Thumbs up: A state budget surplus
Here's one for "Believe It or Not," the collection of odd facts and arcana created by Santa Rosa native Robert Ripley: For the first time since 2007, California finished its fiscal year in the black. Revenue exceeded spending by about $4.3 billion for the fiscal year that ended June 30, according to a report issued by state Controller John Chiang. The surplus allowed the state to pay off outstanding loans and finish the year with $1.9 billion leftover. In recent years, the state has employed accounting gimmicks and borrowed from special funds and against future tax revenue to balance the books. Chiang included a warning with his report: The next downturn is lurking in the state’s future. “We just don’t know when or how prolonged it might be,” he said.
Thumbs down: Taking it to the streets?
Protesting on the steps of the Sonoma County Hall of Justice in response to the decision not to seek criminal charges for the shooting of 13-year-old Andy Lopez makes sense. Rallying at Courthouse Square is understandable as well. But blocking traffic on northbound Highway 101? Where does that get you — other than possibly run over? Nonetheless, about 20 protesters blocked traffic on Highway 101 near the Third Street off-ramp Saturday afternoon, turning what was a peaceful protest into a tense situation for a time. Fortunately, cooler minds prevailed and the protesters were redirected without arrest or further incident. Nevertheless, let’s keep future demonstrations nonviolent — and out of the fast lanes.
Thumbs up: One pitch, one strike
California's strict three-strikes law has been a big contributor to the state’s costly prison system. Two years ago, voters helped control those costs by limiting mandatory life sentences to serious and violent felonies. The state Supreme Court made another improvement this month by ruling that a single prosecution shouldn’t result in multiple strikes. Until now, a person charged with multiple felonies in a single case could end up with two strikes. Justice Kathryn Werdegar, writing for a unanimous court, said voters understood that people would have three swings under the law. “The public also would have understood that no one can be called for two strikes on just one swing,” she said.
Thumbs down: A clean well-lighted runway
It's still not clear who was at fault. But whatever the explanation, at least 240 passengers were inconvenienced last week when problems with runway lights at the Charles M. Schulz-Sonoma County Airport led to the cancellation of three Alaska Airlines flights scheduled between Los Angeles and Sonoma County. This includes a flight that had almost arrived in Sonoma County before being sent back to Los Angeles. The problem had to do with the installation of new runway lights on the only air strip that is now being used, while work is underway at the airport. Airport officials say the lights were installed and were operational at the end of June. But official notice was never sent to pilots that it was OK to land on the runway at night. So flights had to be canceled, and passengers were caught in the middle. The good news is the problem appears to have been fixed — and the airport now has a new slogan for travelers. “We’re Sonoma County, and we’ll leave the runway lights on for you.”