Friday, July 31, 2015

Freedom School Provides New Hope for Probationary Youth in Alameda County

by Sophie Ho
Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 11:01 AM

When Monica Vaughan said, “Good morning,” the group of 32 young men seated in the sun-drenched auditorium jumped to their feet. "Good morning — G-O-O-D M-O-R-N-I-N-G!" they chanted, clapping their hands and stomping their feet. Some of the young men danced.

Vaughan laughed, taking the welcome in stride. Moments before, the male teens had finished the first part of the morning assembly — the “harambee” (a Swahili term that means "Let's pull together”) — in which they had danced, sung, and chanted. Energy was high in the room, and some of the young men had rapped into the microphone, so their loud welcome — albeit unusual — was not out of the norm.

Monica Vaughn. - BERT JOHNSON.
  • Bert Johnson.
  • Monica Vaughn.
Vaughn was there as a guest speaker at a special six-week summer reading program at Freedom School at Camp Wilmont Sweeney, a youth probation camp in the hills of San Leandro. Vaughn is the chief of schools for the Alameda County Office of Education. Each week, Freedom School staffers invite members of the community to their morning assembly to talk about their careers and read excerpts from books to the young men, who are on probation. The morning I visited, members of the probation office staff also sang and danced with the young men.

The "harambee" and the read-aloud guests are two fixtures of the program at Freedom School. Later in the day, the young men read books about youths not unlike many of them, who may have gotten into trouble or grew up in difficult socioeconomic conditions. The program is designed to help the young men with their reading skills, but for the people who work there and its participants, the Freedom School also provides an important community.

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Friday Must Reads: Oakland City Employees Stage Sickout; BART Transbay Tube to Shut Down This Weekend

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Jul 31, 2015 at 10:07 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. More than one hundred public works employees for the City of Oakland staged a sickout this week as contract negotiations between the city and public employee unions continue to drag on, the Trib$ reports. The workers, who belong to SEIU Local 1021, are upset because they say they’ve been forced to take on new duties without compensation. Labor leaders said the sickout was not organized by the union.

2. BART will close the transbay tube this weekend for major track repairs, thereby shutting down service between the East Bay and San Francisco, the Chron reports. The shutdown will be in effect all day Saturday and Sunday, and then will be repeated on Labor Day weekend.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Term Limit Initiative for Alameda County Supervisors Filed with Registrar

by Steven Tavares
Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 5:33 PM

In the East Bay, a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors is the closest thing to a lifetime appointment on the US Supreme Court. An incumbent county supervisor has not lost a seat in 23 years, and a local group is seeking to end that trend with a countywide ballot initiative to limit supervisors to three, four-year terms. 

A notice of intention for the potential referendum was accepted by the Alameda County Registrar’s Office on Thursday. The county counsel must evaluate the proposed initiative and produce a title and ballot summary within the next fifteen days, according to the registrar’s office.

The initiative’s supporters hope it receives approval for voter’s consideration in time for the June 2016 primary election. But, before then, the county registrar’s office says supporters will need to gather more than 30,000 valid signatures for inclusion on the ballot. The number is based on 20 percent of the votes cast in Alameda County during the most recent gubernatorial contest.

Frank Mellon.
  • Frank Mellon.
Longtime Castro Valley resident Frank Mellon said the impetus for the countywide ballot initiative is clear: County residents are dissatisfied with the board on a number of issues, including the amount of taxpayers’ money it spends on sports instead of funding safety net services, along with the failing state of the county’s healthcare delivery services.

“The common denominator is you have supervisors that are there forever,” said Mellon, who is an elected member of the East Bay Municipal Utilities District. Mellon said his role in the county term limits initiative is independent of his duties at East Bay MUD where he has served as a director since 1995.

The county applies term limits on its own appointed board and commissions, said Mellon. “If it’s good enough for boards and commissions, why isn’t it good enough for the board of supervisors?”

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Stop the Fracking Racism

Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 3:09 PM


The folks over at What the Frack Jerry Brown are making some great short videos about the insanity of fracking in California. And they've agreed to share them with us.

Here's another of their videos:

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AHS Reverses Decision to Close Substance Abuse Treatment Center at Highland Hospital

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 1:56 PM

Citing public outcry and the ongoing need for substance abuse treatment services for uninsured and Medi-Cal patients, the Alameda Health System's executive board today reversed its prior decision to close the substance abuse center at Highland Hospital.

AHS, Alameda County's public hospital system, announced earlier in the week that as of July 31 it would not renew its contract with the county's Behavioral Health Care Services Agency that funds the drug treatment center. The decision caught patients and staff by surprise. On Tuesday the substance abuse center's staff and the union SEIU 1021, which represents workers at the center, rallied against the closure outside of Highland Hospital.

"The Board and staff looked at all of the issues raised by internal and external stakeholders over the past several months and decided it was in the best interest of the community to keep the program open," said Michele Lawrence, AHS Board President in a press release.

Thursday Must Reads: First Fridays Rocked By Theft and Lawsuit; County Wants Oakland to Buy Its Share of Coliseum

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jul 30, 2015 at 9:57 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:
  • Stephen Loewinsohn/File photo
  • First Fridays.

1. The nonprofit behind Oakland’s hugely popular First Fridays event has been rocked by theft, the sudden resignation of the organization’s treasurer, allegations of financial mismanagement, and a lawsuit by an ex-top executive, the Trib$ reports. Shari Godinez, head of the Koreatown Northgate Community Benefit District (KONO), revealed that $1,000 in cash, along with music equipment, had been stolen recently from the organization. KONO also has been sued by its former events coordinator who contends that the organization owes her $31,000 in back pay. And KONO’s former treasurer quit after he alleged that Godinez had been illegally paying herself with First Fridays funds.

2. Alameda County officials want the City of Oakland to buy out the county’s share of the Coliseum site, but it’s unclear how the city can afford to do so, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. County Supervisor Nate Miley contends that it would be easier for the city to deal directly with the Oakland A’s and Raiders in the teams’ attempts to build new stadiums on the site. But the cash-strapped city has no extra funds to buy out the county.

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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fracking Insanity in a Drought

Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 12:39 PM

The folks over at What the Frack Jerry Brown are making some great short videos about the insanity of fracking in California. And they'v e agreed to share them with us.



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California's Biggest ‘Secret’ — Oil Industry Capture of the Regulatory Apparatus

Big Oil spent $266 million influencing state politics during the past ten years.

by Dan Bacher
Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 11:06 AM

The biggest, most explosive story in California environmental politics is the capture of the regulatory apparatus by the regulated, but you wouldn’t know it if you rely on the mainstream media for your information. 

Chevron's Richmond refinery. - MAYA SUGARMAN/FILE PHOTO
  • Maya Sugarman/File photo
  • Chevron's Richmond refinery.
While corporate agribusiness, the timber industry, insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, and other corporate interests spend many millions of dollars every year on lobbying and campaigning in California, Big Oil is the largest, most powerful corporate lobby in Sacramento.

No industry has done a better job of capturing the regulatory apparatus than Big Oil. The oil industry exerts inordinate influence over the regulators by using a small fraction of the billions of dollars in profits it makes every year to lobby state officials and fund political campaigns.

Big Oil spent an amazing $266 million influencing California politics from 2005 to 2014, according to an analysis of California Secretary of State data by, an online and social media public education and awareness campaign that highlights oil companies’ efforts to “mislead and confuse Californians.”

The industry spent $112 million of this money on lobbying and the other $154 million on political campaigns

2014 was the biggest year-ever for Big Oil spending on lobbying and campaigns. The oil industry spent a combined total of $38.65 million for lobbying and campaigns in 2014. That is a 129 percent increase from the 2013 total of $16.92 million.

The top lobbyists in the oil industry during this ten-year-period were:
• Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA): $50,111,867
• Chevron: $23,442,629
• BP: $6,788,261
• Shell: $4,536,112
• Occidental: $4,315,817

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Wednesday Must Reads: Oakland A’s Eye Coliseum Site for New Ballpark; Raiders to Sit Down Today with Oakland and NFL Officials

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jul 29, 2015 at 9:38 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. The Oakland A’s have commissioned famed sports architects HOK to come up with plans for a new ballpark on the Coliseum site in Oakland, the Chron reports. Now that the team’s plan to move to San Jose is all-but-dead, A’s co-owner Lew Wolff is looking to build a new facility on the Coliseum property while the ballclub continues to play at the current stadium. A’s representatives are said to have had “positive” talks with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and her team.

Coliseum City.
  • Coliseum City.
2. The Oakland Raiders, meanwhile, are scheduled to talk today with city and county officials and representatives of the NFL to discuss plans for a new stadium on the Coliseum site, too, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. A major sticking point is that the Raiders want to build a new facility on the same location as the Coliseum, a move that would force both the A’s and the Raiders to leave Oakland for several years while the old stadium is torn down and a new one is built. The Raiders, the NFL, and county officials are also unhappy with plans presented by Coliseum City developer Floyd Kephart.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Highland Hospital Substance Abuse Treatment Center Closing

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Jul 28, 2015 at 10:09 AM

SEIU 1021 members rallied at Highland Hospital against closure of a drug treatment center today. - NGUYEN WEEKS
  • Nguyen Weeks
  • SEIU 1021 members rallied at Highland Hospital against closure of a drug treatment center today.
Blaming two years of financial hardship and low patient volumes, the Alameda Health System is closing a substance abuse treatment center at Highland Hospital. Several dozen nurses, patients, and members of SEIU 1021, the union that represents workers at Highland Hospital, rallied on Monday against the plan to shutter the center. The substance abuse center is an intensive outpatient drug treatment program that serves uninsured and Medi-Cal insured populations in Alameda County.

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