Skinner Praises Newsom But Says Staff Not Yet Up to Speed 

Plus more fun with fences, and Schaaf donation ruled improper.


click to enlarge Sen. Nancy Skinner. - PHOTO COURTESY OF SEN. NANCY SKINNER.
  • Photo courtesy of Sen. Nancy Skinner.
  • Sen. Nancy Skinner.

Gov. Gavin Newsom is doing a great job, but his office lacks experience, East Bay State Sen. Nancy Skinner told Alameda County Democrats last week.

Skinner has a number of bills pending as the state Legislature wraps-up business in a flurry of action over the next month. Among them is a high-profile bill requiring the California universities to pay student athletes when their name and likeness is used by the school; legislation allowing convicted felons the right to serve on juries; and another to streamline the local planning process for new housing.

The usually circumspect senator's comment about the inexperience of Newsom's office was notable for its candor.

"It's an intense month and our new governor — his staff are great — but very few of them have been in, what we call, the 'horseshoe,'" Skinner said, a reference to the governor's office. With a hint of disbelief, she added that Newsom's office has repeatedly asked Democratic lawmakers recently to convert their legislation to two-year bills, essentially mothballing them for the foreseeable future.

"Any experienced governor's office would never really ask a legislator that unless it was a really problematic bill, because if you've got a shot at getting your bill through, you want it," Skinner told the Alameda County Democratic Central Committeee in Oakland on Aug. 7. "Delay is not your friend."

"Gov. Newsom is very good. I think his staff will get used to the process soon enough," she said. Until then, "I've go to do my thing."


Ethics Commission Fines Mayor for Finance Violation

Oakland's Public Ethics Commission recommended a $1,000 fine against Mayor Libby Schaaf's 2014 mayoral campaign on Monday night for violating the city's campaign finance rules.

Schaaf's campaign received $2,400 in contributions from 11 West Partner, LLC, a developer with a number of high profile projects in the city. Oakland's election code, however, limits contributions to $800 per election cycle. Staff had initially recommended levying a $400 fine on Schaaf, before commissioners urged for a higher penalty.

In addition to the fine, Schaaf's campaign is also ordered to return the $2,400 contribution from the developer.

SL Commission Denies Aguilar's Fence Request

A controversial request by San Leandro Councilmember Victor Aguilar, Jr. to approve a fence he constructed without a permit was denied by the San Leandro Planning and Board of Zoning Commission last week, setting up the possibility of a contentious appeal of the decision.

The commission questioned Aguilar's request to keep a six-foot fence he built at his home in the Floresta Gardens neighborhood of San Leandro, despite constructing it without proper approval from the city. The seemingly mundane request is sweetened by a backstory that matches Aguilar's rise in the city's politics.

Aguilar had used another fence controversy as cudgel against his opponent for the city council last year who was seeking approval of his own fence modification. Aguilar made the argument even though his own already-constructed fence also violated the code.

Aguilar's rhetoric painting then-Councilmember Lee Thomas as wrongly using his position as an incumbent councilmember to gain approval of his fence modification contributed greatly to Aguilar's upset victory in November 2016. The result was one of the most surprising outcomes in the entire East Bay last year.

Planning commissioners expressed displeasure with the notion of elected officials appearing to skirt the city's rules and regulations, and then seeking to remedy the violations only after the city received an anonymous complaint against the fence.


In Other News ...

Oakland is now outpacing San Francisco in building more housing units this year, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Oakland is set to produce 6,800 new units to San Francisco's 4,700. ... Housing prices in the Bay Area remain sky-high but are dropping, the East Bay Times reported. ... Yet even before the Ghost Ship warehouse fire, artists in Oakland were struggling to keep a home. What is left of available space for artists is being gobbled up by the lucrative cannabis industry, the Chron reported. ... El Cerrito removed its just-cause renters protection ordinance from its books amid pressure from landlords, the East Bay Times reported. ... Gov. Gavin Newsom said he would sign an assembly bill that proposes a cap on rent increases in the state, the Los Angeles Times reported. The bill limits rent increases to 7 percent over the next three years and includes a just-cause provision. ...

Five Oakland police officers whom the Oakland Police Commission recommended firing for the killing of a homeless man last year, filed a suit alleging the commission lacks the authority to dismiss them, KTVU reported. ... In response to the Gilroy shooting, San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo is proposing a city ordinance that would require gun owners to have liability insurance, AXIOS reported. ... Meanwhile, San Rafael Mayor Gary Phillips ordered the North Bay city's flags to be flown at half-mast until Congress passes gun control legislation, the Chron reported. ... California's Citizen Redistricting Commission is viewed as a potent antidote against politicians gerrymandering their own federal and state districts. But now a federal lawsuit in Michigan is arguing that state's similar commission is unconstitutional because it forbids some from participating in the process. ...

Laney College's defending junior college national champion football team will be featured on the fifth season of Netflix's popular documentary series, "Last Chance U.," 12up reported. The series chronicles the ups and downs of junior college football. ... In a decision that could have ramifications for East Bay State Sen. Nancy Skinner's legislation that would require the NCAA to pay student athletes when their names and likeness are used, comes a ruling by a San Francisco Appeals Court that a former U.S.C. football player was not an employee of the NCAA or the university while he played for the school, the Associated Press reported. ... Oakland Raiders wide receiver Antonio Brown may not retire after all. An arbitrator ruled Monday against a grievance he filed against the NFL to allow him to wear his preferred, albeit obsolete helmet, during games, USA Today reported. He had threatened to retire from football if he couldn't use his old helmet during games.

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