For at least a decade Oakland has pined after a modern streetcar system linking Jack London Square with Uptown and North Oakland along the Broadway corridor. It spent $300,000 studying the viability of such a line between 2003 and 2005, and starting in May it will launch an updated eighteen-month study with an equally hefty price tag.
The state attorney general’s office has decided to not re-file rape charges against Deputy District Attorney Michael Gressett, thereby ending a nearly four-year scandal that brought down the bungling power structure that had run the Contra Costa County DA’s Office for decades, and which may end up costing county taxpayers millions of dollars.
The announcement wasn't a big surprise, given that an independent arbiter ruled in September 2011 that the case had been muddied by politics and that Gressett should get his job back with full back pay for salary and benefits, and that later last year, a retired Santa Clara judge dismissed the thirteen-count felony indictment against Gressett. But while the attorney general’s decision to dismiss the indictment ended the criminal proceedings against Gresset, the legal proceedings may just be beginning.
The scandal erupted in 2008, when former DA Robert Kochly arrested Gressett, one of his most tenured and popular deputies, on allegations that he had raped junior deputy prosecutor Holly Harpham in his condominium during a lunch break. The lascivious details, which included a handgun, ice pick, ice cubes and handcuffs, made headlines throughout the Bay Area, and, at first blush, it appeared that an accomplished veteran prosecutor realy had gone dangerously off the rails. Gressett — who, ironically, worked in the DA’s sex crimes unit — never denied having kinky sex with Harpham, but always said that their encounter was consensual.
The surprise announcement today by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, placing Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad on administrative paid leave, stems from allegations of sexual harassment, according to a well-placed county source.
Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer announced today that she has entered a rehabilitation facility for treatment of a chemical and alcohol dependency addiction. The news follows a bizarre incident at a Newark motel February 3, reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, in which Lockyer was allegedly assaulted by an ex-boyfriend. “The facts of the story are generally true,” said Lockyer, who is married to state Treasurer Bill Lockyer. In the article, published last weekend, Bill Lockyer insinuated that his wife had a drinking problem.
The person in charge of keeping repeat offenders from returning to the county jail system is himself now in the hot seat. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors placed Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad on paid administrative leave at the conclusion of today’s special meeting.
When UC Davis police Lieutenant John Pike casually pepper sprayed Occupy protesters last fall, the shocking incident spurred outrage around the globe. Pike seemed to epitomize institutionalized callousness over income inequality and police brutality. But there’s reason to believe that if Pike or another misguided cop pepper sprayed protesters today it would produce a far more muted response. In fact, a significant portion of the population, turned off by violent Black Bloc tactics at Occupy Oakland protests, might even think that Pike would be justified.
Stories you shouldn’t miss:
1. Billionaire progressive George Soros has donated $500,000 to a ballot measure proposal that would reform California’s draconian three-strikes law, the LA Times reports. The measure is proposed for November and it would require that a defendant’s so-called third strike be a violent felony. Current law allows defendants to be sentenced to life in prison even if their third strike is not violent, and the law has contributed to overcrowding in California prisons and the rapid growth of the taxpayer-funded prison industry.
By now, you've probably heard about or seen the controversial and racist Super Bowl ad by Michigan Senate candidate Pete Hoekstra. Well, it turns out that the woman featured in the ad is a UC Berkeley graduate. According to the blog Angry Asian Man, the actress is 21-year-old Bay Area native Lisa Chan, who "graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in sociology, founded a nonprofit organization for at-risk youth, and recently competed as the reigning Miss Napa Valley in the 2012 Miss California USA pageant."
The ad attacks Hoekstra's rival, incumbent Debbie Stabenow, and features an Asian woman (Chan) riding a bicycle through a rice field and thanking “Debbie Spend-It-Now” in broken English for shipping US jobs to China:
“Debbie spend so much American money, you borrow more and more from us. You’re economy get very weak. Ours get very good. We take your jobs. Thank you Debbie ‘Spend It Now.’”
Following an uproar over the ad, Hoekstra took it down and directed people to the web page DebbieSpendItNow.com, which, according to New York Magazine, featured Stabenow’s face on an Asian fan and stereotypical Asian music and gongs (which has since been taken down).
Clearly, Hoekstra doesn't get it. But Chan sounds, at least on paper, like a smart young woman with good intentions. So what happened?
According to Angry Asian Man blogger Phil Yu, Chan "feels terrible" about the ad. "She's now proactively trying to address and undo her role in the racist messaging of Hoekstra's campaign, and has partnered with a community organization to release a statement with her version of the story."
Stories you shouldn’t miss:
1. The proposed crackdown on future Occupy Oakland protests at the Port of Oakland failed to garner enough support on the city council apparently because Oakland police brass and port officials quietly opposed the idea, the Chron reports, citing anonymous sources. Oakland police officials are reportedly worried that more violent confrontations with Occupy protesters could push the department into federal receivership. And port officials were concerned that the crackdown measure would prompt more violent confrontations at the port.
In August 2010, an $100,000 art installation went in at the Berkeley Marina’s Cesar Chavez Park designed in part to protect the few burrowing owls that overwinter there every year. Project backers meant no harm, and the artists made every effort to accommodate and safeguard the tiny birds. Still, we’ve been a bit skeptical things would work out; if the treasured owls were already returning to the site every year, why mess with it?