Daily weather and temperature fluctuations may have nothing to do with global warming, but last week's heat wave and smog attack couldn't have left many of us feeling terribly hopeful. The Bay Area saw an astonishing three consecutive Spare the Air days, as smoke from California's many fires combined with rising temperatures to give us some of the nastiest atmospheric conditions in recent memory. Hey, you know what would really hit the spot right about now? A nice refreshing glass of water, straight from the tap. Too bad the East Bay's water district just hit us all with a 10 percent fee hike in order to cope with our water shortage.
Too $hort of Cash
Well, at least we can distract ourselves with tales of the East Bay's greatest player, Oakland rapper Too $hort himself. Regular readers may recall that Too $hort has returned from his long stint in Atlanta, and even started a new recording studio a few months back. Well, it turns out that the rap star owes a little money, and now sheriff's deputies have plans to seize his new studio's recording equipment to settle the affair. It all goes back to 1991, when Shorty the Pimp had a little too much Short Dog, got behind the wheel of his car, smashed up another vehicle, and tried to flee the scene. Another car came speeding down the street in the opposite direction, and you can guess most of the rest. The head-on collision seriously wounded the other car's driver and killed the passenger, whose family sued Too $hort for wrongful death. The rapper settled for $1 million, but allegedly skipped out on all but around $282,000 — and he's been ducking the payments ever since. Now that he's back in Oakland, the family has mounted a new push to seize his assets, and you just might be able to get your hands on a genuine Shorty the Pimp mixing board, coming soon to an auction near you. By the way, have we mentioned that Too $hort is a youth mentor at the Oakland nonprofit Youth Uprising? Tha Town is just full of surprises.
How Many Edgerlys Are There?
But at least we don't have to deal with a terrible, widespread nepotism problem at City Hall! Oh wait, maybe we do. Last week, in response to the saga of disgraced City Administrator Deborah Edgerly, City Attorney John Russo and City Auditor Courtney Ruby proposed a new set of reforms to weed out the patronage problems in local government. Their package includes a whistleblower protection ordinance, prohibitions for city department heads against hiring their relatives, improved record keeping, and an employee ethics program. Meanwhile, Chron columnist Chip Johnson reported that Edgerly's children were given lucrative summer jobs, allegedly did no work in the final month, and were paid anyway. When then-Controller LaRae Brown found out about the affair, she raised hell with Finance Director William Noland. What was Noland's response? He tried to give her $1,775 in cash. Noland told the Chron that the cash was to reimburse the city for the mistaken salary payments. Not a bribe, do you hear? Not a bribe! Brown refused to take the money and was fired shortly afterward.
Meanwhile, the Alameda County Grand Jury is getting into the act, slamming the City of Oakland for letting city employees use credit cards for frivolous personal expenses, like fat slabs of barbecue and a room service binge at a Vegas hotel. And just before Edgerly left, it was recently revealed, she gave her best friend, Assistant City Administrator Cheryl Thompson, a fat severance package worth five months of her salary. Oh, and she got a car allowance, too!
The Race for a Budget
While Oakland was trying to figure out how to salvage his shattered reputation, state Senator Don Perata was trying to save the state from fiscal collapse. California's budget deficit is now projected to be around $15 billion, and Perata has until the end of the summer to get Republicans in the state legislature to go along with a bipartisan deal that balances the books. (Well, if he's not indicted before then.) So last week, he tried being bad cop first, joining other Democrats in dramatically calling for $10 billion in new taxes targeting the rich. Presumably, the good cop will emerge over a glass of red wine in a hotel restaurant. Meanwhile, Perata's bill forcing lenders to work with busted homeowners to amortize their mortgage payments was just signed by some Austrian guy, giving those suffering from the housing bust a little relief.
Former Berkeley mayor Shirley Dean has taken out papers to run for mayor once again, which means a repeat of the 2002 Dean showdown with incumbent mayor Tom Bates. ... DeLauer's, the beloved downtown Oakland book and magazine store, will reopen under new management; the new proprietors plan to add an Internet cafe to see if that will keep the store in the black. ... The Alameda Alliance for Health, a nonprofit health plan that provided 1,000 poor children with critical medical insurance, was forced to shut down as a result of the state's budget crisis. ... Although a Superior Court judge ordered the University of California's service employees not to walk off their jobs last Friday, union leaders said they would launch the five-day strike regardless of what any guy in a robe says. ... The Alameda County Board of Supervisors has decided that the county's pot clubs can now sell hashish. Anyhoo, the two pot clubs located on unincorporated county land, We Are Hemp and the Garden of Eden, can now sell all the tarry brown hash they want. But according to the Trib, pot brownies are still out of bounds.