Sunday, May 31, 2015

Opinion: Broken Windows or Broken Lives?

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf’s crackdown on protests is sure to fail.

by Rachel Lederman
Sun, May 31, 2015 at 4:04 PM

Under pressure from businesses after a large May Day demonstration in which dozens of new cars and bank windows were smashed, Oakland’s new mayor, Libby Schaaf, has instituted a ban on nighttime street marches that has outraged the Oakland activist community. The mayor’s directive violates a federal court order, and has escalated ongoing tension between police and protesters — while doing nothing to address the serious issues of state-sponsored racism, extrajudicial killings, and police impunity that are at the heart of the growing national movement.

May 23 protest in Oakland. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM/FILE PHOTO
  • Darwin BondGraham/File photo
  • May 23 protest in Oakland.
Banning protests doesn’t work as a way to stop property damage or quench popular anger. Across the bay, San Francisco tried it in response to vandalism during protests over the 1992 acquittals of the Los Angeles police officers who beat Rodney King. The resulting National Lawyers Guild (NLG) lawsuit cost San Francisco $1 million, and led to a Ninth Circuit Court decision recognizing that First Amendment activity may not be banned simply because prior similar activity involved property damage. As the court put it, the constitutional way for police to deal with “unlawful conduct that may be intertwined with First Amendment activity is to punish it after it occurs, rather than to prevent the First Amendment activity from occurring in order to obviate the possible unlawful conduct.”

SFPD learned its lesson, such that over the last ten years, San Francisco has paid zero in protest-related police misconduct settlements, while Oakland has paid more than $10 million.


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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Ten FBI Agents Joining Oakland Police Department

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, May 27, 2015 at 10:15 AM

Lieutenant Roland Holmgren of the Oakland Police Department will oversee a joint OPD-FBI task force. Bruce Stoffmacher of OPD in background. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Lieutenant Roland Holmgren of the Oakland Police Department will oversee a joint OPD-FBI task force. Bruce Stoffmacher of OPD in background.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is committing $110,000 toward the creation of a state-of-the-art center for investigations in the Oakland Police Department, according to a briefing provided by OPD and the FBI at the Oakland City Council's public safety committee meeting last night. The FBI funds will support the buildout of a $173,000 work space inside OPD's Police Administration Building, and officials said the center will utilize the latest technologies to analyze social networks and track persons of interest across state lines. The joint effort will bring as many as ten FBI agents into OPD’s criminal investigations division to expand the department’s investigative capacity.

The new facility will include twelve computer workstations with access to FBINet, the bureau’s classified intranet. According to a 2007 General Accounting Office report to Congress, FBINet "communicates secret information, including investigative case files and intelligence pertaining to national security," and has been a critical tool in the creation of so-called fusion centers that collect and share law enforcement information between federal, state and local agencies.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Chief Justice Seeks Emergency Traffic Court Reform, Jerry Brown Pushes Amnesty Program

by Sam Levin
Tue, May 26, 2015 at 4:02 PM

Donna Turner, a Berkeley resident who lost her license due to traffic fine debts. - BERT JOHNSON / FILE PHOTO
  • Bert Johnson / file photo
  • Donna Turner, a Berkeley resident who lost her license due to traffic fine debts.
Traffic courts throughout California trap people in poverty with exorbitant fines and harsh policies that can make it very challenging for low-income people to resolve minor infractions — a problem I explored in-depth in a recent feature story, "The High Cost of Driving While Poor." In the wake of increased media scrutiny tied to a damning report on traffic fines — co-authored by the East Bay Community Law Center and other California legal aid groups — state officials have proposed a number of solutions aimed at tackling some of the inequities of this legal system.

Last week, California Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye announced that she is pushing for an "emergency action" that would help address one of the central concerns of critics — that the court system is often inaccessible to people who can't pay expensive fines upfront. Cantil-Sakauye's efforts come as Governor Jerry Brown, in his latest budget proposal, has continued his push for a so-called "amnesty program" that would reduce the amount of outstanding traffic court debts for some defendants. 

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Monday, May 25, 2015

Hundreds of Demonstrators Take to the Streets for a Second Night of Protests Against Mayor Schaaf's Nighttime Ban

And OPD assigns investigators to enforce the new policy.

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, May 25, 2015 at 12:30 PM

A demonstrator faces off against Oakland police at Sunday's march against Mayor Schaaf's new ban on nighttime street marches. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • A demonstrator faces off against Oakland police at Sunday's march against Mayor Schaaf's new ban on nighttime street marches.
On Sunday night in Oakland, several hundred demonstrators marched again in defiance of Mayor Libby Schaaf's ban on nighttime street protests. It marked the second rally in open defiance of the ban since a demonstration on Thursday evening was forced off the streets by an overwhelming police presence.

Organized by an interfaith group of spiritual leaders, the demonstrators gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza at 8 pm on Sunday evening.

“The mayor wants to use broad brush strokes to paint anyone protesting after dark as people who want to do what they call 'violence,' by smashing windows,” said Katie Loncke, one of the organizers.

See also: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Institutes Ban On Nighttime Street Protests
See also: Hundreds Challenge Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's Nighttime Protest Ban, Planning Commissioner Among Those Detained


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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Hundreds Challenge Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's Nighttime Protest Ban, Planning Commissioner Among Those Detained

Several Oakland police officers also defy policy on wearing body cameras.

by Darwin BondGraham
Sun, May 24, 2015 at 9:36 AM

Oakland police enforce a nighttime ban on street marches by detaining dozens of demonstrators. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Oakland police enforce a nighttime ban on street marches by detaining dozens of demonstrators.
Oakland police last night detained 52 peaceful demonstrators — including Oakland Planning Commissioner Jahmese Myers — who were protesting Mayor Libby Schaaf's new controversial policy banning nighttime street protests. In addition, numerous Oakland police officers appeared to openly defy the department's policy of wearing body cameras.

Just after sunset on Saturday, approximately 150 demonstrators marched from 14th Street and Broadway to the Police Administration Building and then to Jack London Square, taking over the street to protest the new ban. At least one demonstrator was arrested on Broadway. Lieutenant Randell Wingate said the person was arrested for refusing an order to walk on the other side of the street. Under the mayor's new policy, which civil rights attorneys say is illegal, demonstrators are not allowed on city streets after dark and can only march on sidewalks. The mayor has said that the ban is designed to end vandalism during protests. 

The Oakland Police Department deployed a large force of officers to follow the demonstrators. No vandalism was apparent, however. The rally was organized by the same group of Black women who attempted to march on Thursday night but encountered the first enforcement of Mayor Schaaf's new nighttime street marching ban.

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Friday, May 22, 2015

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Institutes Ban On Nighttime Street Protests

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, May 22, 2015 at 4:03 PM

Police surround demonstrators on Broadway in Oakland — before dark — last evening. - AL OSORIO
  • Al Osorio
  • Police surround demonstrators on Broadway in Oakland — before dark — last evening.
Police forced a peaceful march that was organized by Black women off the streets of Oakland last evening in an unusual show of force that heralds the first enforcement of a nighttime prohibition on street demonstrations. Last night’s protest was part of a national day of action called #SayHerName focusing on police violence against women and transgender people.

The rally began just before sunset in Frank Ogawa Plaza where about 200–300 people had gathered. After several speeches and recitations of poetry, the protesters announced their intention to march to the Oakland Police Administration Building seven blocks away. Demonstrators had not yet stepped off the sidewalk and into the intersection of 14th Street and Broadway when OPD addressed the crowd through an amplified sound system, stating that the march was “unpermitted.” As demonstrators walked into the street, police immediately ordered them back onto the sidewalk, citing California Vehicle Code Section 2800, which makes it an arrestable offense to not comply with orders of a police officer.

“The fact is we were threatened with arrest for marching,” said Cat Brooks, one of the facilitators of the protest. “This was a Black women’s and children’s rally saying to the police, please stop killing us, and our woman mayor organized the harshest response we’ve seen yet.”

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Friday Must Reads: Grand Jury Probes PG&E’s Cozy Relationship with State; Alameda County Median Home Price Nears $700K

by Robert Gammon
Fri, May 22, 2015 at 9:56 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. A federal grand jury has opened a criminal probe into the cozy relationship between PG&E and the state agency that was supposed to regulate it — the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), the Chron$ reports. As part of the probe, investigators served search warrants on the homes of former CPUC chair Michael Peevey and ex-PG&E executive Brian Cherry. Previously disclosed emails revealed that Peevey had secretly colluded with Cherry to help PG&E avoid punishment for its pipeline safety negligence.

home_for_sale_sign.jpg
2. The Bay Area housing market remains red hot, as the median home price in Alameda County reached $690,000 last month, the Mercury News$ reports. The median price in Contra Costa County rose to $490,000.

3. Tax proceeds from the sale of real estate have boosted Oakland’s finances. The Trib$ reports that the city is projecting a budget surplus of about $5 million by June 30.

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

24 Bay Area CEOs Were Collectively Paid More Than Half a Billion Last Year

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, May 21, 2015 at 12:34 PM

Nicholas Woodman of GoPro.
  • Nicholas Woodman of GoPro.
Last Saturday, The New York Times and Equilar released their annual compensation survey of America’s top paid CEOs. The Times focused mostly on which companies and industries are most lavishly feathering the nests of their executives, but buried in the big list of the 200 highest paid US executives is a Bay Area story.

Twenty four of the top 200 highest paid CEOs in America – almost one in every eight – run companies headquartered in the Bay Area. Collectively these two dozen head honchos were given cash, stock, and options awards worth $563,362,711 in 2014. That’s roughly equal to what 22,000 full-time minimum wage workers will make in Oakland this year. (Oakland's minimum wage is one of the highest in the nation at $12.25 an hour.)


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Thursday Must Reads: NFL Applies Pressure to Oakland Over Raiders; Bay Bridge Rod Snapped

by Robert Gammon
Thu, May 21, 2015 at 9:47 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

coliseum_city_updated.jpeg
1. Top NFL officials are applying pressure to the City of Oakland, criticizing city leaders for not coming up with a concrete plan to finance a new stadium for the Raiders, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. City officials have said that private developer Floyd Kephart, who plans to build Coliseum City, has until June 21 to present his proposal. The sticking point is money: The Raiders say they can come up with $500 million for the $1 billion stadium, but Mayor Libby Schaaf has vowed not to spend any public dollars on new sports facilities.

2. Caltrans officials revealed that a steel rod on the new Bay Bridge fractured, but the agency said it was too early to tell whether it broke because of corrosion caused by rods being submerged in water for long periods of time, the Chron reports. Engineering experts say the rod shows signs of rust, and that the fracture raises concerns about whether other steel rods on the bridge will also fail. Caltrans plans to test the rod for corrosion.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Tells Developers that Boomtown Must Be Equitable

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, May 20, 2015 at 4:31 PM

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf speaking at the Bisnow real estate development conference in Oakland on May 20, 2015. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf speaking at the Bisnow real estate development conference in Oakland on May 20, 2015.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf told an audience of hundreds of real estate developers, lawyers, and investors gathered in Oakland's Marriott Hotel this morning that her administration is working to ensure the economic boom benefits both newcomers and long-time residents. But she emphasized that her administration has already put policies in place to assist developers who want to build in the city’s increasingly hot real estate market.

“Rents and real estate prices are very quickly rising,” Schaaf told the conference, organized by Bisnow, a commercial real estate trade publication. “We want Oakland to grow and revitalize, but we want the prosperity to be shared, to lift up, not to push out our long-term residents.”

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