Dec 172013
 

Thought this article in the East Bay Express represented some good progress for helping families with food insecurity:

Nationwide, school cafeterias waste more than $600 million worth of food each year, according to a 2002 USDA report examining “plate waste” — the most recent of such studies. “I imagine that it’s more than that now,” said Kelly ErnstFriedman, program director at Food Shift, an Oakland-based nonprofit that manages a school lunch recovery program with the Oakland Unified School District.

Most extra food produced by schools in the United States ends up in landfills, including whole fruits, hot foods, and unopened milk cartons. That’s because strict federal meal program rules concerning the handling of cafeteria food prohibit schools from giving away most food, even if it’s uneaten or untouched.

For anyone who has ever volunteered or worked at a school lunch, it’s appalling to see just how much food cafeterias throw out every day. Even unopened, unexpired milk is tossed out. And in an effort to avoid cartons going into the landfill, “someone had to open milk cartons and dump it out,” said Nancy Deming, Sustainability Initiatives program manager at OUSD. “It’s become a morale issue.” Custodial staff, teachers, parents, and cafeteria workers would stand over buckets after lunch period, open cartons and pour milk out.

One way to sidestep the conundrum is to donate leftovers to a nonprofit. OUSD, as a result, has partnered with Food Shift, which focuses on reducing food waste, feeding those in need, and creating jobs.

During the last few weeks of school last spring, Food Shift piloted a food giveaway program at two schools. In just 5 weeks, volunteers collected 3,000 pounds of food and gave them away to 49 families. Parent volunteers gave away packaged burritos, chow mein, broccoli, beans, hamburgers, bagels, crackers, applesauce, cookies, whole fruits, and milk to families after school.

“This is one of the first steps we can take — recovering the food and giving it away,” said ErnstFriedman. Organizations like Food Shift are covered under the federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, which limits the liability of donating food to nonprofits and those in need.  Link to article

Jul 112013
 

Saw this in Salon.com and thought I would pass it on.  The Glass-Steagall Act was repealed in 1999 as part of the Graham-Leach-Bliley Act, which enabled Travelers Insurance and Citicorp to merge and create Citigroup— breaking the barrier that had been in place since 1933 preventing investment firms, insurance companies, and commercial banks from merging into one firm.  Many financial experts claim this directly contributed to the financial meltdown of 2007-08.

Elizabeth Warren and John McCain are part of a bipartisan effort to pass a revived version of the 1993 Glass-Steagall Act, in a push to crack down on risky Wall Street practices.

Warren, D-Mass., and McCain, R-Ariz., are joined by Sens. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., and Angus King, I-Maine, in cosponsoring the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act, which “would separate traditional banks that have savings and checking accounts and are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from riskier financial institutions that offer services such as investment banking, insurance, swaps dealing, and hedge fund and private equity activities,” according to a press release from Warren.

“If enacted, the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act would not end Too-Big-to-Fail.  But, it would rebuild the wall between commercial and investment banking that was in place for over 60 years, restore confidence in the system, and reduce risk for the American taxpayer,” said McCain in a statement.

Jul 032013
 

Several related posts here from different sources.  But according to these reports the city has been “looted” by as much as $500 million over the last 16 years, directly contributing to major cuts in city services.

Check out this from ReinvestinOakland.com:

As City of Oakland public officials debate the City’s finances and which services to slash and which bills to pay, workers and the community are calling on City leaders to hold Wall Street banks accountable for their illegal and predatory practices that have cost Oakland taxpayers nearly half a billion dollars. A new report, The Looting of Oakland: How Wall Street’s Predatory Practices Are Costing Oakland Communities Millions and What We Can Do About It, reveals bank profits that are a result of unethical and even illegal predatory finance deals including LIBOR fraud, interest rate swaps, and other costly deals involving the City of Oakland and BART. The hundreds of millions in interest payments and fees collected on these predatory deals are money that should have been invested in Oakland communities, but instead has gone to Wall Street profits.

Oakland residents, taxpayers and workers are uniting around the call to make Wall Street pay before taking a penny more from its residents.

And this from the EastBayExpress.com:

“Our Oakland communities have been robbed blind by the banks and they need to pay back the money they took from the people of Oakland,” said Shirley Burnell, an Oakland resident and member of ACCE during a rally last week. Councilman Dan Kalb, who also spoke at the rally, called the practices of many financial companies unethical. Kalb supports renegotiating bad deals and seeking damages from any bank implicated in frauds that have harmed Oakland.

Over the past five years, dozens of investigations by bank regulators and attorneys general have been launched nationwide into the practices of the world’s largest banks. The probes have revealed numerous criminal conspiracies to steal billions from taxpayers around the globe, but local governments have yet to be repaid, even in cases where fraud has been proven beyond any doubt. In fact, some of the most toxic and fraudulent examples of bank wrongdoing are still affecting contracts and investments on Oakland’s books, constituting ongoing liabilities that reduce the city’s available funds by millions each year.

And this from CalOrganize.org:

Oakland has been hit
hard by the financial crisis. Unscrupulous Wall Street lenders convinced
long-time homeowners to refinance with risky deals and offered equally
precarious loans to new homebuyers. There have been over 10,000
foreclosures in Oakland since the economic crisis began in 2007, leaving
hundreds of vacant, often blighted homes in neighborhoods that have
driven down property values and in many cases changed historically
African American and Latino communities for good. According to a 2011
report by ACCE, Oakland homeowners are estimated to lose $12.3 billion
in home values as a result of the crisis. The crisis is costing the
city, too: Oakland is anticipated to lose $75.3 million in property
taxes and an additional $224 million from the costs associated with
upkeep of vacant, foreclosed properties.

In addition to the loss of property tax revenue, the city of Oakland –
not just its individual homeowners – has also been a victim of
predatory Wall Street loans. The city is involved in an ongoing
“interest rate swap” with Goldman-Sachs that has forced Oakland to
over-pay Goldman Sachs $32 million since the economic crisis began in
2007. Fortunately, Oakland ACCE has been fighting back, winning real
gains for Oakland residents, and setting the pace for fights for
economic justice across the country. Following is a highlight of some of
the many victories that Oakland ACCE has won, making Oakland a national
model for Wall Street accountability.

Jul 022013
 

Interesting bit of info regarding the deal reached after six days in 1997 to end that year’s BART strike.  From the SF Chronicle:

But Alicia Trost, spokeswoman for BART, said “we’re relying on state mediators to bring the two sides together.” Brown, she said. “can help us by urging the unions to get back to the table.”

In 1997, when Brown stepped in to solve the last BART walkout, its union workers emerged with double-digit pay raises over four years, Trost said. In a 2001 agreement, union employees received raises totaling 22 percent over four years.

“We had to lay off 200 people in later years to pay for that raise,” she said. “We’re looking for a more reasonable way out of this strike.”

Over the weekend, California Gov. Jerry Brown asked union negotiators to return to the bargaining table but did not call for a cooling-off period before the strike went into effect at 12:01 a.m. Monday.

Willie Brown said he was mystified that political and labor leaders have been unable so far to sidestep a strike that he said is “devastating” to the Bay Area economy.

Jun 282013
 

Interesting to learn a little more about this case involving AmEx contractee’s restricted right to file for class action arbitration.  From the EastBayExpress.com:

The crux of the argument that Carlson, along with the other claimants in the suit, put forth is that American Express is wielding monopolistic powers by forcing restaurants to pay very high — and often obscure or hidden — fees and then also refusing to allow class-action arbitration. As Justice Elena Kagan pointed out in her dissenting opinion, the most that Italian Colors stood to win from its suit against AmEx was $38,549. However, the cost of putting together an expert report to prove that American Express had violated antitrust laws would have been at least several hundred thousand dollars. “So the expense involved in proving the claim in arbitration is ten times what Italian Colors could hope to gain, even in a best-case scenario,” Kagan wrote.

Despite those numbers, which showed that one-on-one arbitration was essentially untenable for small businesses like Italian Colors, the court ruled that the initial contract — in which restaurant owners agreed never to file a class-action lawsuit — needed to be upheld.

Jun 282013
 

Seems worthwhile to remind everybody that you can ride up and down the Broadway corridor in Oakland FOR FREE on this shuttle until 1am on weekends.  Great chance to check out lots of great restaurants and bars along the route and have a free ride to do it!  From MeetDowntownOak.com:

Offering fast, free connections from BART, the San Francisco Bay Ferry and Amtrak Capitol Corridor to downtown Oakland offices!

Hop on the “FREE B” to explore Oakland’s restaurant and nightlife scenes!

image of the Free Broadway Shuttle bus

Now Running Friday & Saturday Nights until 1am!

Board the Shuttle wherever you see a sign with the green “B on Broadway” logo shown in the upper left corner of this page.

All Broadway Shuttle vehicles are wheelchair accessible and include passenger lifts.

Weekday Service (Orange route)
Mondays-Fridays 7am-7pm between Embarcadero West (Jack London Square) and Grand Avenue. Shuttles run every 10 minutes during commute hours and lunchtime; every 15 minutes other times.

Weekend Night Service (Blue route)
Fridays 7pm-1am & Saturdays 6pm-1am between Embarcadero West (Jack London Square) and 27th Street. Shuttles run every 12 minutes.

 

Jun 282013
 

I’m a big fan of this concept.  Let’s bring mental nourishment and physical nourishment together all summer!  From the EastBayExpress.com:

Two years ago, Lindsay was approached by the Alameda County Community Food Bank about the possibility of serving food at the library to youths under eighteen, in partnership with the City of Oakland. “The executive director said that in California, 75 percent of school kids who get free lunch during the school year don’t get it during the summer,” Lindsay recalled. The percentage is slightly less in Alameda County.

The food bank’s summer lunch program began distributing free lunches at parks and recreation centers, churches, and other places throughout Oakland 28 years ago. Libraries were a natural fit. “We see the spike in childhood hunger each summer when school lets out and children lose their free or reduced-priced lunch and breakfast,” said Allison Pratt, the food bank’s director of policy and services. “This is an added burden of ten meals per week per child for a family already struggling to put a healthy meal on the table. We have found over the years that the best strategy to connect children to the free summer lunch program is to offer the program at places where children naturally gather during the summer months. For this reason, libraries are very attractive locations.”

Jun 262013
 

Prop 8 appeal denied because of “lack of standing” of petitioners. From TalkingPointsMemo.com:

In a 5-4 decision written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the Court dismissed California’s Proposition 8 because the petitioners lacked standing, or the right to participate in the case. That means a lower court ruling that overturned the ban remains in effect. The outcome means other states remain free to allow or prohibit gay marriage, leaving intact the bans on gay marriage in dozens of states.

“Petitioners have no role — special or otherwise — in its enforcement. They therefore have no ‘personal stake’ in defending its enforcement that is distinguishable from the general interest of every California citizen,” Roberts wrote for the Court. “No matter how deeply committed petitioners may be to upholding Proposition 8, that is not a particularized interest sufficient to create a case or controversy under Article III.”

Roberts’ opinion was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kegan — a mix of conservatives and liberals.

Jun 192013
 

“Dual-tracking” is when a homeowner applies for a modification of his mortgage and a bank pursues a foreclosure at the same time.  Maybe that process needs a little tweaking.  From HuffingtonPost.com:

Officials said they are considering changing current policy by agreeing with banks to halt foreclosure proceedings when borrowers first apply for loan modifications and provide basic information. Today, banks halt the process of repossessing a borrower’s property once banks deem the applications complete, a process that can take months. During that time, foreclosure proceedings generally continue.

Talks are fluid and the legal language that would accompany a change is still being sorted out, officials said.

But the change, if implemented, may further reshape how mortgage companies interact with distressed borrowers. For years, officials and borrower advocates have complained that the largest banks frequently string borrowers along for months by repeatedly requesting documents — often the same batch of records — before determining that the application is complete and evaluating them for modified loans. During this time, late fees and other charges rack up, ballooning the total amount owed, making a modification more difficult to achieve and pushing troubled borrowers into foreclosure.

Jun 192013
 

Still propped up by their bucks.  Keep hoping they concentrate on improving employment.  From HuffingtonPost.com:

At a press conference in Washington, D.C., to discuss the latest policy decision of the Federal Open Market Committee, the central bank’s monetary policy arm, Bernanke said the Fed has seen some improvement in the outlook for the economy recently. If the economy keeps getting better, Bernanke said, central bankers might by the end of the year slow the pace of their program to drive interest rates lower and boost the economy through bond purchases. This plan, commonly known as “quantitative easing,” or “QE,” currently amounts to $85 billion per month in purchases. Bernanke said the Fed would keep slowing bond purchases if economic data keep improving, with a view toward stopping them altogether some time in the middle of 2014.

Bernanke also added that, if the economic numbers don’t improve, then the Fed might not taper its bond purchases until later. And if things get worse, then the Fed might buy more bonds. Bernanke also emphasized that even a slower pace of bond buying is still stimulus, and that the Fed has no plans to actually raise its key policy interest rate, currently at zero, until at least 2015.

Jun 182013
 

The Department of Housing and Urban Development study finds that LGBT people face significant discrimination in housing.  Via ThinkProgress.org:

In the first study of its kind, a report by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found that same-sex couples experience unfavorable treatment in the online rental housing market as compared to opposite-sex couples. Across all 50 metropolitan areas studied, inquiries sent to housing providers advertising their rental properties on the Internet were significantly less likely to receive a response when the applicants were listed as a same-sex couple.

According to the report:

Same-sex couples are significantly less likely than heterosexual couples to get favorable responses to e-mail inquiries about electronically advertised rental housing. Comparing our gross measures of discrimination, heterosexual couples were favored over gay male couples in 15.9 percent of tests and over lesbian couples in 15.6 percent of tests.

Jun 182013
 

Oakland REALLY has its work cut out for it to possibly keep the A’s.  From the SF Chronicle today:

(06-18) 12:26 PDT SAN JOSE — The city of San Jose sued Major League Baseball on Tuesday in an effort to move the Oakland A’s to the South Bay, a lawsuit that challenges the Giants’ claim to the region and MLB’s monopoly over the business of professional baseball.

The San Jose City Council voted behind closed doors Tuesday morning to file a lawsuit. Attorneys for the city then filed the claim in U.S. District Court in San Jose.

The suit follows years of political wrangling by A’s owners John Fisher and Lew Wolff to move the team out of the O.co Coliseum in Oakland.

The lawsuit claims Major League Baseball and its commissioner, Bud Selig, have violated state and federal laws regarding unfair business practices and anticompetitive conduct. It also challenges the exemption to antitrust laws that the U.S. Supreme Court upheld for Major League Baseball in 1922.

Jun 112013
 

If you drive an electric car in California, according to the study cited in this article in the SF Chronicle:

If you drive an electric car in California and recharge your batteries at home, you’re paying about $1.51 to travel as far as you could on a gallon of gas.

That calculation comes from a new federal website, unveiled Tuesday by the Department of Energy, that allows people to compare the costs of driving on electricity versus gasoline.  The“eGallon” site is designed to make one of the bigger benefits of EVs — low and stable fuel costs — easier to understand.

“Consumers can see gasoline prices posted at the corner gas station but are left in the dark on the cost of fueling an electric vehicle,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz.

Jun 072013
 

Private funding needed!  And the festival is in jeopardy of shutting down without it.  That’s the story according to InsideBayArea.com:

Oakland’s nationally acclaimed monthly street festival is at risk because the city will soon stop subsidizing it, and a depleted volunteer organizing committee hasn’t figured out how to make it pay for itself.

After pumping $500,000 into Oakland First Fridays, the city is intent on passing the baton next month to the committee, which is scrambling to line up money and volunteers.

“We’re all just hustling to keep this event alive, but at this point we just don’t have enough money to save it,” organizer Edward Yoo said.

It costs about $20,000 per month to hold the street festival, which includes money for security, street closures and permit fees. Given that nearly 10,000 people saturate five blocks of Telegraph Avenue on festival nights, spending money at vendor stands, bars and restaurants, financing the event shouldn’t be a challenge, experts say.

But organizers have been reluctant to charge vendors other than food trucks, and businesses that benefit from the event haven’t rallied to their side.

It’s taken five months just to raise enough money for one festival. That will be in July after city funds run out.

Jun 072013
 

Probably the key reason for investors’ stock appetite versus more conservative options in this paragraph from the Huffington Post.  It’s all about the “quantitative easing.”

For the U.S. stock market, at least, the report was perfect. The job gains were better than the 163,000 economists expected, according to a Bloomberg tally. At the same time, the rise in unemployment means the Federal Reserve may be in no hurry to slow down its policy of buying bonds to pump cash into the economy, a scheme known as “quantitative easing.” Anxiety about an end to QE has thrown global financial markets into relative turmoil lately.

May 282013
 

Interesting article in the East Bay Express about the Restorative Justice program in the Oakland Unified School District which has shown measurable progress in reducing conflicts between students in schools but also fears for its continued funding:

Teachers and administrators at Montera say the restorative justice program at their school has not only reduced conflict and the number of violent outbreaks on campus, but it also has cut the number of student suspensions and expulsions. Similar results have played out in more than a dozen public schools across the city this year. Restorative justice “means a complete shift in our thinking as a school,” said Montera Principal Tina Tranzor. “I am very much a rule-follower,” she added. “I was an attorney, a military brat. Punitive is in my blood. But restorative justice is life-changing for our students. The kids are more aware in their thought processes about what they’re doing. It has an impact on the rest of their life.”

May 242013
 

Considering it’s by far the easiest way to get around an urban environment, it oughta work out:

From ABC7 News:

OAKLAND, Calif. — BART’s board of directors voted to lift a ban on bikes aboard rush hour trains for five months and may make the policy change permanent, according to the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

“Tonight’s BART decision is a momentous occasion. For years people on both sides of the Bay have had to contort their lives simply because they needed to take a bike on BART but couldn’t during commute times,” bicycle coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum said in a statement. “We commend BART for taking the smart steps toward opening up regional travel by bike.”

The board examined several proposed bicycle policy modifications at its 6 p.m. meeting after reviewing the results of two pilot programs in August and March.

May 242013
 

From the SF Chronicle:

In the waning months of local redevelopment agencies in 2011, Oakland sold an array of buildings to its own Redevelopment Agency to shield tens of millions of dollars. In the end it didn’t work, but it did buy the city time.

On Thursday, Oakland officials announced that the state had rejected eight of those property sales, including the $28.3 million sale of the shuttered and dilapidated Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center.

The state Department of Finance’s decision means that Oakland officials will have to refund $32.5 million, which will go to a variety of city and county agencies. City officials said that amount had already been set aside as a precaution. Roughly $10 million of that money will come back to Oakland because of the way redevelopment money is re-distributed.