The great battle of the Memorial Oak Grove inched tantalizingly close to the finish line last week, as Superior Court Judge Barbara Miller ruled that UC Berkeley has permission to start hacking away at the trees and build itself a new state-of-the-art sports training center. Not only that, but she ordered the city, the Panoramic Hill Association, and the California Oak Foundation to pay almost all the court costs associated with the lawsuit they filed to stop construction. This ruling was almost everything Cal needed to fire up the bulldozers, especially when the city council decided not to pursue an appeal, to the agony of dozens of people crammed in the council chambers. But those pesky neighbors and environmentalists decided they had one last fight left in them, and declared they would appeal the decision. And so once again, construction was put off until at least August 13. Then there's the little matter of those tree-sitters ...
Oakland Faces Historic Budget Crisis
Too bad the tree-huggers aren't fighting the City of Oakland, because they're too broke to bulldoze anything right now. The city was already facing a multimillion-dollar budget shortfall, but its finances got considerably worse last week, when the city council gave up on a $12 million tax increase to finance landscaping and lighting services. The East Bay Express had reported that the vote to approve the tax appeared to have been, well, rigged, and a chagrined council had to abandon the whole effort. In addition, a new city report concluded that former City Administrator Deborah Edgerly overestimated the city's revenue by around ... are you ready for this? ... $38 million. That's right: the city's deficit is now estimated to be around $50 million, or 10 percent of the entire budget. Mayor Ron Dellums has now ordered a full fiscal review to determine just how broke the city really is, and his consigliere, former City Manager Robert Bobb, told the San Francisco Chronicle he expects to do a lot of firing in the next few months.
And the city's not the only agency facing tough times. Facing a financial crisis of its own, Alameda County tried to balance the books by axing welfare payments to 3,000 very poor people a few months back, deeming them able to seek work on their own. But last week, Superior Court Judge David Hunter ruled that the county hadn't taken severe barriers to employment into account, and ordered the Social Services Agency to keep the money train chugging. So it's back to the drawing board for the county's bean counters.
Rally at Your Black Muslim Bakery
When the cops raided the headquarters of Your Black Muslim Bakery last year, you may have thought it had something to do with an investigation into kidnapping and torture allegations. But if you suspected that the police were part of a sinister conspiracy to destroy the bakery, have we got a rally for you! Supporters of the now-defunct bakery plan to gather at the San Pablo Avenue building on August 2, where leader Henry Clark will apparently divulge the truth behind the events that led to the institution's collapse. Will the freemasons be behind it all, as we've long suspected?
Hayward Cop Accused of Swapping Terrorism Files
Apparently, you can be too vigilant in the War on Terror. According to San Diego press accounts, military officials have accused Hayward cop and Marine reservist Reinaldo Pagan of taking secret files on potential terrorists near San Diego and sharing them with local law enforcement agencies. Officially, Pagan has been charged with dereliction of duty and violating orders.
Cosco Busan Owners Hit by Felony Indictments
When the freighter Cosco Busan smashed into the Bay Bridge and killed thousands of birds with leaking fuel, you just knew someone was going to pay. That someone turned out to be the owners of the boat, as a federal grand jury indicted Fleet Management Ltd. on charges that officials falsified reports and impeded the investigation into the crash. An attorney for John Cota, the pilot that actually steered the boat into the bridge, promptly claimed that the indictments helped exonerate his client. We're not so sure the feds see it that way.
A new report claimed that the Altamont Pass electricity windmills are slicing up more birds than ever, with a 27 percent increase in raptor deaths over the last two years. ... The housing market's collapse got worse than ever, as the number of California homes in foreclosure grew to the highest level since officials began keeping reliable records. ... Residents of the unincorporated neighborhood of Cherryland have revolted against a new county plan to allow construction of apartments and condos in the area, claiming that county leaders have been dumping drug rehab centers, pot clubs, and other undesirable businesses around them for years. ... Celebrity lawyer John Burris has called for a criminal investigation of Oakland cop Hector Jimenez, who fatally shot a motorist during a stop last week.