Marine Protests, Gun Buybacks, and a Green Golf Cart Dismissal 

Top East Bay news stories for the week of February 11-17.

In Berkeley, the cost of not reading the fine print is $93,500. That's the pricetag linked to the massive February 12 protests in front of old City Hall, according to the Oakland Tribune. The protests came in response to the city council's January 29 decision to send a letter to the US Marines, saying they were "uninvited and unwelcome intruders." The Marines recently opened a recruiting station in downtown, and the council's anti-Marines vote attracted protesters from around the nation.

But all the money was wasted. Why? Some council members failed to realize that the "unwelcome intruders" phrase was actually going to be included in the letter to the Marines when they voted for it, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. It turns out they hadn't fully read a recommendation from the city's Peace and Justice Commission that included the offending statement.

In the end, the council voted to remove "unwelcome intruders" from the letter, but not before the city was thrust into the national spotlight and Republican politicians threatened to cut funding to the city, local schools, and UC Berkeley. Of course, the GOP posturing was just that.

By the time the crazy week was over, Councilman Gordon Wozniak, who had opposed his colleague's actions all along, proposed that every item submitted by the Peace and Justice Commission be considered twice by the council, according to the Chron. That way it would increase the odds that the city's elected officials would actually read what they're voting on before they vote.

Oakland gun buyback is a boondoggle

Why does the press always fall for gun-buyback events sponsored by publicity-seeking politicians? There are no studies anywhere showing that less crime is the result. Yet reporters and photographers showed up in droves for the February 9 gun buyback run by state Senate boss Don Perata and the OPD. Not surprisingly, the event turned out to be a boondoggle. And by the way, seven people were slain in Oakland over that weekend.

Perata's preening for the cameras may cost the city of Oakland $170,000, according to the Tribune. The event attracted gun dealers from throughout the West who came to sell their junk guns to the city for $250 each. The Trib noted that two of the first people in line at one of the buyback centers had sixty guns in the trunk of their car. Organizers immediately instituted a five-gun limit, but the event still drew more than 1,000 guns — 700 more than Perata had bargained for or raised money to buy.

Oakland police chose to hand out vouchers valued at $170,000. One Trib reader summed up the event's outcome: "I don't see how getting guns off the streets of Fresno and other cities will help cut crime in Oakland." By mid-week, Perata told the Chronicle that he would raise the money to pay for the 700 guns. We'll see if he actually does.

Alameda fires worker over green car

When is going green going too far? Just ask John Shaterian. According to the Alameda Sun, the 65-year-old city of Alameda employee was fired last month after he refused to drive an electric car that he believed was unsafe. The car was part of the city's ambitious efforts to reduce greenhouse gases.

But Shaterian claimed the car was nothing more than a "glorified golf cart." He complained to his supervisor about the door's strength (or lack thereof) and about how, because the car goes no more than 25 miles per hour, it isn't tested for crash safety. He even volunteered to drive his own car as long as he could be reimbursed. But that idea didn't fly. In a letter to members of city council, the mayor, and the city manager, Shaterian said he's not the only city employee who refuses to drive the electric vehicles. But he is the only who was fired — because he works part-time and isn't a union member, he claimed.

"I am not against protecting the environment," Shaterian wrote in the letter. "I'm 65 years old. I don't have that many years left and I don't want to cut them short." According to the Sun, Shaterian hasn't taken legal action yet, and just wants his job back. Karen Willis, the city's human resources director, said the termination was a personnel matter and couldn't comment.

Three dots

The state ag department said it will spray the region with pesticides designed to curb the spread of the Light Brown Apple Moth. ... Almost twenty percent of Bay Area home sales in January were the result of foreclosures, according to the Chron. ... The environmental group Baykeeper filed suit against the city of Burlingame for persistently spilling sewage into San Francisco Bay for the past sixteen years, the Chron reported.

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