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Alameda County Prosecutors Unionize, Hint at Fears of O'Malley's Successor

Plus movement builds to release Alameda recording, and mutton busting is busted.

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Some believe change at the helm of the Alameda County District Attorney's office could be coming in the next few years. And Alameda County prosecutors, the only group of public-sector attorneys not represented by a union, made a move Tuesday intended to dampen some of their potential job insecurity.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors voted to recognize the bargaining unit of the Alameda County Prosecutors' Association on Tuesday.

Alameda County Assistant District Attorney Jill Nerone told the board the move to consider forming a union was made, in part, to avoid job uncertainty that could arise from the future politicization of the district attorney's seat.

Unlike other attorneys under union representation at the county-level, the district attorney's office is the only one led by an elected official. "We serve at the whim of whoever earns that seat," Nerone said.

The upstart campaign of Oakland civil rights attorney Pamela Price last year put a scare into incumbent Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley. The campaign also initiated quite a bit of concern among county prosecutors over whether their potential new boss would retain their services. Price, a staunch progressive and police reformer, was clear that, if elected, she intended to clear the DA's office of O'Malley loyalists.

Price's candidacy was financially supported, through a political action committee, by billionaire progressive activist George Soros. The PAC opposed O'Malley's re-election, along with several other DAs across the country last year. The effort was to replace incumbents with candidates they believed were more progressive.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley acknowledged Soros in his comments Tuesday morning. "I know George Soros is targeting DAs all over the country, in some cases, unwarranted and unnecessarily, as he did in this county," he told Nerone. "So I understand why you want to unionize."

Meanwhile, rumors have persisted for months that Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta is quietly laying the groundwork for a run at O'Malley's seat in 2022. Bonta is termed out of the assembly in 2024.


DA Wants Alameda's Secret Recording Released

Citing growing public interest and the need for transparency, O'Malley is urging the city of Alameda to release the controversial secret recording made by its former city manager of a meeting between her and two Alameda councilmembers.

"After a thorough review, it is the opinion of the district attorney's office that there is a strong public interest in disclosing the recording," O'Malley wrote in a letter to Alameda City Attorney Yibin Chen on Oct. 22.

The DA argued that former City Manager Jill Keimach's 55-minute meeting with Councilmember Jim Oddie and Malia Vella, which was recorded without the officials' knowledge, is public record.

The secret recording was a byproduct of the fire chief hiring scandal in which Keimach said she was pressured by Oddie, Vella, and the city's firefighters union to hire a candidate backed by the union for the vacant fire chief position.

Keimach asserted the pressure was a violation of a city charter provision that prohibits interference from councilmembers in the decision-making duties of the city manager.

Oddie said Saturday that he welcomes the release of the recording. "It is illegal to tape private conversations without the knowledge and permission of all parties, and the former City Manager violated those ethics," Oddie wrote in a statement.

"It is my hope that we can all move past this to fully focus on addressing the needs and vital services for all Island families," he added. "Alamedans hold their leaders to the highest standards of transparency and conduct, which I agree with and will continue to work to earn."


County Bans Mutton-Busting

Mutton-busting is no longer allowed at Castro Valley's Rowell Ranch after the Alameda County Board of Supervisors banned the rodeo event in which young children ride sheep like a bronco. Animal-rights advocates have long argued that the event instills fear in the animals and in many cases physical trauma. It sometimes also doesn't look too fun for the kids.

"I don't believe anybody in this room is intentionally cruel to animals," said Eric Mills, the founder of Action for Animals, which has long opposed mutton-busting and other rodeo events in Alameda County. "If animals could talk, you would hear an entirely different story."

The 3-2 vote highlighted a split between county supervisors who represents parts of rural East Alameda County and those in the urban areas. Supervisors Nate Miley and Scott Haggerty voted against the ban. Both represent the agricultural areas of Castro Valley and the Tri-Valley.

Board President Richard Valle suggested Tuesday that Miley and agricultural interests in the county had stymied the ordinance from moving forward this year. "My only regret is that it's taken 12 months to get to this point," he said. Earlier this year, he appeared disturbed by videos depicting cruelty against sheep and cows at the rodeo.

Miley did not take the comment kindly, noting the ban only affects the Rowell Ranch, which is in his district. "There is a dispute whether mutton busting is a cruel treatment to animals, and until that can be reconciled, in my mind, I don't think this ordinance is appropriate," Miley said.

Haggerty followed with a similar rancorous statement. "I really hope that everybody that came down here today to talk about getting rid of mutton-busting and talking about cruelty to animals goes home and eats a salad," an irritated Haggerty said.


In Other News ...

Five people were killed in a shooting at a Halloween party in Orinda. Three died at the scene, two others later, with still more injured. The incident occurred at an AirBNB rental on Lucille Way. There had only been one homicide in Orinda over the past 15 years. Police are investigating whether the shooting is linked to murders in San Francisco four years ago, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. A ban on short-term rentals could be on the table when the Orinda City Council next meets, KGO-TV reported. ... Seven school children in Alameda have been hit by cars since September, KPIX reported. The rash of accidents has city leaders searching for solutions to the traffic problems at some busy streets near schools. ... Prisoners at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin staged a one-day hunger strike and work stoppage on Wednesday, the East Bay Times reported, to protest unsanitary living conditions. An inmate at Santa Rita also died after ingesting an unknown substance, KTVU reported. It's the eighth time this year that a prisoner at the jail has died while in custody. ...

East Bay state Sen. Nancy Skinner registered a major victory for college student athletes across the country after the NCAA announced it would allow them to be paid when their name, image, and likeness used, ESPN reported. Skinner's "Fair Pay to Play Act" bill was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom last month. The NCAA had previously voiced strong opposition to the bill and had threatened to ban California universities from participating in championship events. ... Advocates for African American, Latino and low-income students are threatening to file a lawsuit against the 10-campus University of California system if they do not drop the use of SAT and ACT admission tests for incoming freshman, EdSource reported. Critics said the admissions tests discriminate against minorities and the poor. ...

Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash will seek a ballot measure for next year asking voters to exempt its gig-workers from the landmark AB5 bill signed into law last month, the Chron reported. The proposed statewide measure needs roughly 630,000 valid signatures to make the November 2020 ballot. ... Berkeley teachers and the Berkeley Unified School District agreed to a tentative two-year contract agreement that includes 2.5 percent raises this year and next year, KQED reported. The deal also includes another seven percent increase if Berkeley voters approve a school parcel tax next year. ... Ask and you shall receive. San Leandro's mayor is getting a pay raise, the East Bay Times reported. The San Leandro City Council approved a $15,000 pay bump for Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter. Her annual salary will be $45,000. ...

President Trump declared "no more" federal aid for California in a tweet Sunday morning, Vox reported. As fires continue to burn all over the state, Trump added, California officials had failed to heed his previous warnings last year to "clean the forest floor" of brush. ... A potentially dismal season just got worse for the Warriors. Stephen Curry broke his left hand during last night's loss to the Phoenix Suns. 

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