Monday, May 7, 2018

Billionaire George Soros Pours Money Into Alameda County District Attorney's Race

Meanwhile, police unions back incumbent District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, May 7, 2018 at 4:48 PM

Hedge fund billionaire and political activist George Soros.
  • Hedge fund billionaire and political activist George Soros.

Last week, a newly formed independent political action committee called California Justice & Public Safety PAC reported spending $134,745 on campaign literature and mailings to support Pamela Price, a progressive civil rights attorney running for Alameda County district attorney.

Price is challenging incumbent District Attorney Nancy O'Malley in what's become a heated race for an office that traditionally was handed down by the DA to a hand-picked successor and rarely contested in subsequent elections.

The California Justice & Public Safety PAC, is funded entirely by the hedge fund billionaire and political activist George Soros. Soros has provided $275,000 to the committee so far, according to elections records.

A Hungarian Jew whose family fled the Nazis during World War II, Soros is estimated to be worth $23 billion by Forbes. His liberal politics — Soros has long supported criminal justice reforms, including decriminalizing drugs and reducing prison populations — have turned him into a boogeyman of conservatives.

Politicians and activists on the far-right, including the so-called "alt-right" and resurgent white supremacists movements, frequently portray Soros through anti-Semitic imagery. For example, right-wing populists and fascists in Europe have attacked him for promoting the European Union, opposing Brexit, and funding charities that assist Middle Eastern and African migrants. In the U.S., far-right activists and discredited conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones have accused Soros of funding and controlling "antifa" protesters who have clashed with white supremacists at rallies.
Echoing far-right conspiracy theorists, San Diego incumbent District Attorney Summer Stephan is trying to characterize Soros' support for her opponent Genevieve Jones-Wright as an attack on law enforcement. - THREATTOSANDIEGO.COM
  • Echoing far-right conspiracy theorists, San Diego incumbent District Attorney Summer Stephan is trying to characterize Soros' support for her opponent Genevieve Jones-Wright as an attack on law enforcement.

Soros' support for Price is part of a broader effort by the billionaire's political organization to help progressive candidates running for district attorney across the nation.

Last week, Soros' new California Justice & Public Safety PAC also reported spending money to help Noah Phillips in his bid to unseat Sacramento County's incumbent DA Anne Schubert. According to campaign filings, the Soros-backed PAC is buying $184,000 worth of TV and web ads to boost Phillips.

In Contra Costa County, Soros' PAC also recently spent $49,646 on campaign literature to support Diana Becton, who is running for district attorney.

Becton was appointed after the county's previous DA, Mark Peterson, resigned, pled no-contest to perjury, and was disbarred for stealing $66,000 from his own campaign committee. Becton, a career judge in Contra Costa, is running against Senior Deputy District Attorney Paul Graves. Graves has the financial support of multiple police unions and the union which represents line prosecutors in Becton's office.

O'Malley, a career prosecutor, was appointed DA by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 2009 after her boss Thomas Orloff retired with 9 months left in his term. Orloff recommended that O'Malley replace him.

As part of the California District Attorneys Association, O'Malley has led opposition to some recent criminal justice reform efforts. For example, O'Malley opposed Proposition 47, which reclassified many non-violent offenses from felonies down to misdemeanors. Soros was a financial backer of Proposition 47.

Price, O'Malley's first serious opponent, has sought to characterize O'Malley as beholden to police unions and unwilling to investigate and prosecute officers for illegal uses of force.

Pamela Price.
  • Pamela Price.
O'Malley's campaign is heavily funded by contributions from prosecutors in her own office. Since 2009, O'Malley has also received $59,900 in campaign contributions from police officers unions, including $16,000 from the Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs Association and $11,000 from the Oakland Police Officers Association.

Last November, O'Malley received a $10,000 campaign contribution from the union that represents Fremont's police officers. At the time, several Fremont officers, including the president of the police union, were under investigation by O'Malley's office for a controversial fatal shooting of a 16-year-old pregnant girl. It was the largest single campaign contribution to O'Malley in the past five years, and the largest contribution ever from a police union. O'Malley subsequently cleared the Fremont cops of any wrongdoing.

In Sacramento, Phillips claims that DA Schubert also ignores police misconduct and refuses to seriously investigate controversial police killings of unarmed civilians.

So far, it's unclear if the support lent by Soros to Price, Phillips, and Becton, or the support DAs like O'Malley and Schubert get from police unions, will help or hurt their campaigns.

But elsewhere, incumbent DAs have already tried to use Soros' involvement to beat back their opponents.

For example San Diego DA Summer Stephan is also being challenged by a more progressive candidate, Genevieve Jones-Wright, and Soros' PAC has reportedly spent about $39,000 on TV ads supporting Jones-Wright.

In response, Stephan, who is backed by police unions, has launched a website that attempts to link Soros to flag-burning "antifa" protesters, and accuses him of waging a "war against law enforcement," part of which would include electing Jones-Wright.

Monday’s Briefing: Bay Bridge Bike Path to Open 24/7; Proposed Legislation Would Require Vegan Options for California Inmates

by Kathleen Richards
Mon, May 7, 2018 at 10:11 AM

This week, you'll be able to take a midnight stroll on the Bay Bridge.
  • This week, you'll be able to take a midnight stroll on the Bay Bridge.

The bicycle and pedestrian path on the eastern span of the Bay Bridge will be open 24 hours per day
starting Thursday until Saturday, May 19, at 9 p.m. The new hours are a test to see how 24-hour operation might become permanent. Currently, the 2.2-mile path between Oakland and Yerba Buena Island is only open between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Health care workers at UCSF and other facilities in the UC system are going on strike today until Wednesday to protest racial and gender pay disparities, as well as UC’s offer of 3 percent annual raises over four years. Some surgeries and cancer treatments are being rescheduled. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Proposed legislation by Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) would require hospitals, care facilities, and state prisons to offer full vegan meals on their menus. So far, the bill has passed through both the Senate Health and Public Safety committees with unanimous bipartisan support. (San Francisco Chronicle)

As the end of the semester approaches, the City of Berkeley announced it will fine students who leave trash and furniture on sidewalks up to $1,000 per day. For those looking to get rid of things, the Berkeley Student Cooperative will allow students to drop off and pick up gently used furniture and items in the southwest parking lot of the Clark Kerr Campus the last two weekends of May and the first weekend of June. It also will provide a free pick-up service by appointment. (Daily Cal)

Pre-fabricated housing is gaining in interest among Bay Area developers as they try to speed up the pace of construction, cut building costs, and create desperately needed housing. Pre-fabricated or modular housing can cut construction costs by about 20 percent and built in about half the time. (East Bay Times)

Friday, May 4, 2018

Friday’s Briefing: Berkeley Considers Proposal Aimed at Companies That Help Track Immigrants; Chevron Agrees to Pay $5 Million to Richmond

by Kathleen Richards
Fri, May 4, 2018 at 10:27 AM

The Chevron refinery.
  • The Chevron refinery.

UC Berkeley’s plans for People’s Park will include housing for up to 1,000 students, as well as housing for homeless residents, open space, and a memorial to the park’s history. The university says there will also be on-site services such as “life-skills training” for people with a history of substance abuse or homelessness. The project is expected to be completed in four years. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Berkeley may become the first city in the nation to break ties with companies that support the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The city is considering stopping work with contractors that help federal immigration officials create databases and registries to target immigrants and religious minorities. Richmond and Alameda are considering similar measures. (Bloomberg)

Chevron has agreed to pay $5 million to the city of Richmond to settle a lawsuit over a refinery fire in 2012. The fire sent more than 15,000 people to the hospital with respiratory complaints and other symptoms. (East Bay Times)

A new study shows the lack of housing and explosive growth of high-paying jobs have exacerbated California’s housing crisis, especially in the Bay Area. Between 2011 and 2016, the state added just 171 homes for every 1,000 people. The study, commissioned by the San Francisco public policy group Next 10, also shows a growing economic divide. (East Bay Times)

The Contra Costa County DA released new protocols around how the agency conducts wiretaps — finally putting into place written policies around such activities. (East Bay Times)

A Richmond police officer used excessive force in the shooting death of unarmed 24-year-old Pedie Perez in 2014, a Citizen Police Review Commission found. The findings don’t bear any legal impact, but the commission hopes they could lead to policy changes. (East Bay Times)

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Thursday’s Briefing: Investigation Shows Alameda Council Member Violated City Charter; Judge Rules Oakland Had Duty to Ensure Safety at Ghost Ship

by Kathleen Richards
Thu, May 3, 2018 at 10:15 AM

Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie.
  • Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie.

An independent investigation into allegations by Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach concluded that most of her concerns were unfounded. However, the report did find that Councilmember Jim Oddie violated the city charter when he recommended the firefighters union’s pick for fire chief using city letterhead — but also that Alameda’s city charter is vague and should be revised. (East Bay Express)

An Alameda County judge ruled that Oakland officials had a “mandatory duty” to ensure safety at the Ghost Ship warehouse. The decision leaves the city potentially liable for the deaths of 36 people in the Dec. 2016 fire and the displacement of Ghost Ship tenants. (East Bay Times)

A high-rise at the MacArthur BART station broke ground yesterday. When completed — which is expected in 2020 — the 24-story, 402-unit building will be one of the largest apartment complexes in the city. It will also include 13,000 square feet of commercial space. (SFGate)

Oakland Animal Services director Rebecca Katz announced she’s resigning, citing frustration with the city’s lack of support for the department. In a letter to the city, she said some vacant positions have gone unfilled for years and advocated for more funding. (East Bay Times)

Berkeley residents are being asked to vote on increasing fees and assessments to better maintain and upgrade the city’s streetlights and pipes that funnel stormwater into the bay. If approved, homeowners would pay an additional $34.31 to $51.87 per year, depending on the size of their lots, raising $2.3 million annually. Ballots are due by May 29. (Berkeleyside)

A state auditor says the University of California missed the deadline to address all of the problems related to the discovery last year that the UC president’s office reserved $175 million for preferred projects rather than disclose the money to the public. Failure to meet the deadline jeopardizes millions in funding from the state, but the UCOP says it met the deadline and fully complied with the audit recommendations. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Video released yesterday by federal investigators showed an Air Canada jet came dangerously close to hitting other planes at SFO last July. (SFGate)

Human remains uncovered at a home under construction in Alameda may be Native American. The remains discovered at a home on Mound Street were turned over to the coroner’s bureau, which will investigate their origins. (East Bay Times)

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Investigation Concludes That Alameda Council Member Jim Oddie Violated City Charter

But it also said the charter is vague and should be amended.

by Steven Tavares
Wed, May 2, 2018 at 7:41 PM

Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie.
  • Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie.

An independent investigation has found that Alameda Councilmember Jim Oddie violated the Alameda City Charter when he recommended a candidate for the city’s fire chief to City Manager Jill Keimach. However, the investigation by attorney Michael Jenkins also determined that the city charter pertaining to council interference is broad and recommended it be revised.

The investigation was prompted by a letter from Keimach last October, in which she alleged that certain unnamed public officials illegally pressured her to hire the candidate for fire chief backed by the Alameda firefighters’ union. (The Alameda City Charter gives the city manager the power to hire and fire department heads and prohibits elected city officials from interfering in the process.) Those unnamed public officials turned out to be Councilmembers Oddie and Malia Vella. In April, Keimach admitted to recording Oddie and Vella without their consent, which is illegal in California, in order to prove her allegations.

But the 100-page report, released today, determined that most of Keimach’s allegations had no basis in fact. Vella was exonerated of wrongdoing. But Keimach’s unlawful recording of Oddie and Vella is not referenced in the report’s findings (although it’s mentioned in the footnotes: Jenkins said he did not listen to the recording because he didn’t want to abet a crime).

Jenkins interviewed 22 people during the investigation and appeared to grapple with the overarching question of whether the accused councilmembers were expressing an opinion and whether those opinions are protected by the First Amendment and “precludes a finding of malfeasance.” The entire report largely refutes nearly all of Keimach’s allegations that some councilmembers exerted “unseemly political pressure” on her, except one.

“The one piece of evidence that does cross the line and falls squarely on the side of improper influence is Councilmember Oddie’s letter of recommendation of [Firefighters union choice Domenick] Weaver,” Jenkins stated. Oddie’s letter to Keimach, dated July 31, includes what Jenkins concluded was policy-related statements in favor of selecting Weaver — “delivered on city letterhead evidences an attempt to influence the City Manager’s appointment decision. As such, in my opinion, it violates the City Charter,” he wrote. The investigator added there is “insufficient evidence” to implicate other members of the Alameda City Council of interfering with Keimach’s selection process.

However, the investigator also found the city charter’s section on political interference is “problematic because it is overly broad,” he wrote. He recommended that the city council clarify exactly what constitutes a violation of the provision by way of a charter amendment or city ordinance.

The conclusion might be surprising to some after news reports last fall created a furor in Alameda when Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri alleged that Oddie, in a conversation, threatened Keimach’s job if she did not hire the firefighters union’s choice for fire chief.
While the investigator noted Rolleri’s allegation, which Oddie still denies, Jenkins found the conversation was not a violation of the charter. “While Rolleri believes this comment was aimed to have him tell Keimach, Councilmember Oddie contends that he thought the conversation was private,” he wrote. Furthermore, there is no evidence Oddie sought to use Rolleri as a messenger for Keimach, the report adds.

In a statement late Wednesday afternoon, Oddie downplayed the significance of his letter of recommendation. “Ms. Keimach has caused harm to Alameda and its citizens. In an attempt to insulate herself from adverse employment action and preserve her job, she made unsupportable accusations regarding myself and Councilmember Vella. These accusations have now been largely rejected,” said Oddie.

“If I violated the Charter by writing a letter of recommendation on behalf of a man I know well and believed would be a great fire chief, then, as the investigator’s report recognizes, the Charter needs to be changed. There was nothing improper about writing a recommendation letter for a highly qualified candidate, and although I regret the wasted time and money occasioned by Ms. Keimach’s allegations, I cannot apologize where the record reveals that I did nothing wrong. As an elected official in this City, I will not compromise on being heard in support of what I believe is best for my constituents, the citizens of Alameda. And as the investigator recognized and I want to reinforce, I never intended in any way to influence or pressure Keimach in any even slightly improper way.”

Alameda Councilmember Malia Vella, who was also accused by Keimach of political interference, also made a statement Wednesday afternoon. “As Mr. Jenkins concluded, the evidence does not support any of Ms. Keimach’s baseless accusations that I improperly attempted to influence Ms. Keimach’s selection of a new Fire Chief in violation of our City Charter,” said Vella in a statement. “I am glad that this report is now public. I look forward to moving past this distraction and getting back to what I was elected to do – serve the people of Alameda.”

The results of the investigation are unlikely to vindicate Keimach. During the course of the investigation, she offered Jenkins recordings of an August 2017 meeting between her, Oddie, and Vella. Subsequently, the council placed Keimach on paid administrative leave on Mar. 9. Two weeks ago, she returned to the city council chambers to ask for her job back, but her employment status remains in limbo.

Regarding the other allegations Keimach made, Jenkins found no evidence supporting her claim that certain councilmembers sought to delay her performance evaluation while the search for a new fire chief was ongoing. “One could not fairly conclude from the evidence that the evaluation was being held up in order to influence the outcome of the Fire Chief selection,” Jenkins wrote.

The probe also concluded that the council did not seek to “set her up for failure in the event that she did not select their preferred Fire Chief candidate,” as Keimach had alleged.

In addition, there is no evidence that shows some councilmembers urged prospective fire chief candidates to withdraw their applications, as alleged by Keimach. The investigator, though, concluded the Alameda firefighters union leaders discouraged some applicants to withdraw from consideration in an effort to aid Weaver’s chances of becoming fire chief, but the action is not governed by the charter, wrote Jenkins. In addition, there is no evidence to support Keimach’s allegations that hiring Weaver would be a basis for her employment evaluation.

Update, 5/3/18, 9:31 a.m.:
Keimach’s attorney, Therese Cannata, said the report, which she called “whitewashed," nonetheless “validates Keimach’s claims that she was subjected to intense pressure by both Ms. Vella and Mr. Oddie to hire the firefighter union’s candidate.” She also said it confirms that Keimach did the right thing by rejecting the “chorus of pressure aimed directly at Keimach’s appointment decision,” selecting the most qualified candidate for the position of fire chief, and risking her job in the process.

Cannata also urged the city council to publicly release the recording Keimach made of the Aug. 16 meeting with Oddie and Vella, and reiterated that Keimach is still seeking reinstatement to her job. “The City Council should honor the person who was honest and courageous enough to stand up to the firefighter’s union, Jeff Del Bono, Ms. Vella and Mr. Oddie; she put her career on the line. It’s time to do the right thing here. Oddie and Vella also have a path forward — to admit they made mistakes, apologize and never do this sort of thing again.”

Landlord Agrees to Pay $1 Million to Renters and City of Oakland in Settlement of Tenant Protection Case

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, May 2, 2018 at 1:19 PM

524 8th Street. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • 524 8th Street.

A real estate investor accused of harassing and pressuring elderly Chinese tenants to move out of a downtown Oakland SRO hotel has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by the building's tenants.

The settlement, filed yesterday in Alameda County Superior Court, requires the landlord to pay the building's 14 tenants and the city of Oakland $1 million, and to abide by a permanent injunction that protects the tenants against displacement.

The hotel at 524 8th Street was purchased by the Green Group, LP in 2015 for about $2 million. Shortly after, Green Group's manager James Kilpatrick told the San Francisco Business Times that he and his co-investors planned to upgrade the 38-unit SRO and rent it out to students and tech workers.

The building's tenants, mostly elderly Chinese immigrants, filed a lawsuit against Kilpatrick and his company in 2016 alleging that they were being harassed as part of a plan to displace them, and that the building was being made unlivable with kitchens and bathrooms taken out of service for renovations and repairs.

According to the lawsuit, Kilpatrick’s company tore out a communal kitchen in the building and removed bathrooms. The new landlords also installed security cameras against the tenants' wishes, and removed people's property from common areas.

One tenant described having a Chinese New Year decoration he placed outside his door thrown away, including tangerines, curtains, and scrolls. His bicycle was also taken along with clothes that he later found discarded in the parking lot.

"I feel uncomfortable, embarrassed, worried, and disturbed. I feel that I am being harassed," the tenant attested in court documents.

Kilpatrick said at the time that his company wasn't trying to harass or displace anyone. Instead, they were simply trying to make repairs to a dangerous property with numerous code problems.

“We repaired basement, hired a pest company to cure the rodent and roach issues they were having,” said Kipatrick in 2016. “If we were really trying to be jerks and push people out, those aren’t steps we would have taken.”

Kilpatrick didn't immediately respond to a request for comment today about the settlement agreement.

Attorney Robert Salinas, who represented the tenants alongside the Asian Law Caucus and Oakland City Attorney, told the Express that the building's tenants have a "strong sense of community" that helped them stay in their homes.

"Almost all of the tenants, when they were approached about possibly vacating, refused," said Salinas. "They banded together and they didn’t allow themselves to be bought out for some small amount of money."

Under the settlement's terms, Kilpatrick's company may not take more than one of the building's communal bathrooms out of service at the same time to make repairs or renovate.

The injunction also bars the landlord from removing and disposing of the tenants' property that is kept in communal areas like hallways and kitchens. And the landlord cannot place security cameras in the kitchens, bathrooms, and hallways of the property.

The injunction also requires the landlord to notify the Oakland City Attorney anytime they file a petition with the rent board for any reason, which could include a petition to increase rents above the annually adjusted amount for rent-controlled units. Any unlawful detainers to evict tenants also have to be sent to the city attorney's office.

The lawsuit was brought under Oakland's Tenant Protection Ordinance, which was drafted by Councilmember Dan Kalb and approved in 2014.

"It's important for landlords to know that there are consequences for disregarding housing and tenant protections laws and for everyone to see the real impact discrimination can have on tenants," said Katherine Chu, Housing Rights Staff Attorney & Program Manager at Advancing Justice - Asian Law Caucus.

"It’s very refreshing to see these rules work the way they’re intended to," Salinas said about the Tenant Protection Ordinance.

Wednesday’s Briefing: People’s Park May Be Turned Into Housing; Oakland to Require Public Approval of Surveillance Tools

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, May 2, 2018 at 10:10 AM

UC Berkeley wants to build student housing at People's Park.
  • UC Berkeley wants to build student housing at People's Park.

People’s Park in Berkeley may be turned into housing
. Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin says UC Berkeley Chancellor Carol Christ will soon announce plans to build housing for up to 700 students on the site, with a portion of the land used to build housing for 100 homeless people and some to be kept as open space. (San Francisco Chronicle)

A new ordinance in Oakland will require surveillance technologies used by the city to be approved by the public. Any department seeking to purchase or use surveillance technology — such as license-plate readers, cellphone trackers, and cameras — will need to submit a “technology impact report” and “surveillance use policy” to the city’s Privacy Advisory Commission. And current surveillance tools must also undergo a public review and approval process. (East Bay Times)

The Oakland City Council voted yesterday to use soda tax revenue to buy new hydration stations in 110 OUSD schools to replace fountains containing lead. The school district plans to install the new stations this summer. (KTVU)

Alameda County’s probation department has shared information with ICE — at least 43 times last year. The information sharing is partly due to the probation department’s use of an outdated policy. (East Bay Express)

California and more than a dozen other states filed a lawsuit yesterday against the EPA over the Trump administration’s move to weaken national vehicle emissions standards. (East Bay Times)

Oakland cannabis shop Harborside has announced plans for a $5 million expansion, which includes increasing its cultivation facility, retail management, corporate development, and product offerings. (SFGate)

In the crowded race for Assembly District 15, former Obama White House aide Buffy Wicks has a substantial lead in campaign donations, having raised more than $617,000. That’s more than twice the amount that runner-up Judy Appel has raised ($265,875). Oakland city councilmember Dan Kalb follows in third place, with $236,604. (Berkeleyside)

A citizens group filed a lawsuit against UC Berkeley last week, alleging that the university failed to analyze the environmental impacts of the increase in student enrollment over the past 13 years. Save Berkeley’s Neighborhoods alleges that more students have led to increased student homelessness, worsened traffic conditions, and increased usage of public safety services. (Daily Cal)

A new study shows startling increases in homelessness and a widening divide between wages and housing costs in the Bay Area. According to the report released yesterday by the California Housing Partnership, in Alameda County homelessness increased by 36 percent between 2016 and 2017 (although there were changes in the counting methodology) and the lowest income renters spent well over half of their income on rent. (East Bay Times)

A landfill near Pittsburg may contain radioactive soil from the Hunter’s Point Superfund site. Contra Costa County supervisors are calling for the soil at the landfill to be tested after it was discovered that soil tests at the former naval base in San Francisco were fabricated and then sent to landfills across the state, including Keller Canyon near Pittsburg. (East Bay Times)

A technology firm in Newark is being accused of promising H-1B visa workers from India salaries of up to $8,300 a month but then only paying as little as $800. Cloudwick Technologies has been ordered to pay about $175,000 to a dozen employees for back wages. (East Bay Times)

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Oakland Elections: Cat Brooks Jumps in Mayor's Race

Plus, contests for two council seats become crowded.

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, May 1, 2018 at 10:19 AM


Activist, organizer, actor, nonprofit leader, and radio host Cat Brooks announced today on the KPFA morning news radio show she co-hosts that she's decided to run for mayor of Oakland.

"For the last six to twelve months, people from various sectors of the community — labor, grassroots activist, labor, pastors and other spiritual folks — have been suggesting I should consider a run for the mayor of Oakland," Brooks said during the live broadcast. "And I said, 'no, no, no.' And then I said, 'yes.'"

Brooks joins an already crowded field of contenders. At least seven people have declared campaigns to run against incumbent Mayor Libby Schaaf. They include Ken Houston, Saied Karamooz, Kristina Molina, Nancy Sidebotham, Jesse A.J. Smith, Marchon Tatmon, and Cedric Troupe.

Houston, Karamooz, and Sidebotham all ran for mayor in 2014, but none of them got more than 1 percent of the vote. Schaaf dominated the 2014 election by garnering 29.5 percent of the vote in the first ranked-choice runoff round and went on to win with 63.2 percent of the vote. Oakland's At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan came in second with 36.8 percent.

Although she's never held elected office, Brooks is well-known in Oakland as a cofounder of the Anti Police-Terror Project. She's also led the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter and other nonprofits, while starring in theatrical productions. A West Oakland resident, she said her campaign will focus on organizing voters who traditionally haven't been mobilized to the polls.

"It’s not to make a point," said Brooks on her last day as co-host of KPFA's UpFront morning news show. "It’s to organize the masses of Oakland who can’t afford to purchase power in city hall."

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has presided over a turbulent four years. The city's economy is booming with job growth and new construction, including a record number of housing units. Schaaf has also become an outspoken counterforce against the Trump administration's xenophobic policies.

But at the same time, the number of homeless people on Oakland's streets has dramatically increased. Schaaf has also been forced to deal with two major crises: the Oakland Police Department's 2016 sexual exploitation scandal and meltdown, and the deadly Ghost Ship fire and San Pablo fire, which killed a combined 40 people and exposed the city's disorganized fire and code enforcement systems.

Elections are also being held for three of Oakland's city council seats this year.

In District 2, incumbent Abel Guillen is facing off against Nikki Fortunato Bas. (See our previous coverage of this race.)

District 4 incumbent Annie Campbell Washington surprised many by deciding recently not to run for re-election for city council, creating a rare opening. Campbell Washington is leaving government to start a new job as the assistant dean of the MPA program at UC Berkeley's Goldman School of Public Policy. Campbell Washington, however, said her decision was due to the city's "toxic" political environment.

Five candidates have already filed to run for the D4 seat. They include Pamela Harris, Nayeli Maxson, Jonathan Selsley, Joseph Tanios, and Sheng Thao.

And in D6, four challengers are running in an attempt to displace longtime Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Desley Brooks has been criticized by many elected officials and the media for pushing former Black Panther Elaine Brown in a 2015 restaurant altercation. Brown sued the city and won a $3.75 million settlement, but a judge reduced the settlement earlier this month to $1.2 million and said the jury's decision was "excessive." Brooks has denied wrongdoing and alleged that Brown started the fight by poking at her and threatening her.

Schaaf, who has made no secret of her desire to push Brooks off the city council, has endorsed Loren Taylor for the district seat. Campbell Washington, who has also repeatedly clashed with Brooks, has endorsed Natasha Middleton. The two other candidates vying for the D6 seat are Maria Rodriguez and Mya Whitaker.

Tuesday’s Briefing: Gas Tax Repeal May Be Headed to Ballot; New Shopping Center Opens in East Oakland

by Kathleen Richards
Tue, May 1, 2018 at 9:20 AM

The BART extension to the South Bay would be in jeopardy if the vehicle and gas tax is repealed.
  • The BART extension to the South Bay would be in jeopardy if the vehicle and gas tax is repealed.

An initiative to repeal California’s new vehicle and gas tax
may be heading to the November ballot. If voters approve the repeal, thousands of road and transit projects — including the BART extension to the South Bay — would be in jeopardy. (East Bay Times)

A new shopping center in East Oakland opened last week. The 27,000-square-foot Seminary Point plaza, located at Foothill Boulevard and Seminary Avenue, was 12 years in the making and so far includes a Walgreens, It’s a Grind Coffee House, and Metro PCS. Six of the eight retail spaces are still available. (Hoodline)

Attorney Cecily Brewster has withdrawn from Berkeley’s District 1 city council race, citing the racial bias and lack of progressiveness among Berkeley voters. (Daily Cal)

California has raised billions for free mental health programs through the state’s Mental Health Services Act, but finding out information on these programs and whether one qualifies isn’t easy. Meanwhile, a state audit in February found that counties have amassed hundreds of millions of unspent funds through Prop 63. (Sacramento Bee)

A Baptist church in San Mateo wants to move to Hayward and build a 39,500-square-foot church, plus 61 affordable senior housing units and a 15,000-square-foot exercise facility on a lot that straddles the Hayward fault. Neighbors are not thrilled. (East Bay Times)

The state’s commercial salmon season opens this week, and experts say drought-related effects will result in a limited supply — and high prices. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Two train tankers carrying liquid propane derailed near the Shell refinery in Martinez this morning. According to a Union Pacific spokesperson, the wheels on the tankers “popped off” but did not cause the tanker cars to leak, overturn, or threaten public safety. (East Bay Times)

A new redwoods park is slated to open south of Los Gatos next spring. When completed, Bear Creek Redwoods Open Space Preserve will include six miles of trails for hiking and horseback riding, many of them on old logging roads. (East Bay Times)

A seven-mile stretch of Highway 1 in Big Sur is expected to reopen in September after closing a year ago due to a massive mudslide. (San Francisco Chronicle)

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