Thursday, May 31, 2018

Thursday’s Briefing: Oakland Cleans Up Lake Merritt for NBA Finals; Oakland to Settle Discrimination Suit for $450K

by Kathleen Richards
Thu, May 31, 2018 at 9:56 AM

  • SFbaywalk/Flickr(cc)
Oakland is cleaning up Lake Merritt — pulling weeds and clearing out homeless encampments — in advance of the NBA championships. At the Lake Chalet, the Warriors hosted a big pre-series party on Wednesday night, and ESPN will be hosting a series of live TV shows there starting this morning. (San Francisco Chronicle)

An Oakland fire captain will receive a $450,000 settlement after suing the city and the former fire chief for discrimination. Capt. Joseph Torres alleged Chief Teresa Deloach Reed refused to promote him to battalion chief because he is Hispanic and Native American. Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker is recommending the city council approve the settlement at its June 5 meeting. (East Bay Times)

Dozens of city workers in Berkeley — including trash collectors and parking enforcement officers — rallied on the steps of City Hall yesterday to advocate for better health-and-safety processes, more compensation, and a community outreach program proposed by their union, SEIU Local 1021. (Berkeleyside)

New research from UC Berkeley and Stanford shows that white Americans’ fear of losing their socioeconomic status may be driving opposition to welfare programs, even though they are the major beneficiaries of government poverty assistance. (Berkeley News)

A bill to create a state-chartered bank for California’s cannabusinesses passed the Senate yesterday. SB 930 now heads to the Assembly. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A five-story apartment building under construction in Concord that burned last month was the result of arson, federal authorities said. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A freshman at California High School in San Ramon was arrested last month for planning to commit a school shooting on the anniversary of Columbine, in a plan he called “Columbine 2.0.” (East Bay Times)

The California State Senate passed legislation yesterday meant to bring back net neutrality at the state level. SB 822 would prohibit internet service providers from blocking, throttling, or delegating fast or slow internet to customers and prohibit them from monopolistic practices. (San Francisco Business Times)

In Alameda, Subpar Miniature Golf is planning to close after the clothing store Ross Dress for Less blocked its move to South Shore Shopping Center — the result of a waiver in the lease at the shopping center that requires anchor stores to give their consent to any activity group hoping to move there. (East Bay Times)

Berkeley city auditor Ann-Marie Hogan is retiring after nearly a quarter-century in office. (Berkeleyside)

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Pamela Price Supporters Allege Oakland Police Union Is Racially Targeting Voters with Email Blasts

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, May 30, 2018 at 4:38 PM

OPOA President Barry Donelan
  • OPOA President Barry Donelan
With only one week left before voters select Alameda County's next district attorney, the Oakland Police Officers Association is campaigning hard against Pamela Price.

Price, a Black civil rights attorney and Oakland resident, is running as the progressive alternative to incumbent career prosecutor DA Nancy O'Malley.

Part of the police union's last-minute push against Price involves emails sent by the union's political action committee directly to voters. But according to records and interviews, the police union appears to be targeting a specific group of voters with their message: Oakland residents who aren't Black.

Pamela Price's campaign is now condemning the emails as a form of "race-baiting" by the police union.

One of the emails, sent by OPOA President Barry Donelan through a mass marketing service early last Saturday morning reads, "[Pamela Price] WILL NOT PROSECUTE DRUNK DRIVERS, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASES OR CRIMINALS WHO ARE ARRESTED FOR BREAKING INTO RESIDENTS' CARS."

Donelan urges Oakland residents to choose incumbent District Attorney O'Malley because she'll protect them from criminals.

Express staff were among the many recipients of this email blast from the police union.

Jen Cardenas, an Oakland resident, also received this message early on Saturday morning. In an interview, she told the Express that she wondered how the police union obtained her email address and whether she could unsubscribe from their list, so she clicked on the "update your preferences" link below Donelan's message. That took her to a website that named multiple other email lists operated by the police union's political action committee.

Cardenas said that she was surprised to see the name of the list OPOA used to send her the anti-Price email: it was titled "Oakland Likely Nov 2018 EMAILS No AF AM."

She said she believes that "No AF AM" means no African Americans. She took a screenshot of the page and shared it with the Express as well as with the Price campaign, where she has volunteered in an unpaid role.

OPOA President Barry Donelan did not return multiple phone calls, emails, and a voicemail message seeking further information about the names of the email lists. An email to the treasurer of the OPOA PAC that paid for the email blast, Police Officer Jeryme Stine, also went unreturned.

But several other OPOA-operated email lists that Cardenas screenshotted also included the term "NO AF AM."

Other demographic groups such as "DEMS ONLY" and "REP ONLY" for Democratic Party and Republican Party members, and "WOMEN ONLY" were also identified in the titles of specific email lists operated by the police union.

Pamela Price posted on Facebook about the OPOA emails yesterday, making it clear that she believes "No AF AM" is a term meaning that the emails were targeting white voters. She wrote that the OPOA message was a "racially targeted negative and false e-mail" about her campaign.

The Express attempted to independently obtain a copy of the original names of the OPOA email lists, but the same link from Donelan's original email currently goes to a page that contains 13 email lists operated by the union. Among them, there is no list titled "Oakland Likely Nov 2018 EMAILS No AF AM," and the term "No AF AM" doesn't appear anywhere.

Other demographic groups such as "WOMEN," "DEMS ONLY," and "REP ONLY" are named, however.

A representative with Campaigner, the email marketing service used by OPOA, told the Express that clients can quickly edit the names of their email lists and even delete them. But he declined to provide any specific information about a particular client.

Wednesday’s Briefing: Oakland to Appeal Judge’s Decision Regarding Coal Ban; Illegal Cannabis Grows Wreaking Havoc on the Environment

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, May 30, 2018 at 10:05 AM

Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said coal “poses a clear and demonstrable danger to Oakland residents."
  • Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said coal “poses a clear and demonstrable danger to Oakland residents."

Oakland City Council voted unanimously to appeal a judge’s ruling
that would allow coal to be handled and stored at a proposed freight terminal in West Oakland. (San Francisco Chronicle)

[Read related story: "Judge Rules in Favor of Oakland Coal Project"]

Illegal cannabis grows in California are poisoning large swaths of national forest, killing wildlife, and siphoning hundreds of millions of gallons of water out of creeks and rivers, according to state law enforcement officials. U.S. Attorney McGregor Scott said the use of carbofuran, an insecticide so powerful that a teaspoon of it can kill a 600-pound lion, is most alarming, and that the problem has gotten worse despite legalization. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A Berkeley environmental group is continuing its battle to drain Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, which provides water to 2.6 million Bay Area residents. In 2015, Restore Hetch Hetchy filed a lawsuit arguing that the reservoir violated California’s constitution, but it was thrown out by a Tuolumne County judge. The group is appealing the decision. (East Bay Times)

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera subpoenaed Uber and Lyft for records on whether drivers are classified as employees or contractors and what their pay and benefits are. The move comes after the California Supreme Court ruled in April that companies must prove someone is an independent contractor if the company denies them wages and benefits guaranteed to employees under state law. (San Francisco Business Times)

Cal women’s basketball head coach Lindsay Gottlieb says she was asked to “prove” her son was hers before boarding a flight from Denver to Oakland on Southwest Airlines Sunday night. Gottlieb, who is white, believes the airline employee singled out her son, who is biracial and has a different last name, because her fiancé, Patrick Martin, is Black. (SFGate)

Alameda now has 35 Gig Car Share vehicles for one-way trips between the island, core East Bay communities, and two San Francisco locations. Members can rent available vehicles and end trips anywhere in designated areas. Gig Car Share expands the island’s other car-sharing efforts, including Getaround (formerly City CarShare) and peer-to-peer car sharing. (East Bay Times)

Berkeley’s last video-rental store, Five Star Video on Solano Avenue, announced it will close this summer. (Berkeleyside)

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Tuesday’s Briefing: Warriors Heading to the NBA Finals; Alameda Considers Raising Minimum Wage to $15/Hour

by Kathleen Richards
Tue, May 29, 2018 at 9:13 AM

This photo is not from yesterday's game.
  • This photo is not from yesterday's game.

The Warriors beat the Houston Rockets 101-92
in Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals and will head to the NBA Finals against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday. (East Bay Times)

Alameda is considering whether to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in January, even though state law will raise the minimum across California within five years. The city council is also weighing whether the minimum wage increase should apply to all employers regardless of the size of their business, whether some businesses could be exempted, and whether the ordinance should take into account medical benefits. (East Bay Times)

Berkeley is considering whether to give its Police Review Commission full independence from the city manager, along with broad powers to access city records, influence the budget, and help select future police chiefs. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Union City plans to spend more than $14 million to help a developer construct 81 apartments on a vacant, city-owned lot. (East Bay Times)

A fire that broke out Friday evening near the Oakland Coliseum may have been caused by fireworks from the Oakland A’s game. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Friday, May 25, 2018

Friday’s Briefing: Bay Area Home Prices Hit Record High; Ghost Ship Defendant Denied Release

by Kathleen Richards
Fri, May 25, 2018 at 11:01 AM

Bay Area home prices hit a record high last month, as the median price rose to $850,000 in April — a 13.3 percent increase from the same time last year, according to CoreLogic. April also was the ninth consecutive month of double-digit year-over-year growth. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A federal jury yesterday found Taj Armon Reid guilty of conspiring to rig state construction contracts and accepting bribes. The son of Oakland Council President Larry Reid faces up to 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. (East Bay Express)

An Alameda County Superior Court judge will decide on June 7 whether to postpone the trial of Derick Almena and Max Harris, the two men charged in the deaths of 36 people in the 2016 Ghost Ship fire. The trial is scheduled to start July 16, but Harris’ attorneys asked that it be delayed until September or later. (Almena’s attorney is against the postponement.) (San Francisco Chronicle)

In related news, Harris will remain in jail until his trial after the California Supreme Court decided yesterday to review the recent Humphrey decision, a ruling by the First District Court of Appeal that said judges must factor a defendant’s ability to pay bail and consider offering non-monetary bail alternatives to those who can’t afford it. Harris’ attorney had filed a motion to release Harris in light of the Humphrey decision. (East Bay Times)

A record number of Californians died in 2017 after overdosing on the powerful opioid fentanyl. According to the California Department of Public Health, 746 people died from fentanyl overdoses last year — more than three times the amount from the year prior, and nine times higher than in 2013. (San Francisco Chronicle)

BART’s board of directors decided yesterday not to extend BART to Livermore, deferring instead to the newly created Tri-Valley-San-Joaquin Valley Regional Rail Authority, which is tasked with connecting the commuter train Altamont Corridor Express to BART. (East Bay Times)

About 200 animal rights activists led a funeral procession down University Avenue and buried a dead piglet at Civic Center Park, across the street from City Hall, to call attention to the mistreatment of animals. (Berkeleyside)

The Rodeo-Hercules Fire District voted to remove Ernest Wheeler as chair of the board after an internal investigation found that he threatened to “crucify” acting Fire Chief Bryan Craig over a disagreement on the use of district funds. (East Bay Times)

Three peregrine falcon chicks hatched atop UC Berkeley’s Campanile last month, and they’re expected to take flight next week. The university wants help naming them. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Taj Reid Found Guilty of Rigging State Construction Contracts and Accepting Bribes

The son of Oakland Council President Larry Reid faces up to 20 years in prison and $750,000 in fines.

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, May 25, 2018 at 10:10 AM

Taj Reid stands behind his father Larry Reid at an Oakland City Council meeting in 2017.
  • Taj Reid stands behind his father Larry Reid at an Oakland City Council meeting in 2017.

A federal jury found Taj Armon Reid guilty yesterday of conspiring to rig state construction contracts and accepting bribes.

Reid, who is the 47-year-old son of Oakland City Council President Larry Reid, was convicted on three counts, which could carry a sentence of 20 years imprisonment and $750,000 in fines.

The case began over six years ago when a mysterious out-of-state businessman calling himself William Joseph came to the Bay Area looking for opportunities. Joseph sought out meetings with public officials in San Francisco and the East Bay. One of his first get-togethers was with former San Francisco School Board member Keith Jackson.

Jackson already had an undercover FBI agent building a case against him (as well as state Senator Leland Yee), and Jackson would later be taken down as part of the FBI's sprawling "Shrimp Boy" undercover sting. But before all of that, the undercover FBI agent who called himself "Michael King" introduced Joseph to Jackson. Joseph said he was interested in getting into Oakland's medical marijuana industry. Could Jackson make any useful introductions?

Jackson ended up introducing Joseph to Taj Reid, the son of Oakland City Council President Larry Reid.

Joseph, who said he specialized in construction and real estate, met several times with Reid and his business partner Eric Worthen in San Francisco in early 2013 to discuss government contracting opportunities — not cannabis.

Joseph talked himself up as a big player in the real estate realm. He said he'd done projects at Disney World and Universal Studios and built part of the Dallas Airport. He was looking to buy a giant franchise of TGI restaurants in Texas. He claimed to have owned an auto dealership through Toyota's minority business program: Joseph is Black, and many of his meetings in the Bay Area were with other Black political and business leaders.

He would tell people that he "got a whole lot of shady friends with cash" who help him out when he's in a pinch, according to court records.

And Joseph said that Michael King, the undercover FBI agent who had already been making rounds in the Bay Area and posing as a super-wealthy ex-Wall Street type, was one of his sources of financing for really big deals.

Unbeknownst to Worthen and Reid, William Joseph was actually William Myles, a confidential source whom the FBI has paid for years to root out public corruption across the country. Myles has helped the FBI build cases against politicians and police officials in Connecticut and Louisiana.

At the time they met with the FBI's Myles, Reid's business partner Worthen was a high-level employee within the state Department of Veterans Affairs, or CalVet, working in the division that builds housing for veterans. On the side, Reid and Worthen ran a consulting business.

Prosecutors alleged that Worthen and Reid devised a plan to use Worthen's position inside the state agency to obtain non-public information about a Southern California CalVet housing project that was being put out to competitive bid. Worthen and Reid promised Myles that they could ensure he would win the contract. In exchange, they accepted about $12,000 in bribes.

"We want you to have the job, we want to make sure you get the job," Reid told Myles, according to FBI records introduced at trial. "Let’s keep this on the hush."

Worthen and Reid also requested a 15 percent share of the profits that Myles stood to make off the construction project.

According to the FBI, Reid went to San Francisco in April of 2013 to meet with Myles in his hotel room and accept a $10,000 bribe.

Not long after, Worthen and Reid devised a similar scheme to help Myles pursue a kitchen construction project in Los Angeles that was also being built by CalVet. Again, they provided him with non-public information about the project and took $2,000 in compensation each.

Then Myles did what the FBI pays him to do. He asked Reid and Worthen to introduce him to more people who could provide even bigger opportunities.

Reid — who according to federal prosecutors told Myles, "If you want to play, you have to pay" — ended up introducing the FBI informant to his father, Larry Reid.

But although the FBI was rumored to be investigating Larry Reid, the councilmember was never accused of any wrongdoing by the feds.

Instead, it was another introduction that led to still more criminal charges and the fall of several influential Oakland businessmen.

Following up on the request from Myles, Reid and Worthen reached out to their friend Ken "Kenny" Houston to see if Len and Lance Turner, two brothers who own the Turner Group Construction company, might have any interest in meeting the wealthy out-of-town businessman. Houston, who is currently running for mayor of Oakland, is a close friend of Larry Reid and also a project manager with Turner Group. The Turner brothers have done major business with the city of Oakland.

According to court records, Houston told Reid and Worthen that they should all arrange a meeting.

To entice the undercover FBI asset Myles to meet with the Turners, Reid told him that "they got juice through Dad. They got a lot of work. More out there for them to get," according to FBI records.

Federal prosecutors alleged that this was a reference to the $2 million in construction contracts that the Turner Group company was seeking from the city of Oakland at the old Oakland Army Base. Oakland's city auditor found in 2013 that Larry Reid improperly interfered with the process of awarding these contracts by putting pressure on staff to give the work to the Turners.

Myles showed up one afternoon in May 2013 at the Turners' East Oakland offices and sat down with Len Turner, Taj Reid, and Worthen. This was the day after Reid accepted a $2,000 bribe from Myles for the CalVet scam. The meeting was brief, and according to the FBI, no one proposed any illegal schemes during the 30-minute conference. In fact, some of the discussion centered on how to create more job opportunities for minorities.

Months passed after the meeting with no further business discussed. Even so, the FBI decided to set up an elaborate sting targeting Len Turner and his brother Lance.

The sting started when Myles contacted Taj Reid in September 2013 and told him that he had an inside track to get a multimillion-dollar construction project at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, but he needed other contractors to submit fake bids at higher prices in order to win it and help his inside connection cover their tracks. Federal prosecutors allege that the Turners agreed to submit a false bid. In fact, the Department of Energy was in on the FBI's fake bidding opportunity, and prepared a fake construction contract for the operation as bait.

Records produced at trial showed that Turner Group Construction did, in fact, submit a bid to the Department of Energy on September 13 for the work in question.

Myles promised to compensate the Turners for the allegedly false bid by hiring them to subcontract on the project.

And for his part in making the introductions and serving as a go-between, Taj Reid demanded a $100,000 cut from the Turners, according to court records.

"I brokered the deal. I gave you the deal," Reid allegedly told Len Turner after Turner expressed outrage at the councilmember's son's high price. "I spoon-fed you the deal. You didn’t have to do nothing [...] All I want to do is get paid," said Reid.

Alongside Reid, both Len and Lance Turner were charged with conspiracy to defraud the federal government. They have both pleaded innocent and are both facing five years in prison and $250,000 fines if convicted.

Throughout the case, defense attorneys for Reid, the Turners, and other defendants swept up in the FBI's sting have stated that the operation has all the hallmarks of entrapment, and that most of the FBI's targets were prominent Black business leaders and politicians. They've alleged that the FBI came to the Bay Area and racially profiled people in its public corruption probe.

Attorneys for the Turners wrote in a recent court briefing that they believe the FBI informant Myles specifically targeted their clients because they were Black.

Furthermore, they wrote that the FBI has a history of using Myles "targeting of blacks for sting operations" because he poses as a successful Black entrepreneur who wants to help uplift Black communities.

The Turners were lured into doing business with Myles by "false appeals to racial solidarity," wrote the defense.

In a motion to dismiss filed in March, the Turners' attorneys wrote that:

"Mr. Joseph, under that alias and others, has spent the last decade as a well-paid operative of the FBI, earning over a million dollars endeavoring to persuade African Americans, most often public officials, to commit criminal offenses. The tool of his trade is lying, at which he is quite skilled. In addition to false claims of great financial resources and professional achievement, the CHS’s lies often involve heartfelt descriptions of his intention to serve the interests of the local African American community."

U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer denied the motion last month. The Turners are awaiting jury trial and will argue that they were entrapped by the government.

Reid has yet to be sentenced.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

ACLU Files Lawsuit Against ICE Related to Its Use of License Plate Reader Databases

by Josh Slowiczek
Thu, May 24, 2018 at 12:07 PM

A license plate reader camera array in the city of Piedmont in 2014. - PHOTO BY DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Photo by Darwin BondGraham
  • A license plate reader camera array in the city of Piedmont in 2014.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California filed a lawsuit against Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) yesterday demanding public records related to the agency’s interactions with Automated License Plate Reader (ALPR) databases.

The lawsuit alleges that ICE has “wrongfully withheld” the records, such as contracts, training materials, audits, and communications, which were requested through two separated Freedom of Information Act requests back in March.

“Access to information about ICE’s use of ALPR databases is necessary to inform meaningful public debate over the scope of government conduct that potentially threatens core civil rights and liberties protected by the constitution,” ACLU states in the complaint.

Earlier this year, ICE entered into contracts with two private companies to access APLR databases. ALPR systems consist of cameras and image processors that connect to a central database, which identifies and records every license plate in view. While law enforcement officials claim that this technology is critical for criminal investigations, advocacy groups argue that, by tracking a vehicle’s location over time, an intimate and invasive portrait of an individual’s daily life can be determined.

“We really think, overall, license plate readers are a form of surveillance technology that poses a real risk to the way that people live their lives,” said Vasudha Talla, one of the ACLU staff attorneys who filed the initial complaint. She added that the organization believes ICE is using the technology for the purposes of targeting individuals and conducting civil immigration enforcement.

Ultimately, Talla said, the reason behind the FOIA request and subsequent lawsuit is to gain a clearer understanding of how ICE is using the data.

Talla said that the issue surrounding ICE’s access to ALPR databases is reflective of a broader trend in surveillance technology: communities approve systems for a specific reason only to have the technology repurposed for other, unexpected activities.

News organizations and advocacy groups around the county have revealed just how valid the concern is. In places such as Illinois and Texas, ALPR systems are now being used to identify individuals who haven’t paid traffic and court fines.

Closer to home, the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed a Public Records Act request with the Oakland Police Department for eight days’ worth of ALPR data in 2015 and, after analyzing over 63,000 data points, showed that license plates in low-income communities of color were more likely to be recorded.

Adam Schwartz, a senior staff attorney for EFF, said that license plate readers are a concern for privacy advocates everywhere, and believes that the current issue with ICE is the product of two larger themes: the government using “Orwellian technology” and a growing emphasis on deporting undocumented immigrants.

“Those two themes have increasingly been coming together, but the government has been opaque as to what is happening,” he said.

Last January, EFF published an article revealing that one ICE office — via its investigative arm, Homeland Security Investigations — has access to ALPR data collected by more than a dozen Californian police departments through a third-party data broker known as Vigilant Solutions, LLC.

Vigilant Solutions is a Livermore-based company specializing in “security software and services,” according to documents filed with the California secretary of state. The company has been in the spotlight since it was revealed in January that it received a contract with ICE granting the agency access to its ALPR database.

In response to the public outcry over this collaboration, cities around the Bay Area began severing ties with the company. In February, the Alameda City Council voted to withhold a $500,000 contract intended to purchase Vigilant’s ALPR technology. A month later in March, the San Pablo City Council voted to delay purchasing more than 50 ALPR scanners.

[Related Stories: “San Pablo Tables Plan to Expand City-Wide Surveillance System with License Plate Scanners from Company Tied to ICE”; “East Bay Cities Consider Banning Companies That Help Ice Track Down Immigrants from Bidding on City Contracts”]

And, earlier this month, the Richmond City Council passed The Sanctuary City Contracting and Investing Ordinance, prohibiting the city from doing business with companies that provide data or vetting services to ICE. The ordinance’s passage means that, while Vigilant Solutions is currently doing business with the city, it is unlikely the company’s contract will be renewed.

Other cities, including Oakland and Berkeley, are considering similar ordinances.

“The government is using license plate readers to document, pervasively, where people are when they spend time in public, and it’s an intrusion on the privacy of everyone,” Schwartz said, adding that it is concerning ICE might be using the data to target and deport people from immigrant communities.

He said that, ultimately, the federal government needs to do a better job explaining its use of ALPR data.

“Sometimes you need a lawsuit to force them to explain themselves,” Schwartz said.

Thursday’s Briefing: Berkeley Police Waited Six Years to Test Rape Kit; Alameda Officials Worried About Soil Safety at Alameda Point

by Kathleen Richards
Thu, May 24, 2018 at 9:17 AM

When complete, the $460 million project at Alameda Point will include 800 residential units, including 200 affordable units, 600,000 square feet of commercial development, and 15 acres of parks and public open space.
  • When complete, the $460 million project at Alameda Point will include 800 residential units, including 200 affordable units, 600,000 square feet of commercial development, and 15 acres of parks and public open space.

Berkeley police waited nearly six years before testing a rape kit
that may have prevented the 2015 murder of a 37-year-old dentist in Albany. Now state lawmakers are considering bills that would require all rape kits to be tested promptly and for authorities to count the number of untested kits statewide. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Some Alameda officials are concerned about the safety of the soil at Alameda Point because the U.S. Navy contractor, Tetra Tech EC Inc., for the site was also the contractor accused of falsifying or fraudulently manipulating data during the cleanup of San Francisco’s former Hunters Point Shipyard. Construction for a large multifamily development began yesterday on the former naval air base in Alameda, but Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said she wants more assurances that the land is safe. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Homeless activists are criticizing Berkeley’s proposed sidewalk policy, which limits the amount of space where people can store their things to 9 square feet and prohibits objects on sidewalks from blocking traffic, pedestrians, signs, or the front of a building entrance (except between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.). (East Bay Times)

A report issued yesterday by the National Parks Conservation Association and the Natural Resources Defense Council says Trump’s proposal to expand offshore drilling will imperil 68 national parks, national seashore areas, and national monuments in 18 states, including California. In the Bay Area, threatened parks include Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park, Point Reyes National Seashore, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Fort Point National Historic Site, and the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial. (Read the report: “Spoiled Parks”)

BART’s board of directors is expected to vote today on a proposal for a 5.5-mile extension of the Dublin-Pleasanton line to Livermore at an estimated cost of $1.6 billion. (San Francisco Chronicle)

UC Regents questioned yesterday why UC officials missed a deadline for complying with recommendations in a state audit last year that discovered $175 million in undisclosed funds. Among the recommendations were a thorough and transparent budget and establishing a process for reining in salaries in the UC Office of the President. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A bill introduced by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) would establish a new medical license designation for groups that donate cannabis to people with severe ailments, exempting them from paying the 15 percent state excise tax on cannabis that they give away. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A road rage incident in Fremont turned ugly when a woman began screaming racist language at the Asian-American driver, the video of which is beginning to go viral. (YouTube)

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wednesday’s Briefing: Oakland Public Ethics Commission Investigating Desley Brooks; Fire Officials Urge Oakland Hills Residents to Prepare for Fire Season

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, May 23, 2018 at 9:45 AM

Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks. - PHOTO BY STEVEN TAVARES
  • Photo by Steven Tavares
  • Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks.

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission confirmed yesterday it’s investigating whether Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks violated city ethics rules by allegedly failing to report money she received from the Millsmont Farmers’ Market. The investigation is also looking into whether the money exceeded the gift limit under the Oakland Government Ethics Act, whether Brooks misused city resources by allegedly having staff perform services related to the farmers’ market, and whether the councilmember allegedly used her office to “induce or coerce city staff to perform services related to the farmers market.” (East Bay Times)

Firefighting commanders from a dozen agencies throughout the East Bay gathered in the Oakland hills yesterday to ask for the public’s support in cutting down vegetation as fire season approaches. Oakland Fire Department’s vegetation management unit said it’s run out of money to clear vegetation after voters rejected a $65 parcel tax to pay for wildfire prevention in 2013. (SFGate)

Oakland failed to spend $2.2 million in funds set aside for anti-displacement and homelessness prevention services. A bookkeeping error and staffing shortages are to blame. (East Bay Express)

Berkeley Unified School District is considering renaming LeConte Elementary School, named after a co-founder of the Sierra Club and a slave owner, to Sylvia Mendez Elementary School, who, as a child was at the center of a lawsuit that led to desegregation in California schools. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Hoping to appeal to a growing Asian American population, the owners of the redeveloped Hilltop Mall in Richmond are marketing it as a “a robust and all-inclusive Asian-centric shopping and entertainment destination.” Their first tenant is Taiwanese grocery chain 99 Ranch Market. (East Bay Times)

A groundbreaking ceremony is scheduled today for a large mixed-use project at the former Alameda Naval Air Station. The 68-acre project will include 800 apartments, town homes, and condos, as well as 600,000 square feet of commercial space. (East Bay Times)

Members of a Bay Area animal rights activist group are facing felony charges and up to 60 years in prison for taking a pair of piglets from an industrial pig farm in Utah. (San Francisco Chronicle)

One of the men whose barbecue at Lake Merritt prompted a woman to call the police is now being recommended to Oakland’s Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. Kenzie Smith said, “I’m not going to let someone else have a ‘BBQ Becky.’” (East Bay Express)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan Nominates “BBQ Becky” Victim for Oakland Parks and Rec Position

Kenzie Smith said, “I’m not going to let someone else have a ‘BBQ Becky.'”

by Momo Chang
Tue, May 22, 2018 at 5:19 PM

Kenzie Smith (left) and Onsayo Abram at Sunday's event "BBQing While Black" at Lake Merritt in Oakland. - COURTESY OF KENZIE SMITH
  • Courtesy of Kenzie Smith
  • Kenzie Smith (left) and Onsayo Abram at Sunday's event "BBQing While Black" at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

Kenzie Smith never thought that barbecuing at Lake Merritt might lead to a future role in public office. Smith is one of the two Black men who was the target of a white woman (now known as "BBQ Becky") who called the police, leading to protest barbecues and references on Saturday Night Live.

Oakland Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan announced today that she's recommending and nominating Smith to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission. “He has a deep commitment to the Oakland community and a track record of public service and philanthropy,” she wrote in a statement.

Smith said he's excited by the prospect. “I’m not going to let someone else have a ‘BBQ Becky,'” he told the Express.

The Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission reports and makes recommendations to the city council on Parks and Recreation policies. The commission consists of 11 seats, appointed by the mayor and council to represent the citizens of Oakland.

Smith, a lifelong Oakland resident, community activist, and founder of Dope Era Magazine, said there’s a lot he wants to accomplish. He hopes to start a nonprofit that will employ youth during the summer, including keeping the Lake Merritt area clean.

The recommendation will go to the mayor, who'll have to approve it.

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