Friday, September 22, 2017

The Consumer Product Safety Commission Moves Forward on Ban of Toxic Flame Retardants

by Matt St. John
Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 4:54 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Green Science Policy Institute.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) made progress this week toward banning an entire class of toxic flame retardants used in household products. The chemical family, known as organohalogens, can be found in furniture, children’s toys, mattresses, and among other devices.

Cancer and infertility are just a few of the medical conditions that have been linked to the chemicals.

“This is a really important, landmark decision so that our consumer products will be healthier, and we will all be healthier,” said Arlene Blum, executive director and founder of the Green Science Policy Institute, which is based in Berkeley.

The vote enabled the CPSC to educate the public about the dangers of flame retardants, and also to begin discussion on how they would be best regulated in the future.

Flame retardants have not been required in California since 2014.

Still, manufacturing companies can — and do — use these chemicals, especially in electronics, such as televisions, said Blum. She said that by weight, as much as a quarter of a modern TV’s casing could be made up of flame retardants, and that those chemicals “do come out and end up in dust and people.”

On top of health concerns, evidence published by the Consumer Product Safety Commission shows that the chemicals do not actually stop fires.

“They don’t provide a benefit and they have a huge potential for harm,” said Blum, who has been central in the fight to ban these chemicals.

More Than 130 UC Berkeley Faculty Cancel Classes Next Week Because of Far-Right Events

by Nichole Bloom
Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 4:45 PM


More than 130 faculty members at UC Berkeley have canceled all classes this coming week in a boycott of the far-right “Free Speech Week,” which is scheduled to get underway on Sunday, Sept. 24. Faculty members cited the anticipated violence and risks to both student and faculty safety for their decision to cancel classes.

One of the leaders of the boycott and co-author of the letter addressed to the campus calling for this protest, is Berkeley Associate Professor of African American and American Studies, Michael Cohen. In an interview, Cohen said he feels that forcing his students, many of whom are people of color, to attend classes in the midst of the heavy alt-tight prescence on campus is both unethical and unsafe.

Cohen stressed that this is not a conflict of free speech but rather of location, stating “the university bending over backward to accommodate these people on Sproul Plaza.” The professor said he, and many of his colleagues, are not as concerned with right-wing provacateur Milo Yiannopoulos and others coming and speaking but rather that they are doing so in the heart of campus, and more specifically at the geographic core of Berkeley’s Humanities Department.

“The speakers are not here to enrich learning” but rather to disrupt the very academic departments “they feel UC Berkeley uses to indoctrinate students ” with radical liberal beliefs, Cohen said.

Free speech has been an hot-button topic on the UC campus this year after violence erupted in response to the Berkeley College Republican’s decision to invite Yiannopoulos and conservative firebrand Ann Coulter to speak last spring. The protests and cancellation of events have many conservative Americans claiming that Berkeley is denying alt-right members their free speech rights—and is being hypocritical given the campus’ history as the center of the Free Speech Movement in the 1960s.

This trend has continued this fall as conservative speaker Ben Shapiro was met with a riot-equipped police detail, protesters, and a media horde on Sept. 14, for his scheduled talk in Zellerbach Hall. The Shapiro event was predicted to be a warm-up for what is to come this week. The agenda for this upcoming is: Sunday, Sept. 24: Feminism Awareness Day; Monday, Sept. 25: Zuck 2020; Tuesday, Sept. 26: Islamic Peace & Tolerance; and Wednesday, Sept. 27: Mario Savio is Dead.

Cohen said the events are not only problematic for the university but also the larger East Bay community. He said UC Berkeley’s decision to allow the events threatens to attract violence and white supremacists to the area and is costly to the campus. UC Berkeley reported spending $600,000 on public safety for the Shapiro event alone.

Although Cohen and numerous other faculty have canceled their classes next week, Cohen is scheduled to speak at a counter-protest on Crescent Lawn Monday afternoon.

Oakland Police Chief Kirkpatrick Points Blame at Ex-Chief Whent for Mishandling of Celeste Guap Sex Crimes Case

She also defended her decision to promote officers who were directly responsible for bungling the case.

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 3:41 PM


At a League of Women Voters event last night, Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick gave her account of why she chose to go ahead with two controversial promotions of officers who mishandled the internal investigations of the Celeste Guap sex crime scandal.

In short, she blamed former Chief Sean Whent for screwing up the Guap cases — not the officers she promoted.

The chief's comments also appear to contradict an official court report that spells out in detail the several ways in which the officers she promoted failed to properly supervise criminal investigations of Oakland cops who sexually exploited Celeste Guap.

Kirkpatrick began with a point she's previously made: that the promotions had been reviewed by federal court-appointed police monitor Robert Warshaw. Warshaw signed off specifically on the promotion of Deputy Chief John Lois to the rank of assistant police chief and Lt. Roland Holmgren to the rank of captain.

Back in late 2015, when the Celeste Guap case first came to the attention of the department, Lois was the head of OPD's bureau of investigations, making him the top supervisor of the homicide and special victims unit officers who botched the Guap cases. Holmgren was the lieutenant in charge of homicide, putting him in charge of that division's case.

Kirkpatrick's strongly implied that Warshaw was fully informed and said the promotions were OK.

But Kirkpatrick didn't say whether Warshaw knew about Lois and Holmgren's role in the first two mishandled internal investigations when he gave his approval.

Warshaw hasn't responded to previous phone calls from the Express seeking answers to this question. But what is clear is that federal Judge Thelton Henderson appointed independent attorneys to investigate the mishandling of the Guap case, and those attorneys reported directly to the judge, not Warshaw. When those attorneys filed their report in June of this year, it revealed in detail how Lois and Holmgren mishandled the supervision of the Guap case and allowed OPD's examinations to be prematurely closed.

But by that time, the promotions had already been made.

At last night's meeting, Kirkpatrick went on to say that the media and others have been unfair to Lois and Holmgren, as well as to Capt. Kirk Coleman, who was also a supervisor in the criminal investigation division where the Guap cases were mishandled and buried. Coleman is still a captain, but he now runs OPD's internal affairs unit.

"All the people named in the papers, that was not fair," said Kirkpatrick.

She called Lois a "man of character," as she has previously done.

"Was he a part of the first investigation? Yes," said Kirkpatrick. "But he answered to higher leadership."

And that's where Kirkpatrick ultimately placed the blame, on former OPD Chief Sean Whent.

Kirkpatrick said that Lois, Holmgren, and Coleman all decided to shut down the criminal investigations of the Guap case because they concluded that there wasn't enough evidence to actually bring charges against any officers.

But there hasty conclusions were contradicted by the court's own report on the mishandled investigations. According to the court's investigators "despite evidence suggesting that other officers had inappropriate sexual contact with [Celeste Guap], including the serious possibility that the sexual contact occurred when she had been a minor, CID [with Coleman and Holmgren directly in charge] closed its investigation within a week of opening it." Lois OK'd all of this.

In addition, according to the court's report, Lois, Coleman, and Holmgren shut down the investigations despite the fact that they had "alarming evidence" on a deceased officer's cellphone that Celeste Guap had been exploited by multiple cops, including several who are still employed by the department and were never punished.

The court investigators determined that the single interview conducted by OPD homicide investigators with Celeste Guap "produced leads," including statements and evidence from Guap that she'd been exploited by cops when she was as young as 14.

In the court's report, there were numerous direct references to decisions made by Holmgren and Coleman and Lois that led to the mishandling of the Guap investigation.

But last night Kirkpatrick directed blame at Whent due to the fact that after the criminal cases were shut down, the investigation moved to internal affairs, an office that's directly overseen by the chief of police.

"The person who is responsible is the chief," said Kirkpatrick, "IA answers to him."

Kirpatrick acknowledged that IA's investigation wasn't adequate. "That's when the federal monitor [Warshaw] stepped in over a year ago and said, 'Hold on.'

"So, he actually hand-picked my current assistant police chief [then Deputy Chief John Lois]," added Kirkpatrick, to lead the second IA investigation into the OPD sex crime scandal.

However, it's not clear whether Warshaw knew about Lois' role in the mishandling of the Celeste Guap case in March of 2016 when he put Lois in charge of the re-opened IA case. This investigation led by Lois led to 12 officers being disciplined, including four terminations.

Finally, Kirkpatrick claimed to have information about the entire affair that the public isn't privy to. "I have information you do not have," she said at last night's meeting when explaining why she still stands by the promotions and blames Whent for the entire scandal.

She didn't elaborate further on what this confidential information is that isn't in the public record.

But she said she's confident in the department's current leadership and the promotions.

"I'm very pleased with my decision."

At the end of the meeting she walked out, declining to answer questions from the Express.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Oakland to Host Forum on Public Bank Plan

by Amyra Soriano
Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 11:07 AM

Rebecca Kaplan.
  • Rebecca Kaplan.
Oakland Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, At-Large, and Dan Kalb, North Oakland, are scheduled to host a discussion on Monday about the city’s efforts to create a public bank. The proposal is designed to assist the region’s cannabis businesses, which struggle to find banking services, and to help grow renewable energy resources.

Earlier this week, the council approved a resolution, authorizing a feasibility study for public banking. Under the plan, Oakland will contribute $75,000 to the study, and the city of Berkeley will kick in $25,000.

“As distrust in big corporate banks and lack of oversight at the federal level are growing problems — this is how we can be part of the solution,” Kaplan said.

According to officials, a regional public bank would be able to provide community benefit lending. “We can fund needed projects, offer low interest loans to underserved populations and invest in accordance with our values,” Kaplan said.

The bank would have the ability to manage cannabis-related transactions. Currently, most banks will not serve medical cannabis businesses, even if they’re legal, because marijuana remains unlawful under federal law. As a result, those businesses have to deal in cash, which makes them vulnerable to crime. The public bank also could help develop renewable energy businesses. Oakland and Berkeley have already joined with other cities in the county to create a locally managed green energy program, known as Community Choice Energy.

“We can protect our cannabis community by taking them out of the cash economy,” Kaplan said. “And, like our recent successful efforts to create Community Choice Energy, we can harness local community support to take action that improves the environment, public health, and the local economy.”

On Monday, Sept. 25, Kaplan and Kalb will host a community forum called “Public Banking Local Renewables” to review how Germany developed local public banks. Wolfram Morales, chief economist of Sparkasse, a Germany-based association, will explain how they’ve successfully advanced their solar and wind resources. In addition, Bay Area analysts and activists, like Nicolas Chaset, Greg Rosen, Jessica Tovar, and Pennie Opal Plant, will share their knowledge on the subject. The meeting will be held at Oakland City Hall from 7-9 p.m.

Oakland Port Board Expected to Approve Ban-The-Box and Living Wage Agreements for Massive New Warehouse Project

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 10:39 AM


The Port of Oakland's board of directors are expected to vote next month on a deal with CenterPoint Properties to build a massive 440,800-square-foot warehouse on the former Army Base. The warehouse will be a state-of-the-art logistics center connected to the port's maritime facilities, funneling cargo from ships to truck transportation networks. It's expected to generate hundreds of operations jobs.

And according to the port and a coalition of nonprofit and labor groups, those jobs will pay living wages. Priority will be made to hire local residents of the East Bay's flatlands neighborhoods that have been historically most affected by the port's environmental problems and deindustrialization of the waterfront.

Furthermore, CenterPoint is reportedly agreeing to a so-called ban-the-box policy that will ensure many of the positions at the warehouse are available to people with criminal records, ensuring formerly incarcerated community members can gain access to employment and benefit from the port's expansion.

Community groups are hailing the deal — which was negotiated over the past 18 months — as an example of win-win economic development that advances the port, the company, and the community.

"This is a system that will benefit the people of Oakland," said Sabir Lockett, an Oakland residents who was incarcerated for 22 years but now is an advocate for providing second chances for employment.

Lockett said many formerly incarcerated people face discrimination when they search for jobs, and that they're often locked out of the market, making it difficult to survive.

"This is about building trust in formerly incarcerated people as well as providing living wage and local hire so people can stay in Oakland," said Lockett. "It will help to integrate formerly incarnated people back into society."

Port spokesperson Mike Zampa declined to comment because the port's board has yet to finalize the deal. CenterPoint Properties also declined to comment. But in the port commissioners' agenda packet for their next meeting some of the basic parts of the jobs deal are confirmed.

The Revive Oakland coalition, a group of over 30 nonprofits and labor unions that negotiated with CenterPoint and the port over the jobs deal, also shared some details of the agreement in a press release yesterday. According to the coalition, workers at the new facility, including subcontractors, will be paid, at minimum, a "living wage" of $13.32 per hour with benefits, or $15.31 without benefits. Half of the jobs will be set aside for local area residents, with a hiring priority for people from Oakland's flatlands zip codes closest to the port.

And the group said the ban-the-box policy is "one of the strongest" yet negotiated on any project in the nation because it substantially limits the types of criminal convictions records that can disqualify someone from a job and provides greater transparency for job applicants and the employer as to what might be a disqualifying record.

The deal also limits the amount of work that can be carried about by part-time employees.

Jahmese Myres, director of Revive Oakland, said the deal is important because it's a model for fair economic development in an era when technology is transforming work.

Increasingly, the economy is becoming organized around online retail that operates through logistics systems made up of warehouses fed by shipping, rail, and truck transportation. So far, warehouse jobs fulfilling Amazon orders or moving goods to big box stores with automated checkout, have been relatively low-paying and precarious. And these jobs have also been difficult to obtain for people who have criminal records.

What: A 66-year ground lease of port land to CenterPoint Properties for construction of a 440,800 square foot warehouse.

Cost: CenterPoint will lease the land for $1.3 million per year rising to $6.4 million in year 66.

Who: CenterPoint is owned by the California Public Employees Retirement System, the state's largest public employee pension.

Where: On 27 acres of the former Oakland Army Base land that was handed over to the Port of Oakland for redevelopment.

Correction: the original version of this story stated that wages at the warehouse will start at $14.44 per hour. The correct beginning wage level under the agreement is $13.32 per hour with benefits. This story was also updated after the Port of Oakland moved consideration of the agreement from a September 28 board meeting to October 12.

Thursday’s Briefing: Oakland's Temple Sinai Hit by Anti-Semitism; Oakland and SF Sue Big Oil Over Climate Change

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Sep 21, 2017 at 10:14 AM

Temple Sinai
  • Temple Sinai

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Sept. 21, 2017:

1. Bigots scrawled anti-Semitic graffiti on the walls of Temple Sinai in Oakland early today, just hours before congregants began to assemble for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, KRON reports. Officials at the city’s largest Jewish synagogue, located near Uptown, quickly covered the hate speech with paper. Oakland police are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

2. The cities of Oakland and San Francisco sued Chevron and other major oil companies, alleging that they knowingly caused climate change, reports Kurtis Alexander of the San Francisco Chronicle. The cities are demanding that Big Oil “pay billions in compensation for past and future flooding, coastal erosion, and property damage” resulting from the emission of greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

3. University of California President Janet Napolitano pledged that the UC system would contribute $300,000 for security costs related to next week’s planned right-wing events at Cal, but she warned that such huge expenses “may not be sustainable,” reports Teresa Watanabe of the LA Times$. A speech last week by conservative Ben Shapiro cost $600,000 alone.

4. About 65 percent of Bay Area residents say the cost of housing in the region is an “extremely serious” problem, reports Riley McDermid of the San Francisco Business Times$, citing a new UC Berkeley survey. In addition, 63 percent of residents said they support rent control.

5. The death toll from the 7.1 quake in central Mexico has reached at least 250 people, including dozens of children who were crushed to death by collapsed school buildings, the LA Times$ reports. The number of people killed by the quake is expected to rise as emergency crews continue to dig through the rubble.

6. The entire island of Puerto Rico could be without power for four to six months because of the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, The New York Times$ reports. The Category 4 storm also caused severe flooding on the island.

7. Unusual September snowfall closed Tioga Pass in Yosemite National Park and Sonora Pass on State Route 108, reports Amy Graff of SF Gate.

8. Alameda Fire Chief Doug Long, who has been with the fire department for 22 years, is retiring, effective Friday, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$.

9. And undefeated world champion boxer Andre Ward of Oakland announced his retirement, saying he no longer has a desire to fight, the AP reports.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Wednesday’s Daily Briefing: Brown’s Tunnels Plan Suffers Big Setback; East Bay Housing Prices Soar Even Higher

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 10:17 AM


Stories you shouldn’t miss for Sept. 20, 2017

1. Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to build two giant water tunnels suffered a serious setback when the state’s largest irrigation district voted to oppose the plan, saying it would cost too much, reports Bettina Boxall of the LA Times$. The influential Westlands Water District, which includes large agribusinesses in the dry western San Joaquin Valley and would be one of the main beneficiaries of the tunnels project, voted 7-1 against it. Environmentalists who oppose the tunnels hope the Westlands' decision will kill the project, but the Brown administration says it plans to still push forward with it.

2. East Bay housing prices continued to skyrocket in August, with the median home price in Alameda County reaching $867,500—11.9 percent higher than last year, reports Richard Scheinin of the Mercury News$, citing a new report from the California Association of Realtors. The median price in Contra Costa County jumped 10.2 percent to $627,860. Experts blamed the out-of-control prices on the extreme housing shortage in the region.

3. A 7.1 earthquake in central Mexico has killed more than 200 people and leveled buildings in Mexico City, the LA Times$ reports. The big quake struck 32 years to the day after another major temblor devastated Mexico City in 1985.

4. Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico early today as a powerful Category 4 storm, packing maximum sustained winds of 140 mph, The New York Times$ reports. Maria is expected to inflict severe damage on the U.S. territory.

5. ICYMI: The Alameda County Superior Court has reversed its controversial decision to force north county defendants to be arraigned in Dublin and instead will reinstitute arraignments in Oakland, reports Jessica Lynn of the Express.

6. California organized labor has emerged as a powerful force against environmental legislation that is designed to address climate change, reports Chris Megerian of the LA Times$. Labor has defeated several pieces of climate change legislation this year, contending that it would harm union jobs.

7. Alameda Unified School District may sell Lum Elementary School, which closed earlier this year because of earthquake safety risks, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. The district has assembled a panel to decide Lum’s future.

8. And the latest version of Trumpcare would severely punish Democratic states like California and New York, while financially rewarding Republican ones, the Washington Post$ reports.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

'Lightning Rod' Developer Removed from Conference Panel Following Concerns from Oakland Mayor and Tenant Activists

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 9:03 AM

Danny Haber was scheduled to speak on the event's developer panel immediately following Mayor Libby Schaaf. - HTTP://NEWS.THEREGISTRYSF.COM/
  • Danny Haber was scheduled to speak on the event's developer panel immediately following Mayor Libby Schaaf.
After Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf quietly expressed her concerns to the organizers of a real estate industry conference scheduled for Thursday, the organizers removed a controversial developer from a panel of speakers.

The conference, branded as "Oakland Rising," is sponsored by The Registry, a real estate industry news magazine. Schaaf is providing the keynote address. The mayor was to be followed by a panel of four industry insiders, including Danny Haber, the founder of The Negev, Owow, and several other companies active in Oakland and San Francisco.

Some tenants and attorneys contend that Haber is responsible for displacing renters from Oakland's Hotel Travelers, and that he took advantage of renters at the former 1919 Market Street warehouse, which was demolished last year following its red-tagging by city inspectors. Haber is currently being sued by some former tenants of both buildings who allege that he and his team harassed them in a concerted campaign to remove them.

"The mayor is aware of citations, complaints, and a lawsuit filed against Haber [regarding] properties he’s engaged in developing," Schaaf's spokesperson Justin Berton explained in an email. "The mayor was concerned about the seriousness of the allegations against Haber and shared them with the organizers. The organizer decided to remove Haber from the panel."

The Registry did not return requests for comment for this report.

The mayor's move followed a flurry of emails and phone calls from tenant activists.

"You've made a big show of being anti-displacement in the wake of Ghost Ship, and Haber is the undisputed leader in live/work tenant displacement," wrote Jonah Strauss of the Oakland Warehouse Coalition in an email to Schaaf.

Strauss also wrote that "Oakland Rising" also happens to be the name of a well-known Oakland nonprofit and that the conference organizers use of the name could be confusing for Oakland residents.

"They’re co-opting with our name with an agenda of everything we stand against," said Jessamyn Sabbag, executive director of Oakland Rising. "When they talk about Oakland rising, they’re talking about rising profits. We’re talking about working class communities of color trying to defend Oakland against big developers."

Haber and his defenders contend that he's being demonized unfairly and that the displacement of tenants at the Travelers and 1919 Market was due more to the past decisions of former landlords and the city.

Edward Higginbotham, an attorney who represents some of the former tenants of 1919 Market wrote a letter to Oakland Deputy City Attorney Erin Bernstein in June defending Haber (see below). He described the 1919 Market Street warehouse as unsafe and wrote that its former owner and manager, Seth Jacobsen and Madison Park Financial, "reaped the benefits of packing in as many tenants into the warehouse as possible."

Later, after Haber became the manager of the property, the city red tagged the building, forcing everyone out. Haber purchased the building and eventually demolished it.

"Throughout this process, the only helpful individual(s), were Danny Haber and his team," wrote Higginbotham.

But other attorneys say Haber's actions have caused displacement in Oakland.

"Haber’s business model is based on displacing long-term Oakland residents and replacing them with young newcomers to the area," said Laura Lane, an attorney with the East Bay Community Law Center. "He is explicit, intentional, and unapologetic about this modus operandi."

Alameda County Superior Court Policy Change Will Allow Oakland Defendants To Be Arraigned in Oakland

by Jessica Lynn
Wed, Sep 20, 2017 at 8:55 AM

Oakland defendants will no longer be arraigned at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin. - D. ROSS CAMERON
  • D. Ross Cameron
  • Oakland defendants will no longer be arraigned at the East County Hall of Justice in Dublin.

The Alameda County Superior Court has reversed its controversial decision to move all in-custody felony arraignments to a new courthouse in Dublin, amid criticism that the change denies court access to low-income people of color.

Beginning Sept. 25, in-custody defendants facing felony charges for crimes that occurred in Northern Alameda County will once again have arraignments at Oakland’s Wiley Manuel Courthouse, rather than about 30 miles away at Dublin’s East County Hall of Justice.

The Alameda County Superior Court began moving all in-custody arraignments from Oakland to Dublin in July because of the newly opened East County Hall of Justice’s close proximity to Santa Rita Jail, where the majority of pre-trial detainees are held.

The decision was an attempt by Alameda County Superior Court to cut costs and reduce transportation times for in-custody defendants, according to Alameda County Superior Court Executive Officer Chad Finke. Finke gave a rough estimate that late buses from Santa Rita Jail cost the court about $200,000 each year in overtime costs alone.

But for in-custody defendants from Northern Alameda County, including Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda, the superior court’s decision to move in-custody arraignments to Dublin meant that family members were often unable to attend their court hearings, said Alameda County Public Defender Brendon Woods, in an interview with the Express.

“You’d be in court and you would see maybe one family member in the afternoon,” he said.

Not only did the change impede on family members’ ability to know what was going on with their loved one, Woods added, but it also hurt the accused’s defense, because lawyers often depend on information from relatives to make arguments in court.

Family members who did make it to court, Woods said, often had to pay for child-care costs or miss out on their wages for the day on top of paying for transportation.

And he stressed that low-income people were disproportionately impacted by the change. People who were able to pay bail could have their arraignments in Oakland, whereas those who stayed in custody had to be arraigned in Dublin.

Alameda County Superior Court ultimately agreed to move North Alameda County felony arraignments back to Oakland as a “compromise,” according to Finke. The decision was made after several Alameda County agencies agreed to join the court system in requesting that the Board of Supervisors take steps to start housing North Alameda County detainees at the Glenn Dyer Jail in Oakland, rather than Santa Rita Jail.

“That’s the way the system is supposed to work,” Finke said. “You should have the place of incarceration as close to the place of arraignment as possible.”

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Tuesday’s Briefing: Bay Area Traffic Intensifies; Audubon Society Opposes A’s Ballpark Site

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Sep 19, 2017 at 10:30 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Sept. 19, 2017:

1. Traffic on major Bay Area freeways has worsened by 80 percent since 2010, reports Erin Baldassari of the East Bay Times$, citing a new report from Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Traffic has become much worse as more people have moved to far-flung suburbs in search of housing and then drive to work.

2. The Audubon Society’s Golden Gate chapter announced its opposition to the Oakland’s A’s plan to build a new ballpark next to Laney College and near Lake Merritt, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. The influential environmental group says that Lake Merritt, which is an inland estuary, is home to numerous bird species that could be impacted by a new ballpark nearby. But Oakland business and labor leaders said they support the plan.

3. Millions of Californians could be on the hook for Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to build two giant water tunnels—regardless of whether they support the proposal, the Associated Press reports. The Brown administration contends that water agencies serving millions of Californians will have to pay for the tunnels even if they vote against the plan—unless they sign contracts with other agencies to buy their water allotments from the tunnels.

4. Hurricane Maria strengthened to a monster Category 5 storm and is expected to plow through Puerto Rico today after it devastated the island of Dominica, The New York Times$ reports.

5. And GOP Senators are continuing their drive this week to repeal Obamacare, Politico reports. The Republican plan would replace the Affordable Care Act with block grants to states and is expected to result in millions of Americans losing their health insurance.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

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