Oakland Police Are Still in Trouble 

Plus, it's time to legalize pot before the severe recession becomes a depression, a drought, and Armageddon.

Oakland now has no permanent police chief, but there's a silver lining for the city with one of the worst crime problems in the nation. At least we won't have to read about or listen to ex-Chief Wayne Tucker's warped view of reality anymore. Tucker's last day was on February 28, but before he cleaned out his desk, he declared — apparently with a straight face — that the department was the "healthiest" it's been in years. Huh? If this is healthy, we'd hate to see "sick." It's hard to remember a time when the department was in worse shape. Tucker's tenure has been marked by a historic jump in violent crime and a department rocked by scandal after scandal. He has to go down as one of the worst police chiefs the city has ever had.

So what does Mayor Ron Dellums do? He, of course, picked the wrong guy to replace Tucker. Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan is now Oakland's interim top cop. Jordan is an accomplished veteran who knows Oakland well, but his unwavering loyalty to everything OPD makes him the wrong choice to lead the department permanently. OPD needs fresh ideas, not a police chief who blindly defends incompetence.

Jordan's bewildering defense of Sgt. Derwin Longmire, the cop who badly screwed up the murder investigation of slain journalist Chauncey Bailey, is just one example. After the Chauncey Bailey journalism project and the San Francisco Chronicle revealed how messed up Longmire's investigation was, Jordan put out an official department statement, maintaining that Longmire had done nothing wrong — even though Longmire at the time was, and still is, under investigation by the department's internal affairs division, the state Attorney General's Office, and the FBI. We're surprised Jordan didn't also call Longmire's work "healthy."

Legalize Pot Now

High fives all around are in order for San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano. The freshman legislator had the guts last week to introduce legislation that would legalize marijuana in California. It was the smartest — and bravest — move by a state politician in years. Experts estimate that legalizing pot and then taxing its sales could generate more than $1 billion in annual revenues for the state. Plus, legalization of California's largest agricultural crop would save taxpayers from wasting huge amounts of money each year, investigating marijuana crimes and locking people up on petty drug charges. Moreover, any serious debate that pot use will escalate if it's legalized has been over for years. Buying dope has been easier than getting a prescription filled for a long time — let's start making money off of it.

Hey, and with the Obama administration now bringing some sanity to our federal government, we might be able to actually pull it off. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the feds will no longer harass medical marijuana dispensaries in the Golden State. It's about time. The DEA's ridiculous, heavy-handed raids during the Bush and Clinton years made a mockery of California law, and the legitimate use of pot as medicine. Holder noted that the new policy jibes with the president's campaign pledge. Wow, a politician who keeps his promises. That's change we can believe in.

Now, Mr. President, there's this issue of warrantless wiretapping that we need to talk to you about ...

It's Official: California Is Screwed

First, there's the drought. Last Friday, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a statewide water crisis, following three years of below-average rainfall. Despite the recent much-needed rains, experts say that this spring's all-important snow melt will only be about 57 percent of normal. The East Bay Municipal Utility District, which serves Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda, said it needs forty more inches of rain by April 1 in its Sierra watershed. Cities could face up to 20 percent cuts of water this summer. The feds say that we're going to need "some epic, Noah-type storms."

As if that weren't scary enough, the state's unemployment rate reached double digits in January, jumping to 10.1 percent. The jobless rate is the highest since the recession of the early 1980s. And that doesn't include all the folks who have stopped searching for work or are seriously underemployed, working part-time gigs. The worst part is we all know it's going to get uglier. Maybe those Armageddon Christianists were on to something after all.

Three-Dot Roundup

Are the Oakland A's headed to San Jose? South Bay officials sure want it to happen. But it seems unlikely that the San Francisco Giants will ever give up their territorial rights to Santa Clara County. ... Alameda City Manager Debra Kurita abruptly quit last week after a yet-to-be-disclosed run-in with the city council. The city also was rocked by the news that the head of the police department's internal affairs division was arrested on charges of trying to steal people's meds. ... A suspect was finally nabbed in the Berkeley teen party murder from three years ago. ... State schools Chief Jack O'Connell plans to take nearly $500,000 from the debt-ridden Oakland public school system and give it to local charter schools because Oakland voters rejected his pet parcel tax measure in November. ... The Oakland City Council smartly tabled a misguided plan to raise property taxes during a steep recession. ... State leaders are talking seriously about reforming how the legislature passes the budget. They should also be talking about finally killing Proposition 13. ... And the San Francisco Chronicle, which has been bleeding money for years, announced last week plans to sell or close the newspaper unless unions agree to massive cuts.


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