Tuesday, September 30, 2014

New California Law Will Open Up Job Opportunities To People With Criminal Records

by Sam Levin
Tue, Sep 30, 2014 at 3:31 PM

Senator Holly Mitchell. - SENATE.CA.GOV
  • senate.ca.gov
  • Senator Holly Mitchell.
California has just removed a significant barrier to employment for people with criminal records. Yesterday, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that eliminates a discriminatory policy in the healthcare industry that barred people with certain past convictions — including for non-violent offenses — from getting certified nursing assistant (CNA) licenses. The practice of automatically denying CNA licenses to people with criminal records was particularly harmful to low-income women who had past run-ins with the law — blocking them from accessing stable, living-wage jobs for which they would otherwise be qualified.

"This gives individuals a chance to provide evidence of rehabilitation," said Natalie Lyons, project attorney with Equal Rights Advocates, a San Francisco-based civil rights organization that sponsored the legislation, Senate Bill 1384, as part of its "Let Her Work" campaign. "What this bill does is opens up opportunities for a group of individuals .. who suffer from poverty and are trying to get a leg up. They are constantly facing these barriers." 

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Tuesday Must Reads: BART to Launch Late-Night Bus Service; Brown Signs Bill to Lessen Sentencing for Crack Cocaine

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Sep 30, 2014 at 9:25 AM

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Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. BART plans to begin offering late-night bus service on weekends from San Francisco to the East Bay as part of a pilot program later this year, the Chron reports. The lack of BART service after midnight on weekends has long been a problem for nightclubs and bars in San Francisco — and for East Bay patrons. BART contends that it can’t run trains late at night because it needs to shut down the system for maintenance. The new bus service would take passengers from San Francisco to select BART stations in the East Bay.

2. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that will equalize prison sentencing for felony convictions of crack and powder cocaine, SF Gate reports. The bill, long advocated by civil rights activists who note that African Americans are more likely to be convicted of crack cocaine crimes than whites, lowers sentencing for crack convictions to equal that of powder cocaine.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday Must Reads: Governor Vetoes $100 Million in Funding for UC and CSU; Brown Also Turns Down Drone-Restrictions Bill

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 8:52 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

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1. Governor Jerry Brown vetoed legislation backed by Democrats that sought to provide a total of $100 million — $50 million each — for the University of California and California State University systems, the SacBee$ reports. Brown cited lower-than-expected property tax revenues and the costs of fighting wildfires to explain his veto.

2. The governor also vetoed a bipartisan bill that would have required law enforcement agencies to obtain search warrants to use drones for surveillance, the LA Times$ reports. Lawmakers said that as a result of the governor’s decision, they may push to ban drones completely in the state.

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Friday, September 26, 2014

Oakland Gets $3.2 Million Grant For Bike Bridge Connecting Lake Merritt to Bay Trail

by Sam Levin
Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 3:07 PM

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Biking from Lake Merritt to the San Francisco Bay Trail could get a lot easier, with the help of a new transportation grant that will enable the city to push forward with its plans to build a bicycle and pedestrian bridge. City officials announced yesterday that the Bay Area Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the regional transit agency, has awarded Oakland a $3.2 million grant to go toward the design of a bridge that would connect Lake Merritt's bike and pedestrian paths to the Bay Trail path. The project would help close a significant gap in the city's bike and pedestrian transportation network, Oakland's Public Works Agency said in its announcement of the new funding. 

The proposal is to construct a bridge that would go under the Interstate 880 freeway and over the Union Pacific Railroad tracks. Currently, there is no direct way to get from Lake Merritt path to the Bay Trail, but according to the city, people often illegally cross the railroad tracks anyway. The alternative for cyclists and pedestrians is to travel more than one-half mile out of the way on a route that involves going under a freeway underpass and crossing a truck route.  

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Friday Must Reads: Californians Overwhelmingly Support Affirmative Action; Governor Brown Signs Oil-By-Rail Bill

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Sep 26, 2014 at 10:13 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. A near-supermajority of Californians — 66 percent — say they support affirmative action programs that would help women and minorities get better job and education opportunities, the SacBee$ reports, citing a new Field Poll. Only 25 percent of state residents say they oppose affirmative action, a stark turnaround from the 1990s, when Californians voted to ban affirmative action at public universities and in government jobs. The poll results indicate that state residents may be ready to reinstate affirmative action. Earlier this year, Asian-American groups blocked a Democratic bill that would have placed affirmative action on the ballot, because they feared it would impact the admission of Asian students at the University of California. But the new poll shows that Asian-American voters actually support affirmative action in greater numbers — 69 percent — than the state as a whole.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Dan Kalb Proposes Tenant Protection Ordinance to Curb Landlord Harassment

by Sam Levin
Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 12:29 PM

Dan Kalb.
  • Dan Kalb.
Every month, the City of Oakland's Rent Adjustment Program — which mediates rent disputes between tenants and landlords — receives hundreds of complaints from tenants about landlord harassment. Many of those complaints, however, fall outside of the purview of that office, which generally reviews conflicts over rent increases and evictions. Councilmember Dan Kalb is hoping to address this problem by giving tenants in Oakland a stronger legal recourse to fight landlord harassment with a new proposed tenant protection ordinance.

"The purpose of this is to create a level of strong deterrence so landlords won't be engaging in these types of things," said Kalb, who noted that local tenant advocacy groups are getting an increasing number of calls about landlord harassment. "We need to provide more protection." 

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Thursday Must Reads: State Objects to Refinery Oil-By-Rail Plan; PUC Replaces PG&E’s Favored Judge

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 10:31 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Last year, an oil-by-rail shipment exploded in Canada, killing 47 people.
  • Last year, an oil-by-rail shipment exploded in Canada, killing 47 people.
1. State officials are objecting to a proposal by Valero Refinery in Benicia to ramp up train shipments of highly explosive crude oil through Northern California, the SacBee$ reports. California officials want the City of Benicia to redo its environmental assessment of Valero’s plan, and to include an analysis of dangers posed to communities along rail lines throughout Northern California. Last year, a train carrying explosive crude ignited in Canada, killing 47 people.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Berkeley City Parking Contractor Found Guilty of Worker Retaliation

by Sam Levin
Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 1:27 PM

Julio Castro. - SAM LEVIN / FILE PHOTO
  • Sam Levin / file photo
  • Julio Castro.
LAZ Parking, a private contractor with the City of Berkeley, unlawfully fired one of its workers after he raised concerns about owed wages and denied rest breaks, according to a new decision from the California Labor Commissioner. The ruling in favor of the worker, Julio Castro, is the latest development in a long fight that has shed light on what labor activists say is the city's ongoing failure to enforce its living wage law

LAZ Parking, the private company that manages three city-owned garages in Berkeley, retaliated against Castro, a former garage cashier, when it fired him in 2012 after he had complained internally — and with city officials — about a number of alleged labor violations, according to the decision. The ruling marks the second time that the state has ruled in Castro's favor — in direct contradiction with the city's public statements and determinations that LAZ had done nothing wrong. 

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Wednesday Must Reads: Big Soda Pumps $800,000 Into Berkeley Campaign; Judge Says Wrongly Convicted Man Can Sue Oakland

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Sep 24, 2014 at 9:21 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

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1. The American Beverage Association has pumped another $500,000 — to go along with a previous donation of $300,000 — into a campaign to defeat a proposed soda tax in Berkeley, the CoCo Times$ reports. Supporters of Measure D, which would enact a one-cent-per-ounce tax on sugary beverages, denounced the move by Bog Soda, and argue that major beverage companies are using their deep pockets to pay for ads designed to confuse voters. The soda industry is expected to spend even more money trying to defeat the measure; it spent $2.6 million to beat back a similar one in Richmond in 2012.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Waste Management Wins Back Oakland Garbage Contract, Will Split Franchise With California Waste Solutions

by Sam Levin
Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 10:34 AM

STEPHEN LOEWINSOHN/FILE PHOTO
  • STEPHEN LOEWINSOHN/FILE PHOTO
Waste Management, the Texas-based corporation that sued the City of Oakland after losing out on the city's lucrative waste contract this summer, has won back trash services, ending a long and messy fight for the $1 billion franchise. The City Council last night approved a compromise deal that would allow Waste Management to continue doing trash pickups in the city, while California Waste Solutions (CWS), a West Oakland-based firm, will take over all of the city's recycling. As part of the proposed deal, which Mayor Jean Quan first announced last Thursday, Waste Management has also agreed to drop its lawsuit and cover the city's associated legal fees. 

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