tv This Week in Northern California PBS September 12, 2010 3:00pm-3:30pm PST
captioning by vitac, underwritten by fireman's fund a deadly fire in san bruno caused by an exploding gas line leaves tragedy in its wake. this week marks the official start of the election season but many voters are weary of the campaign ads and attacks. proposition 19 on the november ballot will legalize and tax marijuana. is it the answer to california's budget woes? and, recommendations from "the do list" about exhibitions and performances in the bay area this fall. those stories next.
>> belva: good evening. welcome to "this week in northern california." i'm belva davis. joining me tonight on our panel are, carla marinucci, political reporter with the "san francisco chronicle" on the final push to win the hearts and minds of voters in california. josh richman, political and legal affairs reporter with the "oakland tribune" with the close look at proposition 19, and the impact of legalizing and taxing pot. and tom baker, consumer editor for ktvu channel 2 news. we'll begin with you, tom. tell us what you can about the explosion that shook all of us
yesterday. >> it is a remarkable failure because it really shouldn't happen, given all of the protocols in place and all the things that happened to have such a fail-year you wonder. with such a catastrophic failure somebody punched a hole in one of these mains and caused a spark but that doesn't appear to be the case here. something failed in such a catastrophic way that the valves are maybe a mile, two miles apart so now all of this highly compressed gas which is under several hundred pounds of pressure per square inch is venting to the atmosphere. it catches on fire. it becomes a blow torch. it has to work out and while that was happening it was burning up that particular neighborhood. generally speaking, we don't know really what happened. we know there was a significant failure and generally speaking has been my experience in covering all kinds of disasters it's a chain of events rather
than a single event but there is plenty going on that raises questions. one of which was, conversations by several people who said prior to this in the days and weeks preceding this that they smelled gasoline or natural gas, and that they had called pg&e and that pg&e had come out and taken a look and we heard that more than one time. wheer or not that was actual warning of what was going to happen, we'll have to be looked at. fortunately, because these gas lines are considered to be common carriers the national transportation safety board, the people that investigate airplane crashes and stuff like that are bringing a scientific team that will look at all of this forensic evidence. and one good piece of news out of this though it was a terrible explosion, most of these pieces will be intact and they will be able to get a pretty good idea. >> belva: one point. that line so i'm told was 60 years old. are there others and what do you
do? is there a check list like with an airplane that you go in to find out if it's functioning right after all of those years? >> all of the above. many maintenance procedures. you have to remember that pg&e as a utility is a conglomeration of utilities. this system has been put together over 105 years. what i spoke to the chief of the whole system today, a guy by the name of sala, he told me, it's really not the age of the pipe, it's how well it's maintained and what shape it is is when we decide whether to replace a pipe. so far as he knew that pipe and all of the other ones were in very decent shape. which raises other questions like, could it have been some sort of a corrosion, something new that we don't know. could it have been brittleness. we cannot discount the fact that pipe line lies almost directly atop the san andreas fault. while these pipes are big and
stiff, in long lines they are flexible so they can take a lot of bending and shaking. but something happened that catastrophically failed. generally speaking you would have a leak, generally you would clear out the neighborhood but this went all at one time and as a result of that we had this horrific situation where you have four people dead, you have 38 homes destroyed, 52 people injured and you have 120 homes damaged. remarkable. >> in an era of declining revenue for cities what did we learn about the response to this in terms of how cities came together? how our capability on handling other tragedies like this? did they get good marks? >> the head of the ntsb on this team said that's one of the key things they will look at is how good was the emergency response. not just pg&e's response but the response in general because when the ntsb looked at this they want to know is there a better way to handle this. part of the problem was when you saw this going on, it was very clear that the firefighters
couldn't go into that neighborhood and start knocking these fires down because the fires would have been all around them. there was some question about water pressure raised. because of the explosions that took place and all of that. we'll have to look at that in the aftermath but it would not surprise me part of the calculus was, because i've seen this, it was a triage system. these houses are gone, let's keep the fire from spreading which is exactly what i think they did and did rather successfully, because there was -- two things going for them. they didn't have real high winds, that could have caused this to run up and down the mountain side and really done some far more serious damage ala oakland hills. >> given this loss of life and property what liability? >> huge. huge liability. liability going back to even maybe the manufacturer of the pipe if that person or organization is still around. certainly the utility has the
primary responsibility. now, what their insurance status is i suspect they have some kind of insurance, it might have some self insurance but i guarantee you that's going to be one of the liabilities, wrongful death, the injuries, all of that. then there is other stuff, penalties from the government agencies that will say well, you should have done this, done that. all of that, though, pending an investigation as to what actually happened. of course you have multitude of agencies looking at that. >> before we leave this, homeowners from the oakland fire had a difficult time with insurers. but in this case where there is one company said it's our pipe might things be easier for them? >> for two reasons, one, it's a very deep pocket and the insurance companies know what they pay out they get back. the other thing is insurance companies after the oakland hills fires took such a beating for their conduct that you know, the department of insurance under any number of leaders of the department of insurance commissioners have been very
tough on insurance companies. i don't think the homeowners are going to have much problem t. psychological problem, the fact that people get killed and lose possessions is a black eye for pg&e. it remains to be seen what the real cause was so we can make sure in this vast system of pipe lines, 46,000 miles, 6,000 are these big pipe lines for transmission which is to say take the big volume of gas to the neighborhoods, that has to be resolved. >> one thing this has happened during the political season so it will get a lot of attention from every politician who has responsibility in that area, which brings us to carla marinucci and politics, the kind you're going to talk about people may be weary of, that's ads and attacks. >> right. the labor day season, you know, kicks off the official season of politics and we've seen it already. we actually saw today with this every politician who had anything to do with the peninsula was there today.
and right now we're in the midst of two very important campaigns, the gubernatorial and the u.s. senate race in addition to races gearing up. we saw jerry brown out there finally kicking off his campaign before hundreds of labor people, labor is going to be very important to him. but boy, he and meg whitman going at it with ads. the ads are all about how -- what was gerry brown like as governor. she's got the ads out there. he has an ad with bill clinton. >> she does. >> she does, yes. it is now joined and you're going to start seeing debate. it's going to be i think a lively campaign. >> carla, meg whitman spent a lot of money over the summer leading up to labor day and jerry brown launched his first ad. what's he doing this weekend? is he coming in swinging? >> this is sort of i have to say
getting to be a point of concern for some democrats in that meg whitmans that infrastructure that a presidential campaign has in california. she's got every -- in every area, offices open. she's got her constituent groups, african-americans for whitman, latinos, jews for whitman. jerry brown is kicking this off. we did talk to some democrats who said she has been fundraising in new york, for instance, picking up very big checks from big corporate folks who can give them maximum $25,000. jerry brown not so much. he can pick up money but from smaller donors, that's harder work when you have to pick up $1,000 checks instead of $25,000. jerry brown doesn't have spanish on his website. she has the ads, on univision, that's what is worrying democrats in terms of the you know, the challenge for jerry
brown up against a candidate with this much money. >> let's go back to the last election, pg&e had that proposition, mercury had that proposition that payed millions of dollars and they were defeated. one of the things you see meg whitman doing, one is the sweatless and flower and the other is stuff against jerry brown it's terrible. made me think of the nickname meg hitman. is there a chance this will backfire that she's spending so much of her own money people saying why would you want to buy that. >> i talked to the democratic party chairman yesterday who said look, the average californian has seen a meg whitman ad more than 300 times. they think that california is going to be numb to this complete onslaught that's been going on. but the fact is let's be honest, there's a lot of voters who don't pay attention who are going to hear in the final weeks
a lot of things from meg whitman, get stuff in their mail box, phone calls. the unions we talked to they are hoping to counter that. this is true on the u.s. senate race as well. barbara boxer out there all over the state. we saw carly fiorina talking to tea party voters. they are in it again and doing another debate also. but both these races so critical to the democratic party when you're talking about a party that is under the gun with obama's poll numbers falling. people talking about nancy pelosi losing her house seat and here in northern california at least two seats that are critical. >> is it an illusion or the democrats have implied they had some secret ground force plan that was going to come through and save the day. can't old fashioned politics do
door-to-door? >> the democrats have organizing for america which was sort of the obama offshoot of obama. the fact is they do have that, they have the labor groups. but you have a year in which republican voters, the angry voters are the motivated voters. even though the democrats have a 2 million advantage and blue leaning state, when you have anger about the president and the republicans out there pushing voter turnout and then meg whitman throwing millions into the state republican party the democrats have got to be sweating how is this going to turn out. >> belva: so the answer is -- >> we haven't just started. we start casting ballots actually in about a month. you're going to see a lot happen from now till then. >> one of those ballots will have to do with proposition 19, which is the topic, josh, you're going to talk with us about,
legalizing marijuana for the state of california. >> right. basically what it would do is let adults over age 21 possess up to an ounce, let them grow for personal use in an area up to 25 square feet and would leave it up to cities and counties to decide whether they want to regulate and tax commercial sales. you know, one of the selling points that the proponants put out there, regulating it in a way sort of like alcohol, it will make it harder for kids to get their hands on it. this would not change any criminal penalties. it would increase the criminal penalty for providing cannabis to a minor. it would not using in a minor's presence. the thing is this, though. it doesn't look like it's doing all that well. the polls have shown it
somewhere at around 50 or 52% support. for california ballot measure, that's not a good place to be starting from. >> this is the interesting thing. this is a landmark initiative in the country. everybody look to this and said wow, what happens in california. so a lot thought there would be money thrown at this from all over the country. what's happening with that? it's not happening on the money. >> it hasn't come in. a lot of the typical drug reform funders have not anted up for this. i think some would have refer preferred if we were going to do this we wait for 2012 when there is a much bigger turnout. a bigger turnout in california means more democratic, more liberal turnout. that would be good for initiatives like this. by doing it this year, proponents richard lee and jeff jones, did sort of go their on way. >> belva: haven't they had a record of success in taking this seed that they planted?
>> seed that they planted? seed that they planted? yes. to some extent. richard lee is a successful business man with a number of cannabis -- medical cannabis-related businesses and so on in oakland. and i had written a story a while back saying that this potentially could make him a very rich man in that he alreadies that infrastructure to seize on. that he says it's going to give everybody else the ability to compete with me. in fact, there are a bunch of local measures on the ballot accompanying prop 19. which would have all of the cities poised to start taxing it the day after it's legal, basically. >> let me ask you this. has the federal prohibition against this gone away? is this not -- you know, asking for a train wreck?
>> well, i think you would be hard-pressed to find a city attorney out there who would tell his city it should be first. you know. everybody wants a piece of the money pie because everybody is struggling in these times. but yes, there is still a federal ban on marijuana. now, if we have 20% of the nation's population here under a different law it's going to be hard for them to knock down every door and seize every i plant. but they sure could make an example out of a few. >> is this going to get out those young democratic voters, the voters that the democrats, that has been their hope with this initiative. >> that has been their hope, hoping to see a lot of new voters, people who were under the radar of the polls, not likely voters. which could happen, i suppose. and if you look at who the endorsers are, sort of interesting. you've got the california young
democrats, the republican liberty caucus, the naacp so there are clicks but by and large, the democratic party went neutral, the labor federation went neutral. >> the last question, will it make enough money to balance the budget? >> no. absolutely no. >> belva: it will help. >> it could help, yeah. could help. >> belva: key question. thank you so much, josh. thanks to all of you for joining us tonight. and now some other headlines in the news this week. a state appeals court ruling says attorney general jerry brown and governor schwarzenegger cannot be required to defend proposition 8 in federal court. the state supreme court heard arguments this week on whether or not governor schwarzenegger has the power to impose more furloughs for state workers. and thousands in san francisco who depend on public transportation got relief this week when muni restored services
public radio "san francisco chronicle" editor david we land look ahead at the week's hottest tickets and most spectacular shows. today "the do list" presented an extended fall arts preview. now david wiegand joins me here for a short list of the top picks in art this fall. so, welcome, first of all. >> thank you very much. happy to be here. >> belva: why don't we start with theater. >> one of the biggest things i'm looking forward to is compulsion at berkeley. this is a play that stars manny potenkin. it looks at how the anne frank story was dramatized and the real life effort to try to get this at a time people were trying to make it less jewish and his campaign was to maintain who anne frank was. >> so the berkeley went on a winning streak. >> are they ever. again another new york connection because the public
theater is involved with this in new york as well. >> and after that we'll move into music of course. we're having an abundance. >> there is a lot. two big festivals, hardly strictly bluegrass, the tenth anniversary, an amazing lineup. patty smith and the great roseanne cash. she has a new memoir that came out this year. she is very much celebrating her father, her legacy and a wonderful singer. >> she is not only going tobe strictly -- >> hardly. she's coming back later in the fall she will be with the san francisco jazz festival this year as well and they also have a terrific lineup. she's one of the best, i think, they have got. >> belva: that is the music and art. or is there more? >> there's a lot more. there's tons of great music. the opera has a wonderful
program this year, i'm looking to it. they are doing eita. their program is great. there's a lot of good stuff. >> then the celebrity program. >> exactly. placido domingo later this fall. >> and when it comes to the visual arts. >> the visual arts, two big things, first, east of here at the crocker museum in sacramento they are opening their new wing which is really going to add 125,000 square feet to their exhibition space, and quite appropriately enough their native sun is the focus of their exhibit, their open exhibit, art by wayne tebow. >> belva: always a favorite. and i think always been i said you could just say his name and people would line up. >> i'll be there. definitely. >> belva: looking ahead to the fine arts museum.
>> the other thing is the other shoe dropping, part two of the treasures at the museum. they are at the deyoung. this is the fifth anniversary of the new deyoung this year. they are now number five among american art museums, i think largely because of the programming that they engineered. the part 1 of the show was fantastic and i'm looking forward to this. >> what is this? >> this was post impressionism. van gogh, people who came after monet, basically. >> that show? >> that opens the end of september. >> the symphony opened. >> right. >> apparently the maestro is in for unusual things. >> they have unusual things. one of the things, they are doing the four last songs by strauss with a young singer,
elda, a product of the adler program. she is terrific. and at the moment they are all in europe. they have gone to europe for a european tour, they opened the season and left town. >> the very next day? is that usual? >> not usual but you know, it works out that way. they'll be back soon. >> then looking at dance. >> dance the big deal is a dance, odc, which has been around since 1971, an absolute treasure in the bay area. has renovated its original space and brenda way, the guiding light of the company, has created a site specific piece called the architecture of light. >> and odc has been around for very long time. are they planning -- are they shaping their program differently? >> i think they will take advantage of the space and the other space that they created,
the new space. i think that they will probably, again, this piece is site specific. in the missions. and that's an important factor, too. this dance is all over the city. >> with so overall what would you say the evening is going to be like? >> fantastic. i really do. i'm really looking forward to it all of these things i'm generally looking forward to. lip quake is coming. i love that. it's terrific. >> and the fact it's spread out all over the bay area. >> absolutely. yeah. right. >> you got one of the best jobs in the world. >> i do. i'm lucky. >> thank you very much. >> my pleasure. >> listen online to david and the to do list. a special and find out more about arts events coming up this fall. you can also subscribe to our news letter and podcasts and share your thoughts about the