Negotiations between the city of Oakland and its largest union are already getting testy. About 25 SEIU members stormed into a corridor housing the offices of top city officials Wednesday morning and occupied the office of Assistant City Administrator Scott Johnson for about 10 minutes.
The protesters, wearing purple, pounded on other office doors and chanted "Enough is enough," city officials said. Protesters left the area voluntarily when police were called in.
"What crossed the line was breaking into the office," said Mayor Jean Quan's spokesman, Sean Maher. Johnson was in the middle of a budget meeting when the protesters barged in, he said.
No arrests were made, although police did dispatch one officer to City Hall later in the day during a bargaining session with SEIU negotiators.
SEIU spokeswoman Anna Bakalis said Friday that the demonstration was in protest of the city not allowing several union members paid time off Wednesday to attend internal union bargaining meetings and the afternoon session with the city.
Maher said the city had offered one member of the bargaining committee a different shift in order to participate in meetings but was rebuffed.
SEIU, which represents about 1,500 civilian nonmanagement workers in Oakland, is eager for its members to get their first raise since 2007 after several years of concessions. However, the city's latest forecasts show a deepening budget shortfall through 2018.
The contracts for both SEIU and a union that represents management employees expire this year. Both unions are planning to rally outside City Hall at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday before a 5:30 p.m. council meeting at which council members will begin budget talks.
New OPD officers begin patrols Monday
Fresh from the academy, Oakland's 38 new police officers will begin patrolling with their field training officers Monday, providing a much-needed boost to the understaffed department.
The officers, who have the authority to make stops and arrests, will work in a variety of beats and shifts during the 20-week program.
After graduating from Oakland's first police academy in nearly five years last week, the officers spent their first several days on the job meeting community groups and learning more about the court-mandated reform effort that the department is still trying to fully satisfy.
A new police academy with 51 recruits began Monday.
Hayward utility work unearths bone pieces
Workers replacing a water main on Mission Boulevard found something unusual: bone fragments.
After the fragments were spotted March 1 near the south entrance driveway at the Hayward Plunge, work halted immediately and police were called, said Alex Ameri, the city's director of public works, utilities and environmental services.
The county coroner's office determined that the bones were older human remains, most likely Ohlone Indian. The city contacted Andrew Galvan, an Ohlone descendant, on the recommendation of the Native American Heritage Commission. Galvan recommended reburying the remains at the Ohlone Indian Cemetery in Fremont.
"When we encountered the bone fragment and decided there could be more, best course of action would be to avoid that area and reroute the pipe," Ameri said.
The city consulted with Galvan about how to ensure that any remaining bones would not be disturbed.
"We backfilled the trench with concrete," Ameri said. "I added color to the concrete so that when a contractor hits it in the future, it tells them there must be something here and get in touch with city."
Agency seeks longer negotiating period
Fremont's Redevelopment Successor Agency on Tuesday will consider whether to extend again an agreement to exclusively negotiate with companies seeking to develop a Centerville district property.
CenterStreet Development and Blake Hunt Ventures aim to construct a mixed-use development featuring housing, retail and other amenities on a 6.5-acre parcel along Fremont Boulevard, near Thornton Avenue. The developers first entered into an exclusive-right-to-negotiate agreement with Fremont last July, giving both sides six months to reach a deal on the parcel's sale. In January, City Manager Fred Diaz extended the negotiating period another 90 days, with an April 13 expiration date.
But no agreement has been finalized, prompting another proposed extension. If approved, the new negotiating period would last more than eight months, expiring Dec. 31.
Residents seek high-speed Internet
High-speed Internet initiative Lit San Leandro, aimed at attracting high-tech businesses to the East Bay municipality, has caught the attention of residents, who want a piece of the action when it comes.
Alameda County officials who oversee the surrounding unincorporated areas of San Lorenzo, Cherryland, Ashland and Castro Valley said at an unincorporated services meeting Wednesday in San Lorenzo they hope to create an "open trench" policy to lay the conduit needed for fiber optic Internet cables. The policy would dictate that conduits be installed in trenches along main thoroughfares whenever the roads are dug up for other major projects to save money and foster economic growth.
Though the policy has yet to go to the Board of Supervisors, county officials said the conduits will be laid on the half-mile stretch of Grant Avenue in San Lorenzo slated for road drainage work late this summer.
That's good news, according to San Lorenzo resident Keith Barros. "I hope that when we make that conduit on Grant Avenue, that it serve us on both sides of Grant, not just the San Leandro side, but also the San Lorenzo side," he said.
San Leandro Mayor urges transparency
The mayor of San Leandro gave a tongue lashing to an Alameda County deputy fire chief this week over what he called a lack of transparency about the $18.4 million in firefighter retiree health care costs the city is on the hook for.
"What's a big deal is having retiree health care not accounted for in the budget year after year, after year, and then finally having it accounted for and seeing a major increase in our projected deficit," Mayor Stephen Cassidy told David Rocha, deputy fire chief of operations, Monday at a council work session. "We can't just be in this La La land or wear rose colored glasses that we can provide pay raises, we can provide sufficient pensions when folks retire and provide health care for themselves and their spouses until the day they die without actually paying for it in the present."
Twenty-four percent, or $18.5 million, of the city's current $75.8 million budget is spent on fire services from the Alameda County Fire Department, a figure that does not include all retiree health care costs. The city plans to begin budgeting $1 million annually to pay down the debt.
Rocha disputed the lack of transparency claim, saying the county's liabilities have been available since 2007, but as part of a shift away from the "pay as you go" payment method, contracted cities are now being told how much they each are responsible for. He said the county is currently in negotiations with firefighters over pay and benefits, including those afforded in retirement.