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Oakland City Administrator to Step Down

Plus police accountability law increases costs for city clerks.

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Oakland City Administrator Sabrina Landreth told city employees last week that she plans to step down, effective next March.

Landreth was tabbed as city administrator by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf in 2015 after serving as city manager in neighboring Emeryville.

In the years since, Landreth has dealt with continuing budget uncertainty in Oakland. She also faced significant push back from some members of the Oakland City Council and the often-vociferous watchers of city hall.

Turmoil at the Oakland Police Department temporarily made Landreth the acting chief of police during the Celeste Guap sexual misconduct scandal.

Landreth's surprise decision to leave Oakland followed an email sent last week to the city council in which she called them "complicit" with a resident who called one of her assistants a "murderer." The community activist later grabbed his arm during a committee hearing earlier this month. Landreth believed the councilmembers at the meeting did little to protect the city employee.

Public records requests are going up in San Leandro, and so are costs

San Leandro City Clerk Leticia Miguel said a rising number of public records requests are taxing her office. Following passage of AB 1421, which opened up access to video footage and records related to police officer-involved shootings and police misconduct, the number of requests in San Leandro has nearly double over the past two years, she recently told the San Leandro City Council.

Records requests have jumped from 135 in 2017 to 251 through the end of November this year, an 85 percent increase, Miguel said. Roughly half of all requests pertain to the Community Development Department and the Police Department.

While the increase in requests from the police department can be explained by AB 1421, the rise in community development requests may be due to a gambit for some real estate speculators to avoid paying the city's fees for zoning compliance letters. Instead, they make the requests for the information through the public records process, which in most cases, has no cost.

Nevertheless, the number of public records request is siphoning a growing number of hours from city employees. One full-time employee in the city clerk's office now spends about three-fourths of their workday on public records requests, Miguel said. A police manager, whose primary job is to oversee the department's dispatchers, instead spends most of the day processing public records requests. "It's not sustainable," San Leandro Police Chief Jeff Tudor said.

When asked for a ballpark estimate to assess the cost of processing public records request this year, San Leandro City Manager Jeff Kay said, they are considerable once extrapolated over numerous city departments. "I would be taking the over on a half a million dollars, if I had to guess," Kay said.

AB 1421 is viewed by many police accountability activists as a groundbreaking piece of legislation. It was authored last year by East Bay state Sen. Nancy Skinner and became law last Jan. 1. However, the laws allots no additional funding for cities to absorb the new costs of redacting police body-cameras, which can be labor-intensive. Generally, one minute of body-camera footage takes an average of 10 minutes to redact, Tudor said.

The increase in public records requests and additional costs of providing them to the public is not unique to San Leandro. Neighboring Hayward, for example, typically receives about double the amount of records requests that San Leandro handled this year. In larger and far more politically active communities, such as Oakland and Berkeley, the number of requests and costs is assuredly even higher.

Alameda Could Be Next City to Ban Facial-Recognition Software

The Alameda City Council could decide Tuesday night whether to become the latest in a growing list of municipalities that are choosing to ban the use of facial-recognition software in surveillance cameras.

In May, San Francisco became the first major city in the U.S. to prohibit the inclusion of facial-recognition software in city's security cameras. Privacy advocates believe the artificial intelligence technology could be abused and also falsely target minorities and women.

Oakland quickly followed with its own ban last July, which also included the Oakland Police Department. Neighboring Alameda appears to be next.

"The use of face recognition technology has the potential to be intrusive and impactful on residents, workers and visitors privacy in the community, resulting in the need to clearly state the City's position on the use of this kind of technology," according to a proposed resolution before councilmembers on Tuesday night.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill last October that bans facial-recognition software from police body-cameras. But the legislation, which goes into effect on Jan. 1, sunsets in three years.

Appropriations Bill Includes Funding for Alameda VA Clinic, Cemetery

The $1.4 trillion spending package approved by Congress last week and signed by the president includes $27 million in additional funding for Alameda's Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic and national cemetery.

The $200 million project, which will later include a national cemetery with a 300,000-space columbarium, already secured $87 million for design and environmental remediation at the site, a runway at the former Alameda Naval Air Station.

The Veterans Affairs project at Alameda Point has faced a number of fits and starts over the years. The veterans outpatient clinic was slated to open in 2024, but was pushed backed at least two years.

In the past year, Alameda officials had expressed exasperation with the slow pace of the project. Last May, Rep. Barbara Lee was able to secure the funding approved last week during an appropriations committee hearing.

In Other News ...

Two former Bay Area Air Quality Management District employees who were terminated after they complained that the destruction of some of the district's records in 2016 violated state law were awarded $4 million in a whistleblower lawsuit, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The district retaliated against both after they made the complaints. ... Landlords in California will no longer be able to reject prospective tenants just because they have Section 8 vouchers starting on Jan.1, Capital Public Radio reported. The new law affects roughly 300,000 Section 8 recipients in the state. People with the vouchers often have difficulty finding suitable housing. ... Your energy bill may go up an average of $5.69 next year, the Chronicle reported. PG&E and the California Public Utilities Commission agreed to the proposed rate hike, which pencils out to a 3.4 percent increase. ...

Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan, and Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk attended Thursday night's Democratic Debate. The East Bay Citizen reported several of the presidential candidates have reached out recently to Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Bonta for endorsements. Both had previous backed Sen. Kamala Harris, who dropped out of the race on Dec. 3. ... Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid tweaked his back while falling to the ground after gunshots were fired near a holiday food giveaway event on Edes Avenue, KTVU reported. The gunfire was related to suspects chased to Oakland from a robbery in Fremont. ...

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced the formation of the Healthy California for All Commission, a 17-member body that will study the possibility of a single-payer health care system in the state, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. ... The Cal State University system is looking to build a 24th campus, EdSource reported, and Concord is one of the possible sites. A $4 million study approved by the state Legislature also eyed sites in Stockton, Chula Vista, and Palm Desert. ... BART appointed Director Lateefah Simon as its next board president, the East Bay Times reported. Simon, who represents Richmond and parts of Oakland and Berkeley, among other areas, is a full-time BART rider. ...

Marshawn Lynch may be leaving retirement for a second time. This time to rejoin the Seattle Seahawks, SFGate reports. The Oakland native could join the team, which he won a Super Bowl with, in time for this Sunday's game against the 49ers. Lynch once retired from the Seahawks in order to join the Raiders. ... The Raiders kept their slim playoffs alive Sunday after beating the Los Angeles Chargers, 24-17. But the Raiders will need an enormous amount of help to make the playoffs. The Associated Press lays out the perfect storm of events needed next weekend. "Oakland needs to beat Denver next Sunday, needs losses by the Titans at Houston and Steelers at Baltimore along with Indianapolis beating Jacksonville."

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