Friday, April 20, 2018

Friday’s Briefing: Huge Housing Project Proposed for Oakland’s Waterfront; Elmwood Café Abruptly Closes After Renewed Attention to Racial Profiling Incident

by Kathleen Richards
Fri, Apr 20, 2018 at 10:29 AM

The owner of Eve's Waterfront wants to build a 500-unit housing tower at 15 Embarcadero West.
  • The owner of Eve's Waterfront wants to build a 500-unit housing tower at 15 Embarcadero West.

The owner of Eve’s Waterfront is proposing to build a 50-story, 500-unit residential tower on the Oakland Estuary that would be the city’s tallest building. Restaurant owner Chris Malki, also of Walnut Creek-based Capital Financial LLC, and his wife, Eva, want to build at the site of their restaurant, 15 Embarcadero West, although they don’t yet have a developer or architect for the project. The city has already approved a commercial boat dock at the location and Malki is exploring possible ferry service, as well as improving the Bay Trail, creating a public bathroom and water area, and improving a nearby condo complex, where Malki lives. (San Francisco Business Times)

Berkeley’s Elmwood Café has abruptly closed after attention to a racial profiling incident there three years ago recently resurfaced in light of a racial profiling incident at a Starbucks in Philadelphia. Last week, two Black males were arrested at a Starbucks in Philadelphia, the video of which went viral. On Monday, comedian W. Kamau Bell wrote a blog post for CNN recounting his experience of being racially profiled at the Elmwood Café in 2015, saying after promises to end implicit bias at the café, it’s been “business as usual.” Media reports and negative Yelp reviews followed. Elmwood Café hasn’t given any reason for its sudden closure. (Berkeleyside)

Despite promises to clear marijuana convictions, Bay Area prosecutors have only made a small dent in the number of cases they vowed to dismissed. An investigation by KTVU showed that Bay Area District Attorney’s offices have so far only dismissed or reduced between 4 to 10 percent of cannabis caseloads on their docket. (KTVU)

West Oakland is finally getting another grocery store. The 14,000-square-foot Community Foods Market, located on the 31st block of San Pablo Avenue, broke ground last Friday and is expected to open in October. (East Bay Express)

A state auditor’s report shows that California is doing a poor job of sheltering its homeless population — the largest in the nation — and needs better leadership to address the problem. The audit noted that 68 percent of the state’s homeless live in vehicles, abandoned buildings, parks, or on streets. Additionally, 82 percent of homeless youth are unsheltered, compared to 38 percent in the rest of the nation. It’s estimated that California now has about 134,000 people living on its streets. (SFGate)

The owner of a debris-hauling company who was sued by the city of Oakland in January for intentionally blowing toxic dust into a West Oakland neighborhood is being accused of violating a court order. Mocair Dos Santos of Santos Engineering has been using a warehouse at 1266 28th St. to haul and break down construction debris — improperly so — causing nearby residents to complain of coughing, lightheadedness, and swollen eyes. Despite the court order to cease such activity, the City Attorney believes the work is continuing. (Hoodline)

The city is going ahead with plans to purchase a vacant building for a new homeless shelter. The 70-unit, 9,500-square-foot former SRO, located at 641 W. Grand Ave., will be bought for $7 million and provide transitional housing for up to 140 homeless people. (Hoodline, East Bay Express)

California state workers who are accused of sexual harassment resulting in costly claims don’t necessarily lose their jobs; in some cases, they get raises and promotions. (Sacramento Bee)

A former medical assistant was sentenced to three years in prison yesterday for sexually assaulting a patient. Efrain Castanon, 48, pled guilty to one count of sexual battery for assaulting a woman at a Kaiser Hospital in Union City in January 2017. The woman sued Castanon and Kaiser in January, alleging that Kaiser knew of past complaints about his behavior. (East Bay Times)

Federal regulators are fining Wells Fargo $1 billion for forcing customers to buy unnecessary products such as auto insurance policies and fees related to mortgage applications. The stiff penalty represents the most significant move by federal banking regulators under the Trump administration. (The New York Times)

Happy 4/20! Looking for ways to celebrate cannabis’ biggest holiday? Here are some events.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Thursday’s Briefing: Two Candidates Join the Race for Oakland’s District 4; Charlie Hallowell Sells Boot & Shoe Service

by Kathleen Richards
Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 9:57 AM

Charlie Hallowell is selling Boot & Shoe Service. - FILE PHOTO BY ALESSANDRA MELLO
  • File photo by Alessandra Mello
  • Charlie Hallowell is selling Boot & Shoe Service.
Two candidates have joined the race for Oakland’s District 4 after Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington announced last week she wouldn’t seek re-election in November. Both candidates have worked for the city: Nayeli Maxon worked for Campbell Washington as a liaison to residents in the Oakland hills, while Joseph Tanios has been a construction inspector and engineering manager and is currently overseeing the city’s work around the construction of the East Bay Bus Rapid Transit line. (East Bay Times)

After being accused by more than 30 former employees of sexual harassment, Charlie Hallowell is selling one of his three Oakland restaurants, Boot & Shoe Service. The new owner, Jen Cramer, a former manager at Hallowell’s Pizzaiolo, will be taking over the restaurant with her husband, Richard Clark, within two months, but will keep the chef, menus, and recipes the same. (SFGate)

Gov. Jerry Brown has ordered the deployment of up to 400 California National Guard troops to the border with Mexico and elsewhere in the state — with the condition that the troops won’t be involved with immigration enforcement or construction of a wall. Instead, they’ll assist with fighting “transnational crime,” including gang activity, human trafficking, and gun and drug smuggling. (Sacramento Bee)

More than half of U.S. teenagers fear that there will be a shooting at their school, according to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center. Researchers found that girls are more anxious than boys (64 percent versus 51 percent) and that Hispanic and African American students are far more likely to be fearful than white students — 73 percent and 60 percent versus 51 percent, respectively. (San Francisco Business Times)

Despite promising reforms, the Berkeley Police Department lags in its requirements to report when their officers use force compared to other cities. “Little information has been disclosed publicly about what kind of force Berkeley police officers have used and when,” reports Scott Morris. (Berkeleyside)

A new program by the West Contra Costa Unified School District in partnership with San Francisco-based startup Landed will help teachers in that district buy homes by providing half of their down payment, up to $120,000 per household. In return, the teachers must share with Landed 25 percent of the gain or loss on the value of the home when they sell or refinance it. The program is part of an effort to recruit and retain teachers, as the West Contra Costa Unified School District has lost about 15 of its teaching force each year over the past four years. (Richmond Confidential)

A new solar farm has opened on a former Chevron landfill in Richmond, part of that city’s goal to greatly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The 10.5-megawatt Solar One project is the Bay Area’s largest public-private solar partnership — between Richmond and Marin Clean Energy, which services residents and businesses in Marin and Napa counties, unincorporated Contra Costa County, and the cities of Benicia, Concord, Danville, El Cerrito, Lafayette, Martinez, Moraga, Oakley, Pinole, Pittsburg, Richmond, San Pablo, San Ramon, and Walnut Creek — and is expected to generate enough electricity to power 3,000 MRE customers and replace 3,234 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year. (East Bay Times)

An effort is underway to raise $4 million to save a large open space property in the Martinez hills from development. The John Muir Land Trust wants to protect the 281-acre Almond Ranch, which sits next to Mt. Wanda alongside Franklin Canyon Road and is currently being used for cattle grazing, and open it to hikers, dog walkers, and cyclists. The group has already secured $1 million from the East Bay Regional Park District and hopes another $1 million will come from Prop. 68, if it passes in June. If their efforts are successful, the land would help close a gap in the Bay Area Ridge Trail. A fundraiser is scheduled for April 28. (East Bay Times)

California’s OSHA is investigating Tesla for potential workplace safety violations, including whether the company reports injuries at its Fremont factory in a timely manner. The news comes after a lengthy investigation by Reveal and KQED showed that the company has failed to report some of its serious injuries on legally mandated reports. (San Francisco Business Times)

A new lane will open on the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge on Friday, allowing eastbound commuters a third lane during peak hours. For now, the lane will only be open for the evening commute, between about 2 and 7 p.m. It’s part of a four-year experiment to ease traffic. (SFGate)

A Berkeley High School history teacher has been put on administrative leave after bringing a historic bazooka to class. (Berkeleyside)

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Wednesday’s Briefing: Senate Bill to Create New Housing Near Transit Fails; Bay Area Has Some of the Worst Air Quality in the Nation

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 10:03 AM

SB 827 would have made it easier to build housing projects such as the one near MacArthur BART, which will begin construction next month. - BOSTON PROPERTIES
  • Boston Properties
  • SB 827 would have made it easier to build housing projects such as the one near MacArthur BART, which will begin construction next month.
Senate Bill 827 — the proposal from Sen. Scott Weiner (D-San Francisco) to create more housing near public transportation — is officially dead. The controversial bill, which was recently scaled down, would have barred cities from blocking housing that was up to five stories in height within a quarter-mile of major transit hubs. It died in the Senate Transportation and Housing Committee. Weiner is vowing to makes changes to the measure and bring it back before the Legislature next year. (San Francisco Chronicle)

The Bay Area has some of the worst air quality in the nation, according to the American Lung Association’s State of the Air 2018 report. The region ranked sixth worst in the nation from 2014 to 2016 in terms of short-term particle pollution, and 13th worst in the country for ozone pollution, which scientists say is due to climate change. (San Francisco Chronicle)

New research shows the Hayward fault is a “tectonic time bomb” and much more dangerous than the San Andreas. A report by the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that at least 800 people could die and 18,000 injured in a magnitude 7.0 earthquake on the Hayward fault, centered below Oakland. And hundreds more could die from the fires that would ignite, burning the equivalent of 52,000 single-family houses. More than 400,000 people could be displaced from their homes, and some residents might be without water for as long as six months. In the best case scenario, 8,000 buildings would collapse. (Los Angeles Times)

Starbucks announced yesterday it would close all of its 8,000 stores on May 29 so its staff can receive racial bias training. The news comes days after an incident in Philadelphia in which two Black male customers were arrested while waiting for a friend, which was caught on video. It also comes three years after the Seattle-based company tried to start a conversation about race by asking baristas to write “Race Together” on cups. (San Francisco Business Times)

A Southwest plane’s engine blew out in mid-air yesterday, resulting in a woman being partially sucked out of the aircraft and dying. The plane was flying from New York to Dallas and had to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. (CNN)

Homes in the Bay Area are selling faster than anywhere else in the country, according to a recent analysis from real estate information company Zillow. In the San Francisco metro area, homes sold within an average of 43 days in 2017 compared to 81 days nationally, and 64.5 percent sold for more than the asking price. (San Francisco Business Times)

San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors unanimously approved new rules for motorized scooters yesterday, requiring them to have permits from the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency in order to be parked on a sidewalk. The move comes after City Attorney Dennis Herrera sent cease-and-desist letters to scooter rental companies on Monday, saying they were blocking sidewalks and building entrances and creating hazards for pedestrians. (SFGate)

Environmentalists plan to thin 10,000 acres of trees in Northern California’s old-growth redwood forests in order to encourage growth of second- and third-growth redwood trees. Save the Redwoods League says too-dense forests have created crowded conditions, forcing trees to compete for sunlight and water. The logging will take place at Redwood National Park and Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park over the next five years, and then move to Jedediah Smith and Prairie Creek Redwoods state parks. (East Bay Times)

More than 46,000 A’s fans showed up to the Coliseum yesterday to celebrate the team’s 50th anniversary — and enjoy free tickets. They also enjoyed the A’s’ 10-2 win over the White Sox. (East Bay Times)



Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tuesday’s Briefing: Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach Keeps Her Job (for Now); UC Berkeley to Get More Student Housing

by Kathleen Richards
Tue, Apr 17, 2018 at 9:59 AM

Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach. - FILE PHOTO BY D. ROSS CAMERON
  • File photo by D. Ross Cameron
  • Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach.
At a closed door session last night, the Alameda City Council decided not to fire embattled City Manager Jill Keimach, who admitted she recorded Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella without their knowledge (which is illegal under California law). The council also decided that an independent investigation into Keimach’s allegations that she was politically pressured by those councilmembers — her reasoning for the illegal recording — to select a union-backed fire chief will be publicly released May 2. Also, about that illegal recording, the council directed the city attorney to refer the case to the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office. (East Bay Times, EB Citizen)

The U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal law that makes it easier to deport immigrants who have been convicted of crimes, saying it’s too vague to be enforced. The 5-4 decision — the result of Trump appointee Justice Neil Gorsuch aligning unusually with the four liberal justices — only applies to a category of crimes that carry a prison term of more than a year but don't fit comfortably in the list of “aggravated felonies” that can lead to deportation. (SFGate)

Plans are underway for a village of tiny homes for homeless youth at the site of Ohmega Salvage in West Berkeley. The proposal calls for 25 homes for homeless and low-income young people and is part of a larger project by Berkeley nonprofit Youth Spirit Awards for 100 homes in Berkeley to be built by volunteers and homeless youth. Ohmega Salvage is consolidating its operations and renting out one of its two lots on San Pablo Avenue due to rising business costs and declining sales. (Berkeleyside)

UC Berkeley is constructing a new eight-floor dorm at Bancroft Way and Dana Street. When completed, the new dorm will house more than 750 undergrads and will be called David Blackwell Hall, after the first African American professor to gain tenure at the university. It’s expected to open in August. Meanwhile, administrators are also signing leases for student beds at new buildings and are considering developing other sites — including the Upper Hearst Parking Structure — for student housing. (East Bay Times)

Hundreds of Oakland residents packed a town hall meeting last night to grill city officials about the problem of illegal dumping in their neighborhoods. Among their complaints: That cleanup crews prioritize affluent, predominantly white parts of the city where residents make the most complaints as opposed to the flatlands neighborhoods where garbage is a bigger problem. Councilmember Abel Guillen told the gathering that he would advocate for adding another illegal dumping cleanup crew next month when budget revisions are made. (East Bay Express)

Several East Bay cities are considering establishing ordinances that would ban companies that gather data for ICE from bidding on city contracts. Civil rights organizations that drafted the measure want to cut off support for the Trump administration’s campaign of ramping up deportations and to undermine future efforts to round up people based on their (perceived) ethnicity, race, or religion. (East Bay Express)

The Temescal Telegraph Business Improvement District is soliciting community feedback on plans to remake the triangular parcel where Shattuck and Telegraph avenues intersect, otherwise known as Kasper’s Plaza. The idea is to turn the space into a pedestrian-friendly plaza not unlike Latham Square, improving traffic, promoting bike and pedestrian safety, and encouraging use as a gathering spot. The next community meeting will be held Wednesday, April 18, at Faith Presbyterian Church. (Hoodline)

The City of Berkeley will vote on whether to keep an emergency shelter open for another six weeks, at the cost of $90,000. The 10,000-square-foot facility can house 90 people and is located at 1925 Ninth Street, at University. (Daily Cal)

Oakland rapper Too $hort will not face criminal charges of sexual assault after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office rejected the case, citing insufficient evidence. Teana Louis sued the rapper in January claiming he sexually assaulted her on multiple occasions while working together in a recording studio in 2016. (East Bay Times)

And, finally, The New York Times, the New Yorker, and The Washington Post won Pulitzer Prizes for their #MeToo-related reporting. Locally, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat won in the category of breaking news reporting for their coverage of the North Bay wildfires. And Kendrick Lamar became the first rapper to win in the music category for his album DAMN. The Pulitzer board called it “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.” (New York Times)

Oakland’s Flatlands Residents Grill Mayor and City Council Over Illegal Dumping

Hundreds of people gathered last night to demand that the city hire additional public works crews to clean up garbage and focus on the most impacted neighborhoods.

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Apr 17, 2018 at 8:07 AM

dscn3576.jpg

Hundreds of Oakland residents, most of them from the city's flatland neighborhoods, packed a town hall meeting last night to demand that city leaders dedicate greater resources to clean streets.

Illegal dumping is a perennial problem in Oakland, especially in communities of color, and many feel that piles of garbage are allowed to fester near homes and schools because this public health hazard doesn't inconvenience Oakland's more affluent and predominantly white residents who live in the hills.

Last night, activists from the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods talked about there being "two Oaklands," and how problems like trash and broken infrastructure are addressed differently in separate parts of the city.

Neighbors also cried foul about rising garbage bills and parcel taxes, which never seem to improve their physical surroundings.

Oakland's Mayor Libby Schaaf was put on the spot by organizers of the event who questioned why the streets of her neighborhood, the Oakmore, located in the hills above the Dimond District, appear clean and in good repair while other streets just a mile away in the Fruitvale are pocked with potholes and sidewalks are obstructed with piles of garbage and dangerous materials like needles and dead animals.

Pastor Michael Wallace, the chair of Oakland Congregations United and an organizer of the town hall, questioned why Schaaf is promoting a new $198 parcel tax to fund pre-school and Head Start programs while "basic priorities" like safe and sanitary streets are neglected.

But Schaaf pushed back and said that residents shouldn't be led to believe that it's an either/or choice between clean streets and better funding for Oakland's schools. She said residents deserve better on both.

"No one elected me to work on only one thing at a time," Schaaf told the audience. "I assure you I have the capacity to work on many things and you should never compromise anything for your children."


Members of the Oakland City Council were interrogated about whether or not they will support hiring two additional public works crews to pick up piles of illegally disposed waste, and to hire three inspectors who will try tracking down the culprits who drop garbage onto the streets, usually late at night.

Residents also demanded that city leaders repair and add streetlights in areas that are known hot spots for dumping. The councilmembers were repeatedly told to answer "yes" or "no" to the demands, and not give political speeches without a commitment.

Councilmember Noel Gallo drew applause by reminding people of his weekly cleanup activities around the Fruitvale.

"This last Sunday alone I picked up 105 drug needles and 15 dead rats," Gallo said. He promised to support spending more money on clean streets.

Councilmember Abel Guillen told the gathering that he would advocate for another illegal dumping cleanup crew next month when the budget revisions are made.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan also pledged to spend more on cleaning up the streets. "Yes, si, amen, and so it is," she said in response to whether she'll support hiring more illegal dumping crews and inspectors.

Councilmember Dan Kalb said he supports adding public works crews, but he also tried to temper expectations, telling the hundreds of people gathered in the auditorium that the city's budget office has yet to provide the council with an update on how much money will be available to expand city services.

Next month, Oakland will begin its May revisions to the budget. If additional revenue has poured in, above and beyond what's already been allocated in the current budget, it could mean that one or two more public works crews can be hired.

Another complaint made last night is that the city dispatches public works crews to areas that receive the most complaints, but that often means that more affluent neighborhoods where residents are more able to advocate for themselves get faster and more frequent service than the city's working-class flatlands.

Organizers of last night's town hall demanded the city clean up streets by prioritizing known hot spots rather than responding to complaints.

Absent from last night's town hall were councilmembers Annie Campbell Washington and Desley Brooks. But also in attendance were District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, Oakland school board members James Harris, Aimee Eng, and Roseann Torres.

Nikki Fortunato Bas, who is running for Oakland City Council in District 2, was also in attendance.

Monday, April 16, 2018

East Bay Cities Consider Banning Companies That Help ICE Track Down Immigrants From Bidding on City Contracts

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Apr 16, 2018 at 4:21 PM

ICE.GOV
  • ICE.gov

Several local East Bay lawmakers are proposing ordinances that would prevent companies that gather data about immigrants and racial, ethnic, and religious groups for the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency from also doing business with their cities.

The purpose, say advocates from 18 civil rights organizations that drafted the measure, is to cut off support for the Trump administration's campaign of ramping up deportations, and to undermine possible future efforts to round up people based purely on their perceived ethnicity, race, or religion.

One version of the ordinance, which is being considered at tomorrow night's Alameda City Council meeting, would bar "data brokers" who work with ICE from bidding on city contracts. The proposal would also ban any company that provides ICE with "extreme vetting" services from seeking city contracts.

On the campaign trail and in office, President Donald Trump spoke of the need to carry out "extreme vetting" and to create a "Muslim registry." Civil rights groups fear that this will lead to the violation of constitutional rights for entire ethnic, religious, national, or racial groups, who would be subjected to extra scrutiny or, worse, detention or deportation by customs officials and other law enforcement.

Under the proposed law, city funds that are invested in stocks and bonds would also be withdrawn from any companies fitting the description of a data broker or those working on "extreme vetting" systems for the federal government.

The Alameda ordinance, sponsored by Vice Mayor Malia Vella, defines a data broker as any person or company who collects information for the purposes of reselling it. There are numerous such data broker firms, but only a handful that currently provide data to ICE for immigration enforcement.

Berkeley City Councilmembr Kriss Worthington introduced a similar ordinance earlier this month but it was tabled over concerns about how to implement the investment restrictions. A version of the ordinance is expected to return for a vote soon.

"This is about making sanctuary real," said Berkeley Councilmember Kate Harrison, who supports the proposal.

Berkeley is one of many California cities that has adopted sanctuary policies that are meant to protect undocumented residents by limiting how and when federal authorities can obtain information or assistance from local police.

One company fitting the description of an ICE data broker is Vigilant Solutions. The Livermore-based tech company deploys license plate scanners for law enforcement agencies around the country. Vigilant also operates a large database of license plate scans that can be used to locate and track automobiles and people. Numerous Bay Area cities use Vigilant Solutions' system to carry out mass surveillance on roads and bridges.

Alameda recently tabled a proposal to outfit city streets with license plate scanners over concerns that the data could end up in the hands of ICE agents.

The City of San Pablo also recently delayed voting on a project to significantly expand its existing surveillance system with additional Vigilant Solutions' cameras and software.

Tonight, San Pablo's city council will vote again on the surveillance system expansion project. But according to the proposed contract's new terms, Vigilant Solutions can't share data with ICE agents without the police department's consent.

Officials in Richmond and Oakland are also considering adopting a complete ban on companies that work as data brokers for ICE or design systems of "extreme vetting." Such laws would prevent them from entering into agreements like the one San Pablo is considering.

Monday's Briefing: Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf Attacks Councilmember Desley Brooks; Comey Attacks Trump; Trump Attacks Syria

by Kathleen Richards
Mon, Apr 16, 2018 at 11:06 AM

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf verbally attacked Councilmember Desley Brooks, likening her to Donald Trump. - FILE PHOTO BY D. ROSS CAMERON
  • File Photo by D. Ross Cameron
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf verbally attacked Councilmember Desley Brooks, likening her to Donald Trump.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for April 16, 2018:

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf verbally attacked Councilmember Desley Brooks in a press release on Friday afternoon, calling her "toxic" and the "Donald Trump of Oakland." The press release was intended as a thank-you to Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, who announced she would not seek re-election this fall. (EBCitizen.com)

A day after Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach admitted to unlawfully recording two city councilmembers without their consent, Alameda City Attorney Janet Kern said she will ask the city council whether they want to refer the case to the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. A special closed session meeting is scheduled for this evening to discuss possible litigation against the city and firing Keimach. Keimach alleges that Kern was aware of her intentions to record Jim Oddie and Malia Vella and that her action was legal. (EBCitizen.com)

In an explosive interview with ABC, James Comey personally attacked Donald Trump, calling him a serial liar who treated women like "meat" and likened him to a mafia boss. He also said that an allegation that Trump cavorted with prostitutes in Moscow left him vulnerable to blackmail by the Russian government. The allegations came to light during a five-hour interview with ABC, the transcripts of which were obtained by The New York Times. As expected, Trump responded by blasting Comey on Twitter, using lots of ALL CAPs and exclamation points. $ (New York Times)

The U.S. led air strikes on Syria Friday afternoon in attempt to crush President Bashar al-Assad’s chemical weapons program. While Trump declared "mission accomplished," Russian officials said Syria's air defense systems intercepted 71 out of 103 cruise missiles they believe were fired by the Western allies, which included Britain and France. (CNN)

Berkeleyside has raised $1 million from its readers in a direct public offering, making it the first news organization in the country to successfully create such a funding model. The independent local news site hopes to pay 3 percent dividends to its investors while creating a sustainable model for local journalism. (The Daily Cal)

UCSF Health and John Muir Health are partnering to open a new outpatient center in Berkeley, offering primary care and specialty care, but no emergency care services. The Berkeley Outpatient Center, located at 3100 San Pablo Ave., reflects the ongoing competition and consolidation among large health care providers. It's expected to open in June. (Daily Cal)

And finally, the Bay Area saw hail this morning as a cold front swept through the region. Watch some kids sled down the street in the Oakland hills. $ (San Francisco Chronicle)


$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Friday’s Briefing: Keimach Admits to Illegally Taping Alameda Councilmembers; Judge Rules Trump Can’t Punish Sanctuary Cities

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Apr 13, 2018 at 10:51 AM

Jill Keimach.
  • Jill Keimach.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for April 13, 2018:

1. Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach admitted to KCBS this morning that she illegally recorded a private meeting last year with Councilmembers Malia Vella and Jim Oddie. It is illegal in California to record private conversations without the consent of all people involved. Keimach’s unlawful actions were the main reason why the city council and the mayor voted unanimously last month to place Keimach on administrative leave. The council is scheduled to vote Monday night on whether to fire Keimach. Keimach contends that the illegal recordings prove that Oddie and Vella unlawfully interfered in her job duties, although sources say they do not.

2. A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled that it’s illegal for President Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to financially punish sanctuary cities like Oakland, Alameda, Berkeley, and Richmond — or to reward cities that cooperate with federal deportation efforts, the LA Times$ reports. U.S. District Judge Manuel Real issued a nationwide ban on Trump and Session’s plan to withhold U.S. Department of Justice grants to cities with sanctuary laws.

3. Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley has tabled his controversial proposal to hand control of the Ashland REACH Youth Center to the sheriff’s office, reports Steven Tavares of the East Bay Citizen. The popular youth center will remain in the control of the Alameda County Healthcare Services Agency.

4. A proposal to split California into three states may qualify for the November ballot, reports John Woolfolk of the Mercury News$. The measure is being funded by Silicon Valley billionaire Tim Draper.

5. The National Park Service has jettisoned its controversial plan to hike fees at national parks by $40 and instead will only raise them by $5, reports Kurtis Alexander of the San Francisco Chronicle.

6. Carl Ferrer, CEO of BackPage.com, has pleaded guilty to state and federal criminal charges including conspiracy and money laundering and has agreed to testify against the owners of the online site, Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin, who used to own the East Bay Express. Last week, the FBI shut down BackPage.com, alleging that it engages in sex trafficking, and arrested Lacey and Larkin.

7. And ICYMI: Oakland Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, Montclair-Laurel, announced that she will not seek reelection this fall.

$ = news stories that may require payment to read.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Campbell Washington Will Not Seek Reelection

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 5:43 PM

Campbell Washington.
  • Campbell Washington.
Oakland District 4 Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington, Montclair-Laurel, announced Thursday afternoon that she will not seek re-election to her seat this fall after just one term in office.

“This is a decision I have not come to lightly,” she wrote to supporters. “Although January 2019 will mark the end to my role as a city councilmember, I will remain deeply involved and committed to Oakland. I’m excited to continue working on the Sweetened Beverage Tax, Oakland Promise, and the Oakland Children’s Initiative, among others. I am thankful for the opportunities to serve the public in Oakland.”

Campbell Washington won a two-person race for the seat in 2014 against challenger Jill Broadhurst, and most observers believed her path to winning re-election would be easy.

There are no other candidates yet running for the now open seat this November, although potential candidates could include Sheng Thao, current chief of staff for Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan; Oakland school board member Nina Senn; and Broadhurst.

Prior to her stint on the council, Campbell Washington was appointed to the Oakland school board and served as chief of staff for former mayors Jerry Brown and Jean Quan.

During her time on the city council, Campbell Washington often struggled to raise a higher profile among her more rambunctious council mates, although she appeared to bond often with District 2 Councilmember Abel Guillen on many issues. Campbell Washington also received strong support from labor unions, which fueled her successful 2014 council run.

Although the two used to be close friends, Campbell Washington and Mayor Libby Schaaf often butted heads during the past year. At recent committee hearings on the subject of a city report that detailed rapidly rising overtime use at both the police and fire departments, Campbell Washington lashed out at Schaaf and the city administration. “It is incredibly important. it's one of the biggest drivers of spending in our city and we cannot seem to get a handle on it and I don’t have any confidence that we are even trying to get a handle on it from this report.”

In her letter to supporters today, Campbell Washington wrote, “I am extremely grateful for all the work that has been accomplished during my term and for the phenomenal residents of District 4. I feel tremendously fortunate to have been able to work side by side with so many dedicated and talented Oaklanders.”

Updated: Alameda City Manager Wiretapped Councilors

Sources say Jill Keimach illegally recorded Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella without their consent.

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Apr 12, 2018 at 4:37 PM

Jill Keimach. - FILE PHOTO BY D. ROSS CAMERON
  • File photo by D. Ross Cameron
  • Jill Keimach.

This story has been updated below:

An independent investigator has uncovered evidence that Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach unlawfully recorded two councilmembers and another city employee without their consent last year, according to two knowledgeable sources. Keimach’s alleged actions are the main reason why the Alameda City Council and Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer voted unanimously on March 9 to place Keimach on administrative leave, the sources said. Spencer and the council are scheduled to discuss whether to fire Keimach on Monday night.

The existence of the alleged recordings was first learned in early March by independent investigator Michael Jenkins, an attorney who was hired by the council to probe allegations made by Keimach last fall, sources said. Keimach alleged in a letter that unnamed members of the council illegally pressured her to hire the candidate for fire chief backed by the Alameda firefighters’ union. The Alameda City Charter gives the city manager power to hire and fire department heads and prohibits elected city officials from interfering in the process.

In Keimach’s letter to the council, dated Oct. 2, she described the selection process of a new fire chief as being “driven by unseemly political pressure.” Contained in the letter is a reference to a “two-councilmember meeting” during which elected city officials allegedly urged Keimach to hire the firefighters’ union’s pick in “the best interest of labor peace.”

Although Keimach never named them publicly, the two councilmembers in the meeting were reportedly Jim Oddie and Malia Vella. Police Chief Paul Rolleri also told the East Bay Times last year that Oddie told him that Keimach risked being fired if she didn’t select the right candidate for fire chief. Keimach later selected Ed Rodriguez of the Salinas Fire Department as Alameda’s fire chief — not the firefighters’ favored pick.

According to two sources, during the “two-councilmember meeting” in mid-August last year, Keimach recorded Vella and Oddie without their knowledge. California law prohibits the recording of private conversations, known as wiretapping, without the consent of all the people involved.

Two sources also said that the recording does not reveal wrongdoing by either Oddie or Vella. They also said Keimach, herself, offered the recordings to Jenkins.

It is unclear whether Keimach believed the recordings would bolster her case. However, to underscore the possible illegality of the recordings, Jenkins initially refused to listen to them out of fear of abetting a potential crime, sources said. Jenkins did not immediately respond to a request for comment for this report.

Two sources said Keimach also recorded a department manager in a separate recording that the city manager handed over to Jenkins. However, the topic of that conversation apparently was not related to the fire chief.

Whether or not the Alameda City Attorney’s Office has reviewed the alleged recordings is also not known. Alameda City Attorney Janet Kern declined to comment Thursday. It’s also unclear whether Kern and the city council will ask the Alameda District Attorney’s Office to investigate Keimach’s actions.

Surreptitiously recording private conversations without the consent of another party is a violation of the California penal code punishable by a $2,500 fine per violation and a maximum of one year in jail.

An attorney for Keimach denies that she recorded councilmembers without their knowledge. “She is a dedicated public servant. She did nothing wrong,” said Karl Olson, an attorney for Keimach. “She was pressured by councilmembers to give up her power under the city charter to appoint the fire chief. Councilmembers Oddie and Vella wanted the firefighters’ union to control the hiring process of a new fire chief.

“Councilmembers Oddie and Vella, to them, it is more important that campaign contributors be rewarded than to save taxpayers’ money and hire the best fire chief,” Olson added, referring to the fact that the firefighters’ union has financially backed Oddie and Vella’s candidacies. “There is no basis for the city to take any action. If they do, they will be held accountable in court.”

Vella declined to comment on Thursday. Oddie did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

News of Keimach’s alleged actions come days before the Alameda City Council is scheduled to meet in a special closed session meeting on Monday, April 16, at 5 p.m., to discuss the city’s exposure to litigation and a second item that references the potential dismissal of Keimach.

The political scandal enveloping Alameda City Hall can be traced to last year when then-Alameda Fire Chief Doug Long indicated to city officials that he would retire later in the year. Keimach then embarked on a search for the city’s next fire chief. As candidates for the position were interviewed and whittled down to a small number of potential choices, the Alameda firefighters union endorsed their own candidate, Domenick Weaver, a 25-year veteran of the department.

Weaver also gained public support from a number of local elected officials. But he pulled his name from consideration on Aug. 29, saying, “Never before have I been witness to a more unprofessional selection process in the city than the one you are currently conducting to fill an executive management team and critical public safety position.”

Keimach eventually tapped Rodriguez to be the city’s fire chief. Keimach made the announcement on Oct. 3, a day after she sent her explosive letter to the council. Meanwhile, days later, Alameda Police Chief Paul Rolleri told a columnist for the East Bay Times that Oddie had communicated to him in August that Keimach’s job was in danger if she did not choose Weaver as the city’s next fire chief. That led the council to hire Jenkins to investigate the allegations Keimach made in her letter.

In the months that followed, city officials have been tight-lipped regarding Keimach’s allegations and the investigation. A pair of nearly five-hour special closed sessions since late January on the subject yielded no public information — except for the council’s decision to place Keimach on leave.

Updated on April 13 at 9:45 a.m.:  Keimach admitted this morning to KCBS radio that she recorded Vella and Oddie without their consent.

"I did tape that meeting," Keimach said, adding that she believes the recording proves that Oddie and Vella pressured her in violation of the Alameda City Charter.

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