Pensions, OccupyOakland & SF mayor on ‘TWINC’

Last night on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California,” we talked about Gov. Jerry Brown’s public pension reform plan; the Occupy Oakland situation; and San Francisco’s mayoral race.


Assemblywoman Hayashi charged with shoplifting

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, D-Castro Valley

East Bay Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi has pled not guilty to a charge she shoplifted more than $2,400 in Neiman Marcus clothing on Sunday from the ritzy San Francisco department store, prosecutors say.

The Hayward Democrat has been charged with one count of felony grand theft.

Hayashi spokesman Sam Singer called the incident a “mistake and a misunderstanding.”

“The assemblywoman apologizes for the distraction this has caused,” Singer said. “She is a firm believer in the justice system and hopefully, it will be cleared up shortly.

“Mary has never been arrested for anything. The worst thing she ever got was a speeding ticket.”

Authorities say she was caught on video surveillance walking out of the Union Square retail outlet Sunday around 12:15 p.m. with leather pants and other assorted clothing, said Stephanie Ong Stillman, a San Francisco district attorney spokeswoman.

Neiman Marcus security staff apprehended Hayashi, whose husband is Alameda County Superior Court Judge Dennis Hayashi, outside the store with $2,445 worth of unpaid clothing items.

Prosecutors have video evidence, Stillman said.

Hayashi could face up to three years in jail for the charge, however she has no criminal history, Stillman said.

Hayashi, known for her fashion and style, is undoubtedly hoping for a swift and positive resolution.

The 45-year-old lawmaker will term out of the Assembly next year.

She has opened a committee to run for state Senate in 2014 in the newly configured District 10, whose incumbent, Elaine Alquist, D-Fremont, will term out in 2012.

She had raised nearly $200,000 for her bid as of June 30, according to state campaign finance records.

In 2009, Hayashi earned $115,000 for her state position and her husband made $165,000 on the bench.



Study: Use red-light cameras for safety, not cash

Outsourcing traffic enforcement to red-light and speed camera vendors can spell trouble for municipalities, according to a new report from a consumer watchdog group.

The report by the California Public Interest Research Group (CALPIRG) finds that about half the states have enabled use of automated traffic cameras, letting local governments contract with private companies to install the equipment and issue citations. But citizens have often objected to privatized forms of traffic enforcement and many municipalities have found themselves in legal trouble when they attempt to change or update these contracts, the report says.

Engineering alternatives, such as lengthening yellow lights, are often the best way to reduce injuries from red-light running, the report says, but such solutions often get short shrift from ticket revenue-hungry contractors and municipalities.

“Automated traffic ticketing tends to be governed by contracts that focus more on profits than safety,” CALPIRG Legislative Director Pedro Morillas said. “Too often, local governments are taken for a ride by red-light camera vendors overly focused on their bottom line instead of public safety.”

State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, authored a bill this year that would’ve reformed the use of traffic cameras by requiring local governments to post signs near where the cameras are installed; develop uniform guidelines for screening and issuing tickets from the cameras; make formal fact-findings to justify future installations; to ignore revenue, beyond the system’s own costs, when considering whether to install such systems; and so on.

SB 29 had overwhelming bipartisan support, approved by the Assembly on a 70-4 vote and by the state Senate on a 38-0 vote. Yet Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill this month, writing that installation and maintenance of such camera systems “is something that can and should be overseen by local elected officials” without state interference.

But CALPIRG’s report recommends stronger guidelines to ensure that automated traffic enforcement programs focus on improving road safety, not ticket revenue. It says contracts between local governments should carefully compare cameras with alternatives, and their contracts with vendors should be scrutinized for conflicts of interest or any direct or indirect incentives for vendors based on the volume of tickets issued or fines collected. Public control over traffic policy and engineering decisions must be retained, the report says, and the contract process should be completely transparent and open, including public participation and information about finding online data on automated ticketing for each intersection.

“We’ve already run into controversy over the use of red-light cameras here in California,” Morillas said. “We need to learn from past mistakes to keep our roadways from becoming ATMs for private companies.”


Jean Quan taking heat from Olbermann, MoveOn

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is taking heat from liberal activists and commentators across the nation for the police crackdown on Occupy Oakland and resultant clashes that led to injuries including an Iraq war veteran’s cracked skull.

Current TV commentator Keith Olbermann castigated Quan on Wednesday night, demanding that she either fire Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan or resign her own office.


And, in a rapid response ad released Thursday morning, MoveOn.org Civic Action urges people to demand that Quan take responsibility; the ad will run starting Friday in the Bay Area.

“A violent crackdown on peaceful protesters, like we saw in Oakland on Tuesday night, is something we expect to see under repressive regimes overseas–not here in America,” MoveOn.org Executive Director Justin Ruben said in a release announcing the ad. “Mayor Quan has not done enough to take responsibility for this violent overreaction, nor has she promised that the protesters will be able to continue to exercise their First Amendment rights. The Occupy Movement that has taken off across the country is giving voice to a majority of Americans who are being left behind in this economy. Mayor Quan, and the few other mayors who’ve begun really cracking down on Occupy protests, need to stop doing Wall Street’s dirty work for them.”


Garamendi urges calm for Oakland cops, occupiers

Several Bay Area House members expressed sympathy and support earlier this month for the Occupy Wall Street movement, but none have weighed in so far on Oakland’s decision to evict the Occupy Oakland encampment early yesterday morning or last night’s melees – until now.

Rep. John Garamendi, D-Walnut Grove, is first out of the gate, having just released this statement:

“After reviewing footage from last night’s Occupy Oakland protests, I urge both the police and protesters to stay calm and show restraint as protests continue. Some protestors were throwing rocks at police officers, and there are reports of isolated civilian on civilian assaults at Frank Ogawa Plaza. This is unacceptable. There is also disturbing video of a tear gas canister being launched into a small crowd of protestors trying to escort an injured veteran with a skull fracture away from the protests – a dangerous action.

“Our cash-strapped local cities did not cause the Great Recession and the loss of millions of jobs, nor did regional police officers. Likewise, while there are some bad apples trying to hijack the movement with violence, the Occupy Wall Street protests have largely been a peaceful assembly of people sick and tired of watching the disappearance of good jobs and their chance at the American Dream.

“Neither our local communities nor the Occupy movement benefit when this situation gets out of hand; indeed that’s precisely what the Wall Street fat cats and their enablers in Washington want. I urge restraint by all involved. The world is watching.”

UPDATE @ 10:14 A.M. THURSDAY: From Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland:

“I shared my outrage and grave concern about the police brutality in Oakland directly with the Mayor. My thoughts go out to the injured and especially Scott Olsen. I strongly support the occupy movement and continue to stand with the peaceful protesters in this struggle for economic justice and equality.”