It turned out Oakland A's co-owner Lew Wolff hasn't just showered Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan with praise in recent months. Campaign finance reports released Thursday show that Wolff gave $1,000 to Kaplan's recently shuttered Safe Streets Local Jobs campaign fund.
The contribution, dated May 5, came around the time Kaplan met with Wolff and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty to set the framework for the team's lease extension at O.co Coliseum. When a majority of council members panned the deal and later held out for a few minor changes, Wolff credited Kaplan with convincing him to accept the amendments.
Asked about the contribution on Friday, Wolff wrote that it was "a good cause, and I like Rebecca."
The campaign fund was set up to support a half-cent sales tax increase on the November ballot in Alameda County that would fund nearly $8 billion in infrastructure improvements.
Kaplan opted to liquidate the fund at the end of June amid concerns from backers of the initiative that she would use it to help fund her mayoral campaign rather than the ballot measure. There is no limit on contributions to ballot measure funds, but contributions to mayoral campaigns are capped at $700 per person.
In June, this paper reported that when Kaplan last ran for mayor in 2010 she used funds from a similar ballot measure campaign to pay for staffers who worked on her mayoral campaign and to give to third party groups that sent out mailers touting her as a mayoral candidate.
Oakland's Public Ethics Commission is currently investigating those expenditures.
Kaplan's recent filing didn't ease concerns of critics, who noted that she ended up paying her mayoral campaign manager, Jason Overman, nearly as much as from the campaign fund as she gave to the official ballot measure campaign.
Over a 12 month period ending last June, she raised $57,420 for the ballot measure, but she only gave $20,855 to Better Transportation for Alameda County, the official committee trying to pass the ballot measure. The rest was spent on a range of items and consultants, with $19,858 going to Overman, who served as the committee's treasurer and was a staffer in her council office until he quit that job in June.
Joe Tuman, who is running for mayor against Kaplan, questioned whether Overman was truly being paid for his work on Kaplan's ballot measure committee.
"In the worst case this smacks as laundering," he said. "And in the best case, it smacks as abusing the process and not being honest about what the money is being used for."
Overman said he performed policy analysis and polling data analysis as well as fundraising and accounting work for the ballot measure.
"If you consider the scope of work I did, it's actually below market rate if you were to piece out all the services I was providing," Overman said.
He also said that Kaplan's contribution is double what she was asked to give as a member of the steering committee working to pass the ballot measure, although at least one other elected official has solicited more contributions for measure.
BART board member Tom Blalock said he has raised about $50,000 for the measure. But the contributions Blalock solicited went straight into the measure's official campaign fund. Asked about Kaplan's fundraising effort in which just over one-third of the dollars raised went into the measure's official campaign fund, Blalock said he couldn't comment because he didn't have all the facts.
Embattled Newark motel staying open
A motel threatened with closure because police said it was plagued by chronic crime will stay open for now, as its owners have pledged to make it safer.
The E-Z 8 Motel's owners have until January to enforce new rules and regulations aimed at improving public safety and lowering its crime rate, said Newark Assistant City Manager Terrence Grindall.
Newark police recommended closing the 141-room motel at 5555 Cedar Court because it had become a haven for gang members and a hotbed of illegal street drug use and sales.
But the motel's San Diego-based executives have struck a deal with city staffers to avoid closure for now, Grindall said. The owners have promised Newark leaders that they will have an on-site manager, a nightly curfew from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m., an improved security camera system, a 21-day limit for guests, and require all guests to provide identification, among other new policies intended to reduce crime there, Grindall said.
The Newark Planning Commission will meet Jan. 7, to check on the motel's progress.
"They have until then to do the things that they have promised to do," Grindall said.
Employers sent minimum wage letter
The city of Berkeley started mailing out 13,000 letters to businesses that have employees in the city telling them they must comply with the new minimum wage law by Oct. 1 mandating workers be paid at least $10 an hour.
The new law, passed on June 24 by the City Council, applies to businesses for employees who work two or more hours in the city. The wage rises to $11 an hour on Oct. 1, 2015, and to $12.53 on Oct. 1, 2016.
Nonprofits get a break until Oct. 1, 2015, when they have to start paying workers $11 an hour.
According to a list of questions and answers for worker and employers, the new law does not allow employers to figure in tips when calculating a worker's wages. Workers who are not getting the minimum wage after Oct. 1 can file a complaint with the city, and the city will not question immigration status of anyone making a complaint. Workers also cannot voluntarily agree to work for less than the city's minimum wage, according to the ordinance.
The city has dedicated a website for workers and employers with information about the new law at www.cityofberkeley.info/mwo.