Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wednesday Must Read: Russo May Resign; Oakland Schools Prepare for Massive Layoffs

By Robert Gammon
Wed, Feb 16, 2011 at 6:55 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Oakland City Attorney John Russo, who has been publicly feuding with the mayor and the city council recently, is considering resigning his post in April, the Bay Citizen reports, citing anonymous sources. Russo has reportedly been telling friends and colleagues that he’s ready to step down. Russo has been upset about Mayor Jean Quan’s decision to appoint her longtime friend, Oakland attorney Dan Siegel, as her unpaid legal advisor, and he’s had sharp disagreements with the city council over plans to tax and regulate large medical cannabis grows. Russo is said to be eyeing a run for state Assembly in 2012. Councilwoman Jane Brunner is expected to run for Russo’s seat if he quits.

2. The Oakland Unified School District likely will issue hundreds of layoff notices to teachers, principals, and staff in the coming weeks because of budget cuts and concerns about the loss of crucial state funding, the Trib reports. Superintendent Tony Smith is especially worried about potential massive cuts if Republicans block Governor Jerry Brown’s plan for a June tax measure or if voters reject the measure at the ballot box. Under state law, school districts must warn teachers and staff by March 15 if there’s a possibility they may not have a job in the fall.

3. Governor Brown ordered a statewide hiring freeze yesterday as he grapples with a projected $25.4 billion budget deficit, the Chron reports. The freeze prohibits state agencies from hiring new workers or outside contractors, although the governor said he might make exceptions for public safety and revenue collection positions.

4. Salmon and smelt populations in the delta are so fragile that state regulators may give up on them. A new report by the Delta Stewardship Council concludes that extensive efforts to save the salmon and smelt from extinction may be futile, the Chron reports. But environmentalists are strongly criticizing the conclusion, arguing that the state and federal governments are required to do whatever they can to save the fish. Salmon and smelt populations have crashed in recent years because too much freshwater has been diverted from the delta to Southern California and Central Valley agribusiness.

5. The BART Board of Directors is expected to go through with its plans this week to oust the agency’s chief officer, General Manager Dorothy Dugger, the Chron reports. Board members voted last week behind closed doors to ask Dugger to resign, but then were forced to rescind the vote because they failed to provide proper public notice.

6. The Obama administration is proposing to award AC Transit $25 million for its scaled-down Bus Rapid Transit project, but Congressional Republicans may attempt to block the federal funding in a cost-cutting move, the CoCo Times reports.

7. California Secretary of State Debra Bowen has decided to run for Congress, joining the race to replace Los Angeles Democratic Representative Jane Harman, the LA Times reports. However, Bowen apparently intends to keep her position as secretary of state while she runs for Harman’s seat.

8. And former basketball great Bill Russell, a graduate of Oakland’s McClymond’s High School, was awarded the Medal of Freedom yesterday by President Obama at a White House ceremony.

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