Monday, December 13, 2010

Monday Must Read: Oakland Won’t Have to Pay $15 Million Judgment; UC Berkeley Cracks Down on Bicyclists

By Robert Gammon
Mon, Dec 13, 2010 at 7:07 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The city of Oakland has won its appeal in the Measure Y legal case, meaning it likely will not have to pay a potential $15 million judgment. An appellate court ruled unanimously on Friday that the city did not misspend Measure Y funds, thereby overturning a lower-court decision, the Chron and Trib report. The ruling stemmed from a lawsuit filed by Oakland gadfly Marleen Sacks, who claimed that Oakland misappropriated funds by using millions in Measure Y money to recruit, hire, and train new cops to replace those who were transferred to community policing positions. Alameda County Superior Court Judge Frank Roesch had agreed with Sacks, and ordered the city to repay those funds to the Measure Y account, a potential hit of about $15 million on the city’s general fund. But the appellate court ruled that Sacks and Roesch were wrong, and what the city did was legal.

2. UC Berkeley is cracking down on bicyclists who lock their bikes to railings and poles, issuing $220 tickets that critics call outrageous, the Chron reports. Typically, parking tickets for cars are about $50 to $60, but UC Berkeley is using a section of state law that allows it to levy astronomical fines against cyclists. Campus police also are slapping bicyclists with $220 citations for not coming to a complete stop at intersections. But the cops say they didn’t know the fines were so high until students started complaining.

3. Thousands of state workers are cheating the FasTrak bridge-toll system by taking advantage of the fact that their home addresses are secret under state law, the Trib reports. The public employees breeze through the FrasTrak lanes without paying the tolls, knowing that the Metropolitan Transportation Commission has no way of fining them and can’t send them tickets. But even though the cheaters are costing MTC about $10,000 a month in lost bridge toll revenue, the agency has no plans to go after the scofflaws because it costs too much to figure out where they live.

4. The city of Oakland, meanwhile, is waiting until January to implement a $3 increase on car parking tickets to ensure that motorists are aware of the higher fines, the Trib reports. The increase is actually being levied by the state, but Oakland leaders are wary about implementing it right away because of the uproar last year over its decision to increase parking rates and fines.

5. A former top lieutenant in the Your Black Muslim Bakery criminal gang was sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole for a brutal 2007 kidnapping and torture case, the CoCo Times reports. Richard Lewis received the maximum available sentence under the law for kidnapping a mother and daughter and then torturing the daughter.

6. The first Nissan Leaf electric vehicle was purchased by a Redwood City man, the Chron reports. The Leaf is the first mass-market electric vehicle; it sells for about $20,000 after rebates and goes 80 to 100 miles before needing to be recharged.

7. In a tale of two Christmases, high-end retailers are reporting big sales increases, while those who cater to the masses may have a so-so holiday season, the Washington Post reports. Wealthy shoppers apparently have weathered the recession and are now spending big bucks again, while everyone else is still struggling.

8. And Earth Engine, a new Google application to be unveiled early next year, will allow users to monitor the health of forests around the world for the first time, the CoCo Times reports.

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