California Parks: Brought to You By Budweiser?

Officials talk about sponsorships to keep state parks open. Plus, Oakland cops' union agrees to cut pay and new details emerge in Chauncey Bailey case.

California’s state parks were once a national model. But over the
years, as Californians increasingly turned to the parks for inexpensive
getaways, the state’s 200-plus parks fell into disrepair because of
repeated budget cuts. And now, as demand for parks has reached new
heights during the economic crisis, the system is in serious peril.
State officials are talking about closing up to a hundred parks for one
to two years.

In fact, things have gotten so bad that parks officials and
nonprofit groups are considering corporate sponsorships in the wake of
the governor’s decision to slash another $6.2 million from the parks’
budget, according to the Los Angeles Times. The governor’s
eleventh-hour cuts last week could force the mass closure of parks
beginning this fall — unless officials can entice businesses to
pony up large amounts of cash for the right to attach their names to
some of California’s environmental jewels. “For example, if Budweiser
came forward with money for Malibu Beach State Park, we wouldn’t change
the name to Budweiser Beach,” state parks spokesman Roy Stearns told
the Times. “But why not put up a banner saying, ‘This park is
kept open by Budweiser’ for as long as they continue helping us?” In
the Bay Area, officials may look for sponsors for Benicia Capitol State
Historic Park, Mount Diablo, Fremont Peak State Historic Park, Tomales
Bay State Park, and Portola Redwoods State Park — all of which
are expected to be on the state’s closure list.

However, the controversy may end up in court before any company has
a chance to erect billboards in the wilderness. Several Democratic
leaders contend that Schwarzenegger’s last-minute cuts, which he
accomplished through line-item vetoes, were illegal, the San
Francisco Chronicle
reported. In addition to state parks, the
governor slashed a total of $489 million from the budget, including
funds for social programs for the poor. The issue is whether the
governor has the power to cut budget items that the Legislature had
already trimmed, or whether he can only cut new appropriations. If it’s
the latter, then Schwarzenegger may have violated state law. Assembly
Speaker Karen Bass said she was seeking legal advice on the governor’s
actions.

Oakland Cops Union Agree to Cuts

Locally, Oakland’s most powerful employee union, the Oakland Police
Officers Association, agreed to $8.5 million in compensation cuts in an
effort to help solve the city’s budget problems. The OPOA was the lone
holdout among the city’s unions, which had all previously agreed to
take 10 percent cuts. But even with the $8.5 million reduction, the
police department must still slash another $4.3 million from its
budget, according to the Oakland Tribune. Earlier budget
discussions focused on forcing police officers to take unpaid furlough
days.

The news followed an announcement that Oakland had received the
largest single federal grant in the nation for policing under the
president’s stimulus package. The city will receive $19.7 million over
three years. Although the federal grant was significantly smaller than
the $67 million the city originally requested, Mayor Ron Dellums used
his connections in Washington, DC to obtain the maximum amount allowed
under the program. The grant will fund the salaries of 41 police
officers and, coupled with another $8 million in cuts made last week by
the city council, should help Oakland avoid laying off any cops.

New Details in Bailey Murder

Speaking of Oakland police, new details emerged in the two-year
investigation into the slaying of local journalist Chauncey Bailey.
Late last week, a judge ordered the release of transcripts from grand
jury proceedings that led to the murder indictment earlier this year of
Yusuf Bey IV, CEO of the now-defunct Your Black Muslim Bakery.
According to an account by shooter Devaughndre Broussard quoted in the
Chronicle, Bey IV hugged the men he had ordered to kill Bailey
after they had assassinated the Oakland Post editor, telling
them “I love y’all.” Bey IV then took Broussard and getaway driver
Antoine Mackey out to IHOP to celebrate.

In addition, the Chauncey Bailey Project, also citing Broussard’s
grand jury testimony, reported that Bey IV had wanted his
brother-in-law, Saleem Bey, killed because Saleem Bey was feeding
information to Bailey for a story Bailey was working on about the
bakery’s finances. However, Bey IV ultimately decided not to order a
hit on his sister’s husband because he didn’t want to anger her.
Broussard reached a plea deal with prosecutors earlier this year in
exchange for his assistance in convicting Bey IV and Mackey.

Three-Dot Roundup

UC Berkeley has quietly decided to build its controversial biofuels
lab in downtown Berkeley rather than in Strawberry Canyon, according to
The Berkeley Daily Planet. … BART avoided a major work
stoppage when it reached tentative agreements late last week with its
three largest employee unions. BART officials refused to divulge the
details of the pacts, but they are believed to save the agency about
$100 million, according to the Chron. … The Port of Oakland,
along with several other state and federal agencies, announced a $22
million program to clean up some of the diesel-spewing trucks in West
Oakland. … The Oakland City Council voted to make local businessman
Phil Tagami the master developer of the city’s half of the former Army
Base, following the port commission’s decision to award the port’s half
to Tagami as well. … And the Chron reported that state
Attorney General Jerry Brown has solicited nearly $10 million since
2006 from big donors for his two-pet charter schools in Oakland. But
Brown denied that he was providing access to the donors in exchange for
their contributions.

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