The Alameda Unified School District and the Alameda teachers union agreed to a new three-year contract last week. Teachers will receive a 4 percent increase this school year under the new pact. But teachers stand to gain another 1 percent if Alameda voters approve a school parcel tax proposed for the March 2020 primary ballot.
Low teacher-pay has been a continuing problem for Alameda school administrators in recent years and has stymied the school district's ability to retain and attract quality instructors. Alameda has consistently been the among the lowest-paid in Alameda County.
In addition, Alameda teachers will receive an 8 percent wage increase during the second year of the contract. The consecutive years of wage increases, however, will only boost Alameda teachers' pay to roughly the county average and for the first time in two decades, according to the school district.
Under the third year of the contract, the school district teachers union will return to the bargaining table.
"This agreement is the result of creative and principled efforts on both sides of the table," AUSD Superintendent Pasquale Scuderi said. "We value our teachers, we know their pay has long ranked among the lowest in the county, and this agreement allows us to collaboratively pursue an innovative solution for providing the salaries our employees so clearly deserve, while also allowing the district to remain responsible stewards of the public's resources."
In the meantime, snagging the extra retroactive 1 percent wage increase at the ballot box next year may be difficult for the teachers and the school district. Polling conducted last summer on a potential parcel tax showed the current taste such a tax was less than the two-thirds majority required for passage.
Former Oakland Councilman Arrested
Former Oakland Councilmember and mayoral candidate Wilson Riles, Jr. was arrested last Thursday following an altercation with Oakland police officers. The incident occurred at the city's Planning and Building Department and was precipitated by a 911 call from a city employee, according to the city.
Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick called for an internal affairs review of the arrest, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Riles, who served on the Oakland City Council from 1979-1992, said the arrest was unjustified and told KPIX that the officers gave no indication they were going to arrest him before throwing him to the ground and handcuffing him.
Riles has had a long-standing disagreement with the city over a sweat lodge located on his property. Riles' wife is of Native American descent.
He was charged with suspicion of battery against a police officer and booked at Santa Rita Jail in Dublin.
Reforms of Alameda Housing Authority to be Considered
Alameda resident Arminda Graca received her file last week from the Alameda Housing Authority, a thick stack of documents delivered in quadruplicate. But Graca, whose Section 8 apartment was inundated with mold and mildew following a suspected sewage leak, told the Alameda City Council Tuesday night that the voluminous record omitted call logs detailing a large amount of complaints she had lodged with the Housing Authority about the accident since last year.
Her testimony came during a referral offered by Alameda Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Malia Vella that aims to potentially return the Housing Authority back under the auspices of the city or, at minimum, resolves a rising number of transparency and accountability issues stemming from complaints by Housing Authority tenants.
"I'm just tired," Graca told the council. "What are our protections? They can bully us, but we can't bully them. We get written up, get kicked off the program. But why can they do it to us? We need you guys."
Oddie said he feels helpless when residents ask him for help to solve issues with the Housing Authority. He has voiced this sentiment in the past and said it is the impetus for the referral asking staff to bring back suggestions for how to alleviate apparent problem areas, particularly surrounding code enforcement and reforming the appeals process for tenants.
"Yes, there is an appeals process," Oddie said in response to comments by Housing Authority officials that tenants have an avenue for appealing decisions. "But you have to become homeless basically before you take advantage of it."
The Alameda Housing Authority was given autonomy from City Hall in 2012 at the behest of former City Manager John Russo.
Oddie added that he does not intend to disrupt how the Housing Authority does its everyday business, but reforms are needed in light of new restrictions the City Council has applied on landlords in the past year. He added that the Housing Authority's Board of Commissioners, a body appointed by the mayor, lacked accountability to the public.
The comment rankled Alameda Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. "There is absolutely no reason to attack a volunteer board of very qualified individuals," Ashcraft said.
In recent months, several problematic stories from tenants have emerged, including quite a few who describe Housing Authority employees allegedly speaking dismissively of Section 8 recipients and their concerns. But clear support for taking greater control of the city department was not apparent last Tuesday night.
"I'm not overly on-board with the idea of bringing the Housing Authority back underneath us," Councilmember John Knox White said. "The stories are heartbreaking and I believe them," he added. Councilmember Tony Daysog said the Housing Authority's has been successful in the years following its move away from City Hall. A city staff report with suggestions for reforming the Housing Authority may have come back to the City Council sometime in February, City Manager Eric Levitt said.
In Other News ...
A sequel to PG&E's panned massive power shutoff in Northern California two weeks ago could be coming, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Rising temperatures this week have the utility again worried about the threat of wildfires. ... Meanwhile, the planned shutoffs could be with us for the next decade, PG&E's CEO said, according to KQED. It will take that long for the utility to improve its infrastructure, which has been blamed for starting several deadly wildfires in recent years. ... The fire in Moraga earlier this week was contained, but was on the verge of becoming a major disaster, fire officials told the East Bay Times. The fire, which is believed to have been accidental, was located near St. Mary's College and required an evacuation of some neighborhoods. ... Your PG&E bill could increase by an average of $9 a month starting in January, the Times reported. ... Expect a dry winter, the Chron reported, citing a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast. Steady rainfall is predicted to resume by February. ...
An Alameda County judge determined that Oakland's Measure AA, the November 2018 parcel tax measure to fund early education, was not successful at the ballot box, the Times reported. Oakland administrators, including Mayor Libby Schaaf, believed Measure AA, which fell short of a two-thirds majority, required just a simple majority for passage. ... Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill that would have allowed more cities and other jurisdictions to use ranked-choice voting, the Chron reported.
The Governor's Office of Emergency Services unveiled an app that will alert residents of an impending earthquake of a magnitude 4.5 or greater on the Richter Scale just it starts, NBC Bay Area reported. The "MyShake" app was created at U.C. Berkeley and uses the same system that creates Amber Alerts. ... The cause of a fuel tank explosion in Crockett and the resulting fire that shutdown I-80 remains unknown. The Chronicle reported officials at the plant said nothing appeared amiss before the accident. ...
In a move that could possibly reverberate to the Bay Area, Los Angeles will study the feasibility of paying Uber and Lyft drivers a minimum wage of $30 an hour, the Los Angeles Times reported. The move comes on the heels of the passage of AB5. ... California's unemployment rate reached a record-low in September, the Associated Press reported. The unemployment rate is now four percent. Job growth also increased for a 115 consecutive month, breaking a record set during the 1960s. Once AB 5 becomes law, however, that could change. ... The number of people living in vehicles in Oakland has risen considerably in just two years to 1,430, the Chronicle reported, a 131 percent increase. ... Meanwhile, someone is placing heavy logs on Poplar Street in Oakland in an attempt to stop vehicles from parking there, KRON reported. One witness said they have seen a forklift moving the logs into place.
More than 300 new housing units are coming to Alameda, the EB Times reported. The Alameda Planning Board approved the final phase of the Alameda Landing project, which is located near the Oakland Estuary. ... The Oakland Roots soccer club ended the home schedule of their inaugural season Saturday night with a sellout at Laney College, SFGate reported. A crowd of 5,723 watched the Roots and the Los Angeles Force play to a 1-1 draw. ... A lawsuit was filed last week in Alameda County Superior Court accusing Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Trent Brown of domestic violence against his girlfriend, ESPN reported. ... End of an era: Flora restaurant in downtown Oakland is closing on Nov. 8, SFGate reported. Owner Tom Schnetz said business is still good, but it's time to move on to other opportunities.