Oakland: Grand jury dings city crime lab
As if Oakland police didn't have enough on their plate, the Alameda County Grand Jury found that the department's crime lab is chronically underfunded and has so many backlogged cases that it should be consolidated with Alameda County's crime lab.
Oakland's crime lab, built more than 60 years ago, is too small to provide adequate lab space and evidence storage, the grand jury found in its annual report released this week. The lab also uses a "rudimentary spreadsheet system" that limits its ability to track unsolved cases.
According to the grand jury, chronic staffing shortages have caused "in excess of 10,000 cases with searchable prints (to go) unsearched." At the end of last year there was a backlog of 1,118 fingerprint requests.
A city report issued this week found that the fingerprint division needed five more employees to meet demand. Two council members on Thursday proposed a budget amendment adding one position to the division at a cost $100,000. But a council majority rejected that proposal and instead backed a plan that eliminated one employee furlough day at a cost of more than $1 million to the city's operating budget.
Oakland and Alameda County must respond to the grand jury's report.
Oakland: China points to city's Occupy violence
Oakland has been popping up in some unexpected places this year. In January, the
And this month, the city made a surprise -- and less happy -- appearance in the Chinese Communist Party's report "The Human Rights Record of the United States in 2011."
The United States has literally written the book on evaluating the human rights records of other nations, and few things bother Chinese officialdom more than the annual State Department report. So China commissioned its own 9,000-word tome, and Oakland plays a leading role in the Chinese effort to debunk America as the land of the free.
The report detailed crackdowns nationwide of Occupy encampments, noting in Oakland, "an Iraq War veteran had a fractured skull and brain swelling after being allegedly hit in the head by a police projectile."
The report also criticized violence stateside, and wrote Oakland had tallied 11 homicides in the first four weeks of January, compared to just four in 2011.
The report was published in China Daily, Beijing's official English language mouthpiece, which on occasion has been available free of charge inside City Hall.
Oakland: Dog Park decision delayed
Oakland's biggest turf war won't be resolved until the fall. The City Council's Rules Committee on Thursday voted to delay an appeal of a Planning Commission vote against building a dog park on the edge of Lake Merritt.
The council had been scheduled to hear the appeal at its July 17 meeting.
City planners had endorsed the dog park, which was slated for section of grass at the northeast corner of Lakeview Park at MacArthur Boulevard and Lakeshore Avenue. Opponents said the park would take up too much of the neighborhood's largest grassy expanse.
Council members are still hoping the two sides might find an alternative site for the park before they have to hear the appeal.
San Leandro: School crossing signal
By the end of the year, new traffic signals will halt all vehicles at Bancroft and 136th avenues at the same time so students and others can cross safely.
The "pedestrian scramble" will let people cross the intersection in all directions, even diagonally, San Leandro chief engineering and transportation director Uche Udemezue told the council this week.
Currently, the intersection is a four-way stop. But pedestrian traffic has increased dramatically since the ninth-grade school, the Fred T. Korematsu Campus, opened nearby at 13701 Bancroft in 2010.
"Where foot traffic is heavy, the scramble is the most efficient way to go," Udemezue said.
As part of the project, the curbs ramps will be updated and the sidewalks widened to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards. In addition, the intersection will be paved.
The work is expected to cost $30,500.