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PD Editorial: Thumbs up, thumbs down

Capt. John Cota of Petaluma and his wife, Teresa Barrett, leave the federal courthouse in San Francisco after he pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges in 2009.

PAUL SAKUMA / Associated Press
Published: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 7:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, February 15, 2013 at 5:33 p.m.

Thumbs down: An all-expense-paid holiday

State legislators usually spend Fridays in their district. Not this week. Both the Senate and the Assembly met briefly — emphasis on briefly — Friday.

Was there an emergency? Well, it depends on how you define emergency. In addition to their salaries, legislators receive $141.86 in tax-free expense money every day, seven days a week so long as they're in session. The money is supposed to cover living expenses in Sacramento. The expense payments are suspended if more than three days pass between floor sessions.

Typically, floor sessions are held Mondays and Thursdays, ensuring there isn't a three-day break. When there's a Monday holiday, as there is this weekend, a quickie session on Friday — in by 9, out by 10 — ensures that the expense payments keep coming.

Thumbs up: Time to annex Roseland

Last week, we encouraged the Santa Rosa City Council to make the annexation of Roseland one of its top priorities. We weren't alone. David Rabbitt, chairman of the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, Supervisor Efren Carrillo, who represents Roseland, and Supervisor Shirlee Zane all sent letters last week encouraging the City Council to make this a top priority. “The Joint Roseland Subcommittee was a good effort but no meaningful action or progress took place ... over the course of nearly a decade,” wrote Carrillo, who also testified at the council's goal-setting session Friday. Roseland is the largest of about 50 unincorporated “islands” in and around Santa Rosa. Perhaps this will be the year the residents are finally brought ashore.

Thumbs down: No fog about it this time

The bay pilot who was guiding the Cosco Busan when the container ship hit a Bay Bridge tower in 2007, causing the worst bay spill in two decades, has run aground again. He's now suing the U.S. Coast Guard in hopes of having his mariner's license reinstated. John Cota, 65, of Petaluma wants to sail again, even though investigators concluded he was impaired by prescription drugs and did not follow safety precautions or communicate well in helping guide the ship through dense fog. As a result, Cota was found at fault, pleaded guilty to water-pollution violations and served 10 months in federal prison.

At one time, the state Board of Pilot Commissioners started the process of revoking his pilot's license. Instead, he voluntarily retired. He now draws a pension of $228,864. Our advice: stay ahore.

Thumbs up: Making the case for pension reform

California took the first steps toward controlling pension costs last year. So far this year, unions representing employees in four counties have filed lawsuits challenging new restrictions on what types of compensation, other than salary, will used to calculate retirement benefits. The four counties — Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin and Merced — operate their own pension programs. So do Sonoma and Mendocino counties, though they currently aren't the subject of lawsuits.

Why the thumbs up? This week, Gov. Jerry Brown asked Attorney General Kamala Harris to fight the lawsuits. We believe the pension reform law will withstand the legal challenges.

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