Friday, January 30, 2015

Friday Must Reads: Sierra Snowpack Just 25% of Normal; Blue Ribbon Panel Says State Parks Need Permanent Funding Source

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Jan 30, 2015 at 10:09 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Despite heavy precipitation in December in California, the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada is just 25 percent of normal for this time of year, thanks to a bone-dry January, the Chron reports. The latest measurements strongly indicate that California will endure a fourth year of drought. The state will likely experience forced water rationing this year as reservoirs remain at extraordinarily low levels.

Mount Diablo State Park summit museum.
  • Mount Diablo State Park summit museum.
2. A blue ribbon panel has concluded that California’s once-venerable park system is in dire need of a stable funding source as parks continue to deteriorate statewide, the Mercury News$ reports. In the late 1970s, 90 percent of the state parks’ budget came from California’s general fund, but last year only 24 percent of its budget did.

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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chevron Management Failures Led to Massive August 2012 Explosion in Richmond

by Jean Tepperman
Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 4:35 PM

  • D.H. Parks/Flickr(CC)
The federal Chemical Safety Board on Wednesday issued the final installment of its stinging indictment of Chevron for the huge fire on August 6, 2012 at its Richmond refinery. The fireball spread a cloud of toxic smoke over Richmond and prompted 15,000 residents to seek medical treatment. 

The basic outline of the CSB’s account of the incident had been laid out in previous reports and in a animated video. The final report, presented to the Richmond City Council on January 28, detailed technical and management failures that led to the fire.

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Thursday Must Reads: State Agents Search Ex-CPUC Chief’s Home; Racial Divide Persists in California Over Police

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jan 29, 2015 at 9:18 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Michael Peevey.
  • Michael Peevey.
1. State investigators searched the home of ex-CPUC chief Michael Peevey and seized computers and documents related to the judge-shopping scandal involving PG&E, the Chron reports. Investigators also searched the Orinda home of ex-PG&E official Brian Cherry, who orchestrated the utility’s effort to get favorable judges assigned to PG&E regulatory cases. Cherry was fired and Peevey resigned over the scandal.

2. Despite a series of high-profile incidents in which white cops shot and killed unarmed African Americans, whites and blacks remain deeply divided in their views of police in California, the Chron reports. According to a new poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 74 percent of whites approve of work done by local police compared to just 36 percent of blacks. In addition, 85 percent of African Americans think that minorities do not get equal treatment under the law compared to 50 percent of whites who hold that belief.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Huge Climate March Coming to Oakland

by Jean Tepperman
Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 5:32 PM

  • Courtesy of Food and Water Watch
Thousands of Californians fighting oil-industry expansion across the state will converge in Oakland on Saturday, February 7 for a “March for Real Climate Leadership.” They will gather to demand that Oakland resident Governor Jerry Brown follow the example of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, who recently issued a statewide ban on “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing. 

Fracking involves blasting a mixture of water and chemicals into the ground, breaking up rock to extract oil or natural gas. Many scientists and environmentalists have raised concerns about the danger fracking poses to water quality and public health, as well as evidence that it triggers earthquakes.

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Wednesday Must Reads: Berkeley Post Office Taken Off the Market; Ex-CHP Officer Avoids Jail Time in Nude-Photo-Sharing Case

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jan 28, 2015 at 9:56 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

  • Stephen Loewinsohn/File photo
  • Berkeley post office.
1. The US Postal Service has taken the historic downtown Berkeley post office off the real estate market, the Trib$ reports. The USPS is attributing its move to litigation filed against the proposed sale of the building, including a lawsuit by the City of Berkeley. However, an attorney for the city said the USPS’s decision to not sell the post office may be only temporary — and appears to be just an attempt by the agency to get the two lawsuits dismissed.

2. Ex-CHP Officer Sean Harrington of Martinez, who was fired for secretly copying and sharing nude photos from the phones of female DUI suspects, pleaded no contest to felony charges but will avoid jail time, the CoCo Times$ reports. Contra Costa County Judge Terri Mockler said she decided to not send Harrington to prison because he had no prior criminal record.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

UC Berkeley Doctors Strike, Cite Inadequate Student Mental Health Services

by Sam Levin
Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 11:31 AM

  • Sam Levin
At UC Berkeley and campuses across California, doctors that staff student health centers are going on strike today, citing allegations of illegal labor practices and inadequate mental health services for students. The protests mark the first time in its 43-year history that the Union of American Physicians and Dentists (UAPD) has ever staged a strike, a fact that doctors and union leaders said illustrated just how strained ongoing negotiations have become. It's also very rare for physicians to strike in general; this is the first time that fully licensed doctors (as opposed to resident physicians) have gone on strike against a US employer in 25 years, according to the UAPD, which represents roughly 150 physicians throughout the UC system.

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Tuesday Must Reads: New Baseball Commissioner Pushes for A’s Ballpark in Oakland; Tax Prompts Berkeley Dollar Store to Pull Sugary Drinks

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 9:45 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Rob Manfred.
  • Rob Manfred.
1. Rob Manfred, the new commissioner of Major League Baseball, is pushing for a new ballpark for the A’s in Oakland, the AP reports (via the Trib$). Manfred also said he was “hopeful” that that Oakland’s new mayor Libby Schaaf would be able to make progress on a ballpark project. Manfred’s comments also appear to close the door on any chance of the A’s moving to San Jose.

2. Berkeley’s new voter-approved tax on sugary drinks has prompted two Dollar Tree discount stores to pull sodas from their shelves, KQED reports. Berkeley city officials are ecstatic about the move — noting that the whole point of the tax was to reduce the consumption of sugary beverages.

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Monday Must Reads: Oakland Jobless Rate Plummets; BART Board to Consider Dropping Restitution Demands of Protesters

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 9:49 PM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The unemployment rate in Oakland plummeted 2.6 percent last year — the steepest drop in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Business Times$ reports. Oakland’s jobless rate dipped below 8 percent — to 7.8 percent — last month for the first time since the Great Recession. Just two years ago, in January 2013, the unemployment rate in the city stood at 13 percent. Oakland’s rate, however, still trails those of other Bay Area cities, including San Francisco, which has a jobless figure of just 4 percent.

Rebecca Saltzman.
  • Rebecca Saltzman.
2. The BART Board of Directors will consider at its next meeting a proposal to drop demands that #BlackLivesMatter protesters who shut down the BART system on Black Friday pay $70,000 in restitution, the Chron reports. The proposal is being sponsored by director Rebecca Saltzman, who represents Oakland on the BART board.

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After Strikes And Protests, Kaiser Nurses Approve New Contract

by Sam Levin
Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 10:47 AM

Kaiser Oakland nurses protesting last year. - FILE PHOTO / SAM LEVIN
  • file photo / sam levin
  • Kaiser Oakland nurses protesting last year.
After a tense dispute with Kaiser Permanente, the California Nurses Association announced today that it has approved a three-year contract that includes the addition of hundreds of new registered nurse positions and a substantial pay increase for workers. For months, nurses at Kaiser — the Oakland-based healthcare giant that runs hospitals across California — have staged protests and strikes demanding better working conditions for nurses and improvements in patient safety. In Oakland, where Kaiser opened a new medical center last summer, nurses have repeatedly argued that they are dramatically understaffed and that the hospital has become too reliant on faulty technology, making it difficult for nurses to adequately care for patients. 

The agreement today covers 21 Kaiser hospitals and 65 clinics across Northern and Central California — a collective bargaining unit of 18,000 registered nurses and nurse practitioners, the largest in the country. The union, which is part of the National Nurses United, said that nurses "overwhelmingly approved" the new pact in membership meetings last week. 

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Friday, January 23, 2015

Drive a Car in Oakland? Your Movements Are Being Tracked by the Oakland Police, Especially if You're in a Low-Income Area

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 12:05 PM

Stationary ALPR camera array at the intersection of Linda Avenue and Kingston Avenue installed by the City of Piedmont in 2014. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Stationary ALPR camera array at the intersection of Linda Avenue and Kingston Avenue installed by the City of Piedmont in 2014.
Back in 2008, San Leandro’s police began cruising about the city with a new surveillance gadget, automated license plate readers, or ALPRs. Last year, the City of Piedmont finished installing ALPR cameras at multiple intersections bordering Oakland. And for years now Oakland’s cops have had their own little fleet of vehicles mounted with ALPR cameras. So if you drive in the East Bay, it’s very likely that you’ve been tagged while out and about, and furthermore that local police could, if they wanted to, mine this data to get a sense of where you’ve been, and when you went there. In fact, ALPR technology has proliferated across California. And due to the novelty of ALPR, and the secrecy of many police agencies, little information has been released yet to allow the public to understand the full implications of the mass collection of license plate data.

“As cities and counties across the country pursue new law enforcement technologies, EFF is on a mission to use transparency as a counterbalance to mass surveillance,” write Jeremy Gillula and Dave Maass of the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a recent blog post that accompanies the organization’s release of a new trove of information related to the use of ALPR.

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