Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thursday’s Briefing: Alameda County To Spend $90M More on Homeless Services; PG&E Says It Wasn’t Windy Enough to Turn Off Power Before Camp Fire

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Nov 29, 2018 at 10:21 AM

  • File photo by Darwin BorndGraham
Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 29, 2018:

1. Alameda County has decided to spend an additional $90 million on homeless services, boosting its three-year budget for homeless programs to $340 million, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. But while homeless advocates applauded the additional spending, they say the county is still not doing enough and that the cost to help unsheltered people in the county is at least $300 million a year.

2. PG&E officials said in a filing with state regulators that they decided to not turn off power on the day that the horrific Camp Fire ignited because it wasn’t windy enough to warrant such a move, the AP reports. The utility, however, did not specify what wind speeds at which it would’ve cut power in the region. The Camp Fire killed at least 88 people and destroyed 13,000 homes, making it the deadliest and most destructive blaze in state history.

3. California Democratic Party chair Eric Bauman said he’s entering alcohol abuse treatment following allegations that he sexually harassed party workers, reports Alexei Koseff of the Sacramento Bee$. Bauman is on leave from his position as party chair as the investigation into his actions continue.

4. East Bay Congressmember Barbara Lee narrowly lost her bid to become House Democratic caucus chair, reports Casey Tolan of the Bay Area News Group$. Lee lost by 10 votes to Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, “a New Yorker who’s seen as a rising star in the party and a potential future speaker of the House.”

5. Heavy rains this morning caused flooding in downtown Oakland, forcing the shutdown of the 20th Street entrance to the 19th Street BART station, reports Gwendolyn Wu of the San Francisco Chronicle.

6. And Michael Cohen, the former personal lawyer of President Trump, pleaded guilty today to lying to Congress about meeting with Russian officials in 2016, The New York Times$ reports. Cohen admitted that he met with Russians during the middle of the presidential campaign over Trump’s plan to build a tower in Moscow. Cohen’s admission directly contradicts claims by Trump that he had no business in Russia during the campaign.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Federal Judge Says Oakland Can Close Homeless Camp on City-Owned Property

by Darwin BondGraham and Daniel Lempres
Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 1:04 PM

  • Courtesy of Housing and Dignity Village.

The city of Oakland's plan to close a homeless camp on a city-owned property doesn't violate the 8th and 14th Amendment rights of the camp's residents, a federal judge ruled today.

The controversy about the camp, called "Housing and Dignity Village" by its residents, began on October 27 when a group of activists moved onto the city property in deep East Oakland. The activists said they were establishing a safe and sober place primarily for women and children. They criticized the city for not having enough shelter beds for Oakland's thousands of unsheltered homeless people.

The city responded by notifying the campers that they were trespassing and that the camp would be closed by Nov. 10.

But the camp's residents filed a lawsuit in federal court contending that the city's efforts to evict them amounted to cruel and unusual punishment and a violation of their due process rights.

On Nov. 9, U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam issued a temporary restraining order stopping the city from carrying out the camp closure. The hearing considering a preliminary injunction, which would have held off an eviction for much longer, was held on Monday in Oakland.

In arguing for the preliminary injunction, the homeless camp residents relied heavily on a recent ruling by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the Martin v. Boise case, which found that "the Eighth Amendment prohibits the imposition of criminal penalties for sitting, sleeping, or lying outside on public property for homeless individuals who cannot obtain shelter." Judges in that case also found that "as long as there is no option of sleeping indoors, the government cannot criminalize indigent, homeless people for sleeping outdoors, on public property, on the false premise they had a choice in the matter."

In other words, a city that has too few shelter beds for the total number of homeless people on its streets can't enforce laws against sleeping outdoors and similar activities. The residents of Housing and Dignity Village argued that this logic extended to their camp on city-owned property.

But U.S. District Judge Haywood Gilliam said Martin v. Boise doesn't apply to the case of Oakland's Housing and Dignity Village for several reasons.

 "Martin does not establish a constitutional right to occupy public property indefinitely," Gilliam wrote in his decision.

"There is available shelter," Oakland Deputy City Attorney Jamilah Jefferson argued at Monday's hearing. "Plaintiffs are just not availing themselves of it."

Gilliam accepted the city's arguments that it will offer the 13 homeless people at the camp shelter spaces as it closes the un-permitted campsite.

Gilliam also accepted the city's argument that by shuttering the camp, it isn't imposing any criminal penalties on the homeless residents. The campers argued the opposite, saying that the order to leave the property would ultimately be enforced with the threat of arrest and citation for trespassing, therefore they were being criminalized due to their homeless condition.

Plaintiffs further argued that the city-owned lot they occupied has been vacant for over ten years and is akin to a public park. Gilliam rejected the notion, saying in court that the city’s intended use of the lot is irrelevant.

As to why they believed their eviction would also be a violation of the 14th Amendment, the camp residents argued that the city has sometimes confiscated and thrown away people's property when closing camps.

But Gilliam found that Oakland's existing policies and procedures are fair. The city notifies homeless camp residents at least 72 hours in advance of closing a site, and any belongings left behind that are not obviously trash or hazards are stored by the city so owners can recover them.

Joshua Piovia-Scott, an attorney representing the homeless camp residents, argued in court hearing on Monday that while the city says it has adequate policies to notify campers about closures, and to store left behind belongings, it doesn't always do this. "Our evidence is what actually happens on the street," he told the judge.

In his decision, Gilliam deferred to the city in making the "difficult decisions it judges to be in the best interests of all its residents."

"There is no easy solution to this extraordinarily complex challenge," he said.

Gilliam's ruling isn't the end of the case, but it does mean the camp will be closed.

Federal Judge Faults Oakland Police for Not Complying with Key Reforms

In a major setback for OPD, Judge William Orrick reactivates three tasks under the negotiated settlement agreement.

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 10:45 AM


U.S. District Judge William Orrick sharply criticized the Oakland Police Department yesterday during a court hearing that focused on the recently discovered problem of police officers who are underreporting the number of times they use of force, including when they're pointing guns at people.

In response to new information showing the police department has underreported use of force incidents, Orrick ordered that three tasks under the Negotiated Settlement Agreement be re-activated so that a court-appointed independent monitor can closely examine whether the city's police are in compliance.

Specifically, Orrick re-opened Tasks 24 and 25, which govern how the Oakland police keep track of use of force incidents, and Task 31, which governs how OPD conducts investigations of officer-involved shootings.

Orrick's decision represents a significant setback for the Oakland police.

"I have a nagging question that the defendants are checking boxes on compliance that will prove ephemeral in time," Orrick said about his concerns.

While he acknowledge that the city has made progress in reducing racial profiling and other unconstitutional forms of policing, he said this progress could be lost without the close supervision of some outside authority.

The underreporting of use of force incidents could involve a willful attempt by some officers and supervisors to obscure the actual reality of how often officers draw guns or strike people and use holds to make an arrest.

"When you are not told the truth on one thing," said Orrick while speculating about the reason for the faulty statistics, "you can assume you are not told the truth on many other things."

Orrick did not say that he believes the department lied, however.

City officials acknowledged that there has been an underreporting of use of force, but they told Orrick that they're not yet certain what caused the problem.

"We don't have conclusions yet," Assistant City Attorney Kimberly Bliss told Orrick.

Bliss said Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick responded to the discovery by immediately directing officers to be re-trained on one procedure that's clearly become an issue: the "low-ready" position for holding a firearm. Under the city's current policy, if an officer holds a gun in a "low-ready" position, they don't have to report it as a use of force. "Low-ready" is defined, however, as holding a gun at 45 degrees or less toward the ground, and not at a person.

According to reviews of police reports and body camera videos by the independent monitor, some officers drew guns and held the the barrel at a person's lower-extremities, instead of their chest, and didn't report this as a use of force. Instead, they improperly characterized it as the "low-ready" position.

"Reasonable people sometimes disagree on an interpretation of policy," Bliss said, indicating that the problem could be a matter of how officers were trained to report use of force.

OPD's inspector general is currently auditing use of force incidents that occurred in 2018 to determine why use of force was underreported. The audit is expected to be be completed sometime in January or February.

Bliss added a positive note, saying that among the videos that were reviewed by the independent monitor showing an absence of use of force reports when there should have been reporting, there weren't any incidents that appeared to show improper uses of force, including brutality. Bliss said in some situations officers even showed "extreme patience" with people they were arresting.

Civil rights attorney Jim Chanin showed less patience with the police department in court, however. He questioned why OPD hadn't already finished its audit of use of force incidents in time for the yesterday's hearing given that the city's leaders knew about the problem months ago. Chanin called the underreporting a "massive systemic failure" by the department.

"Years of statistics are so problematic," he said, "they may have to be dismissed as worthless."

Chanin said he's especially worried about preliminary results of the monitor's review, which showed that about half of the unreported use of force incidents didn't involve pointing a firearm. Instead, they involved using hand strikes, holds, or other physical means to effectuate an arrest. Chanin said this means that the underreporting is due to something other than a single glitch in firearms training related to the "low-ready" position.

Furthermore, Chanin said that based on the monitor's initial examination of cases, as many as 87 percent of cases in which an officer drew and pointed a gun could have gone unreported.

"The monitor should see if Task 24 was violated," Chanin told Orrick, referring to OPD's requirement to accurately report each use of force.

Still other problems were revealed by the monitor's recent examination of arrest reports and body camera videos. In 6 of 41 reports the monitor has so far reviewed, body camera video footage was not available. While the monitor hasn't concluded why there is no video in some cases, Chanin said he's worried that some officers could have purposefully turned off their cameras or deleted the footage.

John Burris, Chanin's co-counsel in the case, summed up their concerns about the city's faltering steps. "We keep going forward, falling back, going forward," Burris told the judge.

Bliss told Orrick that the city and police department are committed to sustainable reforms. But Orrick, in a marked shift from his tone during earlier hearings in the case, said he's become skeptical of the city's abilities to comply.

"My concerns are not assuaged by anything that's been said," Orrick sternly replied.

Orrick is the second judge to oversee the case, which was filed by Burris and Chanin in 2000. The Negotiated Settlement Agreement was signed by the city in 2003. In 2017, Judge Thelton Henderson, who originally heard the case, retired and handed it over to Orrick.

"I had been more optimistic when I started this case about my tenure" Orrick said about his hope the case could be brought to an end quickly. "What's happened over the past few months has made me less optimistic than I'd like to be."

Wednesday’s Briefing: Oakland A’s Unveil Plans for Waterfront Ballpark; Arts School Proposes 19-Story Housing Tower for Rockridge

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Nov 28, 2018 at 10:10 AM

  • Photo: Oakland Athletics / Bjarke Ingels Group

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

1. The Oakland A’s have unveiled plans to build a state-of-the-art ballpark at Howard Terminal along the waterfront next to Jack London Square, the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. The A’s hope to open the 34,000-seat, distinctive park, which A’s president Dave Kaval is calling a “jewel box,” by the 2023 season. The team plans to privately finance the park by developing the old Coliseum site into a tech and housing hub, while keeping Oracle Arena in place.

2. The California College of the Arts is proposing to turn its Rockridge campus into a large housing development featuring a 19-story tower, reports Emily Hoeven of the San Francisco Business Times$. The project at 5212 Broadway would include 589 apartments, 25,000 square feet of arts space, 6,500 square feet of office space, and 1.5 acres of parks, with 35 of the housing units set aside as affordable spaces for artists. The arts school is moving to San Francisco.

3. The chinook salmon run on the Mokelumne River is surging to near record levels for the second-straight year, and East Bay MUD is being credited for more “cold water releases from the reservoirs, better management of hatchery fish and habitat improvements in the river,” reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle$. “It is expected to be the best two-year run on the river since records started being kept in 1940.”

4. A federal judge in San Francisco is demanding answers from PG&E about its role in a series of wildfires that have devastated Northern California over the past two years, reports George Avalos of the Bay Area News Group$. The demand by U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup is part of his oversight of PG&E’s conviction for the deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno in 2010.

5. A lawyer for Paul Manafort, the former chair of President Trump’s campaign, has been sharing with Trump’s attorneys secret information about the Mueller investigation — after Manafort agreed to plead guilty and cooperate fully with the special counsel, The New York Times$ reports. The highly unusual move raises numerous legal and ethical questions and may provide more evidence of obstruction of justice.

5. And President Trump is threatening to shut down the federal government in December unless Democrats agree to fund his controversial, multibillion-dollar plan for a border wall, Politico reports.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Tuesday’s Briefing: Democrats Poised to Take 40 House Seats; NAACP Joins Boycott Against SF Giants

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Nov 27, 2018 at 9:57 AM

TJ Cox.
  • TJ Cox.
Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 27, 2018:

1. Democrats are on the verge of picking up 40 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, as Democrat TJ Cox moved ahead of Republican incumbent David Valadao in California’s 21st Congressional District, representing the San Joaquin Valley, the LA Times$ reports. “A Cox victory would give Democrats a sweep of the California districts they targeted this election and expand the party’s biggest gain nationally since the Watergate era — more than enough to take control of the House in January.”

2. The NAACP joined the growing boycott of the San Francisco Giants in the wake of the news that the team’s largest shareholder, Charles B. Johnson, donated thousands of dollars to Mississippi U.S. Senate candidate Cindy Hyde-Smith after she joked about a “public “hanging,” the San Francisco Chronicle$ reports. Johnson’s attorney claims that he was unaware of Hyde-Smith’s racist comments.

3. East Bay Congressmember Barbara Lee, long-known as the most progressive member of the U.S. House of Representatives, has a legitimate shot at winning a Democratic House leadership position in January, reports Casey Tolan of the Bay Area News Group$. “Lee is running for House Democratic Caucus Chair, the fifth-highest leadership position in the chamber and a post that would make her the highest-ranking Black woman in congressional history.”

4. Special Counsel Robert Mueller said in court documents that Paul Manafort — President Trump’s former campaign chair — has lied repeatedly after agreeing to a plea deal, the Washington Post$ reports. Mueller is urging the court to immediately sentence Manafort to prison and will no longer recommend leniency. The Guardian also reports that Manafort “held secret talks with Julian Assange inside the Ecuadorian embassy in London, and visited around the time he joined Trump’s campaign.” Months later, Assange’s WikiLeaks “released a stash of Democratic emails stolen by Russian intelligence officers.”

5. And GM announced that it’s killing its Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid as part of the company’s downsizing plan, which includes the closure of several North American auto plants, the LA Times$ reports. GM’s move is viewed as part of a shift away from plug-in hybrids toward fully electric vehicles.

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Monday, November 26, 2018

Monday’s Briefing: U.S. Fires Teargas at Families and Kids; Trump Admin Admits That Climate Change Is Worsening

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Nov 26, 2018 at 10:00 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 26, 2018:

1. U.S. Border Patrol agents fired teargas at immigrant families and children on Sunday as a large group rushed toward the southern border in an attempt to enter the country, the LA Times$ reports. U.S. authorities also shut down a major border crossing for several hours. Many of the immigrants are from Honduras, a country ripped apart by poverty and violence, and have walked for more than 1,000 miles as part of a caravan seeking asylum in the United States.

2. The Trump administration admitted in a sweeping report issued on Friday that “climate change is taking an increasing toll on the nation’s environment, health and economy, and the damage will intensify over the century without swift action to slash greenhouse gas emissions,” the LA Times$ reports. “The assessment paints a dire picture of the worsening effects of global warming as nearly every corner of the country grows more at risk from extreme heat, more devastating storms, droughts and wildfires, waning snowpack and other threats to critical infrastructure, air quality, water supplies and vulnerable communities.”

3. The grim search for bodies continues in Paradise as firefighters reported that they had obtained 100 percent containment of the horrific Camp Fire, the LA Times$ reports. Officials said 296 people are still missing and that the death toll from the massive blaze is now 85. The fire destroyed 14,000 homes, leaving tens of thousands of people homeless.

4. Eric Bauman, chair of the California Democratic Party, has been accused of multiple incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault, reports Alexei Koseff of the Sacramento Bee$. Bauman said an independent investigation is underway, but Daraka Larimore-Hall, second vice-chair of the party, said he should be removed from office, because of “clear and escalating pattern of Chairman Bauman’s horrific and dehumanizing behavior.”

5. Oakland teachers, who are among the lowest paid in Northern California and have been working without a contract since summer 2017, may go on strike unless they get raises, reports Otis R. Taylor Jr. of the San Francisco Chronicle$. However, district officials say Oakland schools are facing a $30 million deficit next year and $60 million shortfall the year after that.

6. And another series of storms is expected to roll into the Bay Area beginning Tuesday morning, with the largest of one hitting Wednesday night, reports Gwendolyn Wu of the San Francisco Chronicle. Despite last week’s storms, the Bay Area is “still only at 50 to 70 percent of average rainfall totals since Oct. 1.”

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Friday, November 23, 2018

Friday’s Briefing: Suspected Arsonist Arrested in Housing Development Fires; Massive Housing Project Proposed for West Oakland BART

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Nov 23, 2018 at 10:59 AM

  • Photo courtesy of KTVU
Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 23, 2018:

1. ATF agents arrested a suspected arsonist in connection with a series of huge hires at housing construction sites in Oakland and Berkeley in the past few years, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Federal agents said in court documents that they found evidence linking Dustin Bellinger, 45, to a botched arson fire in West Oakland that took place on the same day that a massive blaze destroyed the City Ventures Station House condos about a mile away. Bellinger also has gone by the name Faheem Bey and has connections to the murderous Bey family that used to run Your Black Muslim Bakery and assassinated Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey. KTVU reports that Bellinger expressed frustration on Instagram that developers weren’t hiring African-American construction workers. Investigators believe Bellinger was working with accomplices.

2. A development team led by African-American owned Strategic Urban Development Alliance of Oakland has submitted an application to the city of Oakland to build a giant, 762-unit housing development at the West Oakland BART station, reports Blanca Torres of the San Francisco Business Times$. The proposal also includes 600,000 square feet of office space.

3. The storms that swept into the Bay Area on Wednesday have dumped more than a foot of snow in the Sierra Nevada and are expected to drop at least another 16 inches this weekend, reports Scott Sonner of the Associated Press (via the Sacramento Bee$). The storms have also been a boon to Tahoe-area ski resorts.

4. Heavy rainfall has also effectively extinguished the horrific Camp Fire, which killed at least 84 people, reports Sarah Ravani of San Francisco Chronicle. The Butte County Sheriff’s Office said 605 people remain missing in the wildfire, which is expected to be fully contained today. “So far, 18,733 structures have been reported destroyed in the blaze, including 13,672 single-family homes.”

5. And in an effort to reduce the number of bird deaths caused by birds flying into glass buildings, the Alameda City Council is scheduled to address a proposal on Tuesday that would require opaque glass on construction and other “protection measures such as screens and netting or glass installed in a grid pattern,” reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday’s Briefing: Lawmakers Eye PG&E Bailout; Rain Could Wash Away Remains in Paradise

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Nov 21, 2018 at 10:11 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 21, 2018:

1. State lawmakers are drafting legislation to bail out PG&E should the utility be found responsible for the horrific Camp Fire, reports George Avalos of the Bay Area News Group$. The legislation, authored by Democratic Assemblymember Chris Holden of Los Angeles County, is designed to prevent the utility from going bankrupt. PG&E has reported that it had problems on two power lines before the Camp Fire ignited.

2. This week’s rainstorms not only threaten to cause flooding and mudslides in the area torched by the Camp Fire, but they could also wash away what’s left of human remains in the town of Paradise, reports Ruben Vives of the LA Times$. The Oakland Fire Department’s Urban Search and Rescue Task Force is helping with the recovery work, but searchers are concerned that heavy rains could make it impossible to identify any more people who perished in the big blaze. The fire has killed at least 81 people, and 870 are still missing.

3. When he was visiting California last weekend, President Trump said repeatedly that his administration had included $500 million in the current Farm Bill to finance forest and wildland management, but Republican Congressional staffers say no such plan exists, reports Emily Cadei of the Sacramento Bee$.

4. Today’s rainstorm has greatly improved air quality in the East Bay, with the air indexes moving from unhealthy to moderate or good in much of the region. KTVU reports that this is the first significant rain in the area in 223 days. Meteorologists also say that worries about today’s rainfall being filled with toxic pollutants from the Camp Fire are unfounded.

5. In a move that is good news for low-income defendants, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to eliminate thousands of dollars in court fees, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. The change will cost the county about $1.45 million a year, but will “help people headed to or released from jail eventually get their lives back on track without immediately landing in a financial hole.”

6. However, the bail bond industry appears to have gathered enough signatures to block a new California law that is designed to eliminate cash bail in the state, reports Jazmine Ulloa of the LA Times$. The effort by the bail bond industry will likely result in a 2020 statewide ballot measure on the issue.

7. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a nationwide alert, telling consumers that romaine lettuce is unsafe to eat in any form because of an E.coli outbreak, the Washington Post$ reports. The CDC said grocery stores, restaurants, and consumers should immediately throw away all romaine lettuce and that people should thoroughly wash their refrigerators.

8. And the new, 27-acre Jean Sweeney Open Space Park in Alameda is scheduled to open on Dec. 15, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Tuesday’s Briefing: Flash Floods Now Threaten Paradise; GOP on the Verge of Losing Another Calif. House Seat

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Nov 20, 2018 at 10:06 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 20, 2018:

1. The area torched by the massive Camp Fire is under a flash flood watch due to storms that are expected to begin hitting the region tonight, reports Tony Bizjak of the Sacramento Bee$. The flash flood watch is in effect from Wednesday through Friday, although more storms are forecast for next week. The town of Paradise and other  burned areas are especially vulnerable to flooding and mudslides. “Cal Fire and weather service officials said the soil just below the surface gets packed by intense wildfire heat and can become impermeable to water, causing an almost instant wash off of debris, ash, and loose dirt during extremely heavy rainstorms.”

2. The death toll from the Camp Fire now stands at 79, and hundreds of people are still reported missing, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. “The Camp Fire is now the fourth-deadliest natural disaster in California’s recorded history, behind the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, in which more 3,000 people died; a 1933 earthquake in Long Beach; and a 1938 flood in Los Angeles.”

3. California Republicans are on the verge of losing yet another House seat — the seventh overall — which could hand Democrats a 40-seat swing in the Nov. 6 election. In the San Joaquin Valley, GOP Rep. David Valadao's lead over Democratic challenger T.J. Cox has shrunk to 968 votes, and Cox is expected to close that gap in the next few days, the LA Times$ reports. If Cox wins, the GOP will have lost half its House seats in the state.

4. A federal judge in San Francisco has blocked President Trump’s order to deny asylum to immigrants who cross the southern border illegally, the Washington Post$ reports. U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar said Trump cannot change laws governing asylum for immigrants on his own. “Whatever the scope of the President’s authority, he may not rewrite the immigration laws to impose a condition that Congress has expressly forbidden,” Tigar wrote. The Trump administration is expected to appeal the ruling.

5. And House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi is in jeopardy of not garnering enough votes to regain her speakership in January, CNN reports. A small group of moderate Democrats, mostly men, is attempting block Pelosi’s campaign for speaker — despite the fact that she just led the party to a sweeping victory in the House.

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Monday, November 19, 2018

Monday’s Briefing: Camp Fire, 77 Dead, 993 Missing; Smoke to Clear Tuesday Night Due to Rain and Wind

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Nov 19, 2018 at 10:09 AM

  • CalFire
Stories you shouldn’t miss for Nov. 19, 2018:

1. The death toll from the tragic Camp fire rose to 77 over the weekend, and there are still 993 people reported missing in the massive wildfire that obliterated the town of Paradise, the Sacramento Bee$ reports. California’s most destructive and deadly fire destroyed 15,000 structures total, including more than 11,700 homes, and tens of thousands of people are now homeless. Firefighters reported this morning that the 151,000-acre blaze is 66 percent contained.

2. The sickening smoke and poor air quality that has enveloped the Bay Area and much of Northern California since the Camp fire ignited on March 8 is expected to finally clear on Tuesday night because of an incoming rainstorm with strong winds, reports Ashley McBride of SF Gate reports. The storm is expected to drop 1-2 inches of rain on the region, and may extinguish what is left of the big wildfire.

3. PG&E officials were planning to cut power before the Camp fire ignited because of high winds and bone-dry conditions, but then changed their minds, the LA Times$ reports. Since the fire, the utility has reported that two of its power lines suffered problems just before the blaze broke out, reports Matthias Gafni of the Bay Area News Group$. Fire officials are investigating whether there were two origin points for the wildfire.

4. President Trump was mocked relentlessly on Twitter for his head-scratching remark while visiting the Paradise area on Saturday that California should copy Finland and start “raking” forest floors in order to reduce the risk of wildfires, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. Trump claimed that the president of Finland told him that, but the Finnish president said he had no idea what Trump was talking about — and that Finland does not “rake” it forests.

5. ICYMI: East Bay Assemblymember Tony Thurmond won the state superintendent of public instruction contest, defeating charter school advocate Marshall Tuck. Thurmond declared victory on Saturday, and Tuck conceded the race.

6. ICYMI: Democrat Rebecca Bauer-Kahan has unseated GOP incumbent Catherine Baker in the East Bay's 16th Assembly District contest. Baker’s defeat means the Bay Area no longer has any Republican representatives in the state Legislature.

7. And Sunday, Nov. 18, was the 40th anniversary of the Jonestown massacre, in which an Oakland religious cult had moved to Jonestown, Guyana, and 900 people died in a murder-suicide.

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