ABC has put in development City Hall, a political drama executive produced by Bob Sertner. Written by Gideon Yago (HBO’s Newsroom), the project is being described as St Elmo’s Fire meets The West Wing set in the East Bay of San Francisco. It follows the mayor of Oakland and her irreverent City Hall staff of twenty- and thirtysomethings who take on the political and social establishment of a city in crisis while trying to maintain their own personal and social lives. Sertner will executive produce with former MTV host Yago for for ABC Studios.
What they don’t realize about Oakland is that it is – ALWAYS – stranger than fiction.
UPDATE @ 2:30 P.M.: My favorite responses so far to my tweet of this blog item:
Sprinkle in some “Mad Max” and you’re probably closer to the real thing.
“Dumb and Dumber” meets “Lord of the Flies” would be more realistic
UPDATE @ 2:38 P.M.: I’m sure I’m not the only one who recalls that the commonality between “St. Elmo’s Fire” and “The West Wing” is Rob Lowe; clearly he needs to be cast in “City Hall.” He’s a little old for the part, but perhaps he could play Sean Maher.
The White House today announced it’s welcoming Dana Harvey, executive director of Oakland’s Mandela MarketPlace, as one of 11 “Champions of Change” who have committed themselves to strengthening food security in the United States and around the world.
“Today’s champions are examples of the groundbreaking work being done to tackle hunger at home and abroad. These individuals are making improved access to healthy food a reality for millions of individuals in need,” Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan said in a news release. “Establishing global food security isn’t just critical for those now suffering from hunger. It is also vital to our long-term economic prosperity. We applaud the champions for their efforts to empower families and communities and to reduce the depth and severity of hunger around the world.”
The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative; each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of champions are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities. President Obama is not at the White House today; he’s in Charlotte, N.C., where he’ll be accepting the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for re-election.
Harvey, 55, of Oakland, has spent the last decade in nonprofit management and development in areas of environmental justice, food security, education and economic development, according to the White House.
At Mandela MarketPlace, she’s building a community-led food system that combines increased access to healthy foods with economic development to build community health and wealth. Harvey led a campaign resulting in the June 2009 opening of Mandela Foods Cooperative to address West Oakland’s longtime status as a food desert, and since then has helped catalyze and grow other successful food enterprises in the area.
A Bay Area congresswoman’s new bill would bar federal prosecutors from filing civil lawsuits to seize property from landlords whose tenants comply with states’ medical marijuana laws.
“The people of California have made it legal for patients to have safe access to medicinal marijuana and, as a result, thousands of small business owners have invested millions of dollars in building their companies, creating jobs, and paying their taxes,” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, said in a statement issued Friday by Americans for Safe Access.
“We should be protecting and implementing the will of voters, not undermining our democracy by prosecuting small business owners who pay taxes and comply with the laws of their states in providing medicine to patients in need,” she said.
U.S. Attorneys for more than a year have been threatening landlords of medical marijuana dispensaries with civil asset forfeiture proceedings if they don’t kick their tenants out – more than 300 such letters have gone to property owners in California, Colorado and some of the 15 other states with medical marijuana laws.
The civil asset forfeiture law affords property owners a chance to retrieve seized property in civil court, but they’re not afforded many of the constitutional rights granted to criminal defendants, such as the right to an attorney and a jury trial. And the burden of proof is on the property owner to show their innocence rather than the government having to prove their guilt.
Lee’s HR 6335 would prohibit the Justice Department from using civil asset forfeiture to go after properties so long as the medical marijuana tenants comply with state law; those in violation of state law would still be fair game. Among the bill’s eight original cosponsors are Rep. Mike Honda, D-Campbell, and Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont.
Relatively few of the prosecutors’ threats have led to actual civil asset forfeiture cases, but the pressure has caused many landlords to force dispensaries to close.
But Melinda Haag, the U.S. Attorney for California’s Northern District, did serve an asset forfeiture lawsuit last month against the landlord of Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, a dispensary in Lee’s district. This wasn’t the first federal attack on Harborside: The dispensary already had appealed an Internal Revenue Service’s finding that it owed $2.5 million in back taxes because it can’t deduct standard business expenses such as payroll and rent while violating the federal ban on marijuana.
Haag has threatened civil asset forfeiture actions against landlords of several other Bay Area dispensaries as well. In San Francisco this week, local officials joined a “funeral procession” to Haag’s office to mark the closing of two more dispensaries that were forced to close due to her pressure on their landlords.
Motorcade departed Piedmont residence at 6:21 p.m. en route to the Fox Theater on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland’s “Uptown” district; arrived there 6:37 p.m.; among supporters nearby was someone with a Ron Paul banner. Visible in a window on Telegraph Avenue was a “Free Beer for Obama” sign.
Press was placed in holding room while POTUS did photo reception; tickets to that cost $7,500, plus $2,500 per additional person in the photo. Other tickets for Fox event cost $100, $250 and $1,000. About 2,000 people attended.
Press was brought into theater at 7:40 p.m. PT in time to hear Obama campaign California political director Peggy Moore introduce Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif. “What a difference three and a half years makes,” Lee said, during her seven minutes of remarks. The nation has seen 28 consecutive months of private-sector job growth on the president’s watch, she noted: “America prospers when we’re all in it together.”
POTUS took the stage at 7:56 p.m. to a deafening, standing ovation. Though he’d worn a jacket at the Piedmont dinner, he appeared here in a white shirt, sleeves rolled to just below the elbow, and dark tie. After two minutes of cheering from the crowd, POTUS joked, “Alright, thank you!” and took a few steps away from the podium as if to leave.
Co-host Wayne Jordan thanked the guests for committing so much to the campaign, and spoke briefly about how POTUS’ decisions are fundamentally affecting and improving the lives of all Americans. Co-host Quinn Delaney presented POTUS with an “I Hella (heart) Oakland” t-shirt, saying, “We’re so glad you’re here in the East Bay.”
POTUS began speaking at 5:30 p.m. PT, noting that “because this is a more intimate setting, I’m not going to make a long speech.” He said that while in Aurora, Colo., yesterday, he’d “spent time with the families, the medical staff, the first responders,” and while it’s “easy for us to slip into despair” at such times, they showed strength and grace that “would make you extraordinarily optimistic about America.”
“Americans are strong and they’re resilient and they’re optimistic about their futures and their kids’ futures,” he said, although they know of and are concerned about dysfunction in Washington, D.C., and a sluggish economy. “All they want to see is that their leadership shows the same decency and common sense that they try to apply every day in their own lives.”
With jobs added and even the housing market starting to rebound, “we are in a much better position now, in part because of the work my administration has done,” he said. “The bad news is, we still have some headwinds.”
Too many people remain out of work or underwater on their mortgages, POTUS said, and the middle class still needs help.
“Right now we’ve got as clear a choice as we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” he said.
He said the GOP platform calls for tax cuts for the rich and stripping away regulations from Wall Street and corporate polluters. “It’s a theory we’ve tested for a decade and it didn’t work.”
“This debate plays itself out across the board, on almost every issue,” he said, noting that California isn’t a battleground state so many in the audience haven’t seen the attack ads that are flying back and forth elsewhere in the country. “I’m comfortable that the American people will make the right choice.”
“This is going to be a close race … but I’m as invigorated and determined as ever to win,” he said. He finished his remarks at 5:39 p.m. PT, and reporters were ushered out before a Q&A session began.
Renowned chef Alice Waters prepared a meal of grilled jumbo prawns over heirloom tomatoes, avocados and basil; dry-aged beef tenderloin with demi-glace, sweet-pea risotto and carrots; and a chocolate-cherry bombe. Prawns accompanied by Keenan 2010 Chardonnay, beef by Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, both from Napa Valley.
Among those in the dinner crowd: Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif.; prominent Bay Area attorneys Bob Van Nest and Steve Kazan; Ask.com founder and Alta Partners Garrett Gruener; philanthropists and clean-tech investors Jim and Gretchen Sandler; and real estate investment manager Dorine Streeter.
Air Force One touched down at Oakland International Airport at 2:34 p.m. Pacific Time; POTUS exited the plane at about 2:43 p.m.. First in the greeting line was Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., followed by Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson.
Also in the greeting line were retired AT&T worker Evelyn Moses; Alameda Labor Council executive secretary-treasurer Josie Camacho; salon owner Pamela Thomson; retiree Dezie Woods-Jones; CREDO Action new media director Andrew Cully; Association of Bay Area Governments communications director Janet Cox; self-employed caregiver Cathye Leonard; and fitness trainer Sue Mittleman.
POTUS then moved to greet a small crowd of campaign supporters with a hearty “How are you doin’ today?” One woman responded, “We’ve got your back.” After working the rope line there, he entered the car and motorcade departed via Airport Drive, 98th Avenue and Interstate 880, bound for the Scottish Rite temple near Oakland’s Lake Merritt, where he’ll do a closed-press roundtable with tech leaders for which tickets cost $35,800 per head.
Tickets for the 4:30 p.m. reception cost $100 for balcony seating; $250 for general admission seating; $1,000 for VIP seating; and $7,500 for event-sponsor status, which includes admission to a photo reception. Sponsors can then bring additional guests to the photo reception for $2,500 each.
The Fox Theater, on Telegraph Avenue in Oakland’s revitalized Uptown district, seats up to 2,800 people, although some areas almost definitely will be set aside for security purposes, news media and so on.
UPDATE @ 10:05 A.M. TUESDAY: Delaney and Jordan have hosted fundraisers for Obama before. In June 2007, they hosted a luncheon for the then-Senator for which tickets cost $2,300 per person. And in November, they hosted a reception with White House Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, at $5,000 a couple. The Center for Responsive Politics lists Jordan as Obama’s third-largest bundler, having brought almost $1.5 million to the campaign.
UPDATE @ 12:35 P.M. TUESDAY: The $100 seats have already sold out…
California medical marijuana’s situation again still seems stuck in neutral as a regulatory bill advances even while an Oakland institution prepares to announce its fate.
The Assembly Public Safety Committee voted 4-2 on Tuesday to pass AB 2312 by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, which would create the first statewide regulatory framework for the medical marijuana industry. The bill now goes to the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
“Only by regulating medical cannabis will California be able to regain control and ensure safe access for patients,” Ammiano said in a news release. “Effective regulation benefits everyone – patients, providers, doctors and law enforcement. Passing AB 2312 is an opportunity for the Legislature to defend Prop. 215 by regulating and controlling an industry that has the clear support of the people of California.”
AB 2312 would create a nine-member Board of Medical Marijuana Enforcement with the Department of Consumer Affairs to enact and enforce regulations on growing, processing, manufacturing, testing, transporting, distributing and selling marijuana and marijuana products for medical purposes; the board. It also would authorize local taxes on medical cannabis up to 2.5 percent.
Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access, said police, lawmakers and patients “want clarity about what is legal under state law. AB 2312 answers their questions and provides a path towards the sensible, well-regulated medical marijuana program the voters wanted when they approved Proposition 215.”
Yet even if the Legislature passes this bill (where others, including earlier ones by Ammiano, have failed), it would put California further at odds with federal law’s total ban on marijuana.
Lee will hold news conferences tomorrow – live at the school at 11 a.m., and then a national press call at 1 p.m. – to discuss his plans and the fate of his businesses.
Besides Lee, those scheduled to speak include former state Sen. John Vasconcellos, who helped draft the state’s current regulations; Americans for Safe Access Executive Director Steph Sherer; United Food and Commercial Workers Local 5 International Vice President Ron Lind; and representatives from local elected officials’ offices.
It’s a run-up to a national day of action this Friday, April 20, which will include an 11:30 a.m. protest outside the federal building on Oakland’s Clay Street.
As the Affordable Care Act‘s second anniversary looms this week, the war of words over its worth is becoming deafening. It’s a fascinating phenomenon, in that both sides truly seem to believe they have a winning issue here.
Here in Oakland, Democratic activist Christine Pelosi of San Francisco – daughter of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – and Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson rallied about 30 volunteers today at the campaign headquarters on Telegraph Avenue, briefing them on the reform law’s effects to prepare them for an afternoon of phone-banking.
Just as Medicare and Social Security were “an intergenerational compact,” so too is health care reform “a societal compact” from a president who believes “health care is a right, not a privilege,” Pelosi said.
By forcing insurers to spend most of their premiums revenue on health care, not administration; by requiring them to insure people with pre-existing conditions; by reducing prescription costs for seniors; and by advancing patients’ rights, including the right to wellness visits, the law has improved the lives of millions of Americans, she said.
As the U.S. Supreme Court takes up the question of its constitutionality and as Republicans run on platforms of repeal, “our response has to be, ‘we’re not going back,’” Pelosi told the volunteers. “And each of you is taking personal responsibility to make sure that we’re going forward.”
Carson noted about 356,000 young adults in California – out of 2.5 million nationwide – have benefitted from the reform law by being allowed to remain on their parents’ health insurance until age 26. Almost an equal number of Californians on Medicare got a $250 rebate in 2010 to help cover the cost of their prescriptions when they hit the “donut hole” in their coverage, and almost 320,000 got a 50 percent discount in 2011 on their covered, brand-name prescriptions when they hit the donut hole; the law will close the hole by 2020.
Carson also said 12 million Californians no longer need worry about lifetime limits on their coverage; almost 3 million Californians on Medicare received free preventative services (such as mammograms and colonoscopies) or a free wellness visit with their doctor last year; and almost 6.2 million Californians with private insurance gained preventative service coverage with no cost-sharing.
He told the campaign volunteers that this is what they must convey to the people they call, in order to ensure they’re not swayed by “those who are critical, those who are fearful, those who are financed by the insurance companies.”
As I expected, some within the Occupy movement weren’t happy with what I said. Here’s a few of the many tweets sent last night by @OccupyDavis:
To change the behavior of the young, we must 1st change the conditions which lead to their frustrations!
Some role models —> @Josh_Richman @dylan20 & @cmarinucci are! They would rather disparage the young than listen 2 young voices #ows #oo
Hey @Josh_Richman @dylan20 @cmarinucci & other #MSM talking heads! Our children & grandchildren are fighting 4 freedom on U.S. soil! #ows
@Josh_Richman We are not afraid to stand in solidarity with our young sisters & brothers. The movement is not dead. You are Wrong! #ows #oo
To this last one, I replied that I hadn’t said the movement is dead, but I’d tried to convey that it’s at a crossroads. @OccupyDavis agreed with that, and we resolved to continue the conversation today. I’d prefer not to do so in 140-character bursts, so here we are.
I was on Oakland’s streets covering Occupy soon after police rousted the camp for the first time; for about 21 hours on the day of the general strike; during the West Coast port shutdown; and at other times. I thought it was amazing – especially at the general strike – how much support there was, across age and socioeconomic lines, for Occupy’s complaint against economic injustice. I think the widespread support for that movement is still out there; I think actions like that which targeted banks in San Francisco’s financial district a few weeks ago are still building upon that momentum.
But I think that support disappears when the movement’s priorities become taking over vacant buildings and deliberately provoking police into a severe response – which were the only priorities on display in Oakland last weekend. And you can’t build a movement by alienating more and more people.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: You can’t tear down fences, try to take over a building, throw things at police, and march toward police lines with reinforced corrugated metal shields without expecting police to respond with force. It’s asinine. It’s juvenile. It’s pointless.
Most people I’ve talked to don’t want Occupy to be pointless. Most of the blogs, many of the tweets and a lot of the other sources I read online say it. The polls say it. People – even self-identified liberals who are sympathetic to Occupy’s original focus – are not down with this. I’ve found precious few who thought breaking into a money-starved city’s City Hall to smash art exhibits and burn a flag was wise.
So Occupy must choose, which isn’t an easy task for a leaderless movement. It can let itself be coopted by those who are consumed by the need to break the law in order to communicate, by those whose only aim is to bait an undeniably troubled and occasionally brutal police department into further transgressions. That’s a path for which Oakland taxpayers – not the 1 percent – foot the bill, and which many believe will guarantee fewer and fewer people rally to the movement’s name over time.
Or, it can find ways to reach out to existing community entities – nonprofits, unions, student groups, whatever – to find new, creative ways to keep hammering home the message of economic inequality that gave the movement its momentum in the first place. This is the path that many believe will eventually benefit Oakland and all other cities in which the movement has manifested itself.
It’s a difference between some vandalism, provocation and cheap headlines now, and a lasting movement that will effect real change. It’s all up to those who call themselves Occupy.
UPDATE @ 6:26 P.M.: Well, I’ve really put my foot in it this time – the tweets have been coming hot and heavy today from those I’ve offended. Thanks to those of you who talked to me instead of yelling at me; I enjoy and learn from dialogue like this, and I hope it’ll continue. To the rest: I don’t have time or the inclination to respond to junior-high locker room taunts.
Here’s another way of expressing what I was trying to say earlier: Every social movement needs a mixture of idealism and pragmatism, and I think a lot of people have come to feel that Occupy Oakland has lost that balance. Put simply, if you’re interested in building a social movement that will effect real societal change and yet fewer people are supporting you as time goes by, you’re doing it wrong, no matter whether your heart is in the right place. Either you’re no longer communicating the message clearly enough, or the message you’re communicating isn’t resonating with people.