After a BART cop killed Oscar Grant, it became clear that the agency's police department needed better oversight. Public outrage over the killing prompted the BART board of directors to devise a plan that included a citizens' review panel that would investigate police misconduct. Some critics said the oversight plan was not tough enough, but the proposal appeared to be a positive step and the BART board approved it last month. But then two weeks ago, some members of the board secretly gutted the plan in an attempt to gain approval from the Legislature.
Under the watered-down plan, the BART board would no longer have power over police discipline. Instead, authority would be left to the BART police chief and the agency's general manager. So if the citizens' review panel recommended that a police officer be suspended or fired for misconduct, the chief or the general manager could ignore that advice and the elected board would have no recourse other than to fire the officials. In other words, the new oversight proposal contains no meaningful reform.
Assemblyman Sandre Swanson of Alameda, who is carrying the plan in the Legislature, said BART leadership decided to weaken it because of opposition by a statewide police officers' group. Swanson said BART leaders realized they could never get legislators to approve the plan before their year-end recess if it faced significant opposition from the Peace Officers Research Association of California. Such opposition would require legislative hearings, thereby postponing a vote until next year. So agency leaders decided to water down the plan because they are determined to have some version of it in place before the one-year anniversary of Oscar Grant's death.
The closed-door decision raises questions about public transparency and whether the new plan has the support of the entire board. Agency spokesman Linton Johnson said the full board was informed of the changes last week, but had no plans to hold hearings or vote on it. He said the agency views the revised plan as a stopgap measure and hopes the Legislature will approve the original proposal sometime next year. The revised measure could appease some but, in reality, is not much better than the current system, which so far has only held one person responsible in the death of an innocent, unarmed man.
UC Berkeley Helps Nab Rapist
It's no secret that Christian proselytizers have descended on Sproul Plaza in increasing numbers in recent years. Philip Craig Garrido of Antioch apparently wanted in on the action. But that led to two UC Berkeley employees helping to nab the fiend, who allegedly kidnapped eleven-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard, raped her, fathered her two children, and forced her and her kids to live in squalid conditions for eighteen years. UC Berkeley special events manager Lisa Campbell said that she first realized something was strange about Garrido when he showed up with his two "robot"-like daughters and said he wanted to discuss holding an event called "God's Desire," according to the Contra Costa Times. UC Berkeley police officer Allyson Jacobs also thought Garrido strange, so she checked him out and quickly discovered he was a registered sex offender. She then called his parole officer, who later got Garrido to admit to kidnapping Dugard in 1991.
Housing Up and Way Down
A national housing index reported the first quarterly rise in the housing market in three years, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The S&P/Case Schiller index grew 2.9 percent for the three months ending June 30 — the first increase since 2006. In the Bay Area, it showed a 3.8 percent rise. But some economists credited the uptick to the government's $8,000 tax credit for first-time home buyers. The credit is scheduled to expire November 30, and if Congress does not extend it, then housing prices could tank again.
At the same time, the Chronicle reported that the Bay Area is swamped with very cheap properties, especially in Oakland, Richmond, Pittsburg, Antioch, and Vallejo. Condos listing for as low as $20,000 to $30,000 are becoming more common, as are single-family homes at less than $60,000. Some real estate professionals say banks are increasingly pricing homes aggressively to unload them. However, many of the properties need a lot rehabbing.
Toyota announced the closing of the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont next March. The plant was Alameda's County largest private employer with 4,700 workers, but its closure could result in the loss of up to 50,000 area jobs because so many other businesses depend on it. ... BART drivers and station agents officially agreed to a new contract after threatening to strike and getting no public sympathy. ... Berkeley's new downtown plan appears headed for the ballot. ... Oakland police arrested the foster parents of little Hasanni Campbell on suspicion of killing the five-year-old Fremont boy and then making up a story about him going missing in Rockridge. ... Another innocent bystander was killed after Oakland police followed an "erratic" driver on a high-speed chase through a residential neighborhood. Prosecutors charged the driver with murder. Marquita Bosley of Pittsburg was the third innocent person killed in a high-speed police pursuit in the East Bay this year. ... US Attorney General Eric Holder announced that his office would investigate CIA interrogators but not top officials who authorized torture, such as UC Berkeley professor John Yoo. ... And Fox News host Glenn Beck, who lost dozens of sponsors after calling Barack Obama a "racist," used a 2005 Express article to attack Van Jones, an Oakland activist who became an advisor to the president.