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BART to Install Free WiFi at All Stations By 2024

BART plans to leverage its existing partnerships with telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T to enhance wireless service throughout the system as well as in other local transit agencies like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.

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A BART train arrives at the Pleasant Hill BART station in Walnut Creek, Calif. on Monday, February 1, 2021. (Ray Saint Germain/Bay City News Foundation)

All BART stations are on track to have WiFi networks installed by 2024, officials with the transit agency said on June 24.
Providing wireless internet service in all BART stations and on the agency’s new fleet of trains is part of the agency’s Digital Railway program, which is intended to modernize the BART system by making it easier for riders to make calls, text and use the internet.
BART plans to leverage its existing partnerships with telecommunications companies like Verizon and AT&T to enhance wireless service throughout the system as well as in other local transit agencies like the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency.
“We want to keep pace with modern technology and make sure that people can use the devices that they love and enjoy,” said Travis Engstrom, BART’s director of technology, to the BART Board of Directors on Thursday.
The board originally approved the Digital Railway program in January 2020.
One pandemic and 18 months later, Engstrom said on June 24 that the agency plans to launch the first of the Digital Railway’s four parts, which includes installing wireless phone service in Muni’s underground, by the middle of next year.
“This service will make sure that riders that normally, today, have long periods of no connectivity on those trains, they’ll be able to have cellular service in the underground,” he said.
For BART, its first segment of the Digital Railway program includes beginning installation of wireless internet service in late 2022 in the downtown San Francisco BART stations, with the goal of having all stations complete by 2024.
In addition, the agency also plans to install wireless service-boosting poles along its train routes by 2025 that will enable riders to utilize BART’s WiFi network on any route.
BART also plans to install new fiber optic cable within the system by 2023 to boost cellular service and speed even higher.
It will take roughly four weeks per station to install in-station WiFi throughout the system, Engstrom said, adding that the service will be free and will not include internet speed tiers unless the BART board approves them.
“I’d be really careful about having any kind of tiered service,” Janice Li, a BART board director. “I want to make sure that this is a benefit that all of our riders can access as equally as possible.”

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Bay Area

Value of Marin Agricultural Products Slips 5%

As in past drought years, the resiliency of local farmers, ranchers, and their workforce was noted in the annual report. The lingering COVID-19 pandemic required agricultural producers to find new markets to sell their products to stay viable and handling complicated issues with human resources around their facilities.

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The bright spot in the new crop report was in the aquaculture sector. Tomales Bay shellfish operations experienced increased product demands as restaurants rebounded from the height of the pandemic.
The bright spot in the new crop report was in the aquaculture sector. Tomales Bay shellfish operations experienced increased product demands as restaurants rebounded from the height of the pandemic.

On the positive side, West Marin aquaculture experiences a comeback

Courtesy of Marin County

Agricultural production in Marin County shrunk by 5% in 2021 compared with the previous year, mostly because of the ongoing drought and farmers opting to fallow more of their land.

Assistant Agricultural Commissioner Scott Wise and Inspector Allison Klein presented the 2021 Marin County Crop & Livestock Report to the Marin County Board of Supervisors on June 14. The estimated gross total production value of local products was $96,656,000, down from $101,840,000 in 2020 and wiping out a 4% gain in value between 2019 and 2020. Only three times in history has Marin eclipsed the $100 million mark in annual gross value of agricultural products. The record is $111,061,000 in 2015.

As in past drought years, the resiliency of local farmers, ranchers, and their workforce was noted in the annual report. The lingering COVID-19 pandemic required agricultural producers to find new markets to sell their products to stay viable and handling complicated issues with human resources around their facilities.

“We are now seeing the data that shows the long-term impacts this drought is having on our agricultural industry, such as significant reductions in livestock, exorbitant feed costs, and fallowing of land,” Wise told the Board members. “In 2021, Marin’s share of this megadrought reached critical levels. Due to the lack of precipitation, ponds and wells ran dry and many farmers and ranchers resorted to hauling water to their ag operations. Still, there is only so much water an operation can afford to haul, so many growers had to fallow fields and many ranchers were forced to sell off animals.”

Marin experienced record low rainfall and a second consecutive dry winter, affecting everything from livestock to field crops to fruits and vegetables. It takes years to rebuild a livestock herd for specific traits and genetics, and crop and livestock producers are working hard to build drought resiliency into their operations.

The brightest news in the report came in the area of aquaculture, an important part of the West Marin economy. The total gross value of oysters, mussels, and clams jumped from $3.75 million to $8.2 million, an increase of 119%. The increase was attributed to revitalized demand by consumers after a year of coronavirus lockdowns and restaurant closures in 2020.

On the downside, field crops continued to slip in value because of the drought. The value of hay was down 49%, silage down 43% and harvested pasture down 33% (much of hay and silage are not sold but instead stay on local farms as feed). The total value of field crops fell from $14 million to just over $9 million. Also, fruits & vegetables were down 34% and nursery products went down 25%.

Livestock products led the way by accounting for 41% over the overall gross value of Marin agricultural products. However, the value of cattle was down 13%, slipping from just over $16 million to just under $14 million. Conventional milk production value was up 7% but the organic milk sector – traditionally a strong point for Marin farmers – was down 8%.

Over the past year, 21 Marin ranchers participated in a livestock protection cost-share program to help build and repair fences, purchase and support protection animals, and use scare devices to protect animals from predators. Protected animals include sheep, poultry, goats, cattle, water buffalo, and alpacas.

The annual report includes updates on pest prevention programs, sudden oak death, invasive weed management, and the organic certification program. All Marin County livestock and crop reports are online, including the new one. Reports are sent to the California Department of Food and Agriculture to be included in statewide reports.

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Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern Lost Re-Election: But Mailer Falsely Invoking Latino Voice Bears Watching

Traditionally, PACs form to support a candidate with more money than allowed by the conventional political contribution means. It seems the group called United Latinos Vote (ULV) was created with the intention of not only donating thousands of dollars to the Ahern’s re-election but also falsely insinuating that the money came from Latinos.

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Since the early 1970s, numerous Oakland Latino groups have been actively involved in supporting campaigns that reflected our concerns and interests. Many times, while volunteering our time to campaign, we were successful in including our issues on candidates’ platforms.
Since the early 1970s, numerous Oakland Latino groups have been actively involved in supporting campaigns that reflected our concerns and interests. Many times, while volunteering our time to campaign, we were successful in including our issues on candidates’ platforms.

By Mariano Contreras

The results of the June 7 primary election sent a message to Sheriff Gregory Ahern: Alameda County residents wanted change and desired reform. Candidate Yesenia Sanchez, although outspent by Ahern, received 52.05% to his 32.28% of the vote and will now be Alameda County’s new sheriff.

But the contest gave rise to a disingenuous new Political Action Committee (PAC) that worked for the re-election of Ahern. On May 10, a group called United Latinos Vote (ULV) spent $40,000 on a mailer supporting Ahern’s re-election. The Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) contributed $25,000, making them the largest donor to this PAC.

Traditionally, PACs form to support a candidate with more money than allowed by the conventional political contribution means. It seems ULV was created with the intention of not only donating thousands of dollars to the Ahern’s re-election but also falsely insinuating that the money came from Latinos.

But investigation shows that the ULV PAC has no record of ever speaking in favor or against police reform in Oakland or supporting any other local and/or Latino campaigns.

Safe neighborhoods, peaceful streets, and accountable police departments have always been priorities for Oakland Latinos. In pursuing public safety, we have also presented a diverse spectrum of sentiments and ideas based on principle and truth.

Since the early 1970s, numerous Oakland Latino groups have been actively involved in supporting campaigns that reflected our concerns and interests. Many times, while volunteering our time to campaign, we were successful in including our issues on candidates’ platforms.

As a result, we formed advocacy groups made up of longtime activists and initiated candidate forums that spoke to our Latino community. The Latino Task Force began out of this effort, and we have involved ourselves in every election cycle since the 2016 general election. We have a history and connection to Oakland.

What has ULV done in Alameda County? What have they done in Oakland?

Alameda County’s Latino population borders 23% and, by many accounts, was not friendly to an Ahern re-election. It was most opportune and worrisome that a “Latino” PAC accepted money from a group blind to Latino issues when a formidable and qualified Latina candidate decided to run for sheriff.

The OPOA has never shown any interest in addressing issues important to Latino officers such as the lack of high-ranking Latino officers or the disproportionate discipline of Latino officers in the Oakland Police Department.

Now OPOA wanted to conveniently ally itself with a new and suspect Latino group that ignores many years of opposition to the broken, heavy-handed Sheriff’s Department and the brutal mismanagement of the county’s Santa Rita Jail.

We reject this devious and failed attempt at misleading the Latino electorate! Our effort to engage our community should be grounded in trust, involvement, and knowledge of our issues, not opportunistic gamesmanship.

Mariano Contreras is a member of the Latino Task Force.

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Inflation Worries Grow as California Legislature Approves State Budget

During the public comment section of the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on June 13, Adrian Mohammed, an African American representative of the Bay Area Health Initiative spoke about the exclusion of a $500 million proposal to address Black housing and anti-displacement in the Bay Area in the budget the Legislature passed. “We believe that this is an incredibly timely and incredibly necessary ask and we ask that you continue to work with us to get this to come to fruition,” Mohammed told lawmakers.

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If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.
If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles and Edward Henderson, California Black Media

Diane Lanette Barkum is an in-home care provider and mom of three. She commutes about 40 minutes every workday between the Riverside County cities of Lake Elsinore, where she lives, and Moreno Valley, where she works.

Over the last few months, Barkum says she has been stressed and scraping by, struggling to balance sharp increases in the cost of gas and food with making enough money to pay for other expenses.

“What worries me most about rising prices is that they’ll continue to rise, making it more difficult for low-income working parents to be able to support their families,” she said.

Terence Henry, who lives in Patterson in the Central Valley, used to drive 77 miles to the Bay Area to make deliveries as an independent contractor. He says the high cost of gas forced him to give up the job late last year and opt for only making local runs.

“It used to cost me about $50 each way to fill up the tank to get to Oakland, San Francisco and other cities,” he said. “It just was not worth it anymore. I was losing money.”

Barkum says she hopes there is relief around the corner for people like her who are working hard, raising children and still unable to make ends meet.

Barkum and Henry are not alone. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 27% of Californians say jobs, the economy and inflation are their top concern over housing costs and availability (12%) and homelessness (11%).

Across the United States, the inflation rate is 8.6% — up from 4.7% last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And the American Automobile Association reports that the average price per gallon of regular gas in California has risen above $6. Several economists agree that the effects of inflation hit poor and working-class families the hardest.

In Southern California, the inflation rate in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in the Inland Empire has risen to 9.4%, according to the UCLA Anderson School of Management. That number is among the highest of increases in the country.

Last week, the California Legislature approved a record $300 billion-plus budget for the next fiscal year, the largest annual spending plan in the state’s history. The package includes a surplus of close to $100 billion dollars, half of which must be used to fund schools by law.

Included in the budget are plans to spend the other half. So far, legislators have allotted $8 billion in rebates to taxpayers. Another $1.3 billion has been designated for grants to small business and non-profit organizations. Another $600 million has been specified for tax credits to the lowest-income Californians.

While lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans – and the governor’s office agree that addressing spiraling inflation is urgent, they have not reached agreement on how to provide relief to struggling families.

Anthony York, Newsom’s senior advisor for communications, said in a statement that the governor still wants “more immediate, direct relief to help millions more families with rising gas, groceries and rent prices.”

At the federal level, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell approved a three-quarter (0.75) percentage point rate hike — the highest single percentage rate increase since 2008.

“African American-owned businesses and families are experiencing the damaging effects of inflation including the current interest rate increase instituted by the Federal Reserve Board.

“It is important for financial institutions to work with Black-owned businesses and their families to help navigate the rising cost of capital needed to operate and sustain all businesses,” said Timothy Alan Simon, board chair of the California African American Chamber of Commerce.

By statute, Newsom has until June 30 to veto the legislators’ budget bill or sign it into law.

If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.

During the public comment section of the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on June 13, Adrian Mohammed, an African American representative of the Bay Area Health Initiative spoke about the exclusion of a $500 million proposal to address Black housing and anti-displacement in the Bay Area in the budget the Legislature passed.

“We believe that this is an incredibly timely and incredibly necessary ask and we ask that you continue to work with us to get this to come to fruition,” Mohammed told lawmakers.

On June 15, Republican leaders held a rally at the State Capitol blasting their Democratic colleagues for their inaction on addressing the high cost of gas.

“Legislative Republicans are gathered here to remind Californians that it has been 100 days since the governor and the Democrats here in Sacramento promised California consumers relief on gas prices. One hundred days is far too long,” said Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Yuba City). After 100 days, we are still waiting with no relief in sight. We need action now. We’ve been calling since January to suspend the gas tax.”

Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said the state’s wealth needs to work for hardworking Californians. She pointed to a provision in the budget that provides $200 rebates to working families earning up to $250,000 a year and $125,000 for single filers.

“We are focused on providing struggling families the relief they need to weather rising costs of fuel and groceries, investing ongoing funding in core programs and services, funding one-time infrastructure projects that will keep California moving for years to come,” she said.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) echoed Atkin’s optimism.

“We share a firm belief that our state is strongest when it cares for the weakest among us,” said Rendon. “Our budget proposal continues to lay the groundwork with infrastructure and other investments for future prosperity.”

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