Friday Must Reads: OPD Hires First-Ever Civilian Director for Internal Affairs; Chances of El Niño Winter Rise to 95 Percent

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

1. Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent hired the department’s first-ever civilian director for internal affairs — Winkle Hobie Hong, a lawyer with years of police oversight experience in Chicago, the Trib$ reports. The hiring of Hong, who has never been a cop, fulfilled a policy initiative launched by Mayor Libby Schaaf, who has pushed for impartial oversight of OPD. In Chicago, Hong also had worked with Anthony Finnell, who is now the executive director of the Oakland Citizens’ Police Review Board.

2. Climatologists increased the likelihood of an El Niño winter in California this year to 95 percent, further raising hopes that a wetter-than-normal rainy season will help relieve the state’s punishing drought, the Chron reports. El Niños, which are created by warm ocean temperatures, have been associated with above-normal precipitation in the past — but this year’s weather event likely will not hit Northern California until after the 2015 fire season.

3. Lake Anza in Tilden Park in Berkeley is now closed because of a toxic algae bloom that’s likely related to the drought and warmer-than-normal temperatures, Berkeleyside reports. The East Bay Regional Park District previously closed Lake Temescal in the Oakland for the same reason.

4. Members of the UC Board of Regents rejected a proposed university intolerance policy because they said it failed to take a stand against alleged anti-Semitism toward Jews on campuses, the Chron reports. Several Jewish students spoke out against the intolerance policy, but the issue of anti-Semitism has become highly charged because some Jewish students want criticism of Israel and opposition to policies toward Palestinians to be labeled anti-Semitic.

5. The Berkeley City Council this week banned the sale of e-cigs and flavored tobacco in stores that are within 600 feet of a school, Bay City News Service reports (via the CoCo Times$). The new law, which will take effect in January 2017, is expected to impact 26 retailers in the city. The council also moved forward with a plan to raise the smoking age in Berkeley to 21.

6. The death toll from the Valley Fire in Lake County rose to three, as authorities indicated that one of the bodies found was that of Leonard Neft, a former San Jose Mercury News reporter, the Chron reports. The other body recently discovered is believed to be that of Bruce Burns. Officials say that at least two other people are still missing after the fast-moving blaze roared through the bone-dry region just north of Napa County last weekend.

7. The state’s main political watchdog agency banned dark money in California political campaigns, ruling that nonprofits that engage in politics must disclose the identities of their donors, the LA Times$ reports. The decision by the California Fair Political Practices Commission is separate from a proposed measure for next year’s statewide ballot that would enshrine the prohibition against dark money in the California Constitution.

8. The Bay Area’s housing market cooled down a bit in August, as the median home price in the region dipped 12.1 percent compared to July, the Mercury News$ reports. However, home prices remain well above last year.

9. And health officials are urging people to get this year’s flu shot, saying that the 2015 version appears to be a much better match for flu strains than last year’s, the Chron reports. 
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