Friday, July 29, 2016

Controversial 'Bulletproof' Police Firearms Training Canceled by Santa Clara Sheriff

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Jul 29, 2016 at 11:58 AM

An upcoming workshop for Bay Area cops called "Bulletproof" was cancelled by Santa Clara County Sheriff Laurie Smith today due to concerns that the classes make officers more likely to use deadly force when it's not necessary.

"It trains cops to be paranoid and to assume everyone is out to get them," said Susan Harman, an Oakland resident and member of the Oakland Privacy Working Group. Harmon and others asked the sheriff to cancel the event. "Shoot first and ask questions later," is how Harman characterized the content of the classes.

"These so-called activists that say it’s too aggressive, they haven’t seen the class," said Linda Arnold, an employee of Calibre Press, the private company that produces the Bulletproof trainings.

The class was to take place in the Santa Clara County Sheriff's auditorium on August 18, but earlier today Sheriff Smith released a statement notifying the public and attendees it had been called off.

"We have informed the class operator of this decision and we appreciate those community members that contacted us and voiced concern over this class and its provider," reads the sheriff's statement. "This training was not a mandatory class for any member of our office."

It's not clear how many Bay Area cops signed up for the class. The Oakland Police, Alameda County Sheriff, and Fremont Police did not immediately respond to emails and phone calls seeking information on whether any of their officers had signed up. Lieutenant Andrew Frankel of the Berkeley Police Department said that no Berkeley police officers were planning on attending the event.

According to a story in the Minnesota Star Tribune, the officer who shot and killed Philando Castille during a traffic stop last month in Falcoln heights Minnesota had gone through the Calibre training, which was previously called "The Bulletproof Warrior." According to the Star Tribune, the word warrior was removed from the class title after police departments complained that it communicated an inappropriate message to officers and the public.

Arnold defended the classes and said that Calibre has trained hundreds of thousands of police officers across the nation and that it shouldn't be judged based on the actions of a few officers who may have taken part.

In the Calibre classes, "instructors urged the law enforcement officers in the hotel conference room to make the decision to shoot if they ever feel their lives are threatened," according to the Star Tribune. "Videos of bloody shootouts between police and civilians emphasized a key point: Hesitation can kill you."

According to Calibre's web site, the Bulletproof classes are taught by Jim Glennon, a retired commander with the Lombard, Illinois police, and Dave Grossman, a retired United States Army Lieutenant Colonel.

Grossman runs an organization called the "Killology Research Group," and he describes crime as a "virus." According to his web site,, he has trained the California Highway Patrol, Petaluma police, Berkeley police, and the California Police Officers Association, among many other California law enforcement groups.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Mayor's Power Will Grow if Voters Approve Oakland Police Commission

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Jul 27, 2016 at 4:30 PM

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
  • Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
In November, Oakland voters will decide whether to establish a new civilian-run police commission that would take over the job of disciplining police officers from the city administrator. But the ballot measure would also do something else — significantly expand the power of Oakland's mayor.

Under Oakland's current charter, the mayor's main source of power is the ability to hire and fire the city administrator, and because the city administrator is Oakland's true boss, with the power to fire department heads, shape policy, and direct city staff, the mayor has implicit authority and can steer the city's bureaucracy.

The police commission charter amendment, if approved by voters, would further expand the mayor's power in two significant ways. First, the mayor would get to make three direct appointments to the police commission's seven-person board. Second, the mayor would be given the power to unilaterally fire the police chief. Right now the mayor can't fire anyone except the city administrator.

More …

Monday, July 25, 2016

Alameda District Attorney: Oakland Cop Involved in Sex-Crime Scandal Probably Didn't Kill Wife

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 12:24 PM

Deceased Oakland Police Officer Brendan O'Brien outside Oracle Arena.
  • Deceased Oakland Police Officer Brendan O'Brien outside Oracle Arena.
Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley concluded last week that an Oakland police officer's suicide in 2015, and his wife's suspicious death the previous year, were both thoroughly investigated by the Oakland Police Department. The DA's report, conducted after Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf requested both cases be reviewed, bolsters OPD's contention that the wife's death was a suicide, not a homicide, as believed by the woman's family and others.

See also: Oakland Police Underage Sex Scandal Involves Cop Who Possibly Killed His Wife

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Town Business: Did OPOA Gut Oakland's Police Commission?

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Jul 25, 2016 at 7:25 AM

Last Friday, the Oakland City Council convened a special closed session meeting to secretly debate what powers a proposed civilian police commission should or shouldn't have. As Robert Gammon of Oakland Magazine observed, the conclave happened because the Oakland Police Officers Association has threatened to sue the city council to prevent them from placing a measure on the ballot that would overhaul the existing police discipline process.

So what made it out of last Friday's meeting? What's going to be voted on at this Tuesday's special council meeting? Did the police union really succeed in "gutting" the police commission?

Here's some highlights of the most recent version of the police commission ballot measure drafted by Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo, posted as of last night on the city's web site.

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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Oakland Designer's Ugly Donald Trump Coloring Book Raises Thousands for Immigrants

by Nick Miller
Thu, Jul 21, 2016 at 5:54 PM


Oakland designer Joey Yang released a Donald Trump coloring book this past Tuesday. His modest goal was to share some admittedly ghastly images of the Republican blowhard and maybe raise money for a good cause. But, in less than three days later, his project has really taken off, already bringing in north of $4,000 in sales and donations for a local immigrant-services nonprofit.

Yang says the donations — and also the drawings that people are sharing from his book on Facebook and Instagram — have been "overwhelming." 

"I've had a lot of folks reach out personally to share their stories, which has been really heartwarming," he wrote in an email interview with the Express this morning.
Proceeds from the sales of his coloring book go to International Institute of the Bay Area, which provides legal services to immigrants, in addition to assistance with green cards, citizenship applications, visas, and more. Yang, whose parents immigrated to American thirty years ago, says it's been encouraging to get response from people who actually use immigration services.

The book itself, called Make America Colorful Again is what Yang describes as a "A Donald Trump coloring book, badly drawn." Indeed, the images of Trump might be described as janky or, in via an academic lens, deconstructed.

"I think my poor drawing skills are the most appropriate for Trump, because I think the quality of my drawings would be roughly equivalent to the quality of his presidency," Yang explained.

The designer runs promotions at KALX 90.7 FM for his day job. He also deejays for the station, and described himself as "generally a dumb person who loves making bad things, because bad things are easy to make a fun to laugh at."

Even so, it must suck to have to draw so many sketches of Trump, right?

"Trump's actually pretty fun," Yang admitted, "because when his features come out badly, he really looks bad."

He says there's no plans for additional coloring books. But, if he had to do another one, it'd be DJ Khaled.

"He's the son of Palestinian immigrants and had to change his producer name from Arab Attack after the 9/11 attacks so he wouldn't get harassed," Yang wrote. "I look to him as an immigrant success story, especially because the music business isn't always too friendly. Also, he's the best."

Check some some more of Yang's Trump coloring-book treatments below (mine is the last one):

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Protesters Blockade Oakland Police Union Hall, Demand City 'Fund Black Futures'

by Darwin BondGraham
Wed, Jul 20, 2016 at 4:53 PM

Protesters locked themselves to the doors of the Oakland police union building.
  • Protesters locked themselves to the doors of the Oakland police union building.
Calling on the City of Oakland to "divest" from its police department and invest public funds in schools, housing, and job training, about two dozen protesters blockaded the Oakland Police Officers Association union hall today. Several locked their necks to the building's doors. The protesters succeeded in closing the OPOA's headquarters while officers stood nearby watching.

More …

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

SEIU 1021 and Activists Say They're Joining Forces to Support Oakland Police Commission

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Jul 19, 2016 at 12:11 PM

A coalition of police accountability activists and the biggest union representing Oakland city workers say they've come to an agreement on a charter amendment that would create a police commission in Oakland.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Town Business: A Strong or Weak Police Commission?

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 8:38 AM

Oakland cops take a suspect into custody. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Oakland cops take a suspect into custody.
It's almost a sure thing that Oakland voters will have the option of creating a civilian police-oversight commission this November. What's unclear is whether the commission will actually be given meaningful oversight powers, and whether it will be independent of the mayor, city attorney, and city administrator.

Tomorrow night the Oakland City Council will decide what sort of police commission they really want. But it's been a long road to this point, so for those who haven't been paying close attention, here's what happened so far:

Earlier this year, the Coalition for Police Accountability began circulating a petition to place a charter amendment on the November ballot that would establish a police commission. Additionally, their measure would have eliminated arbitration for police discipline matters, removing entirely a system that has been criticized for allowing bad cops to keep their jobs.

The coalition failed to gather enough signatures to put their measure on the ballot, but along the way they gained the support of councilmembers Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo. Furthermore, the Black Lives Matter Movement kept the issue of police accountability on the front burner.

Kalb and Gallo drafted a police commission proposal very similar to the one the Coalition for Police Accountability had unsuccessfully tried to place on the ballot. The original draft of the Kalb-Gallo measure would have eliminated binding arbitration for cops and created a strong police commission with the power to investigate police misconduct, fire the police chief, and shape OPD's policies. It also would have given the commission significant independence from the mayor, city attorney, and city administrator. The Kalb-Gallo measure initially had iffy prospects of making it onto the ballot without being substantially weakened by the Oakland Police Officers Association and its allies on the city council.

But then broke a scandal that rocked the Oakland Police Department and Bay Area law enforcement. Suicide, sex crimes, and the resignation of three police chiefs at OPD combined with a national uproar over police brutality to create a wave of support in Oakland for the police commission proposal.

Councilmembers Abel Guillen, Annie Campbell Washington, and Larry Reid, who had drafted their own alternative to the Kalb-Gallo measure — seen as friendlier to the police officers union and mayor — suddenly withdrew their legislation.

Even so, Oakland's city employee unions lined up behind the Oakland Police Officers Association to oppose the removal of binding arbitration for cops. As a result, Kalb and Gallo, without the votes they needed to take arbitration away, struck arbitration reform from their measure. In an attempt to compromise, Kalb and Gallo then wrote a new version that reformed the arbitration process by having a state panel select the arbitrators (rather than the police union and the city, as is the current practice). But the unions, including IFPTE Local 21 and SEIU Local 1021 again went to bat for the cops and had this entire section deleted from the text of the ordinance last week.

The unions also deleted language from the ordinance that would give the police commission subpoena power and access to OPD's records, including personnel files and internal affairs cases.

Last week reformers pushed back against the unions to have subpoena power and records access put back into the ordinance. Sources now say that IFPTE 21 and SEIU 1021 plan on announcing this week that they are ready to ready to have subpoena power and records access re-inserted in the ordinance, and furthermore that the unions will support the ballot measure — so long as it doesn't touch arbitration, which they say is an anti-worker proposal that would harm all city employees.

But now members of the Coalition for Police Accountability are saying that they might not campaign for the measure if the council, mayor, city attorney and police union succeed in weakening the police commission in other ways.

Last week the Coalition for Police Accountability's Rashidah Grinage told the Express that she's worried about language in the most recent draft of the Kalb-Gallo ordinance that would allow the mayor, city administrator, and city attorney to influence and potentially undermine the commission.

The current draft of the ordinance would have the mayor make three direct appointments to the commission's seven person board. Last month the Coalition for Police Accountability wrote a letter to the city council saying these three appointees "would immediately be under a cloud of suspicion as surrogate for the mayor," and that the "integrity" of the commission would be damaged unless all appointments are made by a selection panel of Oakland residents, instead of politicians.

The coalition is also opposing draft language that would give the city administrator and city attorney the power to appoint administrative staff and legal counsel to the commission. 

"This creates a situation where the Commission's attorney reports directly to the City Attorney rather than the Commission. This undermines both the independence of the Commission and its credibility," the coalition wrote in their letter to the council.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Vote by Oakland Council President McElhaney Preceded Husband's Substantial Contract for UrbanCore Project. Was it a Conflict?

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Jul 15, 2016 at 4:24 PM

The city of Oakland is poised to approve this Tuesday a long-disputed development project on one-acre of city-owned land near Lake Merritt. But the Express has uncovered new information that suggests Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney's prior votes in favor of the project led to her husband securing a valuable subcontract with the developer.

The possible conflict for McElhaney dates back to June 25, 2013, when she voted with the rest of the Oakland City Council's community and economic development committee to approve an exclusive negotiating agreement with UrbanCore to develop the city land known as the E. 12th Street Remainder Parcel.

  • UrbanCore/EBALDC
"I'm excited about the project," McElhaney said at the time, just before voting to advance the deal to the full council. (The councilmember was absent from a full council meeting that July finalizing the ENA.)

But after McElhaney’s vote, and while the city was in negotiations with Urbancore over the land, her husband, Clarence McElhaney, was paid thousands of dollars by the developer to conduct a survey of the property.

According to public records, Clarence McElhaney works for KCP & Associates, an Oakland engineering and design firm. In 2014, KCP was hired by UrbanCore to work on the E. 12th Remainder Parcel.

Reached by phone at KCP offices today, Clarence McElhaney told the Express that KCP was paid approximately $4,000 by UrbanCore in 2014 for the work, and that he personally conducted the survey.

He also said that his wife was probably unaware that he worked for UrbanCore on the E. 12th project at the same time she and the rest of the city council were engaged in exclusive negotiations with the developer over the property’s sale.

"She doesn’t know who I work for," he said. "I don't get into the politics of the land."

When asked if he thought his business dealings with UrbanCore might present a conflict of interest for his wife, McElhaney accused the Express of "harassing" him and his family.

Evidence of Clarence McElhaney's business dealings with UrbanCore were buried hundreds of pages of public records released by the city last year. Clarence McElhaney personally handled the survey job for KCP, but he couldn't gain physical access to the property because of a locked gate. On May 5, 2014, he emailed Brad Flewellen of UrbanCore to ask for help. Flewellen then sent his email to Michael Johnson, the president and CEO of UrbanCore, who requested help from city officials to resolve the issue.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney never publicly disclosed that her husband worked on the E. 12th project for UrbanCore on her economic-interest statement. While it's unclear whether she is required to do so, what is clear is that her husband benefitted from UrbanCore's contract with the city.

She did not recuse herself from multiple other votes the council has made deciding the fate of the city-owned land, and whether UrbanCore will ultimately be able to purchase it.

For the calendar year 2014, she disclosed in official forms that her husband was "self-employed," and that he earned between $2,000 and $10,000. She added that her husband was also earning income between $10,000 and $100,000 from a company called KCP. In her most recent disclosure form, Lynette Gibson McElhaney again wrote that her husband was paid between $2,000 and $10,000 by KCP, and also that he is "self-employed."

According to city records, Wiley Pierce, an employee of KCP, gave Lynette Gibson McElhaney a $250 campaign contribution in January 2014. According to state records, KCP was incorporated in 2013 by a Karl Pierce.

Other councilmembers have recently recused themselves from city business because of potential conflicts of interest. For example, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan abstained from all recent votes involving UrbanCore because she received a $100 campaign contribution from the company's CEO Michael Johnson in October 2014.

Lynette Gibson McElhaney did not respond to an email seeking to discuss these matters, and her office staff did not answer multiple telephone calls.

The E. 12th Street parcel has a track record of controversy. The deal with UrbanCore had been criticized by neighborhood activists as a "no-bid" violation of state law, because the city did not first offer the land to affordable housing developers. And, last year, a leaked legal memo by the city attorney indicated that council was poised to violate the state Surplus Land Act if it approved a no-bid deal with UrbanCore. The city council subsequently canceled its proposed deal and allowed other developers to bid on the land.

But earlier this year, UrbanCore was again chosen as the developer in a joint bid submitted with the affordable housing developer EBALDC.

On July 5, Lynette Gibson McElhaney voted to approve the final sale of the land to UrbanCore and EBALDC.

The second and final vote for the ordinance to sell the land to UrbanCore is scheduled for this Tuesday.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Town Business: Taxing Short-Term Rentals, Uber, and Revenue Wreckage

by Darwin BondGraham
Tue, Jul 12, 2016 at 7:44 AM

  • Bert Johnson/File photo
  • Oakland City Hall.
Taxing Short-term rentals: Oakland city officials believe there are approximately 1,155 businesses in Oakland at any given time operating hotels out of homes through platforms like Airbnb, Homeaway, VRBO, and Flipkey. Problem is, a lot of these hotel operators aren't paying taxes, so the city's revenue and management bureau has gotten its hands on state tax return data for Oakland property owners and is conducting a compliance audit to make sure "hosts" aren't cheating the system.
Per Oakland law, anyone who operates a hotel has to collect transient occupancy taxes from guests and remit them to the city. TOT runs 14 percent of a guest's total bill. As of today, Oakland only has a tax agreement with Airbnb to collect TOT. Other short-term rentals likely aren't paying their fair share.
The other tax owed by short-term rental landlords is the business license tax, but unless a hotel grosses more than $33,335 a year, then the hotel operator only owes flat fee of $60 to the city. It's unclear how many short-term rental landlords are making that kind of money off Oakland real estate right now.
Today's Finance Committee meeting will include a discussion on the city's attempts to find short-term rental tax cheats.
Oakland is also moving in the direction of San Francisco, Berkeley, Los Angeles and other cities that have established rules for short-term rentals in an effort to mitigate their negative impacts on neighborhood character and housing prices. At the Community and Economic Development Committee today the city council will consider a vague set of proposed short-term rental rules.

Taxing Uber: The other big "sharing economy" sector in Oakland that possibly isn't paying a fair share of taxes, and which is skirting existing regulations, includes the taxi-killers Uber and Lyft. According to city staff, Oakland can't regulate so-called transportation network companies because the state Public Utilities Commission has sole authority. Even so, Oakland's Revenue Management Bureau has been examining this growing sector to see if the companies that make the apps, and the drivers who use them, are out of compliance with city laws.
For example, it's possible that a lot of Uber and Lyft drivers aren't registered to pay Oakland's business license tax, even though they're operating businesses in the city. Oakland's revenue and management bureau is currently auditing tax returns of TNC drivers to see if they're paying.

Revenue wreckage: Tasked with these audits is Oakland's revenue and management bureau, but of course it doesn't help that the revenue and management bureau — which collects $150 million of Oakland's tax dollars — is just now crawling out of a period of serious dysfunction. The Alameda County Grand Jury actually investigated Oakland's revenue and management bureau over allegations of cronyism and mismanagement. The Grand Jury found that for years the bureau's leadership has been lacking, communication was extremely poor, and employee morale plummeted.
The Grand Jury gave credit to the bureau's new head, Margaret O'Brien, for improving business practices and boosting morale. But there are still major problems that the city needs to respond to.
For example, the city is still bogged down in a lawsuit with Progressive Solutions, Inc., the software vendor that created Oakland's key business tax system. Last year, the revenue and management bureau's former head David McPherson cut the contract which led to PSI filing suit. McPherson was subsequently pushed out of his role in Oakland, but now he works for Hdl, the competitor of PSI that just won the contract PSI used to have managing Oakland's business tax software system.
PSI is still suing the city for breach of contract, and in a prior interview, Glenn Vodhanel, PSI's president, told the Express he thinks its possible that Oakland could be imperiling its ability to collect taxes because the city is allegedly using his unlicensed software system still.
The Grand Jury isn't too confident this is going to work out in Oakland's favor. According to their recently issued report:
"The Grand Jury is concerned with the expiration of a key collection software license. In order to protect against harmful system outages, the Revenue Division should ensure that the licensing issue is fully addressed."

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