If the past week is any indication, the mayoral candidacy of ex-state Senator Don Perata is off to a shaky start. Not only did the Bay Area's major dailies note the many ties between the ex-state senator and a shadowy political group that blanketed Oakland with two political hit pieces, but the mailers sent by the Perata-linked group — Coalition for a Safer California — were full of ridiculous errors that raised doubts about the intellectual capacity of his associates. They also offered potential insight into how his mayor's office might function.
For starters, the mailers urged Oakland residents to call councilmembers and voice their concerns about the cops' layoff plan before a "Tuesday, June 29th" vote. But the council had already voted for the cops' layoff plan on June 24 — before the mailers arrived in people's mailboxes. In fact, there was no city council meeting on June 29; it had been canceled the week before — prior to the mailers going out.
The mailers also criticized Councilwomen Rebecca Kaplan, Desley Brooks, Jean Quan, and Pat Kernighan for the cops' layoff plan and the city's financial woes. However, Brooks and Kaplan voted against the cop layoffs — again, before the mailers arrived in Oakland.
If the purpose of the mailers was to convince residents to put pressure on the council to not vote for the cop layoffs, then the hit pieces completely missed the mark. Larry Tramutola, Perata's campaign manager, distanced himself from the mailers, telling the Express that the former senator was not involved with them — even though they were financed by some of the ex-state senator's best donors and assembled by people closely associated with him.
Kaplan in Mayor's Race
Kaplan, meanwhile, officially declared her candidacy for Oakland mayor, citing job creation for residents, improving public safety, and reforming city government as her top priorities. She also used her candidacy announcement to criticize the California prison guard's union for financing the two Perata-linked hit-pieces that targeted her. Kaplan, visibly perturbed, labeled the pieces "lying, deceptive mailers."
During a short press conference afterward, Kaplan also explained her vote against the layoff plan, saying that she was disappointed her proposal for a pension-reform ballot measure was not included in the city's budget plan. The council's budget plan included laying off eighty cops unless the police union agrees to start paying into its pensions like other city unions do, but contained no long-term solution for the pension problems. "I didn't believe the budget did enough to plan for the future," she said.
Kaplan said she proposed a pension-reform measure last week for the November ballot that would require new police officers to pay into their pensions. She called Oakland "an outlier," because it's one of the few cities that does not require officers to contribute to their own retirement. She noted that San Francisco police pay 9 percent — precisely what city leaders have asked Oakland cops to pay. She also noted that Oakland police salaries are higher, on average, than those of cops in other California cities that have struggled with crime problems, including Long Beach. The high pay and generous benefits in Oakland, she noted, means that the city can't hire as many cops as it needs. "Oakland is really the outlier," she said.
Mehserle Deliberations Begin
Jurors in the Johannes Mehserle trial started deliberating on whether the ex-BART cop should be convicted of second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, or involuntary manslaughter for killing Oscar Grant. During closing arguments, prosecutor David Stein pushed hard for second-degree murder, telling jurors that Mehserle was lying when he told fellow cops that he thought Oscar Grant had a gun. Stein also said Mehserle lied on the witness stand when he said he meant to use his Taser. Defense attorney Michael Rains strongly urged the jury to vote not guilty.
Black leaders in Oakland, meanwhile, asked demonstrators to remain peaceful should the jury acquit Mehserle, as local merchants began preparing for possible rioting. And the ACLU said that police need to allow protesters to demonstrate peacefully throughout the city and not escalate the unrest.
Berkeley High Gets New Principal
The Berkeley school board selected the district's director of personnel services — Pasquale Scuderi — to be Berkeley High's new principal. Scuderi's appointment followed a somewhat embarrassing national search in which half of the candidates for principal changed their minds and decided not to show up for job interviews. Scuderi, a former vice principal at Berkeley High who is well-liked and respected at the school, will replace retiring Principal Jim Slemp, whose last year was marred by the science labs controversy.
The Alameda school board may put another parcel tax on the ballot next spring after Measure E lost by only a few hundred votes last month. The board also is talking about closing schools and increasing class sizes. ... The AC Transit board of directors unilaterally imposed a contract on bus drivers in an attempt to generate $15.7 million in savings for the cash-strapped agency. The bus drivers' union wants the contract dispute to go to arbitration. ... And ex-Senator Perata decided to postpone his statewide cancer-research initiative until 2012. He had planned to run the initiative in this November's election to coincide with his mayoral candidacy.