Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thursday Must Read: Prison Guards to Party in Vegas on Public’s Dime; Lawmaker Challenges MTC’s Departure from Oakland

By Robert Gammon
Thu, Aug 4, 2011 at 10:19 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The sweetheart deal that Governor Jerry Brown awarded to the state’s powerful prison guard’s union earlier this year is even sweeter than we realized. The SacBee reports that the deal calls for taxpayers to pay the salaries of hundreds of prison guard union members while they party in Las Vegas later this month, attending their annual confab. The pricetag for the unusual perk, known as “activist release time,” could cost taxpayers at least $350,000.


The SacBee reports that no other state union enjoys such a provision.

2. East Bay state Senator Mark DeSaulnier is demanding an investigation into a plan by MTC to leave Oakland and buy an old post office building in San Francisco for $180 million, the Chron reports. DeSaulnier questions whether MTC’s plan to use bridge toll funds to buy the building is legal. But MTC says it has a legal opinion from outside counsel that blesses its proposal. MTC plans to upgrade the building and share it with the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

3. The Oakland Police Department is still failing to live up to reforms required by a federal consent decree in the infamous Riders case, KALW reports, citing the release of a new report by the court-ordered monitoring team. The team, which includes ex-police chiefs from other jurisdictions, says OPD is actually backsliding in its reforms when it comes to disciplining cops for use of excessive force. The team also noted that Oakland police officers are too quick to pull their guns, pointing their weapons at suspects about 800 times in a three-month period this year.

4. Ever wonder about all the tax breaks that California awards to the wealthy and to corporations? Capitol Weekly has an informative run-down. One of our favorites: People with vacation homes get to write off their mortgage interest payments, a loophole that costs the state about $750 million a year.

5. Curious about how your new assembly, senate, or Congressional district will look? The SacBee has put together a very user-friendly interactive map-guide. Just type in your zip code. The biggest change in the Oakland-Berkeley area appears to be in the state senate district now held by Loni Hancock. It now will include all of Richmond, along with Pinole and Hercules, but will no longer include Dublin and other parts of the Tri-Valley area.

6. A top Iranian official says he expects his government will release “very soon” the UC Berkeley hiking alums who have been in Iranian custody for two years, AP reports.

7. And are we already in a new Gilded Age? The New York Times reports that despite historic levels of unemployment and the evisceration of the middle-class, America’s wealthiest consumers are buying luxury goods like there’s no tomorrow.

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