Council members pan Oakland's public safety radio system

Oakland is moving toward scrapping the city's much-criticized public safety radio system in favor of a newer radio network run by nearly every city and police jurisdiction in the East Bay.

Next month, council members will vote on whether to approve studies to see how Oakland's radios work throughout the city on the regional system. The testing would be completed by November.

The council's four-member Finance Committee this week indicated that they were leaning in favor of joining the East Bay Regional Communications System Authority -- a move that is backed by both the police and fire unions.

"It says something when all the cities in the jurisdiction except for Oakland and Piedmont are part of this system," Council member Desley Brooks said. After the meeting, Council member Noel Gallo said he favored making the switch.

Rather than join the regional consortium as it was forming a decade ago, Oakland used grant funds to upgrade its existing system to a similar digital technology. However, it neglected to also make necessary infrastructure upgrades at tower sites and dispatch centers, which has contributed to numerous failures since the digital system debuted in 2011.

Two backup generators purchased for the system turned out to be too small, but the city didn't realize that until it was too late to return them, officials said.

Oakland's system has performed better since the city hired a full-time radio expert last year, but council members at the Finance Committee questioned whether the city had the capacity to properly operate and maintain its own radio system.

"I don't care how you put lipstick on this pig," Brooks said. "It does not work."

A transition to the regional system would take about six to eight months, its executive director Bill McCammon said. To program all of the city's radios would cost $800,000 up front with an ongoing annual maintenance charge of $1.4 million.

No radar on Hayward downtown traffic loop

Police cannot use radar to catch speeders on the downtown Hayward one-way traffic loop until all construction is complete, including landscaping, police told merchants this week.

Any time a road is altered, a new traffic survey is required before police are allowed to issue tickets with radar, Lt. Mark Koller said Thursday during a regular monthly meeting at City Hall. Otherwise, the tickets could be challenged in court.

Downtown merchants have complained that traffic is speeding through the area since the loop began in March.

There was no estimate on when a new survey could be completed. When asked what could be done to nab speeders in the meantime, Officer Leon Limon said officers could use pacing and visual estimates of speed.

While work is almost done on the loop, some things remain to be done, including painting of some crosswalks, installation of street signs, landscaping and adding a pedestrian barrier railing in the median by Five Flags Park, said Kevin Briggs, city project manager for the roadwork. He estimated it would be finished in a month or month and a half.

San Leandro schools budget counting on some disputed parcel tax money

School board members are keeping their fingers crossed and the district's pocketbook open for parcel tax revenue in the coming school year despite a court battle still underway over the legality of the tax.

Board members approved a budget Tuesday that includes $771,000 in parcel tax revenue, less than the $2.4 million a year approved by voters in November. Officials say the amount was calculated based on a flat $39 per parcel levy rather than the planned varied rate of $19 for multifamily lots with five or more units, $39 for unimproved parcels and 2 cents per square foot of lot size for businesses. The lawsuit alleges the district's plan to tax parcels at different rates is illegal, an argument that was successful this year in a legal battle against a varied rate parcel tax in Alameda Unified.

School board President Diana Prola said the board was comfortable leaving some parcel funding in the budget because they believe the businesses suing the district would not object to a flat $39 parcel tax, and other areas of the budget are conservative. For instance, the budget adopted includes just $1.8 million of the $2.8 million in new state funding the district estimates it will get under the forthcoming Local Control Funding Formula, signed into law by the governor Thursday.

Board members also approved taking $450,000 in adult education funds to pay for other district needs, and 3 percent raises recently approved for teachers were also factored in.

Board members emerged from closed session with no reportable action after discussing their legal options following the news earlier this month that the California Supreme Court denied a request to review a lower court's ruling in favor of the Alameda plaintiffs.