Thursday, October 15, 2015

Nextdoor CEO Responds to Racial Profiling Controversy, Announces Changes to Site

by Sam Levin
Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 12:27 PM

Nirav Tolia. - NEXTDOOR
  • Nextdoor
  • Nirav Tolia. co-founder and CEO Nirav Tolia has responded to the recent Express investigation into racial profiling on his website and has announced that the company plans to institute changes to the web platform and is considering new training procedures for staff. In last week's cover story, "Racial Profiling Via," I explored the ways in which white residents across Oakland have used the social networking site to racially profile their neighbors of color. Nextdoor, which provides a free platform for residents to blast messages to their neighbors, has become a popular virtual neighborhood watch site in Oakland with users posting "suspicious activity" warnings about people they observe. In some neighborhoods, residents have labeled innocent Black people as possible criminal suspects simply for walking or driving through a residential area.

In a blogpost published today on Nextdoor, titled "Racial Profiling: The Opposite of Being Neighborly," Tolia cited the Express story and said that racial profiling is a "very difficult issue facing our neighborhoods today." He wrote: "We are incredibly saddened that some neighbors have used Nextdoor in this way. Simply stated: we consider profiling of any kind to be unacceptable."

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CoCo County Launches Plan to Replace PG&E with Green Energy System

by Jean Tepperman
Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 10:26 AM

With a unanimous vote of its board of supervisors this week, Contra Costa County joined the increasing number of Bay Area governments exploring or actually implementing “community choice energy” (CCE) systems. Marin and Sonoma counties are the only ones so far to have actually replaced PG&E as the electricity providers for their residents, but Alameda, San Francisco, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties are all in various stages of setting up similar programs.

In addition to allowing communities to find more “green” electricity, such as wind and solar, community choice electricity programs can also lower rates, as they have in Marin and Sonoma. Proponents in Contra Costa County also emphasize the potential for fostering local clean-energy development as an economic boost to the county.

At Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting, the Contra Costa Clean Energy Alliance, which has been lobbying hard for CCE for more than a year, passed out a fact sheet stating that US Environmental Protection Agency has designated 40,887 acres of land in Contra Costa (mostly former industrial sites) as suitable for renewable energy generation. This means, according to the fact sheet, “Contra Costa’s local renewable production potential could power 1.27 million homes from local renewable energy production.“ It added, “there are 406,772 households in Contra Costa County.”

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Thursday Must Reads: Gavin Newsom to Push Gun Control Measure; CSU Faculty Readies for Strike Vote

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Oct 15, 2015 at 10:04 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Gavin Newsom.
  • Gavin Newsom.
1. Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who is widely expected to run for governor in 2018, is launching a statewide initiative today to put a sweeping gun control measure on the November 2016 ballot, the LA Times$ reports. Newsom’s proposal, which comes amid a series of mass shootings around the country, would require background checks for ammunition purchases and ban the possession of large-capacity magazines. Newsom also is expected to strongly back a measure to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use on next year’s ballot.

2. Faculty members at California State University campuses, including Cal State East Bay, are gearing up for a strike vote on Monday, KQED reports (h/t Rough & Tumble). Faculty members, who are in a contract dispute with CSU, want a 5 percent salary hike and additional 2.65 percent for the lowest paid instructors. CSU is offering a 2 percent across-the-board pay increase.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Famous UC Berkeley Prof Accused of Sexually Harassing Female Students to Resign

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 1:36 PM

Geoff Marcy.
  • Geoff Marcy.
A famous UC Berkeley astronomer, Geoff Marcy, has decided to resign his post as professor at the university in the wake of a sex scandal in which he allegedly harassed female students for years on campus, BuzzFeed News reports. BuzzFeed News science reporter Azeen Ghorayshi, a former Express staffer, broke the news last week of the sexual harassment allegations against Marcy and UC Berkeley’s decision to allow him to keep teaching.

Ghorayshi, who reported the story from New York City, also noted that “Marcy has also resigned as principal investigator of the $100 million Breakthrough Listen project, a large scientific research program aimed at finding life beyond Earth.” Marcy had previously been mentioned as a potential Nobel Prize laureate.

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Wednesday Must Reads: Pundits Say Clinton Won Dem Debate, But Public Favors Sanders; Nearly Half of Californians Want Feinstein to Retire

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Oct 14, 2015 at 9:46 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Washington DC pundits and the mainstream press declared Hillary Clinton the winner of last night’s first Democratic presidential debate, but online polls showed that a super-majority of Americans say Bernie Sanders was the victor. The debate was hosted by CNN and the network’s homepage this morning declared that Clinton was "Poised, passionate and in command " and "Clinton triumphs in Democratic debate.” But CNN’s own social media poll, conducted through Facebook, showed that a whopping 81 percent of respondents said Sanders won the debate, with only 13 percent favoring Clinton. The contradiction fits with the mainstream’s press decision to mostly ignore Sanders even though he’s drawing record crowds to campaign events and leads Clinton in New Hampshire, the first primary state.

2. Nearly half of California voters — 43 percent — think it would be a “bad thing” if six-term senator Dianne Feinstein were to run for reelection next year, the Bay Area News Group$ reports, citing a new Field Poll. Just 41 percent said it would a “good thing.” In addition, 48 percent of independent voters want Feinstein to retire.

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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Impatient with Berkeley Officials, Activists File Ballot Initiative for $15 Minimum Wage by 2017

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 5:55 PM

Children at a campaign rally for Oakland's minimum wage initiative in 2014. - BROOKE ANDERSON / FILE PHOTO
  • Brooke Anderson / file photo
  • Children at a campaign rally for Oakland's minimum wage initiative in 2014.
A coalition of community organizations and labor unions announced today that they have filed paperwork to place a proposition on Berkeley's 2016 ballot that would raise the city's minimum wage to $15 in 2017, and then increase it in subsequent years until the minimum wage is the same as the city's living wage. If passed, the measure would institute the highest local minimum wage in the United States.

Berkeley is one of the most expensive communities in the United State to live and work in, especially with respect to home prices and rents. Many minimum wage workers in Berkeley commute from nearby cities where housing prices have also spiked.

Members of the coalition who filed the ballot proposition said they have lost patience with the Berkeley City Council and mayor over the question of when and how to raise the city's minimum wage. They also said that Berkeley's existing minimum wage law lacks features that have made similar laws in nearby cities more successful.

  • Darwin BondGraham

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Oakland Considers Removing Car Lanes, Adding Bikeways on Grand Avenue

by Sam Levin
Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 1:46 PM

click image Current conditions on Grand Avenue. - WOBO
  • WOBO
  • Current conditions on Grand Avenue.
Grand Avenue is one of the most popular roads for cyclists in Oakland — and by some measures is also one of the most dangerous. That's according to the city's own research, which has found that parts of Grand Avenue near downtown and Lake Merritt attract very high volumes of cyclists, but have also had a high number of collisions over the years. Part of the problem, according to bike advocates, is that the bike lane on Grand Avenue is inconsistent — cyclists riding east from downtown toward the Grand Lake district are forced to leave the bike lane and merge into car traffic near the Grand Lake Theater. 

Now, the city is proposing adding new bike lanes on Grand Avenue between Elwood Avenue and Jean Street in the Grand Lake district — a reconfiguration of the road that could make it a lot more comfortable for cyclists to travel between the Adams Point neighborhood and Piedmont. While bike advocates say this would be an important step in making the busy thoroughfare significantly more bike-friendly, some worry that the plan does not go far enough in building a truly connected bike path for cyclists in the area. 

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Residents Group Wants to Do Away with Citywide Elections in Richmond

by Erin Baldassari
Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 10:02 AM

A small group of residents is hoping to make elections in Richmond more inclusive by instituting district elections, as opposed to allowing each councilmember to run citywide. The group, called Richmond Citizens for District Elections, is aiming to get a voter initiative placed on the November 2016 ballot that would create six district seats and allow the mayor to run at-large, said Cesar Zepeda, president of the Hilltop District Neighborhood Council and the group’s spokesperson.

Zepeda said that after being sidelined for years, it’s time for councilmembers to focus not only on where the votes come from – mainly, the more affluent areas of the city – but on each neighborhood’s needs.

“This came about because people from different parts of the city feel they are not being represented,” Zepeda said. “If they are not constantly going to City Hall, then no one is looking at them and talking to them.”

Zepeda lamented that for years, the Hilltop Mall, which is in his neighborhood, descended into economic stagnancy and his group had to tell the council it was going into foreclosure. After bringing the issue to Mayor Tom Butt, who was elected last November, Zepeda said Butt made it a priority to revitalize the area but only after it was brought to his attention.

“Unless you’re the squeaky voice, you’re not going to be heard,” Zepeda said. “But the loudest voices usually come from the people who have the time and money to go to City Council meetings and make their voices heard.”

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Tuesday Must Reads: UC Berkeley Faculty Calls for Ouster of Prof Who Harassed Women; Experts Push for Immediate Fix on Bay Bridge Cable

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Oct 13, 2015 at 9:27 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

UC Berkeley professor Geoff Marcy.
  • UC Berkeley professor Geoff Marcy.
1. UC Berkeley faculty members are calling for the ouster of famed astronomer Geoff Marcy following revelations that he sexually harassed at least four women on campus from 2001 to 2010, Buzzfeed News reports. Astronomy professors, students, and other campus employees are outraged that UC Berkeley has allowed Marcy to keep teaching despite the fact that the university’s own investigation disclosed the sexual harassment incidents. The university defended its decision on Monday, saying that it had stripped Marcy of faculty protections that other professors enjoy. Marcy publicly apologized last week after Buzzfeed revealed that he is a serial harasser.

2. A panel of bridge experts from around the world is strongly urging Bay Area transportation officials to quickly fix the new Bay Bridge’s main cable, which they say is at risk of corrosion and catastrophic failure, the Chron reports. Recently, the main designer of the new $6.4 billion span warned that the cable is at risk because of water leaks.

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Contra Costa Considers Replacing PG&E with Green Power Program

by Jean Tepperman
Mon, Oct 12, 2015 at 4:28 PM

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors is set to vote Tuesday on whether to explore the possibility of replacing PG&E as the provider of electric power to residents. After a yearlong campaign by a coalition of community organizations, two Contra Costa County cities, Walnut Creek and Lafayette, are taking active steps toward joining a “community choice energy” program. Three cities, Richmond, El Cerrito, and San Pablo, are already getting electricity from a Bay Area agency, Marin Clean Energy, instead of PG&E.

Advocates promote local community choice energy (CCE) systems as a way to increase the use of clean energy sources, such as wind and solar power, that don’t contribute to climate change. In Marin and Sonoma counties, community choice energy agencies have also been able to lower rates to consumers.

Carol Weed, a leader in the push for community choice energy in Contra Costa County, said the campaign was inspired by Alameda County’s decision to create its own CCE agency. Contra Costa County supporters began speaking at city council meetings and lobbying individual city and county officials about a year ago, as well as holding public meetings around the county.

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