This week, outgoing state Senator Don Perata finally begins his long ride into the Sacramento sunset. No more highballs with the governor or caucus poker nights, no more calls from the LA Times. Now, it's just you and Oakland, Mr. P. Since you're so eager to run this town, here's a handy-dandy snapshot of East Bay life this week, just in case you've forgotten.
Babs Lee Runs Black Caucus
First, Don, there's this woman named Barbara Lee. She represents Oakland in this place called the United States Congress, and she was smart enough to endorse a skinny kid with a funny name for president early on. Now that he and Rahm Emanuel are sharpening knives in the White House, Babs came a-callin' to cash in her chits. And wouldn't you know it, she's now been named the head of the Congressional Black Caucus, where she will work on fighting AIDS around the world and agitating to get out of Iraq pronto. We know you're the biggest East Bay power broker to ever lay down a full house eights over fives in a smoky room, but you'll always have to take her phone calls.
Signs of the Recession
But how's the economy doing, you might ask? Well, get ready to cringe a little. You're already familiar with the state's projected $22 billion annual budget deficit, and things ain't much better around here. Case in point: last week, the failed bank Washington Mutual announced a massive round of Bay Area layoffs. Pleasanton took the biggest hit, as WaMu shut down a customer call service and gave 1,200 employees the boot. In fact, here's a good rule of thumb: every time the Pleasanton-based discount clothes retailer Ross Stores reports a fat profit, it means folks are too broke to buy their duds brand-new. And last week, Ross reported an 18 percent increase in profits for the third quarter, and predicted similarly rosy stats for the end of the calendar year.
In addition, SunCal LLC, the developer who was building the housing subdivisions at the old Oak Knoll Navy site, has decided to declare bankruptcy in order to refinance the project. The collapse of Lehman Brothers, SunCal's financial backer, has stalled the project, and the bankruptcy filing is part of a new strategy to unlock $75 million for Oak Knoll. And get this: APL, the international shipping freight line, has decided to close its regional headquarters in Oakland and move to cheaper digs. The move will cost Oakland some 340 jobs. Get ready for some austerity measures if you're still thinking about being mayor.
Keystone Kops Kapers
Fine, you say, but at least Oakland's cops are among the most professional law enforcement agents around, right? Not so fast. Last week, the Oakland Police Department widened its investigation into charges that cops fabricated evidence in order to obtain search warrants. As the city faces two federal lawsuits and the prospect of overturned convictions, investigators have now put three more officers on administrative leave. Meanwhile, the Oakland Tribune reports that many cops are refusing to testify in court, out of fear that they will be questioned about potentially dicey search warrants.
But it could be worse, Don. Your old pal Jerry Brown has just filed major felonies against Michael Gressett, a veteran Contra Costa County prosecutor who worked the sex crimes beat until being charged with sex crimes. Last Friday, Gressett pleaded not guilty to allegations that he confronted a fellow prosecutor with a gun and an ice pick, tied her up, and raped and sodomized her. At least Alameda County has some standards.
But Wait, There's More!
Jeez, you ask, don't you have any good news? Well, there's some. California's Office of the Patient Advocate just released a report on the performance of the state's health care plans, and Oakland's Kaiser Permanente led the pack, with a rating of excellent. In fact, when it comes to quality of care, KP now ranks among the country's top 10 percent. But when it comes to higher education, we're back in the glum mode. The Cal State system reports that next year, financial constraints will force them to turn away 10,000 students who would otherwise have been admitted. UC Regents sent a letter to the state legislature, warning that unless their finances improve, they too will have to reduce enrollment.
And here are some things you oughtta know, just so you sound smart when you schmooze with Larry Tramutola. The UC regents are considering moving Cal football games to Candlestick Park while Memorial Stadium gets retrofitted. Those wacky enviros who sat in the trees near Memorial Stadium have been sentenced to fifty hours of community service. The Emeryville juice company Jamba has hired a new CEO, former Safeway vice president of consumer brands James White; Jamba has been hit hard by the recession, losing $12.4 million in the third quarter.
That's about it for here, Don. We know it's a step down from building a statewide political machine, but you've been around the block a few times, and we're sure you'll make us swoon all over again. By the way, how's that FBI investigation going? Any new subpoenas or anything? Don? Hello?
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