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Commerce Secretary attends Oakland forum

U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker joined Rep. Barbara Lee and other officials Monday for a regional economic development forum at Oakland International Airport, focused on creating more jobs and growing businesses in the East Bay.

Penny Pritzker“The Department of Commerce has tremendous resources in place in this region and around the country that allow us to partner with your businesses and entrepreneurs so they can compete and succeed,” Pritzker said in a news release issued by Lee, D-Oakland, after the event.

“Here in the Bay Area, we are working with companies large and small to sell their goods and services to the 95 percent of global consumers who live outside the U.S., helping to create the conditions for innovators and entrepreneurs to thrive, and supporting minority-and women-owned businesses through our Minority Business Development Agency,” she said, adding her department “is committed to helping your companies grow and thrive so they can create jobs – that is our mission and a core objective for President Obama.”

Lee said small businesses “are fundamental to the East Bay’s economic growth, especially women and minority-owned businesses.

“These businesses create jobs, contribute to our community and create opportunities into the middle class,” she said. “In order to ensure continued economic growth, we need to investment in sharing the available resources with these businesses and businesses owners to help them succeed.”

Other attendees included regional Small Business Administration Administrator Donna Davis; Minority Business Development Agency Director Alejandra Castillo; Overseas Private Investment Corp. Director of Corporate Development Alison Germak; Port of Oakland Aviation Director Deborah Ale Flint; Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson; and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Earlier Monday, Lee had hosted a roundtable discussion with Pritzker and East Bay business leaders to discuss economic development, supplier diversity and the importance of gender and ethnic diversity in corporate leadership.

Posted on Tuesday, August 12th, 2014
Under: Alameda County, Alameda County Board of Supervisors, Barbara Lee, economy, Jean Quan, Oakland, U.S. House | No Comments »

Barbara Lee helps lead protest at McDonald’s

Rep. Barbara Lee led several dozen community members and activists Tuesday on a march through a McDonald’s in East Oakland to protest the company’s alleged wage theft.

Three class-action lawsuits filed last week accuse the Illinois-based fast-food giant and three of its California franchisees of stealing employees’ money by forcing them to work off the clock, shaving hours off their time cards and not paying them overtime, among other things. Similar cases have been filed in New York and Michigan.

Barbara Lee & Jennifer Lin 3-18-14 (photo by Josh Richman)“This illegal wage theft must stop … Enough is enough,” said Lee, D-Oakland, speaking into a megaphone inside the McDonald’s at East 12th Street and 25th Avenue.

She had just led a chanting, sign-carrying crowd down 25th Avenue and into the restaurant, where employees and puzzled patrons looked on as she praised the activists.

“It takes a lot of courage to do this… You inspire me,” she said. “You deserve to live the American dream. You deserve fair wages.”

As soon as Lee finished speaking, Oakland Police officers demanded that the protesters step outside; the rally continued in the parking lot. “Fill my wages, not my fries – make our wages super-size,” they chanted, along with the labor slogan, “Si se puede.” Several carried signs that said “I’m Hatin’ It,” a play on a famed McDonald’s catchphrase.

“We’re all fed up, we’re tired of this,” said Ilda Amador, 25, of Oakland, who said she has faced similar problems while working at Jack in the Box. Rhonesha Victor, 24, of Oakland, said the same of her job at KFC, noting fast-food workers make meager wages to start with and can’t afford to let their employers take advantage of them. “These companies, they have to pay.”

Matthew Murray, a San Francisco attorney representing workers in one of the California cases, called Lee’s participation “a reflection that these are important issues, that workers are stepping up to assert their rights is a big deal, and that multinational corporations like McDonald’s have to follow the law, too.”

Barbara Lee 3-18-14 (photo by Josh Richman)Murray said attorneys’ ongoing investigation “suggests that this is a long-standing problem and a widespread problem,” and the company “exerts extensive control over its franchises, including over its franchises’ labor practices.”

McDonalds employs about 1.8 million people in more than 34,000 restaurants worldwide, including more than 14,000 in the United States. More than 80 percent of McDonald’s restaurants are franchised.

“McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators share a concern and commitment to the well-being and fair treatment of all people who work in McDonald’s restaurants,” spokeswoman Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem said in a statement issued in response to the lawsuits. “We are currently reviewing the allegations in the lawsuits. McDonald’s and our independent owner-operators are each committed to undertaking a comprehensive investigation of the allegations and will take any necessary actions as they apply to our respective organizations. McDonald’s restaurants remain open today—and every day—thanks to the teams of dedicated employees serving our customers.”

Posted on Tuesday, March 18th, 2014
Under: Barbara Lee, Oakland, U.S. House | 10 Comments »

Not much hubbub over veto of Oakland gun bill

Those who wanted Oakland to be able to pass its own, stricter gun laws seemed unwilling to criticize Gov. Jerry Brown for his veto Monday.

AB 180 would’ve let Oakland establish its own ordinances – stricter than state law – on registration or licensing of firearms.

“The State of California has among the strictest gun laws in the country. Allowing individual cities to enact their own more restrictive firearms regulations will sow confusion and uncertainty,” Brown, who was Oakland’s mayor from 1999 to 2007, wrote in his veto message issued Friday. “I am mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence, but this is not the right solution.”

Rob BontaThe bill’s author – Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland – seemed to take it in stride.

“I will continue to fight for the people of Oakland to be free from the gun violence which plagues our community,” said Bonta, who as chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay has held field hearings on the issue. “In his veto message, Governor Brown stated that he was ‘mindful of the challenges the City of Oakland faces in addressing gun violence. I look forward to continuing the conversation with the governor as to how the state can continue to assist Oakland in the future.”

Oakland City Council in May unanimously approved a resolution – introduced by council members Libby Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan, as well as the city attorney’s office – supporting AB 180.

“Though we’re certainly disappointed that AB 180 was vetoed, it’s important that we recognize and celebrate the victories of our advocacy,” Kaplan spokesman Jason Overman said Monday. “Governor Brown signed an important bill authored by Assemblymember Skinner to create new common-sense gun laws that seek to reduce gun violence, both in Oakland and across California.”

The Skinner bill Overman referred to is AB 48, which makes it a crime to make, import, sell, give, lend, buy or receive any conversion kit that can convert a legal ammunition-feeding device into an illegal large-capacity magazine. The bill also makes it a crime to buy or receive a large-capacity magazine; manufacturing or selling such magazines already has been illegal in California for more than a decade.

Posted on Monday, October 14th, 2013
Under: Assembly, gun control, Jerry Brown, Oakland City Council, Rebecca Kaplan, Rob Bonta | 9 Comments »

Gun-control bills tailored for SF, Oakland advance

The Legislature on Friday sent two city-specific gun control measures – both for the Bay Area – to Gov. Jerry Brown.

The state Senate passed AB 180 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, which would give Oakland special permission to pass and enforce gun registration and licensing ordinances that are stricter than state law.

Bonta on Friday noted FBI statistics show Oakland last year had California’s highest violent-crime level, and the nation’s third highest. The city had more than 4,000 firearm-related crimes and 131 homicides in 2012; it has had 65 deaths by firearm so far in 2013.

“No one can deny that Oakland is suffering,” he said in a news release, adding his bill “is a smart and sensible bill that empowers Oakland and provides local control in addressing gun violence—where it is needed most.”

Bonta was appointed chair of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay this year, and he and fellow committee member Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, will hold a news conference Monday morning in Oakland to urge Brown to sign this and other bills.

Meanwhile, the Assembly on Friday passed SB 475 by state Sen. Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, which would require permission from the San Francisco and San Mateo County boards of supervisors in order for gun shows to be held at the Cow Palace – in effect, banning any future gun shows there.

“For years, residents, community organizations and elected leaders from the neighborhoods surrounding the Cow Palace have asked to have a voice in the decision to hold gun shows in their backyards, but they have been ignored,” Leno said in a news release Friday. “Meanwhile, firearms related crimes persist in these communities, tearing apart the lives of innocent families who reside in the surrounding area. This proposal gives local communities a say in determining whether they want gun shows in their neighborhoods, especially when they live in daily fear of gun violence.”

The Cow Palace straddles the county line, and is operated by the state Department of Agriculture’s Division of Fairs and Expositions. Leno twice before has authored bills to impose flat-out bans on gun and ammunition sales at the Cow Palace: AB 2948 of 2008 failed on the Senate floor, and SB 585 of 2009 was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Posted on Friday, September 6th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Mark Leno, Oakland, Rob Bonta, Uncategorized | 53 Comments »

Oakland & Sac mayors met with Obama today

Oakland’s Jean Quan and Sacramento’s Kevin Johnson were among 18 U.S. mayors who met with President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder today at the White House to discuss strategies to reduce youth violence.

According to the White House’s readout of the meeting, Obama “reiterated that government alone can never fill the void that causes a child to turn to violence, but that we all have a responsibility to do our part to create safe communities and save lives.”

“The President applauded the mayors for their local efforts to combat violence, solicited their input about proven methods, and pledged his Administration’s partnership,” the White House reported. “He also vowed to continue doing everything in his power to combat gun violence through executive action and to press Congress to pass common-sense reforms like expanding the background check system and cracking down on gun trafficking.”

For the complete list of mayors at today’s meeting, follow after the jump.
Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
Under: Jean Quan, Oakland, Obama presidency, Public safety | 3 Comments »

Surveillance: Drones, drugs & ‘Domain Awareness’

On the domestic surveillance news front today: The Assembly Public Safety Committee will hold a hearing tomorrow, Tuesday, Aug. 6, on domestic use of drones.

Among those scheduled to testify are Professor YangQuan Chen of the UC Merced School of Engineering; Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean; CalFire Deputy Director Andy McMurry; TerrAvion founder and CEO Robert Morris; Professor Elizabeth Joh of the UC Davis School of Law; Linda Lye, attorney with the ACLU of Northern California; and Jennifer Lynch, attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation. The hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. to noon, and the public can listen online.

“The Public Safety Committee has been called upon this session to evaluate some bills involving the use of drones,” committee chairman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, said in a news release. “However, it’s such a new subject; we need to develop a base of knowledge and a context for making decisions on these important bills.”

Also, Reuters reports today that a secretive U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration unit – operating in tandem with the FBI, CIA, NSA, Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Homeland Security – is funneling information from intelligence intercepts, wiretaps, informants and a massive database of telephone records to authorities across the nation to help them launch criminal investigations of Americans.

And, I was on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California” on Friday night to discuss Oakland’s controversial decision to expand its public video surveillance:

It was a lively discussion, but I wish I’d had a chance to delve into other topics such as how Oakland and other cities share the intelligence they gather with a regional “fusion center” located in a federal building in San Francisco; varying policies on how long such video footage is retained; and how easy it is for cities with extensive video surveillance networks to later add in software such as facial-recognition programs. I touched on some of these topics in a story I co-authored in June.

Posted on Monday, August 5th, 2013
Under: Assembly, Civil liberties, national security, Oakland, Public safety, Tom Ammiano | No Comments »

Israel re-opens probe of Oakland activist’s injury

Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the Israel Defense Forces to reopen an investigation into the grievous head injury suffered by an Oakland activist during a West Bank protest in March 2009, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reports.

Tristan AndersonTristan Anderson, then 39, was at a protest of Israel’s security fence in the West Bank city of Na’alin when a tear gas canister fired by an Israeli soldier struck him in the head, causing severe brain damage.

The Israel Defense Force investigated whether the Border Police were at fault following the incident, but a petition to the court – filed by attorneys for Anderson’s family and by Yesh Din, an Israeli human-rights group – claimed the probe was inadequate. The petition said the army did not visit Na’alin and questioned only a few soldiers who were on the scene; it’s not clear whether the army questioned the soldier who fired the canister. No criminal charges have been brought against any police or military personnel involved in the case.

“It is the obligation of the State of Israel to investigate suspicions of unwarranted injury of protesters, which occur time after time,” Yesh Din attorney Michael Sfard said in a news release issued by Anderson’s supporters Wednesday. “It is a shame that it took three-and-a-half years for the High Court to intervene in order to force the investigators to implement basic investigative procedures.”

Anderson’s mother, Nancy Anderson, said in the release that her son “will live the rest of his life with serious mental and physical limitations and chronic pain. This has devastated his life and profoundly affected our family forever.” The family’s civil lawsuit against the Israeli military and government is scheduled to go to trial in November.

Gabrielle Silverman of Oakland – Anderson’s girlfriend, who was with him when he was injured – said Wednesday that Anderson was released from an Israeli hospital in June 2010 and now lives with his parents in Grass Valley. He remains hemiplegic – paralyzed on his left side – and suffers permanent cognitive and emotional impairments from his injury; he requires around-the-clock care, Silverman said.

Posted on Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
Under: International politics, Israel, Oakland | 35 Comments »

Oakland developer named to state medical board

A prominent Oakland developer and political mover and shaker was appointed to the embattled California Medical Board on Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Phil Tagami in the Rotunda Building Nov. 2011 (Photo by Susan Tripp Pollard)Phil Tagami, 47, of Oakland, has served in various positions at the California Capital and Investment Group since 1992, including president and CEO. He’s been responsible for leading the redevelopments of the Rotunda Building in Frank Ogawa Plaza, the Fox Theater on Telegraph Avenue in the Uptown district, and the West Oakland train station.

He also has worked in public service for more than 20 years with various municipal and state appointments, including chair of the California Lottery Commission from 2012 to 2013 (another appointment by Brown), commissioner of the California Transportation Commission from 2008 to 2009, commissioner of the California State Park and Recreation Commission from 2003 to 2006 and commissioner of the California State World Trade Commission from 2002 to 2003.

Tagami was commissioner of the Oakland Landmarks Preservation Review Board from 1994 to 1996 and commissioner of the Oakland Environmental Affairs Commission from 1992 to 1994. As Oakland’s mayor, Brown had named Tagami to Port of Oakland’s Board of Commissioners, on which he served from 2000 to 2003.

Tagami has been a significant Democratic campaign benefactor, co-hosting fundraisers for the likes of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2007 and Brown in 2009. Tagami also has had a close relationship with former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata, formerly of Oakland; it was Perata who named Tagami to the California Transportation Commission.

This position requires Senate confirmation and the compensation is $100 per diem.

The California Medical Board has been under attack lately, accused of failing to properly discipline doctors accused of having harmed patients; there’s particular concern that the board has turned a blind eye to reckless prescriptions.

Assemblyman Rich Gordon, D-Los Altos, and state Sen. Curren Price, D-Los Angeles, have introduced legislation that would strip the board of its investigative powers and give those powers instead to the state Attorney General, leaving the board to deal mainly with licensing. And the Sacramento Business Journal reports today that a similar initiative may be in the works for the November 2014 ballot.

Posted on Wednesday, May 8th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, Jerry Brown, Oakland, Uncategorized | No Comments »

Bay Area-based gun control bills advance

As a bipartisan deal on increased background checks for gun sales appears to be headed for defeat in the U.S. Senate, some state lawmakers from the Bay Area are celebrating their own progress on gun-control measures yesterday in Sacramento.

The state Senate Public Safety Committee advanced a slew of gun bills on a series of party-line, 5-2 votes yesterday.

Mark DeSaulnierAmong them were two bills by state Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord.

SB 293 would require all newly made or imported handguns in California be “owner-authorized,” or “smart guns” personalized in a way that would allow them to be fired only by authorized persons. This requirement would take effect eighteen months after the state California Attorney General makes a finding that owner-authorized handguns are available for retail sale and meet stringent performance criteria specified in the bill.

And DeSaulnier’s SB 299 would require that every person whose firearm is lost or stolen must notify local law enforcement within 48 hours of the time they knew, or reasonably should have known, of the loss or theft. If the firearm is subsequently recovered, the local law enforcement agency would have to be notified within 48 hours as well.

“It is critical that we promote safe and responsible gun ownership,” DeSaulnier said in a news release. “These bills will help us prevent guns from falling into the wrong hands, and ensure they are only operated by their lawful owners.”

Leland YeeAlso passed by the committee were two bills by state Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco.

SB 47 would prohibit the use of “bullet buttons” or other devices that allow for easily changeable magazines on firearms deemed assault weapons by state law. Such firearms would only be allowed to have ammunition magazines holding up to 10 rounds, which could not be changed without dissembling the weapon; essentially, bullets would have to be loaded one-by-one from the top of the gun.

And Yee’s SB 108 would require all guns to be properly stored when an adult isn’t home. Current law requires that gun owners own a trigger lock or safety lock box for their weapon, but doesn’t require such a device be used on an idle firearm; Yee’s bill would specifically require that any firearm be stored with a trigger lock or in a lock box at a residence when the owner isn’t there.

“The horrors of Newtown and countless other mass shootings are still with us,” Yee said in his own news release. “With this in mind, it is our responsibility to make sure our laws protect the innocent from the threat of gun violence.”

In other Bay Area-based gun policy news, Oakland City Council on Tuesday night unanimously approved a resolution asking the state Legislature to pass a bill creating a bullet tax.

AB 187 by Assemblyman Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, would impose a 10 percent tax on ammunition to fund crime prevention efforts in the state’s most crime-ridden areas. Bonta had said last month that his bill might merge with another lawmaker’s proposed nickel-per-round tax to fund mental-health screening for children. He also said his tax is mostly about generating money to “combat the gun violence in our communities,” but could have the “secondary benefit” of stemming “rampant sales.”

Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who introduced the resolution along with City Attorney Barbara Parker, issued a statement saying that the bill’s endorsement is part of an effort to work with state officials to stop gun violence.

“This bill would significantly improve our ability to make communities safer,” Kaplan said. “I’m committed to working with leaders at all levels of government to stop gun violence.”

AB 187 is scheduled to be heard Monday, May 6 by the Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee.

Posted on Wednesday, April 17th, 2013
Under: Assembly, California State Senate, gun control, Leland Yee, Mark DeSaulnier, Oakland City Council, Rebecca Kaplan, Rob Bonta | 6 Comments »

Oakland divests from firearms & ammo makers

Oakland City Council unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday night to prohibit the city from holding investments in firearms or ammunition manufacturers.

Council President Rebecca Kaplan, City Attorney Barbara Parker and Vice Mayor Larry Reid had co-authored the measure, which they say is part of the city’s ongoing effort to reduce gun violence. Councilman Dan Kalb requested that the resolution, which originally covered only firearms manufacturers, be expanded to include ammunition companies as well.

“There is a well-funded corporate effort pushing against our work to stop gun violence,” Kaplan said in a news release. “And Oakland is now formally part of a national movement that includes cities like Chicago and Los Angeles – communities committed to stopping so many tragedies that take place at the hands of a gun.”

The resolution declares a city policy prohibiting the Oakland from holding any investment or ownership stake in any manufacturer of firearms or ammunition; directs the city administrator to examine the city’s holdings and future investments to assure that the city complies with this policy; urges the Police And Fire Retirement System Board and the Oakland Municipal Employees Retirement System Board to adopt similar policies; and urges other state and local jurisdictions to prohibit investment of their public funds in manufacturers of firearms or ammunition.

The city also recently has moved to enlarge its police force, and has endorsed the reenactment of a federal assault-weapons ban as well as a state bill to regulate ammunition sales.

“By taking action here to send a message to weapons manufacturers, Oakland is showing its commitment to big-picture efforts to reduce gun violence here and in communities across America,” Kaplan said.

Posted on Wednesday, March 6th, 2013
Under: Dan Kalb, gun control, Larry Reid, Oakland, Rebecca Kaplan | 4 Comments »