The East Bay's Bay Area News Group papers published a stinging editorial against Steven Lawrence, the superintendent of the Mount Diablo Unified School District, for his cozy relationship with Chevron and his attempt to award it a no-bid $70 million solar power installation contract. It's chock-full of fun moral outrage and a few details we hadn't noticed before, such as Lawrence's failure to tell the voters that the $348 million bond measure, from which the solar contract hails, would actually cost $1.87 billion once the financing is taken into account. So we have secret financial details withheld from the public, and Chevron paying for quiet luxury dinners and golf junkets for Lawrence and his friends. Good stuff all around. But it takes two to tango, and unfortunately, the editorial saves all his anger for Lawrence, while giving Chevron a pass. Why is it that only public officials are held to account for ethical breaches such as these? Why doesn't Chevron deserve the same treatment?
As Republican voters take their head of steam toward the November elections, California's congressional Democrats nonetheless feel secure that they will survive an otherwise brutal experience. All except one: Jerry McNerney, the congressman from eastern Alameda County. McNerney first came to power in 2006, riding a wave of anti-Republican sentiment and defeating rancher Richard Pombo, who had held the seat for seven terms. (See this excellent Robert Gammon piece for a taste of Pombo's cowboy libertarian ways.) But as the Chronicle's Drew Joseph notes, the district is pretty evenly split between suburban liberals and conservative rural residents, and Republican rising star David Harmer is mounting a serious challenge. Fun fact: California law actually allows carpetbagging; Harmer doesn't live in the district, but is legally allowed to run for the seat anyway. Who knew?
The world of tech mergers and acquisitions continues to get interesting, as Hewlett-Packard and Dell Computers escalated their bidding war for the Fremont data storage firm 3Par. When last we checked, HP had seen Dell's bid and raised it to $1.6 billion. Dell called that offer, hoping that the giddy geeks at 3Par would want to go with its family for the same price. But yesterday, the Merc reports, HP took it up more than a few notches to $2 billion. Just so we're clear: 3Par's stock was trading at $12 a share before this whole shebang started. HP"s offer now values the company at $30 a share. Don't get too greedy, 3Par guys. Careful how you play this. But damn.
The Associated Press has some gruesome numbers on the future of child care in Oakland. Amount of local child care money cut due to the state budget crisis: $13 million. Percentage of school district child care funds annihilated as a result: 73. Number of child care centers about to close as a result: seven. Number of children those centers served and will now be left to wander around on the streets: 500. To which we can only add, percentage of $19.1 billion state deficit relieved by the denial of Oakland child care funds: 0.00068.
Damn, that Meg Whitman's got a lotta cheese to drop. Not only has she opened a Lake Merritt campaign office, but she's just ponied up for a big banner ad at the top of the SFGate web site, a flashy bit of mudslinging urging the Chron's liberal readers to check out Jerryfails.com, her clearinghouse for everything she can find to tear down the present attorney general. The site, by the way, is filled with fun. There's a whole section on Jerry's old KPFA show, for example, in which he commits such atrocities as advocating for medical marijuana. Remind us why this is supposed to alienate Chronicle readers? And by the way, Meg, you don't spell "mandatory" with an i. Just a tip from a friend.
Chip Johnson has a nice piece about the awkwardness of Meg Whitman opening a campaign office near Lake Merritt, in a city that is guarandamnteed to vote for her opponent, a certain former mayor who shall not be named. Our favorite bits: until recently, the storefront included a sign that both urged passers-by to smile and warned that the sidewalk was under electronic surveillance; and a neighbor who expressed his moral outrage at Whitman's presence by sputtering, "This is 94610!" Got any gang signs to go along with that shout-out? Five digits in the hizzouse, beyotch.
The Trib's Bruce Newman has a nice roundup of the history of Oakland's occasional efforts to keep its best sports franchise from jumping to San Jose, including what is, retrospectively, a clever long game strategy. Well, maybe it's a strategy — on the other hand, it could simply be the baseball gods rewarding Oakland despite the lassitude of its leaders. There's not much of a news hook here; Oakland is quietly lobbying the A's and Major League Baseball to keep the team in town, and has promised that its redevelopment agency has the cash to buy downtown or waterfront property and reserve it for a new stadium. In addition, Oakland's biggest corporate players, led by Clorox, have assembled $500,000 in Athletics advertising as a gesture of good faith. But Newman does a nice job of summing up how we got to this point. Will we really see a new Athletics park around Jack London Square? Will Lew Wolff get over his Oakland antipathy and resign himself to dancing with the ugliest girl at the prom? Will Major League Baseball shitcan his drive to carve San Jose from the San Francisco Giants' sphere of influence? (Short answer: they'd better, if they don't want to see a certain blogger lurking behind the grassy knoll.) For the first time in many years, we are beginning to think Oakland has a solid chance of keeping the A's in town, pumping 81 home games' worth of cash into the local economy and sparing us the spectacle of a bat-wielding elephant prancing around the words "San Jose." Hope — is this what it feels like?
An economy in tatters is making more and more things impossible, but this year in the East Bay it doesn't have to preclude attending High Holy Days services.
So just how much has crime gone up since Oakland laid off 80 cops? Depends on who you ask. According to the Oakland Tribune, the Oakland cop union just released a report, in which robberies and assaults rose eight percent in the month after the layoffs went into effect. But if you ask the Police Department's leaders, they'll tell you that during the same period — July 13 to August 13 — the overall number of serious crimes actually declined when compared to the same time last year. So who's playing Texas Hold 'em with the numbers here? The cop union, which wants you to be spooked into clamoring for more cops? Or the brass, which wants to carry water for the City Council and assure the public that all is well? The best answer comes courtesy of Deputy Chief Jeffrey Israel: "One month is not enough time to determine a trend." He's right, and we're surprised that the Oakland Police Officers Association thinks we're so dense we'd fall for such a clumsy trick.
Over the last several days, a few posts have touched upon the present controversy over the proposed mosque/Islamic center/abandoned Burlington Coat Factory in Lower Manhattan. And we've gotten a little queasy over how to characterize the project and the fight in general. "Ground Zero Mosque" is both inflammatory and inaccurate, but dubbing it "Park51," as some have taken to calling it, smacks of namby-pamby liberal euphemizing, like constantly using the word "choice" when you mean "abortion." And "the panoply of Islamic and recreational activities clustered in a building two blocks from the old World Trade Center site" just won't fit in a headline. Mostly, we're just impressed by how the right wing thought up the catch-phrase "Ground Zero Mosque", circulated it among ideological blogs and news web sites for months before the controversy hit the big time, and made it the default and almost indispensable shorthand for the whole kerfuffle. Years ago, UC Berkeley journalism professor Cynthia Gorney wrote a remarkable story about how right-wing activists did the same thing in the abortion debate, by coining the term "partial birth abortion" when no such phrase existed in medical literature, bandied it among themselves until it became the reflexive brand name for the procedure, and ultimately established it as the term of art in the media and congressional legislation. It's a fascinating study of how political language is invented, and everyone should read it right here.