Thursday, September 24, 2015

Thursday Must Reads: Bay Bridge Rod Fix Will Cost Tollpayers; Ex-Concessionaire Sues Yosemite in $51 Million Dispute

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 10:09 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Water-logged steel rods on the new Bay Bridge could cost as much as $25 million to fix and tollpayers likely will have to pay much of that amount, the Chron$ reports. The steel rods inside the span’s signature tower are inundated with saltwater from the bay due to shoddy workmanship. Regional transportation officials, however, are neither sure of the exact costs to fix the problem nor whether they will be able to charge bridge builder American Bridge/Fluor for it.

The Ahwanhee Hotel. - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
  • Wikimedia Commons
  • The Ahwanhee Hotel.
2. Ex-Yosemite National Park concessionaire Delaware North has sued the National Park Service in a dispute over iconic place names in Yosemite, including the Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, and Badger Pass, the SacBee$ reports. Earlier this year, the park service awarded the Yosemite concessions contract to another company, Aramark, after Delaware North claimed that it owned the naming rights to numerous places in Yosemite and demanded that the park service hand over $51 million for the rights to those names.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Breaking: Oakland and Waste Management Propose Cheaper Composting Rates for Restaurants

by Sam Levin
Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 10:55 AM

  • file photo / Waste Management
In response to Oakland restauranteurs' protests against massive rate increases for composting under the city's new waste contract, city officials and the private contractor Waste Management have agreed to lower businesses' fees for disposing food waste. The City Administrator's Office will soon release a proposal to substantially lower the commercial composting rates in the contract that began in July, according to City Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington.

The new proposal, which the Oakland City Council will consider in a meeting on September 29, comes after businesses and environmental advocates were outraged to discover that not only are restaurants facing exorbitant composting rate increases, but Waste Management is actually now charging more for composting than for trash. That means that the city has created a major financial incentive for restaurants to dump their food waste into the garbage to go to the landfill instead of composting and recycling it — a feature of the contract that clearly contradicts the city's "zero waste" and sustainability goals. Under the new proposal, business composting services would be cheaper than trash services, according to Campbell Washington.

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Wednesday Must Reads: Uber Buys Oakland Sears Building for Expansion; Oakland City Attorney Sues Wells Fargo for Predatory Lending

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Sep 23, 2015 at 10:15 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Uber, the controversial ride app giant, has purchased the old Sears building in Uptown Oakland for it new East Bay headquarters. The San Francisco Business Times$ broke the story last night. Uber plans to add 2,000 to 3,000 employees in Oakland as part of an expansion plan, the Trib$ reports. Uber has attracted huge amounts of investment capital, but is also facing a potentially costly class-action lawsuit from its drivers. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf hailed Uber’s announcement, and the city hopes the company’s move will spur more office construction in downtown.

Barbara Parker.
  • Barbara Parker.
2. Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker has sued Wells Fargo, alleging that the banking behemoth preyed on Black and Latino residents with toxic mortgages in violation of the law, the Trib$ reports. Parker alleges that Wells Fargo steered Black and Latino residents into expensive high-risk loans when they had qualified for traditional loans.

3. The state Controller’s Office has launched a probe into the City of Richmond’s finances, pointing to irregularities in the city’s financial reporting and the city’s relatively poor fiscal condition, the CoCo Times$ reports.

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Oakland’s Head of Revenue Forced Out Amid Contract Scandal

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 5:33 PM

Oakland City Hall. - BERT JOHNSON / FILE PHOTO
  • Bert Johnson / file photo
  • Oakland City Hall.
Oakland City Administrator Sabrina Landreth has forced out the city’s head of revenue, David McPherson, according to multiple city sources who asked not to be identified because personnel matters are considered confidential. The move comes after Oakland was sued for breach of contract by a company that alleges McPherson stole their software.

City spokesperson Karen Boyd would neither confirm nor deny that McPherson has been put on leave by Landreth. Boyd did write in an email, however, that Margaret O’Brien, a revenue analyst, is “filling in as Revenue Administrator” in place of McPherson. Several city staff members said McPherson has been placed on indefinite leave while the city tries to resolve questions about his handling of contracts. Staffers said senior city officials have made it clear to them in meetings that McPherson is being replaced.

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Tuesday Must Reads: San Francisco Bay Inundated with Billions of Pieces of Plastic; Barbara Lee Announces Federal Grant to Hire 15 Oakland Cops

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 9:54 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. San Francisco Bay is inundated with billions of tiny pieces of plastic — likely caused by plastic microbeads in cosmetics and toothpaste and bits of synthetic fabric, such as fleece, that break down when washed, the Mercury News$ reports, citing a new groundbreaking study from the San Francisco Estuary Institute. Researchers found about 1 million tiny pieces of plastic per square kilometer in the bay — a concentration far greater than what had been previously recorded in the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, and other US bodies of water. Governor Jerry Brown has not yet indicated whether he will sign legislation that would ban the use of plastic microbeads in cosmetics and personal care products in California.

Barbara Lee.
  • Barbara Lee.
2. Congressmember Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, announced that the federal government has awarded a grant to Oakland to help pay for fifteen new police officers, the Trib$ reports. The $1.875 million grant, however, will only pay about one-third the cost of fifteen cops, so the Oakland City Council will need to appropriate the rest of the funds — or, the city will lose the grant.

3. A federal judge upheld most of Berkeley’s cellphone warning label law, but struck down an aspect of it that sought to warn consumers that the radiation risks from cellphones are greater for children, the Chron reports. Judge Edward Chen ruled that the law’s language on children is not based on scientific consensus, while the rest of the city’s law is — and follows federal guidelines. The cellphone industry sued to overturn all of Berkeley’s law, and will appeal Chen’s decision.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Live: Oakland City Council Hearing on Coal

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 4:09 PM

9/22/2015 10:00am: Last night’s city council hearing on the health and safety impacts of coal ran late into the night. According to Oakland City Clerk LaTonda Simmons, 694 members of the public signed up to speak.

A worker cedes his time to Jerry Bridges, president and CEO of TLS. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • A worker cedes his time to Jerry Bridges, president and CEO of TLS.
At the end of the night, councilmember Dan Kalb moved a motion to keep the city’s hearing on the health and safety impacts of coal open until October 5. The public is invited to continue submitting comments and evidence until then. Kalb’s motion sets a deadline for a city decision, which could result in permitting or banning coal shipments through the city: December 8.

A few things were apparent from last night’s council hearing. Pro-coal speakers are worried mainly about securing jobs. They repeatedly said if the city bans coal it could cost Oakland thousands of jobs.

Opponents of coal said, however, that this isn’t a jobs versus environment battle. Leaders from the ILWU Local 10, ILWU Local 6, SEIU 1021 (including the leader of its port chapter) all said that the city doesn’t have to accept coal to successfully create jobs at the Oakland Global project and its bulk commodity terminal.

What was also apparent last night was that CCIG and TLS, the companies behind the coal export proposal, bused in dozens of construction workers to the council hearing, and signed them up for the public comment period, but none of these workers were allowed to speak to the council.

Instead they were instructed to cede their time to CCIG’s lobbyists, attorneys, and other experts paid by CCIG to speak in favor of coal. It’s not the first time, and it won’t be the last time, big business literally paid for the appearance of popular support. I wrote about this tactic back in March. And I’m not the only reporter who noticed it happening again last night.

All night long I attempted to interview at least 20 of the workers brought to the council meeting by but none of them would utter a word. Instead they would look down at the ground. Some would mutter in Spanish that they didn’t speak English. Two of them actually fled me and ducked into a bathroom to avoid my questions. All I wanted to know was why they came to the council meeting, and how they felt about the possibility of shipping coal through Oakland.

But one of these workers did talk to me.

“Lots of these guys are getting paid their regular hourly wage to be here. They were given free lunches and these T-shirts too,” said Oscar Madrigao, a construction worker brought to the meeting by Alarcon Construction, one of CCIG’s subcontractors.

“They’re being used,” said Madrigao about his fellow workers.

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Buying Support for Coal

Businessmen who want to export coal from Oakland promised to pay money to environmental groups and churches in exchange for their support.

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 1:26 PM

click image Terminal Logistics Solutions president and CEO Jerry Bridges. - US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS
  • US Army Corps of Engineers
  • Terminal Logistics Solutions president and CEO Jerry Bridges.
In a series of quiet meetings, the businessmen behind a plan to export millions of tons of coal from the Oakland waterfront have offered local churches and environmental organizations money in exchange for their support, the Express has learned. According to several sources with firsthand knowledge of the meetings, Jerry Bridges and Omar Benjamin, both former Port of Oakland executive directors who now lead Terminal Logistics Solutions (TLS), the private company that wants to export the coal from the redeveloped old Oakland Army Base, met with leaders of West Oakland environmental organizations and several churches to offer them potentially millions of dollars if they would agree to back their plan. Bridges and a paid lobbyist have also been speaking at influential Oakland churches to rally support for coal.

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Monday Must Reads: Oakland and Alameda County Cut Ties with Coliseum City Developer; Governor to Sign Equal Pay Law

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Sep 21, 2015 at 9:19 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Oakland and Alameda County officials have decided to cut ties with Coliseum City developer Floyd Kephart, who was unable to come up with a feasible financing plan for a massive project that was to have included new sports facilities, along with housing, restaurants, and bars, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. The decision means that city and county officials will negotiate directly with the Oakland Raiders and the A’s on plans for new stadiums for both teams. The biggest stumbling block is the Raiders, because the team has a $400 million funding gap for a new stadium. Kephart’s contract with the city and county will expire this week.

2. Governor Jerry Brown has indicated that he plans to sign equal-pay legislation that will make it easier for women to sue their employers if men are paid higher wages for the same type of work, the AP reports (via the SacBee$). The pending Fair Pay Act “stipulates employers can justify higher wages for men only if the pay is based on seniority, a merit system, quantity or quality of production, or any other ‘bona fide factor other than sex.’”

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Friday, September 18, 2015

East Bay Labor Unions Say 'No' to Coal in Oakland

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Sep 18, 2015 at 11:50 AM

A Union Pacific train laden with coal passing through the Sierra Nevada foothills toward the Bay Area in August 2015. - TOM ANDERSON
  • Tom Anderson
  • A Union Pacific train laden with coal passing through the Sierra Nevada foothills toward the Bay Area in August 2015.
The official voice of the labor movement in the East Bay has come out against plans to export coal from Oakland. This morning, the Alameda Labor Council’s executive committee passed a resolution opposing the export of coal from the bulk commodity terminal planned for construction at the city’s former Army Base.

The resolution cites health hazards and environmental harms that are likely to result from shipping and storing coal in West Oakland — hazards that will impact both workers and Oakland residents.

“Jobs involving coal are unhealthy and unsafe due to dust emissions; coal is increasingly an anti-union industry,” states the resolution. “West Oakland residents are already twice as likely to visit the emergency room for asthma as the average Alameda County resident, and are also more likely to die of cancer, heart and lung disease… .”

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Friday Must Reads: OPD Hires First-Ever Civilian Director for Internal Affairs; Chances of El Niño Winter Rise to 95 Percent

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Sep 18, 2015 at 10:03 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent hired the department’s first-ever civilian director for internal affairs — Winkle Hobie Hong, a lawyer with years of police oversight experience in Chicago, the Trib$ reports. The hiring of Hong, who has never been a cop, fulfilled a policy initiative launched by Mayor Libby Schaaf, who has pushed for impartial oversight of OPD. In Chicago, Hong also had worked with Anthony Finnell, who is now the executive director of the Oakland Citizens’ Police Review Board.

2. Climatologists increased the likelihood of an El Niño winter in California this year to 95 percent, further raising hopes that a wetter-than-normal rainy season will help relieve the state’s punishing drought, the Chron reports. El Niños, which are created by warm ocean temperatures, have been associated with above-normal precipitation in the past — but this year’s weather event likely will not hit Northern California until after the 2015 fire season.

  • Sunshine Townsend/EBRPD
  • Lake Anza.
3. Lake Anza in Tilden Park in Berkeley is now closed because of a toxic algae bloom that’s likely related to the drought and warmer-than-normal temperatures, Berkeleyside reports. The East Bay Regional Park District previously closed Lake Temescal in the Oakland for the same reason.

4. Members of the UC Board of Regents rejected a proposed university intolerance policy because they said it failed to take a stand against alleged anti-Semitism toward Jews on campuses, the Chron reports. Several Jewish students spoke out against the intolerance policy, but the issue of anti-Semitism has become highly charged because some Jewish students want criticism of Israel and opposition to policies toward Palestinians to be labeled anti-Semitic.

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