Garbage Lockout Costs Millions, But Produces Fertile Soil

Waste Management fined cash and trash, Comedy Central looks for the humor in Berkeley (ha!), and ice rinks are more viable than salmon.

Note to self: never lock out hundreds of sanitation workers and let mounds of garbage rot on the streets of Oakland. The last time someone did this — and that would be Waste Management, which picked a nasty labor fight in July — the city sued the company, and everyday citizens howled in a fairly ripe fit of pique. Last week, Waste Management finally settled the lawsuit, and it cost the firm a pretty penny: $7.9 million, including more than $3 million in cash rebates paid to Oakland customers. According to the Oakland Tribune, Waste Management also will have to give the city two hundred cubic yards of compost, so Oakland city workers can spread it around and pretend the city is prettier than it really is. Oh, and start recycling yogurt containers. Speaking of the lockout, Waste Management spokesperson David Tucker told the Trib, “We recognize it was a trying period for everyone.” Would that be as in trying to piss off the entire city?

Berkeley v. USMC, Part III

The strange interlude known as Berkeley v. the United States Marine Corps continued apace last week, as traumatized protesters wept copious tears before the city’s Police Review Commission. One by one, members of the anti-war groups Code Pink and World Can’t Wait took the mike to complain about being mistreated by the Berkeley cops during last month’s surreal demos outside the City Council chambers. Police representatives declined to attend, claiming that the short notice gave them little time to prepare. Which left the stage free for the exclusive use of activists who claimed that the men in blue deplorably violated their constitutional rights by occasionally shoving them or something.

Meanwhile, the good folks at the Daily Show decided to weigh in on the spectacle by dispatching correspondent Rob Riggle, a comedian and Marine reservist who has served in Liberia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan. In a segment broadcast March 10, Riggle stalked around Telegraph Avenue and downtown Berkeley, looking for hippies to ridicule. Fortunately, he found the last three in town, including a street vendor who declared, “I kind of felt like probably the Iraqis felt. Like we were being occupied here in Berkeley.” Cue footage of Baghdad erupting in flames. That’s comedy gold, baby!

Riggle riffed on tired old gags about longhairs working the bong and rapping about world peace, and the segment was almost as inane as the City Council resolution that started the fight in the first place.

Berkeley Iceland Gets a Break

Just when you thought that falling hard on a big slab of ice in front of your girlfriend had no place in Berkeley, the nonprofit group Save Berkeley Iceland has announced that it has paid out a down payment to buy the venerable ice rink and keep it in operation. The group’s president, Tom Killilea, told the San Francisco Chronicle that they now have between nine and fifteen months to raise the rest of the $6.25 million price tag. Running an ice rink now joins journalism as the latest formerly profitable enterprise to depend upon the kindness of strangers.

People Are Dying Everywhere

The news got particularly gruesome last week, as Oakland resident and son of a former Hells Angels leader Earl Stefanson took the stand in his trial and denied that he had run a subterranean torture chamber out of his basement. Prosecutors have charged Stefanson with beating and torturing a woman to death during a drug-fueled sexcapade, and produced two former girlfriends who testified that he cut, kicked, and imprisoned them. Stefanson, for his part, claimed that he had no idea what his former paramours were talking about, and that his basement was only soundproofed because he had been renovating it.

Meanwhile, the Alameda County district attorney’s office announced it was conducting an investigation into a fatal police shooting in East Oakland two weeks ago. Over in West Oakland, a young man was shot to death on 8th Street. And in a new twist, the homicide wave has started to crest in the East Bay suburbs, where two double homicides occurred in the course of three days. Last Friday, Pleasanton police discovered the bodies of Ernest Scherer and Charlene Abendroth at their home in the Castlewood Country Club. And on Sunday, two men were fatally sprayed with bullets as they sat in a car in a Safeway parking lot in Concord.

And So Are the Fish

But let’s turn to the really important news: where the hell are we going to get pacific salmon? Last week, the Pacific Fishery Management Council announced that the numbers of Chinook salmon in the ocean and rivers of the West Coast have dropped so low that unless a miracle happens, the council will ban all commercial salmon fishing this year. You can forget about lingering over a fine wine and a platter of the flaky pink filets at H’s Lordships in 2008. Or, on the off chance you’ll find black-market salmon, it’ll cost so much you’ll need financing from Bear Sterns to afford it. Oh, wait …

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