You guys, today is national lasagna day. The world is a wonderful place. Here are some news stories for your perusal.
1. More than two years before an apparently suicidal man drowned himself at Crown Beach in Alameda as firefighters watched and did nothing, the Alameda firefighters union warned their superiors that cutting the department's water rescue program could be disastrous. According to records dug up by the Trib, a leader of Alameda's firefighters union filed a letter in February 2009 that spoke of the need for a water rescue team (and also argued that cutting the program violated the union's contract, BTW) — claims which were both rejected by former interim fire Chief Dave Kapler and then-City Manager Ann Marie Gallant. Meanwhile, a recently released toxicology report shows the man, Raymond Zack, had no narcotics or alcohol in his system and that the official cause of death was drowning. An investigation into the drowning is currently underway and the results are expected to be presented in late September.
2. The group tasked with redrawing California's congressional and legislative districts released final drafts of the new maps yesterday — and what they settled on has the potential to seriously impact state politics. Namely: the new maps would likely give Democrats a two-thirds supermajority — which is needed to pass new taxes — in the state senate, though they'd probs fall short of that threshold in the state assembly. It looks like no Bay Area democrats stand to lose a seat — though state rep Jerry McNerney, who represents Pleasanton, doesn't live in his newly-drawn district, so he's planning on moving. The group will officially vote on its proposed maps on Friday, after which the public will have two weeks to review them — ie, dispute them — before they're totally finalized. Folks can also fight the new districts in court or by a ballot referendum.
Dig up your dimes, guys: Starting Monday, AC Transit fares will be increasing five percent, to $2.10 for a local adult fare and $1.05 for a local child/senior/person with disabilities fare. There's a full table of the new fares here.
Many publications — including this one — reprinted mug shots and police sketches of Giovanni Ramirez, the man originally accused of beating Giants fan Bryan Stow back in April. Ramirez was acquitted of that crime after two other suspects were identified, but he remains in a Los Angeles prison for a parole violation, and possession of a firearm at the time of his arrest. Now Ramirez' attorneys J. Christopher Smith and Bruce Zucker have filed court papers alleging that Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck "rushed to judgment" when he first identified Ramirez as Suspect # 1. Moreover, Smith and Zucker content that the parole board submitted to public outrage in the wake of the beating. The current suspects, Louie Sanchez and Marvin Norwood, remain in custody.
Ugh, this is so terrible: Paris Powell — who was shot in the head early Wednesday morning while delivering food to the homeless with his pregnant wife and two young stepdaughters — has died, according to the Chron. Powell — who ran a nonprofit for homeless people and battered women and who was known for driving around Oakland delivering hot meals — was taken off life support late last night, according again to the Chron. The motive for the shooting is unknown and no arrests have been made.
Stories you shouldn't miss!!!
1. It's official: the Metropolitan Transportation Commission will be leaving Oakland, reports Cecily Burt at the Trib. The agency, which has long been mulling a move to San Francisco, officially voted 12-2 yesterday to leave its current space on 8th Street and buy a new building at 390 Main Street in San Francisco. The MTC — along with the Association of Bay Area Governments, with which it was sharing a headquarters, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District — have been looking for a new space for awhile now, and the Air Quality District has already approved relocating to the new buidling in San Francisco. The ABAG voted a couple weeks ago in closed session to not go along with the move, but yesterday's MTC vote means it and the Air Quality District will be moving ahead — with or without the ABAG. It's unclear whether ABAG will change its position or just stay where it is in Oakland, but either way, the MTC's decision is a blow for Oakland, which stands to lose a major employer, as well as to Mayor Quan, who'd been actively fighting to keep the MTC in the city.
2. From the LA Times: Governor Brown criticized the UC and CSU systems for recruiting high-profile (and highly paid) chancellors and presidents yesterday. California's public college and universities have long looked out of state to find new leadership, but in the face of massive budget cuts — and just after San Diego State hired Elliot Hirshman, a $400,000-a-year president poached from Maryland — Brown implored the CSU and UC systems to look for cheaper in-house talent. "I believe on the campuses now there are many people who don't make near that salary" — meaning Hirshman's — that should have been groomed for leadership," Browntown told the LA Times.
So. As you may be aware, the state of California is medium-to-super-level fucked when it comes to raising revenues and preserving core programs. How'd we get here? This week, intrepid reporter/cool-name-haver Darwin BondGraham has an in-depth history of the way the Right's "stranglehold over the state's political discourse and how government operates" has left us as screwed as we are. Read it and weep.
Stories you shouldn't miss:
1. While you were sleeping, Congress totally got its shit together and worked out a debt-ceiling deal. Just kidding! And now the state of California is taking out short-term loans to cover its expenses in case the federal government fails to reach a deal by the August 2 deadline and money stops flowing to the states.
2. Governor Jerry Brown appointed UC Berkeley prof Goodwin Liu to the California Supreme Court yesterday; his nomination is expected to be confirmed by a three-member panel soon. A couple months ago, Obama nominated Liu to a federal appeals court, but his nomination was blocked by a Republican fillibuster — so you know he's a good guy. In fact, Liu — who teaches constitutional law and education policy, and who has previously worked at the US Department of Education — is expected to be one of the court's most liberal judges (as well as its fourth Asian-American). Go Bears!
A successful bout at Richmond's Craneway Pavilion ended in catastrophe, when two members of Bay Area Derby Girls were robbed at gunpoint outside their home in San Francisco's Mission District. Fortunately, the victims were unharmed. In an interview with The San Francisco Examiner skater Katy Lim speculated that the thieves had followed the two league members all the way from Richmond to San Francisco, in order to seize thousands of dollars in event proceeds, all of which were supposed to go into the Derby Girls' financial reserves. Lim refused to disclose further details, for fear it would affect an ongoing investigation by SFPD. They did, however, post an open letter to fans on the league web site, asking for help recouping the lost funds.
Oakland developer BrightSource has had a rough go of it in the California desert, but not rough enough to stop its plans of building one of the world's largest solar plants. As we reported in December, the company decided to site its 5.6-square-mile Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in an area of the Mojave Desert relatively rich with ecological resources. The plant took three years to permit, in part because of perceived environmental impacts, and work has hardly been a breeze since ground was broken in October. But last week, Governor Jerry Brown gave it a stamp of approval that may well send it on its way.
Remember the halcyon days of last year? The Oakland A's finished at .500. They were completely average, and utterly overlooked during the epoch of the San Francisco Giants. Man, I miss those A's! They couldn't hit either, but they played confident defense and stole bases. That was exciting. This year's model can't run or catch the ball. Exciting in a we're-going-to-crash-I-can-feel-it-way. Rajai Davis, Athletics nation turns its lonely eyes to you.