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After Montclair Homicide, Oakland Councilmember Sheng Thao Wants Police Walking Beats

Plus, county fire chief retires, and support for Hernandez grows.

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Worried Starbucks employees in Oakland are painstakingly warning customers not to leave their laptops unattended. The New Year's Eve homicide of a man in Oakland's Montclair District who was attempting to stop the theft of his laptop from a Starbucks coffee shop has rattled Councilmember Sheng Thao's constituents.

Thao is holding a public safety town hall on Thursday, Jan. 9, to help alleviate some of the fears in the Oakland Hills district. The town hall begins at 7 p.m. at the Montclair Presbyterian Church on 5701 Thornhill Drive.

But in the meantime, Thao said Friday she will propose a city council policy to keep Oakland police officers on their local walking beats.

"Oakland is a beautiful place to live, but tragedies like this remind us of the work we have to make it safer," Thao said.

The potential policy directive, however, could be difficult to put into practice. The Oakland Police Department is understaffed and is feeling further strain by the city's worsening homelessness crisis.

Thao, who was elected to the Oakland City Council in 2018, acknowledges the push-pull of the situation.

"I've seen that many officers are being taken away from their areas of policing for non-emergency special projects such as homeless encampment cleanups." Thao said. "It's important to me that our limited police resources are used to protect and serve our communities."

Shun Zeng, the homicide victim, was remembered over the weekend, the East Bay Times reported.

Police have charged two suspects in the murder.


Hernandez Snags Support From Second County Supe

Dublin Vice Mayor Melissa Hernandez's bid for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors recently received the endorsement of perhaps its most labor-friendly member as the campaign to replace retiring District 1 Supervisor Scott Haggerty heads into the final stretch toward the Mar. 3 primary.

Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle announced his endorsement of Hernandez, a first-term councilmember from Dublin, on Dec. 31. Valle's District 2 shares Fremont with the District 1 seat that also includes Pleasanton, Dublin, Livermore, and Sunol. Valle's support follows Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, giving Hernandez endorsements from two of the five supervisors. Chan announced her endorsement of Hernandez's campaign back in October.

Valle's support is notable since it may suggest local labor unions have indeed soured on state Sen. Bob Wieckowski as the labor candidate in the race. While the statewide Service Employees Union International has supported Wieckowski, labor support at the local level has lacked exuberance.

Hernandez also has picked up endorsements from a number of public safety unions over the past few months.

The race in District 1, meanwhile, continues to be a low-key affair. No significant policy debate has emerged and no controversies have come to the forefront despite a seat on the Board of Supervisors being a plum seat in Alameda County government. In addition, to Hernandez and Wieckowski, the primary race also includes Fremont Councilmember Vinnie Bacon and Dublin Mayor David Haubert. The four candidates will meet at a candidate forum on Sunday, Jan. 12, 2 p.m., at the Pleasanton Senior Center, 5353 Sunol Boulevard, Pleasanton. (Flyer below.)


Alameda County Fire Chief Is Retiring

Alameda County Fire Chief David Rocha retired at the end of the year. But not entirely. Rocha is staying with the department and serving as interim fire chief until his replacement is named and takes office, Alameda County Counsel Donna Ziegler said.

Rocha's retirement was discussed in closed session during a special Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 23.

Rocha was named Alameda County fire chief in 2014. Before being appointed as interim to replace former fire chief Demetrious Shaffer in January 2014, Rocha was the department's deputy fire chief since 2006. Prior to that, Rocha worked for the San Leandro Fire Department before it was folded into the newly formed Alameda County Fire Department in the mid-1990s.

An affable and capable leader, Rocha is respected by many public officials in cities that contract their fire prevention services to the county. Last May, Gov. Gavin Newsom appointed Rocha to a four-year term on the State Board of Fire Services.

But an incident last spring involving the dissemination of an inappropriate, if not racist, Chinese Lunar New Year greeting card by one Alameda County fire station brought negative attention to the department.

It also spotlighted the Alameda County Fire Department's current and historical lack of non-white and female firefighters within its ranks.


In Other News ...

State Sen. Scott Wiener joined Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and state Sen. Nancy Skinner for a press conference at Oakland City Hall to unveil the newest version of SB50, legislation that would encourage the building of housing density around transportation hubs. This incarnation of the bill gives municipalities local control by allowing them to opt-out of certain portions of the legislation if they create their own plans and with the same amount of new units built, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. But protesters concerned whether the bill would include affordable housing drowned out the entire press conference with chants.... The developer behind an 18-story, 300-unit housing development at Harold Way in Berkeley is scrapping the project, Berkeleyside reported. Cost may have been a determining factor. ... A large housing development in Alameda is also having difficulty, the East Bay Times reported. Alameda officials are looking to replace the developer for a project at West Midway that includes 267 units of affordable housing. ... Could Concord be the Bay Area's next tech hotspot? Forbes contributor John Cumber writes the Concord Naval Weapons Station could provide the seeds for another housing and tech boom in the East Bay. But union labor and Lennar, the developer of the proposed development that includes 13,000 new housing units, are at an impasse, Bay City News reported. The issue comes before the Concord City Council on Tuesday night. ...

A $25 million seismic upgrade for Alameda Hospital has begun, the Times reported. The project is slated to be complete by 2021. Without completing the seismic retrofit before 2030, the hospital risked losing its state license. ... Oaklanders last month lamented the loss of Club BNB, a LGBT dance club on Franklin Street that will become a shared tech office space. The non-profit Oakland Pride, which was using the club's basement as its headquarters at no charge, is also being evicted. ... BART and AC Transit fares went up on New Year's Day, KQED reported. BART fares went up roughly 10 cents, while AC Transit's monthly bus pass for adults increased from $198 to $216. ... Payam Zamani, the CEO of One Planet, a Walnut Creek tech firm, donated $15,600 to the Oakland Unified School District to clear the lunch debt of all students in Oakland public schools, KTVU reported. ... Lime keeps raising the price of its e-scooters and then there's tax on its use in Oakland. Maybe adventurous commuters might be interested in upgrading to a rented moped? Revel, a New York startup, recently applied for a permit in Oakland to bring 1,000 electric mopeds to the city's streets, The Information reported. ...

The California Democratic Party settled sexual assault and workplace misconduct lawsuits against its former chair Eric Bauman for $2.9 million, The Wall Street Journal reported. The lawsuits filed by former state Democratic Party employees had been a black eye for the progressive state party. Bauman became party chair in 2017. ... A new report by the state Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board found black residents are 2.5 times more likely to be pulled over by police in California than whites, and three times more likely to be searched, the Associated Press reported. ... The trial for the man accused of killing 18-year-old Nia Wilson at the MacArthur BART station in July 2018 was delayed until next Monday, Bay City News reported. A judge was selected, but no jury chosen. ...

Assemblymember Rob Bonta and a long list of legislators introduced the California Green New Deal on Monday, Capital Public Radio reported. Modeled after New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's well-known Green New Deal in Congress, this bill aims to further lower greenhouse emissions in the state and address social inequity issues within the climate change crisis. ... Legislation introduced Monday by San Mateo state Sen. Jerry Hill would ban all types of flavored tobacco and vaping products in California, the Los Angeles Times reported. The Trump administration recently moved to ban most of the same products, but allowed the continued sale of menthol-flavored products to remain. Several East Bay cities have already banned the sale of flavored tobacco products, but not all have also included a menthol ban. ...

The California Consumer Privacy Act became law. The nation's most stringent data privacy law gives Californians the right to know what information tech companies are gathering about them and the right to ask them to delete the data, the Los Angeles Times reported. However, it's not clear how consumers can be assured the tech companies are really following through with the request to delete. ...

Rep. Barbara Lee started 2020 woke and spoken for. The progressive champion was married on New Year's Eve to Rev. Dr. Clyde W. Oden, Jr.

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