Monday, March 21, 2016

Monday Must Reads: BART Problems Continue; Dungeness Crab Season to Finally Open

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 9:22 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The BART line between the Pittsburg-Bay Point and North Concord stations remain closed this morning, and the agency still does not know what caused the power surges that knocked fifty cars out of service last week, the Chron reports. The agency was able to bring 36 more cars on line today than on Friday but it’s still forty below what it has in service on a normal weekday because of power surges in February in West Oakland.

Dungeness crab. - BERT JOHNSON/FILE PHOTO.
  • Bert Johnson/File photo.
  • Dungeness crab.
2. The commercial Dungeness crab season is scheduled to finally open this Saturday, March 26, in the Bay Area and along the Central Coast, the Chron reports. Fishery managers said that the dangerous neurotoxin that had infected the crabs earlier this season has now dissipated to “low or undetectable levels.” Crabbing, however, is still banned north of Mendocino County because of the domoic acid problem.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

W. Kamau Bell Grilled Mayor Schaaf Live Last Night

Topics included Uber, E. 12th Street, displacement, and the meaning of "tequity."

by Sarah Burke
Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 10:35 AM

Last night, for the fourth installment of Kamau Right Now!, political comedian W. Kamau Bell had an incredibly awkward conversation with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf. During the KALW radio segment, Schaaf joined Bell on stage in front of a packed house at Oakland Impact Hub for a segment literally called "An Awkward Conversation with W. Kamau Bell." 

Bell began by reading Schaaf tweets that he received from fans after he announced that she would be a guest on the show. In the posts, fans lamented that although they love the show, they would not be able to attend because they dislike Schaaf so much. Bell followed up by asking if she felt like she was in a "hot seat," to which Schaaf replied that she knows she can't make everyone happy and that she feels like she's doing "the right thing when everyone's just slightly unhappy." 

But judging by the consistent heckling and hissing from the crowd, the audience seemed a little more than just slightly unhappy about the topics being discussed.

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Friday Must Reads: Oakland Homicides Plummet; BART Line Shut Down Indefinitely; SeaWorld Ending Orca Shows

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Mar 18, 2016 at 10:18 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The number of homicides In Oakland has plummeted so far this year, and the city is on track to record the fewest killings in three decades, the Chron$ reports. Currently, the city has had just seven homicides in 2016, compared to eighteen in each of the last two years at this time. Oakland police attribute the homicide drop to an increased emphasis on criminal investigations and to better cooperation with witnesses and city residents in solving crime.

2. BART officials said the line between the Pittsburg-Bay Point and North Concord stations will be shut down indefinitely because of electrical surges, and the train system will suffer delays and service problems for months, the Chron reports. BART keeps getting hit by power surges that knock out trains, and officials don’t know what’s causing the problem. Fifty trains went out of service this week because of the power surges.

3. SeaWorld announced that it’s ending its orca breeding program and will phase out its killer whale entertainment shows at its amusement parks in California, Florida, and Texas, the LA Times$ reports. SeaWorld has never fully recovered from the hard-hitting documentary, Blackfish, which detailed The company’s mistreatment of orcas.

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Thursday, March 17, 2016

Oakland Housing Rights Activists Face 8.5 Years in Prison

by Samara Hayley Steele
Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 10:36 AM

  • Bert Johnson/File photo
  • Steven DeCarpio.
Three years ago, Oakland resident Steven DeCaprio made headlines when he successfully achieved ownership of a house that he had been squatting in for more than a decade. DeCaprio employed the Adverse Possession Law, a legal doctrine that allows occupants to claim properties that have suffered from long-term abandonment.

According to census data, there may be up to 18,000 units of vacant housing in Oakland. This is in the face of a housing crisis in which 4,000 people are homeless in Alameda County, while countless more are being displaced by soaring rent prices. Many of the empty housing units are being held by speculators, driving up prices and fueling the forces of displacement.

In January, Patrick Xu, a Bay Area housing rights activist, was arrested from his home in Oakland, while he was in the midst of an adverse possession case to obtain the property. Xu and three other housing activists, including DeCaprio, are now facing felony and misdemeanor charges, including charges for trespassing and conspiracy, and could be sentenced to up to 8.5 years in prison and slapped with $89,000 in fines.

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Thursday Must Reads: BART Plagued by Electrical Problems; Plastics Industry Spending Big to Defeat Plastic Bag Ban

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Mar 17, 2016 at 9:39 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Electrical woes caused a commute nightmare yesterday on BART, and the transit system continued to suffer outages during this morning’s commute, the Chron reports. A mysterious power surge between the Pittsburg/Bay Point and North Concord stations knocked about fifty train cars out of service, causing systemwide delays. This is the second time in a month that the agency has been rocked by power surges. BART is unsure as to what’s causing the problems. This morning, the agency had to use buses to ferry passengers between Pittsburg/Bay Point and North Concord.

2. The plastics industry and its allies have pumped $5 million into a statewide ballot measure campaign to block California’s ban on plastic bags from ever going into effect, the SacBee$ reports. The ban was supposed to begin on July 1 of this year, but the plastic bag industry successfully delayed the start date until at least the November election.

3. Big Pharma, meanwhile, has dumped a whopping $49 million into a campaign against a statewide measure that seeks to cap prescription drug prices in California, KQED reports, citing a new analysis by the Berkeley-based political watchdog group (h/t Rough & Tumble). The ballot measure would limit how much California would pay for prescription drugs for Medi-Cal enrollees, state prisoners, and others.

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Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Oakland City Council Advances Controversial Public Land Sale Behind Closed Doors

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 11:10 AM

Last night's Oakland City Council meeting was held behind locked doors in the mayor's office after a disruption. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Last night's Oakland City Council meeting was held behind locked doors in the mayor's office after a disruption.
Activists opposing the sale of city-owned land to private developers briefly shut down a meeting of the Oakland City Council last night. The council reconvened, however, behind locked doors in the offices of Mayor Libby Schaaf to approve another step in the controversial land deal. Protesters called the closed meeting a violation of the Brown Act, but city officials said that state law allows them to convene in private if a public meeting becomes “unfeasible” due to purposeful disruptions.

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Wednesday Must Reads: Obama Picks Centrist for Supreme Court; Oakland Council Okays Controversial Housing Plan

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Mar 16, 2016 at 9:50 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Merrick Garland.
  • Merrick Garland.
1. President Barack Obama nominated a centrist judge — Merrick B. Garland — to the US Supreme Court, The News York Times$ reports. Garland, a well-respected moderate, currently serves on US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and would replace the late conservative justice, Antonin Scalia, on the high court. However, Senate Republicans have vowed to block any Supreme Court nomination by President Obama, contending that the next president should select Scalia’s successor.

2. After affordable housing activists disrupted last night’s Oakland City Council meeting, the council moved to the mayor’s private conference room and voted 6-1 to approve a controversial housing proposal that is to be built on public property near Lake Merritt, the Trib$ reports. The activists wanted the council to select an all affordable-housing plan for the East 12th Street site, but the council instead backed a mixed-housing plan that will include both affordable and market-rate units.

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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Parents Are Outraged that an Ex-49er, Who Is on Trial for Sexual Assault, Spoke to Students About Self-Discipline

by Steven Tavares
Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 5:00 PM

Ray McDonald, right, spoke to Tennyson High School students about self-discipline even though he is going on trial for sexual assault. - HAYWARD UNIFIED FACEBOOK PAGE
  • Hayward Unified Facebook Page
  • Ray McDonald, right, spoke to Tennyson High School students about self-discipline even though he is going on trial for sexual assault.
Hayward parents are outraged that Ray McDonald, a former San Francisco 49ers defensive end who is scheduled to go on trial next month for allegedly raping an intoxicated woman, recently spoke to 250 at-risk students at Hayward’s Tennyson High School about self-discipline.

McDonald “doesn’t even know how to handle his own life,” said Hayward parent Eduardo Orozco. “I just don’t think it’s the right choice.” Orozco added that the allegations against McDonald do not send a positive message for teenage girls at Tennyson. “His record shows he doesn’t have much respect for women.”

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Tuesday Must Reads: Cal Basketball Coach Fired for Sex Harassment; February Obliterated Global Heat Record

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 9:43 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Yann Hufnagel.
  • Yann Hufnagel.
1. UC Berkeley, rocked by a series of sexual harassment scandals, announced the firing of men’s assistant basketball coach Yann Hufnagel for violating the campus’ sexual harassment policies, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. The firing of Hufnagel comes just as the Cal team is readying for the NCAA basketball tournament, and is the fourth sexual harassment scandal to hit the university in the past few months. UC President Janet Napolitano also announced that former Berkeley Law School Dean Sujit Choudhry, who sexually harassed one of his assistants, is now banned from campus for the rest of the year. Cal Chancellor Nicholas Dirks has come under intense fire for meting out mild punishments to sexual harassers.

2. The month of February obliterated the global temperature record, soaring by 2.43 degrees Fahrenheit above the 1950–1980 average, the Washington Post$ reports. February represented the single largest temperature spike ever recorded, and the month was 0.85 degrees warmer worldwide than any other February on record.

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Monday, March 14, 2016

Steelhead Trout Return to Lower Alameda Creek

The Alameda Creek Alliance announces the long-awaited return of the endangered fish.

by Sydney Johnson
Mon, Mar 14, 2016 at 10:10 AM

Members of the Alameda Creek Alliance, a group dedicated to protecting and restoring the natural ecosystems of the Alameda Creek watershed, are celebrating the spotting of two adult steelhead trout in the lower Alameda Creek flood control channel last week – the first confirmed sighting since 2008. 

“This is significant. Steelhead have been missing from the lower Alameda Creek for half a century now, and we have been working for almost twenty years to restore them,” said Jeff Miller, director of the Alameda Creek Alliance, in an interview.

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