What with all these things called foreclosures and layoffs, the country's clearly in need of a little good news. How else to explain the ecstatic reception Chesley Sullenberger got last week? As you know by now, the Danville resident and US Airways pilot successfully ditched his plane in the Hudson River after a few Canadian geese took out his engines with some kamikaze action, saving the lives of everyone on board. He became the first pilot of a major airline to make an emergency water landing without any casualties in 45 years. Hey, that's pretty impressive. But the tributes laid at his feet exceeded even the New York tabloids' purple standards, with television appearances, Obama's staff inviting him to the inauguration, and a hero's welcome being prepared for him in Danville. Sullenberger may well be the only bright spot for a nation afflicted with insecurity, fear, and dread. He's the Lindbergh of our times, which means our times ain't the best we've ever seen.
BART Cop Fallout
Case in point: the ongoing BART cop shooting scandal. Last week, District Attorney Tom Orloff filed murder charges against Johannes Mehserle, the officer who fatally shot Oscar Grant at the Fruitvale BART station on New Year's Day. Orloff said he was confident in bringing these charges, especially after seeing some "very helpful" video footage that other witnesses provided him, but which the public has yet to see. Mehserle surrendered to authorities in Nevada, where he was hiding out after his family started getting death threats. Speaking of which, members of Mehserle's family discovered two suspicious packages outside their Napa home and immediately thought: bomb. Police officials promptly blew them up, only to discover that they contained no explosive or hazardous material. Everybody's feeling a little jumpy.
As well they should, after the downtown Oakland disturbances of two weeks ago. Last week, hundreds of angry people arrived for a new City Hall protest, but the emotions were somewhat dissipated once word spread of Mehserle's bust earlier that morning. The demo largely went off without a hitch, with protesters calling out the names of people killed by police, marching to Orloff's office, and ultimately dispersing with just a few people itching to throw more rocks. Activists with the Coalition Against Police Executions still want Orloff to resign, claiming that he didn't move on the indictment fast enough, didn't declare Mehserle a flight risk (FYI: Orloff can't actually do this until the suspect is actually indicted), and closed the courtroom to the public. Meanwhile, friends of downtown Oakland's merchants threw them a party over the weekend, hoping to drum up some business to offset the damage incurred during the initial riot.
Oakland Cop Follies
And BART's not the only agency with cop problems. Reeling under revelations that Oakland police fabricated evidence to obtain search warrants, department leaders have decided to fire eleven officers and sergeants who, they claim, are at the center of the scandal. The names of the alleged offenders have not been released, but they have a lawyer, one Mary Sansen, who claims that the cops are being scapegoated by a department that never offered adequate courses on how to write requests for search warrants.
This is just the latest shadow to fall over the OPD, which is still being rocked by fallout from the botched Chauncey Bailey investigation and a claim that Chief Wayne Tucker essentially bribed the head of the cop union to sabotage a vote of no-confidence by the rank and file. Tucker is so embattled that his old pal, former Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer, went so far as to write an opinion piece in the Oakland Tribune. Plummer excoriated the Trib for printing the "self-serving, whining, meaningless comments of a few malcontent[s]" and "sniveling cowards."
Make That the 99,925K Plan
The economy is still drawing plenty of blood from the East Bay. Citing a lack of funds, the California Transportation Commission has indefinitely postponed drilling the fourth bore of the Caldecott Tunnel. The University of California's regents voted to cut statewide undergraduate enrollment by 2,300 students, again because of money problems. In order to maintain student diversity, the regents agreed to increase transfers from community colleges around the state by 500 students. And the developers of 901 Jefferson, a downtown Oakland condo project that was a substantial piece of Jerry Brown's 10K Plan, have defaulted on a $26 million construction loan. The lenders may ultimately foreclose on the property, which contains 75 units. Brother, can you amortize a dime?
Activists at the Long Haul, a South Berkeley anarchist organizing space, have filed suit against the FBI and UC Berkeley, seeking to regain control of any information seized in a raid last year. On August 27, the feds and the college cops raided the space, looking for computers that might contain information as to the identity of a person who sent threatening e-mails to university animal researchers. ... Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums announced the recommendations of Robert Bobb's report on dysfunction in city government; Bobb's report includes a suggestion that Dellums actually show up for work at 9 a.m. on Monday morning. Said a skeptical Jane Brunner, "It will only make a difference if they implement it."
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