Friday, July 29, 2011

Friday Must Read: Redistricting Commission Releases New Maps; Alameda Firefighters Argued Against Cutting Water Rescue

By Ellen Cushing
Fri, Jul 29, 2011 at 7:08 AM

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.

3. The family of an Oakland man who was allegedly beaten brutally by the OPD was "stonewalled" into not bringing legal action against the city, reports the Chron. The city had previously asked that a $10 million police brutality suit brought in 2009 by the mother of the alleged victim, Jerry Amaro, be dismissed because the statute of limitations on such claims had expired. But an appeals court ruled yesterday that the suit should proceed because the OPD engaged in a cover-up, withholding crucial documents that could have allowed Amaro's family to move forward with the suit earlier. Amaro was arrested in 2000 after attempting to buy crack from an undercover officer; he died shortly thereafter of injuries allegedly sustained during the arrest.

4. Amazon has mounted a new campaign to repeal the internet sales tax measure, according to Josh Richman at the Trib. The group says it will be receiving "major funding" from the bookselling giant (as well as other companies) which it ostensibly plans to use to gather the 504,760 signatures it needs to float a repeal measure on the June 2012 ballot.

5. In news from the West Bay: looks like incumbent (and odds-on favorite) Ed Lee is, in fact, leaning toward running for mayor of San Francisco — even as his opponents call for an investigation into alleged campaign finance violations by the grassroots group that'd been attempting to draft him. Meanwhile, a new poll indicates that more than 60 percent of San Francisco's Chinese voters — a decent-sized bloc — would support Lee's candidacy.

6. Today in super-depressing news: Apple has more cash on hand than the US government.

7. Because it's Friday, and in honor of item #2:

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