Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Wednesday's Briefing: ICE Arrested 150 People During NorCal Sweeps; Developer Proposes 1K Housing Project Next to West Oakland BART

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Feb 28, 2018 at 10:17 AM

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Stories you shouldn't miss for Feb. 28, 2018:

1. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials announced that they arrested 150 people during immigration sweeps in Northern California and suggested they would have arrested more if it were not for Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's decision to warn immigrants about the raids, reports Hamed Aleaziz of the San Francisco Chronicle. ICE officials blasted Schaaf for her decision, but she has steadfastly defended it.

2. Developer Patrick Kennedy is proposing to build a 1,038-unit housing project, with a 23-story tower, next to the West Oakland BART station, reports Roland Li of the San Francisco Business Times$. But Kennedy's proposal has prompted opposition from Oakland planning staff because it would include no resident parking. Kennedy and pro-transportation advocates say housing next to transit shouldn't require parking, but the plan would need special approval from the city because local zoning rules mandate 0.35 spaces per unit.

3. The U.S. Supreme Court's conservative majority ruled that immigrants can be held in custody indefinitely as they await deportation proceedings and are not entitled to bail, Reuters reports. Liberal judge Stephen Breyer argued in a dissenting opinion that forbidding bail would likely violate the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of due process under the law.

4. Dick's Sporting Goods, a national chain with outlets in the East Bay, announced that it will no longer sell assault-style rifles following the mass killing at Parkland High School in Florida earlier this month, The New York Times$ reports. The company also said that it would not sell guns to anyone under the age of 21.

5. Some El Cerrito residents are strongly opposing a proposal for a 146-unit, 8-story apartment building with 10 affordable housing units near BART, complaining that it would block their views, reports Janis Mara for Berkeleyside.

6. U.S. intelligence officials said Russian agents penetrated voting systems in California and six other states in the 2016 election, NBC reports. Officials also said they expect Russia to again target U.S. elections this year.

7. And the first big storm of the year is heading toward Northern California and could bring up to 7 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada, reports Paul Rogers of the Mercury News$.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Oakland Searches for 'Sweet Spot' with Cannabis Tax Rates

City councilmembers are considering a ballot measure that would allow them to lower Oakland's tax rate on weed.

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 2:40 PM

marijuana_plant_03.jpg

Oakland was the first city in the nation to tax marijuana back in 2009. Over the following decade, the industry grew quickly in the cannabis-friendly city. But now Oakland officials and industry leaders worry that the city's current tax rates may be too high compared to other localities trying lure weed business.

"Oakland has been a long-time leader in this industry," Councilmember Abel Guillen said at a city committee meeting today. "We need to find that sweet spot that works."

Oakland currently taxes all types of cannabis businesses based on whether they operate in the medical or recreational sectors. Medical cultivators, dispensaries, manufacturers, and delivery and testing services pay 5 percent while recreational companies pay 10 percent.

Rates in other cities are somewhat lower, but Oakland's big advantage is that it allows all kinds of cannabis businesses, from seed-to-sale.

Richmond, another highly permissive city, has set its tax rate 5 percent across the board for all types of businesses. Sacramento's rate is 4 percent, and like Richmond and Oakland it permits growing, manufacturing, delivery, and sales.

The Berkeley City Council recently voted to lower the city's tax rate on recreational cannabis from 10 percent to 5 percent.

Cannabis industry attorney James Anthony told councilmembers today that Oakland's rates compound and add up across the supply chain. On top of the new state tax rates that kicked in with Proposition 64, Oakland's higher tax rates could make the city less competitive.

"There is plenty of competition out there," said Anthony. "The supply chain will flow where the tax is lowest."

Debby Goldsberry, executive director of the Magnolia Wellness dispensary, said that some of her customers have already been driven into the black market where prices are lower due to no taxation. "If you do the math you will see the legal market stands no chance without tax reform," she told the Oakland councilmembers today.

Oakland's head of revenue and taxes, Margaret O'Brien, said the danger of over-taxing cannabis is real and that it could drive some economic activity back into the black market. She pointed to recent research about the difference in marijuana markets in Washington state and Colorado. In Washington, where tax rates are substantially higher, more consumers have stayed in the black market, whereas Colorado has enticed more producers and retailers to register and pay taxes with lower rates.

But O'Brien also said that competition is somewhat limited. Only a few Bay Area cities allow seed-to-sale activities like Oakland, and few have as big a customer base. O'Brien said that most cities in the state don't permit cultivation, retail, and manufacturing due to opposition from residents who view it as a nuisance.

"In many ways, the NIMBYism of other cities is a benefit to us," said O'Brien.

The Oakland City Council is considering several options with respect to its marijuana taxes, including doing nothing and keeping rates between 5 and 10 percent.

Alternatively, the council might put a measure on the November ballot to modify Oakland's cannabis laws so that the council has leeway to set tax rates and determine other tax and regulatory measures with greater flexibility. Under current city law, which was established by a 2010 ballot measure, the Oakland council does not have the authority to lower cannabis taxes without voter approval.

Councilmember Dan Kalb said at today's hearing he thinks local tax rates need to drop in order to attract all kinds of cannabis businesses to the city.

Michael Wheeler, a vice president at the cannabis delivery company Flow Kana, said his firm already has about 60 employees in Oakland, but that it's the local tax rate that is the "leading criteria" in terms of deciding where to expand or locate new operations.

Tuesday's Briefing: Schaaf Gets Death Threats for ICE Warning; Two Candidates Launch Bids to Unseat Desley Brooks

Plus, the state Supreme Court strikes down 50-year prison sentences for youths tried as adults.

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Feb 27, 2018 at 10:05 AM

Libby Schaaf (center) is sticking by her decision to warn the public about pending ICE raids.
  • Libby Schaaf (center) is sticking by her decision to warn the public about pending ICE raids.

Stories you shouldn't miss for Feb. 27, 2018:

1. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has received death threats from members of the far right because of her decision to issue a public warning over the weekend about pending immigration sweeps by the U.S. Immigration and Enforcement Agency (ICE), reports David DeBolt of the East Bay Times$. Schaaf is sticking by her decision to warn people about the possible ICE raids. But some of Schaaf's left-wing political opponents, including Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, are also criticizing her, saying she should have kept her knowledge of the raids secret from the public and only informed pro-immigration groups so as to not to scare people.

2. Two candidates have launched bids to unseat embattled Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks, who has come under heavy criticism for costing the city $3.75 million in a legal judgment stemming from Brooks' assault on ex-Black Panther Elaine Brown, reports Steven Tavares of the East Bay Times$. The two candidates running against Brooks this year so far are Loren Taylor, an Oakland entrepreneur and 100 Black Men of the Bay Area board member, and Natasha Middleton, a management analyst for the Alameda County Probation Department.

3. The California Supreme Court has struck down 50-year prison sentences handed out to youths who are tried as adults for violent sex crimes, saying the lengthy punishments amount to life without parole, reports Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle. "A lawful sentence must offer hope of restoration ... a chance for fulfillment outside prison walls, and a chance for reconciliation with society," wrote Justice Goodwin Liu in the 4-3 ruling.

4. California has given the greenlight to driverless cars and they could hit the road for test runs as early as April 2, reports Carolyn Said of the San Francisco Chronicle. Under the state's program, companies will be able to begin testing autonomous vehicles - with no backup drivers. "Companies must self-certify that their cars can handle themselves without a human in the driver's seat, and they must comply with all federal safety regulations."

5. And Oakland's iconic Mormon Temple has closed for a year's worth of renovations, reports Janis Mara for the East Bay Times$. The temple in the Oakland hills shuttered on Feb. 19.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Monday's Briefing: High Court Extends DACA to End of 2018; ICE Detains At Least 11 People Amid Oakland Mayor's Warning

Plus, DiFi fails to garner endorsement from California Democratic Party.

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Feb 26, 2018 at 9:58 AM

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Stories you shouldn't miss for Feb. 26, 2018:

1. The U.S. Supreme Court voted unanimously to reject a request by President Trump to act quickly on his plan to end DACA, thereby extending the federal program that protects young immigrants until likely the end of the year, reports Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle. Trump had asked the court to immediately take up a challenge to his DACA-elimination plan, but the justices ruled that it must go through the regular appeals process first. Trump had planned to end DACA by March 5.

2. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents detained at least 11 people in Northern California over the weekend amid Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's warning that ICE was planning immigration sweeps in the region, KTVU reports. Schaaf took the unusual step of alerting the region's immigrant community after she said she received credible reports of planned ICE raids.

3. U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein failed to garner the endorsement of the California Democratic Party over the weekend, in what was stinging rebuke of the state's senior senator. Feinstein, who has come under heavy fire for being too conservative and too willing to work with President Trump, only got about one-third of the vote from the party's delegates during the annual convention in San Diego. Her challenger, state. Sen. Kevin de León, D-Los Angeles, won 54 percent of the delegates' votes, just shy of the 60 percent needed to secure the party's endorsement, the LA Times$ reports.

4. Ex-state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, who resigned from office last week under threat of expulsion for sexual harassment, announced that he's running again for the state Senate this year, reports Alexei Koseff of the Sacramento Bee$.

5. And a shuttered historic former Oakland public library branch burned on Friday for the third time, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The city-owned building on Miller Avenue in East Oakland has long attracted squatters and drug addicts.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Friday's Briefing: February May Be One of the Driest on Record; Ex-Trump Campaign Staffer to Plead Guilty in Mueller Probe

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Feb 23, 2018 at 10:07 AM

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Stories you shouldn't miss for Feb. 23, 2018:

1. February is on track to becoming one of the driest ever in some parts of California, reports Rong-Gong Lin II of the LA Times$. Sacramento, for example, has had zero rainfall this month; the previous record was 0.04 inches of rain in 1899. And the Sierra snowpack is at only 20 percent of normal, raising serious concerns that California has gone back into a drought. Weather forecasters expect the state to stay mostly dry until at least March 1.

2. Robert Gates, the former deputy campaign manager for Donald Trump's 2016 presidential run, will plead guilty today to fraud and lying to the FBI and is expected to testify against Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, The New York Times$ reports. Manafort is facing dozens of counts of fraud and other serious felonies, and if he also strikes a plea deal with special prosecutor Robert Mueller, he could provide key information in the probe of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russia in the 2016 presidential race.

3. The city of Oakland is moving forward with a plan to relax regulations on live-work spaces in order to free up more housing space for artists, musicians, and other people, reports Ali Tadayon of the East Bay Times$. Earlier this week, the city council directed the planning commission to reform rules that limit live-work spaces in Oakland to four residents.

4. Embattled state Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, resigned from office on Thursday just as the senate was preparing to expel him from office for rampant sexual harassment, reports Melody Gutierrez of the San Francisco Chronicle.

5. Silicon Valley billionaire Vinod Khosla asked the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn a California high court ruling that required him to reopen Martin's Beach to the public, reports Paul Rogers of the Mercury News$. Khosla closed off the popular beach after he purchased it in 2008, but California officials ordered him to reopen it, noting that under longtime state law, the public has a right to access the coast.

6. And in yet another unhinged diatribe, President Trump threatened to pull U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents out of California because of the state's new sanctuary law.

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

Family of Man Shot by BART Police Press for Charges

BART's police chief said his officer's actions were 'courageous.'

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Feb 22, 2018 at 12:59 PM

Yolanda Banks Reed, the mother of Sahleem Tindle. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Yolanda Banks Reed, the mother of Sahleem Tindle.

The BART board of directors meeting was packed this morning with family members of Sahleem Tindle, the 28-year-old man who was fatally shot in the back in January by a BART police officer in West Oakland.

The incident is still under criminal investigation by Oakland police, and BART is conducting its own administrative review to see if officer Joseph Mateu violated agency policies.

But Tindle's family called on the board to immediately take Mateu off the streets. The officer was placed back on full duty two weeks after the shooting.

"It's an insult," Tindle's mother Yolanda Banks Reed told BART directors during public comment, referring to Mateu's quick return to work. She called the shooting unjustified and demanded quick action.

Other members of Tindle's family said they believed he was in the process of complying with the officer's commands to put his hands up just before Mateu shot Tindle three times in the back. A legal claim filed last week by the family against BART makes the same assertion.

Yesterday, BART Police Chief Carlos Rojas said that Mateu did the right thing by running toward gunfire and called him courageous for responding to the scene of the altercation where several gunshots had already rang out. It's unclear who fired a gun in the area before the officer arrived, however.

Tindle's family cricitized the statement today. They said it was impossible to tell, from the video, who shot a gun before the officer arrived. And they said a gun doesn't clearly appear anywhere in the video in Tindle's hands.

But when asked after today's board meeting about his characterization of Mateu, Rojas reaffirmed his statement.

"Anybody who is running toward gunshots to help a member of our community, that is courageous," he said.

The release of two versions of the video of Tindle's death, first by his family and then by BART, has stoked controversy about whether the shooting was justified.

To the family, the video is clear evidence of a murder.

To BART's police chief, it shows an officer running toward gunfire and intervening in a dangerous situation.

Tindle's family and attorney John Burris were originally shown Officer Mateu's body camera video during a recent visit to the Oakland Police Department. The family later released a portion of the video showing what appeared to be two men struggling. Mateu's hands can be seen gripping his pistol and firing three times into Tindle's back.

Yesterday, BART released a lengthier copy of the video in response to the segment issued by Tindle's family. It appears to show Mateu inside the West Oakland BART Station when two shots ring out. People nearby begin to panic and yell that someone is shooting. Mateu then runs out of the station, calls through his radio "shots fire," and crosses 7th Street.

In the video, Mateu approaches two men struggling. He orders them to put their hands up and second later shoots Tindle in the back.

Tindle's family criticized Mateu today for not identifying himself as a police officer. In the video, he doesn't appear to say "police."

A freeze frame from the BART police version of the body camera video.
  • A freeze frame from the BART police version of the body camera video.
BART's copy of the video includes freeze frames attached to the end which include bright yellow circles around an object that the two men appear to be wrestling to gain control over. Rojas said today that the object was a gun that was recovered by OPD on the scene.

OPD has yet to say whose gun it was.

"Joseph Mateu thought he was a damn cowboy and shot my brother in the back," said Laron Mayfield, Sahleem's brother.

Mayfield told the Express outside today's BART board meeting that his brother was taking his family, including several children, to the West Oakland BART station when he got into an altercation with a man known as "Ray." But he said he knew nothing more of the incident.

The identity of the man who was wrestling with Tindle when he was shot has not been made public . Rojas said at a press conference yesterday that he doesn't know the man's name. OPD hasn't released his identity, or any further details about the incident that led up to the struggle and fatal shooting.

Tindle's death, on Jan. 3, fell two days after the 9th anniversary of Oscar Grant's killing by a BART police officer at Fruitvale Station.

Grant's uncle, Cephus Johnson, attended today's BART board meeting to support Tindle's family. He called the incident a "resurrection" of Grant's killing and alluded to the rebellion afterward that resulted in weeks of demonstrations and violent clashes between protesters and the police.

"While he's on post," Johnson said about Mateu's return to active duty, "ya'll remember the smell of smoke."

Thursday's Briefing: Mayors Want State to Spend $1.5 Billion on Homelessness; Body Camera Video Raises Questions About BART Cop Shooting

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Feb 22, 2018 at 10:16 AM

Libby Schaaf.
  • Libby Schaaf.

Stories you shouldn't miss for Feb. 22, 2018:

1. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other big city mayors in California are pushing the state to spend $1.5 billion from its reserve to help address homelessness, reports Katy Murphy of the Bay Area News Group$. In response to Schaaf and other mayors, Assemblymember Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, introduced legislation that would earmark $1.5 billion of the state's $6.1 billion reserve for cities to use. "As one of the wealthiest and most innovative places in the world," Schaaf said, "California can and must do better."

2. BART police released body-camera footage of a fatal shooting by a transit cop near the West Oakland BART station, and the video raises questions as to whether the killing was justified, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. The video shows BART Officer Joseph Mateu running toward two men who were struggling with each other after shots were fired, and then Mateu shot one of the men - Sahleem Tindle, 28 - in the back as he kneeled on the ground. It's also not clear from the video whether Tindle had the gun when Mateu killed him. Tindle's family is calling on BART to fire Mateu and for authorities to prosecute him.

3. State lawmakers are considering legislation that would strip teens of their drivers' licenses for a year if they test positive for marijuana, reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle. But cannabis advocates say the bill by state Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, is unworkable and will lead to unnecessary targeting of youth because marijuana stays in people's systems for long periods of days or weeks - long after they were high.

4. Cities and counties are more to blame for blocking new housing in California than the state's main environmental law - the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), reports Liam Dillon of the LA Times$, citing a new analysis by researchers at UC Berkeley and Columbia University. Pro-housing advocates have often blamed the misuse of CEQA for blocking new housing, but the researchers found that restrictive zoning laws are more responsible for the state's extreme housing shortage.

5. The state Senate may move today to expel Sen. Tony Mendoza, D-Artesia, for rampant sexual harassment, the LA Times$ reports. Mendoza would be the first California legislator expelled from the Capitol since 1905.

6. The U.S. Supreme Court is taking up a case on Monday that could devastate unions nationwide and severely curtail their political influence, reports Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle. The case, which is backed by the Trump administration, seeks to invalidate the ability of unions to charge non-union members fees to represent them in bargaining for pay and in disciplinary actions.

7. Oakland-based Pandora Media posted a $518.4 million loss in 2017 as it shed listeners, but the internet radio company also recorded better-than-expected revenues in the fourth quarter of the year, the San Francisco Chronicle and East Bay Times$ report. Pandora recently slashed 5 percent of its local workforce and announced plans to expand in Atlanta because the Oakland area is too expensive.

8. And President Trump doubled-down on his zealous pro-gun stance in the wake of the Florida high school mass killing, saying he thinks teachers should be armed with guns in the classroom, the Washington Post$ reports.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Alameda County DA Nancy O'Malley Announces New Policy to Reduce and Dismiss Potentially Thousands of Marijuana Convictions

According to the DA's office, there are possibly as many as 6,000 marijuana cases that could be cleared or reduced through the Prop 64 process.

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 12:27 PM

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Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley announced today a plan to reduce and dismiss thousands of prior marijuana convictions.

"We join our state officials and intend to reverse decades of cannabis convictions that can be a barrier for people to gain meaningful employment," O'Malley said in a press statement.

The sweeping ability to clear up people's criminal records was granted after voters passed Proposition 64 last year. Under the new law legalizing adult possession, use, and cultivation of small amounts of marijuana, many previous felony and misdemeanor marijuana crimes are no longer crimes. And many people now have the right to petition a court to reduce or dismiss old convictions and seal their records.

Nancy O'Malley.
  • Nancy O'Malley.
But so far, few have actually taken advantage of the petition process. This led San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon to announce last month that his office would proactively remove cannabis convictions from people's records and that individuals need not file petitions with the court.

O'Malley's announcement is similar to Gascon's policy, and it follows requests by several East Bay elected officials to take greater steps to automatically clear people's records.

"This clearly is a step forward from where we were a week ago," said Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan about the new policy.

Kaplan sent a letter to O'Malley last week asking that the DA follow other prosecutors by creating a more automatic process. She wrote that the petition process is burdensome and biased against those "who may not have the time, money, and knowledge to do the process on their own" and that an automatic process led by the DA would be more just.

Emeryville officials also support the DA's move. "I’ve spoken to her," said Emeryville Mayor John Bauters about streamlining the process to clear people's records. "She knows we’re interested."

According to the DA's office, there are possibly as many as 6,000 marijuana cases that could be cleared or reduced through the Prop 64 process.

According to Alameda Superior Court Executive Office Chad Finke, there have only been 501 petitions filed under Prop 64 through December 31, 2017.

O'Malley's policy will phase in toward an automated process of clearing records.

Her office will eventually gather information about all cannabis convictions going back to 1974 and identify which felonies can be reduced to misdemeanors and which misdemeanors are eligible under Prop 64 to be cleared entirely. In Phase Three, the DA's office will petition the court to have the convictions reduced or cleared. The person with the prior conviction need not take any action.

The DA's office is asking people with marijuana convictions who want to immediately seek a petition to contact them at CannabisDismissal@ACGov.org.

Tuesday's Briefing: Warriors Take Oakland to Arbitration Over Arena Debt; BART Says No to A's Jack London Station Plan

Plus, Oakland hills fire prevention fund runs out of cash.

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Feb 20, 2018 at 9:57 AM

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Stories you shouldn't miss for Feb. 20, 2018:

1. The Golden State Warriors are taking the city of Oakland and Alameda County to arbitration in an attempt to avoid paying $40 million in debt on Oracle Arena after the team moves to San Francisco, reports David DeBolt of the East Bay Times$. The city and county maintain that the Warriors' lease at the Arena requires the team to pay off the bond debt on the facility, but the Warriors disagree. The bond debt was created in the 1990s when the Warriors demanded that the city and county refurbish the Arena.

2. BART General Manager Grace Crunican told the Oakland A's in a letter that the transit agency opposes a plan to build a new station in the city's Jack London district if the team were to construct a new ballpark at Howard Terminal, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. Crunican's letter was a blow to the Howard Terminal site because the A's have expressed concerns that the location is too far from the next closest BART station - 12th Street. Crunican said a new Jack London station would be too disruptive to the Transbay line.

3. The Oakland hills fire prevention fund is out of cash - until July 1 - raising concerns about the potential for devastating wildfires this summer following this year's extraordinarily dry winter, reports Kimberly Veklerov of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The funding problem is due to the fact that hills residents voted to kill a wildfire prevention tax a few years ago. The city council allocated $600,000 for vegetation management effective July 1.

4. About one-third of apartment dwellers and one-quarter of people in their 20s and 30s say they're struggling to afford housing in the Bay Area, reports Katy Murphy of the Bay Area News Group$, citing a new poll commissioned by the news media organization and the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. "Bay Area residents under 40 were more than three times as likely to report they slashed other expenses 'a great deal' to cover their housing costs than those over 60, the survey found."

5. An oversight committee for the $600 million 2016 Oakland bond initiative, Measure KK, has yet to meet, reports Kimberly Veklerov of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The committee is supposed to keep track of how the city spends the bond money.

6. Fewer than 1 percent of the cannabis growers in California have received licenses under the state's new regulatory system, reports Lisa Krieger of the Mercury News$, citing a new report by the California Grower's Association. "Growers can't meet the cost of complying with regulations or are prohibited from growing due to local land-use policies, according to the report, 'An Emerging Crisis: Barriers To Entry In California Cannabis.'"

7. And the Trump administration is proposing to eliminate federal funding for the development of California's early earthquake warning system, reports Rong-Gong Lin II of the LA Times$. The warning system is designed to help Californians get out of harm's way before a big quake strikes, but the Trump administration said the system is not a priority.

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Monday, February 19, 2018

Opinion: You Didn't Protect Us From Gun Violence

Now, It's Our Turn.

by Joseph Harmon
Mon, Feb 19, 2018 at 11:22 AM

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A few weeks ago, I saw a man collapse on BART. He hit the floor hard, a woman screamed, and everyone in the car turned to look. People gathered around him. They called the operator to stop the train. They were able to get him upright, off at the next stop, and stay with him until paramedics arrived.

When he collapsed, I rose from my seat. I just watched everyone help him, frozen. Why didn't I do something? I told myself that he was already being helped. There was nothing else I could have done.
Imagine how the students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School felt on Wednesday as bullets tore through their classrooms. Terrified, helpless, frozen.

Now, this country enters the same cycle that it goes through after every mass shooting. The media covers the tragedy nonstop, sharing extensive details of the attack, background on the shooter, and heartbreaking pictures of the victims. Conservative politicians offer "thoughts and prayers," claiming that legislative action on gun safety would only "politicize a tragedy." Any attempts at compromise stall in Congress, like the proposal to regulate bump stocks after the Las Vegas massacre in November. When the next mass shooting happens, the cycle begins again. We are all frozen in place.

The students currently in high school grew up after Columbine. From Virginia Tech to Sandy Hook, they witnessed some of the deadliest mass shootings in American history. They know that those nightmares could become their reality - a reality that politicians in Washington were not forced to grow up with.

I graduated from Oakland Tech High School last June. We entered lockdown once when a man with a gun was reported miles away from the school. As we sat in the dark, I thought: If a shooter walked down the hallway right now, would I be visible from the door? Would I have time to duck and hide? My younger sister will start high school this fall. Months earlier, she said that one of her biggest worries - not homework, not making friends - was a school shooting.

The students who survived the Parkland shooting refuse to stand down. David Hogg looked straight into the camera and demanded action on gun safety from legislators. Carly Novell shut down a Fox News pundit's dismissive comment on Twitter. Emma Gonzalez gave a powerful speech that called out Trump and other politicians complicit with the NRA.

These students are not calling for a partisan battle. They are not calling for the government to confiscate the weapons of law-abiding citizens. They are calling for the government to protect them from senseless, preventable violence.

We are the generation under threat and we can break the cycle. Otherwise, we are all on that train, watching that man hit the ground without lifting a finger. We are watching people hit the ground in schools and theaters and concerts. We are observing tragedy from a distance, filtered through screens and headlines, until that tragedy crashes into our own lives and forces us to act.

My generation can take action where others failed. We can participate in protests like the walkouts planned for March 14 an April 20, or the march on Washington planned for March 24. We can donate to and volunteer for gun safety organizations like Everytown for Gun Safety, Moms Demand Action, and the Brady Campaign. We can contact our local representatives. With each passing year, as we turn 18, we can vote to elect state and local representatives who will ensure that our own children will never have to fear they will be gunned down in school.

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