Before the ascendancy of cell phones, it was well known that calling 911 from your mobile would get you the California Highway Patrol -- and extra lag time for your call to be transferred to local police.

But times have changed and Oakland is now one of only two cities in the state -- Atherton is the other -- where all 911 calls from cell phones are still routed to the CHP.

There are approximately 348,000 annual 911 cellular calls made in Oakland, according to a city report. It results in a delay of about a minute for CHP to take those calls and reroute them to city dispatchers. But accepting the calls would overload Oakland's dispatch system, which already handles about 600,000 emergency calls per year, police officials told council members at Tuesday's Public Safety Committee meeting.

Screen displays 911 call for a CHP operator.
Screen displays 911 call for a CHP operator. (Bay Area News Group)

"We can't compare to other cities because we don't get the call volume they get," Assistant City Administrator Arturo Sanchez said.

For Oakland to accept 911 calls from cell phones, it would have to buy more equipment, hire more dispatchers and build a larger dispatch center for them to work. "We don't have the physical capacity to take the calls," said Regina Harris-Gilyard, who manages communications for the police department.

That was a "disappointing reality check" for Councilmember Dan Kalb, who requested the report explaining why Oakland wasn't taking 911 calls from cell phones.

"It's a problem," he said. "And while I get that we don't have the resources to address it now, we need to have a plan to get there as soon as possible."

To call Oakland dispatch directly from your cell phone, dial 510-777-3211.

Oakland owes more in parking ticket refunds

It turned out a 2012 city audit disclosing that Oakland had withheld more than $316,000 in overpaid parking tickets was just the tip of the iceberg.

In response to the report by City Auditor Courtney Ruby, city officials reviewed the prior three fiscal years and found that it owed parking ticket refunds totaling $2.3 million.

State law requires public agencies to notify citizens when they overpay, and Oakland is now complying. The city will send notifications of overpayment from early next year. Recipients will have 60 days to respond.

County board president lashes out

Political grandstanding might be as old as politics, but the president of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors has had enough.

Supervisor Keith Carson delivered a stern dig at his Oakland colleague, Supervisor Nate Miley, at the usually staid board chambers Tuesday. Carson commended those supervisors -- Miley apparently not one of them -- who were "rolling up our sleeves and getting some damn work done, not just talking about it."

At stake were the delicate fiscal negotiations to protect the county's health care safety net amid state cutbacks tied to the new federal health care law. Carson and Supervisor Wilma Chan, of Alameda, have been leading those talks for months.

So Carson grew increasingly annoyed as Miley expressed public dismay and interrogated a county health care official over why a few clinics serving his East Oakland and unincorporated area constituents were being left out of a major contract. County officials said those clinics didn't meet the primary care needs of the contract.

Then Carson, without mentioning anyone by name, began his sharply-worded rebuke of what he saw as Miley's 11th-hour protestations.

The supervisors voted unanimously to approve the funding.