which brings up the issue of BART executive pay.

There are plenty of six-figure salaries at BART, although they don’t add up to much more than $3 million per year. Still, I haven’t heard a peep about BART execs taking symbolic 10% or more pay cuts — just like L.A. Mayor Villaraigosa, myself, or anyone else.

Everyone should demand BART’s head honchos to share in the pain if they are raising our fares. A 10% salary/bonus reduction for BART execs is in order — and more sustainable.

Remember, money is based on energy, and we are in a world of declining energy availability. You can only burn oil once.

One item in the BART proposal I do agree with is charging for parking. In our overpopulous and car-ridden megalopolis, it makes sense to charge people for theprivilege of parking their cars in a public space all day. That space could otherwise be used for a highrise condo, a swimming pool, a bowling alley, a karaoke box, or any number of more socially useful activities.

Otherwise, with the dollar becoming worth less every year, and energy costs rising, fare increases make sense. There is NO free lunch.

Now, on the management side of the fence at BART, they’ve put up a neat site called “BartLabor.com

At that site, you will learn that BART station agents earn $37.75 per hour. Wow. That’s the same as train operators — which is probably as it should be, given the customer service nature of it.

I guess that explains why those agents are fairly agreeable and helpful most of the times I’ve dealt with them, and why they do those fairly thankless jobs. Imagine if you were making McDonald’s wages as a station agent! What kind  of service would you get?

Of course, McDonald’s only seems to hire illegal immigrants using borrowed SSNs — but the threat of being fired does keep American Dream immigrants or Working Poor high school kids half motivated. I usually get my order at MCD right at least 50% of the time — this is for my partner’s  midnight cravings. (I hate MCD and won’t eat it. Pearl Burger in SF/Mill Valley though… that’s awesome stuff! Matches Burgermeister, Kuai’hana for quality, surpasses Barney’s, in-n-out and Christopher’s easily.)

If only more Americans could have these $37/hr jobs in 2009, as opposed to the large numbers who had this type of inflation-adjusted (or better) pay in the 1960s-70s — the zenith of American power.

We are past those days now obviously and returning to our agrarian roots in no time. (Or else we won’t eat.)

Local Currency in Oakland, Revisited

There’s an SFChronicle story about an East Oakland local currency, done by tracking hours of labor:


Oakland receives $3.9MM in DOE grants

This is old news but probably no one in Oakland knows about it.

Remember the Feb 17th Stimulus bill that Obama signed, with a grab bag of Easter goodies for everyone?


Below, see my calculations on what each city will receive, per person. 

Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program funding recipients
City Pop (src: CDF) DOE grant $ per resident Delta
Sacramento 475,743 $4,708,000 $9.90  
824,525 $7,739,300 $9.39 -$0.51
San Diego 1,336,865 $12,541,700 $9.38 $0.00
Anaheim 347,428 $3,254,800 $9.37 -$0.01
Stockton 291,428 $2,728,700 $9.36 -$0.01
Oakland 420,183 $3,919,200 $9.33 -$0.04
Riverside 306,240 $2,850,600 $9.31 -$0.02
Bakersfield 329,562 $3,040,700 $9.23 -$0.08
Santa Ana 355,128 $3,267,500 $9.20 -$0.03
San Jose 989,496 $8,840,600 $8.93 -$0.27
Long Beach 494,048 $4,397,500 $8.90 -$0.03
Fresno 488,714 $3,151,300 $6.45 -$2.45
4,045,873 $15,412,400 $3.81 -$2.64

Since the U.S. Conference of Mayors helpfully deleted the proposed stimulus bill funding requests by city, I don’t know what was in Oakland’s bag of requests for energy projects. Anyone know?