Seven Days 

Bugliosi: Jail

Shelter workshop: Every now and then, some inquiring mind asks us if we know what's up with the less-than-subtle bus shelter advertisements in downtown Oakland, you know, the ones that say, "Hey dot commers! Your options are slightly less worthless here," and "We welcome people no matter where they come from, even Marin." Turns out, the messages are actually the by-product of a bidding war between two companies who are competing for a city contract to maintain bus shelters in the downtown area. Currently, downtown bus passengers have to do their waiting out in the wind and rain: The city has long refused to get into the bus shelter maintenance business because of the massive upkeep they require. "You have to go out three times a week and clean them, you have to replace the glass a lot, there's a lot of vandalism, you have to empty the trash," all of which would cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars, says project manager Jeanne Zastera of the Oakland Department of Public Works. But if a private company performs the work -- and gets to cash in on its investment by selling ads on the shelter walls -- she says, "It's a way for us to get bus shelters for free, basically."

Here's the tricky part: Right now city law forbids advertising on downtown bus shelters (something the council will have to reconsider once this deal goes through after a final vote in September) so when the competing companies went to dummy up the demo shelters that are on the streets now, the city generously provided them with some of its own "public service announcement" copy. The one-liners are actually part of the city's new "move-to-Oakland" marketing campaign that's been in full swing since March, although you may have missed Phase One, which was relatively sedate: full-page advertisements in business-oriented newspapers like the Wall Street Journal and the San Jose Mercury News with text like, "San Francisco, now thirty percent off." The gloves came off for Phase Two, which included the bus shelter copy, as well as placards affixed to the roofs of San Francisco taxicabs ("This cab is bigger than your apartment," for example, or "Give yourself a raise: move to Oakland"). Phase Three promises to be the most eye-catching of all, as the campaign switches over to a new format at the beginning of autumn. Says Oakland's marketing manager Sammee Roberts, "If you like what you've seen so far and think there's humor in it, you'll love the television ads."

_Good Vibrations aside, let's face it: Berkeley is a prudish town. Which is not to say Berkeley is a Horny-Free Zone. It's just that the sex industry has been driven underground.

Perhaps the town's most venerable underground house of ill repute is the Golden Gypsy Massage Studio on Telegraph Avenue across the street from Andronico's. For more than a decade, the Golden Gypsy has serviced patrons with "sore backs" that needed a little therapeutic bodywork.

Every now and again, Berkeley's vice squads have raided the reputed brothel then issued a press release. The latest raid took place two weeks ago, resulting in the arrests of twenty employees and customers. The cops boast that they seized $85,000 in cash from the massage parlor and another $188,000 from the nearby home of sixty-year-old Thomas Robinson, owner of the Golden Gypsy.

Detective Sgt. K.L. Lantow says police executed a search warrant after receiving numerous complaints about the Gypsy's activities. According to Lantow, some of the gripes came from annoyed neighbors, others supposedly came from shocked customers who sought real massages but were offered a lot more. But here at 7 Days our favorite complaint came from a spurned spouse who reportedly informed the cops that "her soon-to-be ex-husband had used the service for the purpose of prostitution."

_Power crisis: It was one of those very special Berkeley moments that we so love and treasure -- but it was happening in Oakland. On the stage at the Grand Lake Theatre, author and attorney Vincent Bugliosi -- the prosecutor who put Charles Manson behind bars -- was getting ready to discuss his new book, The Betrayal of America, and give his analyses of how the Supreme Court anointed George Dubya Bush as President. Suddenly his reading light went out. Chaos ensued. By the time the light finally got fixed there were five or six guys on stage, leading 7 Days' ever-snide companion to delicately inquire, "How many liberals does it take to change a lightbulb?" "Five or six, apparently," was the rhetorical answer, to the great amusement of those nearby. And people wonder why the lefties aren't in charge. Sigh.

All grumbling aside -- and there was plenty of that when the Green Party's Medea Benjamin spoke and embittered Democratic hacks heckled her childishly and mercilessly -- Bugliosi put on a compelling show, the gist of which was that the "felonious five" who put Dubya in office ought to be behind bars. (For those who have been stone dead for the past six months, Bugliosi has called for the impeachment of a Supreme Court that engineered a "judicial coup d'état" to put the Shrub in power.) For those who suggest we all just get over it, and that the Shrub won anyway, the former prosecutor flares, "Let's assume Bush won. [That is] totally completely irrelevant. Whether it happened after the bell is rung or not is irrelevant. The crime is committed. It's like saying that someone shot to kill, the bullet just happened to miss!"

Bugliosi took a similar hard line on the Supreme Court itself, ridiculing its transparently political decision, which, he says, was by its very nature political, not legal, and therefore a criminal act disenfranchising the American voting population. "[The decision] was not based in the law," argued Bugliosi, noting that Justice Antonin Scalia wrote that the recount of votes had to be stopped because it would do "irreparable harm" to George Bush. "Who is Scalia?" he asked. "A right-wing ideologue of the Rush Limbaugh school. He would not do that for Al Gore! If you could prove that, you could prove a man could jump away from his shadow."

Then there is the little matter of the Constitution, which indicates that it is Congress that determines the presidency, not the Court. Warming to his theme with a ham-and-cheese presentation that has probably enhanced his high conviction rate, Bugliosi cried, "The Supreme Court has no more right to do this than the Illinois Rotary Club or the Boston Symphony. They blatantly and nakedly usurped the power of Congress." Small wonder, he quipped, that the judgment was unsigned and anonymously written. "They wanted to stay away from the decision like the devil stays away from Holy Water!"

Oddly enough for someone who has never had difficulty getting airtime before, Bugliosi now finds it almost impossible to get on the tube. He practically begged the audience to harass local talk shows and news programs into requesting he go on the air. Hmmm. Harass the media. Now that is something we in the East Bay excel at. As for us, we purchased a "Hail to the Thief" bumper sticker.

_Crying Wolff: By city charter, Oakland's Residential Rent and Relocation Board must be made up of two tenants, two landlords, and three "neutral" representatives, who are typically homeowners. Wait, scratch that; the city charter requires that board members must be tenants when they are appointed, but it doesn't say anything about remaining a tenant. That distinction is at the heart of the Rent Board's latest dispute, which arose on July 24, when tenant representative Andrew Wolff, who is also an attorney and part of the campaign to pass a Just Cause eviction ordinance, was booted off the board by Jerry Brown. Why? Because a few months back Wolff bought himself a condominium. Brown and City Attorney John Russo subsequently declared that since Wolff is no longer a tenant, he cannot represent tenants on the board. Wolff, meanwhile, claims that the mayor is taking advantage of a fuzzy point in the charter to replace him with a more compliant representative, and that the charter entitles him to a hearing before the City Council. The council had better hurry, because Wolff's term on the board was scheduled to end in October.

_Sunday in the Park with Harry: When Oakland resident Kevin McFarren took in the sun at Lake Merritt last Sunday, he was annoyed to find a good example of Oakland's municipal government at work. "The weather was warm and clear, Children's Fairyland was celebrating its newly renovated facilities, and many turned out to enjoy Oakland's jewel," McFarren writes. "I sat on a bench near the bandstand, reading and watching people pass by. I also saw three new portable toilets -- padlocked. Now, much has been written about Harry Edwards and his desire to make the Oakland parks bring in revenue. No doubt the City of Oakland pays to rent the port-a-potties, and yet they were locked to the many people in the park that day. Perhaps the rental cost is cheaper if the toilets cannot be used."

_We Don't Need No Stinking Gadflies: Who's really behind the campaign challenging the citizenship of Oakland City Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente? Would you believe -- De La Fuente himself? For years, West Oakland property owner and eccentric Ron Zimmerman has repeatedly charged that De La Fuente, a Mexican immigrant, never really became an American citizen and is thus ineligible for public office. Time and again, he has challenged De La Fuente to produce his citizenship documents, while De La Fuente publicly treats the issue -- and Zimmerman -- with contempt. But one City Hall source tells us that since the Fruitvale councilmember knows his citizenship is indisputable, he has been goading Zimmerman into pursuing his campaign. As long as he's tilting at this particular windmill, he can't spend his time causing any real damage. We called De La Fuente's office to get the real story, but no one ever called us back. Which is a shame, 'cause ours was the one press call that wasn't about the A's....

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