Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Activists Call for Audit of Sheriff Ahern

by Ryan Lindsay
Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 2:18 PM

Sheriff Ahern.
  • Sheriff Ahern.

Community members and activists on Tuesday called on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to audit Sheriff Gregory Ahern’s budget. The #AuditAhern event was part of the Ella Baker Center and Justice Reinvestment Coalition of Alameda County campaign.

“The sheriff is running a corrupt department and is allowing deputies to abuse people in the jails,” alleged Tash Nguyen, an organizer with the Ella Baker Center (EBC). “People inside the jails are committing suicide. This is a department that needs monitoring and oversight — not more money.”

The launch of the campaign coincides with Ahern’s acceptance of a $1 million federal grant from the Trump Department of Justice that will fund the hiring of eight new officers. The federal grant comes through a DOJ program that favors cities and states that are compliant with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

“The board of supervisors need to step up and take leadership because clearly the county is supposed to be not cooperating with ICE and it is,” added Oakland resident Paul Kivel. “There’s a great gap between the rhetoric and the practice.”

Kivel said he showed up to the event because he does not approve of the sheriff’s “collusion with the ICE” and the “unsupervised nature of the expenditures” of the office, among other reasons.

In October, inmates at Glenn Dyer Detention Facility engaged in a week-long hunger strike to protest abusive conditions, including excessive use of administrative segregation.

“What’s happening in the Alameda County jails has been a longstanding, inhumane condition,” said Angela Noel, communications specialist for Oakland Community Organizations, one of the 16 organizations that comprise the Justice Reinvestment Coalition. “The sheriff has been acting as if he’s not vulnerable to the power of the people and the power of the vote and the power of the board of supervisors — he has to be held accountable in every way, from the figures to the humans.”

Following the rally, more than 20 community members spoke during the public comment section of the board of supervisors meeting. An EBC member presented each supervisor with envelopes of postcards with “Save Money. Save Lives. Audit the Sheriff” printed on the front and messages calling for them to hold Ahern accountable.

Lucas Solórzano, an immigrant rights organizer with Causa Justa/Just Cause, translated for Gloria Esteban, a member of the same organization that’s also a part of the Justice Reinvestment Coalition. “It’s important for us to connect the dots between the incarceration of folks and what’s happening with the detention of immigrant folks and undocumented folks,” said Solórzano.

In her comment, Esteban told the board that there’s nothing to lose “in the clarity of an audit.”

In the past, the supervisors have claimed that they cannot regulate the sheriff because he is an elected official, however many have noted that the supervisors have the power to approve or reject his budget.

Wednesday’s Briefing: Uber Paid Hackers to Keep Quiet; Trump Admin Pushes to Kill Net Neutrality

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Nov 22, 2017 at 10:25 AM


Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 23, 2017

1. Uber paid $100,000 in hush money to hackers who stole personal data from 57 million of the ride-hailing company’s customers, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. The data hack took place in October 2016 and “included names and driver’s license numbers for 7 million drivers, 600,000 in the U.S., and names, email addresses and cell phone numbers for millions of riders.” The San Francisco company fired Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan and one other person, for concealing the hack and paying the hackers to keep quiet about it.

2. The Trump administration is proposing to eliminate “net neutrality,” which ensures equal access to the internet, The New York Times$ reports. The move by the Federal Communications Commission would repeal rules put in place by the Obama administration and would open the door to allowing “internet service companies to charge users more to see certain content and to curb access to some websites.”

3. California has outspent the Trump administration by a ratio of 4-1 on ads for Obamacare enrollment this year, the LA Times$ reports. The state has a budget of $45 million for advertising for Obamacare, while the federal government under President Trump has greatly rolled back ad spending.

4. Pixar CEO John Lasseter took a leave of absence from the company citing “missteps” and “difficult conversations” as the Hollywood Reporter was reporting on a story of alleged sexual harassment at the Emeryville-based animation studio.

5. And 1970s heartthrob David Cassidy, who starred in the popular TV series Partridge Family, died at the age of 67 from liver failure.

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The Daily Briefing will return on Monday, Nov. 27.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Tuesday’s Briefing: Alameda County Gets Trump Admin Grant for ICE Cooperation; You Need to Make $171K to Buy House in Bay Area

Plus, a federal judge blocks Trump administration plan to punish sanctuary cities.

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 9:46 AM

Greg Ahern.
  • Greg Ahern.

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

1. Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern is receiving a law enforcement grant from the Trump administration because of his decision to cooperate with federal anti-immigration efforts, reports Rachel Swan of the San Francisco Chronicle. Ahern’s department, which is getting $1 million to hire eight law enforcement officers, is the only agency in the Bay Area to receive such a grant. Many agencies, including Oakland and Berkeley police, decided not to apply for the grants because the Trump Department of Justice is requiring cooperation with ICE.

2. Buyers need to make $171,331 a year to afford the average home in the San Francisco metro region, which includes Oakland and the rest of the East Bay, reports Richard Scheinin of the Mercury News$, citing a new study from the mortgage information website. That’s the second highest salary requirement to purchase a home in the nation, behind the San Jose metro area, where buyers need to make $216,181 annually to afford a median-priced house.

3. A federal judge permanently blocked the Trump administration’s plan to financially punish sanctuary cities like Oakland, Berkeley, and Alameda, reports Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The Trump DOJ had proposed to withhold billions in federal dollars from sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with ICE, but Judge William Orrick III ruled that the plan is unconstitutional. The ruling, however, does not impact the administration’s decision to withhold criminal justice grants from sanctuary cities.

4. San Leandro has become the latest city to decide to divest from Wells Fargo because of the bank’s credit card fraud scandal and its involvement in the Dakota Access Pipeline, reports Steven Tavares of the East Bay Citizen. The Leandro City Council voted 6-0 to divest from $700,000 in city assets from Wells Fargo.

5. And broadcasting personality Charlie Rose, New York Times reporter Glenn Thrush, and Michigan Democratic Congressmember John Conyers are the latest high-profile men to be accused of sexual harassment.

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Monday, November 20, 2017

Monday’s Briefing: Oakland Gets 255 Legal Pot Permit Applications; Another State Legislator Accused of Sexual Harassment

Plus, President Trump calls for Oakland Raiders to suspend Marshawn Lynch.

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Nov 20, 2017 at 10:08 AM


Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 20, 2017:

1. Oakland received 255 applications for city permits from people and businesses that want to sell, cultivate, or distribute legal marijuana beginning in January, reports Sarah Ravani of the San Francisco Chronicle$. “The largest number of the applications, 78, are from individuals who want permits for indoor cannabis-growing businesses. The second-largest number, 55, want permits for cannabis delivery businesses.” None of the applicants have received permits yet. But the city’s eight medical cannabis dispensaries will be able to sell weed for recreational use on Jan. 1, if they receive state permits.

2. State Assemblymember Raul Bocanegra, D-Pacoima, announced that he will not seek reelection after the Los Angeles Times asked him to comment on allegations from six women who accused him of sexual harassment. Bocanegra also announced that he would immediately resign from his leadership position in the Assembly. Bocanegra is the second state Democratic legislator to be accused of sexual harassment, following allegations leveled at Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia.

3. President Trump called on the Oakland Raiders in a tweet this morning to suspend running back Marshawn Lynch for the rest of the season after Lynch sat for the U.S. national anthem but stood for Mexican anthem before Sunday’s football game against the New England Patriots in Mexico City.

4. Charles Manson, a Los Angeles cult leader who masterminded a series of murders in the 1960s and has been in prison since then, died of natural causes at the age of 83.

5. The East Bay Regional Park District has once again joined up with REI to offer free admission to parks on Black Friday this week, reports Mart Yamamoto of the East Bay Times$. REI also plans to close all of its stores on Friday and give its employees a paid day off.

6. And Mama’s Royal Café on Broadway in Oakland was slated to reopen today under new ownership, reports Sarah Han of Berkeleyside. The beloved breakfast spot has been closed since Oct. 16.

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Study: Higher Minimum Wage and Other Progressive Policies Have Not Hurt Economic Growth in California

The UC Berkeley research showed a correlation between progressive policies and stronger growth for employment and gross domestic product.

by Jessica Lynn
Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 10:50 AM

A new UC Berkeley study has found that a bundle of progressive policies enacted in California since 2011 — once characterized as “job-killers” by the state’s Chamber of Commerce — had no negative impact on the state’s employment or economic growth.

The study examined the impacts of “the California Policy Model," the nickname for 51 progressive policies put into place between 2011 and 2016 after Gov. Jerry Brown took office while Democrats controlled both houses of the state legislature. The study looked at the effects of a higher minimum wage, extended paid sick leave, raised taxes on corporations, increased access to affordable health care, and more environmental protections.

Ian Perry, the UC Berkeley Labor Center researcher who authored the report, “California is Working: The Effects of California’s Public Policy on Jobs and the Economy since 2011,” said he was inspired to begin the project because of a lack of holistic investigations into the impact of progressive policy.

“There’s a focus on a lot of targeted evaluation on a lot of specific policies. There’s less out there looking at the cumulative impact,” Perry said. “But it’s also kind of more the relevant question a lot of the time. Places are doing a lot of different things at once.”

When Perry compared California to states whose governments were under complete Republican control between 2011 and 2016, he found that California’s employment rate and economy saw stronger growth.

But Perry also worried if it was fair to compare California to Republican states that may have fundamentally different economic structures. So he also created a model of a “conservative California” that tracked what would have happened over the 2011-2016 time period had these policies never been implemented.

Again, the research showed a correlation between the progressive policies and stronger growth for employment and gross domestic product.

“It shows that what we as a state have been doing has been largely successful,” Perry said. “We’ve seen wages go up, people gain health insurance, and the state getting on track with carbon reduction goals. The policies put into place to make that happen haven’t had the negative impacts that people sometimes fear.”

The study has begun to draw national attention at a time when the federal government is pushing for policies that directly contradict those enacted as part of the “California Policy Model.”

In a Washington Post op-ed Jared Bernstein, who used to be a chief economist to former vice president Joe Biden, called the study “useful information in the cause of economic justice,” though he questioned some aspects of the research. He noted that the study could be skewed if Republican-controlled states experienced negative economic trends unrelated to policy during this time.

Speaker of the California State Assembly Anthony Rendon also cited the study as a evidence for how the state should navigate the country’s current political climate.

“This study is a powerful piece of evidence to support what I’ve said for the past year: California’s greatest weapon against backwards national policies is not just to resist, but to continue to act affirmatively on the policies that will benefit, and already have benefitted, all the people of our state,” Rendon wrote in a press release.

Friday’s Briefing: Oakland Housing Market Is 3rd Most Competitive; State to Allow Mega Cannabis Farms

Plus, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin under investigation for campaign finance violations.

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 10:22 AM


Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 17, 2017:

1. The Oakland metro’s extremely tight housing market is the third most competitive in the nation, behind only San Francisco and San Jose, reports Richard Scheinin of the Mercury News$, citing a new analysis from the real estate firm Redfin. In the Oakland market, 63 percent of home sales, including condos and townhomes, were for above asking price last month. Analysts attributed the soaring costs to the severe shortage of homes for sale. In Oakland, 25.5 percent fewer homes sold in October than the previous year as the median sales price reached $690,000, a 13.1 percent increase.

2. California regulators finally released a comprehensive set of new rules for the legal cannabis market and have decided to allow mega-pot farms in the state, reports Rachel Swan of the San Francisco Chronicle. The new rules, which take effect Jan. 1, when the sale of pot for recreational use becomes lawful in the state, could draw large agricultural interests into weed growing. The new regulations also limit cannabis deliveries to automobile only—and ban bicycle deliveries.

3. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin is under investigation by the city’s political watchdog agency for possibly violating campaign finance laws during last year’s election, reports Frances Dinkelspiel of Berkeleyside. Records show that Arreguin’s campaign failed to reimburse his chief of staff for expenditures during the election as required by city law, thus turning the spending into illegal donation loans.

4. Despite efforts by President Trump to sabotage Obamacare, signups for California Care, the state version of the federal health care law, surged by 23 percent during the first two weeks of November compared to last year, reports Catherine Ho of the San Francisco Chronicle$.

5. The UC Board of Regents admonished UC President Janet Napolitano for approving a plan that resulted in two of her top staffers improperly interfering in a state audit earlier this year, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Napolitano apologized, citing poor judgment. But the regents unanimously concluded that they want her to remain president.

6. BART police shot and seriously wounded a man they said was carrying a rifle at the Richmond BART station, the East Bay Times$ reports. The 21-year-old man was taken to a hospital for surgery.

7. The GOP-controlled Congress passed a sweeping overhaul to the federal tax code that will provide tax cuts to the wealthy and large corporations, while increasing taxes on low-income earners and on millions of middle-class families, especially in California, The New York Times$ reports. The Republican-controlled Senate is expected to vote on its version of the plan after Thanksgiving.

8. PG&E plans to cut down about 25,000 trees that suffered damage in the Northern California wildfires in October, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat reports. The utility is concerned that the damaged trees could down power lines during winter storms.

9. The chinook salmon population on the Mokelumne River is surging this year, reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle$. “The large number of salmon, which are inspired by the first rains of the season to swim upriver and spawn, validate the effectiveness of a series of streambed, habitat and health improvements made over the years by [East Bay MUD] and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.”

10. And the controversial Keystone Pipeline leaked about 210,000 gallons of dirty tar sands oil in South Dakota, The New York Times$ reports.

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

New Oakland Fire Chief: City Needs to Hire More Firefighters and Inspectors

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 10:47 AM


Oakland's new Fire Chief Darin White said last night at a League of Women Voters event that his department needs more staff. It's the top item on his "wish list" of needs.

"For a long time, the department has been understaffed," he bluntly told an audience of about two dozen Oakland residents.

White's observation is underscored by a recent city report showing that 50 crucial positions in the fire department are currently vacant, despite being funded.

This includes 11 missing captains, eight lieutenants, three paramedics, 12 firefighters, three dispatchers, and multiple other jobs critical to public safety.

Following the deadly Ghost Ship and San Pablo Avenue fires, the city council and mayor also committed to hiring more fire inspectors. Six new fire inspector positions were included in the 2017-18 fiscal year budget approved in June, but so far, only one of these positions has been filled.

And the department is still missing an assistant fire marshal.

Asked about what's changed after the deadly Ghost Ship fire, White declined to share specifics. But he said the department has moved to improve communication between its inspectors and the planning and building department's employees.

The chief also acknowledged that the department's systems of inspecting vegetation and other fire hazards in the tinderbox Oakland hills has been flawed, and that he hopes to modernize the tools used by Oakland fire personnel to help homeowners remain in compliance.

He also said fires at homeless camps are "on the rise," but didn't have much to say about how the city intends to improve safety for the roughly 1,900 unsheltered people who live on the streets.

Overall, White said he will focus on keeping the community safe while also ensuring the safety of his employees, and looking to implement new technology to improve efficiency.

Thursday’s Briefing: Broadcaster Says Al Franken Sexually Assaulted Her; Students Call for the Resignation of UC Regent Accused of Sex Harassment

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 10:22 AM


Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 16, 2017:

1. A Los Angeles radio broadcaster says U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., sexually assaulted her in 2006, and she posted a photo of him grabbing her breasts while she was asleep. Leann Tweeden, who wrote about the assault for KABC, also said that Franken forcibly kissed her. At the time, Franken was not yet a U.S. senator, and the two were on a USO Tour. Franken apologized this morning but claimed that he was joking. GOP Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called for an ethics investigation of Franken.

2. Student activists called for the resignation of UC Regent Norman Pattiz, who was recorded asking actress Heather McDonald at his podcast company if he could hold her breasts, reports Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle. Pattiz, whose term on the board of regents last until 2026, has steadfastly refused to step down, claiming he was only joking.

3. The Oakland A’s have selected a design team to develop plans for a new ballpark next to Laney College, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. The team includes nationally recognized sports architect HOK, as well as Snøhetta, which designed the addition to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The A’s are proposing to build a new stadium on Peralta Community College District land on East 8th Avenue.

4. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District approved new air pollution rules that it called the strictest in the nation, reports Denis Cuff of the East Bay Times$. The new rules require that a new refinery and other polluters must reduce toxic air pollution “if emissions from a plant increase its neighbors’ cancer risk by 10 in a million or more.”

5. The Trump administration warned Berkeley, Sam Francisco, and Contra Costa County that they will lose federal Department of Justice grants because of their sanctuary policies that protect undocumented immigrants, reports Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle.

6. And the Berkeley school board voted to rename LeConte Elementary School, because the school’s namesake, Joseph LeConte, was a slave owner who helped build munitions for the Confederacy, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Wednesday’s Briefing: Judge Says Oakland Had a ‘Duty’ to Deal With Ghost Ship; Two Former UC Officials Interfered With State Audit

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 10:13 AM

The Ghost Ship before it burned.
  • The Ghost Ship before it burned.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 15, 2017:

1. An Alameda County Superior Court judge said Oakland had a “mandatory duty” to deal with the building and code violations at the Ghost Ship warehouse before it burned down last year, killing 36 people, reports Kimberly Veklerov of the San Francisco Chronicle. The ruling by Judge Brad Seligman, if upheld, opens the door for a huge financial judgment against the city in lawsuits filed by victims’ family members. The decision also could prompt the city to shut down artists’ warehouses throughout Oakland that are not in compliance with city building and safety codes.

2. Two former top University of California officials improperly interfered in a state audit earlier this year, reports Nanette Asimov of the San Francisco Chronicle$, citing the results of an independent investigation. The two ex-officials, Seth Grossman, chief of staff to UC President Janet Napolitano, and Bernie Jones, Grossman’s deputy, worked with UC campuses to change their responses to an audit survey. Grossman and Jones recently resigned.

3. A gunman killed four people on Tuesday and injured at least two children in a shooting spree that began near his home in Tehama County, north of Sacramento, and then continued at a local elementary school, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The killer, Kevin Janson Neal, shot at the school after school officials alertly locked down the campus. Neal was later killed by law enforcement officers.

4. Three paint companies — Conagra, NL Industries, and Sherwin-Williams — must pay hundreds of millions of dollars to clean lead paint from homes in Alameda, San Francisco, San Mateo and seven other counties built before 1951, under a ruling by a state appellate court, reports Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle. The court ruled that the paint companies knew that lead paint is toxic when they advertised the product before 1951.

5. A judge sentenced Daniel Rush, a former chair of the Berkeley Medical Cannabis Commission, to 37 months in prison for fraud and money laundering, reports Frances Dinkelspiel of Berkeleyside. Rush, who is also a former union organizer, pleaded guilty in June “to one count of violating the Taft-Hartley Act, one count of honest services fraud, and one count to commit structuring and money laundering.”

6. And Senate Republicans have decided again to try to repeal aspects of Obamacare by amending their tax cut plan, The New York Times$ reports. Republicans are proposing to eliminate the individual mandate, which requires people to buy health insurance, as part of their tax overhaul, which gives large tax cuts to the wealthy and corporations.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

San Leandro and Berkeley See Significant Rise in Reported Hate Crimes

Most Bay Area hate crime victims were targeted because of their race.

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Nov 14, 2017 at 1:13 PM


According to data collected by the FBI, several East Bay cities saw large increases in reported hate crimes in 2016. Topping the regional list was San Leandro, where the police reported 22 hate crimes. This gave the East Bay city of 91,000 residents the third highest hate crime rate of any city in the state: 24 crimes per 100,000 people. Fifteen of the hate crimes committed in San Leandro last year were racially motivated.

Berkeley also saw a sharp rise in hate crimes, with 13 incidents, nine of which were racially motivated. Berkeley, which has a population of 122,000, had an overall hate crime rate of 11 per 100,000.

Berkeley's rate was more than three times as high as the average  for cities in California. The average rate was 3.3 per 100,000 residents last year.

Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin called the FBI's hate crimes report alarming and linked the rise in incidents to the current political climate.

"When a presidential candidate openly vilifies immigrants, Muslims, Latinos, women, and the LGBT community, and empowers bigotry and hatred, it’s not surprising that people will act out in their hate," said Arreguin. "Several of these hate crimes occurred after the election in Berkeley against Muslim Americans, and businesses and individuals of all backgrounds have been the target of harassment."

In previous years, both Berkeley and San Leandro had rates much closer to the state's average.

San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor said he's reviewed the FBI's report as well as specific incident reports written by his own officers to more fully understand what's behind the rise in reported hate crimes in his city. But he said part of the reason San Leandro may have ranked so high this year is that his officers are told to classify incidents as hate crimes in cases that may not initially have been motivated by bigotry, but which involved a racial slur, misogynist comment, or homophobic remark.

Other police department's may not be this attentive in classifying incidents as hate crimes under the FBI's system.

"I think our officers and sergeants erred on the side of caution," said Tudor. "But I want to make it perfectly clear we will always document and look into cases where an incident involves a hate crime or involves hate speech."

It's widely acknowledged that the FBI's system of tracking hate crimes needs improvement. In fact, many police departments choose not to send data to the FBI each year, because data reporting is voluntary. And what's classified as a hate crime is up to each local police department. Furthermore, many victims are hesitant to report a hate crime to the police.

Even so, the yearly report provides a look at patterns in hate crimes throughout the country.

In Northern California, several cities consistently rank high on the FBI's list.

Santa Cruz, which has a population of 65,000, ranked sixth in the state in 2016, with 12 reported hate crimes and a rate of 19 per 100,000 residents.

Seven of these hate crimes involved racial bias; three, religious bigotry; and two, because of a person's sexual orientation. In 2014 and 2015, Santa Cruz's hate crimes rate was lower, but still three to four times the state average.

The small Mendocino city of Fort Bragg — named after a Confederate Army officer — topped the state rankings this year with a hate crimes rate of 41. In 2014 and 2015, Fort Bragg's hate crimes rate was also several times higher than the state average. But the city's small population, just 7,200 residents, means that just one extra hate crime per year can bump it's rate up by 13 points, making comparison with larger cities difficult.

The FBI's full 2016 hate crimes report can be accessed here.

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