Where's John Yoo when you need him? While the rest of the Bay Area was making national headlines — San Francisco for ratfucking the Chinese Olympic torch run, Marin County for doing the same thing to Barack Obama — the East Bay had to retreat back to our own little corner of the world. No more infamy for us last week. Quick, somebody green-light a new enhanced interrogation technique!
At least Don Perata keeps us entertained. The state Senate president and Sacramento power broker opened up a can of payback on fellow Senator Jeff Denham, who had the temerity to vote against Perata's budget deal last summer. Sure, you may think, plenty of Republican senators did the same, but only Denham hails from a majority Democratic district. So the Don dusted off his little black book of dirty tricks and started a recall campaign against Denham, and voters from Monterey to Modesto will decide this June whether or not Denham should find another line of work.
At least, that's what the Don planned to happen. But last week, as the recall campaign unveiled its big attack ads, political observers couldn't help but notice what a low blow it was – and the effect may ultimately play into Denham's hands, framing the recall as a ruthless, petty attempt at revenge. In a radio ad airing last week, two concerned citizens discussed how Denham was allegedly tapping into campaign funds to finance joyrides to casinos and "destination spas," while the public's business languished. But since Perata wrote the friggin' book on how to live the high life on campaign funds (a feat first chronicled in the pages of the Express, thank you very much), writers at newspapers around the state couldn't help but notice the Don's shameless hypocrisy. The Chron even dedicated a Sunday editorial to slamming Perata, denouncing his recall effort and dubbing it a stain on his legacy. Suddenly, Perata's chance for revenge looks a lot less likely, and the Senate president a lot more like a nasty little kneecapper.
Brother, Can You Spare a Mortgage Payment?
Fortunately for the Don, East Bay residents have been a little more focused on their own paychecks to consider his sins too closely. A new Field Poll showed Bay Area residents placed the economy as their biggest concern for the first time in years, and the numbers seem to back us up. The number of home sales has dropped to alarming levels, the unemployment rate is projected to top 6 percent this year, and the number of people requesting food stamps is rising at double-digit rates. For the first time since the early 1990s, the land of start-ups and million-dollar Maybecks is feeling a little desperate.
Of Pulitzers and Pennants
So what do we turn to when times is tough? How about the soothing murmurs of pastoral verse? Fortunately, the East Bay has its very own former poet laureate to comfort us. Last week, UC Berkeley English professor and all around wordsmith Robert Hass won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, for his 2007 book, "Time and Materials." (In other Pulitzer news, former Express staff writer Jennifer Barrios was a finalist in public service journalism, for her work at Newsday.) And if that weren't enough, the Oakland A's have been on a righteous tear, racking up four consecutive wins and unexpectedly standing atop the American League West. Poetry and baseball — it's about as close to bread and circuses as we can get.
John Russo Fights the Good Fight
At least most of us can enjoy our pastimes in the comfort of our own homes. But according to Oakland City Attorney John Russo, whose office just filed a lawsuit against the company Tri-County Properties, some tenants have been too busy being terrified by their new landlords to think about baseball. According to the lawsuit, Tri-County Properties employees have been buying foreclosed rental units and bullying the tenants into moving out — presumably so new tenants can move in and pay higher rents. Russo's office even claimed the company told tenants that unless they contacted its office within 24 hours, the locks on their units would be changed, and their property disposed of. How charming.
The race to replace Don Perata is getting as nasty as he is, as former Assemblywoman Wilma Chan filed a formal complaint against her opponent Loni Hancock, accusing her of misusing government funds. ... The investigation of John Cota, the pilot who crashed his freighter into the Bay Bridge and killed lots of birds, has uncovered evidence indicating that government officials knew of his erratic behavior for years. ... And who cares about all that, when we have been officially denied the chance to chow down on yummy salmon? Federal officials, um, officially declared this year's Chinook salmon season gone for good. No fresh fish for you!
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