The power and influence that Big Oil and Gas wield in California is on display once again this week in Sacramento. Lobbyists for large oil and gas conglomerates are forcing East Bay Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski to water down legislation he wrote that seeks to regulate fracking in the state, the LA Times reports.
Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the controversial practice of shooting toxic chemicals and water into the earth to release otherwise hard-to-extract natural gas and oil. Fracking has led to a boom in natural gas production in the United States, and has sparked a backlash from environmentalists and consumer advocates over concerns about groundwater contamination and other pollution problems.
Nearly a year to the day after receiving an award from the League of Women Voters for "making democracy work," local news blog A Better Oakland has apparently ceased to exist. Citizen journalist Echa Schneider, who made a name for herself by indefatigably reporting on local news, business, redevelopment, and politics under the handle VSmoothe, quietly stopped blogging in the fall — her last entry, dated November 7, 2011, was written by a guest commentator. The site stayed up for several months after that, allowing readers to continue using the comment boards. Now anyone who clicks on the url will get an error page.
It looks like an anti-ranked-choice-voting group with close ties to ex-state Senator Don Perata’s campaign manager has already abandoned its signature-gathering drive in Oakland, just days after we wrote about it. Instead, the leader of the group told the Oakland Tribune late last week that Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, a longtime close friend and ally of Perata’s, will ask the city council to put the proposed repeal of ranked choice voting on the November ballot. However, De La Fuente did not confirm that he would do so, and it appears that he doesn't have the necessary votes on the council.
Six weeks ago, we wrote that calls for Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer to resign were premature. We contended that Lockyer needed time to get well, to recover from her substance-abuse problems. But over the past few weeks, a series of eye-popping news reports by Bay Area News Group reporters Josh Richman and Julia Prodis Sulek have made it clear that Lockyer’s problems are extremely serious and that she needs to resign from office and focus all her energy on taking care of herself. It could take a long time.
The hypocritical attack by the IRS and US Attorney Melinda Haag against California medical cannabis dispensaries, particularly in Oakland, feels like it’s right out of a Kafka novel. On the one-hand, the feds (which include the IRS) adamantly maintain that the possession and sale of medical marijuana is illegal because pot is considered an unlawful controlled substance under federal law. But at the same time, the IRS maintains that any proceeds from the sale of medical pot by dispensaries to members of their cooperatives are taxable. On its face, this double standard is ridiculous. But the Internal Revenue Service’s mind-bending arguments don’t stop there.
This afternoon, the National Association of Letter Carriers will be hitting the streets (the streets identified here in a delightful chart) to defend the post office. There’s another nationwide demonstration called Occupy the Post Office organized by Community and Postal Workers United set for April 17.
There's reason to demonstrate. Currently, 223 post office processing centers nationwide are slated to close starting this summer, and 14 of those are in California — including the one in Petaluma, which means all North Bay mail will be headed to the Oakland processing center. Petaluma is 47.5 miles away from Oakland, and not all the Petaluma mail clerks will be financially fit enough to travel the distance. 229 positions will be lost, and mail in the Oakland processing center could pile up.
Lookie here! Much like the New York Times before them, our West-Bay analogues appear to have finally torn the lid off the radical notion that Oakland might actually be a desirable place to live! We'd be very excited about this great honor, but it's hard to breathe through all this working-class grit — and besides, we all know it's basically impossible to find internet access out here in the wild hinterlands of the East Bay.*
The law enforcement agencies that raided the Long Haul in 2008 have come to a settlement agreement in the lawsuit filed against them by the anarchist library and community center, as well as the prisoner support group East Bay Prisoner Support (EBPS). According to the settlement, the agencies have agreed to delete the computer data seized in the raid and pay $100,000 in damages and attorney’s fees, according to a press release today by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In addition, the UC Berkeley Police Department acknowledged that the Long Haul, located at 3124 Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, qualified for federal protections from police searches, even though it had denied this during the lawsuit.
A Contra Costa County jury today ruled that Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus did not engage in discrimination against seven high-ranking black officers in the department. The jury also completely exonerated now retired Deputy Chief Lori Ritter and the City of Richmond of any wrongdoing.
Every few years, wealthy residents of the relatively safe and quiet Oakland hills have a mass freak-out over crime. Usually, it’s prompted by a rash of burglaries. And typically, hills residents complain that the city directs too many of its scarce police resources (and their tax dollars) to the poor and violent flatlands of East and West Oakland. Wealthy hills dwellers usually contend that their needs are not being met. Well, residents of the hills and the tony Rockridge district are complaining about a rise in burglaries again, and they’re blaming Mayor Jean Quan’s 100 Block crime plan, because it focuses scarce public resources on the most violent neighborhoods of East and West Oakland.