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Time for the Mayor and the City to stop the Madness and Settle the Coal Dispute

A new developer, JMB Capital, has acquired the project and has offered to sit down with city officials to discuss the potential to not ship coal through the terminal despite having won the court fight over the matter.  Unfortunately, officials in the Schaaf administration have not accepted invitations to meet and try to resolve the dispute.

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We need the City Council to be the adults and step in to settle the controversy surrounding the Oakland Army Base once and for all.

For nearly a decade, the city has been fighting about the potential shipment of coal at a proposed bulk commodity terminal at the former Oakland Army Base, under a development agreement that it awarded to California Capital Investment Group (CCIG).

 

A new developer, JMB Capital, has acquired the project and has offered to sit down with city officials to discuss the potential to not ship coal through the terminal despite having won the court fight over the matter.  Unfortunately, officials in the Schaaf administration have not accepted invitations to meet and try to resolve the dispute.

 

The consequences of failing to voluntarily settle the coal issue could be financially devastating for the city.  Already, the federal courts have indicated that the city cannot deny the right to ship coal.

 

The United States Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal upheld a May 15, 2018 ruling by US District Court Judge Vince Chhabria that the city of Oakland failed to prove that the transportation of coal posed a health and safety hazard to residents. Judge Chhabria found that a report presented by the city’s expert consultants, Environmental Science Associates (ESA), was “riddled with inaccuracies, major evidentiary gaps, erroneous assumptions, and faulty analyses.”

 

Thus, it appears that the city has already lost on the issue of whether it has the right to ban coal.  Now the city attorney and city administration hang their hats on a sketchy pending state court case where they argue that the master lessee of the property, CCIG, lost the lease because they failed to commence construction of the terminal within the timeframe specified in the development agreement.

 

The likelihood of the city prevailing on that argument is very slim.  The City caused a delay in the completion of the terminal when they denied CCIG’s permits to resume construction and then claimed that the developer did not act in a timely manner. Now the developer asserts it is ludicrous for the city to claim that it did not act in a timely manner.

 

I do not understand the city’s refusal to welcome a chance to resolve the issues short of a court decision.  If Oakland loses, the terminal will be allowed to ship as much coal as it can handle over the next 66 years.  In addition, the city likely will be on the hook for millions of dollars in losses caused by their dilatory maneuvers.  More important, the proposed terminal is a major revenue producer for the city and will create hundreds of jobs handling non-coal commodities and products and related financial benefits. As the city dawdles, Oakland residents lose.

 

By entering into a discussion with JMB Capital it could lead to a no coal agreement that gets the terminal built.  But, by refusing to talk it could lead to unlimited coal shipments and significant financial losses.  Why, then, doesn’t the city meet and try to come to a no coal agreement?

 

Some suggest the problem is the Mayor’s ego and a desire for revenge, or her plans for future political positioning.  In reality, it doesn’t matter.  Under the city charter, the City Council holds the ultimate power to decide whether to settle and resolve the issues on terms most favorable to the city.

 

As I see it, if the city meets with the developer and reaches a no coal agreement, everyone benefits.  But if the city doesn’t even try, and the courts rule against the city, the result will likely be a loss that the city will suffer for the next 66 years.

 

I urge the City Council to intervene and stop the nonsense. It has the duty and authority to protect the city from major losses and take advantage of a golden opportunity it seems determined to ignore.  Please end the madness and direct the City Administrator to negotiate a no coal settlement in good faith and get this case behind us.

 

Do it now, because if the city leaves it to the courts to decide, and they lose, there will be nothing left to negotiate after a court decision is made. Oakland residents will be stuck with the results of the city’s refusal to meet for decades to come.

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Activism

UC Berkeley Students Protest Supreme Court Abortion Decision

Two pro-choice activists, Danielle Roseman and Alisa Steel currently believe the law will be overturned. However, they said, “our voices are our best asset to combat (this) and we will continue to protest.” Both seniors at University of California, Berkeley, they decided to organize a campus protest on Sproul Plaza, which took place May 3. 

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By Sarah Clemens

When it comes to reproductive health, the future looks both unprecedented and regressive.

A Supreme Court draft to overturn Roe v. Wade, the controversial ruling that declared the right to abortion, was leaked on May 2, 2022. In the draft, Justice Alito wrote that “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start.” The very act of leaking a supreme court draft is unprecedented. The last time it occurred was in 1973 with the original Roe v. Wade decision. In a press release the Supreme Court said the leak was authentic, but “it does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member.” Final or not, thousands have already begun to protest.

Two pro-choice activists, Danielle Roseman and Alisa Steel currently believe the law will be overturned. However, they said, “our voices are our best asset to combat (this) and we will continue to protest.” Both seniors at University of California, Berkeley, they decided to organize a campus protest on Sproul Plaza, which took place May 3.

The Daily Cal newspaper estimated that “hundreds” attended. After contacting Roseman on social media, they both co-wrote answers to questions posed by this reporter.

“We knew the only way for our voices to be heard was to create a peaceful protest,” Roseman and Steel said. They weren’t alone.

NPR documented protesters across the country with similar stances on the issue from Washington to New York. Some states have existing laws in place that protect abortion rights. Others do not.

The original Roe v. Wade court case happened when a Texas woman by the name Jane Roe alleged that Texas’ abortion laws were unconstitutional. Almost 50 years later, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott supported a law that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with no rape or incest exceptions.

When asked by a reporter, “why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term?” Abbott responded, “It doesn’t require that at all, because, obviously, it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion.”

Despite overwhelming backlash, abortion becoming illegal appears preordained. Yet, throughout history around the world abortion has never stopped despite its illegality. In the 19th century, a doctor named Ann Lohman was called “the wickedest woman in New York” for her practice of giving women abortions.

When California state Senator Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley) made a statement on the new bill, she cited this history. “Unlike women before me, I grew up without having to face the choice of a back-alley abortion…If Roe v. Wade is overturned, the Supreme Court will not prevent abortions, instead they will unleash unsafe and often deadly abortions.”

For many years the battle over abortion has been heavily stigmatized. As a result, there is a strong defeatist attitude among many voicing concerns on social media. Roseman and Steel thought otherwise.

“With our voices, we can mobilize, protest, sign petitions, get the word out, and send a shockwave to the politicians who think they have control over our bodies. So get out and get loud!”

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Activism

COMMENTARY: Pay Attention — Roe v. Wade and the Far Right’s Extreme Plans

For the most part, the judges who are letting states eliminate access to abortion are the same judges letting states limit voters’ access to the ballot box. They’re the same judges who restrict the government’s ability to regulate harmful corporate behavior. Many of them are the same judges who tried to deny millions of Americans access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act. 

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Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania.

By Ben Jealous

Things are about to get worse for millions of vulnerable people in our country.

It looks like the far right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court is getting ready to reverse Roe v. Wade, the nearly 50-year-old ruling that recognized a pregnant person’s right to have an abortion. Abortion is legal today, but pretty soon that will no longer be the case in most of the country.

A leaked draft of a Supreme Court ruling expected to be released in June indicates that the Court will rule that there is no constitutional protection for abortion. Bans will go into effect in many states immediately, and others will follow soon. That will leave millions of women and LGBTQ people — and their spouses and partners — less free and less in control of their own health, lives, and families.

Like many laws and policy decisions handed down from on high, the harm will fall hardest on those with the fewest resources and political power — people of color and low-income people. It is hard to take.

How did this happen?

In the long term, it happened because opponents on the right to choose spent decades building a movement to make it happen. They invested time and money to elect like-minded politicians. They pushed Republican presidents to fill federal courts with judges who were willing, if not eager, to restrict or ban legal access to abortion. They made it a top priority when deciding whether and how to vote.

In the short term, it happened because Donald Trump won the 2016 presidential election. To energize the Republican Party’s ideological base, Trump promised them judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade. They took the deal Trump offered. They turned out to vote. And with help from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, Trump gave them kind of judges they wanted.

And now that they have the power to impose their will, Americans’ freedom will shrink and American families will suffer.

In fact, many are already suffering. Anti-choice activists have harassed and sometimes killed abortion providers. Judges have been letting state legislators pile on more and more restrictions on abortion care. As a result, in some states, the right to abortion care may exist in theory, but in reality, it is virtually nonexistent, because clinics and providers have disappeared.

There are hard times and hard decisions ahead.

There are also lessons to be learned and acted on.

One important lesson is that the Supreme Court has a big impact on our lives, even though most of us don’t think about it in the day to day. We should all pay more attention.

We should pay attention when the far right tells us what they plan to do with their political power. They have been loud and clear about their intent to overturn Roe v. Wade.

But many Americans refused to believe that the threat to Roe v. Wade was real. They just could not imagine a 21st century America in which women and doctors are treated like criminals for seeking or providing abortion care.

We no longer need to imagine that kind of scenario. We’re about to live it.

And that’s why we also have to pay attention to the consequences of our voting behavior.

For the most part, the judges who are letting states eliminate access to abortion are the same judges letting states limit voters’ access to the ballot box. They’re the same judges who restrict the government’s ability to regulate harmful corporate behavior. Many of them are the same judges who tried to deny millions of Americans access to health care provided by the Affordable Care Act.

The Supreme Court justices and other federal judges who are put in place by the president and U.S. Senate have jobs for life. That means we are stuck with Trump’s judges for many years to come. And that means we all need to think long and hard about who we vote for — and about ever passing up the opportunity to vote.

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and Professor of the Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. A New York Times best-selling author, his next book “Never Forget Our People Were Always Free” will be published by Harper Collins in December 2022.

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Bay Area

California Gas Prices to Spike Even More with July 1 Tax Increase

Democratic lawmakers, backed by environmentalists, are digging their heels in, defending their decision not to suspend the inflationary tax increase that they fought hard to approve when they voted to pass Senate Bill 1 in 2017. “As we’ve said before, suspending the gas tax would reduce critical funds available for road repair and improvement projects,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood said in a joint statement.

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As of Friday, the average gas price per gallon was $5.82 in the state.
As of Friday, the average gas price per gallon was $5.82 in the state.

By Tanu Henry, California Black Media

“I really don’t understand how the price of gas can rise so drastically in California,” said a Black woman and 55-year-old Rancho Cucamonga resident who agreed to be interviewed for this article but asked to not be identified.

“Unfortunately, we need to purchase it regardless of the prices and that’s one of reasons, I believe, it continues to increase,” she complained. “Weekly, it is costing me approximately $75 to commute to and from work, which is $35 more than I used to pay.”

The woman, who is a collections officer with a lead abatement company, said filling her tank often means she has to forgo another obligation.

As of Friday, the average gas price per gallon was $5.82 in the state.

Now, news that the state is tacking an extra 3-cent tax on every gallon purchased — which will not be a significant increase — is still absurd, says the woman, considering that California already has the highest gas prices in the nation.

Because Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state Legislature missed the May 1 deadline to suspend an inflationary gas tax increase that is scheduled for July 1, it will still take effect.

Policymakers would have had to act 60 days in advance to avert the increase.

Democratic lawmakers, backed by environmentalists, are digging their heels in, defending their decision not to suspend the inflationary tax increase that they fought hard to approve when they voted to pass Senate Bill 1 in 2017.

“As we’ve said before, suspending the gas tax would reduce critical funds available for road repair and improvement projects,” Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood said in a joint statement.

“Additionally, as oil companies continue to rake in record-high profits, there is no guarantee this relief would be passed onto consumers,” Atkins and Rendon continued.

With the tax hike, the average excise tax price per gallon in the state will go from about 51 cents per gallon to 54 cents per gallon.

Last month, with the May 1 deadline looming, Newsom’s office acknowledged that it would not be able to convince lawmakers in the state Senate and Assembly to suspend the tax increase.

Instead, Newsom’s spokesperson Alex Stack released a statement suggesting that the Governor’s office was turning its attention to providing relief to Californians as the cost of gas, food and other commodities continue to skyrocket.

“We look forward to working with lawmakers on the governor’s proposal for direct payments to Californians wrestling with rising prices,” Stack said in a statement. “Helping offset the impact of inflation on California residents remains a top priority for the governor.”

Legislative Republicans blasted their Democratic colleagues for their “inaction” on the gas tax increase.

“Californians are desperate for any relief at the pump while paying the highest gas prices in the nation, but Democrats have decided to run out the clock and increase the state’s gas tax instead,” read a statement the state Republican Party released earlier this month.

Gov. Newsom and lawmakers in both chambers of the Legislature have still not agreed on how to address the excessive cost of gas in the state.

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