Thursday Morning News Roundup
University Of California’s “Committee Of Two” Moves Forward
The University of California’s long range planning committee recommended the formation of a select advisory committee consisting only of Governor Jerry Brown and UC President Janet Napolitano on the cost structure of the university during a meeting in San Francisco Wednesday.
The full Board of Regents will vote on the matter tomorrow.
If approved, the committee, which some have dubbed the “Committee of Two,” will be staffed by personnel from the Governor’s Office, the Department of Finance, and the UC’s Office of the President.
Recent media coverage has focused on a so-called showdown between Napolitano and Brown over funding and plans to raise tuition, but Brown said during Wednesday’s meeting that they will find ways to talk.
“This is an inquiry that whatever thoughts we get, or facts, will come before the board and we’ll talk about it,” Brown said.
Brown said that not only will the Committee of Two be advisory in nature, it will also be preliminary. The board of regents will still be the ultimate authority.
“I would simply say that it’s an advisory committee of two that I think is going to be engaged deeply and holistically at looking at the university and it’s future,” Napolitano told the regents.
At minimum, the committee will consider proposals in five areas including drivers of cost, improving pathways to graduation and the time it takes to get a degree, the budgetary role of research, use of technology to enhance education and the role of graduate education programs.
Their first meeting is scheduled to occur next week.
Sticky Substance On Seabirds Kills About 200, More Than 250 Receiving Care
An unidentified sticky substance found on seabirds in the East Bay and Peninsula since Friday has killed about 200 birds, while more than 250 others are receiving care, California Department of Fish and Wildlife officials said Wednesday.
Of the seabirds that have died as a result of the substance, about 150 of them are at a freezing facility in Hayward and 47 were transported to the nonprofit International Bird Rescue’s Fairfield facility, CDFW spokesman Andrew Hughan said.
The birds at the Hayward facility will be sent to the Fairfield center, Hughan said.
Tests have shown that the viscous substance, which is apparently not petroleum-based, breaks down the birds’ feather structure, preventing them from regulating their body temperatures in the cold Bay waters, leading to hypothermia or death, according to International Bird Rescue officials.
International Bird Rescue executive director Barbara Callahan said that as of Wednesday morning, the organization has admitted 301 birds at its Fairfield center.
Forty-seven birds were dead on arrival or died while at the center. There are 254 birds being cared for, 103 of which have been cleaned with a baking soda and vinegar solution along with Dawn dishwashing liquid, Callahan said.
East Bay Regional Park District staff first found the birds on Friday at multiple sites in Alameda County, including the Crab Cove Visitor Center in Alameda, Hayward Regional Shoreline and at the San Leandro Marina, according to the nonprofit.
Over the weekend, animal rescue crews found more affected birds on the Peninsula coastline, according to Rebecca Dmytryk, executive director of the nonprofit Wildlife Emergency Services.
Crews searched for more birds on the Peninsula coastline between Foster City and Coyote Point on Tuesday, Dmytryk said.
Six of the dead birds have been taken to the CDFW lab in Sacramento to determine the cause of death, Hughan said.
Today, rescue teams continued to look for any seabirds found contaminated by the material, state fish and wildlife officials said.
Tests have determined that the material is not toxic or poisonous, but biologists are still figuring out what the substance is, Hughan said.
The contaminated birds have been found elsewhere in the East Bay, including Oakland and Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont, he said.
Hughan said he expects more dead birds will be found in the coming days.
Many of the birds that were about 10 percent soiled by the substance have flown away from animal rescue teams, making the collection of contaminated birds difficult, he said.
“We’re heartbroken about them but we can’t rescue them all,” Hughan said.
Surf scoters, buffleheads, horned grebes and common goldeneyes are among the type of birds found contaminated by the substance.
Activists Demand Campaign Contribution Limits, Mandatory Disclosures 5 Years After Supreme Court’s Citizens United Decision
Hundreds of people gathered in downtown San Francisco Wednesday to mark the fifth anniversary of a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money on election campaigns.
Protesters from numerous organizations gathered on Market Street near the Montgomery station this afternoon carrying signs, singing songs and chanting in an effort to raise awareness about the Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission ruling and express their desire to see it overturned.
People marched with signs that read “corporations are not people” and “money is not speech.”
According to Eddie Kurtz, the executive director of the California-based non-profit Courage Campaign, “We demand that Prop 49 be put back on the ballot in 2016. California voters deserve the right to formally weigh in on the most vital political issue of our time.”
Kurtz said Prop 49 would give California voters a chance to vote on a constitutional amendment to overturn the Citizens United ruling.
Entertaining the crowd this afternoon was Oakland-based hip-hop artist Khafre Jay, who sang to the audience about why he felt it was important that the ruling be overturned.
“The American dream is less of what it seems now that corporations are human beings,” Jay sang.
Jay is the executive director of hiphopforchange.org, which he said works to support artists with positive messages and help them reach the community.
Police Use Patrol Car To Run Over Two Aggressive Dogs After Series Of Attacks
A San Mateo police officer used his patrol vehicle to run over two large aggressive dogs Wednesday morning after they attacked a series of people, injuring at least one woman who was later treated for bites on the arm and leg.
The first of several people who called the police reported that he had been attacked and almost bitten by two large pit bulls in the 600 block of Woodside Way at around 9:35 a.m.
Responding officers tried to distract or corral the dogs repeatedly as they attacked a landscaper, who fought them off with a leaf blower, and at least two separate women with small children, according to police. Police were able to direct the dogs away from the women and children.
At one point the dogs ran toward San Mateo High School along East Bellevue Avenue, prompting dispatchers to advise administrators to keep students and staff indoors for their safety.
Later, the dogs ran toward the Stanbridge Academy, leading officers to resort to the use of force as they approached a second school campus where children were present.
When an officer struck the animals with a patrol vehicle in the 500 block of East Poplar Avenue, one was killed instantly. The other survived the impact, then retreated to its’ residence where it was eventually seized by animal control.
The dogs’ owners showed great remorse for their dogs’ behavior and cooperated with the subsequent investigation, according to police.
While still at the home, police learned that one woman had been bitten by both of the dogs before police arrived on the scene, suffering puncture wounds and cuts to her lower leg and bicep. She was treated and released with minor injuries.
City’s New Medical Examiner Will Take Over In March
A Florida medical examiner set to take over as San Francisco’s chief medical examiner in March will inherit a large case backlog and construction of a new facility, city officials said Wednesday.
Dr. Michael Hunter’s appointment was announced Wednesday by City Administrator Naomi Kelly.
Hunter brings 10 years of experience as chief medical examiner in two different Florida jurisdictions, and has worked in medical examiner’s offices in Florida for 15 years, according to the city.
He earned his bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Millsaps College in Jackson, Mississippi, and his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
As medical examiner, his office is responsible for determining the cause, circumstances and manner of death for numerous cases in the city including homicides, suicides, auto accidents, industrial incidents, unidentified patients or patients with no attending physicians or where the death might be due to contagious disease.
He will also oversee a large case backlog and a planned transition to a new facility.
“I am confident Dr. Hunter is up to the challenge of not only reducing the city’s current case backlog,” Kelly said, “but also leading the office in the 21st century by modernizing equipment, data systems, office protocols and overseeing the construction of the new medical examiner facility which will break ground this summer.”
Mayor Ed Lee said, “His strong management skills and proven track record will help bring necessary reforms to the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s Office and successfully deliver a state of the art medical facility in our city.”
59 Measles Cases Confirmed In State Including In 3 Bay Area Counties
Since the end of December the number of confirmed measles cases in California has grown to 59 and most have been connected to an initial exposure in Disneyland in mid-December, public health officials said Wednesday.
The measles cases have been found in 11 local health jurisdictions, including in Alameda, Santa Clara and San Mateo counties, according to the state Department of Public Health.
The patients range in age between 7 months and 70 years.
The exposure at Disneyland or Disney California Adventure theme parks in Anaheim between Dec. 15 and 20 has been connected to a total of 42 patients, including at least one in Alameda County.
Anyone who recently visited places where international travelers congregate, such as airports or theme parks, could have been exposed to measles, public health officials said.
The public health department has determined the vaccination status of 34 of the 59 measles cases and of those 34, 28 people who contracted measles were unvaccinated. One of the other six had one dose of the vaccine and five had two or more doses.
Two or more doses of the measles vaccine are considered 99 percent effective in preventing the disease.
Symptoms of measles begin with fever, cough and runny nose and red eyes and within a few days a red rash appears, usually first on the face and spreading downward to the rest of the body.
The disease is highly infections and spread through the air.
Former Officer Accused Of Elder Abuse Is Sentenced On Other Charge
A former Pinole police commander who had been charged with defrauding an elderly neighbor with dementia was sentenced Wednesday to 66 days in jail and five years’ probation for an unrelated felony count of lying about his assets during a bankruptcy case.
The main issue at 38-year-old Matthew Messier’s sentencing was whether Alameda County Superior Court Judge Michael Gaffey should consider charges that he tried to steal the Pleasanton home of 84-year-old Jean Phyllis Jones even though those charges were dismissed last Sept. 16 when Messier pleaded no contest to the charge of filing false documents about his assets.
Prosecutor Connie Campbell said she offered the plea deal to Messier during the middle of his jury trial when it became clear that testifying against him was taking too hard a toll on Jones, who was in frail health and died on Jan. 7.
Campbell said Gaffey should consider the allegations involving Messier’s alleged abuse of Jones because the plea agreement included a provision that the conservators’ of Jones estate be allowed to testify at his sentencing. That provision implied that those allegations could be considered, Campbell said.
Jones’ conservators, Heidi Bailey and Laurie Riddley, both testified Wednesday that Jones lived in fear that Messier would kill her so he could get her house.
Riddley said Messier “took the golden out of her golden years.”
But Messier’s attorney, Kenneth Robinson, said the allegations involving Jones are irrelevant because Messier wasn’t convicted of any of them and Messier has continuously maintained that he never defrauded her.
Campbell said Jones had begun displaying signs of dementia in 2012, when she said Messier “tricked her” into signing documents that gave him power over her affairs and would have given him possession of her home.
Messier resigned from the Pinole Police Department in October 2012, shortly before charges were filed against him.
At the end of the emotional two-hour hearing today, Gaffey said he agreed withRobinson that he shouldn’t consider the charges involving the alleged abuse of Jones, which included grand theft, attempted grand theft, elder abuse, forgery, registering a stolen document, conspiracy and practicing law without a license.
But Gaffey said it was hard for him to disregard those allegations completely and he believes Messier “tried to manipulate Miss Jones when she was in a very deficient state.”
The count to which Messier pled calls for five years’ probation and up to one year in jail.
Campbell urged Gaffey to sentence Messier to nine months in jail but Robinson said Messier shouldn’t serve any time because there weren’t any victims to his crime.
After Gaffey sentenced Messier to 66 days in jail, Robinson asked if his client could serve that term through electronic monitoring but the judge said, “I won’t let him do that” and insisted that he serve time in jail.
However, Messier won’t have to start serving his sentence until March 25, when Gaffey will hold a hearing on the prosecution’s request that he pay $55,000 in restitution.
County Mulls Plan For New $70mil Jail Tower As Inmate Population Surges
The Santa Clara County Main Jail should add a $70 million, 10-story tower and demolish an aging section to deal with an influx of inmates who until a few years ago served time in state prisons, county officials said Wednesday.
Supervisors Mike Wasserman and Cindy Chavez, members of the county Public Safety and Justice Committee, voted Wednesday to accept a staff report assessing the changing needs of the county’s jail facilities following the passage in 2011 of AB 109. The bill sent many California prison inmates convicted of low-level crimes to county jails rather than state prisons to reduce prison overcrowding.
Wasserman said since then the increase of inmates at the Main Jail has been “meteoric.” The county is considering replacing aging facilities at a cost of $70 million, plus about $11 million to pay for 100 correctional officers.
“Then it will be a matter of finding out how to pay for it,” he said.
The county’s Main Jail Complex at 150 W. Hedding St. consists of the Main Jail South, built in 1956, and the more modern Main Jail North.
County Executive Gary Graves said the proposed replacement for the Main Jail South would have a 10-floor tower behind it equipped with 480 single cells that could house up to 960 inmates with two per cell.
Department of Correction Chief John Hirokawa said the county’s inmate population, which hovered at only about 300 inmates before AB 109’s passage, is now at 465 to 485 and reached a peak of 610 last year.
While the county has a sufficient number of beds to hold less-dangerous minimum-security inmates, there are not enough for those requiring maximum-security or for the medical and mental health needs of inmates, he said.
Woman Killed In Crash Near Levi’s Stadium Is Identified
A driver who died Wednesday when her Honda sedan collided with an SUV near Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara was identified as 54-year-old Yen Nguy, of San Jose, according to police.
Santa Clara police responded at 4:49 a.m. to a report of a traffic crash at the intersection of Tasman Drive and Great America Parkway several blocks east of the stadium, police Lt. Kurt Clarke said.
Police determined that Nguy had been driving west on Tasman in her 2003 Honda Accord when she collided with a 2003 Chevy Tahoe SUV. The Tahoe, driven by 51-year-old San Jose resident Marlen Sotelo, was traveling north on Great America Parkway toward the intersection, Clarke said.
Nguy died at the scene and the SUV driver was transported to a hospital where she was treated and released, he said.
The cause of the fatal collision remains under investigation, he said.
Police rerouted traffic from the intersection while conducting an inquiry into the crash, but announced on Twitter shortly before noon that the roadblocks had been lifted.
Beachgoers Advised Of High-Surf Advisory Along Bay Area Beaches This Weekend
Anyone planning to take advantage of warmer temperatures this weekend with a trip to the beach should heed a high-surf advisory issued for the Bay Area coastline where large swells and rip tides are expected, the National Weather Service announced today.
Beaches from Sonoma to Monterey counties are at-risk and steeper beaches face a greater risk for sneaker waves, weather service officials said.
Starting around 10 p.m. Thursday, a storm system developing in the Pacific Ocean will result in fast-moving waves that are expected to be strong enough to wash people off of rocks, jetties and other coastal structures, according to the weather service.
Warmer temperatures expected to range between 75 and 80 degrees this weekend along the coast may compel people to go out to the beach, National Weather Service forecaster Steve Anderson said.
He advised any beachgoers to stay back from the water this weekend.
“Just because you’re on a dry patch of land doesn’t mean the water won’t reach you,” Anderson said.
The waves will build up on Friday and Saturday when waves are estimated to reach 10 to 15 feet, he said.
Breaking waves are predicted to exceed 20 feet, weather service officials said.
The advisory will be in effect until Sunday morning at sunrise.
Private High School Evacuates Following Bomb Threat
San Francisco police are evacuating a private high school in the city’s Ingleside neighborhood Wednesday afternoon following a report that the school received a bomb threat.
According to San Francisco police spokeswoman Grace Gatpandan, the bomb threat was received shortly after 12:40 p.m. at Lick-Wilmerding High School at 755 Ocean Ave., less than a block away from the Balboa Park BART station.
A police bomb squad has set up at City College of San Francisco’s campus, located across the street from Lick-Wilmerding.
Gatpandan said bomb-sniffing dogs are on scene and that almost the entire school appears to have been vacated as of about 3 p.m.
She said police are investigating who delivered the threat to the school and by what means the threat was delivered.
Officers are searching the buildings for harmful devices.
Weather Forecast For The San Francisco Bay Area
Skies today will be mostly cloudy in the morning and will become partly cloudy by the afternoon. Highs will be in the lower 60s with north winds of 5 to 10 mph.
Skies will be mostly tonight with lows in the lower 50s and northeast winds of 5 to 10 mph.
Skies will be sunny and mostly clear Friday with highs around 60 degrees. Winds from the east could reach 5 to 10 mph.
There is a high surf advisory in effect from 6 a.m. Friday through 6 a.m. Sunday.