Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010-12-16 Bay area news

- Omissions in the following articles are noted as "[ ... ]"
- Anything added by the blog's editors are shaded blue

Remember those without homes
Leslie May of Kansas, victim of hate crime during 2010, where she was burned to death while sleeping on the streets

2010-12-12 "Lets Pay Attention to the Homeless This Year" by Sherri Morr from "Bay Citizen"
I used to travel for work all the time. Two weeks of every month I was in a different city, a different hotel. I didn’t love it, but some cities were better than others. I was in San Francisco in February of 2000, staying in Union Square at one of the boutique hotels.
One morning, departing the adjacent coffee bar, I gave my change from the purchase of coffee to a homeless man. He took it, and then he started yelling at me. I kept walking and realized he was following, actually chasing me, saying, “Put your underwear on, put your underwear on”.
At first I ignored him, but when I got half a block and saw he was running after me, I was scared. So I saw an available taxi, and got in. He banged on the window as we drove off. My first thought to myself as we drove off, do I have on my underwear?
When you wake up in a strange city, thinking about the meetings, the appointments, finding a taxi to get you to the correct address, the last thing I think about is my underwear. I assumed I had them on! I was sure because I rarely forgot to pack things during those 12 years of travel. Oh, I donated plenty of items to the hotel upon departure like my cell phone charger, belts, even a terrific pair of blue suede sandals( they must have been under the bed when I packed) a nightgown or two left on the bathroom door hook, but never underwear.
First of all I always brought extra, and secondly it was rote to put on my underwear. When I told people this story, some laughed of course about the underwear, but few thought it was rare that a homeless person was chasing me up Powell Street yelling at me. It didn’t matter what he was saying, they said; most likely he was crazy and should have been in a mental institution, or that he was drunk, or spaced out on drugs. I thought it taught me a lesson to not give to homeless people.
Then a few years later I actually moved to San Francisco and lived on 3rd & Folsom, where numbers of homeless people congregated practically on my front steps. They were the same men, every morning when I came downstairs to walk to work. I came to smile, good morning, and gave them any and all extra food or leftovers, with plastic utensils and paper napkins. I came to think of them as my homeless.
Now as we approach 2011, I no longer live downtown, but I do work for a nonprofit serving the needs of the homeless through 7 separate but connected programs. Several of these programs offer living space to get people off the streets. Community Awareness & Treatment Services (CATS) has served the needs of men and women on the street for more than 3 decades. They are the city’s best answer to decreasing people living on our streets. They provide substance abuse treatment, and medical respite; their vans pick people up, when not even the police can help them; they manage 2 buildings in the Tenderloin where people can live, maybe even get jobs, turn themselves around, and no longer be the blight on San Francisco that concerns all of us so much.
I didn’t take this job because of my own personal experience of a homeless man chasing me. I didn’t take it because I had a compelling passion to obliterate this issue. Nor did I take it because of the upcoming Sit/ Lie resolution about to come into being January 1.
I took this job because with 70 million baby boomers, some who will surely be affected by a lack of services, and cuts in social service programs, the homeless population is going to grow. Grow at rapid rates for sure. I accepted the position at CATS because I felt my skills in raising money could help this extremely urgent problem; most importantly I took it because the staff appeared dedicated, and committed to the emotional and medical needs of their constituents.
They are quick to present options opposed to stereotypical innuendos. They rely on foundation grants and city funded programs. They are caring, and smart about their own challenges. The program directors and the management know the population; they understand the realistic, knowing no one really likes the homeless. And there is an impressive board, intent on creating strategies, planning and solutions.
When I was job hunting I wanted to learn about a new issue; and boy have I learned a lot! So many homeless people are victims of situations that they themselves may not have created. They lost jobs, families, change of lifestyle and friends; once you lose all of that, plus your living space, they hit bottom, and turn to drugs and alcohol. They lose their identity, they have no good thoughts, and some don’t even have memories. Their only community is others like themselves, others who too live on the streets, or shelters, and find themselves hoping for a handout, or a space at a food program.
It’s getting colder, and the rains have begun. An estimated 6000 people are homeless and on the streets in San Francisco. Let’s pay attention to them this year. I mean really pay attention. We are in a season of caring, being reminded at every turn that there are so many that have less than we do. We are officially done with Thanksgiving for this year, and on to buying gifts, material things…toys, books, clothes, cars, jewels, I don’t need to name them all. No one is saying not to give those gifts. Give them, and enjoy the giving. What I am saying is time to give to the homeless. It’s time to give money to obliterate the homeless.
Go to our website at [], and make a meaningful donation.
Or call us at CATS 415 291 2374, or come in to take a tour of what we do; see our challenges and our successes, and write a check.
You’ll feel good, maybe even great, and perhaps then you can say you’re doing something about the homeless.

2010-12-14 "Christmas in Richmond expands to Oakland" by Lee Hubbard from "San Francisco Bay View" newspaper
Edna Campbell was faced with a tough decision five years ago when she had to tell her daughter about a possible foreclosure on their house in Hercules. It was during the Christmas holiday break when she broke the news to Burgundie Spears, who was then a college student at Howard University.
“I told her we were probably going to lose the house,” recalled Campbell. “After telling Burgundie, she told me she had a vision to cook and feed 100 people on Christmas day in Richmond. At first, I couldn’t believe what she said. I told her we were about to be homeless, and how are we going to do this? She said we were going to step out on faith.”
The house got foreclosed on, but Campbell and her daughter’s “Christmas in Richmond” fed the 100 people that year, after a letter from Spears to friends, family and neighbors got the ball rolling financially to help support her vision.
Five years later, their efforts at feeding the less fortunate have turned into a yearly effort that has helped to feed and clothe people in Richmond and beyond. “Our efforts are impacting a lot of people,” said Spears. “We are not a non-profit, but a family that wants to help people.” Added Campbell, “This is a passion for our family.” “We are passionate for what we are doing in our community. We want to be the change we desire to see.” Last year, Christmas in Richmond fed 600 people in two land sites and two other programs.
This year, Campbell is aiming at serving 700 people at three different land sites and two different programs. The land sites include the North Richmond Senior Center, the Nevin Community Center in Central Richmond and Jefferson Park in Oakland. The two programs Christmas in Richmond will serve this year include Meals on Wheels in Oakland and Richmond, for seniors who cannot come out to a site, and the Adopt a Family program.
This year, Christmas in Richmond adopted 25 individual families that have fallen on hard times due to the economy. They will provide toys for the children of the families, as well as a Christmas dinner. “There are so many areas and people who need help,” said Spears. “We can’t be a solution to everyone, but we can help people.”
The feeding begins at 11 a.m. and continues to 4 p.m. at the various sites. The food plates they will be serving include turkey, dressing, greens, macaroni and cheese, candied yams, potato salad and green beans. The meals also feature various desserts.
Campbell, a real estate agent with Watermark properties in Richmond, and Spears have self-financed this largely out of their pockets and with some donations from family members and other individuals.
In years past, the Grocery Outlet donated 55 turkeys, the Bay Area Longshoremen’s Memorial Association also has given donations, and Richmond City Councilman Corky Booze has used his resources to help bring donations to the effort. With Christmas fast approaching, donations and volunteer help are needed, as the needs of people grow as a result of a down economy. “This year, we need everything, from volunteers to toys to food and clothes,” said Spears. “Every year, we have had faith that we would grow and it has.” “I believe that the work and heart that is put into this makes it work,” added Campbell. “This is a wonderful thing. I would not have it any other way. As a family, we will continue to do this until God calls us home.”
For donations or information on Christmas in Richmond, you can go to [], call (510) 932-6817 or e-mail sburgundie @
Lee Hubbard is a Bay Area journalist who is well known to longtime Bay View readers.
He can be reached at superlehubbard @

2010-12-09 "Sidewalk sleepers; Moving the service-resistant homeless from Sleeping Bag City spreads the problem out—and that’s the intent" by Deidre Pike

San Pablo Bay ecology

2010-12-09 "Endangered coho salmon begin migration to Marin" by Mark Prado from "Marin Independent Journal"newspaper
Recent rainstorms have coaxed coho salmon back to West Marin creeks, and there are some early encouraging signs that the critically endangered species could have a decent year. The Marin Municipal Water District's fisheries management team reports that the rain has brought spawning salmon from the ocean into Lagunitas Creek and stimulated a flurry of spawning activity this week. On Tuesday, water district and National Park Service biologists conducted surveys in Lagunitas and San Geronimo creeks and Devil's Gulch -- an important tributary to Lagunitas Creek in Samuel P. Taylor State Park -- where they observed 59 coho and found 30 new redds, salmon nests embedded in gravel.
That total included 31 coho and 18 redds in San Geronimo Creek, where there were only nine coho and six redds recorded for the entire previous spawning season. There was also one redd in Lagunitas Creek upstream of Shafter Bridge at the district's Leo T. Cronin Fish Viewing Area. Only 67 fish and 51 redds were reported in the Lagunitas Creek study area all of last season, water district officials said. The previous season, only 43 fish and 26 redds were noted. Water district fisheries biologist Greg Andrew said the surge in spawning this week is a good sign, but added it is still too early to say how well the run will do this year. "We saw this last year; we had a small storm and a run of fish and that turned out to be the peak," Andrew said. "But we don't know what will happen this year. We are seeing a lot of fish and redds in San Geronimo Creek, so that is encouraging."
He noted the number of coho counted so far is still well below the seasonal average observed over the past 15 years -- about 557 fish and 229 redds. "It's an average we would love to see again," Andrew said. "It is a dire situation with these coho." The final count for coho spawning will probably be tallied around the end of January. Coho salmon have a three-year life cycle in which they hatch, live in creeks for a year and go to sea for two years before returning to their birth sites. The species -- known as the Central California Coast coho salmon -- is in trouble. The federal government listed the species as "threatened" in October 1996 and in June 2005 it was re-listed as "endangered." In the past three years the number of fish returning to streams in its range, between Mendocino and Santa Cruz, has taken a precipitous drop. Marin's Lagunitas watershed has one of the largest remaining populations of wild coho salmon in Northern California, but the fish have virtually vanished.
The state Department of Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, Marin Municipal Water, the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network, Marin County and others have discussed a plan to rear the fish in captivity, but to date nothing has happened. "It's stuck with Fish and Game right now," said Carrie Sendak, Salmon Protection and Watershed Network biologist. "We are hopeful it will be a good year, but the numbers right now are still lower than what would sustain the population." With the recent rains, this weekend may be a good time to see the fish. The Cronin Fish Viewing Area is on Lagunitas Creek at Shafter Bridge adjacent to Sir Francis Drake Boulevard. SPAWN is hosting creek walks twice daily at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays through the spawning season. The tour is free for SPAWN members and $10 for adults and $4 for children. The tour starts at the Environmental Education Center at the San Geronimo Valley Community Center.

2010-12-15 "Fighting Bad Air with Cellphones; Oakland Port Commissioner Margaret Gordon has teamed up with Intel Labs to measure air quality in West Oakland with a high-tech phone" by Caitlin Esch from "East Bay Express" newspaper

The air in West Oakland contains pollutants that make people sick. Children in the neighborhood, sandwiched between the port, several major highways, and a rail yard, are hospitalized with asthma at a rate seven times higher than the average Californian, according to the Pacific Institute, a nonprofit research group in Oakland. "One of the primary conditions of this neighborhood is the black-gray film on everything in West Oakland," said Margaret Gordon, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, a non-profit group of community activists. "It's on the [window] sills, in your car, in your clothes." Now, with the help of a cellphone that "breathes," researchers at Intel Labs in Berkeley have teamed up with the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project to measure particulate matter and other industrial pollutants in the air, block by block, in real time. So far, researchers have developed a prototype about the size of a walkie talkie that measures five common industrial pollutants. It also has a built-in GPS that immediately transfers data back to the Intel lab for analyzing, according to Allison Woodruff, a researcher in the lab. "Our hope is that the community will be able to collect data to show things about their environment that they didn't know before, and that [legislators] didn't know before," Woodruff said. Brian Beveridge, also co-director for the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, hopes the ability to easily measure air quality drives developers toward social consciousness. "Imagine if you could look at a Google map on your phone and decide whether to rent an apartment or not, buy a condo, go to this or that day care," he said. "This kind of information can help guide the permitting of facilities — can help guide where we put things in Oakland. ... If the public begins to say, 'We don't want to live where the air's bad, and I can see right here the air's bad,' the market will drive it." Gordon and Beveridge's group has already deployed Intel's prototype in West Oakland. Back in February, they collected one hundred hours of data. Beveridge said he hopes to eventually compile data over the course a year to see whether there are seasonal or block-by-block variations. Gordon wants to compare spikes in pollution with hospitalization rates to prove the toll industrial pollutants take on human health.
Already, the group has uncovered surprising information. The Bay Area Air Quality Management District monitors the air in West Oakland from a single tower. Woodruff said that while the station is high-end and collects valuable data, it's also high up in the air. By measuring the air on the ground, the prototype could be a valuable complement. "At ground level, particulate matter levels might be higher; there might be more dust on the ground," Woodruff said. "Another expectation is there might be greater variation. At a busy intersection or closer to the port, you might see higher levels." Intel and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project make good partners. Intel aims to design user-friendly software to promote "citizen science" and the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project, established in 2005, works closely with community members to clean up the air. "I've had asthma all my life, but I had more attacks when I moved to West Oakland," Gordon, 63, explained. "I've been here eighteen years. A lot of people have died of cancer or been very sick." Several of Gordon's eleven grandchildren also suffer respiratory problems. One of them, now nine, was hospitalized at birth with severe asthma. That's not surprising, considering that 82 percent of West Oakland kids live within an eighth of a mile of an industrial site. Gordon is a former maid who was nominated to the Oakland Port Commission in 2007 by Mayor Ron Dellums and confirmed by the city council. She has become a powerful force for change in West Oakland. She and her group were instrumental in altering the route diesel trucks take through the neighborhood, steering them away from homes, day-cares, and schools. In 2003, Gordon and Beveridge helped shut down the Red Star Yeast plant near the West Oakland BART station. The plant was a noxious polluter reviled by locals. "I smelled it in the neighborhood; I smelled it as I went past," Beveridge recalled. "You could sometimes even smell it all the way downtown." In 2007, Gordon was inducted into the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame, and, last month, she won the Purpose Prize, a prestigious award from the San Francisco-based nonprofit Civic Ventures. The award, which comes with a $100,000 prize, is given to social advocates over the age of sixty. But Gordon isn't planning to retire anytime soon. After taxes, Gordon plans to use the prize money to go to college. She wants to take classes in public health, political science, and administration. "There's still more work to be done," she said. "We still haven't eradicated asthma or lung cancer in West Oakland." Perhaps Gordon's biggest achievement is mobilizing the community. Thanks to so-called toxic tours she organized, residents in West Oakland are more aware of the polluters in their neighborhood. The group also trains locals to use the Intel prototype to gather air-quality data. "Normally, you'd hire graduate students," Beveridge said. "Having community members gather this data is new. ... We teach them about science and we teach them a marketable skill — data gathering." Despite advances, an affordable phone that measures air quality and displays information in layperson's terms is still years off, according to Woodruff. Though the research is there, the project needs more advanced development to work out potential kinks. For example, how might the phone constantly measure air quality if tucked into a pocket? And how low-cost a sensor could you use while still gathering accurate information? "At this point, we need to prove that this is something people want," Woodruff said. "If we prove that, the technology will follow."

Solano County [Vallejo, Vacaville, etc.]
2010-12-12 "Vallejo police shoot, kill suspect in apparent act of self defense" by Lesha Ruffin from "Bay City News" and "News10/KXTV"
VALLEJO, CA - A suspect was shot and killed by Vallejo police on Saturday afternoon when he apparently threatened officers responding to calls for help, police said.
Officers were called to the area of Sonoma Boulevard and Kentucky Street in west Vallejo around 3 p.m. on reports of a man brandishing a gun, police said. A witness provided police with a description of the involved suspect and firearm, police said. He was seen fleeing into a nearby alley as they arrived at the scene, police said.
The suspect - a 34-year-old Vallejo man - was holding the gun when police began engaging him in the alley, police said. The suspect was shot by an officer at least once after the officer apparently had to act in self defense, police said. The suspect was taken by air ambulance to a regional trauma center, but was later pronounced dead, police said.
The man's name is being withheld pending notification of his next of kin, but police said he did have a criminal history outside of California. Police recovered the suspect's firearm at the scene, police said. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing by the Vallejo Police Department and the Solano County District Attorney's Office.
An acquaintance of the suspect, Joseph Sanders, told News10 the man was a good person and a student at Napa Valley College. Sanders said his friend was at the scene videotaping footage for a college video, when he was shot by police.

2010-12-16 "Candlelight vigil held for man shot by police" from "Vallejo Times-Herald" newspaper
Friends and family members of Guy Jarreau, 34, of Vallejo held a candlelight Wednesday night to remember the man killed by police in a downtown alley.
Police shot Jarreau at about 3 p.m. Saturday, later saying that officers were responding to a report of a man brandishing a gun at a number of teenagers in the 2100 block of Sonoma Boulevard. Wednesday night, candles, letters, photographs, flower bouquets and prayer cards filled a small portion of the alley where the shooting occurred.
Police say the officer fired in self-defense, fearing for his and the teenagers' safety. The shooting is under investigation. But Jarreau's friends at the vigil said the police account of the incident is wrong and that questions remain about what really happened. They said Jarreau was working in a friendly manner with the teens and filming an anti-violence video at the time.
The victim's mother flew from New Orleans following her son's death and spoke at the vigil, friend Steward Bunton said. "She wants the truth to come out," Bunton said. "I knew him. He was a good dude. He was very heart-felt and had no enemies. I knew him for a few years and I never saw him with a gun," Bunton added.
Another friend, Jimmy Brooks, said the group intends to hold regular vigils and other events to demand justice, and draw attention to police conduct in Jarreau's death. Neighborhood resident Linda Tarplin said she attended the vigil because she knew some of the teens who were running from the scene and who were hand-cuffed on the ground following the shooting. "It was a positive event they were trying to do here," she said.
Jarreau was a New Orleans native, and moved to Vallejo after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Several friends at the vigil had worked with him at Wal-Mart. He had attended Napa Valley College for the past three years and was pursuing an Associate degree in Psychology. "It's sad the guy we knew got killed this way," Brooks said.

Sonoma County [Santa Rosa, Petaluma, etc.]

Napa Valley

Contra Costa County [Concord, Richmond, etc]
2010-12-13 "Mt Diablo Education Workers To Rally To Protect Public Education"
Dressed in all blue, hundreds of "blue" Mt. Diablo School District teachers and other workers responsible for keeping schools safe, clean, transporting students and feeding them will mass for a "Blue Rally" at the district board meeting here Monday, Dec. 14 at school district headquarters (1936 Carlotta Drive).
There will be a joint news conference and rally at 6 p.m prior to the 7:30 p.m. board meeting. Employees are expected to maintain a "blue presence" at the board meeting throughout the evening. Employees insist they are not being respected in current contract negotiations. Many employees say they won't be able to maintain a basic "subsistence" life if radical district changes are made to their contract, including severely limiting their work hours and raising the cost of their healthcare.
The employees include those from Local One, California School Employees Association and Mount Diablo Education Association who provide classroom instruction, food service, office, technology, classroom assistance, custodial service, landscape and maintenance duties.
The unions have made major concessions to the District, but further cuts, they say, will make it impossible to provide safe and clean classrooms as well as a good education to students.
“We provide students with a quality educational experience by maintaining clean and safe school sites, working in classrooms, food service, transportation, technology, offices and maintenance. Parents and the community depend upon us to keep schools safe, open and running,” said Jeff Apkarian, the PEU1 spokesperson.
“We have responded to the current state budget crisis. We have offered significant contract concessions. Our units have already offered furlough days and a willingness to contribute a fixed dollar amount toward medical benefits. But the district has refused our offers,” added Apkarian.

Marin County
2010-12-10 "Cal Park Tunnel Opening Ceremony Sees Hundreds of Cyclists" by Tom Murphy from "San Francisco Street Blog"
Hundreds of joyous Marin County cyclists pedaled through the Cal Park Hill tunnel Friday afternoon as officials cut the ribbon on a $27 million holiday present that supporters hailed as a national model for green transportation. The 124-year-old railroad tunnel, sealed after a fire in 1990, connects the Larkspur Ferry landing to San Rafael, trimming 10-15 minutes from the trip for the average cyclist. A separate, enclosed tube will allow light-rail trains to reach Larkspur when the SMART system is built years from now, the next step in what several speakers referred to as “the vision” for transportation. “This is truly a testament for our vision of a multimodal transportation system for Marin County,” said San Rafael Mayor Al Boro. “It links bicycles, pedestrians, buses and passenger trains, ultimately with a choice of how they want to go to and from their destination.” The striped bikeway features four video cameras, emergency phones, ventilation, LED lighting, cell service and fire alarms. In addition to the 1,106-foot tunnel, class 1 bike paths connect to Sir Francis Drake Blvd and Anderson Road, bringing the total length of the project to 1.1 miles.
It will be open daily from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. with expectations of up to 800,000 riders per year. “It’s such a world-class facility that it’s going to be a model for the nation,” said Deb Hubsmith, the advocacy director for the Marin County Bike Coalition (MCBC) who led a twelve-year grassroots campaign to reopen the tunnel. “It’s taken all kinds of collaborations and agencies to bring it together,” she told Streetsblog in an interview. “It shows that vision, tenacity and will can truly make miracles happen.”
At the opening, Hubsmith drew loud cheers by saying the vision is important “so that we can shift and get people out of their cars, so that we can be healthier, so that we can be fitter, so that we can use less oil, and so that we can be happier. Tell me, do you have more fun sitting in traffic, or do you have more fun bicycling?”
[ ... ]
For Marin cyclists, the tunnel adds a critical link to the north-south bikeway that will eventually run from the Golden Gate Bridge to Cloverdale in Sonoma County. The route will include bike paths along the planned 70-mile SMART route. The tunnel project also connects with two east-west bike routes leading toward Larkspur and the Ross Valley. A new north-south link provides a lighted class 1 path over Lincoln Hill from San Rafael to the Civic Center.
[ ... ]

Alameda County [Oakland, Berkeley, etc.]
2010-12-14 "For AC Transit Riders, Bus Service Still a Civil Rights Issue In Oakland, western Alameda and Contra Costa counties, bus routes dropped by 15 percent" by Bob Allen and Marcy Rein, SF Streetsblog at "Bay Citizen"
Fifty-five years to the month after the start of the Montgomery bus boycott, people of color can sit wherever they want on the bus—when and if one arrives. Bus operators all over the country are slashing routes in response to deepening deficits. This loss of service denies people who depend on transit their civil rights in deep, daily, grinding, unmistakable ways.
Bus riders in Oakland and throughout western Alameda and Contra Costa counties have lost nearly 15 percent of their AC Transit routes in 2010. Deeper cuts were forestalled by the drivers’ union, Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 192, which refused to agree to a new contract unless the agency postponed further service reductions for at least three months. Now it looks like those cuts will be back on the table in January, and riders and drivers plan to protest at tomorrow’s AC Transit meeting.
“We are the heart throb of this city,” AC Transit driver Lorenzo Jacobs said, speaking at a May 2010 public hearing against the cuts. “When you start cutting service, you’re cutting opportunities out there for people who are doing whatever they’re doing in their lives. When you cut lines, you’re affecting people’s lives, their everyday lives,” he said.
The service cuts directly impact Oakland youth, who need AC Transit to get to school because the district doesn’t run yellow school buses; they hurt seniors and people with disabilities who can’t drive, and low-income families who can’t afford cars. Lack of mobility cuts off opportunities for work and education, enforces inequality and persistent segregation. African Americans and Latinos are far less likely than whites to own cars.
Nationally, around 62 percent of city bus riders are African American and Latino. Nearly 80 percent of AC Transit riders are people of color. Bus riders and their allies who take on this 21st Century civil-rights fight confront institutional obstacles at every turn. In their efforts to protect and expand service, they contend with financing policies and decision-making structures that are stacked against them, and they lack access to the courts to seek redress. And few political leaders champion the needs of transit riders in general and bus riders in particular. Funding priorities from the federal government on down shortchange bus riders while favoring drivers and rail passengers.
Eighty percent of federal transportation funding goes to highways, and only 20 percent goes to transit. Virtually all of the $500 billion in the Federal Surface Transportation Authorization goes to capital costs versus supporting day-to-day operations of buses.
On a regional level, the San Francisco Bay Area’s Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) privileges costly expansions over core urban operations. It consistently slights bus operators in favor of rail services such as CalTrain and BART that have a much higher proportion of white and wealthier riders. While AC Transit was looking at a $56 million deficit, the MTC was working hard to help BART find an additional $70 million to build the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) tram project. That $70 million was needed to replace federal stimulus funds BART lost by failing to follow proper civil rights guidelines when they approved the OAC. The structure of the MTC itself disenfranchises city-dwellers and people of color.
The 19-member commission controls transportation planning and funding for nine counties in the Bay Area. Because each county gets two seats at most, residents in large urban counties–like Santa Clara, which includes the 930,000 population city of San Jose–get far less representation than smaller and less diverse counties like Napa, with its 135,000 people.
Challenging the unfair distribution of transportation resources in court has been much harder since a 2001 Supreme Court decision barred individuals from filing lawsuits over transportation policies that have discriminatory impacts on the basis of race, color or national origin. By taking away the “private right to action,” the Alexander v. Sandoval decision deprived transit activists of a legal tool that has played a key part in civil rights cases.
After more than a year, the movement centered in Montgomery won the legal end to Alabama’s segregation laws. Today’s transportation justice advocates are pushing for civil rights in transit on many levels. Riders and drivers have joined forces to try save bus service in dozens of cities around the country, as they are doing in the East Bay. These efforts should gain fresh energy with the inauguration of the new national leadership of the ATU, which represents bus drivers in many U.S. cities.
A Bay Area coalition of civil rights, faith-based, community and environmental groups is pursuing legal challenges to discriminatory funding. The non-profit law firm Public Advocates filed the administrative complaint on behalf of Urban Habitat, TransForm and Genesis that cost BART the stimulus funds for the OAC. In a follow-up complaint, they have charged MTC with failing to ensure that agencies and programs it funds are respecting civil rights. In addition, Public Advocates has filed a class action suit against MTC’s funding practices, which is pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
Undaunted by the hostile climate in the new Congress, the new national coalition called “Transit Riders for Public Transportation” (TRPT) aims to flip federal transit funding priorities and secure legislation restoring individuals’ right to sue over discriminatory transit policies. TRPT draws together grassroots groups from all over the country who put transportation central to the fight for civil rights, recognizing that low-income communities and communities of color will remain trapped in second-class status until the transportation system serves everyone equally. --
Editor’s note: This story is being re-published from Race, Poverty and the Environment [], a magazine produced by the social and environmental justice non-profit, Urban Habitat []. Bob Allen is the Transportation Justice Program Director at Urban Habitat. Marcy Rein is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Race, Poverty & the Environment.

2010-12 "Police files reveal Federal interest in Oscar Grant protests, Anarchists" from "KALW News"
Documents recently obtained by The Informant reveal the significant involvement of state and federal law enforcement in monitoring the various Oscar Grant protests in Oakland over the past two years. According to internal Oakland Police Department documents about the July 8th protests that followed Johannes Mehserle’s involuntary manslaughter conviction, agents from the Drug Enforcement Agency, United States Secret Service, and the California Department of Justice were assigned to monitor crowd activities. Thirty-three federal, state and local officers were assigned to video details posted in buildings surrounding Frank Ogawa Plaza and throughout the crowd of several hundred demonstrators. Among them were personnel from the Secret Service, the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, and Bureau of Intelligence and Investigation who took video of the protest.
Some DEA and Oakland Police officers recorded the protest, while others dressed in plainclothes provided intelligence from within the crowd to OPD’s Emergency Operations Command Center at 1605 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The documents indicate FBI involvement in monitoring the Oscar Grant protests as early as January 2009. A police report included in the case file of Holly Noll, a 24-year-old activist who plead no contest to charges of assaulting a police officer, shows the FBI was providing intelligence to OPD on the movements of “black bloc” anarchists in Downtown Oakland on the night of January 14, 2009, when the latest of several protests agitating for Johannes Mehserle’s arrest erupted into property destruction and clashes with police.
Oakland Police Officer Scott Seder’s report from that night indicates specific FBI interest in “anarchists.” The report reads as follows: “OPD [Oakland Police Department] radio announced a communications order stating the FBI advised groups of anarchists, described as MW [male, white], 17-25 years old, wearing black and red clothing, were en route to the protest and planned to commit acts of violence and vandalism adjacent to the main demonstration.”
Jose Luis Fuentes, an attorney at Siegel & Yee, the law firm that is defending those arrested in the July 8th protests, believes the involvement of state and federal agencies in intelligence-gathering is part of a larger effort to scrutinize political protest. “They’re trying to build a case against ‘black blocs’ or anarchists as domestic terrorism,” said Fuentes. “The federal government wants to know who’s protesting. They’re documenting who the agitators are — This is all COINTELPRO resurfacing.”
The Counter Intelligence Program, or COINTELPRO, was an extensive federal operation that ran from the 1950s through the 1970s that monitored political activists, sometime using law enforcement to harass and discredit everyone from the National Association of Colored People to the Ku Klux Klan, who federal authorities considered dangerous. But law enforcement personnel who worked the Oscar Grant protests say federal involvement had nothing to do with a political ideology and everything to do with keeping civilians and critical infrastructure sites safe and preventing disorder.
Oakland Police Captain David Downing, who was in charge of “Operation Verdict,” the police response to the July 8th post-verdict protests, says the handful of federal agents were nothing more than extra eyes among the several hundred law enforcement officers working on July 8th. “Their only job was to be out there and videotape, be observers and feed information,” said Downing, who was in charge of Operation Verdict. The DEA, California DOJ and Secret Services agents were a fraction of the several hundreds of law enforcement agents from across Northern California who took part in Operation Verdict. Much like several police departments provided officers to assist with crowd control, the state and federal agencies brought their investigative capacities to the table, as well as equipment. The FBI and DEA both offered helicopters for air support.
Documents indicate that anarchists were on everyone’s mind. In a running police log from the July 8 protests and in emails exchanged between OPD command staff in the days prior, there is extensive mention of potential acts of property destruction and violence by “anarchists.” The log was later forwarded to the Department of Homeland Security’s National Operations Center. “They were interested in the event,” said Captain Downing. During previous protests about the Oscar Grant case, media reports focused on property destruction allegedly perpetrated by “black bloc” anarchists. “They’re a concern,” said Captain Downing of the Oakland Police. “They don’t really care about the cause other than using the mask of a large mob to engage in property damage.”
Defense attorney Jose Luis Fuentes remains convinced the intelligence gathered during Operation Verdict was part of a broader effort to intimidate political protest. The subtext is that, “If you’re going to protest and violate any law, we might prosecute you federally,” Fuentes said.
A November 16th primer on “Anarchist Extremism” on the FBI’s website describes the Bureau’s general policy on anarchists: “Currently, much of the criminal activities of anarchist extremists fall under local jurisdiction, so they’re investigated by local police. If asked by police, the Bureau can assist. But we have a heavy presence at a major national or international events generating significant media coverage—that’s when the threat from anarchist extremists, as well as others who are up to no good, dramatically increases.” According to an OPD investigative log, the FBI explored the possibility of charging some of the July Oscar Grant protesters federally.
FBI Special Agent Russell Romero contacted OPD on July 21 to set up a meeting about the July 8th incident. On July 27, Agents Russell Romero and Kari McInturf met with OPD investigators “to see if Federal charges can be brought.” Romero and McInturf obtained a list of all the July 8th arrestees and their charges from OPD. To date, no federal charges have been filed.

2010-12-07 "Oakland City Attorney Warns on Pot Farm Legality; Sources say John Russo sent memo warning City Council of potential pitfalls in city's marijuana cultivation plans" by Zusha Elinson from "Bay Citizen"
Oakland City Attorney John Russo sent a memo to the Oakland City Council last week warning that federal officials have concerns about the city’s plans for giant pot farms, according to multiple City Hall sources. The memo was vague and didn’t outline specific concerns, according to these sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
It came after Russo’s meeting with federal officials, the details of which were reported by California Watch yesterday. Quoting two unnamed sources, California Watch reported that federal officials met with the Oakland city attorney last month to voice their concerns about an ordinance that would permit four enormous medical pot farms in Oakland.
The city is in the midst of taking applications for the pot farms. Berkeley, too, is moving ahead with large-scale cultivation permits. The relationship between federal law enforcement and medical marijuana operations has been testy over the years. Under the Bush administration, the feds would often prosecute dispensaries. Under the Obama administration, Attorney General Eric Holder announced in 2009 that the feds would no longer be raiding dispensaries that were legal under state law. But the pot farms have raised new concerns. Some legal observers, including Bill Panzer, a lawyer who wrote the state’s seminal medical marijuana law, have said that the pot farms don’t comply with the state law that requires medical pot operations to be not-for-profit collectives of patients and caregivers.
Russo refused to sign off on the pot farm legislation, normally a formality, and issued a memo in August raising legal concerns about the ordinance, according to multiple sources who’ve seen it.
However, Russo also supported Proposition 19, the effort to legalize marijuana. And according to Larry Reid, an Oakland City Council member who co-authored the pot farm legislation with Council member Rebecca Kaplan, Russo’s office helped draft the ordinance.
Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner said the Council needs to discuss the legal issues raised by the pot farm ordinance, which the city hopes will spur a tax-generating industry. Brunner noted that when the city went ahead with the medical marijuana dispensaries – now an established business – it was also a legal gray area. “When we did dispensaries, we were on the cutting edge,” said Brunner. "In this case, we should know what were getting into; we shouldn't go into this blindly.”
Brunner said that Russo’s missive in August was vague, outlining concerns in federal and state law. “For me it didn’t have enough information,” she said. Alex Katz, a spokesman for Russo, confirmed late Tuesday that the memo had been sent to the City Council but declined to detail the contents, citing attorney-client privilege. It consisted of the August memo along with a cover letter.
A lawyer from the U.S. Attorney’s Office decline to comment on the Oakland ordinance, California Watch reported, but said in general that there are concerns that some operators are using medical marijuana laws as a cover.
Federal Drug Enforcement Administration officials contacted the city to find out about the ordinance over the summer. DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told The Bay Citizen at the time: “I will say this: We are certainly going to be very, very interested in any large-scale marijuana cultivation that’s going on."
In Berkeley, the city attorney wrote and signed off on a measure passed overwhelmingly that will allow for six 30,000-foot marijuana growing operations in the city’s warehouse district. Julie Sinai, the chief of staff to Mayor Tom Bates, said that as far as she knows the feds have raised no concerns about Berkeley’s cultivation plans.

2010-07-27 "Richmond Eyes Oakland's Pot Tax Councilman also proposes a ballot measure to tax pot shops 10 percent" by Ian Stewart from "Richmond Confidential" newspaper
Just one week after passing its first-ever ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries, the City of Richmond on Tuesday will consider joining Oakland at the cutting edge of pot law.
City Councilman Tom Butt, who last week voiced the strongest opposition to the city’s new plan to grant business licenses to medical pot dispensaries, is now proposing the city craft laws to allow, regulate and tax large-scale medical marijuana growers, similar to a controversial move that neighboring Oakland is also considering. Oakland’s City Council will vote Tuesday night on whether to allow four large growing facilities within city limits — a move that passed a first reading last week. In addition to regulating and taxing large-scale pot growers, Butt is also recommending that the City Council agree to place a measure on the November 2 ballot that would set a 10 percent tax rate for medical pot shops. All new taxes must be voted on in an election. Currently, Oakland taxes marijuana dispensaries 1.8 percent of their gross receipts, although the city may ask voters to consider a pot tax hike this November, as well. Berkeley is also considering a ballot measure that would tax medical pot at a 2.5 percent rate. The November 2 ballot will also ask state voters to decide on Measure 19, which would legalize recreational marijuana use.
“It looks like this train is not going to stop,” Butt said of the booming medical marijuana industry. “And if that’s true, I want to make sure Richmond gets all the advantages it can out of going down that route — getting as much tax money we can from these operators.
“If we’re going to do this, we ought to do it comprehensively – not just do the part with the most benefit to the dealers,” Butt added. Richmond’s City Council still has to pass a second reading of last week’s ordinance. The new rules allow for an unlimited number of medical pot dispensaries in town, as opposed to the initial plan to allow only three. The ordinance, which passed 4-3, does restrict pot shops to parts of town that are zoned for commercial use, and calls for a 1,500-foot buffer between any dispensary and a high school. Dispensaries must also prove their nonprofit status, submit to criminal background checks of their managers, and provide adequate security and bookkeeping records.
New medical marijuana dispensaries are also subject to a public hearing process, in which neighbors have a chance to voice concerns to city staff.
It’s unclear how many large-scale marijuana-growing operations there are in Richmond, although Butt suggested that some do already exist. Richmond is currently home to eight dispensaries, which are facing civil injunctions for operating without proper business permits. The new ordinance will not do anything to change the status of that litigation; rather, all dispensaries will have to submit to the same application process to acquire a new, proper license. Councilmembers Nat Bates, Jim Rogers, Jeff Ritterman and Mayor Gayle McLaughlin voted in favor of the ordinance last week, while Butt, Ludmyrna Lopez and Maria Viramontes voted against it.
Should the ordinance pass a second reading, city staff would begin accepting applications for marijuana vendor permits within 30 days.
In his weekly e-mail blast, Butt forwarded his followers a letter sent from Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus that took issue with several aspects of the new dispensary ordinance, primarily, that the city manager’s office (and not the police department, as Magnus recommends) will handle permit applications. Magnus also warned that dispensaries could prove vulnerable targets for crime, given the amount of marijuana and cash that flows in and out of the shops.
“I believe that as a general governing principle, it is better to start with more stringent regulations of a new business model that has the potential to be problematic — and then determine over time if those regulations should be relaxed or otherwise modified,” Magnus wrote. “It is almost impossible to strengthen lax ordinances and laws or reform already established business practices after problems are identified.”
If the Council is unable to pass the ordinance’s second reading Tuesday night, the issue will have to be put on ice for a few weeks. Tuesday marks the council’s last regular meeting before breaking for August recess.

2010-12-15 "Crime Dropped Significantly Under Ron Dellums Homicides have plummeted more than 40 percent since Jerry Brown left office, and violent crime overall is down 16 percent" by Robert Gammon from "East Bay Express" newspaper
Critics relentlessly skewered Ron Dellums throughout his mayoral tenure for being detached from his job. Some of those criticisms were legitimate. But when historians look back at the ex-Congressman's four years as mayor of Oakland, they may not be so harsh, particularly when examining violent crime in Oakland. That's because there's no denying the fact that homicides and other violent crimes dropped significantly on Dellums' watch. Through November 28, homicides were down in Oakland by 19 percent year-to-date compared to 2009. There were 77 homicides through November 28, compared to 95 over the same time period last year, according to police department statistics. Homicides also have plummeted 31 percent since Dellums' first year in office. In 2007, there were 111 homicides through the end of November of that year. If this month is much like the rest of 2010, then homicides are on track to have dropped by a staggering 42 percent since Jerry Brown's last year as mayor in 2006. That year, Oakland endured 145 killings. This year, Oakland was on pace to finish with 84. If someone had told you four years ago that homicides would decline by more than 40 percent and some would consider Dellums' term a failure, you probably would have thought that person was crazy.
The drops in other violent crimes are no less striking. Rapes have declined about 15 percent so far this year, and since 2007, they're down by 23 percent. That's 45 fewer women being raped each year in Oakland since Dellums took office. Similarly, aggravated assaults have dropped by 18 percent. And robberies, including armed robberies and carjackings, are down by 13 percent since 2007. Overall, violent crimes have declined by 16 percent since Dellums' first year. But that's not all. Serious crimes have plummeted by 35 percent since 2007. Crime, in fact, is down nearly across the board. Out of 27 crime categories, the only two exceptions were residential burglaries and robberies, which rose 31 percent and 38 percent, respectively, from 2007. "We got it done," Dellums said in an interview last week when asked to assess crime during his administration.
So why hasn't Dellums received more credit? After all, mayors are blamed when crime goes up. Why shouldn't they get kudos, when crime goes down? Dellums said he believes he could have done a better job informing Oaklanders about the positive crime trends. Part of him appears to regret not doing what he calls "chest-thumping." Although it's difficult to pinpoint what causes crime to go up or down, Dellums believes Oakland's success is due to several factors. Among them was the police department's decision to return to area command a few years ago. The department divided the city into three geographical areas so that officers and commanders would have more accountability and would become more familiar with specific neighborhoods and residents. The idea came from a white paper that Brown commissioned at the end of his tenure. "For the first time in many years, officers were deployed into districts and communities instead of on a city-wide level," Dellums noted. Dellums also credits a legal ruling that the city won against the Oakland cops' union, restoring management rights to the police department. And, finally, he believes that increasing the number of cops in 2008 to more than eight hundred helped bring down crime — as did the full implementation of community policing under Measure Y.
All of those moves might help explain the drops in crime in 2008 and 2009. But what about 2010? This year, the number of cops has fallen below seven hundred because of attrition and the decision by the city council in July to lay off eighty officers. Yet crime is still going down. It's declined at a more rapid pace in 2010 than the previous two years. Dellums credits this year's strong numbers to Police Chief Anthony Batts, whom the mayor hired in 2009. Dellums also said that receiving one of the largest grants for policing from the federal stimulus package — more than $60 million over three years — allowed the city to stave off even more cuts to the department. Dellums also noted that the department has leveraged its relationships with state and federal agencies to bring more law enforcement to Oakland. And, finally, the mayor believes violence prevention programs funded by Measure Y have helped lower crime, and he thinks his decision to focus on prisoner-reentry services, which include counseling and job training programs for ex-cons, made a difference. "I came to the conclusion that if we relegate these people to the shadows of the economy, we were never going to bring down crime in this city," he said. Chief Batts was not available for comment for this story, but Assistant Chief Howard Jordan said in an interview that he believes that Batts' decision to focus on gathering and analyzing detailed criminal intelligence data has been pivotal in lowering crime this year, as were several major investigations and a series of big drug busts earlier this year. "That had an impact on getting a lot of the bad guys off the streets," he said. As for Dellums, Jordan praised the mayor for impacting crime in Oakland, noting his decision to hire Batts and his ability to take advantage of his numerous connections in Washington, DC. "The biggest role that he has played was getting the resources we needed," Jordan said. But will the downward crime trend continue if the department loses even more officers? Mayor-elect Jean Quan has said that she wants to hire additional cops, but she and the city council remain at odds with the police union because it still doesn't want to pay into its retirement plan. Dellums said the council had "no option" but to lay off officers when the union refused to make pension contributions. But he said the new administration needs to get back to the bargaining table as soon as possible. So what is the magic number? How many officers can Oakland lose before crime begins to go back up? "Getting to eight hundred obviously played a role" in lowering crime, Dellums said. "At what point does it unravel? If you get down to six hundred police officers? I can't tell you the exact number, but based on history, if it does continue to go down it will unravel."
[ ... ]

2010-12-14 "AIPAC Comes to Oakland: Seven Protesters Arrested" By Gar Smith from "Berkeley Daily Planet" newspaper
When the American Israel Political Action Committee (AIPAC) comes to town, demonstrations are sure to follow and, on Monday night, December 13, Oakland was no exception.
AIPAC is recognized as one of the most powerful lobbying groups in Washington, DC. Its annual meetings in Washington draw crowds of 5,000 — an event topped only by the President’s State of the Union Address. With 100,000 members and a $65 million budget, AIPAC’s political clout holds sway over two-thirds of the House and one half of the Senate. AIPAC supported the invasion of Iraq, backs a military strike on Iran, defends Israel’s “Annexation Wall” and calls for expanded settlements in the Occupied Territories. AIPAC also was embroiled in an espionage scandal after two of its top officers were caught passing “national security information to foreign government agents.” (A former defense official is now serving a 12.5-year prison sentence for violating the US Espionage Act.)
For its Oakland event, AIPAC had scheduled a 7 PM dinner at the Marriot Hotel on Broadway. Hundreds of “honored dignitaries” were invited to hear keynote speaker Rep. Shelly Berkeley (D-Las Vegas), a friend of the Zionist Organization of America and Christians United for Israel who was described as “a strong proponent of natural growth in the settlements.”
By 5 PM, more than 100 demonstrators had gathered on the sidewalks outside the hotel. (Some demonstrators opposed to the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands had gathered at 11AM for a public reading of the Goldstone Report, a UN paper that criticized both the Israeli government and Hamas for human rights abuses). A ten-member marching band danced down Broadway to join the anti-AIPAC crowd bringing a note of hand-clapping merriment to the protest.
The demonstrations were loud but peaceful. The only things being hurled were political chants. “2, 4, 6, 8, Stop the Jihad; End the Hate” was met with cries of “2, 4, 6, 8, Israel Is a Racist State.” “AIPAC, AIPAC! You Can’t Hide; We Charge You With Genocide,” was answered with “Racist, Sexist, Anti-gay; Islamofascists, Go Away.” The most disagreeable rants seemed to be confined to online blogs where one AIPAC supporter referred to the StopAIPAC coalition as “the usual pack of brainwashed supporters of extremist Islamic misogyny and Jew-hate.”
AIPAC’s Oakland event was one of four held at different Bay Area venues (a second dinner was slated for Tuesday in San Francisco). About 14 pro-Israel demonstrators could be counted waving Israeli and US flags while, on the other side of the Marriot’s curving driveway, about 75 anti-AIPAC protestors waved signs and invited passersby to gather informational leaflets and sign petitions demanding that California take steps to divest from companies doing business in Israel.
[ ... ]
There were postcards from promoting “Fast Facts” — i.e., $58.6 billion (The amount of US military aid to Israel from 1949-2008); $30 billion (The amount of US military air to Israel from FY 2009-2018); 500,000 (The number of Israeli settlers occupying Palestinian land in violation of international law); 1,084 (The number of Israelis killed by Palestinians from September 29, 2000-August 31, 2010); 6,408 (The number of Palestinians killed by Israelis during the same period).
A display on an adjacent kiosk pointed out that Alameda County would be spending $184,523,517 to finance the Pentagon’s military aid package to Israel for FY 2009-2018. Had those funds stayed at home, the display claims, the money could have provided 149,436 people with primary healthcare for a year.
Another poster contained a quote unearthed by Planet contributor Richard Brenneman. The speaker is AIPAC’s Leadership Development Director Jonathan Kessler: “How are we going to beat back the anti-divestment resolution at [UC] Berkeley? We’re going to make certain that pro-Israel students take over the student government and reverse the vote. That is how AIPAC operates in the nation’s capitol. This is how AIPAC must operate on our nation’s campuses.”
[ ... ]
Arrests at the Entryway -
Around 6, a young man runs through the crowd with a message that “they’re arresting nonviolent protestors around the corner!” A good part of the crowd (including the marching band) moves down 10th street to the entrance to the Conference Center where police have arrested seven anti-AIPAC protestors. Leslie Angeline, Martha Hubert, Janet Kobren, Noura Khori, Valerie Ortiz, Gene St. Onge, Peter Tcherneff are handcuffed and quietly escorted from the scene.
But the most memorable demonstration may have been the one staged by a single young man who paused and placed a prayer mat in the path leading to the Marriot’s entrance. As AIPAC’s guests walked to the dinner, they had to pause and walk around a young Muslim engaged in quiet devotion.
The anti-AIPAC protest was endorsed by a coalition that included Progressive Democrats of America-East Bay, Middle East Study Group, Middle East Children’s Alliance, Bay Area Women in Black, Students for Justice in Palestine, 14 Friends of Palestine, Richmond Progressive Alliance, American Friends Service Committee, Code Pink, Jewish Voice for Peace, ANSWER, Friends of Deir Ibzi’a.
photograph by Gar Smith from "Berkeley Daily Planet" newspaper

2010-12-14 "Berkeley council backs away from honoring soldier at center of WikiLeaks probe" by Doug Oakley from "Contra Costa Times" newspaper
The Army private accused of giving sensitive wartime documents and a graphic combat video to the web site did not gain hero status in the eyes of the Berkeley City Council Tuesday night. In a 8-0 vote with one abstention, the council tabled the resolution brought by the city's Peace and Justice Commission, mostly because council members said they were reluctant to proclaim a hero someone who has neither admitted to nor been convicted of leaking the information. The vote to declare Army Pfc. Bradley Manning a hero came on the same day that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was granted bail in London following his surrender to British police over a Swedish sex-crimes warrant. He denies any wrongdoing but has refused to voluntarily surrender for extradition to Sweden. Manning was charged in May with illegally downloading classified material and faces a possible court martial, and he remains in jail. Back in Berkeley, 10 supporters of the resolution spoke to the council during the public comment period and four spoke against it. Bob Meola, the 58-year-old Peace and Justice commissioner who authored the resolution, said Berkeley should take a stand on the issue "because whoever did this deserves to be thanked by the American people. Democracy requires transparency. Nobody has pointed to one death because of these leaks. I hope that Berkeley can be a light to the rest of the cities in the country so that Bradley Manning can be released." Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates, however, said the resolution "triggered a discussion and debate in this community and all over the world and that is a very positive step, but to proclaim someone a hero or a traitor, I'm not in a position to make that call." Councilman Kriss Worthington said the city needs to wait and find out who is the person behind the release of the documents and video "and then give them an award." "We are being asked to proclaim someone a hero who has not said he did it," Worthington said. "Are we helping him by finding him guilty just because we see it as an outstanding achievement?" Council member Linda Maio said she refused "to be fodder for a media message that runs out and says 'Berkeley declares this guy a hero.'" One speaker during the public comment period, Danny Gonzalez of Move America Forward, said he had brought a petition with 4,000 signatures urging Berkeley not to pass the resolution.

San Francisco city
2010-12-09 "Castro church struggling over staff, finances by Seth Hemmelgarn" from "Bay Area Reporter" newspaper
A church in the Castro neighborhood that's been the spiritual home to many San Francisco LGBTs for 40 years is facing turmoil. A popular music director was recently fired, and the senior pastor abruptly announced her resignation in August. The church is also struggling financially.
The resignation earlier this year of Reverend Dr. Lea Brown from Metropolitan Community Church-San Francisco apparently left the board with direct supervision of staff, and it fired Stephanie Smith, the popular music director for the Sunday evening service. In a November 28 statement posted on the church's website, the Reverend Elder Lillie Brock, of Metropolitan Community Churches, said she realized the last couple months had been "fraught with loss, disappointment, frustration and even anger at times." She said that although "there is enough blame to go around for a variety of things," she was more concerned about the congregation's "spiritual well being."
She then announced the appointment of Reverend Tony Freeman as a provisional pastor for the next six months, beginning December 1, as the church seeks a new senior pastor. In an interview this week, Brock, an out lesbian, declined to say why Smith had been fired, since it's a personnel matter. Smith was terminated November 2.
Two board members approached after a church meeting Sunday, December 5, declined to talk to the Bay Area Reporter about the situation. About 100 people are said to have signed a petition supporting Smith, 35, who identifies as bisexual and is also the music director at New Spirit Community Church in Berkeley.
Smith told the B.A.R. this week that she wasn't given any reason for being fired. "I am very humbled by the support I'm receiving. In times of struggle and great conflict, you really learn who your friends are," she added. Smith, who declined to say what her salary at MCC was, said, "I would say the church is the most amazing place on the planet."
According to an e-mail sent from church member Kristine Poggioli to petition signers and forwarded to the B.A.R., the board rejected the petition because "our governing laws say we can't vote on personnel matters." The board also no longer has hiring authority for Smith. Poggioli, who was elected to the church's board Sunday, has expressed support for Smith. In an interview last week, Poggioli said Smith "is someone who's been here 10 years, knows our history, and knows us." She also pointed to Smith's fundraising skills. Smith said she had served on the 40th anniversary events committee, which she said raised upwards of $50,000 or $60,000 this year.
Poggioli, who said her running for the board wasn't related to Smith's firing, said that like other groups, the church has been under stress because of the economy.
"It's tough times for everyone, and the church is the one place you want to go for comfort and community," she said.
However, Poggioli thinks the board "wanted to clean house so when the new pastor comes, there aren't any troublemakers." She said, "Stephanie's a strong, dynamic leader who's going to tell you what she thinks and ask questions about money." Asked about being outspoken, Smith said, "I do speak my truth, and I am a strong leader."
Finances The church's annual congregational meeting last Sunday generally seemed warm and civil. The congregation has a membership of 284 people. Ninety-five people attended the meeting. Freeman, who's held many roles in MCC, including serving as senior pastor at MCC San Diego, said at the meeting that his goals included bringing stability to the congregation and helping the new board move forward. The board has seven positions elected from the congregation and the senior pastor, who is a permanent member. Two open positions remain after Sunday's meeting, when Poggioli was elected and board member Glenn Stover was re-elected.
In his presentation Sunday, Sam Kohler, the board treasurer, presented what appeared to be a dim financial picture. "We're not a sinking ship," he said, but things are tight week-to-week, "to make sure we pay our bills."
He said the church has gone through about $40,000 in its cash reserve fund in the past three years, and it now has just over $11,000 in that fund.
The church's actual budget for 2010 is about $446,000. The 2011 budget is approximately $386,000. MCC-SF's actual total net income through October this year was listed at about $30,000. Financial data from November weren't yet available. Total budgeted fundraising income for next year is about $28,000, down from approximately $102,000 in this year's budget.
Brock said in an interview this week that financially, the church is "struggling, like many churches and many organizations in our country right now," but she expressed confidence the church would survive.
After the meeting Sunday, Kohler told the B.A.R. that the board had agreed not to comment, and he wouldn't talk about Smith or the congregation's finances.

2010-12-14 "Fighting for our jobs" by Willie Ratcliff from "San Francisco Bay View" newspaper
I am back with you fighting for our jobs at a time when I should have been preparing to choose many of you to work with me to build the new Bayview Library. When I got the word on Sept. 1 that the City had awarded the $5.1 million contract to my company, Liberty Builders, you celebrated that great victory with me – the first contract awarded to a Black contractor by the City and County of San Francisco in over a decade!
A dozen years after the noose was hung on Liberty Builders’ jobsite at the San Francisco International Airport, signaling the lockout of Blacks from construction, finally we had pushed hard enough to open that locked gate. Now the City has locked the gate again. The contract to build our library in our neighborhood a block from where I live and work has now been awarded to a white contractor, K C K Builders, whose bid included no Blacks at all.
Liberty Builders didn’t win the contract because of my race, but because my bid was the lowest. K C K Builders’ bid was some $310,000 higher, and the City seems eager to pay that premium in what I believe will prove to be a futile attempt to keep Blacks locked out of City construction and barred from building our own library.
What was the City’s excuse for rescinding the award of the contract to Liberty Builders? The insurance broker who sold me a simple commercial auto policy that I had paid for earlier this fall “forgot” to send the City the required certificate of insurance, unbeknownst to me.
When the City noticed it was missing, they gave me one day to submit it. All the insurance broker had to do was to email the certificate. I couldn’t pick it up because the brokerage is in Pasadena. The broker took two days to email the certificate, and for that reason the City promptly rescinded the contract. This time we won’t let the gate swing shut again for another dozen years. We’re all fighting back – and we’re winning!
In the past few weeks, as the Board of Supervisors heads toward a final vote on Supervisor John Avalos’ Mandatory Local Hire ordinance, I’ve been proud to see my neighbors all but take over City Hall to demand passage of the strongest law possible. Once that victory is secure, we need to pave the way for Black contractors to get back to work so that when you use the new Local Hire law to get a construction job, you won’t find yourself in a hostile workplace.
Blatant racial bias by the City – starting with the mayor – and by banks and insurance and bonding companies is prohibited by law, and it’s our job to enforce it. Call me if you want to help.
Construction jobs, especially in our own neighborhoods, are OUR JOBS.
Construction jobs are worth fighting for; the pay is so good one construction worker can support an extended family. Let’s let the world know that if we can’t work the construction jobs in our neighborhoods, NOBODY WORKS!

2010-12-13 "Veto-proof majority tees up final reading next Tuesday for nation’s strongest local hiring law" by "Brightline Defense Project of San Francisco"
Supervisor John Avalos won overwhelming support from his colleagues for his landmark local hiring legislation Tuesday, Dec. 7, calling the law a “New Deal for San Francisco.” Eight San Francisco Supervisors voted for the measure, which requires local and disadvantaged workers to be employed on public works projects funded by public dollars in an effort to reduce community unemployment and boost the local economy. City procedure requires a second and final reading of the measure next Tuesday, followed by a vote to send the law to Mayor Newsom for his signature.
The San Francisco Examiner called the measure “one of the most aggressive local-hiring laws in the nation” and noted Supervisor Avalos’ reflection on the Depression era, when “government was able to put many people back to work through publicly funded construction projects.” According to the Bay Citizen, “the approach is expected to increase costs for public construction projects while reducing city joblessness and increasing the amount of San Francisco’s tax money that remains in the local economy.” The City Controller noted last week that the measure has “positive net benefits to the local economy” overall and that the projected increased cost of construction is just under 1 percent. While Supervisor Avalos will forever stand as a hero for the many community members, out-of-work trade unionists, jobs advocates, families and social justice activists that he engaged to help him craft the legislation and who will benefit from the law as soon as January, a badge of courage must certainly be awarded to Supervisor Bevan Dufty, who was said to be on the fence just hours before yesterday’s meeting and would end up casting the vote that ensures the Board’s ability to override a potential mayoral veto.
The Bay Guardian reported on a meeting between James Richards, head of Bayview Hunters Point job advocates ABU (Aboriginal Blackmen United), and Supervisor Dufty just minutes before the vote in which out-of-work union members packed the Supervisor’s office. Many leaders in the African American community, including Bayview activist Espanola Jackson, members of the Southeast Jobs and Osiris Coalitions and NAACP representatives, spent the weekend reaching out to Supervisor Dufty for support, but it may have been Richards’ pointed request of “I’m going to cut to the chase: We need you to say yes” that sealed the deal. Supervisor Sophie Maxwell has lamented the lost opportunities of the previous failed era of local hiring that relied solely on “good faith efforts” to connect local workers with jobs they fund as taxpayers, but her call to use this law to “grow a middle class instead of importing it” echoed throughout the hall and her work in helping Avalos pass the legislation must certainly be part of her legacy as District 10 Supervisor.
Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi provided the second to Avalos’ motion to approve the legislation, saluting his colleague for addressing local hiring performance under “good faith efforts” that consistently “comes up incredibly thin” and for producing what Mirkarimi suggested will be a catalyst to mandate local hiring in other sectors. Supervisor Eric Mar noted the environmental benefits of a localized workforce and suggested that linking green jobs to disadvantaged and environmental justice communities will now become much easier with this law. Supervisor David Campos noted that the Avalos legislation is “one of the most significant pieces of legislation to come out of this body” and reminded his colleagues that local hiring is a topic of every single budget discussion at City Hall.
Supervisor Dufty noted the convergence of community, labor, business and government stakeholders around the Avalos law in the past weeks in indicating that he would vote for the measure. Indeed, apart from drawing support from every social justice and job development organization and out-of-work resident in San Francisco, the measure earned the support of the City’s two largest building trade unions, the Laborers and the Carpenters, regional contractors such as Webcor Builders, local contractors sewn into the fabric of San Francisco such as Nibbi Brothers, and community contractors such as Rubecon, Kwan Wo Ironworks and Liberty Builders. In addition, the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, CityBuild, Public Utilities Commission, Redevelopment Agency and Department of Public Works worked with Avalos to craft the law, leading SFPUC General Manager Ed Harrington and Redevelopment Executive Director Fred Blackwell to openly declare their support for the measure last week, with Harrington even telling Supervisor Dufty that he did not want to proceed with the $3 billion rebuild of the City’s wastewater system without the Avalos law in place.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Mayor Newsom has not said whether he will attempt a veto and has expressed concern about the cost of the measure. Last week, the City Controller proposed a “cap and trade” approach in which non-compliant contractors would be able to purchase local hiring “credits” from compliant contractors as a way to lower the cost of implementation from its currently expected amount of less than 1 percent.
However, policymakers noted that the positive economic impact of the measure dwarfs the projected cost increase, and the “cap-and-trade” idea never gained traction among Supervisors or the public, offending many with its underlying concept of buying and selling workers on the market.
There is hope that the mayor will support the law, which has little remaining opposition. The measure was co-sponsored by Supervisors Avalos, Mirkarimi, Maxwell, Campos and Mar, as well as Board President David Chiu and Supervisor Chris Daly. Many advocates are hopeful that Supervisor Carmen Chu may even join the list of supporters with the addition of an amendment yesterday to guarantee opportunities to participants in vocational English as a second language (VESL) programs. Chu created the city’s VESL program that is implemented through CityBuild, and her work in this area will receive a big boost when the Avalos law is signed. “This was a courageous step by John Avalos and the Board of Supervisors. It means a sustainable career path for those historically locked out of these opportunities, particularly those who are coming out of prison,” said Macio Lyons, a Bayview Hunters Point community advocate who has written local hiring articles for the San Francisco Bay View newspaper. “But we have to remain vigilant to maintain this community victory,” Lyons cautioned.
“Today represents the fulfillment of generations of jobs promises deferred,” said Brightline Executive Director Joshua Arce, who worked with Chinese for Affirmative Action to publish the August 2010 report on San Francisco local hiring entitled “The Failure of Good Faith.”
Brightline Defense Project is a non-profit civil rights advocacy organization dedicated to protecting and empowering communities. Brightline’s efforts have led to the prevention of a new power plant in Southeast San Francisco and increased employment opportunities for economically disadvantaged residents, particularly in the green jobs sector.
Learn more at
Executive Director Joshua Arce can be reached at
Macio Lyons, second from left, along with Carl Augustine, Ed Donaldson, Greg Doxey and Omar Khalif, who organized the community to fight for the right to the construction jobs their tax dollars pay for, savor the victory at City Hall Tuesday – and remind everyone to pack the Supervisors’ meeting again on Tuesday, Dec. 14, to make sure the final vote is even bigger than the 8-3 on Dec. 7.

2010-12-14 "EDITORIAL: Local hiring, and purchasing" from "San Francisco Bay Guardian" newspaper

The local hire ordinance that the Board of Supervisors approved last week once again puts the city on the cutting edge of progressive policy. San Francisco's law, sponsored by Sup. John Avalos, is the strongest in the country, and ultimately will mandate that 50 percent of all the people hired on public works projects live in the city. The politics of the bill were tricky; the local building trades unions opposed it on the grounds that many of their members live out of town and that hiring decisions should be based on seniority, not on residence. But eight supervisors recognized that a local hire law not only benefits the large numbers of unemployed San Franciscans; it's also good economic policy for the city. Numerous studies have shown that money paid out to local residents gets spent in town, and circulates in town, and creates more economic activity. That translates into fewer social and economic costs for the city and increased tax revenue. There are costs to the law. Someone has to monitor compliance, and that requires additional city spending. Training local workers for union jobs may raise the price of some projects. But in the end, the studies all show that keeping money in the community is worth the price. Avalos deserves tremendous credit for negotiating with labor and other interested parties, accepting compromises that don't damage the impact of the measure and lining up eight votes to pass it, so even if Mayor Gavin Newsom vetoes it, the board can override the veto. Now the board ought to apply the same principle to a local purchase law. One of the major complaints small businesses have in San Francisco is their inability to get city contracts. The qualifying process is complicated and expensive — and when big out of town corporations with plenty of resources to put together bids can also offer lower prices, locals get left out. The city spends vast sums of money, hundreds of millions of dollars a year, buying goods and services. Every dollar that leaves town translates into far more than a dollar lost to the local economy. In fact, a 2007 study by Civic Economics showed that 38 percent of the money spent on locally based retailers in Phoenix, Ariz., remained in town and recirculated in the local economy; only 11 percent of the money spent at chain stores stayed in town. That's a huge difference, and would translate into many millions of dollars for the San Francisco economy. (Over time, the impact of local hire and local purchasing laws would be much greater than the one-time burst of income expected from the America's Cup race.) There are complications with any local purchase law. Not everything the city needs can be bought locally. Nobody in San Francisco, for example, makes train cars or fire engines. But on everything from office supplies and cars to uniforms and consulting contracts, there are (or could be) local companies handling the city's business. As with the Avalos law, there would be costs. Some small local suppliers would be unable to match the price that big chains offer. But the overall economic benefits to the city would greatly exceed those price differentials. San Francisco currently gives a modest preference in bidding to local firms. But if the supervisors applied the Avalos principle and mandated that, within five years, a certain percentage of everything the city buys would have to go to local firms, city officials would be forced to do what they ought to do anyway: look local first. Every year during the holiday season, the mayor and business leaders urge residents to shop locally. When the new Board of Supervisors takes over in January, the members should start looking beyond rhetoric and start working on legislation that would keep the city's money in the city.

2010-12-14 "Community reliance is our legacy of survival" by Darren Miller from "San Francisco Bay View" newspaper
These days no one seems to understand the value of a second chance. If second chances are not afforded to those who’ve made mistakes, then what type of society does that make ours? I speak from the perspective of those who sit behind bars anxiously awaiting a parole date – those of us who have grown to understand that it is not about a handout, but a hand up.
Still, no matter how many trades one learns or certificates of achievement one receives, if no one is willing to put those new skills to use, then how can one ever demonstrate his value to society upon re-entry? Where is the opportunity for redemption? The alternative to helping parolees is victimization. Then there is the property loss, the permanent dysfunction of families, the psychological damage.
It’s time to change the mindset of free Americans. We know parolees can change because we see so many celebrities who commit the same or worse acts, but they get help and for the most part move on. Status, I should remind fellow Americans, is not a component of human DNA, but being fallible is. The silly political in-fighting and ideological lines between Republicans and Democrats make us political targets and trophies, but again, our failure marks us for the furthered victimization of society. In California, the cost of incarcerating one prisoner is $50,000 a year.
The jobless rate is extremely high for employable African American males, and we lead in all of the negative economic-social statistics. Instead of job skills, real academic opportunities and basic life skills, today’s prisoners are fed psychotropic medications to simply sedate us and make the guards’ job that much more kickback. If no one else in society, the African American community must at least help its own. I see organizations such as Homeboys Industries for our Latino brethren. I see a bank of re-entry organizations funded by whites, but not much opportunity for Blacks within the Black community.
Those of us who seek a second chance know we owe our community before our own personal desires. This is how it should be, a win-win. I am within a stone’s throw from release myself and I not only need such assistance but am determined to reach out to my community first for it. Failure is not an option for a community and a people who have seen so much turmoil, who have experienced so much oppression, and yet survived only because it was group effort. It is only the lone jackal, the single elephant and strayed gazelle that are snatched up by the predators. Those within the group protect and are protected. Therefore, I seek the shadow of a wing to survive and then thrive. Send our brother some love and light – and the promise of a job.
Write to Darren Miller, D-20467,FAB1-208, P.O. Box 4430, Lancaster, CA 93539.

2010-12-13 "The true cost of local hire" by Sarah Phelan from "san Francisco Bay Guardian" newspaper
[San Francisco] Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andy Ross are claiming it will cost $2.2 million annually to carry out Sup. John Avalos’ newly approved legislation that mandates local hire rates on city-funded construction projects, and Human Rights Commission director Theresa Sparks is claiming it will actually cost $3 million to run the program.
Neither Sparks nor Matier and Ross are talking about the savings the program will create in terms of the need for less law enforcement, if more local residents are hired. Nor do they mention the economic benefit of tax payer dollars being funneled into the local economy, if more San Francisco residents are hired on city-funded construction projects.
As a result, their conversation sounds like an attack on local hire legislation that Sparks says she supports. “Matier & Ross are about a million dollars off,” Sparks told the Guardian in a voice mail message three days after I first called asking if it was true that HRC was pissed that the Office of Economic and Workforce Development was being charged with monitoring Avalos’ newly approved program. ‘We tried to get them to leave it with us,” Sparks said, noting that HRC already has contract compliance officers overseeing every city contract.
"This will cost $2-3 million more, and it’s unnecessary,” Sparks continued, noting that during her (ultimately unsuccessful) D6 campaign she talked about “inefficiency in government” and here was yet another example of that very same wasteful phenomenon. ‘Rather than approve a project, the agency that creates a program wants to hire its own people and create a whole new infrastructure, “ Sparks said. “We tried to participate in the local hire ordinance, but we were excluded from all the meetings.”
Sup. John Avalos’ legislative aide Raquel Redondiez disagrees that Sparks was omitted from the discussion. And Redondiez has the emails to prove it. In an Oct. 21 email sent to Redevelopment director Fred Blackwell, Rhonda Simmons in the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, and Sparks at HRC, six weeks before Avalos’ legislation passed on its first reading, Redondiez wrote that Avalos would like to meet with Blackwell, Simmons and Sparks. “Supervisor Avalos would like to meet with your offices to learn about how current contracts are now tracked for local hiring, lbe [local business enterprises], and union hours,” Redondiez wrote. “As we move forward with the local hiring legislation, we would like to have a deeper understanding of the current tracking practices and possibilities.Please let us know when we can meet in the next 10 days.”
Redondiez email thread shows she got a reply from Guillermo Rodriguez in the Mayor’s Office the same day. But there was no reply from Sparks. Blackwell and Simmons attended local hire hearings at City Hall in November and December. This reporter does not remember Sparks at those hearings, but community advocates say they saw her outside at least one hearing, in November. So, does this add up to HRC being deliberately excluded from the discussion about how best to monitor local hire, or something entirely different?
Community and worker advocates, who support the legislation, say they tried to reach out to Sparks, but got mixed messages. They say Sparks said she was supportive of the legislation, but that they were left with the impression that HRC wasn't interested in monitoring the program. Michael Theriault, Secretary-Treasurer of the Building Trades, which opposes Avalos’ legislation because it believes the measure will pit workers who live here against workers who don't, didn't sound like he was advocating to put HRC in charge of monitoring compliance with the mandatory local hire ordinance. “There is a sense that HRC is about small business advocacy,” Theriault said. Sparks hasn’t returned my latest call, but I'll be sure to post her comments here. So stay tuned as we follow the latest twist in the local hire debate. And don'tforget to tune in to tomorrow's Board meeting (Dec. 14, 2 p.m. at City Hall), when the local hire legislation has its second reading.

2010-12-11 "For Local Hiring Law to Succeed, Plenty of Cooperation Is Required Mandate touches on political, social and financial issues" by Jonathan Weber
With “buy local” becoming a mantra among those who think about improving their communities' well-being, it's no surprise that “hire local” efforts would be gaining steam as well. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave initial approval last week to legislation that will eventually require 50 percent of all work on city-financed construction projects to go to San Francisco residents -- the strongest such law in the country. It seems like a straightforward step to boost the city's economy, but the thicket of political, social, financial and philosophical issues surrounding the measure is dense, indeed. Its author, Supervisor John Avalos, has gotten high marks for nuance and for building broad support, but the implementation will take a lot of care if the policy is to succeed. From a strictly economic view, tying jobs to residency makes little sense, especially in a place like San Francisco. Such requirements make the labor market less flexible -- never a good thing from the perspective of mainstream economists -- and San Francisco is a relatively small city that's the hub of a very large labor market. Any job that goes to a San Francisco resident does not go to a resident of a neighboring Bay Area community, and thus is a wash for the regional economy. To look at it another way, if every city in the region had such a law, the positive economic impact for any individual municipality would be nil, but the inefficiencies in the market would raise costs for everyone. A reciprocity provision in the San Francisco law would treat workers from other jurisdictions with local-hire rules as locals. But if such laws were universal, they would have no impact. It's also the case that these requirements cost money. The original version of the San Francisco legislation would have increased expenditures by $9.3 million annually, according to a city analysis, because contractors might have to pay more if they're drawing their workers from a smaller pool, or pay penalties if they don't hit the local hiring targets. (The administrative costs add up as well.) Changes to the legislation have brought that number down, though it's not clear by how much. Perhaps the most complicated dimension of all this is that construction jobs on city projects in a union town are not entirely controlled by the contractors. The unions also have a lot of say, and they will bear much of the burden of finding qualified city-dwelling workers. Not surprisingly, the unions have tended to support or oppose the legislation depending on how much of their membership lives in town. And that brings us to the nub of the issue. The initiative is not really about local hiring; it's about creating opportunities for unemployed people from low-income neighborhoods. The legislation mandates that half the local hires be “disadvantaged workers.” A group called Aboriginal Blackmen United has had some success in demanding jobs for residents of the economically depressed neighborhoods where some of the largest city projects are being developed -- notably Bayview-Hunters Point. In doing so, it has at times run head-on into unions, protesting at construction sites to demand jobs. Ken Jacobs, chairman of the Center for Labor Research and Education at the University of California, Berkeley, said the key to local-hire efforts is to have a pathway for the people whom they are really supposed to help. The San Francisco law requires that half of all building trade apprenticeships go to local residents as of next month; the full 50 percent local-hire rule will be phased in over seven years. For that to happen, the unions will need to play ball. With the city planning to directly spend about $10 billion on public works over the next decade, there is a baseline logic in trying to use that spending to help those who have been hurt most by the recession. But the local-hiring mandate will work only if everyone -- the city, the unions, the contractors and the aspiring workers -- gets behind the idea of using construction projects as a tool of social policy. Ideally, hundreds of low-income San Franciscans will get stable, middle-class jobs in the construction trades. But safety-valve provisions in the legislation could invite mischief, and leave city taxpayers with higher bills and not much more.

2010-12-09 "Milk's friends aghast at HRC store plans" by Matthew S. Bajko from "Bay Area Reporter" newspaper
The Human Rights Campaign's decision to move its Castro store into the former camera shop of the late Supervisor Harvey Milk has infuriated friends of the gay political leader and the screenwriter of an Oscar-winning movie about his life. The national LGBT rights organization announced Monday, December 6 that it had signed a lease for the vacant storefront at 575 Castro Street. It will be closing its current shop and action center at the corner of 19th and Castro streets January 5 and plans to open the new location January 7.
An official opening party is planned for May 22, which will be the second observance of the Harvey Milk Day state holiday. The date coincides with Milk's birthday. According to HRC's announcement, in addition to its own branded items, it plans to sell merchandise "emblazoned with the words and images of Milk," who in 1977 became the first openly gay elected official in California as well as in a major U.S. city. A year later disgruntled former Supervisor Dan White assassinated Milk and then-Mayor George Moscone in City Hall. HRC plans to donate a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Milk merchandise to both the Harvey Milk Civil Rights Academy, an alternative public school in the Castro, and the GLBT Historical Society. It has yet to determine how much of a percentage of the sales will go to either group. "It is Harvey Milk's vision of hope that continues to inspire the work that we do at the Human Rights Campaign," HRC President Joe Solmonese stated in the release. "We are the beneficiaries of his groundbreaking activism and are honored to be a part of the future that he envisioned."
HRC opened its Castro store five years ago and the lease for its current space is up in February. It did not intend to move, said a spokesman, but when the Milk store space became available in March it decided to seek the location, which at 900 square feet, is the the same size as the current store. While Dan Nicoletta, a photographer who befriended Milk, said he feels HRC's being in the historic retail location is "an awkward fit," he does not see a need to "police" who control's Milk's legacy.
"Even though lots of people who were/are the antithesis of what Milk stood for continue to brazenly co-opt his name on a regular basis, the 2010 truth of the matter is that Harvey's legacy is everybody's now," wrote Nicoletta in an e-mailed response. "I hope that this new HRC location will truly be an action center as the press release states and not simply a cottage industry. The countless visitors to San Francisco's LGBT mecca need something more than a T-shirt or a coffee mug to take home to their respective struggles, hopefully HRC will do its part to honor the legacy which it seeks to represent in this instance and provide that." But in interviews with the Bay Area Reporter, Milk confidante Cleve Jones and his former speechwriter Frank Robinson, as well as screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who won an Academy Award for his biopic about Milk, lambasted HRC for using Milk's legacy for its own financial gain. "To start selling Harvey Milk coffee mugs, Milk condoms, whatever merchandise ... for God's sake no. It is a cheapening of Harvey's image," said Robinson, who lives nearby the store. "Harvey essentially gave his life for the gay community and for anybody to go in there and make money off of his image by selling cheap trinkets, I am sorry that is a no-no in my opinion." Jones said that anyone who knew Milk and what he stood for would never equate his brand of progressive, grassroots political activism with the Human Rights Campaign, long criticized as being more interested with having access to Democratic political leaders than pushing for LGBT rights.
"Most San Franciscans are well aware of the fact HRC represents the antitheses of Harvey's own political philosophies and his strategies for organizing," said Jones, who recently moved back to the Castro. "What it comes down to really is foot traffic. HRC's got their little T-shirt shop up there on 19th Street and everyday they see the pilgrims coming from all over the world to see the store where Harvey worked and they want a piece of that. I am truly sickened by this."
He is appealing to HRC to reconsider moving into the storefront, where some of Milk's ashes are buried in the sidewalk out front and where the annual Milk/Moscone Memorial Candlelight March ends most yea
rs on the anniversary of their deaths. HRC officials said the mural inside the store will remain. "That camera store, I spent so much time there in my youth. It was a place for networking and activism. It was a place where young people arriving in San Francisco could find welcoming smiles and practical support," said Jones. "If they wanted to do something with that space to truly honor Harvey's memory, I think they should collaborate with LYRIC and local service providers to do some sort of drop-in for the kids." Black, who spent years researching Milk's life and interviewing his friends and colleagues as he worked on the script for Milk, told the B.A.R. he is "heartbroken" and "furious" about the news. "The reason why I was so inspired by Harvey's story seven years ago when I started researching it was his political philosophy was far more proud and progressive than anything I found with HRC," said Black. "I grew up with HRC; I didn't find it inspiring or effective. It seemed to embrace straight allies over gay people and was satisfied with crumbs of equality and seemed visionless."
He added that to now see "the very organization I thought we needed to get away from buying their way into Harvey Milk's legacy is a slap in the face." The announcement, said Black, has caused him to reverse his policy of not publicly attacking HRC and to openly call for Solmonese's resignation. The two have not spoken, he said, since they publicly sparred during a panel at this year's Sundance Film Festival about whether young people are effective activists.
"We have got to figure out how to use this to create some sort of positive change. If we can't kick HRC out of Harvey's camera store then we need to change HRC so it is an organization we are proud to have in there. That is going to take a lot of change in leadership at the very top. I have never said that before, but now, it is clearer than ever," said Black. "HRC is not the gay and lesbian activist organization we need to win right now. Joe Solmonese is clearly no Harvey Milk." The San Francisco chapter of the gay Log Cabin Republican group also criticized HRC's plans for the retail space, saying in a statement that if HRC "took a page from Harvey's book rather than relying on empty promises from elected officials that rarely materialize, then we would be much closer to full equality than we currently are."
HRC spokesman Fred Sainz told the B.A.R. that the group's store relocating into Milk's shop is no different than the other retailers that leased the space. Most recently a high-end gift store had occupied it, and before that, it was home for many years to a store that sold bath and body products. He added that the lobbying group intends to be respectful of Milk's memory. He also acknowledged that HRC should have contacted Cleve and other acquaintances of Milk's prior to the public announcement about leasing the space.
"There is no person in the world I respect more than Cleve Jones. We will just have to work harder to make sure he understands we are in fact going to honor Harvey's legacy," said Sainz, who said he tried to reach Jones and Black through the Courage Campaign. "Any good idea is always on the table with us. I think that we are more than happy to call Cleve and talk to him." District 8 Supervisor-elect Scott Wiener, a former HRC national board member, said he had advised the organization that he thought it was "a terrific idea" for it to take over the lease.
"The fact that the largest LGBT civil rights organization in the country will have a location in Harvey Milk's camera shop is something I strongly support," said Wiener. "It is a far better use than any other retail uses that I can think that could go in there." While Wiener said that he understands and respects that "there are diverse opinions about HRC and about the store," he believes "that having an LGBT civil rights organization occupying Harvey Milk's camera store is very positive for the community."
Paul Boneberg, executive director of the historical society, said the archival group has yet to sign a deal with HRC in order to receive proceeds from the sale of Milk items. He said the conversations, so far, "have been very positive," and he saw no reason why HRC should not occupy the site. "I certainly think having a nonprofit in there rather than a retail space is a good thing. I am glad they are offering financial support to the museum," he said.
Openly gay state Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), who previously served as the District 8 supervisor, said he couldn't recall another business's decision to move into the space causing as much controversy. He advised HRC to listen to the feedback it is receiving about its plans. "The landlord certainly has a right to rent it to any legal business. I think it would be wise actually for HRC to be sensitive to voices in the community," said Leno.

2010-12-14 "Oooh, let's have a border war" by Tim Redmond from "San Francisco Bay Guardian" newspaper
If San Francisco tries to enact a congestion management fee, San Mateo officials are going to fight back with their own [].
How fun; a border war.
Since I've long suggested that our future may be in city-states, not nations, it strikes me as an interesting political moment. But on a serious note: what would be wrong with a toll in both directions? What would be wrong with asking California motorists, who enjoy among the lowest gas tax rates in the western world and who for the past few years have had a dramatic reduction in annual registration fees, to pay a little more to local government? What's wrong with making it cost more to drive your car during commute hours? Yeah, that means it will cost more for a San Franciscan to go shop at Serramonte Mall (during rush hour; who shops then anyway?). So what? That might encourage San Franciscans to shop locally. Yeah, it will cost more to commute by car, in either direction; maybe more people will ride their bikes or take the bus. (Particularly if the money goes into improving transit.) I'm not going all Smoot-Hawley here, but congestion-management fees -- extra charges for driving in certain areas during certain times of day -- are generally a good idea. And if San Mateo wants one, too, excellent. Cities have been fighting for years over who can cut taxes more for big businesses. This seems a much more reasonable fight. So: Border war? Bring it on.

2010-12-12 "Peninsula threatens toll in response to San Francisco" by Mike Rosenberg from "San Jose Mercury" newspaper
[] With San Francisco officials poised to consider rolling out a not-so-friendly welcome mat to commuters from the south -- a $6 daily toll -- fuming San Mateo County leaders have threatened to enact their own toll of $12 a day for San Francisco residents to enter the Peninsula from the north. Instigating what one Peninsula politician said would be a "border war," some San Mateo County officials said they would try to implement a toll to enter the county from the north during rush hour if San Francisco enacts a similar entrance fee for its city. The threat by Peninsula leaders is an effort to persuade San Francisco leaders to shelve their plan.
The San Francisco Board of Supervisors, acting as the city's transportation authority, will vote Tuesday on whether to launch a study of the toll program that, if later approved by city and state leaders, would take effect in 2015.
Under the plan, all drivers would pay $3 upon entering or exiting San Francisco from the south via highways and major local streets from 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. and another $3 from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. The tolls would be collected electronically and capped at $6 a day, with San Francisco officials controlling revenues estimated at up to $80 million annually.
The toll proposal has Peninsula commuters irate over the possibility of having to pay up to $1,500 a year to get to work, and local leaders are fighting back. A coalition of council members from every city in San Mateo County and a county supervisor sent a letter to San Francisco officials Friday to express their "strong opposition" to the plan. Peninsula hotels and business groups plan similar written complaints. The letter asks for the idea to be eliminated from further consideration and, if that doesn't work, San Mateo County officials would have at least a year to lobby San Francisco officials before taking more drastic action -- enacting their own toll to pad San Mateo County coffers.
"If we're going to have to bear the pain, then those in San Francisco are going to have to bear the pain," said Daly City Councilman David Canepa, who serves on the county's congestion management agency board, which sent the letter. The toll would be handled through the congestion management agency and, just like San Francisco's toll, would require approval in the Legislature to come to fruition. Assemblyman Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, the only state legislator whose district is entirely within San Mateo County, said he'd be "happy" to carry such a bill to retaliate against a "ridiculous" idea. "You can bet that if (San Francisco) were to impose this, that no city or jurisdiction that surrounds San Francisco would end up losing money at the end of the day," Hill said. "You will see a battle of tolls -- everyone will try to out-toll the next jurisdiction to beat the one that started it. No one wants to see that." Most officials said they would prefer that the idea just go away.
"I wouldn't be opposed to (enacting a retaliatory toll)," said South San Francisco Councilwoman Karyl Matsumoto, another board member. "But I would be hopeful that we could work it out." Ross Mirkarimi, the San Francisco transportation authority chairman and a supervisor, did not respond to a request for comment Friday. The San Francisco agency on Wednesday released marketing materials that play down the parts of the proposal perceived negatively and highlight its potential benefits in response to "heightened media attention" given to the plan.

2010-12-07 "Going to a club -- or boarding an airplane? The War on Fun continues with a proposal to electronically track every nightclub visitor" by Steven T. Jones and Nicole Dial from "San Francisco Bay Guardian" newspaper
The War on Fun — a term coined by the Guardian in 2006 to describe the crackdowns on nightclubs, special events, and urban culture by police, NIMBY neighbors, and moderate politicians — continues to grind on in San Francisco. The latest attack was launched by Mayor Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Police Department, which has proposed a series of measures to monitor and regulate individuals who visit bars or entertainment venues, proposals that the embattled Entertainment Commission will consider at its Dec. 14 meeting. Perhaps most controversial among the dozens of new conditions that the SFPD would require of nightclubs is an Orwellian proposal to require all clubs with an occupancy of 100 persons or more to electronically scan every patron's identification card and retain that information for 15 days. Civil libertarians and many club owners call this a blatantly unconstitutional invasion of privacy. Driving the latest calls for a crackdown is a stated concern over isolated incidents of violence outside a few nightclubs in recent years, something Newsom and police blame on the clubs and that they say warrants greater scrutiny by police and city regulators. But the proposals also come in the wake of overzealous policing of nightclubs and parties — including improper personal property destruction and seizures, wrongful arrests and violence by police, harassment of disfavored club operators, and even dumping booze down the drain — mostly led by SFPD Officer Larry Bertrand and his former partner, Michelle Ott, an agent with the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Those actions were documented in back-to-back cover stories by the Guardian ("The New War on Fun," March 24) and SF Weekly ("Turning the Tables," March 17), and they are the subject of multiple ongoing lawsuits by nightclub owners, patrons, and employees, including a racketeering lawsuit alleging that officials are criminally conspiring against lawful activities. Yet rather than atoning for that enforcement overreach, Newsom and SFPD officials seem to be doubling down on their bets that San Franciscans will tolerate a more heavily policed nightlife scene in the hopes of eliminating the possibility of random violence.
A series of nighttime shootings this year has grabbed headlines and prompted calls to action by the Mayor's Office and Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, whose District 3 includes North Beach. In February, there were shootings at Blue Macaw in the Mission and Club Suede at Fisherman's Wharf, followed by a shooting at the Pink Saturday fair in June, one outside Jelly's in SoMa in July, and the high-profile murder of a German tourist near Union Square in August. Chiu responded with legislation to give the Entertainment Commission greater authority to close down problem nightclubs and, more recently, with legislation to require party promoters to register with the city so that officials can take actions against those who act irresponsibly. In September, Newsom asked the SFPD for its recommendations and he received a laundry list of proposals now before the Entertainment Commission. That body held a closed session hearing Nov. 30 to discuss a confidential legal opinion by the City Attorney's Office on whether the identification scan would pass constitutional muster, an opinion that has so far been denied to the Guardian and the public, although officials say it may be discussed in open session during the Dec. 14 hearing. "Everything is being considered," Jocelyn Kane, acting executive director of the Entertainment Commission, told the Guardian. Her office already has looked at the different types of scanners that clubs could use and has discussed the idea with several technology companies.
SFPD Inspector Dave Falzon, the department's liaison to the nightclubs and ABC, told the Guardian that he believes the data gathered from nightclub patrons would allow police to more easily find witnesses and suspects to solve any crimes committed at or near the nightclubs. "It's not intended to be exploited," Falzon said, stressing that the recommendations are a work in progress and part of an ongoing dialogue with the Entertainment Commission — an agency Newsom, SFPD officials, and some media voices have been highly critical of over the last two years. Along with the proposal for the ID scanners, SFPD proposed many other measures such as increased security personnel (including requiring clubs to hire more so-called 10-B officers, or SFPD officials on overtime wages), metal detectors at club entrances, surveillance cameras at the entrances and exits, and extra lighting on the exterior of the night clubs. Though this may sound to many like heading down the dystopian rabbit hole with Big Brother potentially watching your every move, Falzon thinks it's the opposite. "It isn't that police department is acting as a militant state," Falzon said. "All we're trying to do is to make these clubs safer so they can be more fun." Yet critics of the proposals don't think they sound like much fun at all, and fear that employing such overzealous policing tools will hurt one of San Francisco's most vital economic sectors while doing little to make anyone safer. Jamie Zawinski is the owner of the DNA Lounge, which recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. He has been a leading voice in pushing back against the War of Fun, including running a blog that chronicles SFPD excesses. He said the proposed regulations go way too far.
"It's gang violence happening on the street. The nightclubs are being scapegoated. You don't solve the problem by increased security in the clubs," Zawinski told us, adding that the lack of proper policing on the streets should be addressed before putting the financial strain on the entertainment industry. "It's ridiculously insulting. I will not do that to my customers. It's not a way to solve any problems," Zawinski said. "It sets the tone for the evening when you start demanding papers." It's also a gross violation of people's rights, says Nicole Ozer, the director of Technology and Civil Liberties Policy for the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. She said that recording people's personal information when they enter a public venue raises troubling legal issues. "There are some real implications of tracking and monitoring personal data. The details of what you visit reveal things about your sexuality and political views," Ozer said, adding that the ACLU would also have issues with how that information is used and safeguarded. In response to police crackdowns on nightlife, club owners and advocates earlier this year formed the California Music and Culture Association (CMAC) to advocate for nightlife and offer advice and legal assistance to members. CMAC officials say they are concerned about the latest proposals. "The rise in violence has to be looked at from a societal point of view," said Sean Manchester, president of CMAC and owner of the nightclub Mighty. He noted that most of the violence that has been associated with nightclubs took place in alleys and parking lots away from the bars and involved underage perpetrators. "In many instances [the increased security measures] wouldn't have done anything to stop it," he said.

San Jose
2010-12-15 "San Jose undergoes plastic bag ban and it applies to most retailers" byDaniel Vollmer, San Jose Democrat Examiner
After two whole years of study, the bay area ordinance in San Jose underwent a vote and in a landslide 10-1 vote, there is now a plastic bag ban in San Jose. It will not become effective until January 1st, 2012. Their excuse? To allow for more public outreach and reaction to come into play. The ban prohibits any grocery retailer of any kind and even regular retailers to give out disposable plastic bags at the check stand of any store and would need to charge for paper bags, with the amount being undisclosed at this time. Reaction from some shoppers in the San Jose area was mixed, with some loving the idea saying its good for the environment, and others complaining about how when it rains and paper bags fall apart, that perhaps it could breed some sort of issue. The City Council also had mixed reactions with some members saying that smaller stores should be exempt from the ban because of the higher costs they would face. While others said that the grocers would appreciate the ban simply because they would have certain bags for the meat and certain bags for their pharmaceuticals.
San Francisco started the ban back in 2007, but the city of San Jose took it one step furthery by expanding the ban to not just grocery stores but most retailers altogether. The ordinance tells customers that disposable paper bags arent' worth it simply because the stores will end up charging the customers more. The ordinance came to pass after two years of being talked about, because of the fact that the bay area uses 3.8 billion plastic bags per year and one million of those wind up in the San Francisco bay area where all animals are deeply affected.
Cities like San Francisco, Palo Alto, Oakland, Malibu and even Los Angeles county have all approved the same ordinance. While cities like Fremont, Sunnyvale, Marin County, and Santa Clara County are mainly considering it. Will restaurants come into play as well? Will this envelope the entirely country someday? Those are questions that will be answered sooner rather than later. Let's hope we don't have to wait to go through two years of study.

2010-12-16 "Medicinal marijuana delivery employees arrested in Santa Clara County insist they’re not criminals" by Dean Schaffer from "Peninsula Press"
Ellen Young does not fit the profile of your average drug dealer. She is not an opportunistic kid, exploiting others’ addictions for cash, or a repeat offender dogged by convictions and jail time. She is not intimidating, nor does she carry a gun.
At age 55, she is instead the kind of warm, motherly figure who seems more likely to bake cookies than pedal drugs. Her San Jose home is decidedly upper-middle class, complete with a life-size wooden sculpture of a swan and late ‘90s books on building great websites. But on Sept. 30, stereotypical drug dealer or not, she found out what it feels like to be treated as one.
Around 8 p.m., she and her husband Bob lay in bed. They had just finished watching the season four finale of “Dexter,” one of their favorite crime dramas, when they heard an urgent pounding at the door. “Police! Open up!” came the command from outside. “Thank God they waited until we were done watching!” she remembers with a chuckle. When Young opened the door, police swarmed inside, handcuffed her and her husband and began ransacking the house. For the past year, Young had helped her husband operate a medicinal marijuana delivery service called the South Bay Collective, and this was a drug bust. Officers arrested the couple on suspicion of four felony-level offenses: conspiracy plus selling, possessing and cultivating marijuana. After 22 hours in various jails, Young and her husband paid $30,000 each in bail and were released, with an arraignment scheduled for Dec. 20.
Sitting in their Santa Clara holding cell, the Youngs soon realized they weren’t alone. That same day, Santa Clara police arrested 20 other suspects and seized more than 25 pounds of marijuana in a coordinated sting operation called “Up in Smoke.” According to Santa Clara Chief of Police Stephen D. Lodge, the operation aimed to “identify illegal [marijuana] delivery services that are providing marijuana in violation of the law.” But it’s not quite that simple. When it comes to marijuana in California, nothing is. Even attorneys admit the state’s medicinal cannabis laws are ambiguous and confusing, so it’s no wonder advocates and law enforcement clash over whether “Up in Smoke” was an unlawful affront to patients’ rights or simply a drug bust. Either way, almost two dozen suspects await trials for felony-level drug charges. Some, like Young, believed they were following the law. She says she researched the law thoroughly and that she and her husband had operated without any legal incidents at all before their arrest. Even so, the Santa Clara County district attorney charged her with possession of marijuana with the intent to sell, a felony. “I had no idea we were being raided for drug dealing,” Young says. “That’s how innocent I thought I was.” At what point does a law become so vague and complex that the government should focus on fixing it rather than enforcing it?
[ ... ]
When U.S. Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden announced in October 2009 that federal attorneys would turn a blind eye to medicinal marijuana in California, he unwittingly sparked an explosion of dispensaries in the Bay Area. According to Lodge, the number of medicinal marijuana ads in the Metro, an alternative newspaper in the Silicon Valley, provides a useful metric for measuring the number of dispensaries in the area. Before Ogden’s statement, each issue of the Metro would include perhaps one advertisement for a collective, Lodge says; an October 2010 issue of the Metro, in contrast, included 40 such ads. Santa Clara County Supervising Deputy District Attorney Frank Carrubba, who leads Santa Clara County’s narcotics prosecution force, said he helped initiate “Up in Smoke” in an effort to prevent the growth of dispensaries from becoming an “epidemic,” as he describes the current situation in Los Angeles, where he says the number of dispensaries approaches 1,000.
[ ... ]
[left] With her arraignment approaching, Young is optimistic about her case. This poster is in the bedroom of her home. Photograph by Dean Schaffer from "Peninsula Press"
[right] Protesters voice their opposition to the "Up in Smoke" arrests at the Oct. 14 protest outside San Jose's Terraine Courthouse. (Photo: Dean Schaffer)

2010-12-10 "Marijuana Dispensaries Raided In Santa Clara County" from "Toke of the Town"
Santa Clara County, California authorities have detained several people who they claim were involved in illegal cannabis sales and money laundering at MediLeaf medical marijuana dispensaries across the county. More than 50 officers with the County Special Enforcement Team served search warrants and held several people Thursday following an eight-month investigation that police claimed "established probable cause" that illegal marijuana sales and money laundering took place at eight MediLeaf stores in the county, reports Action News reporter Felix Cortez at KSBW.
Task Force commander Danielle Ayers said agents shut down the clubs and confiscated marijuana, documents and computers, reports Sean Webby at the San Jose Mercury News. Ayers claimed the investigations and raids came "at the request" of police chiefs in the county who thought the proliferation of dispensaries was "getting out of hand." Investigators claim the dispensaries are "selling marijuana to people under false pretenses" and are somehow "at risk of being taken over by organized gangs." Ayers claimed that dispensary owners are subverting the idea of helping seriously ill people. "All they are doing is providing people with the ability to buy marijuana at street-level prices in a storefront facility," she claimed. Around noon, narcotics agents with search warrants hit two MediLeaf stores in San Jose and related properties in Gilroy and Morgan Hill, officials confirmed. The alleged illegal activities were done under the umbrella of California's medical marijuana laws, according to Gilroy police.
Several people are in custody as a result of the investigation. The raids shook already nervous and angry South Bay medical marijuana supporters, who quickly mobilized to protest, standing outside MediLeaf's shuttered clinics with signs reading "Our Meds, Our Rights" and "Go Raid A Meth Lab." ​The raids had an ironic aspect because Goyoko "Batzi" Kuburovich, 50, owner of MediLeaf, leads a San Jose group promoting "best practices" to prove to police and politicians that the clinics are safe and abiding by the law. "This is crap," said Kuburovich, who closed his Gilroy operation because of legal action from local authorities. "They are trying to scare everybody out through intimidation and fear." "We have been transparent from day one," Kuburovich said. "We hope to bring to light the transparency of what just occurred so everybody is held accountable. We look forward to being vindicated." "They're really good people," said Hank Provost, the owner of Simply Romance, an adult store at 1329 First Street, a few doors down from the former MediLeaf store in Gilroy. "I seriously doubt that," Provost said when told that Kuburovich was accused of money laundering and illegally selling marijuana. "Batzi is just a really good guy. From what I understand his father was ill and medical marijuana was helping him. He passed away and (Kuburovich) wanted to make it available to others."
MediLeaf opened in Gilroy less than a month after the City Council voted against giving the store a permit. The foot traffic MediLeaf was bringing to the area was good for Provost and other local business owners, too. "We've all talked about it here, and we consider MediLeaf a positive thing, not a negative thing," Provost said. "Business has clearly dropped off since they're not open anymore. Since California legalized medical marijuana, I don't see the problem; it's a matter of an individual city... letting things be." MediLeaf stores operated in Morgan Hill, Gilroy and San Jose, according to KSBW. Law enforcement refused to release the names of the six people who were being sought, but Lindsay Bryant and Blair Tellers of the Morgan Hill Times report that they are Batzi Kuburovich; Patricia Kuburovich, 46; Kristel Kuburovich, 21; Neil Forrest, 58; Bruce Ziegelman, 53; and Kevin Keifer, 54. According to Gilroy Police Department Sgt. Chad Gallicinao, as of 4 p.m. Thursday, no one had been booked into county jail, but the investigation is "active and ongoing."
Police claimed that county law enforcement is committed to protecting the rights of medical marijuana patients who are in accordance with state law, and that the investigation into MediLeaf was directed at people who police claim sold marijuana illegally for a profit to those who had no medical ailments. ​City Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, who supports regulation and taxation of dispensaries and opposes banning them, showed up at MediLeaf's Meridian Avenue location for a few minutes after Thursday's raid. Oliverio had no comment on the raid, but he said that any theory that accepting money for marijuana made the clinics illegal is "a farce." "Meth is much more tragic and destructive to people's lives than medical cannabis," he said. "Santa Clara County is in the middle of a war," said Erika Taylor Montgomery, a medical marijuana patient and spokeswoman for the San Jose Cannabis Buyers Collective. "On one side are medical cannabis patients and providers. On the other side is law enforcement wasting taxpayer resources to stop something voters approved in 1996." The people behind that marijuana collective -- one of the city's first -- are sponsoring a benefit Friday to raise money to sue the narcotics task force. They plan to discuss the raids and to give free medical marijuana to patients.
The event begins at 4:20 p.m. at MedEx Collective on Senter Road. The owner was arrested in a marijuana delivery sting by the task force earlier this year. As of September 2010, the city of Gilroy had spent $175,529 in taxpayer money for MediLeaf litigation with law firm Berliner Cohen, according to Gilroy Finance Director Christina Turner.

2010-12-13 "No Pot Club Ban in San Jose City Council votes to tax, limit dispensaries; An effort to ban medical pot clubs in San Jose failed this evening" by Zusha Elinson from "Bay Citizen"
The City Council voted instead to prohibit any more dispensaries from being given business licenses while the city figures out how to regulate the burgeoning industry. There are currently 98 dispensaries in San Jose, according to city officials.
At the same meeting, the council voted to levy a seven percent tax on dispensaries – and implicitly to allow the sale of medical marijuana.
Santa Clara County law enforcement agencies have taken a conservative stance on state law, maintaining that the sale of medical marijuana is illegal. County narcotics officers have continually raided dispensaries in San Jose and surrounding cities, the latest occurring last week.
The San Jose medical marijuana morass stands in sharp contrast to the situation in other Bay Are cities, like Oakland, Berkeley and San Francisco where dispensaries are regulated and not raided on a regular basis. In Oakland, they are limited to eight; in Berkeley to four.
Monday’s special meeting, which lasted four hours, was called to figure out what to do with the city’s unregulated and uncertain medical marijuana market. Scores of patients testified about the curative powers of pot, but the Council ultimately punted on adopting any specific regulations. Staff had suggested limiting the number of dispensaries to 10 or banning them altogether.
The city of San Jose overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure in November to tax the sale of pot up to 10 percent. And several City Council members took this to be an endorsement of allowing dispensaries.
“The average voter had some understanding that there would be point of sale,” said Ash Kalra, a San Jose City Councilmember But lawyers from the City Attorney's and District Attorney’s offices didn’t see it that way. Frank Carrubba, a deputy Santa Clara district attorney, strenuously maintained that while a group of patients growing pot is legal under the state’s medical marijuana laws, selling it is not.
“People can get together, and they can cultivate marijuana,” said Carruba. “They cannot sell that marijuana to anyone else.”
City Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, who is in favor of taxing and regulating dispensaries, quizzed Carrubba during the meeting, asking whether other cities that allow the sale of medical pot were breaking the law. Carrubba conceded “not necessarily.”
Oliverio then went on to criticize the city
and law enforcement for shutting down pot clubs on the rationale that money is changing hands. “The whole premise was, 'let's close these places down because they're exchanging currency,'” said Oliverio, adding that the implication that a bartering system would be used instead was absurd. “I am not bringing a laptop to the grocery store. I am not bringing a table to the dentist.”
The vote to tax dispensaries included language that acknowledges that money is changing hands at the pot dispensaries. A late effort to pass a ban on medical pot dispensaries altogether, led by Councilmember Rose Herrera, failed to capture six votes. Instead, the Council decided to stop giving out business licenses to them.
Observers say that San Jose's slow pace at adopting regulations has caused the problems now faced by the city.
“It's the direct result of allowing the problem to fester and not passing regulations,” said Patrick Goggin, a San Francisco lawyer who sits on the city’s medical marijuana task force.

2010-12-16 "Editorial: One toke over the line - The assertion that Prop. 19 is contributing to a rise in teenage marijuana use is unfounded" from "Los Angeles Times" newspaper
California, whose initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use drew national headlines this year, is notoriously tolerant of a drug considered an evil weed in some parts of the country. But is our lax attitude creating a school system full of Jeff Spicolis, the iconic California stoner from "Fast Times at Ridgemont High"? R. Gil Kerlikowske, the Obama administration's drug czar, suspects that it is.
After an annual survey of teen drug use nationwide [] found that marijuana smoking is on the rise among eighth- through 12th-graders, Kerlikowske attributed the uptick to California's Proposition 19 and other states' initiatives to legalize medical marijuana. "Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame," he said in a news release []. "Such messages certainly don't help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs."
Anecdotal evidence suggests that he has a point. In Los Angeles, where billboards promoting doctors who pass out medical marijuana recommendations are commonplace and green crosses identifying pot "clinics" can be found on hundreds of street corners, cannabis seems as harmless and ubiquitous as nasal spray. It would be surprising if kids weren't influenced by adults' blase attitudes about the drug.
Yet anecdotal evidence is no substitute for rigorous study, and Kerlikowske should have checked such sources as the Congressional Research Service before jumping to conclusions. An April report [], issued to advise Congress on whether to loosen federal restrictions on medical marijuana, examined studies comparing teen pot smoking in states with and without medical marijuana laws and found no connection between such laws and drug use. "Concerns that medical cannabis laws send the wrong message to vulnerable groups such as adolescents seem to be unfounded," it stated.
Most studies on the issue were performed about a decade ago, and it's clear that more research is needed on the effects of legalization debates on teen attitudes. Even if a causal connection is discovered, though, it doesn't imply that the solution is to stop discussing legalization — as evidenced by the same National Institute on Drug Abuse survey that prompted Kerlikowske's comments.
Even as teen marijuana use is rising, tobacco and alcohol use is falling, according to the report, which found that 21.4% of high school seniors had smoked pot in the previous month and 19.2% had smoked tobacco — the first time since 1981 that marijuana was more popular than cigarettes. This may indicate that public health campaigns aimed at discouraging alcohol and tobacco use are working, and that similar campaigns aimed specifically at marijuana might be equally effective. There's little evidence that continued criminalization has discouraged teen drug use, but better education might.

Santa Cruz
2010-12-14 "California’s Green Facelift; Santa Cruz’s Ecology Action is at the center of new program designed to save money and the environment" from "Good Times" of Santa Cruz
Just in time for the New Year, the Energy Upgrade California Program (EUCP) is announcing its plans to keep the environment green and clean while putting a different kind of green back into the pockets of the state and consumers alike. A collaborative effort between nonprofits, utility companies and the California Energy Commission (CEC), the program will use federal stimulus funds from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act of 2009 (ARRA). It will allow homeowners and commercial businesses a unique opportunity to make their buildings more energy efficient by providing rebates and monetary incentives for upgrades. What makes this program different from others, is that it is a statewide program that will allow all 58 counties to participate in reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions providing more benefits than just monetary. At the cornerstone of the project is Santa Cruz’s own Ecology Action.
Founded in 1970, Ecology Action Santa Cruz is a nonprofit consultancy group that has helped homeowners, contractors and commercial businesses achieve the most environmentally friendly ways of creating or updating buildings. They will be one of three subcontractors involved in the massive project. One subcontractor, Renewable Funding, is in charge of building a web portal that will allow contractors, customers and even cities and counties to track their “greening” process along with providing information on the most efficient ways to upgrade. MIG, the other subcontractor, will provide marketing and education about the new program. Lastly, Ecology Action will oversee the distribution of the $33 million in funding and provide outreach and marketing to the Santa Cruz community. “Ecology Action staff will be on the ground,” explains Ecology Action Spokesperson Bill Maxfield. “[This means] providing contractors, property owners and local government staff with technical assistance to facilitate uptake of energy efficiency and renewable generation upgrades.”
But this was a plan that almost wasn’t. Originally, the $33 million in funding was allocated to the CEC by the Department of Energy, as part of the ARRA, for the Property Assessed Clean Energy program (PACE). However, this past March, Western Riverside Council, representing 17 California cities, sued to have the state Superior Court block the money from being dispensed to municipalities, claiming they had been left out of the process. The judge agreed and ruled that the CEC had to come up with a new plan. With the money turning back over to the federal government by Oct. 21 if it wasn’t used, time was of the essence. The CEC came back with the EUCP. But once more, the Western Riverside Council sued to block the plans and once again won. Then, in a stroke of luck, the California Court of Appeals Fourth District lifted the restraining order on Oct. 20. Needless to say, everyone at Ecology Action was holding their breath. “That was a great moment of relief,” says Maxfield. “Finally, the fund that was designed to create jobs and conserve energy [could] go forward.” Ecology Action is currently looking to hire some 30 to 40 more staff members for the EUCP.
The program is divided into three separate tiers; Santa Cruz is in the second. The property owner first selects a contractor that is state certified for the EUCP. The program will offer easily accessible scholarship programs for contractors to become certified for the upgrades. Next, the homeowner can choose between a number of upgrade packages, which, according to an all-party energy panel that was held in San Francisco on Oct. 7, can deliver anywhere between a $1,000 to $4,000 rebate. Each package is different and, for homeowners, the upgrades can range anywhere from new duct sealing to window and wall insulation, as well as new fixtures such as solar water heaters. The contractors complete the job and file with the state exactly what has been done and a rebate check is mailed back to the property owner. This leaves the property owner to sit back and enjoy the additional savings that will come from less energy being bought from utility companies. “The rule of thumb is that for every $1 spent on energy efficiency projects, $6.70 is sent back into our economy,” says Maxfield. He adds that this means the program can save a lot of money while reducing statewide energy consumption by 330 billion BTUs (British Thermal Units, a common energy measurement) by the year 2012. “The economic benefit of this reduction is phenomenal,” he says. In other words, you can think of it as a green stimulus package for your home.
The program will be implemented in a series of phases, with the first one beginning in early 2011. In this first wave, the online web portal previously mentioned will be uploaded and running. The portal is a unique tool to the EUCP, allowing property owners to check the status of projects and rebates. Yet with so many contractors already offering energy efficiency plans of their own, will they want “in” on the EUCP? “I think there will be plenty of participation,” says Santa Cruz Green Builders Co-founder Taylor Darling. For three years, Santa Cruz Green Builders has been building energy efficient homes from the ground up and working on their own form of energy upgrades, including installing LED lights in old buildings and solar paneling.
“I think it’s really helpful,” says Darling of green home updates. “In a town like Santa Cruz, we aren’t growing outward much, since we are surrounded by the ocean and mountains. So that means there’s not a lot of new construction, it’s mostly remodels. The houses that are most inefficient are old houses that just need to be updated.” And the competition agrees. “The consciousness for [green building] and energy efficiency is way higher than it’s ever been before,” says Jesse Nickell, vice president of local construction company Barry Swenson Builders. Founded in 1961, Barry Swenson Builders is another company that has been certified for green building, launching their program in 2006. Recently, Barry Swenson Builders has been working with Ecology Action on the overhaul of the old Sentinel building on Church and Cedar streets and has been a leader in energy efficient construction for local commercial buildings.
But while consciousness may be rising, for many people interested in energy upgrades, it boils down to economics and financing. For property owners who may not be able to purchase one of the EUCP upgrade packages, Nickell has some advice. “Window tinting, double pane glass and insulating your house are the most cost effective upgrades available,” he says. “Insulation is super cheap and you get the payback right away.”
While some consumers might be tempted to upgrade their buildings while the EUCP is still in its fledgling phase, the $33 million must be spent by the end of March 2012. If this is done, Ecology Action projects the program will have its own legs to stand on, with the prospect of upgrading a million homes a year. “The young people are definitely seeing this problem clearer than the people of my generation,” Nickell says. “Most fossil fuels will be diminished in my lifetime. We have to look ahead.”

Sacramento metropolis
2010-12-09 "Friends for the friendless Local Quakers offer relief to undocumented Sac State students" by Amy Yannello from "Sacramento News & Review" newspaper
Two sisters, one 20, one 18. One dreams of obtaining her doctorate in psychology, becoming a psychologist, and specializing in marriage and family counseling. The younger toys with the idea of law school and becoming an immigration lawyer. Both were educated in California’s public schools and both attend Sacramento State, where they are pulling a 3.5 and 3.0 grade point average, respectively. But for Sulema and Adilene (they asked that their last names not be used in this story), the educational and professional goals they’ve set for themselves may be out of reach if they are not able to win U.S. citizenship. The pair were brought to the United States from Guanajuato, Mexico, with their parents when Sulema was 8 years old and Adilene was 6. Because their parents were here illegally, and because they weren’t born here, current U.S. immigration policy doesn’t allow either of the young women a legal path to citizenship, despite their years of residency.
It’s a rule that immigration-reform advocates, like Patricia Portillo, hope to change with a piece of federal legislation known as the Development, Relief and Education of Alien Minors Act, or DREAM Act, which comes up for vote again later this month. As a former undocumented student herself (she now holds a doctorate in Spanish literature and is a teacher in Sacramento), Portillo knows too well the difficulties undocumented students face, and remembers having to leave the United States, returning to her native El Salvador, then having to apply to re-enter with all new documentation before she could apply for citizenship. All despite having been here since her youth. “They can’t get a driver’s license or a job, and in all sorts of ways are relegated to a life that is unjust and unfair, in my opinion,” said Portillo. The Sacramento Friends Meeting, the local Quaker group of which Portillo is a member, seeks to make a handful of students’ lives easier, by offering three $1,000 scholarships to continuing undocumented students at Sacramento State starting in 2011.
The aim of the program is to have the money follow the students through graduation, according to Portillo, the brainchild behind the scholarships. Although anti-immigrant sentiment currently runs high in California, and in the nation, Portillo’s group has no qualms about helping undocumented immigrants, and members point to the Quakers’ history of helping college-age Japanese-Americans receive permission during their internment during World War II to leave the camps and receive an education.
Currently, U.S. immigration policy is all over the map when it comes to educating foreign-born students—even if they’ve lived here since they were children. In 13 states, including California, undocumented students are able to attend state universities and pay in-state tuition. In California, these students are known as A.B. 540 students, so named for the legislation that allowed for the change. (Prior to 2001, undocumented students had to pay out-of-state tuition, thereby virtually excluding them from higher education.) Even with in-state tuition, because of their undocumented status, A.B. 540 students are ineligible for state and federal financial aid. Additionally, because they can’t get a Social Security card, they can’t work, thereby leaving many of them with crushing financial obligations. For Sulema, who attends school full time, tuition is $700 per month, not counting books.
In a nutshell, the DREAM Act would open a path to citizenship for immigrants who want to attend college or serve in the military if they arrived in the United States before their 16th birthday, have been in the Unites States for five consecutive years prior to the passage of the bill, and graduated from a U.S. high school or obtained a GED equivalency. “For me, it would mean a sense of approval and belonging,” said Sulema. “I feel I belong here, and I feel worthy of it. And I feel it would be in the best interest of the American people to have people who actually want to be citizens—good people, deserving people. Any country would want that.”

Central Valley [Fresno, etc.]
2010-12 "Valley Vineyard Targets Indigenous Workers" by Mike Rhodes from "Fresno Community Alliance" newspaper
“Stupid Indians.”
“Indians are of no use.”
“Indians don’t understand anything or how to do anything.”
According to the United Farm Workers (UFW) union, these are the kind of insults, from supervisors, made to indigenous workers at Giumarra Vineyards in the Central Valley. And you can imagine the treatment that goes along with this attitude. In January, the UFW reported that a young woman, 17 years old, was harassed sexually by a co-worker at Giumarra. She complained to the company about the unwanted sexual advances, and the company did something. When she and fellow workers complained, they were fired. These workers are all members of indigenous groups from Mexico.
In a lawsuit filed by the former Giumarra employees who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit, they claim they were the targets of abuse, insults and discrimination by Giumarra supervisors just because they are indigenous. The Kroger grocery chain is one of Giumarra’s biggest customers. Giumarra may not care what you think, but Kroger’s will.
Kroger has the power to get Giumarra to clean up its act. The UFW urges you to tell the Kroger grocery chain that you, as a customer, will not accept this treatment of the workers who tend and pick the produce that we eat.
Tell Kroger to use its power to promote the social responsibility it claims to believe in. Indigenous farmworkers are doubly vulnerable. Anti-immigrant sentiment leads to serious discrimination. And these workers face additional cultural and linguistic barriers because they are indigenous peoples. Take a stand for indigenous rights. Tell Kroger to do the right thing.
Note: The Kroger grocery chain includes Ralphs, Food 4 Less, Fred Meyer, Quality Food Centers, Fry’s, Baker’s, City Market, Dillons, Foods Co., Gerbes, Hilander, JayC Food Stores, King Soopers, Owen’s Market, Scott’s Food & Pharmacy, Smith’s Food & Drug, Smith’s Marketplace, Turkey Hill and more.

2010-12-03 "The people of Watsonville picking the colonizer’s vegetable News" by David Bacon from "El Reportero" newspaper of San Francisco
The California coast, from Davenport south through Santa Cruz, Watsonville and Castroville, is brussels sprouts country. Most of this vegetable in north America comes from these fields, although a growing harvest now takes place in Baja California, in northern Mexico. In both California and Baja California, the vast majority of the people who harvest brussels sprouts, like those who pick other crops, are Mexican. In Baja they’re migrants from the states of southern Mexico. In California, they’re immigrant workers who’ve crossed the border to labor in these fields. On a cold November day, this crew of Mexican migrant workers picks brussels sprouts on a ranch outside of Watsonville.
Many people love this vegetable, and serve it for dinner on the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday. Native people in the U.S. point out that Thanksgiving celebrates the beginning of the European colonization of north America, which drove them from the lands where they lived historically. The brussels sprouts came with the colonizers. While the Romans probably grew and ate them, the first plants came to this continent with the French to the colonies of Quebec and the Atlantic seaboard. Today the people picking in this field may be immigrants to the U.S., but in a longer historical view, they are the descendents of indigenous people whose presence in north America predated Columbus and the arrival of the brussels sprouts by thousands of years. Now they cross the border between Mexico and the U.S. as migrant workers, many speaking indigenous languages as old, or even older, than those of the colonizers - Mixteco, Triqui or Nahuatl. In the soft conversations among the workers of this picking crew, and other crews harvesting the sprouts, you can hear those languages mixed with that of the Spaniards.
Brussels sprouts may be a colonizers’ vegetable, but it has many healthy properties. It contains sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol, both of which are believed to play a role in blocking the growth of cancer. In yet another ­irony, in non-organic fields, picking crews often get exposed to the agricultural chemicals that are one important cause of the explosion of cancer in the U.S. Farm workers get much higher doses than the supermarket patrons who buy the produce they pick. But it’s a job. Putting the food on the table is really one of the most important jobs people do, and one that gets the least acknowledgement and respect. So the next time you decide on brussels sprouts for dinner, first, don’t boil them. It removes those healthy anti-cancer chemicals. And don’t overcook them either - that’s what produces the sulfur taste many people don’t like. But then, when they’re out there on the table, remember who got them there.

2010-12 "Homeless People Defend Their Rights" by Mike Rhodes from "Fresno Community Alliance" newspaper
In June 2010, workers from the San Joaquin Valley Railroad Company posted notices that they were going to “clean up” property inhabited by several homeless people near Broadway and Cherry Street in downtown Fresno. The notice stated that “those wishing to reclaim personal property collected during the clean-up project may do so by contacting the SJVR Trainmaster.”
Several of the homeless people living in the area contacted the Community Alliance newspaper after the “cleanup” and said the railroad had taken their property and that they were unable to find out where it was being stored. A federal court order makes it a crime to take and immediately destroy homeless people’s property.
The court order says that any property taken must be stored for 90 days and returned to the homeless upon request. Michael Scott (not his real name) said that he repeatedly called the number provided on the notice but that he was only able to reach a voice mailbox. Dozens of messages were left, but nobody got back to Scott about what he could do to reclaim his personal property. After the Community Alliance made inquiries into this incident, the railroad suddenly became more communicative.
A representative from the railroad contacted the homeless people involved and worked out a mutually agreeable compensation arrangement. A similar out-of-court settlement was made a year or two ago by the Rescue Mission, which was also accused of taking and destroying homeless people’s property. When homeless people stand up for their rights, they can win.
If you are homeless and you feel your rights have been violated, contact the Community Alliance or go to Central California Legal Services (CCLS) at 1999 Tuolumne Street, Suite 700, in Fresno. CCLS provides free legal assistance to those who can’t afford an attorney.

2010-12 "Homeless Czar Refuses to Help the Homeless" by Mike Rhodes from "Fresno Community Alliance" newspaper
Fresno homeless czar Gregory Barfield is refusing to help the homeless who are living in an encampment at Santa Clara and E streets. The homeless are asking for a trash bin so they can keep the encampment free of garbage, which has piled high and represents a significant health risk. Instead of putting a trash bin at the encampment and dumping it once or twice a week, the City of Fresno sends in a crew of sanitation workers about once a month to “clean up” the area. The cost of sending in a city crew is more than it would cost to have a trash bin at the encampment. In addition, this newspaper told Barfield that it would pay for the cost of the service.
Why then does Barfield and the city refuse to provide the homeless with a public service available to every other citizen in the city? In a city that is in a financial crisis and laying off workers, why would it spend more money than necessary—only to make life more miserable for the homeless?
The streets in downtown Fresno would be cleaner with a trash bin at this homeless encampment, the threat of an outbreak of disease would be reduced, there would be fewer rats in the area, it would save the city money and it is the right thing to do. The Community Alliance newspaper thanks those who contributed to the homeless fund (from our appeal in last month’s newspaper) and encourages you to continue sending us your contributions.
We will no longer wait for the City of Fresno to help us set up a trash bin at Santa Clara and E and will instead contract with a private vendor.
Checks to support this effort can be sent to the Community Alliance at P.O. Box 5077, Fresno, CA 93755. Indicate that the contribution is to help the homeless.

2010-12 "Fresno Landlord Nominated for Hall of Shame" by Giti Dadlani from "Fresno Community Alliance" newspaper
For years, tenants have tolerated landlord harassment, illegal evictions, hazardous living conditions and other forms of abuse with little recourse.
Irresponsible landlords get away with these wrongful actions because of a lack of oversight, transparency and accountability. The lack of public information about these bad actors leaves tenants with no way to learn, in advance, if they are entering into a contract with an unscrupulous landlord, and no way to expose unethical or illegal behavior after the fact. As a result, bad landlords continue renting substandard housing to unsuspecting tenants in different properties across a given city and, potentially, in different cities across the state.
Tenants Together, California’s only statewide organization dedicated to protecting and advancing the rights of tenants, recently launched the Landlord Hall of Shame in order to shine a spotlight on bad landlords and send a clear message that their actions will be announced and publicized. To be inducted to the Hall of Shame, the landlord must first be suggested as a nominee. All California tenants can suggest nominees for the Landlord Hall of Shame by going to
If the nominee is already on the list, simply click the link to tell us more. Then, based on the information submitted and our own research, Tenants Together announces Official Nominees throughout the year. Lastly, members of Tenants Together participate in an annual vote to determine which of the Official Nominees will be inducted into the Hall of Shame. There are currently five Official Nominees for the Landlord Hall of Shame:
* In Bakersfield, Frank St. Clair, the managing broker for Bella Vista Real Estate, LLC, evicted numerous tenants after foreclosure in direct violation of their rights under the federal Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act (PTFA), which was signed into law by President Barack Obama in May 2009.
* In East Palo Alto, David Taran of Page Mill Properties orchestrated and executed a predatory scheme to evict thousands of rent-controlled tenants in the city.
* In Los Angeles, L.A. Clippers owner and mega-landlord Donald Sterling has been involved in a growing number of out-of-court settlements in cases alleging discrimination on the basis of race, national origin and family status.
* In Sunnyvale, Steve Pavlina reportedly steered prospective tenants of Indian origin away from nicer, remodeled units and toward less desirable apartments.
And right here in Fresno, father-son pair John and David Hovannisian, doing business as JD Home Rentals, own hundreds of rental units and are notorious for substandard conditions that are hazardous for the health and well-being of tenants.
Last year, Rev. Sharon Stanley of the Fresno Interdenominational Refugee Ministries (FIRM) showed reporters a bag full of roaches collected from one apartment in an infested apartment complex on Lowe Avenue in southeast Fresno. A media campaign exposed the problem, bringing much-needed public attention to the plight of tenants, and pressured JD Home Rentals to take steps to address the substandard housing conditions. However, the landlord family who has forced countless families to endure deplorable living conditions has yet to take responsibility for their callous business practices.
Problems with JD Home Rentals date back years. Court records show David Hovannisian as a party to numerous lawsuits regarding his rental properties throughout the 1990s and beyond. According to a 2006 ABC news investigation, hundreds of complaints related to cleanliness, safety and habitability have been filed against the landlord. When it comes to standards of habitability of a rental property, California tenants have the right, at minimum, to
* Effective waterproofing and weather protection of roof and exterior walls.
* Plumbing and gas facilities that are maintained in good working order.
* A water supply that produces hot and cold running water and is connected to a sewage disposal system.
* Heating facilities.
* Electrical lighting.
* A clean and sanitary building, property grounds and common areas.
* An adequate number of trash receptacles.
* Tenants must learn how to safely assert their rights in order to maintain these basic standards of habitability for a clean and healthy home. If your rights are being violated, follow these steps:
* Submit repair and maintenance requests in writing. If possible, personally deliver the request to an office and send it by certified mail, return receipt requested. Keep a copy of all files, and be sure to include an expectation for response time.
* Document uninhabitable conditions in writing and with photos.
* Document, in writing, verbal conversations and harassment experienced, if any.
* Report code violations to the City of Fresno’s Code Enforcement Division.
For more information, call our hotline at 888-495-8020 or review our Web site’s “Laws and Resources” section.
To connect to a local group in Fresno, visit our online directory at
For legal advice, contact Central California Legal Services, a legal services organization, at 559-570-1200 or hire an attorney. Irresponsible landlords must clean up their act or prepare for a public shaming.
Tenants Together members across the state will no longer suffer the consequences of renting from a bad landlord. There are many ways to protect, assert and expand tenant rights in your community, and you can start by joining the Fresno Tenant Action Group.
For more information, call 888-495-8020 or email

2010-12-10 "Modesto: A sleepy little burg — with anarchists?" by Jeff Jardine from "Modesto Bee" newspaper
So much for being a dusty little farm town, as outsiders once loved to describe Modesto. During a recent meeting at police headquarters, an assessment team from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement heard from people with opinions about the Modesto Police Department. Among them a group of people wore masks as they protested the deaths of Francisco Moran and Rita Elias, who were killed by law enforcement officers 18 days apart in September. Moran was shot to death by two MPD officers. The weapon they thought was a knife turned out to be a spatula. Elias was killed by an off-duty sheriff's detective during what appears to have been an eviction gone bad.
The group's antics made for some interesting theater Monday night, I'm told. I did not attend the meeting, but talked to someone from The Bee who did. I also read the accounts posted by, our local anarchists' Web site. Yes, folks, there are anarchists here in Modesto. We are dusty no more. This is just a hunch, but I don't believe that shouting, "Cops, pigs and murderers," and interrupting other speakers did much to advance their cause. Dale Carnegie left that chapter out of "How to Win Friends and Influence People," and for good reason. Not that they care. Anarchists set out to disrupt government, not to help solve its problems. Consider these excerpts from the Modesto Anarcho Crew's, well, mission statement: "We do not desire a seat at the table of politics. We desire working class power. … We have no demands for this system; we seek only its destruction." There's also a group called Modesto Cop Watch, which is linked to similar efforts in other cities. They monitor the actions of law enforcement and post videos on YouTube. They staged a protest in Modesto two months ago, claiming participation by about 20 people.
Seven officer-involved deaths in Stanislaus County over the past year certainly merit serious questioning of use-of-force practices. Law enforcement agencies often investigate themselves or have a neighboring agency do the work. The district attorney then reviews the findings. As systems go, it's not exactly a magnet for the public's trust. No officers in recent memory have been charged in any killing in Stanislaus County since a jury in 2001 acquitted off-duty deputy Bob Holloway of a 1997 murder. We all have the right to voice our opinions, to question our elected leaders and demand accountability from the police. Anarchists who scorn the First Amend-ment and other laws of the land, of course, rely on those protections as they voice their opinions. But the Constitution can't guarantee anyone will take you seriously when you scream profanities in a public setting. Modesto Police Chief Mike Harden said that during Monday's meeting he asked them to respect others' opinion, and that they would be given the opportunity to speak, and they were.
"I wasn't offended by their presence or disturbed by their comments," Harden said. "They were disruptive to some of the speakers who had something to say." At one point, Harden said, he'd had enough. "I did admonish them that further interruption could result in arrest," he said, and read the ordinance prohibiting disturbing the peace. "You take the good with the bad and move on. That's what the assessors were there for — to hear from members of the community, and they allegedly are members of the community." I e-mailed a contact listed on the site, asking for whomever maintains it to contact me. No response, nor did I really expect one. They see the mainstream media as part of the problem, just another rung on the ladder of the very society they want to destroy. I also contacted Sheriff Adam Christianson, who spoke at Monday's meeting. "Everybody just ignored them, myself included," Christianson said. "We live in a country where that kind of behavior is acceptable. They don't like police and want to be disruptive in the community. If there are legitimate concerns, let's sit down and discuss and address those concerns."
Except that anarchists aren't interested in that, which is too bad. You want people to get involved, to hold politicians and government accountable. Yes, there are anarchists among us. Sure makes you pine for the days when Modesto was just a dusty little farm town, doesn't it?

2010-12-14 "A Response to Jeff Jardine - As the Modesto Police Kill Again" from "Modesto Anarcho" news magazine
This post is a response to a Modesto Bee columnist's piece, 'Modesto: A sleepy little burg — with anarchists?' []
His article was in response to our blog post detailing the protest at the police station last week. Read that article here [].
This response is a collective effort and represents various individual contributions. Expect further written responses in the near future.
Most of us in this ‘burg’ haven’t got much sleep for some time, Jeff. In Modesto, we are on the front lines of the current crisis, facing off against budget cuts, job lay offs, fee increases, environmental pollution, home foreclosures, anti-social crime and drug addiction, and especially now, police brutality. It comes as no surprise that as we write this, the Modesto Police Department has killed yet another person [].
Some of the officers involved in the most recent shooting were also involved in the September shooting death of Francisco Moran. This latest killing is the third in only 4 months. Also, as this response is written, the family of Craig Prescott, who was killed by guards in Stanislaus County Jail, is still releasing information detailing his death [].
Prescott is the 6th person in the past year to die in the jail.
Despite these glaring atrocities, Jardine paints the image of Modesto as a "sleepy little town" before “the anarchists got here.” However, the Central Valley is no stranger to social struggle. Perhaps the next time Jardine is on a lunch break, he would do well to take in the statue that stands on 11th and I Street, that of Estanislao, who this county is named after. Rarely taught in the history books, he was a Yokut leader of an indigenous rebellion against the mission system and the colonization of what is now California. Was there calm then, during colonization which left millions dead or during resistance to it? Was it calm when thousands of union strikers in the United Farm Workers (UFW) marched on Modesto decades ago against the Gallo wine company, as they fought for better working conditions in California fields? Or perhaps there was nothing but tranquility when in 2006, tens of thousands of young people and workers walked off their jobs and out of their schools against legislation that would criminalize immigrants, shutting down streets and blocking traffic. We draw lessons, inspiration, and context from this history of resistance, which all sought to rattle the false illusion of “calm” within capitalism that Jardine helps give air to.
Furthermore, if Jardine wants to be the first to claim that anarchists are among us in Modesto, he’s a little late. Anarchists have been spilling ink for years in the Modesto Bee. The anarchist collective Direct Action Anti-Authoritarians (DAAA) existed from 2003 – 2006, graced the pages of the Bee numerous times, largely for work against homelessness and poverty, such as the weekly Food Not Bombs meals [].
The group was also involved in many other local campaigns covered by the Bee, such as the struggle to shut down the Modesto Tallow Plant. Modesto Anarcho was given front page news in January of 2009, when the group put on the ‘People’s Bailout,’ which featured free groceries and workshops on foreclosure [].
The group also organized a large BBQ against the closure of PaperBoy Park this summer, in which the Bee only showed up to take pictures for [].
This is not to mention the wide distribution we’ve given to our magazine, Modesto Anarcho, for close to 4 years now. We mention this not because we expect or even desire coverage in the Modesto Bee, which has never served as a voice for the people — we simply wish to point out that Jardine has failed to do his homework.
First off, we should state that Bee reporters were called to the meeting at the station by protesters, however the newspaper told them that they were not covering the event because the issue was “unfolding.” However, that night, when the story hit the internet, it caused quite a stir on the Modesto Bee’s ‘The Hive’ blog site, as well as up on our site, Many people began to ask why the Bee was not there to record the story? Another columnist, Judy Sly, however, responded to the protesters in passing, writing a rant about how anonymous internet posters were on the same level as those who covered their faces that night [].
So, in fact the Bee did have people at the meeting – they were simply choosing not to run anything on the story. If Modesto is truly as “sleepy” as Jeff says it is, doesn’t it then make sense for the Bee to run an article on what happened at a meeting regarding a police department that is under investigation for corruption and brutality – and also seeking accreditation? Aren’t we supposed to expect ‘fair and balanced’ reporting from the mass media? Of course, we all know this to be false, but it’s interesting when it’s right out in front of our faces. So then, what storyline is the Bee hoping that we do swallow? Pardon us, as we spit.
We then arrive at Jardine’s article. Either pushed to write an opinion piece about the meeting disruption by an editor, or deciding to do one himself, the piece has the same effect. It takes the issue away from that of police brutality and also from the fact that a group of people actually stood up to the police and instead points the spot light on Modesto Anarcho. It’s ironic, but while Jardine blasts MA, without its reporting on the issue, he wouldn’t have much of a story at all! And while we enjoy the free link to our website, we must point out that those at the meeting came from a variety of groups, including some from families murdered by the police. We did receive an email from Jeff, which we opened on the day that his story came out. It simply asked us to call him, although it did not detail what the conversation would be about.
n the end, Jardine’s article simply serves as a smokescreen from the real issues that are being discussed. Issues of police brutality that people have fought tooth and nail to get into the Bee for years, only to have the newspaper slander, demonize, and belittle them. On the 6th, when a group of people did stand up, to denounce the police and sheriffs to their face, the Bee was there as it always is to make sure that the story didn’t get out. When they couldn’t accomplish that, it made sure that a lid was put on the opposition. According to Jardine, our problem is not only in our delivery, but because we “…set out to disrupt government, not to help solve its problems." To Jardine, our position of organizing against the police is problematic because we reject the activist model of pressuring and asking those in power to change. This also doesn’t mean that we think the alternative is U-Hauls full of fertilizer at the Federal Building. We don’t want to work with the political structure, not because we don’t want change, but because we want to build power in our communities, streets, and workplaces outside and against the government and the economy that it protects. We have no interest in working with the police as groups like the NAACP have done throughout the years. The NAACP, which has hosted forums on police brutality cases and had the police out to speak in churches after recent murders, have done nothing but give the cops a chance to explain to those they exploit, abuse, and murder why they have the power and authority to do so. Stopping police violence has to come from within working class communities themselves; as people get organized to not only stop harassment, but also deal with other problems such as home invasions, heavy drug dealing, and assaults. Jardine, unsurprisingly, bases most of his arguments on the fact that many Modesto Bee readers will have no idea as to what anarchism actually means or stands for. In this way, he joins the scores of politicians, bureaucrats, journalists, and police, who have used the term ‘anarchist’ as slander without having the faintest idea what it even means. This attack has come from the Left as well as the Right, against those that would confront and attack injustice, as well as those that reject the rigid and authoritarian nature of Left parties and politics. Thus, Jardine, having never read a copy of Modesto Anarcho, can make major assumptions about what it is and what we stand for.
So what then, does anarchism stand for? Anarchism is not chaos. Nor is it terrorism. It comes from a Greek word meaning without hierarchy. Anarchists believe that all governments exist to protect the divisions between rich and poor and achieve this through violence and coercion. Anarchists believe that capitalism is a system that exploits and oppresses us and will never benefit the majority of those who make and create the wealth of this world. Instead of decisions and power coming from the top down, anarchists believe that decisions should be made from the ground up, in our neighborhoods, in our communities, and where we produce the things that we all need to survive. Likewise, anarchists believe that the work that we do should go towards human needs, not profits, and the means of existence should be shared in common, not owned by bosses and corporations. Furthermore, anarchism proposes that we must struggle to create a new world outside of the political process. Instead, we promote direct action and community organizing. Members of Modesto Anarcho, for instance, have helped occupy foreclosed homes in order to stop evictions. We have hosted BBQs in order to bring people together and stop anti-social crime. We help run a social center for community groups to meet and organize around issues that affect them. Most recently, we have found ourselves engaged in a variety of struggles against police brutality, often in the wake of vicious killings by local law enforcement.
When we decry the police, we do so because we understand that their violence comes from their function within a society divided by class and broken apart by race. It is not the starters of wars, the bankers who evict, and the corporations who exploit that the police imprison, beat, and murder, it is us. The police are a force of class rule. Thus, we do not believe that an ever growing power of the police and the creation of more prisons creates a freer world – far from it. We think that justice must come from people having their needs met and out of the bonds that are created when people have real and true communities and can govern themselves. We work towards a world without police and without prisons, where peace and freedom are created and maintained by communities of people together, without an outside force of the state mitigating “justice.” In many ways, the disruption of the meeting on the 6th and the threats of arrest from the chief of police crystallize the tension that has been ongoing between law enforcement and the larger community for some time now.
Many of the people protesting at the meeting that night, who were indeed born and raised in the Central Valley, have grown up in a town where they still remember the police murder of Alberto Sepulveda in 2000 and Sammy Galvan in 2004, among many others. They remember police brutally beating young children coming out of a downtown concert and then blaming it on Bay Area black culture in 2006. For all of us, the recent atrocities in 2010 have pushed us again into action against police terror. Regardless of what Jardine, or anyone in the mass media writes — it is up to all of us to write and produce our own media for our own struggles. We must create and maintain lines of communication between each other, because we know that papers like the Modesto Bee will forever sway to the side of power, wealth, and the police.
As the bodies pile up, we must ask again… How many more must die before we all stand up and stop this?

Norcal [Mendocino, Humboldt, Yurok and Hoopa, etc.]

Socal [Los Angeles, San Diego, Shoshone, etc.]
2010-12-13 "Live by the Sword, Die by the Sword: San Diego LGBT Publisher Kills Himself" by Rocky Neptun
Excerpts from San Diego: 1st City of Empire, to be published in May, 2011 by the San Diego Renters Union []

Our wonderful contribution to humanity, the Gay Liberation Movement, has been high-jacked by those who value profit. We have been tripped up by our successes at inclusion. We must rediscover our roots as activists; aroused by the tension between being one of the herd and being a wild, nonconforming, free spirit. Damn it! We are different. It’s time we started acting like it.
The suicide of the city’s most well-known publisher and the saga of the “Empress” of San Diego mirror the store-bought culture of San Diego’s LGBT ghetto. It is an urbanity based on image and wealth. The Oligarchy, its super-rich patrons and well-connected CEO’s, tolerate a LGBT presence in the political arena and business associations as long as they confine their organizational thrusts and community demonstrations to “sexual orientation” issues and never seriously challenge the forces of greed in this corporate owned city.
When Michael Portantino jumped from the seventh story of the Park Manor Suites Hotel in the Hillcrest neighborhood, the heart of the city’s LGBT community, on Dec. 8, 2010; his death reflected more than just his personal existential crisis with his recent fall from wealth and preeminence and its poverty and powerlessness. His solitary leap, without a spectator (he was found on the sidewalk by a person out for a walk) and on his second try (he was saved by his brother, a Pasadena state assembly member, in a previous overdose), symbolized, I think, the dominance of a new era in our LGBT community.
Once outsiders looking in, the urban LGBT community has now become political power brokers. By our numbers and economic clout, we have become insiders to power and wealth. We have gone from despised outcast to tolerated participant, selling our votes and buying our way into the mainstream. We have been moved into the corporate, neo-liberal, plantation house - but at what cost?
[ ... ]

Sierra Nevada mountains [Lake Tahoe, etc.]

California Republic
2010-12-13 "UC Berkeley Cops Don't Get it, Photog Says" By MARIA DINZEO from "Court House News"
OAKLAND, Calif. (CN) - A photojournalist claims that UC Berkeley police officers wrongfully arrested and detained him on bogus charges as he covered a student demonstration last year.
David Morse, 42, a photographer for online newspaper Indybay since 2004, arrived at the Berkeley campus on Dec. 11, 2009 to cover a concert, but instead got caught up in a student protest. Morse followed the protestors, photographing them as they made their way up the steps of the Chancellor's house, as a UCPD squad car approached.
"Rather than pursue the fleeing demonstrators, many of whom had their faces covered, the police car pulled up directly in front of Morse," the federal complaint states. "UCPD officers Manchester and Wyckoff exited the vehicle and briskly approached Morse. As they approached, Officer Wyckoff shouted, 'I saw you take a picture of us. We want your camera. We believe your camera contains evidence of a crime.'"
Morse says he told the officers that he was a journalist and tried to show them his press pass, but they handcuffed him and put him into the back of the squad car and confiscated his camera and cell phone.
"Morse explained to the officers that he did not think it was legal for them to detain him and seize his camera. Officer Wyckoff responded by saying, 'You're not a lawyer, so shut the fuck up,'" according to the complaint.
In an interview, Morse's attorney Geoffrey King said the whole incident was "quite striking."
King said Morse was "completely separate and apart from these protesters" and "was clearly newsgathering at the scene."
King said Morse "told the officers six times that he was a journalist, showed them a press pass, and they told him to 'shut up,' that it didn't matter and they'd done this to other news organizations. They didn't let him explain at all, and they said they had done it to KTVU as well."
Riot and vandalism charges against Morse were dropped a few days later, but the memory discs containing the photographs were not returned to him. The UCPD also searched his camera using a warrant that was later quashed.
As a journalist, Morse says he is covered by the Privacy Protection Act, which King said "applies to anybody gathering information for the public."
King said Morse has "covered these things hundreds of times, and he wasn't doing anything differently. I think he just ran into the wrong officers."
King said this isn't the first time the UCPD has been accused of violating the rights of journalists, noting a pending 2008 action claiming the UCPD violated the Privacy Protection Act when it searched a newspaper office. King said the force has not done enough to change, and that Captain Margo Bennett has said the force has no plans to revise the way it deals with journalists.
Morse demands the return of his photographs, and that the UCPD be ordered to train its officers to "ensure defendants' acts are not repeated in future years."
He sued the regents of UC Berkeley, the UC Berkeley Police Department and its chief and five officers, Alameda County and its Sheriff's Department and sheriff.
He seeks nominal, compensatory and special damages for constitutional and Privacy Protection Act violations. He is represented by Geoffrey King with the First Amendment Project.

2010-12-13 "Bikes are not cars" by Tim Redmond from "San Francisco Bay Guardian" newspaper
Okay, first of all, this is ridiculous.
California cities are supposed to be encouraging people to ride bikes instead of cars. And bikes aren't 3,000-pound metal devices propelled forward with internal combustion engines; yes, a bike can hit a pedestrian, but the likelihood of fatal injuries isn't that high. Certainly not compared to cars. Besides, and here's the thing that really gets me: This kid gets a ticket for running a stop sign on his bicycle and "now he has to go to traffic school to keep a moving violation off his driver's license." How is that possible? You don't need a license to ride a bike. A bike isn't a car; the skills are entirely different. The risks are entirely different. You can ride a bike before you turn 16. You can ride without proof of citizenship. You don't have to give up a fingerprint or fill out forms or take a test to ride a bike.
So why should you face a violation on your license to drive a car when you're not driving a car? Should I get a point on my driver's license if I sit on the sidewalk, or walk against the light, or block traffic in a political protest? Those things aren't remotely related to driving a motor vehicle. I got stopped once by a cop for (allegedly) running a stop sign, and he asked to see my driver's license, and I (politely) said: Why? I'm not driving a car. I'm happy to provide ID, but I don't need to present a document from the California Department of MOTOR vehicles when I'm not operating a MOTOR vehicle. Especially when I'm making the world a cleaner, better place with my transportation choice. Oddly enough, he agreed. We had a pleasant talk about bicycle safety and he let me go. You'd think the UC cops would have better things to do.

2010-12-13 "UC Berkeley crackdown has bicyclists fuming" by Nanette Asimov from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper

UC Berkeley freshman Devin Shoop got a $220 ticket in September. His crime: locking his bicycle to a railing instead of a bike rack. He got another ticket two weeks later: $220 for rolling his bike through a stop sign instead of fully stopping. Jorel Allegro, a junior, earned his $220 ticket in October for coasting through the campus dismount zone instead of walking his bike as required. California's law requiring the same traffic fines for cars and bikes isn't new. But at UC Berkeley, where campus police have vigorously enforced the laws at a time of unprecedented tuition hikes, students are furious. They've started a Facebook page for critics of the fines, they've done bicycle civil disobedience, and they've written letters to campus police. Citations are up only slightly this year over last, and the fine is just a touch higher, but students have reached the boiling point. "I was very, very angry," Allegro said. "I could have avoided that by being a strictly law-abiding citizen, but who would have thought? I assumed it'd be like $30. Or $50 max. I support myself with scholarships and financial aid, so $220 is food for two weeks." It's also the same penalty as a speeding ticket, or for hauling large quantities of radioactive materials without a permit. But it's more than the fine for holding a cell phone to your ear while driving. That's only $155. "Our main interest is to ensure the safety of pedestrians. We're not involved in setting fines," said Lt. Alex Yao of the University of California police, who have nabbed 41 percent more bad bikers this semester than during the same period last year: 103, up from 73. Campus police say they didn't know the fines were so high until students began complaining. Now they plan to look for a less expensive legal code to enforce their campus dismount zone, said Capt. Margo Bennett of the UC Police Department. UC Berkeley doesn't see a penny of the proceeds from citations, Yao said. The money goes to city, county and state coffers. That matters little to angry students, who have set up "BikeBusters," a Facebook page that calls the $220 tickets "outrageous and exploitative." "We should try and get UC Berkeley to handle these issues on campus and not push the burden of responsibility on the student and the outside government agencies for riding your freaking bike!" a junior named Jamie Lubell posted on the page. Students also staged a protest ride through the campus dismount zone earlier this month and hope their anger will inspire the university and the city of Berkeley to create new and better bike lanes in a city filled with dedicated cyclists. "We wouldn't need to have these tickets if we had designated bike routes that connected," said Kevin Lunde, 35, a graduate student in biology who has to pay $220 for making a California stop at a campus stop sign. "This fee is way too high." UC police have been citing students under the state's Vehicle Code, which generally doesn't distinguish between cars and bikes for moving violations. Parking violations usually are local matters - annoying, but not devastating to the pocketbook.
In the case of Shoop's parked bike, however, police slapped him with a violation of Section 21113 of the California Vehicle Code, which outlaws parking on public property without permission. Asked why the state law was chosen over the municipal code, Capt. Bennett would say only that the officer believed it was "most appropriate for the circumstances." Shoop, 18, was stunned when that $220 ticket landed at his parents' home in rural Red Bluff (Tehama County). "I talked to people who got parking tickets in Berkeley, and the most was $60," Shoop said. As he tells it, Shoop locked his old mountain bike to a rail outside Cal's Recreational Sports Facility on Bancroft Way on Sept. 17, as was his habit when the bike rack was full. He made sure his bike wasn't blocking the path, then ducked into the gym for a few hours. He came out to find a boot on his bike with a sign saying "Bike Impounded." There was a number to call. "In 10 minutes, a cop pulled up and gave me a ticket," Shoop said. "I said, 'I didn't know it was illegal, can you give me a break?' " But the officer pointed to a no-bike sign that Shoop said he'd never seen in the weeks since he'd started school. Thirteen days later, Shoop was pedaling along Warring Street toward campus. He slowed at a stop sign, saw no cars coming, and continued riding. Suddenly a siren wailed and flashing lights approached. Up strode the same officer. Shoop just shook his head as he received his second ticket for $220, this time for failing to completely stop at the sign. In refusing to reduce the fines, a traffic court judge told Shoop, "If you don't like it, call Sacramento." "I'm now completely paranoid," Shoop said. "I stop for at least five seconds at every stop sign. No other person I've ever seen does that. And if there's no bike rack, I'll leave it unlocked. The bike is worth less than the ticket," though he recently paid a homeless person 75 cents to watch it for him. Berkeley City Councilman Kriss Worthington said he could think of no logic to fining students $220 for bike infractions. He called Shoop's parking ticket "insane" and said the university should refund Shoop's money. "I think it's an extreme overreaction on the part of the UC Police Department," Worthington said, adding that he planned to meet with UC about how to improve the situation. He said he might also introduce legislation to "better synchronize (bike lanes) with the university." UC police said they were sympathetic to the situation and are looking into less costly ways of enforcing bike rules. They may be just in time. Traffic fines go up another $4 Jan. 1.

2010-12-14 "Teachers' dim future: budget cuts, cramped classes" by Jill Tucker from "San Francisco Chronicle" newspaper
When Jay LaViolette tells people he's a public school teacher, the reactions range from disinterest to sympathy.
In his fourth year teaching in San Francisco's Visitacion Valley Middle School, he is far from the highest paid among his friends and, on top of that, he lacks job security. It is a tough job that's getting harder, he said. He's right, the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning said in a state report released Monday. In fact, the state is facing the gloomiest outlook for the teaching profession in a very long time, said Margaret Gaston, president of the Santa Cruz center. Budget cuts have boosted class sizes by up to 10 children. Teacher aides, counselors, nurses and other classroom support positions have been eliminated. Job security is a problem, with 14,000 teachers laid off last year, according to the study by SRI International. "It's dire and reflects the budget crisis that has been building," she said. "These budget cuts have absolutely showed up in the classroom." The number of people wanting to be a teacher also has dropped dramatically, with 45,000 students statewide enrolled in teacher preparation programs, half the number of seven years ago.
With a $28 billion state budget shortfall predicted for the next fiscal year, school officials expect to mail out more pink slips in the spring. Still, at some point demand for teachers is going to surpass the supply, Gaston said. A third of the state's 300,000 teachers are older than 50, and with fewer people earning a teaching credential, schools could struggle to fill teacher slots within the next few years. "It's somewhat counterintuitive, but we're looking at a teacher shortage in the future," state schools Superintendent Jack O'Connell said. "I hope I'm wrong." 'Very tough times' Budget cuts have hit recruitment and retention programs, with struggling new teachers getting less on-the-job training and support even as they are placed in the schools with the neediest students, according to the study.
Too many of those new teachers quit the profession, making the problem of fewer incoming teachers more acute. "These are very tough times for teachers," Gaston said. Still, LaViolette loves his job. "Being around the kids and seeing them learn is so rewarding," he said. Yet, the pressure to perform - boosting test scores every year despite the budget cuts - is frustrating, he said. "We're constantly being told our school may be closed down, that we're not good enough," he said. Schools filled with struggling students who consistently perform poorly on tests face state or federal sanctions, including the reassignment of staff members. At the same time, a national debate is under way over if and how to assess teachers' performance based on those test scores. "It is not hard to understand why many teachers feel under siege," according to the report. "What was traditionally seen as a secure and respected profession seems less so now."
That worries district officials who fear that they could soon face a dearth of qualified teaching candidates, as they did in the 1990s.
"You cannot underestimate the power of the grim news of layoffs," San Francisco Unified spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said. Avoiding future shortages The district has worked to buffer itself from any future teacher shortage, partnering with local universities to help train future teachers, who are then placed in district schools. In addition, district officials recruit and hire incoming teachers early, grabbing the top candidates with annual starting salaries of $50,000, higher than most neighboring districts thanks to a city parcel tax.
"The bottom line is you make the best of what you got, you hire them early and you get them before anybody else does," said district Chief Administrative Officer Roger Buschmann. "I'm confident that we'll be able to fill our jobs." Other districts might not be so lucky, Gaston said. "The dilemma is that we are facing a very shallow pool of prospective teachers," she said. "It is going to be a rough ride."

2010-11-16 “The corporate takeover of American schools; The trend for appointing CEOs to the top jobs is symptomatic of a declining commitment to public education and social justice” by Paul Thomas from “The London Guardian” newspaper [of England]
The top positions in state education across the US – for example, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, recent chancellors Joel Klein (New York) and Michelle Rhee (Washington, DC), and incoming Chancellor Cathleen P Black (New York) – reflect a trust in CEO-style leadership for education management and reform. Along with these new leaders in education, billionaire entrepreneurs have also assumed roles as education saviours: Bill and Melinda Gates, and Geoffrey Canada.
Gates, Canada, Duncan, Klein and Rhee have capitalised on their positions in education to rise to the status of celebrities, as well – praised in the misleading documentary feature Waiting for Superman, on Oprah, and even on Bill Maher's Real Time. What do all these professional managers and entrepreneurs have in common?
Little or no experience or expertise in education. (Instead, they have degrees in government and law, along with nontraditional entries into education and strong ties to alternative certification, such as Teach for America). Further, they all represent and promote a cultural faith in the power of leadership above the importance of experience or expertise. When Klein quit his post as chancellor in New York – soon after Michelle Rhee left DC – the fact that he was leaving for a senior position at News Corp and that his replacement would be a magazine executive sent a strong message. The implication was that the American public distrusts not only schools, but also teachers and education experts.
More telling, however, is the appointment of Duncan as secretary of education under President Obama. This appointment of a CEO-style leader of schools in Chicago comes under a Democratic administration and, ironically, a president once demonised as too friendly with the radical left within the education community. Like Obama, Secretary Duncan has led refrains against bad teachers, while ignoring the growing impact of poverty on the lives of children and on schools. One very visible effect of this trend for recruiting CEO-style leaders and billionaire entrepreneurs is the new commitment to corporate-sponsored charter schools – such as the Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) and the Harlem Children's Zone (HCZ) among the most high profile.
The messages coming from state education in the US, then, are that government has failed and that only the private sector can save us. But is that message accurate? The corporate push to take over state education is, in fact, masking the failures of corporate America. And, in turn, this masks the fact that America has failed state education, rather than state education failing America.
The standards, testing and accountability movement is built on a claim that education can change society. The corporate support for the accountability movement and the "no excuses" charter school movement seeks to reinforce that claim because, otherwise, corporate America and the politicians supporting corporate America would have to admit that something is wrong with our economic and political structures. And the evidence isn't on the side of corporate America.
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has shown that only 14% of pupil achievement can be attributed to the quality of the school; 86% of that achievement is driven by factors outside of education. David Berliner has also established six out-of-school factors that overwhelm the effectiveness of education against poverty and expanding social inequities. In the US, achievement gaps and failure in state schools reflect larger inequalities in society, as well as dysfunction in corporate, consumer culture. The schools did not cause those gaps or failures – although it is true that, far too often, they perpetuate the social stratification. And the evidence shows that schools alone will never be able to overcome powerful social forces.
The real failure, which is the message being ignored here, is that one of the wealthiest countries in the world refuses to face the inequities of its economic system, a system that permits more than 20% of its children to live in poverty and to languish in schools that America has clearly decided to abandon, along with its democratic principles.

2010-12-15 "Jerry Brown warns educators to brace for more cuts"by Wyatt Buchanan from "San Francisco Chronicle"
Gov.-elect Jerry Brown said Tuesday that public schools in California should brace for more budget cuts when he presents his spending proposal in the next few weeks to solve the state's $25.4 billion budget deficit.
The Democrat called education and public safety the pillars of a civilized society but warned that the magnitude of the deficit problem facing California is "unprecedented in my lifetime" and that the state must prepare for drastic changes. "I can't promise there won't be more cuts, because there will be," he told a gathering of school administrators, teachers union representatives and other public education officials from across the state during a special budget forum in Los Angeles. Brown implored those at the forum, which focused on education spending, to "please sit down" when they see his budget proposal on Jan. 10. "If you're in your car, fasten your seat belt. It's going to be a rough ride, but we'll get through it," he said.
The governor-elect also pledged to slash the budget for the governor's office by 25 percent, which is about $5.5 million from the office's current $21.9 million annual budget, and said he would like to see the budget process completed 60 days after he takes office Jan. 3. He said the office has "a lot more people in it today than the last time I was there and it's going to have a lot fewer by the time I arrive." Brown's statements about cuts were the most detailed comments he has made about his plans for the state's budget since winning the race for governor in November. While the audience applauded at several points, Brown showed little emotion and maintained a serious demeanor while speaking and taking questions. He was joined at the forum by California's top financial and education officials, who presented detailed graphics outlining previous education spending and pupil-to-staff ratios at public schools in the state.
Education leaders at the event pleaded for flexibility from the state regulations and laws that force districts to spend money on certain programs. Several people also said that education spending had suffered enough from budget cuts over previous years and that Brown should look elsewhere for savings. Under the budget for this year, California will spend $36.2 billion of the $86.5 billion general fund on K-12 education and community colleges. Including local property tax revenue, California will spend $49.6 billion on education this year.
Three years ago, the state spent $56.6 billion from both sources on K-12 education and community colleges. David Sanchez, president of the California Teachers Association, said the union understands that the state is facing hard choices but noted that tens of thousands of teachers have received pink slips already while others are taking multiple furlough days. "There is no more meat on this bone to carve. The only thing left is amputation," Sanchez said. That sentiment was echoed by school district superintendents and other groups, including the state Parent Teachers Association, who implored Brown to look for new sources of revenue to help public education.
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer - who described himself as "the town grouch" - took an aggressive tone at the meeting, telling the crowd to prepare for cuts. He scoffed at any notion that education would be spared from the budget ax. "So far, we've heard good ideas about how to spend more money. Great. It ain't there, and so it's time to make cuts; I believe deep cuts," Lockyer said. The Democratic treasurer noted that, because of declining tax revenues, the Legislative Analyst's Office has projected that the minimum funding for K-12 schools and community colleges under the Proposition 98 formula, which includes both general fund dollars and property tax revenue, would be $2 billion less than this year.
That means the $2 billion cut to education is factored into the projected deficit and state leaders would have to cut even further to bring down the deficit number. A spokesman for Brown said no additional forums have been scheduled, though more may happen.
California's pupil-staff ratios and national rankings
Students per teacher: 20.8, 49th in the U.S.
Students per counselor: 89.2, 49th in the U.S.
Students per librarian: 5,038.5, 50th in the U.S.
Students per administrator: 433.1, 47th in the U.S.
Source: National Center for Education Statistics, 2007-2008

2010-12-14 "UC regents OK cutbacks in retirement program" by Nanette Asimov from "San Francisco Chronicle"
SAN FRANCISCO -- Over the objections of low-wage workers at the University of California who do physically demanding jobs, the UC regents voted Monday to delay the retirement age by five years for future employees and to immediately begin reducing UC's contribution to retiree health care.
The regents need to close a vast, $21 billion gap in UC's pension and health obligations - a gap that is the same size as the university's entire annual budget, covering everything from classrooms to emergency rooms. It will still take more than a quarter century for UC to fully fund its retirement obligations, even with higher contributions from UC and employees approved in September.
"We're facing up to reality," said Russell Gould, president of the Board of Regents, which held a special meeting at UCSF's Mission Bay campus Monday to vote on the plan it has been wrestling with all year. UC President Mark Yudof, who proposed the retirement plan after months of review from UC employees, acknowledged that the changes are a "de facto pay cut" for everyone - but also are a "genuine fix" for the gaping problem. The plan is still subject to collective bargaining for the 42 percent of UC employees represented by a union. Workers' opposition On Monday, many of those employees told the regents they would fight two features in particular that will be especially difficult for UC's lowest-paid workers. UC will reduce its contribution to all retirees' health care from 89 to 70 percent by 2018. Such a reduction will be much easier for higher-paid workers to absorb than for low-paid people, especially those who retire before age 65, when Medicare kicks in, as most low-wage employees do.
Workers who perform physically demanding jobs such as lifting patients at UC medical centers or repairing roofs on campuses can't stay on the job until 65, they said. The regents also voted to delay retirement from 60 to 65 for employees hired after July 1, 2013, and to delay early retirement from age 50 to 55. The impact is to delay benefits.
"It's not acceptable," said Kathryn Lybarger, a gardener at UC Berkeley for nine years who said several of her colleagues are having shoulder, knee and back surgeries. "I'm in my mid-40s, and I think I can make it to 60. But when you add five years to that, it's not something people like me can do." Custodian Maricruz Manzanarez, who, like many employees said they worked at UC not for the salary but for the retirement benefits, said, "If you make me retire at 65, God forbid, I'll be dead!"
All vowed to fight the proposals at the bargaining table, including several who addressed the regents by speakerphone from UCLA. Among the workers' recommendations are that the regents kick in a little more health care money for the lowest-paid retirees, and less for those who had earned more.
When they were done addressing the regents, about a dozen workers in the San Francisco audience stood and shouted, "Retiree dignity! Retiree dignity!" and walked out. Root of the problem The road to the retirement problems began 20 years ago, when UC and its employees stopped paying into the retirement fund. The fund was so fat during the 1980s and 1990s that they assumed it could go on like that forever. Even in 2005, when it became clear that retirement obligations had outstripped UC's ability to pay them, nothing was done. Last spring, employees and UC restarted contributions, and will ratchet them up over time. Yet, even UC's Faculty Senate agrees that such a move is necessary even though doing so makes UC less competitive with other institutions. "The contributions are a pay cut for the faculty and staff," said Faculty Senate President Dan Simmons, who served on the steering committee that helped develop the plan. "This proposal represents a great deal of sacrifice. At the same time, developing a plan is good for the long-term health of UC. It'll be good for the university."

2010-12-13 “What organizers want to know about Secure Communities” by Rina Palta from “KALW News”
Since the federal program Secure Communities started in March 2008, one of the biggest questions around the program has been whether or not it’s optional. As a refresher, Secure Communities hooks up local arrest databases to federal databases. That means, whenever someone’s booked and fingerprinted at a participating local jail, their fingerprint goes to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and a database there checks whether that person is in their system as a visa violator or as an undocumented immigrant. If ICE thinks they are, they can put a “hold” on the person, which means the jail detains them for 48 hours, giving ICE the chance to pick the person up and presumably, begin deportation proceedings. The issue of participation is that not all jails want to turn over all this information.
In California, Attorney General Jerry Brown signed an agreement with ICE in 2009 and counties have been trickling into the program since. Some counties, like Los Angeles, where a fifth of the (overcrowded) jail population is foreign born, have called for the program’s expansion []. Others, like San Francisco and Santa Clara, want out, saying the program unfairly sweeps up those accused of minor crimes (like public urination) and sometimes crime victims, while making immigrants scared of local police. So these counties have tried to get out of the program, and were met with conflicting information about whether or not the program was optional, finally culminating in an announcement last month that no cities or counties would be let out [] so long as state officials approved the program. Now, there are further questions about who’s allowed in and out.
Late last month, Washington became the first state to refuse [] to sign an agreement to enter into Secure Communities. Washington DC, under the jurisdiction of no state, has also refused to participate. Nevertheless, ICE says that all states and localities will be participating by 2013–apparently even Washington state [].
So what’s the issue? It’s a fundamental federal versus local conflict–a conflict that has played out time and again in immigration issues. The federal government–or those invoking the US Constitution–has often intervened in local governance to put an end to discriminatory laws (school segregation comes to mind). With immigration, advocates say, the movement has generally been in the opposite direction. Angela Chan, an attorney with the Asian Law Caucus says “there has been a pattern of our federal government passing openly discriminatory immigration laws and then localities trying to respond to this.”
In 1989, for instance, Chan says San Francisco and other cities reacted to President Ronald Reagan’s tough stance on asylum claims by passing “Sanctuary City” ordinances. San Francisco’s ordinance states that city and county employees (police officers, administrators, etc.) cannot use any local resources to assist in federal immigration enforcement. Exceptions include giving immigration officers information about immigrants who’ve been convicted of felonies. Now, San Francisco officials (like Sheriff Mike Hennessey) say, the federal government is putting them in conflict with this Sanctuary City ordinance and possibly delving into territory controlled by local governments–namely, local money and resources. And late last week, these critics received a boon: a federal judge ordered ICE to turn over documents that are expected to reveal what was going on behind the scenes as ICE seemingly publicly changed their minds about whether cities and counties could opt out of the program.
So when advocates (from Center for Constitutional Rights and Cardozo Law School, those that filed the suit) pore through these expected Secure Communities documents, they’ll be looking for information that points to a legal way out of the program. And specifically, this search will likely focus on a few key questions: does ICE believe it has the legal authority to compel local communities to participate? And do they also now believe that they can compel states? And if so, on what grounds?

Student Power!
2010-12-14 "Court arraignment for UCSF Regents protesters at UC Berkeley" by Juan G., UC Berkeley Secretary of "CUE-Teamsters Local 2010" and UCB Student Worker Action Team member
The UC Berkeley freshman student who was held in custody for Battery Assault at the UCSF Nov 17th Regents protests has posted bail. His family and others have helped him post bail and [hopefully] should be released later tonight. His arraignment will be tomorrow Wednesday Dec 15 at 9am Department 13 of the San Francisco courthouse at 850 Bryant. We need folks to be there in support and to also help donate for the bail bond charges that his family fronted in order to get him out (the total bail was $30,000). Including this UCB freshman, four UC students and UC alumnus have been charged with Battery assult. These are felony charges and could be potentially serious so we should support them as much as possible.
We or others following the court cases will update you on the arraignments tomorrow! We know its been hard for students to be dealing with this arraignment as its finals week but if you happen to be done with finals or can help donate money for the bail bond charges, it would be much appreciated. Contact us at if you have further questions or can help with donations!
There was a court date for the UCSF Regents protesters today, December 14, 2010, and as of current information, two people are being charged with Battery with Injury, resisting arrest, & obstructing. One student’s bail is set at $30k. One of them is a UC Berkeley student. The rest of the charges to the 11 students were dropped as of our current information.
A person has offered to put one of the bails on his credit card but we are asking folks to commit money for bail. If you are able to do this please contact me at and I will put you in touch with the contacts for bail and further information. During times of repression like these, it’s very important that we support each other in struggle and show them that a charge against one of is a charge against all those who are opposing the budget cuts and fee hikes! Any of one of us could have been in that jail cell so we should show some love!
Our friends at UCI are also facing charges by the District Attorney of Orange County for participation in the February 24 sit in. We need to support them as well. Solidarity messages and letters are encouraged for the UCSF Regents 13 protesters along with the UCI protesters.
Please send your solidarity messages to me at Here’s an example of a solidarity letter for ideas but of course it can be shorter: []
More updates forthcoming!
Information about the UCSF Regent protest at: []
Information about the UCI protesters being charged: []

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