Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Express Announces Nick Miller as Incoming Editor

The co-editor of the Sacramento News & Review will join the paper on April 25.

by Express Editorial Staff
Thu, Mar 31, 2016 at 12:16 PM

Nick Miller.
  • Nick Miller.
Today, the Express announced that Nick Miller will be joining the publication as Editor.

Miller hails from Sacramento, where he has served as the co-editor of the Sacramento News & Review ( since 2012. Overall, Miller has worked at SN&R for twelve years, serving stints as arts editor, news editor, and managing editor.

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Police Body Camera Records Lawsuit Still Un-Decided

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Mar 30, 2016 at 9:01 AM

A still image from a police officer body camera video showing a Hayward police officer holding a shotgun loaded with less-lethal ammunition at Berkeley protest in 2014.
  • A still image from a police officer body camera video showing a Hayward police officer holding a shotgun loaded with less-lethal ammunition at Berkeley protest in 2014.
Alameda County Superior Court Judge Evilio Grillo declined to issue a decision yesterday in a case that could have far-reaching implications for public access to police officer body camera video. At the center of the case is a dispute over a $3,247.47 bill that the City of Hayward submitted to the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) in response to a Public Records Act request. Last year the NLG had requested body camera footage from multiple Hayward police officers who were deployed to conduct crowd control operations in Berkeley during a 2014 Black Lives Matter protest. Protesters have alleged that the officers illegally used less-lethal weapons against them. Hayward officials responded to the NLG’s records request by having a city employee spend 35.5 hours redacting audio and visual material from the footage. The city then charged the NLG for the employee’s time, which it valued at $72.50 per hour.

See also: ACLU Northern California Files Lawsuit Against Hayward Police Over Body Camera Footage
See also: Federal Lawsuit: Demonstrators Allege Police Misconduct in Black Lives Matter Protests in Berkeley Last Year

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Blighted Downtown Oakland Property To Become Affordable Housing

After nearly a year-long battle, the Empyrean Towers have been approved for redevelopment.

by Sydney Johnson
Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 5:06 PM

Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker
  • Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker
Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker  announced Wednesday that the Empyrean Towers, a dilapidated residential property in downtown Oakland located at 13th and Webster streets, has been approved for sale by the US Bankruptcy Court. According to Parker, the towers had a “long history of substandard and inhumane living conditions.” The court ordered that the towers be renovated and maintained as affordable housing for the next 55 years, a decision that Parker hailed as a "landmark" because it takes into account issues of social responsibility in addition to the financial interests of creditors.

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Progressive Coalition Forms in Oakland to Campaign for Three Ballot Initiatives

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 3:35 PM

Carroll Fife.
  • Carroll Fife.
A broad-based political coalition has emerged in Oakland to campaign for three ballot initiatives this year that propose to raise the minimum wage to $20 by 2020, establish a police commission, and strengthen renter protections against eviction. Calling themselves the Oakland Justice Coalition, the group announced today at a press conference on the steps of Oakland City Hall that they intend to raise and spend at least $100,000 to campaign for their causes.

"We believe in solidarity among social movements and people who care deeply about the future of our city," said Carroll Fife, a member of the coalition.

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Legal Coalition Demands Traffic Court Policy Changes

The San Mateo County Superior Court was put on notice on this week to “satisfy its constitutional and statutory duties.”

by Sydney Johnson
Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 2:07 PM

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLC) announced this week that a coalition of legal organizations submitted a notice to a Bay Area court, demanding changes in the driver’s license suspension policy for people who cannot afford to pay exorbitant traffic fines.

“What used to be a hundred dollar violation in California now costs nearly five hundred dollars, and the costs climb into the thousands when people miss deadlines to pay fees they can’t afford,” Bay Area Legal Aid attorney Claire Johnson Raba said in a statement. “Many jobs require a driver’s license, so the loss of a license pushes families deeper into the cycle of unemployment and poverty.”

San Mateo County Courthouse - JIMMY EMERSON/ FLICKR (CC)
  • San Mateo County Courthouse
The demand letter, which was sent to San Mateo County Superior Court by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area (LCCR), Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, the Western Center on Law & Poverty, and the ACLU of Northern California, outlines what the traffic court must do in order to “satisfy its constitutional and statutory duties.” Included in the demands is to install a system to determine people’s ability to pay, provide information on how to access that system, and to appropriately adjust payment plans according to a person’s financial needs.

According to the letter, if the court does not comply by April 4, it will face legal action.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Housing Groups Slam Proposal to Redefine Affordable Housing in Oakland

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 10:18 AM

Dozens of speakers told the council's CED committee that redefining affordable housing is a bad idea. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Dozens of speakers told the council's CED committee that redefining affordable housing is a bad idea.
Affordable housing advocates are accusing Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and the city council of “gutting” housing assistance for low-income residents by redefining the definition of affordable housing. At a meeting of the city council’s Community and Economic Development Committee yesterday, dozens of people representing nonprofit housing groups condemned the city’s plan to shift millions in affordable housing subsidies away from low-income households and spend the money instead on subsidies for middle-class homebuyers.

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Wednesday Must Reads: Oakland Housing Market Toughest in Nation; PG&E Has Eight Hazardous Natural Gas Leaks

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 9:48 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Oakland’s housing market is getting worse at a faster rate for low- and middle-income buyers than any other major city in the nation, the Mercury News$ reports. From 2012 to 2016, Oakland’s unaffordability rate grew 29 percent, the biggest gain among major areas, according to a report by Trulia. The typical buyer of a starter home in Oakland — defined as being in the bottom third in price in a city — must now spend 69 percent of his or her household income on housing.

2. PG&E has eight hazardous leaks in its natural gas storage fields in California, the LA Times$ reports. However, the California Public Utilities Commission has yet to disclose where those leaks are. The revelation about PG&E’s problems were part of a report released by the CPUC showing that there were 229 gas leaks in the state. The CPUC characterized most of the leaks as minor — except for PG&E’s, which the agency classified as safety hazards.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Tuesday Must Reads: At Least 31 Dead in Brussels Bombings; Supreme Court Says Oakland Can’t Help Harborside Pot Club

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Mar 22, 2016 at 9:16 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Three bombings in Brussels, Belgium have left at least 31 people dead and dozens injured, the AP reports (via SFGate). Two of the bombs detonated at the Brussels airport and the third exploded on rush-hour subway train in the city. Government officials suspect that the terrorist group Islamic State is responsible for the attacks.

Harborside Health Center.
  • Harborside Health Center.
2. The US Supreme Court turned down an appeal by the City of Oakland and let stand a lower court decision that said the city cannot help defend Harborside Health Center in court, the Chron$ reports. The US Department of Justice is attempting to shut down the popular medical cannabis dispensary, and so the city tried to intervene in the case, contending that the DOJ’s actions, if successful, will rob Oakland of millions in tax revenues. But the high court’s ruling does not mean that Harborside is doomed, because in a separate case, a federal judge has ruled that the DOJ has illegally violated a Congressional directive that bans the feds from using taxpayer dollars to target medical cannabis dispensaries in states that have legalized medical pot — like California has.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Court-Appointed Investigator Says Oakland Police Discipline System Is Improving

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 5:26 PM

Court-appointed investigator and attorney Edward Swanson. - COURTESY OF SWANSON & MCNAMERA LLP
  • Courtesy of Swanson & McNamera LLP
  • Court-appointed investigator and attorney Edward Swanson.
An investigator appointed by federal Judge Thelton Henderson to examine the Oakland Police Department’s disciplinary system issued a second report today, finding that the Oakland Police Department and the city attorney have made significant progress fixing problems that have undermined efforts to hold police officers accountable for breaking department policies and the law.

Last April the investigator, attorney Edward Swanson, published a scathing report that characterized Oakland’s police discipline process as “a broken and inadequate system that has evaded the public’s scrutiny for too long.” In today’s report, Swanson wrote that developments over the past year are “encouraging,” and that the city has fixed some major problems. But Swanson also questioned whether recent improvements can be made sustainable, and whether OPD will hold supervising officers accountable for giving bad orders and providing improper training.

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Town Business: $600 million for Streets; $50 Million for Housing; Gunshot Detection; and Impact Fees

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 9:39 AM

  • City of Oakland
This week, the Oakland City Council is scheduled to hold hearings on a massive infrastructure bond that would raise hundreds of millions to fix Oakland’s streets, sewers, parks, and even to rehabilitate housing. The council will also consider extending a contract with a technology firm that has installed a sprawling gunshot detection system around the city. And housing impact fees are back before the council. This time, city staffers are presenting a detailed plan and ordinance.

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