Monday, October 12, 2015

Governor Brown Appoints Republican Oil Executive to be Industry Regulator

by Dan Bacher
Mon, Oct 12, 2015 at 10:08 AM

As advocates of Senate Bill 350 were celebrating the signing of the state’s new renewable energy law by Jerry Brown last week, a major appointment to a regulatory post in the governor’s administration went largely unnoticed. In a classic example of how Big Oil has captured the regulatory apparatus in California, Brown announced the appointment of Bill Bartling of Bakersfield, a Republican who has worked as an oil industry executive and consultant, as district deputy in the Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources, which regulates the state’s oil industry.

What are Bartling's qualifications? According to a statement from the Governor's Office on October 9:

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Monday Must Reads: Governor Signs Livestock Antibiotics Ban; Brown Vetoes Family Leave Bill

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Oct 12, 2015 at 9:36 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation making California the first state in the nation to ban the routine use of antibiotics in livestock, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. The new law is designed to stem the proliferation of so-called “super-bugs,” antibiotic resistant bacteria that thrive on factory farms and kill an estimated 23,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Starting in 2018, agribusinesses in California will be prohibited from routinely injecting healthy livestock with antibiotics.

2. The governor vetoed two labor-backed bills, including legislation that would have expanded unpaid family leave in California, the AP reports (h/t Rough & Tumble). Brown also vetoed legislation that would have barred mandatory employee arbitration agreements. The powerful California Chamber of Commerce lobbied heavily against the bills, calling them “job killers.”

3. Brown signed legislation banning the use of the term “Redskins” as a school mascot or team name in California, the SacBee$ reports. Indigenous people have long sought to outlaw the racist term. The governor, however, vetoed a bill that would have banned the naming of public buildings and roads in California after Confederate leaders.

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Updated: Mayor Schaaf Withdraws Nomination of Eviction Specialist Associate to Oakland Rent Control Board

by Darwin BondGraham and Robert Gammon
Sat, Oct 10, 2015 at 8:59 AM

Kevin Skipper of the Bay Property Group. - SCREENSHOT FROM BAY PROPERTY GROUP VIDEO
  • Screenshot from Bay Property Group Video
  • Kevin Skipper of the Bay Property Group.
Update 10/10: 8:50 a.m.:

Mayor Libby Schaaf has withdrawn her nomination to the Oakland rent board an associate of a landlords' attorney who specializes in evicting tenants throughout the Bay Area. Schaaf spokesperson Erica Derryck wrote in a statement this morning: 

"Mayor Schaaf has decided to withdraw Mr. Skipper's nomination in light of the information uncovered by the East Bay Express."

Derryck added that the Mayor's Office had failed to fully vet Kevin Skipper for the position. The Express found that Skipper was not legally eligible to serve in the position that the mayor nominated him for on the Oakland rent board because he's not a tenant. The rent board post is reserved under city law for tenants, and Skipper is not a tenant.

"The review of Mr. Skipper's application was not as thorough as it should have been because of the pressing need to fill the tenant seat vacancy which has been preventing the board from reaching a quorum," Derryck said.

"Making sure that the interests of Oaklanders are well represented on this important body requires that the process not be rushed."

Schaaf, who has said that preventing residents from being displaced from their homes is one of her top priorities, had nominated Skipper, a real estate broker who is a senior associate of real estate services for the Bay Property Group, an Oakland-based brokerage and property management company owned by Daniel Bornstein. Bornstein is a well-known attorney who also operates the law offices of Bornstein & Bornstein, which represents landlords in their disputes with tenants. To landlords, Bornstein is known as one of the best real estate attorneys in the Bay Area. To tenants, Bornstein is known for the seminars he organizes, which his critics call “eviction boot camps,” and the numerous eviction proceedings he brings against renters.

See also: Oakland's Top Housing Official: There Is No Affordable Housing Crisis.
See Also: How Oakland Landlords Fight Rent Control

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Friday, October 9, 2015

Friday Must Reads: Monster El Niño Likely Won’t Come Early; Governor Brown Signs Law Forcing California Pensions to Divest from Coal

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Oct 9, 2015 at 10:10 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The monster El Niño weather pattern forming in the western Pacific Ocean likely will not deliver an early wet winter for California this year, the Mercury News$ reports. Torrential rainfall associated with large El Niño events in the past have usually arrived in January and February, climate scientists note. In El Niño years, October is typically marked by average rainfall, while Decembers tend to be drier than normal. Climate scientists say this year’s El Niño is strengthening and there’s a 95 percent likelihood it will last until spring.

Jerry Brown.
  • Jerry Brown.
2. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation requiring the state’s two largest public-employee union pension funds — CalPERS and CalSTRS — to divest from coal investments by 2017, the Mercury News$ reports. The two funds, which manage retirement savings for state and local public employees and teachers, currently hold a total of $299 million in coal stocks.

3. The governor also signed legislation requiring police agencies to obtain warrants before using so-called Stingray devices — which have the ability to track all cellphones within a certain area, Ars Technica reports. The legislation also requires warrants for obtaining other digital information.

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Thursday, October 8, 2015

Letters to the Future: A Call for Letters on Climate Change

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 2:33 PM

This December, leaders from around the world will convene in Paris for the historic United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris. These pivotal talks could represent the last best hope for the world’s governments to reach a binding agreement that will help humanity avert the coming disasters caused by climate change, from calamitous storms and floods to droughts and rising oceans.

Many scientists and world leaders agree that our window for drastically reducing greenhouse gas emissions is quickly closing. And environmentalist and former US Vice President Al Gore has said that “the future of the world” hinges on the outcome of the talks in Paris.

In advance of the talks, the Express, along with dozens of weekly publications across the nation, is participating in the Letters to the Future Project, which asks “writers, scientists, artists, and others to predict the outcome of the Paris talks (the success or failure and what came subsequently) as if writing to their children’s children, six generations hence.” Letter writers are urged to “tell future members of their own family or tribe, living at the turn of the century, what it was like to be alive during and after the historically crucial events” in Paris this year.


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Oakland to Take Down Lake Merritt Signs Prohibiting Musical Instruments, Activists Plan Protests

by Sam Levin
Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 12:08 PM

Last week, Oakland police responded to complaints about a small drum circle by Lake Merritt, prompting significant backlash from local activists who argued that the city has been aggressively policing the social activities of people of color in the park. The criticisms escalated this week after residents started circulating photos on Facebook and Twitter of signs by the lake explicitly prohibiting the use of a "musical instrument without a permit." In response, activists are coordinating multiple protests at the lake this weekend to speak out against what they say is excessive policing of barbecues and music at the lake. 

Now, however, city officials are saying that the signs in question are old and do not reflect current rules — and that people are, in fact, allowed to play music during park hours. 

"There is no prohibition against music while the parks are open from dawn to dusk," Councilmember Abel Guillen told me by phone this morning. Guillen — whose district includes Lake Merritt — said he has fielded numerous complaints from residents about the signs, which he said are five to eleven years old. Drum circles that aren't amplified are permitted, he said, adding that the city plans to remove the outdated signs today. The sign circulating on Facebook is at Cleveland Cascade, which is on Lakeshore Avenue on the east side of the lake. 

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Thursday Must Reads: Anti-Vaxx Ballot Measure Fails; Governor Brown Signs Bill to Abolish High School Exit Exam

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Oct 8, 2015 at 9:49 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Tim Donnelly.
  • Tim Donnelly.
1. An initiative to overturn California’s new mandatory vaccination law has failed to gather enough signatures to qualify for the ballot, the Mercury News$ reports. The effort, pushed by anti-vaccination groups and conservative radio talk show host Tim Donnelly, collected only about half of the needed signatures. In addition, anti-vaxxers took a hit from the US Supreme Court, when it ruled that New York state’s mandatory vaccination law is constitutional, KQED reports. The high court’s decision likely means that anti-vaxxers will not be able to overturn California’s law either.

2. Governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that abolishes the California high school exam retroactively to 2004, thereby making tens of thousands of state residents eligible to receive their high school diplomas, the Mercury News$ reports. Students who were denied high school diplomas because they did not pass the exam can now get them, as long as they’ve completed all of their high school graduation requirements. Earlier this year, the state stopped administering the exam because it’s woefully outdated.

3. Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said he wants the A’s to remain in Oakland, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. "I want the A's to stay in Oakland," he said during a news conference Tuesday. "I think it is possible to get a stadium done in Oakland, and that remains my preference."

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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Oakland's Top Housing Official: There Is No Affordable Housing Crisis

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 11:43 AM

click image Rachel Flynn at a recent meeting of the Bay Area Planning Directors Association. - ASSOCIATION OF BAY AREA GOVERNMENTS
  • Association of Bay Area Governments
  • Rachel Flynn at a recent meeting of the Bay Area Planning Directors Association.
Oakland's Director of Planning and Building Rachel Flynn reportedly told a conference of real estate developers in San Francisco yesterday that Oakland's residents are not facing an affordable housing crisis. Her comment was tweeted out by several attendees, including journalists.

Flynn made the comment while speaking on a panel of planning directors from major cities organized by the Urban Land Institute, a developer funded-think tank. Her comments also sparked some strong criticism on social media.

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Wednesday Must Reads: Jerry Brown Opposes Prop 13 Reform; Governor Signs Anti-Drone Law to Protect Celebrities

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Oct 7, 2015 at 9:59 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Governor Jerry Brown told a group of real estate professionals in San Francisco that he opposes a measure that would reform Proposition 13, the Chron reports. The measure, sponsored by state Senator Loni Hancock of Berkeley and backed by education activists, would close a loophole in Prop 13 that allows corporations to avoid paying their fair share of property taxes. The measure would generate billions a year in tax revenues for California public schools, and a recent poll showed that 55 percent of Californians favor the idea. But Brown said the issue is too complex for him to support.

Governor bans drones over celebrities' homes, but not over wildfires.
  • Governor bans drones over celebrities' homes, but not over wildfires.
2. Just days after the governor ignored pleas from firefighters and vetoed legislation that would have banned private aerial drones from flying over wildfires, saying the bill was too "burdensome," Brown signed a bill that makes it illegal to fly drones over celebrities’ homes, the LA Times$ reports. Firefighters had strongly urged the governor to sign the previous anti-drone bill, saying private drones have interfered with firefighting efforts. Wealthy celebrities have also lobbied the governor, contending that drones operated by paparazzi invade their privacy.

3. UC San Francisco officials say they now support the Golden State Warriors’ plans to move to the city and build an arena across from UCSF Medical Center, the Chron reports. UCSF officials had opposed the arena plan on the grounds that it would create too much traffic near the hospital, but the Warriors agreed to limit the number of home games that coincide with San Francisco Giants’ games and to spend at least $10 million on traffic mitigation measures. However, wealthy donors to UCSF still oppose the arena plan.

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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Victim Reaches Out to Troubled Man Who Shot Her at Local Park

by John Geluardi
Tue, Oct 6, 2015 at 4:43 PM

Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.
  • Wildcat Canyon Regional Park.
The victim of a BB gun sniper attack last weekend is now working to get help for the man who shot her above the eye while she was hiking with her husband in Wildcat Canyon Regional Park in the East Bay hills. The victim, Cori Pansarasa, a clinical psychologist, said the man who shot her is mentally disabled and she wants to work with his family to get him help.

“His family has been trying for many years to get help for him and since I work as a psychologist, I want to see if there’s something I can do,” Pansarasa said two days after the man shot her with a BB gun.

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