Stories you shouldn’t miss:
1. An arbitrator has ordered the Oakland Police Department to reinstate two police commanders who were demoted for their roles in a botched raid that left two officers dead, SFGate reports. The arbitrator ruled that while the two commanders — Captain Rick Orozco, who was demoted to sergeant, and Lieutenant Chris Mufarreh, who was demoted to officer — had made mistakes during the deadly raid, the department’s decision to punish them — and not other commanders who were involved — was “unfair and unbalanced.”
The IRS division responsible for flagging Tea Party groups has long been an agency afterthought, beset by mismanagement, financial constraints and an unwillingness to spell out just what it expects from social welfare nonprofits, former officials and experts say. The controversy that erupted in the past week, leading to the ousting of the acting Internal Revenue Service commissioner, an investigation by the FBI, and congressional hearings that kicked off Friday, comes against a backdrop of dysfunction brewing for years.
Stories you shouldn’t miss:
1. Officials from FEMA are moving forward with a controversial plan to chop down more than 80,000 trees in the Berkeley and Oakland hills — 22,000 in Berkeley and 60,000 in Oakland — as a fire safety measure, according to the California Progress Report. The proposal would clear-cut large swaths of eucalyptus groves in Strawberry and Claremont canyons, and would pour up to 1,400 gallons of herbicides in the hills to prevent the non-native trees from growing back. FEMA has quietly held two public meetings already on the proposal and is planning to hold a final one tomorrow — Saturday, May 18, from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. at Claremont Middle School, 5750 College Ave. in Oakland.
Stories you shouldn’t miss:
1. The Bay Area housing market remained red hot in April, as the median home sales price soared to $510,000 — its highest point in five years and a 30.8 jump over the same month a year ago, the Chron$ reports. A relatively small number of homes on the market are continuing to spark fierce bidding wars. However, the region’s median home price is still short of its peak of $650,000 in the summer of 2007. The low point was $375,000 in March 2009 during the height of the foreclosure crisis.
Some news media have portrayed the rapid change in leadership at the Oakland Police Department this week as evidence that the city is in “crisis.” And while it’s clear that OPD has been in crisis for a long time, the selection of Deputy Chief Sean Whent to take over as interim police chief today, replacing Acting Chief Anthony Toribio just two days after he took over for retiring Chief Howard Jordan, is a smart choice. In fact, the mistake that Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana made was that they should have appointed Whent to the top job on Wednesday.
Stories that East Bay progressives and environmentalists shouldn’t miss:
1. Retiring Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told KGO-TV yesterday that he was not forced out of his job, and decided to step down based on the recommendation of his doctor. Jordan cited an unnamed medical problem as the reason for this sudden retirement — and not a recent scathing report from OPD’s court-appointed Compliance Director Thomas Frazier, who faulted the department’s command staff for failing to investigate police misconduct and hold problem officers accountable for wrongdoing.
There's already been a lot of speculation today about about why Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan abruptly announced his retirement this morning. Jordan cited medical reasons for his decision, but last week, OPD's court-appointed compliance director released a strongly critical report of the department's handling of police misconduct under Jordan's command and made the unprecedented decision to reopen closed cases. In addition, high-priced consultants William Bratton and Robert Wasserman were scheduled to release a separate report today. So the timing of Jordan's retirement announcement raised eyebrows. But City Councilwoman Libby Schaaf said this afternoon that the 47-year-old Jordan really does have "a serious medical condition" that affects his ability to carry out his difficult job. "He is really sick," said Schaaf, who has maintained a close relationship with Jordan and praised his efforts today to reduce crime in Oakland.
News stories that East Bay progressives and environmentalists shouldn’t miss:
1. State regulators sparked criticism from consumer groups yesterday when they recommended no fines against PG&E for the deadly San Bruno blast of 2010. Regulators with the California Public Utilities Commission said that, instead of fines, the utility should be required to spend $2.25 billion on upgrading its aging natural gas lines, SFGate reports. The CPUC contends that levying fines against PG&E for the explosion that killed eight people “does not make sense,” because it would leave the utility without enough money to complete the safety upgrades. But San Bruno officials and consumer advocates quickly criticized the CPUC’s recommendation, and said PG&E should be fined for its gross negligence. The CPUC recommends that the $2.25 billion for upgrades come from PG&E’s shareholders — and not its customers.
News stories that East Bay environmentalists and progressives shouldn’t miss:
1. Southern California, along with much of the Southwest, could become much more susceptible to drought because of climate change, according to a new study led by NASA, the LA Times$ reports. The study essentially predicts that dry regions around the world will become drier and wet regions will become wetter. Drought and dry conditions also could lead to more massive wildfires in Southern California and an increase demand for water from the Sierra.
More than 50,000 high-polluting diesel engines have been cleaned up or removed from US roads in a federal program designed to reduce smog and greenhouse gases, according to a new US Environmental Protection Agency report to Congress. But while both industry and environmental officials call the program a success, it is now threatened with a 70 percent cut in funding under the Obama Administration’s new budget.