Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Alameda County To Reduce Jail Funding, Prioritize Social Services

by Sam Levin
Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 5:25 PM

click image Supervisor Keith Carson.
  • Supervisor Keith Carson.
The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted today to reduce funding for jail cells and increase investments in social services and community-based organizations. The proposal from Supervisor Keith Carson is to dedicate 50 percent of the county's so-called Public Safety Realignment budget toward community-based groups that work with people reentering society after incarceration. It will go into effect in the 2015-16 fiscal year budget, which begins in July. That means the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, which runs Santa Rita Jail, will no longer get a majority of the public safety dollars, as it has for years. 

The vote this afternoon is a big victory for the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, an Oakland-based nonprofit that has argued for months that the county should stop spending so much of its public safety funding on its jails and instead prioritize critical services that help prevent low-level offenders from returning to jail or prison. The group's "Jobs Not Jails" campaign called for a minimum 50 percent social services allocation in the county's realignment budget.

The realignment funding became available after the 2011 passage of Assembly Bill 109, a criminal justice reform initiative of Governor Jerry Brown that made counties in charge of low-level, non-violent offenders — instead of the overcrowded and largely ineffective state prison system. 

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County Joins City in Coliseum Development Talks

by Steven Tavares
Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 4:46 PM

If last Friday’s approval by the Oakland City Council of a new exclusive negotiating agreement with Alameda County and the Coliseum City developer felt like politicians spiking the ball, then today's Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting brought the fiscal uncertainty of the sprawling project back to reality. No public subsidy, said county supervisors, who, nonetheless, joined the new three-party agreement.

Coliseum City.
  • Coliseum City.
"I don't support use of any public money on this enterprise," said Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. Although the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the six-month extension of the current ENA, due to lapse on April 21, four of the five supervisors voiced strong opposition to the use of taxpayers’ money for funding a significant portion of the proposed sports, retail, and housing development.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley made it clear during Tuesday afternoon’s meeting that any funding proposal by Floyd Kephart and his development group must not rely on “wholesale” use of public funds. Miley warned there would be “pushback” if Kephart’s New City Development does not finance most of the project.

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Oakland Hacktivists Are Pulling Back the Curtains on Local Campaign Finance

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 10:37 AM

The OpenCalifornia team in Oakland City Hall. - COURTESY OF HOWARD DYCKOFF.
  • Courtesy of Howard Dyckoff.
  • The OpenCalifornia team in Oakland City Hall.
It's 2015. We live in the era of Big Data, and there's an app to fulfill seemingly every want and need. We have mobile access to software that shifts through vast troves of information in real time to provide all kinds of goods and services. Hail a cab? There's an app for that. Track satellites and comets? There's an app for that.

But if you're trying to look at the money behind California's local politics, it still feels like the pre-Internet era.

Lots of local jurisdictions don't provide online access to campaign finance statements. Many still rely on paper filings buried away in clerk's offices, forcing journalists and activists to physically request forms and laboriously read through them to figure out who's giving money, who's taking it, and how the all-mighty dollar influences democracy at the local level.

A team of civic-minded hacktivists and government ethics watchdogs, many of them hailing from Oakland, wants to change this. "OpenCalifornia is a coalition of Code for America brigades (local volunteer civic hacktivists) shining light on the sources of money funding local elections," explains the group's project page on the Knight Foundation website.

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Tuesday Must Reads: High Court to Hear Challenge to Air Pollution Rules; Bird-Killing Wind Turbines in Altamont Up for Extension

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Mar 24, 2015 at 9:58 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The US Supreme Court will hear arguments this week in a case that could roll back new national air pollution standards, the LA Times$ reports. Twenty Republican-led states are suing to block regulations adopted by the Obama administration that would require coal-fired power plants to reduce emissions of mercury and other dangerous toxins by about 90 percent. The states say the new rules will put coal plants out of business and raise energy prices.

2. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors is scheduled today to decide whether to award a waiver to bird-killing wind turbines in the Altamont Pass, the Chron reports. A company, Altamont Winds, wants to keep using 838 turbines that have been shredding thousands of birds each year and contends that replacing them right away is too costly. However, other wind companies in the Altamont have already replaced their older turbines with new ones that are more bird-friendly.

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