When Jerry Brown was mayor of Oakland, he sanctioned a huge expansion of redevelopment in Oakland. During his tenure, Oakland converted 5,800 acres of the city into redevelopment areas, stretching from North Oakland to the San Leandro border, records show. Brown and other redevelopment proponents argued that turning the city's flatlands into redevelopment areas would help Oakland revitalize neighborhoods that had long been neglected. But this week, thanks to now-Governor Brown's decision to kill redevelopment statewide and steer its funding elsewhere, Oakland must begin the ugly process of dismantling a system that he largely built as mayor.
It begins this week with the layoff of about two hundred city employees whose salaries were paid by redevelopment as they worked to build affordable housing and transit-oriented development throughout the city. Other salaries that were at least partially paid by redevelopment included the mayor, the city council, and seventeen police officers. Both Brown and then-City Attorney John Russo had approved this financing arrangement based on the logic that the mayor and the council oversaw the city's vast redevelopment efforts and that cops helped keep redevelopment areas safe.
But the fallout from Governor Brown's decision doesn't stop at two-hundred job losses at a time when Oakland's unemployment rate stands at nearly 20 percent. Because of seniority bumping rules in city-employee contracts, Oakland actually will send out about 1,500 layoff notices in all. Indeed, the whole process will require a total revamping of city government. The only departments exempted from layoffs are police and fire, because their union contracts prohibit any more layoffs. City Administrator Deanna Santana also hopes to renegotiate some public-employee pacts in order to reduce the total number of layoffs, the San Francisco Chronicle and Oakland Tribune reported.
"It's going to be devastating, not just for Oakland but all the other 399 cities in California with redevelopment agencies," council President Larry Reid told the Chronicle. "Will Oakland have to be revamped? It has to be."
Cal Applications Surge
Maybe it's the outreach campaigns, or the slight tweaks to UC Berkeley's basic eligibility requirements, said Acting Associate Vice Chancellor Anne De Luca. Or maybe it's the lack of jobs available for young people. Whatever the case, the university saw a massive increase in freshman enrollment applications for the 2012-2013 school year, up 16.5 percent from 2011.
That jump reflects a similarly dramatic system-wide increase of 19 percent — UC Santa Cruz, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside, Merced, Santa Barbara, and San Diego all saw their freshman applications rise by double-digits, according to data from the office of the president. It appears that most of these prospective students are highly qualified, too, with a mean GPA of 3.6, and an average SAT 1 score of 1909, up three points from last year. That means a lot of worthy applicants might ultimately be steered into community colleges.
Interestingly, the number of transfer student applications hasn't increased, UC brass said. Rather, it's declined by about 2 percent, which might indicate that the rising cost of a university education is deterring at least one portion of the student population.
A's Staying, for Now
The Oakland A's' planned move to San Jose appears to have stalled, as Major League Baseball owners adjourned their winter meetings without making a decision on the team's request. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig had said the proposed San Jose move was "on the front burner" of MLB's priorities, and that a blue-ribbon panel that has been studying ballpark proposals in San Jose and Oakland had delivered a comprehensive report last week. But Selig also said that baseball will not approve the A's' move to San Jose unless the San Francisco Giants allow it. The Giants own the territorial rights to the South Bay, which prohibit any other team from moving there, and the team has vowed to fight the A's plans.
The University of California has decided to ban smoking at all of its campuses in an attempt to limit the effects of second-hand smoke and prevent young people from becoming smokers, the Chron and Trib reported. Under the new policy, there will be no outdoor smoking areas on any of the UC system campuses. ... PG&E took more than $100 million in ratepayer funds that were supposed to be used for pipeline safety and operations and instead used them for profits and executive bonuses, the Chron reported, citing two audits of the troubled utility. Meanwhile, the California Public Utilities Commission, which has been heavily criticized by federal regulators for failing to properly oversee PG&E's practices, approved a scathing report on the utility that concluded that it had violated numerous state and federal safety laws over the years in the run-up to the deadly San Bruno disaster. The report sets the stage for huge fines against PG&E, and said that the utility has long had a corporate culture that placed profits over safety. ... BART is going full speed ahead with its plans to spend about $1 billion on 260 new rail cars this spring, the Chron reported. The transit agency has the oldest fleet in the nation. Eventually, BART plans to spend a total of $3 billion to replace its fleet of 669 rail cars. But don't expect to see the shiny new cars any time soon; the first rail cars are not scheduled to be delivered until 2016. ... The number of California residents with annual incomes exceeding $1 million jumped sharply in 2010, despite the recession, as the income gap between rich and poor continues to widen. The Sacramento Bee reported that the number of millionaires statewide rose 27 percent in 2010 compared to the previous year, according to the state Board of Equalization. ... Despite widespread environmental concerns about fracking, oil and gas companies are examining ways to engage in "super fracking" — a method to create deeper and longer cracks in the earth to release trapped oil and natural gas, Bloomberg News reported. ... And Oakland police have identified the two officers disciplined for covering a police nametag during Occupy Oakland raids. The Bay Citizen reported that the police department suspended Officer John Hargraves for thirty days for covering his nametag with tape in violation of state law, and demoted Lieutenant Clifford Wong to sergeant for failing to report Hargraves' actions to internal affairs.
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