The Port Should Pay for Police

Quan was right to suggest that the public agency foot the bill for the costs of preventing future port shutdowns.

Mayor Jean Quan was vilified once again last week, this time for her candid comments about the difficulty of keeping Occupy protesters from shutting down the Port of Oakland again. Quan told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board that she doubts that the Oakland Police Department can stop future port blockades, and that doing so would require at least five hundred cops. Quan also suggested that the port should have to pay for such expenses.

Quan was quickly criticized by Chronicle columnist Andrew Ross and the Oakland Tribune‘s editorial board, who contended that her comments would invite future attempts to shut down the port. The criticism seemed to suggest that the mayor should’ve kept her comments to herself. But Quan was right — stopping thousands of peaceful Occupy protesters from blockading the port may be impossible. And more to the point: It’s a bad idea.

Quan’s critics seem to forget that the Oakland Police Department has a miserable record for dealing with large political demonstrations and that ordering the department to do whatever it can to block future protests is an invitation to disaster. Just last week, Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana were forced to appoint an independent panel to investigate alleged police misconduct in responding to Occupy protests on October 26 and November 2 and 3. For those who have forgotten, Oakland police fired tear gas and other less-than-lethal weapons at protesters, injuring two military veterans and a videographer in what appear to have been unnecessary assaults.

The incidents also could end up costing the city millions in litigation — far more than the estimated $2.4 million it has cost the city so far to deal with Occupy. As the Express reported last week, OPD’s problems appear to be systemic. The department has a history of assigning officers with troubling records of violence to the frontlines during mass protests.

Indeed, four members of the Oakland City Council were smart last week to block an ill-advised proposal to order Santana and OPD to use any legal means necessary to stop future port blockades. The proposed measure, pushed by Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente and Libby Schaaf, was reckless; it was invitation for more unnecessary violence between police and protesters. Councilwomen Jane Brunner, Rebecca Kaplan, Pat Kernighan, and Nancy Nadel made the right move when they voted to send the proposal to committee for more study.

Quan also was right to suggest that the port should foot the bill for police if it wants to stop future blockades. The Port of Oakland is a public agency that earns hundreds of millions in revenue each year and yet shares almost none of it with the City of Oakland. And yet the port now wants the cash-strapped city to cover all of the costs of dealing with protesters.

The mayor’s critics also act as if the Occupy protests are completely illegitimate and that it goes without saying that police must halt them. But the truth is that many people disagree. A substantial number of citizens view the port blockades as legitimate forms of protest. The port, which is owned by the public, represents an important conduit for Big Business, and demonstrators at the port are attempting to spotlight that fact.

Three-Dot Roundup

Oakland A’s co-owner Lew Wolff is confident that Major League Baseball will approve his plans this winter to move the baseball team to San Jose, the San Jose Mercury News reported, citing a source close to Wolff. However, it’s unclear whether Major League Baseball will overturn the San Francisco Giants’ territorial rights to the South Bay or whether Wolff has worked out a deal to buy those rights from the Giants. … Ex-state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata announced that he is not running after all for a seat on the Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors, the Contra Costa Times reported. Perata, who moved to Orinda after losing to Quan in the Oakland mayor’s race, had said that he was seriously eyeing a run for the CoCo County board. But in a letter to supporters, he said he decided that his health and his “family would be better served if he remained a civilian.” Perata has battled with prostate cancer. … California business interests held sway in Sacramento in 2011 as they successfully blocked bills they opposed and won approval of those they supported, California Watch and the Sacramento Bee reported in an analysis of lobbying at the state Capitol. … The California death penalty is no longer effective and the state should have a serious discussion about whether it’s worth continuing, state Supreme Court Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye told the Los Angeles Times. Cantil-Sakauye, a conservative, noted that the death penalty is extremely expensive and that it requires structural changes that the cash-strapped state cannot afford. … The Oakland City Council authorized a lawsuit against the City of Piedmont over its plans to build a controversial sports park on narrow Moraga Avenue, the Tribune reported. Oakland leaders say the new sports facilities at Blair Park will create traffic and public-safety issues. … The Oakland council also voted to add a debit card function to the city’s municipal ID cards, the Chronicle reported. The cards provide IDs for immigrants who lack them and the debit function is intended to help people who don’t have bank accounts and are vulnerable to robbery. … Occupy Berkeley, the last large protest encampment in the Bay Area, was cleared by police last week after a surge in crime and violence, the Chron reported. … Leading economists predict that the US economy will grow at a faster rate in 2012 than it did this year, the Associated Press reported. However, economists surveyed by the AP warned that the US economy could falter in 2012 if Europe plunges into a steep recession. … And Pacific herring, once plentiful in San Francisco Bay, are still suffering the effects of the Cosco Busan fuel spill in 2007, AP reported, citing a new federal study.


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