Friday, January 23, 2015

Feds Give West Oakland Health Council A Second Chance

by Sam Levin
Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 10:25 AM

FILE PHOTO / BERT JOHNSON
  • file photo / bert johnson
The West Oakland Health Council (WOHC), a critical safety-net health center for the poor and uninsured, may not be losing its much-needed federal funding after all. Earlier this month, I wrote about an impending health crisis in West Oakland surrounding the federal government's determination that WOHC — a nonprofit organization that has provided medical care in the area since 1968 — was failing to provide adequate patient services and was suffering from a range of management problems. As a result, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) said it would be ending its funding to WOHC starting in March — a move that county health officials feared could leave many low-income residents without access to primary care. 

Today, officials with HRSA informed me that the federal agency has since reversed its decision and now plans to give WOHC an opportunity to correct its outstanding violations of federal health center guidelines. As a result, WOHC will continue to receive federal funding through March of 2016, a HRSA spokesperson said. 

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Emeryville Poised to Leapfrog Oakland With Minimum Wage Hike as High as $14

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 10:34 AM

Emeryville's Bay Street Mall contains dozens of shops and restaurants with low-wage employees.
  • Emeryville's Bay Street Mall contains dozens of shops and restaurants with low-wage employees.
The Emeryville City Council decided this week to draft an “aggressively scheduled” ordinance to raise the city's minimum wage to potentially as high as $14.03 before the end of this year. If approved, Emeryville's minimum wage would surge ahead of that of Oakland and Berkeley.

Although it's far from a done deal, all but one of Emeryville's five councilmembers seemed to support a minimum wage increase above Oakland's soon to be implemented $12.25.

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Thursday Must Reads: Developer Unveils Plans for Massive Oakland Housing Project; Federal Monitor Gives OPD Its Highest-Ever Rating

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 10:09 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Developer SunCal is finally moving forward with its plans to build a massive housing project on the former Oak Knoll Naval property in the Oakland hills, the Trib$ reports. Years in the making, SunCal’s plans were derailed previously by the implosion of its former financial partner Lehman Brothers at the start of the Great Recession. SunCal, which now has new financial backing, wants to build a total of 935 single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments on the 187-acre site.

Robert Warshaw.
  • Robert Warshaw.
2. Federal Court Monitor Robert Warshaw has given the Oakland Police Department its highest-ever rating in its twelve-year reform effort, the Trib$ reports. Warshaw said that OPD has met nineteen of the 22 reform tasks required for the department to emerge from federal control. Two of the remaining three tasks are connected to the city and OPD’s inability to discipline problem officers. The other involves concerns about racial profiling in police stops.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Alameda County Democrats Call for Resignation of White Official Who Used Racial Slur

by Steven Tavares
Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 5:34 PM

Laython Landis.
  • Laython Landis.
The Alameda County Democratic Central Committee called for Oro Loma Sanitary District board member Laython Landis to resign this week following his use of a racial slur during a meeting in December.

The sanitary district, which services customers in San Leandro, San Lorenzo, and unincorporated Alameda County, censured Landis last month and removed him from all of the board’s standing committees for a number of inappropriate acts, including him uttering the phrase, “It’s raining cats and dogs and [n-word] babies.”

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Loan Broker for Gibson McElhaney's Sister Was Recently Disciplined by California Bureau of Real Estate

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 4:51 PM

Gibson McElhaney.
  • Gibson McElhaney.
As we reported in this week’s issue, city council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney co-invested her personal money in an Oakland property in which her nonprofit's business partner, Richard Reese, and his company Nakatoma Acquisitions, also held an interest. The property was owned by the Councilmember's sister, Andrea Gibson Nobles.

Gibson McElhaney loaned her sister $26,000 on an Oakland hills house that Gibson Nobles purchased in December 2013 for $820,000. Gibson Nobles sold the house last month for $1.28 million.

According to interviews and records, Reese helped Gibson Nobles find the Oakland hills house, as well as line up financing through a private lending company to purchase the home. Gibson McElhaney characterized Reese’s subsequent $36,000 loan to her sister as “construction completion money” to finish renovations being done to the property, and said her own loan to her sister was to stabilize the property after it became apparent Gibson Nobles could not finance the mortgage. Gibson McElhaney insisted to us that the house was to be her sister's home, not an investment property.

The original $820,000 loan from a non-bank lender, the renovations, and re-sale of the house within one year for a $460,000 markup, however, indicate the house was an investment property, not a personal home. 

The deal raises new questions about potential conflicts of interest with respect to Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services' dealings with Richard Reese.

But there's more. California Department of Real Estate records show that the broker who Gibson Nobles, with Reese's help, went through to obtain the initial $820,000 loan was disciplined last year for professional misconduct.

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Berkeley to Consider New Living Wage, Minimum Wage Policies

by Sam Levin
Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 4:25 PM

Julio Castro. - FILE PHOTO / SAM LEVIN
  • file photo / sam levin
  • Julio Castro.
For years, Julio Castro, a former employee of a City of Berkeley contractor, has alleged that city officials have failed to enforce Berkeley's living wage law. The crux of Castro's complaint was that his employer LAZ Parking, a private company that manages three city-owned garages, had denied him compensation in violation of Berkeley's living wage policy — and that the city repeatedly neglected to do anything about it, despite his extensive documentation of the violations and a state ruling in his favor. 

Now, city officials are considering a revised living wage policy that could help ensure that private contractors pay employees like Castro the full wages they deserve. The proposed revisions are on the agenda tonight at a Berkeley Commission on Labor meeting, at which time officials will also discuss proposed reforms to the city's minimum wage law, relating to paid sick leave and healthcare benefits. 

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Wednesday Must Reads: Lawmakers Push Right-to-Die Bill; Bird Death Toll from Mystery Goo Reaches 100

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jan 21, 2015 at 10:09 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

State Senator Lois Wolk.
  • State Senator Lois Wolk.
1. Two Democratic state lawmakers introduced legislation today that would allow physicians to prescribe life-ending drugs to terminally ill patients in California, the Chron and Mercury News$ report. The so-called right-to-die bill is modeled on Oregon’s “death with dignity” law, and is being propelled by the recent case of a terminally ill 29-year-old East Bay woman — Brittany Maynard — who moved to Oregon to end her life. The legislation is being sponsored by state Senators Lois Wolk of Davis and Bill Monning of Carmel.

2. The number of Bay Area sea birds that have died after being exposed to a mysterious goo has reached one hundred, the CoCo Times$ reports. In addition, about three hundred birds have been found covered in the gunk, many of them along the shoreline near the San Leandro marina, the Hayward Regional Shoreline, and parts of Alameda.

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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tuesday Must Reads: Some Republicans Support Gas Tax Hike; Brown and Napolitano May Create Tuition Panel

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Jan 20, 2015 at 10:03 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

gas-pump.jpg
1. With oil prices continuing to plunge, some prominent Republicans in Congress are voicing support for raising the federal gas tax to pay for road repairs and infrastructure improvements nationwide, the Chron reports. Congressmember Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, said he’s going to take advantage of the GOP support to introduce a carbon tax in the House. The federal gas tax has been 18.3 cents a gallon since 1993, and the federal Highway Trust Fund is slated to run out of money in May.

2. Governor Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano, who have clashed in recent months over the funding of higher education in California, may take the unusual step of appointing themselves to a two-person committee to discuss student tuition and the state budget, the Chron reports.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

Residents Collect Donations for Victim of West Oakland Bike Crash, Robbery

by Sam Levin
Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 11:43 AM

Greg Lowrie - VIA FACEBOOK
  • via Facebook
  • Greg Lowrie
When Maggie Lowrie's son Greg failed to make it to his appointment at a West Oakland health clinic last Tuesday, she knew something was wrong. Greg, who is 25 years old and suffers from a serious heart defect, was supposed to meet his mother after the appointment, but never showed. After Maggie called the West Oakland Health Center and heard that there had been a serious bike accident nearby, she knew it had to be Greg. At Highland Hospital soon after, her fears were confirmed: While biking to his appointment, Greg had been hit by a pickup truck one block away from the center in a crash that sent him flying off of his bike. "I love my son so much," Maggie told me last week. "He needs to get better." 

The horrific accident on 8th and Union streets — which left Greg unconscious in critical condition, with brain damage, a crushed pelvis, and other serious injuries — has since received a lot of media attention, because of another terrible aspect of the incident. Witnesses to the collision, first reported by ABC7News, apparently proceeded to rob the 81-year-old truck driver (who stayed on the scene) along with the unconscious cyclist. Now, East Bay residents are collecting donations to support Maggie and her son through this difficult time. Their troubles aren't limited to Greg's immediate medical bills. Since Maggie lost her job in 2012 and eventually lost her home in Berkeley, the mother and son have been living out of an RV in West Oakland, and even if Greg recovers smoothly, Maggie said she knows she won't be able to take care of him without a proper home and long-term medical treatment. 

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Monday Must Reads: East Bay Marked By Cluster of Unvaccinated Kids; Anti-Police Violence Protesters Demonstrate At Schaaf’s House

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Jan 19, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The East Bay is home to a statistically significant cluster of unvaccinated children, raising concerns about more disease outbreaks, the Chron reports, citing a new Kaiser study published in the journal Pediatrics. Areas of Marin, Napa, Sonoma, and San Francisco counties also show substantial numbers of unvaccinated children, which experts attribute to the anti-vaccination movement. Anti-vaccination has been linked to the measles outbreak connected to Disneyland.

Libby Schaaf.
  • Libby Schaaf.
2. Anti-police violence demonstrators held a series of protests over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend in the East Bay, including a peaceful demonstration this morning outside the home of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, the Chron reports. Protesters criticized Schaaf for spending her first day as mayor with the Oakland Police Department.

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