Thursday, January 31, 2019

Thursday’s Briefing: Sierra Snowpack Reaches Normal; Judge Finds PG&E in Violation of Probation

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jan 31, 2019 at 10:27 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 31, 2019:

1. Thanks to January’s storms, the Sierra snowpack is expected to reach normal levels today — a positive sign that California will not endure a drought year in 2019, reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle$. A month ago, the snowpack was just “67 percent of normal and last year at this time it was 30 percent of the long term average.” More storms are expected to hit Northern California this weekend.

2. Federal Judge William Alsup ruled that PG&E’s dismal safety record violated the terms of the company’s probation, stemming from its convictions for the deadly 2010 gas line explosion in San Bruno, the Bay Area News Group$ reports. The judge also “spent three hours excoriating the company for its role in the blazes that have ravaged Northern California over the past two years,” asking at one point, “Does a judge turn a blind eye and let PG&E continue what you’re doing, let you keep killing people?” Alsup is expected to mandate tough new safety protocols for the company.

3. Extreme cold killed at least eight people in the Midwest this week and crippled the region with record-setting freezing temperatures, The New York Times$ reports. Chicago hit minus 21 degrees with a wind chill of minus 41. The so-called polar vortex also closed schools and forced the cancelation of thousands of flights as it swept into the East Coast today, with the temperature in New York City plummeting to 2 degrees.

4. The ACLU and Berkeleyside sued the city of Berkeley over the city’s contention that a new police misconduct transparency law does not apply to records before Jan. 1, Berkeleyside reports. ACLU and Berkeleyside say the city is violating the new law, which made public certain police misconduct records in the possession of cities, regardless of the date.

5. The Alameda Planning Board greenlighted a new hotel to be built near the Park Street Bridge, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. The four-story Holiday Inn Express is to be located on Park Street at Clement Avenue, “the site of a former car dealership that now houses a business that sells electric scooters.”

6. The Alameda City Council is poised to select a developer to build a total of 291 houses, townhouses, and apartments on the former Alameda Naval Air Station in what is known as the West Midway Project, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. Four potential developers are vying for the project.

7. And three Walgreens locations in the Bay Area could lose their pharmacy licenses because they employed a fake pharmacist to dispense hundreds of thousands of prescriptions for more than a decade, reports Joseph Geha of the Bay Area News Group$.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

The First of Several Oakland School Closures

Despite pleas from teachers, parents, and students, the Oakland school board voted to close Roots middle school. And more school closures appear likely.

by Wyatt Kroopf
Wed, Jan 30, 2019 at 4:42 PM

  • Photo by Wyatt Kroopf

At a contentious meeting on Monday night, the Oakland school board voted to close Roots International Academy, a middle school in East Oakland, at the end of this school year. After hearing from Roots students, teachers and parents who pleaded with the board to not shutter their school, boardmembers voted 6-1 to close it.

The vote came at the end of an emotional and tense four-hour meeting, featuring more than 100 people at the La Escuelita Education Center in Eastlake. All around the room, community members wore orange — headbands, shirts, sweaters, arm bands — to show their support for Roots. Scattered about were signs that read “Don’t close Roots” and “How can you close a school you never fully funded?” Supporters held a large banner stating “Let Roots grow” throughout the meeting.

The meeting began with a presentation from Yvette Renteria, deputy chief of innovation for the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD), on how the school’s closure would affect current students and families there, with each mention of the potential closure eliciting boos and hisses from the audience. Renteria said that every family would receive one-on-one counseling about enrolling in a new school.

The closure of Roots is part of the district’s larger “Citywide Plan” that aims to address under-enrollment at district-run schools. District staff and board members say that OUSD operates too many schools and suffers from declining enrollment, which means that resources and funding are spread too thinly across campuses. The district’s structural problems have also led to projected $30 million deficit for next year. The school board is expected to vote on budget cuts that would address that deficit soon.

At Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammel said that in addition to making the budget cuts, the district needs to “right-size.” As part of the Citywide Plan, the Blueprint for Quality Schools, an initiative that aims to assess and improve school quality in the OUSD, calls for the closure, expansion, or merger of up to 24 schools across the district.

The plan is already underway with several schools in what the district calls “Cohort 1” merging at the end of this year. Alliance Academy and Elmhurst Community Prep, two middle schools that share a campus in East Oakland, are merging into Elmhurst Alliance for the 2019-20 school year. Futures Elementary School and Community United Elementary School, which serve the same neighborhood as Roots, are also merging into one school for the 2019-20 school year. Staff at the “Cohort 1” schools have been planning their mergers and using the current school year to transition.

Roots primarily serves Black and Latino students from the surrounding neighborhood, who together make up 87 percent of the student body. Over 95 percent of Roots students receive free or reduced lunch, which means their family’s income is at or below the federal poverty level. At the beginning of the school year, Roots was slated to be part of “Cohort 2,” which means that the staff would have the 2019-20 school year to plan a merger with College Coliseum Prep Academy (CCPA), a middle and high school. The two schools already share a campus.

According to an earlier presentation by district staff, Roots was selected for “Cohort 2” due to its low enrollment and students’ low scores on state tests. Across all grade levels, Roots had lower scores than the district average on the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) test, which is state-mandated, standardized, and based on Common Core standards, in English language arts and math. Renteria also said that during this year’s enrollment process, there was historically low demand from parents to send their kids to Roots.

But district staff proposed expediting the process and closing Roots at the end of this school year, forgoing a potential merger with CCPA, due to concerns about how under-enrollment would affect the school’s budget for 2019-20. Under this proposal, CCPA will start an expansion with the incoming sixth grade class next year and move into Roots’ classrooms. Current sixth and seventh grade students at Roots will receive priority in placement at schools of their choice, but CCPA is only projected to have two spots available in each grade. About 100 current Roots students will be unable to attend a middle school in their neighborhood next year.

In an interview at Roots held before Monday’s meeting, Rose Chardak, a sixth grade teacher, said that she and other staff learned about the potential closure on the first day of the recent Thanksgiving break. Chardak said she and other staff are frustrated that they aren’t being given the time to transition like other “Cohort 1” schools are. At shared campuses like Alliance and Elmhurst, no students will be displaced — but for students at Roots, Chardak said, “it leaves only four months to figure out what next year will look like.”

During the meeting on Monday night, Roots students shared their frustrations with the board during the public comment period. Students asked board members why they have to close the school now. Students asked how they could call Roots “low-quality” if they’d never been to a class there. And they asked the board members why they couldn’t give the school more resources and funds so that they could grow and improve.

In addition to speaking about their frustrations with the closure process, Roots students and teachers told the board about the tight-knit community they have at the school and how the school has affected their lives. “I used to hate school, but this school actually made me want to go. And I was happy here every day,” said seventh grader Octavio Mendoza.

Alejandra Martinez, an English and history teacher at Roots, said she went there for middle school and was part of the third graduating class. “Roots is home. It’s family. It continues to be,” Martinez told the board. “And I know you think that Roots is a low-quality school, but they produce high-quality students.”

Chardak, the sixth grade teacher, said that her former students return to Roots regularly. “They come back because to them. Roots is more than just a school,” she said. “It’s an extension of their family. It’s a place they feel loved, safe, and valued.”

After all members of the Roots community spoke, public comment was opened up to the rest of the audience. At one point, an Oakland student who didn’t attend Roots, returned to the podium to make a second public comment. Board Vice President Jody London (North Oakland) cited the board policy of allowing each person only one comment, and the board turned off the microphone. A chorus of boos and “Let him talk!” rained down from the audience.

Public comment resumed with a stricter enforcement of the one-minute time limit. A few minutes later, the Roots students, teachers, staff, and parents interrupted the meeting. Addy Rios, the parent of a seventh grader at Roots, spoke through a megaphone. She called for all parents to keep their kids home from school on Friday in solidarity with Roots, and she warned the board that this would not be the end of their fight. A chant of “We are Oakland, keep Roots open!” broke out in the audience.

On the stage, Board President Aimee Eng (Grand-Eastlake) called for a recess and the board members left the stage. The audience booed them as they left.

Twenty minutes later, the board returned and the meeting resumed. Board members were given the opportunity to ask any final questions of district staff before their vote, and focused on asking what would happen to current sixth and seventh grade students next year if Roots closed. Director James Harris (East Oakland) proposed an amendment that would give Roots students priority to enroll at CCPA. But, given the limited number of open spots at CCPA, it’s unclear if that prioritization would have any effect.

Eng asked for assurances that district staff would do their best to keep current Roots students at a school in their neighborhood, that Roots teachers would be hired at other schools, and that any displaced students would receive support from the district as they transitioned to a new school. Renteria said the district would follow through on all those promises.

At about 10 p.m. — after many Roots students and teachers had already left because it was getting late on a school night — the board voted to close Roots. The two student directors on the board, Yoto Omosowho and Josue Chavez, voted against the proposal, along with Director Roseann Torres (Fruitvale). The remaining board members — Eng, London, Harris, Gary Yee (Montclair-Laurel), Jumoke Hinton-Hodge (West Oakland-Downtown), and Shanthi Gonzalez (Eastmont-Seminary) — voted in favor. As the audience again booed the board, Eng adjourned the meeting.

The remaining Roots students, teachers, staff and parents gathered and, through tears, embraced one another.

A version of this report is also published by Oakland North.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Tuesday’s Briefing: PG&E Files for Bankruptcy; Oakland School Board Closes Roots Middle School

Plus, last year's wildfires caused an estimated $12.4 billion in insured losses.

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Jan 29, 2019 at 9:55 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 29, 2019:

1. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Tuesday, a move that allows the embattled utility to continue operating while it devises a plan to deal with its massive debt, reports Sammy Roth of the LA Times$. PG&E listed about $71.4 billion in assets and nearly $51.7 billion in total debts. The bankruptcy move likely will also result in higher energy prices for millions of Californians.

2. The Oakland school board voted to close Roots Middle School in East Oakland in a cost-cutting move, reports Ashley McBride of the San Francisco Chronicle. The board likely will vote to close other schools in the coming months as it attempts to cope with a $30 million budget deficit — and the prospect of teachers going on strike while demanding 12-percent raises.

3. California’s wildfires last year caused $12.4 billion in insured losses, reports Paul Rogers of the Mercury News$, citing a new analysis from the state insurance commissioner. And “the numbers are expected to go higher. On Jan. 8, the German-based insurance company Munich Re estimated total losses from the Camp fire alone at $16.5 billion and said that $12.5 billion of that was insured.”

4. California plans to purge millions of inactive voters from county registration rolls, following a settlement with a pair of conservative groups that was spurred by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last June, reports John Wildermuth of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The high court ruled, according to the settlement, that “‘current federal law requires the cancellation of a registrant’ who misses two consecutive federal general elections, doesn’t respond to a registrar’s notice, and then misses two more.”

5. And ICYMI: 13-year-old Richmond figure skater Alysa Liu, who trains at the Oakland Ice Center in downtown Oakland, became the youngest person in history last weekend to win a U.S. skating title.

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Monday, January 28, 2019

Monday’s Briefing: Harris Draws Huge Oakland Crowd for Campaign Kick Off; State Utilities Sparked 2,000 Fires in 3.5 Years

Plus, Oregon plans to kill sea lions that are decimating salmon runs.

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Jan 28, 2019 at 9:55 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 28, 2019:

1. U.S. Senator Kamala Harris drew at least 20,000 people to her presidential campaign kickoff event in downtown Oakland on Sunday, reports Joe Garofoli of the San Francisco Chronicle$. In her 35-minute speech, the Oakland native “quoted both anti-slavery orator Frederick Douglass and reggae icon Bob Marley. ‘Our United States of America is not about us against them. It’s about ‘We the People.’ And in this moment, we must all speak truth about what is happening.’”

2. Equipment owned by California’s three largest utilities, including PG&E, sparked 2,000 fires in three and a half years, reports Taryn Luna of the LA Times$, citing data from the California Public Utilities Commission. “Pacific Gas & Electric, the state’s largest utility providing electricity from Eureka to Bakersfield, reported 1,552 equipment-related fires from June 2014 through the end of 2017.”

3. Oregon biologists are planning to kill up to 93 sea lions because the pinnipeds have been destroying salmon runs on the Columbia River system, reports Peter Fimrite of the San Francisco Chronicle$. “The aquatic mammals have eaten so many chinook and steelhead in the Columbia and Willamette rivers — which converge in Oregon just south of Vancouver, Wash. — that biologists are afraid the federally listed salmonids could be driven to extinction.”

4. The Alameda City Council rejected a plan by city staffers to use $750,000 in county homeless funds for public toilets on Park and Webster streets, reports Peter Hegarty of the East Bay Times$. Instead, the council voted to use the funds for homeless services, such as a daytime drop-in center.

5. Oakland A’s President Dave Kaval unveiled plans for an aerial gondola connecting the team’s proposed ballpark near Jack London Square to the downtown BART station, reports Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The gondola would ferry about 6,000 fans per hour.

6. And Berkeley’s financially troubled Ashby flea market is shutting down in February and March — the first closure in 46 years, reports Tony Hicks for Berkeleyside. The flea market plans to use the time to regroup and consider future plans.

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Friday, January 25, 2019

Friday’s Briefing: East Bay Judge Blocks Release of Police Misconduct Records; Newsom and State Sue Huntington Beach for Refusal to Build Housing

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Jan 25, 2019 at 10:13 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 25, 2019:

1. A Contra Costa County judge blocked the release of police misconduct records from the city of Walnut Creek after police unions argued in court that a new state transparency law should not apply to records prior to Jan. 1, reports Thomas Peele of the East Bay Times$. State Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, author of the new law, has said repeatedly that the intent of it was to apply to police misconduct records in the possession of police agencies, regardless of the date. But cops’ unions want the law to only apply to new records of misconduct. The judge’s order will remain in place until a hearing next month.

2. The state of California, at the urging of Gov. Newsom, sued Huntington Beach over the Orange County city’s refusal to build housing, reports Liam Dillon of the LA Times$. “The lawsuit accuses Huntington Beach of defying a state law that requires cities and counties to set aside sufficient land for housing development. Newsom said the suit, scheduled to be filed Friday in Orange County Superior Court, was needed to address rising housing costs that threaten economic growth and deepen inequality.”

3. Cal Fire officials said their investigation of the catastrophic Tubbs fire in 2017 concluded that PG&E was not responsible for the horrific blaze that tore through Santa Rosa and killed 24 people, the LA Times$ reports. Investigators blamed private electrical equipment on private property for igniting the second-worst fire in state history.

4. The FAA temporarily blocked flights into New York’s La Guardia Airport today because of a shortage of air traffic controllers due to federal government shutdown, The New York Times$ reports. The lack of air traffic controllers is causing flight delays throughout the East Coast today.

5. Fewer than half of the nation’s IRS workers have returned to their jobs because of the federal government shut down, the Associated Press reports (via the Sacramento Bee$). “Of the 26,000 employees recalled, about 12,000 have come to work, the IRS officials said. Around 5,000 have claimed the hardship exception under the union contract and another 9,000 couldn't be reached by IRS managers.”

6. Bay Area tech leaders have pledged $500 million to help the state build and protect affordable housing in the region following a request from Gov. Newsom, reports Marissa Kendall of the Bay Area News Group$. “With backing by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the San Francisco Foundation, Facebook, Genentech and others, the new $500 million fund promises to build or preserve more than 8,000 homes in the five-county Bay Area over the next 5 to 10 years.”

7. The chancellor of the California State University system announced a tuition freeze next year at all of the CSU campuses as a result of increased state funding proposed by Newsom, reports Larry Gordon of EdSource.

8. Roger Stone, a longtime confidante of President Trump, was indicted and arrested this morning on charges of lying to Congress about his role in working with Wikileaks to damage Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, The New York Times$ reports. Special counsel Robert Mueller said in the indictment that Stone coordinated with Wikileaks to release tranches of emails stolen by Russian operatives.

9. And the world champion Golden State Warriors bypassed the Trump White House on their trip to Washington, D.C. this week and instead made a private visit to former President Obama.

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Thursday, January 24, 2019

Thursday’s Briefing: PG&E Says Wildfire Safety Plan Could Cost $150B; BART Patrons Sell Parking Passes for Big Cash

by Robert Gammon
Thu, Jan 24, 2019 at 10:18 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 24, 2019:

1. PG&E told a federal judge that the wildfire safety plan that he wants the utility to implement would cost $75 billion to $150 billion and lead to massive rate hikes on customers, the Sacramento Bee$ reports. U.S. District Judge William Alsup proposed earlier this month that PG&E inspect its entire electrical grid, spanning 100,000 miles, as well as trim or remove every tree that could fall on a power line by June. “‘The proposal is not feasible,’” the company said of the judge’s plan, adding that it would be impossible to recruit the huge army of tree trimmers needed to comply with the order before the June fire season begins.”

2. Some BART patrons are selling parking permits at train stations for large amounts of cash because of the demand for parking spots, reports Rachel Swan of the San Francisco Chronicle$. In one case, a Lafayette woman handed over a bag of $2,200 in cash for a BART parking permit. Currently, about 41,000 people have applied for parking permits for 6,512 spots around the region.

3. The Oakland City Council, under the direction of new council President Rebecca Kaplan, skipped its traditional recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance this week and instead invited a guest singer, Oakland artist Jennifer Johns, to sing a song at the beginning of the council meeting, reports David DeBolt of the East Bay Times$. “‘You could call it a ‘stand’ if you want to,’ Kaplan said in a response to a question. ‘But for the past two years I’ve been taking a knee during the pledge so it’s more of a knee than a stand.’”

4. Hundreds of parents, students, teachers, and supporters of Roots Middle School in Oakland shut down an Oakland school board meeting last night in protest of a plan to close the school, reports Ali Tadayon of the East Bay Times$. The school board postponed a vote on closing Roots until Monday.

5. President Trump agreed to postpone his State of the Union address after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, told him that he wasn’t welcome in Congress until the federal government shutdown has ended. Trump has refused to reopen the government until Congress agrees to spend $5.7 billion in public funds on his controversial border wall.

6. And the U.S. Senate has subpoenaed Michael Cohen, President Trump’s former personal lawyer, to testify in February after Cohen sought to postpone his appearance, alleging that Trump and others have been threatening his family, the Washington Post$ reports. Cohen is scheduled to begin serving a three-year prison sentence in March after pleading guilty to illegal campaign activities that he said Trump ordered in 2016 concerning porn star Stormy Daniels.

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Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Wednesday’s Briefing: Oakland May Expand Rent Control; Newsom Announces Youth Incarceration Reform

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Jan 23, 2019 at 10:13 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 23, 2019:

1. The Oakland City Council may expand rent control to owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes in the city, reports Ali Tadayon of the East Bay Times$. The proposal, authored by Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo, is scheduled to be heard by a council committee next week. In November, Oakland residents voted to extend just cause eviction protections to owner-occupied duplexes and triplexes.

2. Gov. Gavin Newsom announced sweeping youth incarceration reform, saying he plans to “shift control of the state’s Juvenile Justice Division away from corrections officials to government health and human services providers, a move he called long overdue and necessary to build on past efforts to divert children and teens from a path to prison,” reports Jazmine Ulloa of the LA Times$.

3. The Berkeley City Council unanimously approved a new law that requires all food businesses to charge customers 25 cents per disposable cup, reports Amy Graff of SFGate. “The Single Use Disposable Foodware and Litter Reduction Ordinance also requires that all takeout foodware be compostable and all dine-in foodware be reusable by January 2020.”

4. The Oakland City Council voted unanimously to urge BART to name a street under the Fruitvale BART station in honor of Oscar Grant, who was shot to death by a BART cop 10 years ago, reports Ali Tadayon of the East Bay Times$. BART plans to take up the proposal next month.

5. Striking teachers in Los Angeles reached a tentative contract deal with the LA public school district that calls for a 6 percent raise over two years and smaller class sizes, the LA Times$ reports. The pact ended the teachers’ one-week strike.

6. U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, was named co-chair of a bipartisan committee that seeks to create more “sensible” federal cannabis laws, reports Tal Kopan of the San Francisco Chronicle$. “No person of color has served in leadership of the caucus before her, which Lee sees as evidence of a broader disparity in the way marijuana policy is enforced and debated in this country.”

7. The city of Oakland has agreed to pay a $295,000 legal settlement to a white former deputy city attorney who contends that he was the victim of discrimination, reports Kimberly Veklerov of the San Francisco Chronicle. “Charles Vose, 58, alleged in his August 2017 suit in Alameda County Superior Court that he was repeatedly passed over for promotions that went to younger, minority candidates with less experience than him and that he faced retaliation for complaining.”

8. And the U.S. Labor Department has sued software giant Oracle for allegedly underpaying women, African Americans, and Asians by about $400 million since 2013, reports Ethan Baron of the Bay Area News Group$.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Tuesday’s Briefing: Oakland Teachers to Take Strike Vote Next Week; BART’s Approval Ratings Hit Record Low

Plus, Berkeley council to vote on 25-cent charge for disposable cups.

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Jan 22, 2019 at 10:01 AM

  • File photo by D. Ross Cameron

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 22, 2019:

1. Oakland teachers are scheduled to vote next week on whether to allow union leaders to call for a strike, reports Ali Tadayon of the East Bay Times$. Oakland teachers have been working without a contract since 2017 and are demanding 12-percent raises over three years and smaller class sizes. The school district, which is facing a $30 million budget gap, is offering 5 percent raises over three years and is talking about closing up to 24 schools to save costs.

2. BART’s approval rating among riders has plummeted to a record low level as commuters “bemoan crime and filth on the system, saying it’s become a de facto shelter for transients and a laboratory of societal problems,” reports Rachel Swan of the San Francisco Chronicle$. A new survey of 5,292 customers “shows that customer satisfaction plunged to 56 percent last year, from 69 percent three years ago.”

3. The Berkeley City Council is slated to vote tonight on a new law that would require restaurants, cafes, and other businesses to enact a 25-cent surcharge on disposable cups, KTVU reports. “The ordinance also would require all dine-in foodware to be reusable and takeout foodware to be compostable by January 2020.”

4. The Capital Corridor train service has asked the state for an additional $51 million to ramp up service between San Jose and Oakland, reports Jody Meacham of the Silicon Valley Business Journal$.

5. The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the nation’s DACA program to remain in place, declining to hear the Trump administration’s latest appeal of lower court rulings, the Washington Post$ reports. The court’s decision means that DACA, “which has protected nearly 700,000 people brought to this country as children, commonly known as ‘dreamers,’” from being deported will remain in place until 2020.

6. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, allowed the Trump administration’s ban on transgender people from serving in the military to remain in effect while the case wends its way through the courts, CNN reports.

7. And two Oakland natives, Ryan Coogler and Mahershala Ali, were nominated for Academy Awards. Ali was nominated for best supporting actor for his role in Green Book, and Coogler’s film Black Panther was nominated for best picture.

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Monday, January 21, 2019

Monday’s Briefing: Oakland Native Kamala Harris Announces Presidential Run; 39-Story Housing Tower to Break Ground in Uptown

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Jan 21, 2019 at 10:04 AM

Kamala Harris.
  • Kamala Harris.

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 21, 2019:

1. Oakland native Kamala Harris announced today that she is running for president of the United States in 2020. The Democratic U.S senator from California and former Alameda County prosecutor also said that she will hold her campaign kickoff rally at Oakland City Hall this Sunday. “Harris, 54, picked Martin Luther King Jr. Day to make her announcement, a nod to the fact that she is likely to be one of the few women of color in the race. She is the daughter of an Indian-born mother and Jamaican father who met at UC Berkeley in the 1960s and were active in the civil rights movement,” reports Tal Kopan of the San Francisco Chronicle.

2. The developers of a 39-story housing tower are set to break ground at 1900 Broadway in Uptown Oakland, reports Fiona Kelliher of the San Francisco Business Times$. The massive project by Lincoln Property Co. and Behring Cos. will include 452 residential units, 50,000 square feet of commercial space, and about 6,700 square feet of retail.

3. Adnan Khan, 34, was released from custody in Martinez on Friday, becoming the first man in California to have his conviction overturned by the state’s new felony-murder reform law, reports Nate Gartrell of the East Bay Times$. The new law, SB 1437, authored by state Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, overturned a longtime state law that allowed defendants to be convicted of murder if they were accomplices to a killing and didn’t commit the homicide themselves. Khan received a life sentence after one of his accomplices in 2003 stabbed a man to death during a drug robbery.

4. PG&E may not be able to implement its fire safety program in the state this year because of the utility’s bankruptcy and its serious financial problems due to recent wildfires, the Sacramento Bee$ reports. A federal judge has ordered the utility to inspect all of its electrical lines in the state by June 21, but it’s unclear how PG&E will be able to pay for such a huge undertaking.

5. A federal appeals court upheld California’s low-carbon fuel-standard, which is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions but was challenged by big oil companies, reports Bob Egelko of the San Francisco Chronicle. The oil industry sought to strike down California’s law on the grounds that state is improperly attempting to regulate interstate commerce, but the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected that argument, noting that the state has the right to try to protect itself from climate change.

6. And President Trump has made 8,158 false or misleading claims during the first two years of his presidency, according to the Washington Post’s Fact Checker database. Trump stepped up his lies in second year, averaging 16.5 false or misleading claims per day in 2019, compared to 5.9 in his first year in office.

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Friday, January 18, 2019

Friday’s Briefing: Oakland Police Union Fights Discipline of Three Cops; Oakland Teachers and Students Stage Protest March

by Robert Gammon
Fri, Jan 18, 2019 at 10:05 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss for Jan. 18, 2019:

1. The Oakland police officer’s union has gone to court to challenge the discipline meted out against three cops who are accused of misconduct, alleging that the city’s new police commission violated the officers’ rights, reports Megan Cassidy of the San Francisco Chronicle$. The union alleges that the Community Police Review Agency, which reports to the police commission, unlawfully interrogated the officers “by declining to first provide the officers with records of allegations against them.”

2. Oakland teachers are holding a sickout today and many of them marched down Broadway with students to protest low pay and stalled negotiations with the district, reports Lisa Fernandez of KTVU. The one-day action has not been authorized by the teachers’ union. The union has been demanding 12-percent raises for teachers over three years, but the cash-strapped district says it can’t afford them due to a $30 million budget shortfall.

3. The city of Berkeley, which has a history of burying new housing proposals in bureaucratic red tape, has quickly approved two affordable housing projects under a new state law, SB 35, which streamlines the creation of new housing, reports Tony Hicks of Berkeleyside. One of the projects is a six-story complex “composed of two separate buildings: One will feature 89 rental units affordable at 50-60% of the area median income. The other will offer 53 permanent supportive housing units for people who were previously homeless and 44 short-term shelter beds, 12 of which will be for veterans.”

4. The town of Kensington has settled a lawsuit involving its scandal-plagued police force, agreeing to pay $90,000 to a couple for falsely arresting one of them and for retaliating against them for making complaints, the East Bay Times$ reports.

5. California’s powerful bail bonds industry has successfully blocked the state’s sweeping bail reform law by gathering enough signatures to put the issue on the 2020 ballot, the Sacramento Bee$ reports. The new law, Senate Bill 10, “would have abolished California’s cash bail system effective Oct. 1. In its place, the state would adopt a risk assessment-based bail system, which would determine an individual’s likelihood of returning for court appearances.”

6. Tesla founder Elon Musk announced that he’s slashing the Fremont electric carmaker’s workforce by 7 percent, warning “that the ‘road ahead is very difficult’ as he tries to make electric cars more affordable for the mass market,” Bloomberg News reports (via

7. Hog Island Oyster Co. will resume operations soon in Tomales Bay in West Marin County, after it was forced to halt harvests when people reported getting ill after eating Hog Island oysters over the holidays, reports Erin Allday of the Francisco Chronicle$.

8. And in an explosive new report, BuzzFeed News is reporting that President Trump directed his then-attorney Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about his Russian dealings. BuzzFeed also reports that special counsel Robert Mueller has documented evidence to prove that Trump suborned perjury — which is a felony.

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