Z Is for LaZy 

Oakland pols still haven't implemented last year's Measure Z -- are they stoned? Plus more Oakland auditor follies, more plagiarism, more pumpkin butts.

One year ago, Oakland voters overwhelmingly passed Measure Z, a ballot initiative that all but decriminalized marijuana use, making the arrest of pot smokers local law enforcement's lowest priority. A year later, it seems that Oakland city officials have made implementing Measure Z their lowest priority.

There has yet to be a meeting of the eleven-member oversight committee called for by the measure to oversee its implementation. That's because neither Mayor Jerry Brown nor most city council members -- each of whom gets to name one person to the committee -- has bothered to appoint anyone. These pols, in other words, have displayed all the motivation of an unemployed stoner living in his mom's basement. To date, only Councilwomen Desley Brooks, Jane Brunner, and Nancy Nadel and auditor Roland Smith have made their appointments, leaving the committee two short of the six-member quorum required to convene a session.

Leaders of the Oakland Civil Liberties Alliance, which sponsored Measure Z, are now consulting attorneys to see if they can sue the city to force officials to comply with the voters' mandate. Susan Stephenson, a lobbyist for the group, says the main role of the oversight committee would be to verify that Oakland police have cut back on marijuana-related arrests.

Stephenson says she's met or had contact with all the council offices since the measure passed, trying to nudge them into action. She has been either stonewalled or unable to get a response, she says, from City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente and at-large representative Henry Chang. "I don't know if it's just disregard for the will of the voters or whether there's some kind of intentional effort to undercut it," she says.

Here are some of the "explanations" Feeder got from the slow-moving elected officials: Willie Yee, an aide to Chang, says his boss is waiting for everyone else to make their appointments to make sure the committee is, er, balanced. An aide to Councilwoman Jean Quan says Quan actually interviewed a doctor for the position, but somehow "lost contact" with the cannabis-committee candidate. Mayor Brown, who is meditating upon becoming attorney general, said via spokesman Gil Duran: "We are considering an appropriate response to this unusual measure." (Memo to Jerry: Dude, don't know what you're smokin', but judging from that quote it's something stronger than a low-priority substance.)

Councilwoman Brooks, meanwhile, criticized her colleagues' foot-dragging, saying, "It's an intentional thwarting of the will of the electorate." Brooks points out that most of her colleagues opposed Measure Z. Still, she says finding someone to serve shouldn't be too hard -- they could even appoint a Measure Z opponent. The only prerequisites are that committee members have a pulse, live in Oakland, and, of course, don't bogart that joint.

Ever See Arrested Development?

What, this guy again? Feeder recently reported on the animus between Oakland City Auditor Roland Smith and some of his staffers. Now comes word that police were summoned to Smith's office two weeks ago following a loud dispute between the auditor and his daughter, Fran Bowman. Feeder knows this because Frannie called Feederland a few hours later all in a lather.

Here's what happened based on what she and other city hall sources say: Bowman and her dad have been feuding over the distribution of her late grandmother's estate, for which Smith is executor. Bowman, a wedding photographer, says she was supposed to inherit $10,000, but was having trouble getting the dough from her dad. So she showed up at his office midweek at around noon demanding that he cut her a check. Smith apparently refused to see his peeved daughter, who responded to the snub by loudly knocking on the glass door of his office. "Fran, you did not make an appointment," Bowman recalled her father saying to her. Someone in the office alerted security, and within a few minutes a police officer and the facilities manager arrived. With an officer present, Smith wrote Bowman a check -- which she says was for only $5,000, not the full amount she is owed.

Bowman left without further incident, although word quickly spread about the latest auditorial drama. Former deputy auditor George Briggs, who has filed a grievance against Smith, says the auditor fired him last month and then proceeded to follow him out of the building yelling at him. Bowman told Feeder she planned to contact a probate lawyer. Smith didn't return a call from Feeder, who admittedly had not made an appointment.

Plagiarized Again -- Geez!

You'd think that with all the journalistic scandals in recent years, plagiarists would realize they're probably gonna get caught so they might as well do some real reporting. Still, the copycats keep coming. A recent case involves Nada Behziz, a young reporter for The Bakersfield Californian, who was fired last month after editors confronted her about lifting quotes from a 1996 San Francisco Examiner story as well as failing to verify the existence of other people she quoted. According to Mike Jenner, the Californian's executive editor, the paper has since found problems with about one-third of the 96 stories Behziz wrote -- including one that lifted passages from a June 29, 2005 Express profile of author Michael Chorost by Chris Ulbrich.

Ulbrich interviewed Chorost, a deaf man who talked about his experience "hearing" with a computer implant in his ear, which he details in his book, Rebuilt: How Becoming Part Computer Made Me More Human. A month later, Behziz penned a story on ear implants for the deaf in which editors believe she fabricated a deaf man, Paul Wilson of Bakersfield, who says precisely the same things Chorost told the Express.

We've been plagiarized many times, but what's interesting are the little embellishments and changes Behziz did make. Chorost "just wants a chicken Caesar salad," while Wilson "just wants a chicken salad." Chorost orders a medium lemonade, but Wilson orders a medium iced latte. Both stories quote Chorost/Wilson as saying, "When you become a cyborg, you're no less human than you were before." But the Behziz version adds this imaginative line: "I'm actually more human. I can hear things that I didn't think ever made noise, like boiling water."

For her part, Behziz has told the paper that she didn't intentionally plagiarize and insists she never made up sources.

Three Stooges

Last week, Live 105 luminaries lamely introduced their new morning crew of Jeff Fife, Tony Mott, and Renae Ravey as the perfect "grassroots" hosts for the station's new "co-op" format stressing listener participation. The three will replace Howard Stern at the beginning of next year after the shock jock switches over to satellite radio. In a press release, KITS-FM general manager Steve DiNardo waxed dull about the trio, saying, "Their grassroots experiences have always played on involving their listeners, and we're confident that's just what they'll do on Live 105."

In light of Fife and Mott's past antics, Feeder wonders exactly what Live 105 execs mean by "grassroots." The DJs are better known by their handles Woody and the Whipping Boy. The two got canned from a station in St. Louis two years ago after offending a crusading conservative listener. According to a story in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from the time, some of their "grassroots" activities included wet T-shirt contests as well as a Halloween competition where dudes painted their girlfriends' butts to look like jack-o'-lanterns.


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