Undersheriff Said Oakland Police Stood Up Deputies at 'Moms 4 Housing' Eviction 

Plus, Alameda County bans flavored tobacco, and tensions rise after Montclair murder.

click to enlarge Oakland police were a no-show when the time came to provide crowd control.

Oakland police were a no-show when the time came to provide crowd control.

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan had a seemingly innocuous question for Rich Lucia, the Alameda County undersheriff. Why were Alameda County sheriff's deputies deployed to evict the members of the Moms 4 Housing coalition last Tuesday morning, and not the Oakland Police Department?

Lucia told the board that the sheriff's office had been in discussion with Oakland police officials and believed the department would help support the pre-dawn action on the home on Magnolia Street in Oakland. But Oakland police officers did not show up and Lucia suggested they may have actively avoiding the area where demonstrators had gathered to support the four women who had taken shelter inside a vacant house in West Oakland without the permission of its owners.

"OPD did not appear to support us," Lucia said. "In fact, one of their cars was seen making a quick U-turn."

Law enforcement officials rarely make public criticisms of other police jurisdictions, but Lucia stood by his comments in an interview.

"This operation was a no-win for the sheriff's office," Lucia said. "By law, we're mandated to execute eviction orders, but I can tell you none of my deputies enjoy doing it. You will never see anybody raise their hand to volunteer for them." But he added, "What they were doing is trespassing," Lucia said of the homeless mothers.

Two weeks ago, Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern consulted with Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick about the possibility of Oakland police officer aiding in the eventual eviction of the homeless women, according to the office of Mayor Libby Schaaf. Kirkpatrick then broached the subject with Schaaf, who dismissed the idea.

But when demonstrators at the Magnolia Street home began to mobilize and the number of people grew larger over the weekend and through Monday night, the Sheriff's office again reached out to Oakland city officials, asking for four Oakland police officers to act in a crowd-control capacity. Schaaf's response was again a firm no.

Hours after the early Tuesday morning eviction, Schaaf appeared on local television and social media and strongly criticized the sherrif's department for using a battering ram to knock down the front door of the vacant home and later arrest three of the four homeless mothers for resisting arrest. Lucia said the use of a battering ram by deputies is not typical during evictions. But in this instance, he added, the doors had been barricaded from inside the home.


Alameda County Bans Flavored Tobacco Products

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors banned the sale of flavored tobacco, including menthol, and flavored e-cigarette products in unincorporated areas of the county. The ordinance also requires tobacco retailers to pay an annual licensing fee. County staff believes the fee will ultimately be around $800.

The ordinance also limits the number of tobacco retail licenses to 1 per 2,500 unincorporated residents.

In addition, the price of low-cost cigars and cigarillos will be set a minimum retail price of $8 per pack of 20 cigars.

Among the 72 tobacco retailers in unincorporated Alameda County, a large number sell cigars or cigarillos for as little as $2 a package.

The board's move comes as communities in the unincorporated areas of central Alameda County and many cities are growing more concerned with the rise of young people using e-cigarette devices.

A survey by the California Healthy Kids found the youth in Castro Valley and San Lorenzo are increasingly experimenting with flavored tobacco products.

One in four San Lorenzo High 11th graders and one in five Castro Valley High 11th grader have used e-cigarettes, according to the survey from 2017-2018. At both schools, more than half of the students believe it is easy to obtain e-cigarette products.

Montclair District, Facing Rise in Crime, Voices Frustration With City's Response

Montclair residents are rattled by the murder of Shun Xeng, who was killed after chasing two men suspected of stealing his laptop from Starbucks in Montclair Village. In the wake of the murder, the moderator at a heavily attended town hall meeting asked attendees how many of them had been a victim of violent crime. Almost all raised their hand.

The murder was North Oakland's third in all of 2019, the lowest in the area in years, Oakland Police Capt. Chris Bolton said. But growing instances of other types of crimes, including burglaries in the district appeared to have hit a tipping point with the latest homicide. For example, auto burglaries have exploded on Snake Road and at the Safeway grocery store on Mountain Boulevard. OPD is currently working with the store to alleviate the issue, Bolton said.

But as the town hall neared its 8:30 p.m. conclusion with only two questions asked of the panelists among nearly 100, the crowd became upset at the torpid pace of the meeting. Waves of residents began to leave in disgust and one man angrily cried out his frustration with what he called the city's inaction when it comes to crime and an anti-law enforcement sentiment prevalent in Oakland. When another resident told him his outburst was disrespectful, the man responded, "At some point the anger is justified."

Controversy preceded the town hall. Hours earlier, the Oakland Police Officers Association released a terse statement in response to Councilmember Sheng Thao's policy proposal to place one officer on walking beats in places like Montclair.

"It took Oakland's 75th murder of 2019, at the Montclair Village Starbucks on New Year's Eve, for Oakland City Council Member Sheng Thao to finally address the rising crime rate in Oakland" the statement read. " Unfortunately, her recent rhetoric on crime is not matched by action on crime during her first year in office."

Oakland Police Officers Association President Barry Donelan slammed Thao for allowing the police department's ranks to decrease last year, along with her reluctance to address the issue with the union. "All we sought was an explanation," he said. "However, we have been met with silence from the Council Member and her staff."

Thao disagreed with the union, adding the decreased number of police officers is Oakland is due to the inability to quickly fill vacancies that follow retirement. She urged the police union not to politicize Zeng's death. "I am taking this very seriously," Thao said.


House to Schedule Vote on Barbara Lee's Repeal of Afghanistan Authorization

After almost two decades of persistence, Rep. Barbara Lee's quest to repeal the Authorization for Use of Military force that led to the war in Afghanistan, and that she has doggedly opposed over the years, will come to a vote in Congress.

A bill introduced by Lee to repeal the 2001 authorization will be heard in the House sometime after the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said. A separate bill by Rep. Ro Khanna to specifically withhold funding for war in Iran without prior congressional approval will also come up for vote during the same week, Hoyer added.

Back in 2001, and just weeks after the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Lee was famously the only member of Congress to oppose President George W. Bush's request for authorizing funding for the war in Afghanistan. Lee called it a blank check for endless wars and her belief has been clearly prescient. Military conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq continue in some form to this day.

Lee's bill would repeal the authorization in time to block any further military excursion potentially sought by the Trump administration in Iran, or anywhere else.

"For far too long, Congress has been missing in action on matters of war and peace," Lee said. "It is long overdue for Congress to reassert its Constitutional authority on the use of force. It is time to end giving blank checks to (any) President to wage endless wars."

Lee's vote 17 years ago is viewed as one of the most courageous decisions made by any member of Congress in recent history. It has also attained an almost mythic quality among East Bay Democrats and progressives at large for her foresight and conviction at the time when most of the country was shaken and angered by the 9/11 attacks.


In Other News ...

Median housing prices in the Bay Area dropped by 2.3 percent in 2019 to $928,000, the first decline in eight years, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. ... In the aftermath of "Moms 4 Housing," Oakland Council President Rebecca Kaplan thinks the city should purchase a number of properties in Oakland that will soon be going to auction for non-payment of county property taxes. ...

The Richmond City Council voted to ban the shipment of coal through its Levin Terminal, the Chron reported. The action comes amid legal threats. ... California Attorney General Xavier Becerra sued the Trump administration in an effort to stop the issuance of new permits for oil and gas production in the state, including fracking, the Associated Press reported. On Wednesday, some Alameda County elected officials urged Gov. Gavin Newsom to ban all oil and gas production in the state. ...

Berkeley is facing another a rash of catalytic converter thefts, Bay City News reported. About two dozen thefts have occurred this month. ... A prankster is putting fake parking citations on cars in Alameda that look like the real thing, Alameda Police reported on Twitter. ... The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority voted to rescind its $1 million a year stadium naming-rights deal with RingCentral, the Chron reported. ...

Student teachers at U.C. Berkeley asserted they were illegally underpaid. Backed by the union, they won an arbitration decision that forces the university to pay them back retroactively, KQED reported. ... Another airline carrier is ditching the Oakland Airport. JetBlue announced it will end service at the airport on April 29, SFGate reported. 

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