Friday, December 15, 2017

Friday’s Briefing: Almena and Harris Ordered to Stand Trial in Ghost Ship Deaths; Kamala Harris Calls on Trump to Resign

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 10:22 AM

Derick Almena.
  • Derick Almena.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Dec. 15, 2017:

1. A judge ordered Derick Almena, the former master tenant of the Ghost Ship, and Max Harris, the warehouse’s artistic director, to stand trial on 36 counts each of involuntary manslaughter, reports Jenna Lyons of the San Francisco Chronicle$. After a two-week preliminary hearing, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey Horner ruled that there is sufficient evidence to prove that Almena and Harris were “legally responsible for the deaths of 36 individuals” who died on Dec. 2, 2016 in the horrific Ghost Ship blaze.

2. U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., joined a growing chorus of Congressional members who are calling on President Trump to resign because of the numerous allegations of sexual assault and sexual harassment against him, Politico reports. At least 16 women have accused Trump of sexual misconduct. Harris, a Berkeley native and former Alameda County prosecutor, also was one of the first in Congress to call on Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., to resign because of sexual battery allegations. Franken plans to leave the Senate in early January.

3. The Bay Area is facing serious fire danger this weekend because of high winds and dry conditions, reports Amy Graff of SFGate.com. “Sustained winds of 20 mph to 35 mph and gusts as high as 50 mph are expected Friday night through late Sunday morning in the North Bay Hills, East Bay Hills, Diablo Range, Santa Cruz Mountains, Pinnacles National Park, and Los Padres National Forest.”

4. California regulators have ordered PG&E and other state utilities to increase minimum clearance between trees and power lines in forested areas in order to reduce fire risk, reports George Avalos of the East Bay Times$. The new rules established by the Public Utilities Commission are expected to raise utility rates for all customers.

5. The lack of rainfall so far this winter is raising concerns that California may be headed into another drought, reports Kurtis Alexander of the San Francisco Chronicle$. “This week, the widely watched U.S. Drought Monitor classified 44 percent of the state as ‘abnormally dry,’ and climate experts warn that rain and snow are needed soon to protect large swaths from descending into the next category of ‘moderate drought.’”

6. The University of California received a record number of applications for admission for the 13th straight year, reports Emily DeRuy of the Bay Area News Group$. Overall, 221,000 students applied for admission to at least one UC campus for next fall, a 5.7 increase over last year.

7. Alameda schools Superintendent Sean McPhetridge said he supports an effort to rename Henry Haight Elementary School because the school is named after a 19th century California governor who espoused bigoted hate speech, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. McPhetridge called for the creation of a committee to rename the school after local activist Rasheed Shabazz presented research on Haight’s racism.

8. Alameda County officials have rekindled their proposal to sell their portion of the Coliseum property to the city of Oakland, reports Steven Tavares of the East Bay Citizen. Oakland officials have expressed interest in buying the county’s half of the Coliseum property, but it’s unclear how the cash-strapped city would pay for it.

9. State health officials have issued warning guidelines for cellphone use that are similar to those adopted by the city of Berkeley, reports Tom Lochner of East Bay Times$. Health officials say people should avoid keeping their phones in their pockets and should not sleep close to them at night because cellular radio signals increase the risk of cancer.

10. And actor Dustin Hoffman is the latest entertainment star to be accused of sexual misconduct, with five women alleging he sexually harassed or assaulted them.

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Thursday, December 14, 2017

Thursday’s Briefing: A’s Say They’re Still Committed to Building New Ballpark in Oakland; OUSD Slashes $9 Million From Budget

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Dec 14, 2017 at 10:31 AM

oakland_coliseum_a_s.jpg

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Dec. 14, 2017:

1. Oakland A’s officials said that they’re still committed to building a new ballpark in Oakland despite the fact that the Peralta Community College district rejected the team’s plans for a new stadium next to Laney College, reports Ron Leuty of the San Francisco Business Times$. “We aren't giving up,” said Taj Tashombe, A’s vice president of external affairs. “We're going to be here in Oakland and we're going to make this happen.” A’s officials, however, have not disclosed whether they plan to try to build on the Coliseum property, Howard Terminal near Jack London Square, or another location in the city.

2. The Oakland school board voted 7-1 to slash $9 million from the district’s budget, including $3.8 million from school sites, in order close a financial gap. The district got into fiscal trouble during the administration of former Superintendent Antwan Wilson, massively overspending on consultant contracts and high-priced administrators.

3. The Trump administration’s Federal Communications Commission voted today to scrap net neutrality rules, a move that is expected to raise consumer costs for internet usage, The New York Times$ reports. The vote will allow internet providers to charge consumers higher rates for web content.

4. State regulators slapped East Bay MUD with $893,000 in penalties for allowing tap water to leak into local streams, reports Denis Cuff of the East Bay Times$. Tap water, because it’s treated with chlorine to kill bacteria, is harmful to fish. East Bay MUD also agreed to spend $720,000 to fix water pipeline leaks.

5. Dungeness crab prices are spiking because of a shortage of the shellfish, reports Tara Duggan of the San Francisco Chronicle$. This quality of this year’s catch has been high, but the crab population is smaller than in previous years.

6. The Walt Disney Company bought a large portion of Twentieth Century Fox today for $52.4 billion, the Washington Post$ reports. Fox News and the Fox broadcast network, however, will remain in the hands of right-wing media mogul Rupert Murdoch and his family.

7. The Sierra Nevada’s highest peaks grew by about an inch in the past half-decade as the drought dried out the earth and it expanded, reports Kurtis Alexander of the San Francisco Chronicle, citing a new NASA report.

8. And Steph Curry’s family foundation is moving its headquarters to Oakland’s Jack London Square, reports Roland Li of the San Francisco Business Times$.

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Oakland School Board Votes to Implement Millions in Disruptive Mid-Year Budget Cuts

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Dec 14, 2017 at 9:49 AM

Students and teachers protested cuts at last night's Oakland school board meeting. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Students and teachers protested cuts at last night's Oakland school board meeting.

Oakland's school board voted last night to immediately cut more than $9 million from the district's budget. The cuts will impact every school and include layoffs.

District officials tried to describe reductions as less damaging than previous proposed levels, but several hundred parents, teachers, and students voiced anger with the board.

"In the past, there were no electoral consequences to mismanagement," said Mike Hutchinson, an activists who closely follows the district's finances. "Judging by the mood of the crowd tonight, hopefully, that has started to change."

Trish Gorham, president of the Oakland Educators Association teachers union, described the cuts as mostly unnecessary. "The $15 million obviously wasn't real because they came down to $9 million," she said.

As recently as last month, administrators said that $15 million in cuts would be required. That number was revised down to $9 million last week, although there remain questions about how much is actually being trimmed.

The $9 million in budget reductions that were ratified last night will be split, with $3.8 million coming directly out of school sites in the form of supplies, layoffs, and frozen positions. The other $5.2 comes out of the central office budget.

DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
OUSD Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell said the downward revision from $15 million to $9 million was accomplished by updating revenue and expenditure figures that show that the district began to dig itself out of the financial hole in October. But she emphasized that the budget is a moving target and warned directors that if the system doesn't scale back spending further, they'll be taken into into state receivership once again.

“If we're not solvent, if we run out of cash, we lose local control,” said Johnson-Trammel.

Based on the district's history, it's expected that spending on special education, transportation, and food services will go over budget, making cuts above and beyond the $1.1 million for reserves necessary. The school system's administration also expects surprises like future invoices that haven't been incorporated into the current budget to further undermine their fiscal plans.

“We need to make the reserve,” Gorham said about $1.1 million in funds that, by all accounts, must be set aside to avoid state receivership. Beyond that she questioned the wisdom of slashing budgets that will impact school sites in the middle of the year.

DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
The district's budget crisis is both structural and caused by mismanagement. Despite Oakland's booming economy, including real estate development and job growth, the East Bay's influx of new wealth isn't filtering down to school districts like Oakland. OUSD predominantly serves low-income students of color. Many affluent households in Oakland still send their children to private schools.

In terms of management, for several years, former Superintendent Antwan Wilson spent more money than was budgeted on highly compensated administrators and outside contractors. Spending controls in various OUSD departments were absent. The system bled money and didn't know how much it was overspending until it was too late. And the district has never been able to reduce its disproportionately large overhead costs.

Wilson left in February to become the chancellor of Washington, D.C. schools just as the Oakland's budget crisis became known to the public.

His excessive spending on administrative jobs and highly paid consultants are why many parents, teachers, and students have called on the district to "chop from the top."

Rose Chardak and Francisca Gatica, teachers at Roots Academy in East Oakland, said they've had to spend their own money and organize fundraisers just to pay for basic supplies like toilet paper.

“This was before the budget cuts,” said Chardak.

But since janitorial services were cut earlier this year, a rodent infestation has worsened, say teachers. Even more cuts will be untenable.

“We don't have a healthy environment,” said Gatica.

For many, the only good news announced last night was the restoration of special funds that a select number of schools had been promised at the start of the year to pay for programs targeting students who need extra academic support. Called “CALL dollars,” the money supported staff positions like tutors and counselors, but the funding was never actually delivered to the school sites that were expecting it. Instead, the central administration used the money to patch earlier holes in the budget.

District staff said that 75 percent of the CALL funds, or about $600,000, are being restored to multiple school sites using a private donation, plus money from a cancelled contract, and small amounts trimmed from other parts of the budget.

Roseann Torres was the only board member to vote against the cuts. She said she felt that $2 million could actually be restored to the budget, rather than cut. She blamed the school board for not pushing back against Antwan Wilson's over-spending.

The rest of the board seemed convinced that the desperate budget adjustment was necessary. But some directors still questioned whether the cuts are being made in the most appropriate areas.

Director Shanthi Gonzales said it's worth exploring whether or not to cut back on police spending, consultant contracts, and rent at 1000 Broadway, the privately owned downtown office building that the school administration is housed in.

Last night's $9 million in cuts also doesn't resolve the system's poor finances. Staff say they expect further budget reductions to be necessary by next year.

“Oakland youth deserve better than all these cuts,” said Gema Quetzal, a student who sits on the board but can't vote. “Everybody's exhausted.”

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Wednesday’s Briefing: Historic Win for Democrats in Alabama; Republicans Rush to Pass Tax Cut for Rich and Corporations

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Dec 13, 2017 at 10:06 AM

Doug Jones.
  • Doug Jones.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Dec. 13, 2017:

1. In a historic victory, Doug Jones, a pro-choice Democrat, won election to the U.S. Senate from Alabama, one of the most conservative states in the nation, defeating Republican Roy Moore, who had been backed strongly by President Trump. Jones beat Moore by 1.5 percent, or about 20,000 votes, and was propelled to victory by Black voters who supported him by overwhelming margins. A former prosecutor, Jones previously won convictions against white racists who murdered young Black girls in the Birmingham church bombing. Moore, by contrast, was accused of sexually molesting teenage girls.

2. The GOP-controlled Congress, meanwhile, is rushing to approve a big tax cut for corporations and the wealthy before Jones can be sworn into office, The New York Times$ reports. Republican leaders say they reached a deal on the tax legislation, which also raises taxes on millions of middle-class and low-income Americans, and are preparing to vote on the legislation next week. Jones likely will not join the Senate until January.

3. The Alameda City Council is slated to consider on Tuesday a proposed 589-unit housing project to be built along the estuary, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. Developer Tim Lewis Communities plans to include 79 units of affordable housing in the Encinal Terminals project and spend millions on infrastructure.

4. Alameda County has one of the largest homeless populations per capita in the nation, reports Mark Henry Salupen of the Daily Cal, citing a new assessment by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The county has an estimated homeless population of 5,629 people. Berkeley’s homeless population reached 972 people, 17 percent higher than the 2015 estimate of 834.

5. And Oakland Airport is nearing completion of its $45 million renovation and expansion project, which includes an international arrivals building, reports Annie Sciacca of the East Bay Times$. The 13,000-square-foot expansion will enable the airport to better serve its expanding international service.

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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Opinion: Keep Cuts Away From Oakland Classrooms

by Laura Impellizzeri
Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 5:41 PM

Oakland Tech may have to cut $413,000 from its budget next semester. - FILE PHOTO BY D. ROSS CAMERON
  • File photo by D. Ross Cameron
  • Oakland Tech may have to cut $413,000 from its budget next semester.

Oakland’s school board can’t turn away anymore. It has gotten a heartbreaking look from student after student, and numerous parents and teachers, in recent weeks at how things will play out if it pursues its plan to compensate for its own mismanagement — and especially overspending on administration — by cutting further from classrooms.

The people who have spoken out at meetings, calling on the board to pull back on a planned $4.2 million cut from schools, are not seeking iPads or fancy new software, not modern labs or updated and equitable sports facilities. They are asking for safety equipment and textbooks with both covers and all of their pages, for stability in their classes, a bit of college guidance, and the retention of programs that have been proven to keep kids in school.

The people speaking out want to know, in the words of one student, “How you can cut from us when we have nothing.” They want to know how district leaders can live with themselves if they vote on Wednesday, Dec. 13 to cut from schools when Oakland still spends much more on administration than other big California districts.

The cuts the superintendent is recommending are not subtle, and there’s no chance they’ll land softly. Oakland Tech alone is asked to lop $413,000 off its budget for next semester. These cuts are not even the first that OUSD has imposed this year, though they promise to be the most devastating.

At least a dozen male students from schools across Oakland told the board on Dec. 6, for instance, that a life skills and Black history class the district is planning to cut, called African American Male Achievement, has changed their lives. Data emerging from the 7-year-old program show it has increased participants’ grade point averages (by at least 25 percent), graduation rate (from 42 percent to 57 percent), and rate of admission to the University of California (by 6 percentage points).

There’s no reason for the board and superintendent to destroy programs like that.

They had plenty of information to address this crisis earlier and more constructively. Their rationales — that they don’t control declining state funding or the rising share of special ed students in Oakland, and that their outdated software leaves them unclear about their actual spending — may be accurate, but they’re just not good enough.

The board and superintendent knew in January that they would have $30 million less to spend this year than they were budgeting. They easily could have met the annual March deadline under state law for notifying administrators who hold teaching credentials that their jobs might be gone in the fall. Instead, they opted for sleight of hand:

● Expenses were met in part by raiding a variety of accounts, including OUSD’s self-insurance fund and its state-mandated 2 percent reserve, and by overestimating enrollment and underfunding contributions to the state retirement system.
● The budget shortfall was pitched as “part of the process”; nothing to see here.
● And then, on top of the $30 million, another $14 million-plus in salaries for administrators and other spending was never budgeted at all.

District leaders can’t credibly claim their proposed $4.8 million cut in administrative spending is sufficient or blame overspending at schools for the crisis, though they keep trying. They’ve already cut or eliminated schools’ funds for overtime, site-specific substitute teachers, basic supplies, extracurricular activities, and all other “extras.”

The board and superintendent have repeatedly chosen the easy route, to the special disadvantage of students of color and those from low-income families. Now, even their warnings of a state takeover are starting to ring hollow. Oakland’s last pass through receivership was unhelpful; it emerged in roughly the same condition as when it entered. But some are questioning whether that might be better — if it brings stability and fiscal responsibility.

District leaders must step up, focus on kids, and start planning for a more stringent future for the adults in the room.

Laura Impellizzeri is the parent of a senior at Oakland Technical High School and president of the school’s Parent Teacher Student Association.

Tuesday’s Briefing: SF Mayor Ed Lee Dies From Heart Attack; Oakland Strike Ends as Negotiations Continue

Plus, 27 million trees died in California in the past 13 months.

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Dec 12, 2017 at 10:10 AM

Ed Lee.
  • Ed Lee.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Dec. 12, 2017:

1. San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee died early this morning after suffering a heart attack, reports Rachel Swan of the San Francisco Chronicle. The 65-year-old Lee, who was the first Asian-American mayor of the city, collapsed last night at a San Francisco supermarket and was rushed to the hospital where he died at about 1:11 a.m. Board of Supervisors President London Breed has — at least temporarily — assumed the role of mayor of the city.

2. Oakland’s city employees ended their strike and returned to work today after making progress in negotiations with the city administration with the help of a mediator, reports Kimberly Veklerov of the Chronicle. The two sides have yet to agree on a compensation package but were able to make progress on several other issues. The mediator joined the talks after Mayor Libby Schaaf declared an impasse in negotiations.

3. Despite the end of the drought earlier this year, at least 27 million trees died in California in the past 13 months, reports Kurtis Alexander of the Chronicle$, citing a new report from the U.S. Forest Service. Since 2010, an estimated 129 million trees have died in the state, as the drought wreaked havoc on California’s forests.

4. A four-alarm fire in the Oakland hills late last night and early this morning destroyed two homes and damaged five others before firefighters were able to bring it under control, the East Bay Times$ reports. The two homes destroyed in the blaze were under construction in the 6600 block of Snake Road in the Montclair district. There have been no reports of injuries in the fire.

5. And a federal judge indicated that he will not dismiss a climate change lawsuit against the federal government brought by young people who contend that it has failed to adequately protect their future, reports Bob Egelko of the Chronicle$.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Monday’s Briefing: Oakland Workers and City Head to Mediation as Strike Continues; Thomas Fire Is 5th largest in State History

Plus, two lawmakers push to protect small cannabis farmers.

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Dec 11, 2017 at 10:06 AM

oakland_downtown.jpg

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Dec. 11, 2017:

1. Oakland city employees and the city’s administration have agreed to negotiate with a federal mediator as the strike continues on Monday. Mayor Libby Schaaf declared an impasse in the talks after rejecting the workers demand of an 8 percent raise over two years. The city’s main union, SEIU 1021, previously rejected Schaaf’s offer of a 4 percent raise in the first year and a 1 percent raise in year two, along with another 1 percent increase if city tax revenues meet expectations.

2. The massive Thomas Fire in Ventura County has torched more than 230,000 acres, making it the fifth largest blaze in California history, reports Sarah Ravani of the San Francisco Chronicle. The wildfire, which is tearing through dry brush and is only 15 percent contained, is also threatening the Santa Barbara County towns of Carpinteria and Montecito. It has destroyed about 800 structures and forced the evacuation of about 95,000 people.

3. Two North Bay lawmakers are pushing for the state to revise its cannabis regulations to protect small farmers that could be forced out of business by mega-weed agribusinesses, reports Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle. State Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, and Assemblymember Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, say small farmers supported Prop. 64, the statewide pot legalization measure, with the understanding that the state would tightly regulate big farms, but California regulators have so far declined to do so.

4. State Assemblymember Matt Dababneh, D-Woodland Hills, announced that he’s resigning from the legislature amid allegations of sexual misconduct, the LA Times$ reports. Dababneh has been accused of masturbating in front of a female lobbyist and other inappropriate behavior.

5. And celebrity chef Mario Bartali, co-host of ABC’s The Chew has been fired from his show and has taken a leave of absence from his restaurants after multiple women accused him of sexual harassment, the Washington Post$ reports.

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Town Business: City of Oakland and Its Employees Enter Mediation in Effort to Resolve Impasse

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Dec 11, 2017 at 9:34 AM

A picket outside Oakland City Hall Monday morning. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • A picket outside Oakland City Hall Monday morning.

Oakland municipal employees remain on strike today, marking day seven of the work stoppage.

The workers say the city isn't offering them a fair contract. They're asking for raises to make up for pay cuts imposed during the Great Recession.

Mayor Libby Schaaf's administration counters that the city can't afford to give workers what they're asking for and that revenues remain unpredictable, while certain costs like pensions and healthcare are rising.

The unions are asking for an 8 percent raise over two years. The city has countered with an offer of 4 percent in the first year, 1 percent in year two, plus another 1 percent if tax revenues meet expectations.

But this morning, negotiators for the city and its largest union, SEIU 1021, have agreed to sit back down with a neutral mediator in an effort to reach an agreement.

Meanwhile, the strike continues.

Most of the city's government is shut down. Libraries, day care centers, senior centers, parks and recreation facilities are closed, and numerous city services are idled. The strike also means the city council isn't meeting. Boards and commissions are also not meeting for business due the fact that staff from the city clerk and city administrator's offices are on the picket lines.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Opinion: Getting the Shaft From Schaaf

The mayor is breaking her promise to restore wage cutbacks to city employees when the economy recovered.

by Ali Schwarz
Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 3:49 PM

I’m here striking on my daughter’s fourth birthday instead of being at her classroom celebrating. It brings tears to my eyes to miss being there for my family, but today I’m here with my union family to stand up for respect on the job. Through the Great Recession, Oakland city workers endured four years of unpaid furloughs, salary freezes, and layoffs. We gave back and worked longer hours to keep the city moving with the promise that when the city economy recovered, so would we.

Libby Schaaf was among the people who made us that promise.

I’m appalled that I have to take my fourth day of unpaid leave to strike, simply to get a cost of living increase, not even to recover from our years of scarcity. We all know that the Bay Area is getting more and more expensive. We’re currently behind the cost of living, which doesn’t even include housing costs.

The city is getting its fair share of Bay Area growth. But it’s not willing to share that prosperity with the very employees that helped the city get through tough times.

The city of Oakland has a history in the past two years of greatly over estimating its expenditures and underestimating its revenues. And Mayor Schaaf is continuing to manipulate her numbers so she can paint a bleaker picture to serve her personal agenda. She pled to the media that we’re asking for money that she doesn’t have. But she isn’t sharing the whole story, and is instead cherry-picking numbers to support her position.

COURTESY OF SEIU 1021
  • Courtesy of SEIU 1021
City workers who have stuck around because we love our city — I’ve been here for 20 years and counting — continue to get the shaft from Mayor Schaaf. For many of my union brothers and sisters, we’re one paycheck away from being a member of the homeless population we’re simultaneously working to support.

Let me be clear: This isn’t just about us falling behind. This is about the services we’re able — or unable — to deliver to Oaklanders. Any Oakland resident knows that our city simply isn’t doing enough to pick up illegal dumping, build better streets, keep our libraries open for our families, and deliver other services we deserve.

I’m regularly losing colleagues to cities that pay more. Just this year, a coworker with over 20 years of experience at the city of Oakland left for the same position with the city of Berkeley because it paid 20 percent more. Oakland used to be a great place to work. But another one of our young, bright staffers, who was on the job for just one year, left for a better paying gig in San Francisco.

The city of Oakland commissioned Koff and Associates to compare salaries for similar positions and found that Oakland employees are paid on average 10 percent less than other Bay Area jurisdictions.

This isn’t limited to cities like San Francisco and Berkeley; other working-class cities like San Leandro and Hayward pay far more.

When positions are vacant because staff leave for nearby jobs, or because we can’t recruit the best and brightest in the first place, Oaklanders lose. The city shouldn’t be squirreling away millions in surplus when there’s trash and potholes all over the streets.

We want to get back to serving the city we love, and we want to be able to afford to live in the city in which we work.

Ali Schwarz, is a project manager at Oakland Public Works and a member of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE) Local 21.

California Attorney General: Oakland's Coal Ban Is Legal

Xavier Becerra wrote in a legal brief today that the city's prohibition on coal isn't preempted by federal interstate commerce laws.

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Dec 8, 2017 at 3:21 PM

coal.png

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra weighed in today on a dispute over a proposed coal export terminal that a local developer and a Kentucky coal mining company want to build in West Oakland.

The Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, a company owned by developer Phil Tagami and several of his business partners, has been in contract with the City of Oakland since 2013 to build a bulk commodity export terminal on the city's waterfront. But for two years, the project has been bogged down in a controversy.

In 2016, the Oakland City Council passed an ordinance banning the handling and storage of coal within city limits due to health and safety concerns about coal dust, fires, and other hazards. City councilmembers and Mayor Libby Schaaf say they still want Tagami to build the marine terminal, but not use it to ship fossil fuels.

In response, Tagami and his business partners sued the city in federal court, arguing that Oakland can't ban coal because it would interfere with interstate commerce.

But Becerra, in his filing with the court today, argued that Oakland has every right to exercise its "police powers" to protect residents from coal dust and similar environmental dangers.

“Unfortunately, in Oakland, people of color would have to bear the brunt of the pollution emitted by the handling of coal and petroleum coke at the Bulk Oversized Terminal," Becerra said in a statment. "The Oakland City Council put a stop to that in 2016, as was their legal right, and the California Department of Justice is today offering them our full-fledged support.”

According to Becerra, the city's coal ban doesn't interfere with interstate commerce because it only applies to the handling and storage of coal within the city's limits, and the law can't be applied to activities elsewhere in California, or other states, like Utah.

The law also doesn't penalize out-of-state companies to the favor of in-state ones, which is expressly prohibited by federal commerce laws.

The proposed coal terminal would be built by Tagami's OBOT company and then leased to another company called Terminal Logistics Solutions, which would operate it. TLS would then receive millions of tons of coal brought in via freight trains from Utah mines owned by Bowie Resource Partners, a Kentucky-headquartered energy company.

The California attorney general's filing in the case also appears to be an effort to avoid a legal precedent that would undermine the ability of local governments to adopt environmental laws, favoring instead energy corporations and developers.

"Accepting OBOT’s argument that the Ordinance is invalid because it 'directly regulates' commerce would lead to an untenable result, namely, the abrogation of state and local police powers in any circumstance involving commodities that flow in interstate commerce," wrote the attorney general.


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