Schools Tax in Alameda Wins After All

Absentees nudge measure to victory, plus BANG reporters unionize, Juneteenth festival is dead, and Oakland's budget is not far behind.

Ah, the East Bay without election news. So refreshing. But alas, there’s more to report. Thanks to the wonderful world of absentee and provisional ballots, the Alameda school parcel tax, which was predicted to go down to defeat by the slimmest of margins, has now won by the slimmest of margins. The measure, which required 66.67 percent of the vote, now has the approval of 66.87 percent of the voters. And we’re done! Break out the champagne!

BANG Reporters Go Union

Once the underpaid reporters and writers of the Bay Area Newspaper Group finished filing their election stories, they were finally free to tell their bosses just what they think of them. And last week, they did just that, as a slim majority of BANG employees voted to ratify a union to represent them. Managers with BANG, which consists of the Oakland Tribune, the Contra Costa Times, and a number of smaller regional papers, were none too pleased with the results; publisher John Armstrong worried that this “will usher in a period of uncertainty. I fear this will create divisiveness in our newsroom.” Apparently, a majority of his employees didn’t agree and toasted the victory at downtown Oakland’s Washington Inn last Friday.

Lee to Feds: Back Off Our Schools

Last month, officials at Stonehurst Elementary School in East Oakland got a tip: men who look suspiciously like immigration officials were spotted lurking near the campus. Apparently convinced the federales were about swarm in and sweep up the children of illegal immigrants, school administrators locked down the school and called the media. Now, Congresswoman Barbara Lee has vowed to make sure immigration agents never terrorize the East Bay’s children again. At a North Oakland church last week, Lee promised to “take them on big-time,” and use her seat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee to pressure immigration officials not to go all stormtrooperish near schools or hospitals. That these officials never set foot on campus, and continue to insist that they were just tracking people who happened to be near the school, has been lost.

Berkeley’s Juneteenth Festival Dead

After 21 years of celebrating the end of slavery with polish sausages and electric funk, the South Berkeley Juneteenth festival may be gone. The Tribune reported that city officials ordered organizers to beef up security after a number of shootings around last year’s festival. But the Berkeley Daily Planet said the police didn’t want to work on Father’s Day. In any case, Juneteenth organizers have canceled the festival altogether. It remains to be seen whether they can put on the show in the future.

Oakland Budget on Life Support

Now that Ron Dellums has suggested shutting down nonessential city services for twelve days in order to help balance the budget, other city leaders are weighing in with their opinions. And it doesn’t look too promising for the mayor; at a budget conference last week, councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid both announced their opposition to the plan, while Jean Quan and Jane Brunner argued to at least reduce the number of days city government will not exist. With four councilmembers at least partially opposed to Dellums’ plan, the mayor finds himself in a tight spot; alternatives such as cutting cost-of-living adjustments would have to be negotiated with the city’s unions, and time’s a-wastin’. Sadly, Dellums’ proposal won’t even eliminate more than a third of the predicted $15 million shortfall.

On the other hand, it looks like Oakland’s traffic budget, at least, will be $8 million richer. Last week, CalTrans and Oakland came to an agreement about drilling a fourth bore in the Caldecott Tunnel. The state agency has long clamored to expand the tunnel in order to deal with gridlock between Oakland and Orinda, while the city has been just as worried that more roads will mean more traffic and headaches for its residents. Now, CalTrans has agreed to give Oakland $8 million in mitigation payments — even as they continue to insist that the traffic will never materialize.

West Berkeley U-Haul Gets the Boot

If Oakland is in the mood to make nice, the same can’t be said about Berkeley, whose leaders have grown increasingly irritated with the U-Haul on San Pablo Avenue. After months of warning the company not to park its trucks and vans in residential neighborhoods, the City Council finally revoked the branch’s permit to rent trucks to customers from that location. Now, the city has sued to shut down the West Berkeley branch altogether, citing its continued practice of parking in residential areas. U-Haul has fought the city all the way, and last week, the Oakland Tribune reported that the proprietors have posted signs warning its customers that if Berkeley closes them down, the long-term consequences will be more fossil fuels and, yes, global warning. At least they know their audience.

Three-Dot Roundup

UC Berkeley officials claimed that animal rights protesters have escalated their campaign against local animal researchers, smashing out windows at their homes. … Walnut Creek temp agency Westaff reported a staggering quarterly loss of $25.2 million, its chief financial officer resigned, and the company is now in default for $28 million in debt. … BART announced that delays from Hayward to Fremont will continue until August, as workers struggle to finish repairs from a disastrous fire. Just in time for five-bucks-a-gallon gas! Remember: it’s not a recession!

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