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.

Oakland Failed to Spend $2.2 Million on Anti-Displacement and Homeless Assistance

The funds went unspent because of a budget error and staffing shortages.

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, May 22, 2018 at 5:01 PM

Housing and Community Development Director Michelle Byrd said the money was misallocated in the budget, and staffing shortages prevented her agency from issuing a request for proposals.
  • Housing and Community Development Director Michelle Byrd said the money was misallocated in the budget, and staffing shortages prevented her agency from issuing a request for proposals.

Eleven months ago, the Oakland City Council voted to set aside $2.2 million in funds it receives from the state in order to pay for expanded anti-displacement and homelessness prevention services.

But the money was never spent. Instead, according to a city staff report, a bookkeeping error that labeled the money as part of the Public Works Department's budget prevented the funds from being used. Furthermore, city staff erroneously thought that the council had only budgeted $1.9 million in funds for the next two years instead of $2.2 million.

Also, the city's Housing and Community Development Department failed over the past half year to advertise the availability of the money, which was supposed to be used to hire counselors for low-income homeowners facing foreclosure, eviction defense attorneys for tenants, and outreach workers to educate renters of their rights.

Part of the problem was staffing issues in the Housing and Community Development Department.

"In the past six to nine months, I lost two managers and four upper-level administrative staff," said Michelle Byrd, the director of Housing and Community Development. Byrd said staffing shortages have "depleted" her agency's ability to carry out key functions such as issuing requests for proposals, or RFPs, the first step in hiring contractors to provide services like legal representation and financial counseling.

The fact that the anti-displacement funds have gone unspent during the city's housing crisis has upset many.

"This is ridiculous, people are being displaced," said Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan about the city administration's failure to spend the money.

"I certainly have sympathy for Ms. Byrd and her department, which has been hit with staff reductions," housing advocate James Vann said today at a city council committee hearing, "but almost a year has passed. We need this to get into effect as soon as possible."

Byrd told the council's community and economic development committee today that her plan now is to expedite the process by copying a contract that Alameda County is issuing for similar anti-displacement services and using the same vendor that the county selected through a competitive process, Centro Legal de la Raza. But she added that the city's version of the contract will include several features that aren't in the county's.

According to the Our Beloved Community Action Network, a coalition of groups that lobbied for the set-aside last year, the county's contract doesn't include housing outreach and counseling services for tenants and legal and counseling services for Asian-language speaking residents — two services that are especially needed in Oakland.

Councilmember Dan Kalb drafted the ordinance that carved out the $2.2 million in redevelopment agency "boomerang" funds last June. The money traditionally was used to pay for affordable housing projects, but after voters passed Measure KK, which created $250 million in new money for affordable housing, the council sought more flexibility in how it used the boomerang funds.

Kalb said the unspent money was disturbing and called for more city council oversight of how the administration follows up on council budget priorities.

"We're six to nine months late," said Kalb. "Let's just get it done."

Byrd said she expects to have a fully negotiated contract ready for the council to approve by July, before the summer recess.

Tuesday’s Briefing: Republican Congressman Proposes ‘Mayor Libby Schaaf Act of 2018’ to Punish Officials Who Warn of ICE Raids

by Kathleen Richards
Tue, May 22, 2018 at 9:14 AM

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

A Republican Congressman from Iowa has introduced the “Mayor Libby Schaaf Act of 2018”
in an attempt to make it illegal for public officials to warn of upcoming immigration sweeps. Under the bill authored by Rep. Steve King, state and local government officials who purposefully “broadcast” information relating to “any imminent action by a federal law enforcement officer or agent” would be guilty of obstruction of justice and could face up to five years in prison, as well as a fine. (East Bay Times)

Inspired by the #MeToo movement, women are coming forward with allegations of sexual harassment by UC Berkeley professors, sometimes years after the alleged incidents occurred. More than 1,000 people have complained about sexual violence or harassment at the university since 2014. There is no time limit on the complaints. (San Francisco Chronicle)

After delays, a large housing project in Oakland’s Broadway-Valdez district could be breaking ground soon. Developer Holland Partner Group filed for building permits for 437 units of housing and 65,000 square feet of retail at 277 27th St., which has been occupied by an Acura dealership. The 18-story tower project was approved in 2016 but has been delayed because of permits and because of the new for a new location for the dealership, which is now moving near the Coliseum. (San Francisco Business Times)

Kimberly Petersen will become Fremont’s first female and openly gay police chief. Formerly a captain with the department, Petersen has been with the department for 22 years and will be appointed on July 26, when Police Chief Richard Lucero retires. (East Bay Times)

California may become the first state in the nation to offer full health coverage to undocumented adults, as the feud between the state and the Trump administration intensifies. (Politico)

An officer-involved shooting last night in Hayward left the suspect and the officer injured, according to police. (East Bay Times)

Monday, May 21, 2018

Innovative Oakland High School for New Immigrant Students a Model in California

Oakland International High provides academic as well as physical and emotional support.

by Theresa Harrington
Mon, May 21, 2018 at 2:25 PM

  • Theresa Harrington for EdSource
For 11 years, students from all over the world have gathered at Oakland International High to learn English and math, as they also learn to navigate new lives far from where they were born.

Chanthavy, 16, who left Cambodia in 2009 and learned English in Malaysia before arriving in the U.S. in 2014 with her mother and extended family, said she appreciates the school because it is immigrant-friendly and has partnered with a local food bank to occasionally offer nutritious items students can take home to their families.

“They understand our situation and they know that we need help and they provide it,” she said, as she worked on an essay about how experiencing violence can traumatize a person and change their perspectives about the world. (All student names were changed at the school’s request since many students are involved in immigration proceedings.)

The small alternative high school, which was the first of its kind in California when it opened in 2007, is one of 27 public schools or academies across the country that are part of the Internationals Network for Public Schools, which serve new immigrants — students who have recently come to the United States. A second California school is in San Francisco.

Now, other schools are looking to Oakland International as a model because of its innovative program serving these newcomer students, which includes a “full service community school” model that provides academic as well as physical and emotional supports to students. Last year 800 visitors came to the school, which attracts outside funding to provide small class sizes, teaching assistants and coaches for every teacher. Located in North Oakland, the school serves more than 400 students who as a group speak about three dozen languages. It is one of 14 high schools in the Oakland Unified School District, which enrolls about 37,100 students in the East Bay.

Last year’s visitors included 10 administrators from West Contra Costa Unified, based in nearby Richmond, which hopes to establish its own newcomer programs, said founding Principal Carmelita Reyes, who came up with the idea to start the Oakland campus.

Twenty-nine percent of students at the school are from Guatemala and 16 percent are from El Salvador. Many came as unaccompanied minors from Central America. They were trying “to get somewhere safe,” said Sailaja Suresh, who directs the school’s Learning Lab, which trains teachers to work with English learners. Others came to reunite with family members.

A sign at Oakland International High welcomes students from around the world. - THERESA HARRINGTON FOR EDSOURCE
  • Theresa Harrington for EdSource
  • A sign at Oakland International High welcomes students from around the world.

Carlos, 16, came alone from El Salvador two years ago knowing no English. Now, he’s planning a future that includes going to college.
“I like all the classes here,” said Carlos who hasn’t decided yet on a career path. “My favorite is math — learning to multiply and divide.”
Rosa, 14, who came to Oakland two years ago from El Salvador, wants to be a teacher. She’s working on her English and made some progress in middle school last year. “I like kids,” she said, as she scrutinized the fractions she and Carlos created by covering 16 out of 64 squares on a checker board with game pieces.

Math teacher David Hansen said most of his students have never played checkers but the game helps them learn math. He also teaches them to play checkers for fun.

Thirty-eight percent of the school’s students have missed two years or more of formal education. They attend classes for Students with Interrupted Formal Education, or SIFE, where they work to catch up. Carlos and Rosa were learning alongside other newcomer immigrants in Hansen’s SIFE math class for 9th and 10th-graders. All students at the school take seven classes, with most newcomers taking a regular English language arts class, history, math, science, advisory, “Survival English” and an elective. SIFE math is offered in an elective or advisory period for those who need it, Reyes said.

A “Word Wall” in a Survival English class at Oakland International includes numbers, letters, words and pictures depicting descriptive words. - THERESA HARRINGTON FOR EDSOURCE
  • Theresa Harrington for EdSource
  • A “Word Wall” in a Survival English class at Oakland International includes numbers, letters, words and pictures depicting descriptive words.

The goal is for the students to get to grade level in English and math and then take other courses they need to graduate from Oakland International.

Students miss school for a variety of reasons, Suresh said. Some have traveled such long distances to get to Oakland from their home countries that they couldn’t attend school along the way. Others had schooling interrupted by wars or because they were too poor to pay the school fees.

They work with counselors to create five-year graduation plans and can take summer school credit recovery courses. As they progress, they can also take after-school dual enrollment community college courses in English as a Second Language and math, which could allow them to enter college without remediation.

All teachers at the school emphasize English language skills, Suresh said.

“We’re really trusting teachers to understand where they’re at,” she said, “and meet them where they are.”

Another challenge, Suresh said, is creating a curriculum that respects the fact that “our students are teenagers and are actually capable of quite complex thinking and opinions,” and helping them to “access those thoughts and articulate them” through teaching that is not “elementary style.”

The school’s curriculum is aligned with Common Core math and English language arts standards and most 11th-graders take the state’s standardized tests in those subjects. As English learners, most are not yet reading at grade level. About 3.3 percent of the 90 students who took the math test met state standards, including nearly 2.4 percent of the 84 English learners who took it.

In an 11th-grade English class, students recently worked on assignments designed to prepared them for the state tests, while also building their overall critical thinking and writing skills.

English teacher Julia Carson assists 11th-graders with writing assignments at Oakland International High. - THERESA HARRINGTON FOR EDSOURCE
  • Theresa Harrington for EdSource
  • English teacher Julia Carson assists 11th-graders with writing assignments at Oakland International High.

Survival English students, on the other hand, drew pictures and wrote sentences describing their identities on large paper puzzle pieces including details about where they came from and their families, favorite foods and religious beliefs.

Jose, 17, from Guatemala, wrote that his favorite food is pizza “because it is delicious.”

Students in a “Survival English” class at Oakland International High describe their favorite foods as part of a writing project focused on their identities. - THERESA HARRINGTON FOR EDSOURCE
  • Theresa Harrington for EdSource
  • Students in a “Survival English” class at Oakland International High describe their favorite foods as part of a writing project focused on their identities.
“The ingredients in pizza are cheese and tomatoes,” he wrote. “My mom makes pizza.”

Teacher Sara Stillman integrates literacy into her 10th grade graphic arts class by asking students to read passages from books that are relevant to their immigrant experiences. One of those books is “The Best We Could Do,” an illustrated memoir by Thi Bui, a public school teacher living in Berkeley who immigrated to the United States from Vietnam as part of a wave of Southeast Asian refugees known as “boat people.”

During a recent class, Stillman and her students discussed what the phrase “magic moment” meant to them, as they reflected on Bui’s recollection of looking up at the stars. One student said he recalled looking out the window and seeing blue sky and clouds on his journey from Jordan.

Stillman said a magic moment could also be “when you see someone for the first time in a long time when you get to the U.S.”

“And you feel so joyful and happy,” a boy chimed in.

One girl said her magic moment was when she saw her mom for the first time after being separated from her for 11 years.

Students enjoy reading Bui’s story because many can identify with the author’s scary journey and recall being hungry and relying on strangers for help, Stillman said.

As a “full service community school,” the campus raises outside funds and partners with organizations to meet students’ needs including eye clinics, guidance counselors and mental health professionals who speak multiple languages.

“Our school was designed to welcome kids whenever they came — whether it was the first day of school or April 15,” Reyes said, “to be a place that would support them academically and socially and emotionally.”

But over the past three years, the need for immigrant services has exceeded the school’s capacity. So, the district is providing newcomer services in five other schools — Castlemont, Fremont and Oakland high schools, Rudsdale Newcomer High and Bret Harte Middle School — with the help of a three-year $1.8 million grant through the California Newcomer Education and Well-Being project.

“The grant was written in large part to begin to replicate strong practices that are already in place at OIHS,” said district spokesman John Sasaki.

To help meet the demand for teachers to serve immigrants, the school launched its learning lab this year, creating a pipeline of teachers to serve newcomer students in partnership with the Reach Institute for School Leadership, an Oakland-based organization that offers a teacher certification program to teacher aides at the school with Bachelors’ Degrees. Reyes described the program as “one of the most exciting things this year” at the school.

“They are working in our classrooms during the day and getting their credentials at night,” Reyes said, referring to the 12 teachers in the first graduating class. “We’re going to be minting them and putting them out into the world as newcomer teachers.”

This story was originally published by EdSource.

The Deadline for Best Of Nomination Voting Has Been Extended!

Vote for your favorite East Bay businesses and people.

by Kathleen Richards
Mon, May 21, 2018 at 12:08 PM

Once again, it's time to vote for your favorite businesses, people, organizations, and more in the Express' Best Of! Like last year, the voting process is divided into two phases: a nomination period (now through May 25), and a final voting phase (beginning June 6 and ending July 11).

The top vote-getters in the first phase will become finalists for the second phase.

New this year: In keeping with the spirit of Best Of, we ask that you only nominate independent, locally owned businesses. National chains will be omitted from the results.

Also new: We've got an optional reader's survey at the end of the poll. The survey will help us learn more about you and your interests, so if you feel so inclined, please take the time to fill it out. We'd appreciate it! As an added incentive, those who fill out the survey will have their name entered into a raffle to win a $100 gift certificate to Yoshi's.

The nomination period ends Friday, May 25 at midnight. Vote now!

Monday's Briefing: Hundreds Show Up to Lake Merritt for "BBQing While Black"

by Kathleen Richards
Mon, May 21, 2018 at 10:14 AM

Since the video of the white woman calling police on Black men barbecuing went viral, residents have been showing up to Lake Merritt in protest. Photo taken May 10, 2018. - AZUCENA RASILLA
  • Azucena Rasilla
  • Since the video of the white woman calling police on Black men barbecuing went viral, residents have been showing up to Lake Merritt in protest. Photo taken May 10, 2018.

Hundreds of people showed up to Lake Merritt on Sunday
for "BBQing While Black." The event included music, food, and celebration after the video of a white woman calling police on Black men using a charcoal grill at the Oakland tidal lagoon went viral. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Saturday Night Live also silently mocked the woman.
"Mr. President, I am not obstructing justice. I am seeking it." That was Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf writing an op-ed in the Washington Post in response to Trump calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to investigate Schaaf for her tweet warning residents of an impending ICE raid. (Washington Post)

What does it mean to be Black in Berkeley these days? At an event on Saturday attempting to address the issue, City Councilmember Ben Bartlett, who's running for Assembly District 15, said the city has a reputation that it's hostile to the Black community. (Berkeleyside)

Body cam footage of Santa Rosa police officers shows people refusing to leave, people trapped behind electric garage doors, and people unaware of the quick-moving wildfires in the North Bay last October. (The Mercury News/East Bay Times)

99 Ranch is coming to Richmond's Hilltop Mall, which is being redeveloped and rebranded as "the Shops at Hilltop." (San Francisco Business Times)

Two dead whales washed ashore in the Bay Area on Friday: One near Oakland's Jack London Aquatic Center and the other at Tennessee Valley Beach in Marin County. Both appeared to have been struck by ships. (The Mercury News)

Friday, May 18, 2018

Friday’s Briefing: Kaiser to Invest $200 Million for Affordable Housing; 97 Percent of McClymonds Seniors Going to College

by Kathleen Richards
Fri, May 18, 2018 at 8:04 AM

A Tuff Shed camp in Oakland. - PHOTO BY DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Photo by Darwin BondGraham
  • A Tuff Shed camp in Oakland.

Oakland-based Kaiser Permanente announced today it will invest $200 million to help preserve and create affordable housing and mitigate homelessness in the Bay Area and other locations. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf asked Kaiser CEO Bernard Tyson to make the investment as part of the new Mayors and CEOs for U.S. Housing Investment group, which is lobbying Congress for more federal funding for homelessness. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Ninety-seven percent of the students graduating from McClymonds High School in West Oakland this year are going to college, one of the highest percentages of college-bound students in the school's history. Of the 60 out of 62 students going to college, 25 are heading to junior colleges, five to University of California schools and 17 to California State University schools, according to an Oakland Unified news release. (East Bay Times)

Berkeley is trying to rid of RVs and their inhabitants at the Berkeley Marina, issuing notices that the campers must leave before a May 28-June 1 construction project. The city plans to create structured parking to reduce overnight parking and prevent RVs from parking there, but the RV dwellers say they have no place else to go. (Berkeleyside)

An internal investigation by UC Berkeley has substantiated claims of sexual violence and harassment against longtime athletic department employee Mohamed Muqtar. WNBA All-Star Layshia Clarendon filed a lawsuit in January, claiming Muqtar assaulted her during her freshmen year at Cal, which prompted the school’s investigation. Cal Athletics confirmed Muqtar was fired on May 11. (ESPN)

The number of arrests of immigrants without criminal convictions continues to rise as the Trump administration battles with California’s sanctuary laws. From October through March, more than 3,400 “non-criminals” were arrested by ICE’s California offices. (San Francisco Chronicle)

California’s birthrate has plunged to its lowest level in a century. Experts say the decline is related to young people putting off having kids for financial or personal reasons, along with the increasing availability of birth control and the state of the economy. (SFGate)

Berkeley City Council has further eased the process for building accessory dwelling units, on in-law cottages. The new ordinance allows them units to be slightly larger, up to 850 square feet, and clarifies some of the design guidelines. (Berkeleyside)

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