Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rally Supports Libraries; Opposes Lawsuit

by Judith Scherr
Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 10:10 AM

Berkeley’s library wars heated up Tuesday as some three dozen people, including four city council members, rallied at Old City Hall to support demolishing and rebuilding the city’s South and West libraries, and to call on a preservationist group to withdraw a lawsuit that would hold up the projects.

A few hours later, the city council set a May 17 hearing to review the zoning and landmarks commissions’ approvals of the project.

At issue is the $26 million bond measure approved by voters in 2008 to renovate the city’s four branch libraries. The city and library board want to tear down the old South and West libraries and rebuild them.
However, the preservationist group, the Concerned Library Users, have sued the city, saying Measure FF supports remodeling, but not demolition. The measure said the funds would be used to "renovate, expand, and make seismic and access improvements" to the libraries.

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Wednesday Must Read: Overstock.com to Pay $1.2 Million for Coliseum Naming Rights; Lockyer Says First Cuts Should Be in Republican Districts

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Apr 27, 2011 at 7:04 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority is poised to sell the naming rights to the coliseum for $1.2 million a year to Overstock.com, the Bay Citizen reports. It’s believed to be one of the cheapest deals for stadium naming rights in the country. The pact also won’t bring in much for the City of Oakland and Alameda County. Under terms of the deal, the Oakland Raiders will receive half of the $1.2 million, and the broker who struck it will get a commission. That means Oakland will receive less than $300,000 annually. The coliseum authority, however, has had difficulty selling naming rights to the aging facility. The stadium is to be renamed Overstock.com Coliseum, although it may soon become O.com Coliseum because Overstock.com is in the process of changing its name.

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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Tuesday Must Read: Prop 8 Backers Say Gay Judge Should Have Disqualified Himself; Russo Spends $20,000 on Third Oakland Gang Injunction

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Apr 26, 2011 at 6:57 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Anti-gay-marriage forces are attempting to overturn a federal court decision that invalidated Prop 8, arguing that Judge Vaughn Walker should have recused himself from the case because he is gay and would be able to marry his longtime partner if his ruling is upheld, according to several news outlets. Proposition 8 backers have asked another federal judge to throw out Walker’s ruling that the anti-gay-marriage law was unconstitutional. However, gay marriage supporters say the effort is desperate and won’t work, because it’s akin to asking minority or female judges to disqualify themselves from cases involving racial or gender discrimination.

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Monday, April 25, 2011

Comment of the Week, 4/18-4/24

by Ellen Cushing
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 4:29 PM

Ohhhh commenters, where would we be without you? Well, actually: we'd probably spend less time refreshing our own articles for reaction and more time actually, um, writing them, and our web editrix and comment moderator* probably wouldn't have a rapidly developing stress-induced eye twitch.

Jaykay! (Mostly.) You guys are great, and we love you, and we don't tell you enough. So in the interest of bestowing upon you all the praise you so deeply deserve, we're introducing a new weekly feature, in which we publicly recognize the best comment of the past seven days. Without further ado, the inaugural Comment of the Week goes to the inimitable Lawngun, with this gem, on our blog item about post offices open late for tax day:

And, don't even THINK about filling out your Form 1040 in roman numerals this year. Let's just say the IRS doesn't seem to have much of a sense of humor.

So to Lawngun, whoever you are: a week's worth of bragging rights. To everyone else: think you can do better? Prove it.

*full disclosure: this person is me.

Politicians Move to Gut Oakland’s Lobbying Law

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 4:29 PM

Oakland’s lobbying law, which was supposed to shine a light on backdoor dealing, has been a disappointment from the start. The law, for example, has never required private entities, including big corporations and organized labor, to declare how much they’ve spent trying to influence politicians and/or legislation. And unlike other cities, Oakland has no lobbyist registration fee, even though taxpayers spend thousands of dollars each year in city staff time keeping track of lobbying in Oakland. And now, several political leaders in the city want to further water-down the already weak law by exempting many lobbyists from disclosing any of their activities.

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Two Killed in Jack London Square Shooting

by Ellen Cushing
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 1:18 PM

Yikes. A shooting early this morning at Sweet Jimmie's, near Broadway and 3rd., left two people dead and another four wounded, two critically. From Henry K. Lee at the Chron:

Police said they were investigating reports that four men in a car had pulled up to the restaurant and tried to get in but had been denied entry. One of the men pulled out an assault rifle and opened fire inside the establishment, police said.

Police are apparently looking for four African American men in their late teens or early twenties. They were driving a white Dodge Avenger.

Meanwhile, a man was shot and wounded around the corner at another club, Kimball's, about an hour after the incident at Sweet Jimmie's. Police say the two shootings don't appear to be related, and no arrests have been made.

In a statement, Mayor Jean Quan called the shootings "tragic and troubling," emphasized that the Police Department will be investigating the crimes and increasing patrols around Jack London Square, and detailed some of the City's recent efforts to cut down on gun violence.

Anyone with information on either of the shootings is asked to call the OPD's Homicide Investigators at 510-238-3821.

Are Delis Doomed? Berkeley Summit Decides

by Anneli Rufus
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 10:50 AM

Are classic New York-style delis — for lack of a less ethnic term, "Jewish delis" — going extinct?

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Monday Must Read: Voters Want More Concessions from Public Employee Unions; Brown Defends Sweetheart Deal with Prison Guards

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Apr 25, 2011 at 7:04 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. A large majority of Californians want public employees to give up some of their retirement benefits to help ease the state’s budget deficit, according to a new Los Angeles Times-USC poll. Seventy percent of respondents said they favor a cap on pension benefits for current and future government workers. And 68 percent said they want public employees to contribute more to their retirement plans. Fifty-two percent support raising the age in which public employees can retire.

2. The new poll comes at a time when Governor Jerry Brown is trying to defend tentative deals with the California prison guards and other state unions that do little to solve the current budget crisis. Brown told the Chron that the pact his administration struck with the 30,000-member prison guards’ union was a “good deal,” even though it will save the state $129 million less than his budget had promised. Brown, who depended heavily on the prison guards and other public-employee unions to get elected, needs two Republican votes in both houses of the legislature to get the pacts approved.

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Friday, April 22, 2011

Oaklander Responsible for Singing Protest at Obama's Fundraiser

by Ellen Cushing
Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 11:06 AM

So! As you have undoubtedly heard, our boy Barack Obama hit up the Bay Area this week to connect with the voters/kick it with Mark "Marky Mark" Zuckerberg/raise some money/finally see the "Full House" house in person.* And as you have probably-slightly-less-undoubtedly heard, one of his fundraisers was interrupted by what may be the most expensive flashmob in the history of the world when a group protestors launched into a musical treatise about the government's treatment of alleged Wikileaker Bradley Manning. As it turns out, the harmonious lefties were led by one of our very own: Oakland activist Naomi Pitcairn, who apparently paid $76,000 for tickets to the fundraiser. Courtesy of the Chron, here's some (admittedly shaky) video of the (admittedly pretty spot-on, politics-wise) stunt:

* one of these statements is false. Guess which one!

Friday Must Read: PG&E CEO to Retire; Lawsuit Alleges Berkeley Schools Ignored Sexual Harassment

by Ellen Cushing
Fri, Apr 22, 2011 at 8:05 AM

Hola. Stories you shouldn't miss:

1) Seven months after the deadly San Bruno blast, PG&E Corp. CEO Peter Darbee is leaving the embattled company — but not without a golden parachute. In an e-mail to his staff, Darbee — who's been urged to step down by consumer advocates and pundits in the wake of the disaster (not to mention the SmartMeters controversy) — acknowledged the difficulties PG&E has faced recently and framed his resignation as an opportunity for a fresh start. But he's not going gently into that good night: Darbee is expected to collect a cool $34.6 million when he officially leaves at the end of the month. (Various watchdog groups have already vowed to make sure shareholders, not taxpayers, foot the bill for the retirement package.)

2) And meanwhile, in further PG&E news, the company admitted yesterday that it can't comply with an order to come up with satisfactory records for all of its pipelines. After news broke that the faulty weld responsible for the San Bruno blast hadn't been inspected, the state ordered the company to turn over records on some 1,800 miles of pipe. But in documents filed yesterday with the Public Utilities Commission, the company more or less gave up the ghost on finding all such records, telling the Commission that it could either accept educated guesses about some of its pipe work, or it could force the company to spend the next five years shutting down pipelines and re-inspecting them.

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