City Council OKs Funds for Two Campus Cops PDF  | Print |  E-mail
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Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:55

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

The City Council unanimously voted this week to accept half of the federal grant money available to hire two police officers to patrol city schools, despite a number of public speakers who do not want any police on campuses.

The grant money to hire new school police officers has been the subject of debate for months. The schools said they would not use student money to help pay for police, and the city eventually agreed to reduce the number of officers and to pay for the salaries not covered by the grant.

At Monday’s night’s meeting, the city approved hiring two campus cops for four years, paid for by $1.3 million in city funds and $250,000 grant money.

This is in addition to the school district’s 14 security guards that cost the district $540,000 annually.

School Superintendent Mike McLaughlin and school board president Diana Prola both wrote to the council encouraging them to accept the grant for two officers. Their issues were with making the schools pay, not with having officers in the schools.

But protesters from Students and Families for Education (SAFE) urged the City Council to remove police officers from schools altogether. They said the cops don’t effectively create a safe environment and also may make criminal cases out of what would be routine discipline problems.

SAFE especially took an exception to a part of the grant application that said school police officers would focus on monitoring the online behavior of students.

The grant application read in part:

“With funding, the SLPD also plans to increase its use of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat) to monitor youth activities as well as communicate with students and our community. We plan to utilize posts on these sites to alert the public about available activities and warn them of threats.”

More than a dozen public speakers, including several young students, spoke against having officers in schools at all.

“I originally wasn’t going to ask you to decline the grant, but given the content of the grant application, I will,” said Tim Holmes. He called law enforcement tracking of the online activity of kids as young as elementary school “truly unacceptable” and “an offense to our way of life.”  Holmes that the police have “Orwellian goals” when it comes to data collection on the public.

Mitch Huitema said that having officers in schools could escalate situations if police treat everyone like suspects.

“If you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail,” said Huitema. She said that kids say things online and act out in ways they wouldn’t do as an adult and they deserve a safe space to make mistakes without getting involved in the legal system.

Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli said that monitoring students online behavior is nothing new but that no “database” of student social media accounts is being created and stored, they just use the information that is available to anyone on the internet.

The police monitor what students post in public forums and act if necessary –  Spagnoli added that Facebook posts have been used to preemptively to stop fights on campus and locate runaways. She said that social media is also a valuable tool for the department to post their own information for kids to see.

Cassidy said that the decision before the council was for approving funding the two officers only (the deadline to accept the grant is Dec. 24).  But he added that a lot of the public still has questions that need to be answered.

Cassidy said that there are valid concerns that a child could get swept up in the criminal justice system for a minor infraction if a campus officer steps in rather than a school administrator. He asked Spagnoli to give an example of what would happen if a high school student were to be caught with a small amount of marijuana.

Spagnoli said that a warning, counseling, and the involvement of parents along with whatever discipline the school would hand out would be appropriate and that the police department is not in the business of trying to get students in trouble with the legal system.

“The justice system in itself does not have time for low-level criminals,” said Spagnoli. “The law says we must handle them (young offenders) in the lowest level possible.

Spagnoli added that the officers who will patrol the schools will be ones with genuine interest in helping kids.

“No one entity can take care of kids in schools by themselves,” said Spagnoli. “They are just one spoke in a wheel that’s moving kids to be successful.”

But the parents and students in SAFE did not agree. One woman called the officers “the expansion of a police state in our schools.” Another person said it is solely the duty of schools to monitor kids on campus.

“Will we eventually have our principals reporting to the police chief?” asked Christine Faulk.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy called getting part of the grant money a “net gain” for the city, allowing the number of officers on the SLPD to increase from 90 to 92.


Water Rates Up Another 14 Percent PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:41

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

It’s pouring rain and people are conserving water, but it apparently isn’t enough to pull California out of the drought. So, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) has decided to raise rates by 14 percent for the next few months to pay for purchasing extra federal water.

That 14-percent surcharge comes on top of the 20-percent rate increase EBMUD has already implemented over the past two years.

Last week, the EBMUD board voted to purchase federal water from the Sacramento River and to ask customers to go from voluntarily cutting back on water use from 10 percent to 15 percent, beginning Jan. 1.

The federal water will cost about $16 million to buy, pump and treat.

The purchase will be paid for by a 14-percent surcharge on all water used by EBMUD customers — this will mean an increase of about $4.30 a month on the average water bill until the purchase is paid off, which Chief EBMUD Spokesperson Abby Figueroa estimated will take four to six months.

Figueroa said that the surcharge will be less in households that conserve, which would encourage people to cutback.

“Despite the storms that have been coming through, we still need people to cut back,” said Figueroa. “The storms (over this week and last week) will help bring reservoir capacity up by 1 or 2 percentage points.”

But that 1 or 2 percent is just from the rain and doesn’t take into account the snow these storms produce in the Sierra that will melt next spring and run downstream to EBMUD’s reservoirs.

Most reservoirs are currently hovering around 50 percent of total capacity, but they’re never near capacity at this time of year. EBMUD said that their total stored water is down about one-third since 2010.

The spring runoff from the snow melt is the mail supply of EBMUD water, so we’ll have to see what happens in a few months.

But the federal water will likely be necessary, Figueroa said.

Figueroa said that if very heavy storms continued for the next few weeks, they could decide not to purchase the extra water and the surcharge wouldn’t happen, so they will continue to evaluate the situation until the end of the month.

This is the state’s third dry year in a row. After Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency last January, EBMUD called for voluntary cutbacks and customer response went beyond what they initially asked for — over 12 percent.

And now the utility is asking for 15-percent cutbacks (about 37 gallons less a month for the average household), and could pursue mandatory conservation and penalties for excessive use in 2015.


Thousands March in Oakland to End Police Brutality PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:40

121814n2Thousands of people from kids to grandparents rallied in Oakland on Saturday, part of the nationwide Millions March rallies in the wake of the recent killing by the police of two unarmed black men, Michael Brown in Missouri, and Eric Garner in New York City. Below, is a scroll of unarmed black people killed by police since1999.

Two-Alarm Fire Causes Damage to Williams Street Manufacturer PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:33

121814n5Alameda County firefighters put out a two-alarm fire at a manufacturing plant on the 1800 block of Williams Street last Thursday morning.

The fire started at the Nelco plant, which manufactures medical radiation shielding and other lead-lined equipment, at about 7:45 p.m. on Dec. 11.

When fire fighters arrived, they found heavy smoke coming from the building and called the second alarm, according to Alameda County Fire Department spokeswoman Aisha Knowles.

Knowles said that the building’s sprinkler system helped contain the blaze.

The fire was contained within 40 minutes but there was considerable water damage. The cause remains under investigation and no injuries were reported.

CAPTION: The Nelco plant at 1840 Williams Street caught fire last week, resulting in a two-alarm blaze and water damage.


First Rescue Class at Youth Center Graduates PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:32

On Tuesday, the Recreation, Education, Arts, Career, and Health (REACH) Ashland Youth Center graduated its first class of REACH Rescue program participants.

REACH Rescue is a youth development, mentorship, and job training program modeled on the highly successful Emergency Medical Service Corps program through the Health Care Services Agency’s Health Pipeline Partnership.

It is a highly selective, rigorous academy that trains aspiring emergency medical professionals. It is a 5-month long paid  program whose mission is to increase the number of underrepresented emergency medical technicians. The program provides an opportunity for young and early adult reentry clients, from 18-26 years of age to become competent and successful health care providers.

Upon receipt of the certificate of completion from the program, trainees will be qualified to apply to take the national registry exam and become licensed emergency medical technicians. This certification is a pathway into careers in medical, fire, and law enforcement professions.

Program funders include Kaiser Permanente,  the Alameda County Social Services Agency and Oakland Unite.

A second class will begin in January.


Schools Closed for Rain PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:29

Was closing school last Thursday justified or an over-reaction to TV news show hype?

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

In a rare decision, the San Leandro School District cancelled all classes last Thursday during the heavy rain storm.

San Leandro Superintendent Mike McLaughlin said he can’t remember San Leandro ever having canceled class due to weather before, but that he has cancelled school while working in other cities and felt comfortable doing so last week because “better safe than sorry.”

“There was kind of a domino effect last week with schools canceling classes,” said McLaughlin.

Over 20 district in the Bay Area called off school on Dec. 11.

When the Hayward school district decided to close, it was a deciding factor since that district is in charge of students in the Regional Occupation Program (ROP) from several districts, including San Leandro and all students in the ROP program were dismissed.

“No one really knew how bad it was going to be or not, so we thought it better to keep students at home safe,” said McLaughlin. “It’s better to act preemptively before the kids show up.”

The district used phone “robocalls” and email to notify parents about the closure.

Principals, maintenance crews, and administrators still reported to work Thursday and classes were back in session as usual Friday morning.

McLaughlin said that the storm was a good opportunity for the district to see whether it’s prepared for an emergency. He reported only minor damages, including a damaged roof at the Jefferson Elementary School daycare and a few minor leaks and flooded areas.

It’s unlikely that San Leandro students will have to make up the day they missed at the end of the year because McLaughlin said that the district can use a provision to petition the state for an emergency waiver so they will not lose that day’s funding.


LINKS Shuttle OK’d for 15 More Years PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 18 December 2014 14:26

121814n4By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

The decision to keep running a commuter shuttle paid for by a tax on employers has been approved by a majority of West San Leandro business owners.

The LINKS commuter bus service, which shuttles employees to and from their jobs in the West San Leandro business area from the downtown BART station, will continue running and have an expanded route.

The shuttle is free to riders and is subsidized by the 612 business owners in that district. Monday night’s vote renews the service for 15 years –  LINKS has already been running for over a decade.

The shuttle costs about $600,000 annually, half paid from from the Business Improvement District (BID) tax, and half from various grants, according to Jeff Kay, the city’s business development manager.

The BID tax works out to $21 per employee at each business annually, but anyone can ride.

Arguments against the LINKS busses are that they serve an area already covered by AC Transit and that business owners are paying for the public to ride, not just their employees.

The city sent out ballots to business owners in September, which had to be returned as a “protest vote” by Dec. 15 –  not replying counted as a “yes.” If more than 50 percent of ballots were retuned voting no, the shuttle would have ceased to run.

The votes were weighed by the number of employees at each business. If a workplace had 20 employees, the owner had 20 votes to cast.

Only 34 businesses, accounting for just 4.5 percent, voted against it.

The new LINKS route will consist of a north loop and south loop instead of one big loop and add stops on Marina Boulevard, including Marina Square.

The north loop would be from the BART station, down San Leandro Boulevard to Marina Boulevard, Williams Street, Doolittle Drive, and back up Davis Street to BART.

The south would run from the BART station to Alvarado Street, down Teagarden Street to Fairway Drive, Wicks Boulevard, Farallon Drive, to Doolittle Drive and back up Marina Boulevard to return to the station.

The current route serves the same basic area, but splitting it into the shorter routes will cut the 40 minute time it takes for the shuttle to makes its way around the west side of town and mean that employees will not have to spend as much time on the bus, according to Kay.

“It’s a vastly improved service,” said Kay.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy agreed.

“This is a huge improvement on the transportation options in our city,” said Cassidy.

CAPTION: A LINKS bus pulls into the San Leandro BART station.




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