The Broken Promise

It's official; California no longer offers an affordable college education. Plus, a new casino moves forward in Richmond and alleged torturer loses BART contract.

California’s public colleges and universities used to be the envy of
the nation. For a half-century, they provided an excellent education at
an affordable price. But not any longer. The California State
University system is raising student fees through the roof, and this
week, the UC Board of Regents plans to increase them by a whopping 32
percent. It also plans to break its own long-standing promise of making
sure that graduate programs are priced competitively.

A report from the state’s Legislative Analyst put the state’s
education crisis in blunt terms. California’s Master Plan for Higher
Education, established in 1960 to ensure a quality education at a low
price for qualifying state residents, is now largely a joke, according
to the report. “Today, its assumptions look pretty quaint,” the
report’s author told the San Francisco Chronicle. “There’s a big
disconnect between what the state’s priorities are and what’s actually
going on.”

California’s severe budget crisis prompted state legislators to
slash $2 billion in higher education funding this year — $800
million from the UC system, $500 million from CSU, and $700 million
from community colleges. Both CSU and UC are implementing huge student
fee increases as a result, and the UC regents plan to push
undergraduate fees above $10,000 annually next year.

The regents also plan to boost fees for 44 graduate programs —
from 7 percent to 65 percent. The increase represents a direct
violation of UC’s own policy that grad programs not exceed the average
cost of similar programs nationwide. But instead of doing anything
about the violation, the regents simply plan to revise the policy next

Giant New Richmond Casino

The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors gave the green light to
a massive new Indian casino at Point Molate in Richmond, according to
the Contra Costa Times. However, the casino, which is being
pushed by a Berkeley developer in partnership with the Guidiville Band
of Pomo Indians, must still win approval from the US secretary of
interior and the Richmond City Council. Several prominent politicians,
including Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Senators Dianne Feinstein
and Barbara Boxer, oppose it.

The casino resort would include thousands of slot machines, two
hotels, a conference center, and 300,000 square feet of retail.
Environmental groups also oppose the plans because they would prefer to
see Point Molate turned into waterfront parkland. Unions, by contrast,
support it because it will create jobs. A majority of the city council
apparently backs the plan because the cash-strapped city stands to
receive $20 million a year.

Alleged Torturer Loses BART Pact

Nedir Bey, the black Muslim bakery associate who allegedly tortured
a man and then scored a $1.1 million loan from the City of Oakland,
lost a $750,000 BART station lighting contract last week when he failed
to turn in the paperwork, according to the Oakland Tribune and
the SF Weekly. In addition, Bey’s failure to comply with the
contract means that BART may lose state funding for the project at the
North Berkeley BART station.

Brown’s Mini Scandal

State Attorney General Jerry Brown halted an internal investigation
into the illegal taping of journalists’ phone calls by his now former
spokesman, according to the Los Angeles Times. Brown’s
investigation concluded that ex-spokesman Scott Gerber taped at least
six phone calls by reporters after being told not to do it. Brown also
said that Gerber even taped his conversations without his

Brown’s office concluded that although state law prohibits recording
people without their consent, Gerber didn’t break the law because
reporters should have no expectation of privacy. But then, earlier this
week, Brown changed course and asked Alameda County District Attorney
Nancy O’Malley to investigate the matter after he was criticized by
several newspapers.

Yelp Stories Win Award

East Bay Express Managing Editor Kathleen Wentz won the award
for best investigative journalism in the print, non-daily category from
the Northern California Chapter of the Society of Professional
Journalists for 2008-2009. Wentz won for her story “Yelp and the
Business of Extortion 2.0” (2/18/2009), which detailed shady practices
by the popular online review site and resulted in the company changing
some of its policies.

Three-Dot Roundup

The City of Oakland has decided to crack down on parking ticket
scofflaws, becoming the first city in the state to employ the “Smart
Boot.” … Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts ordered a cop to return
to duty even though he allegedly played a role in the death of a
suspect and is being investigated by the FBI. Lawyers for the victim’s
family don’t object as long as Captain Ed Paulson doesn’t go back to
his job as head of internal affairs. … The City of Berkeley banned
cat declawing, following the City of San Francisco’s decision to bar
the practice. … The California Highway Patrol began issuing speeding
tickets en masse on the Bay Bridge following last week’s fatal truck
crash. … The state could lose billions of dollars in federal funds
because of its decision to slash its Census outreach program. … The
statewide $11 billion water package contains $2 billion in pork
spending, much of which has nothing to do with California’s water
problems. … And the governor complied with a federal court order and
submitted a proposal to cut the state’s prison population by


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