Lions and Turkeys and Birds, Oh My!

Things are wild and woolly in Oakland and Sacramento.

First it was woodpeckers slaughtered by the score in Rossmoor. Then
it was a wild turkey named Pinky fluttering around Castro Valley with
an arrow stuck in his side. Now, an emaciated sea lion has wandered
onto the grounds of the Oakland International Airport. But we can
happily report that said sea lion was safely snatched, medically
treated, and then released back into the wild. And they say there’s no
good news anymore!

Oakland Budget Meltdown

Okay, back to the bad news. You may recall that thanks to the
general economic collapse, Oakland found itself grappling with a
deficit of $42 million, or 10 percent of its overall budget. Last week,
Ron Dellums and other city officials announced that the next three
fiscal years will be even worse. The 2009-10 budget deficit will be $50
million, the ’10-11 deficit will come to $58 million, and the ’11-12
deficit will zoom on up to $113 million. Dellums and the Oakland City
Council will hold a meeting on the subject at City Hall on January 12,
where they will undoubtedly say, “Why the hell did we take this job?”
(Well, Dellums will probably say something along of the lines of,
“Anyone remember ‘Free Nelson Mandela’? Those were the days.”) Say
goodbye to that fully staffed Police Department; the property transfer
tax, which the rising real estate market made so lucrative in years
past, is gone.

In fact, you can say goodbye to at least one Oakland police officer
right now. Last week, Oakland Police Department leaders told officer
Karla Rush that they plan to fire her, as a result of her connection
with the ongoing search warrant scandal. Attentive readers (don’t say
you’re not!) will recall that the Oakland cops have been reeling under
revelations that some officers allegedly fabricated evidence to obtain
search warrants and grab people for drug and gun violations. As people
have been released from state prison, and two federal civil rights
lawsuits have been filed against the city, Rush has emerged as the
apparently central figure in the scandal; some thirty search warrants
she obtained have been thrown out by the courts, without challenge from
the city attorney’s office.

But enough of the cops, you say. What about the budget crisis?
Wouldn’t it be great if we had some sort of top administrator running
things, streamlining city services and making tough decisions about how
to maximize our tax dollars? Why yes, it would. Too bad Ron Dellums
won’t name one. Earlier this month, City Attorney John Russo wrote a
stern letter telling Dellums to find us a city administrator, or be
held in violation of the city charter. Dellums’ staffers promptly said
that the mayor was very likely to name a new city administrator in the
next few weeks. Well, those weeks have passed, and Dellums has backed
off that promise, or hint, or whatever it was. In fact, he won’t even
say when he’ll come to a decision. “I will let you know at the
appropriate time,” he said at a presser last week. Eleven months have
now passed since former city administrator Deborah Edgerly declared she
was going to retire. Apparently, the man thinks we answer to him, not
the other way around.

Don Perata’s Money Dance

Speaking of search warrants, Don Perata’s lawyers must surely be
working overtime to prove that the one executed on his Oakland home is
similarly invalid. Why else would the Donster need to pay them so much
money? Last week, the Sacramento Bee reported that Perata
quietly transferred $400,000 from Leadership California, a committee he
created to ostensibly fight Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s
redistricting measure, into his legal defense fund. Since Election Day,
the amount of cash he claimed to raise for campaigns, but really
shifted over to his personal lawyer fund, has now reached $1.9 million.
The Bee noted that the redistricting measure only won by 50.9
percent, and quoted a campaign manager as saying that they probably
would have defeated it, if only they had a little more money.
Oaklanders take note: this is the man who wants to be your next mayor.
Hey, John Russo, we hear you’d like the job. Care to step up?

A Tale of Two Berkeleys

Last week, UC Berkeley biology researcher Nipam Patel learned
something pretty neat: all bilaterally structured organisms are either
right-handed or left-handed. Even snails, which he has been studying
lately. And that we all share the same genes that express this lateral
asymmetry, and that the genes first appeared in the animal kingdom some
600 million years ago. Like we said, neat.

Meanwhile, local egotist Zachary Runningwolf apparently decided that
he hadn’t gotten enough headlines from the Memorial Grove tree-sit. So
when he noticed that some Cal arborists planned to cut down three
diseased trees at People’s Park, he promptly scampered up one and said
he wouldn’t come down until they promised to let them live. So they
did, at least through the holiday season. So he came back down. No word
on whether they all held hands and sang some Buffy Sainte-Marie.

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