1 killed, 3 Injured in East Oakland Shootout During Attempted Brink’s Truck Robbery

One person was killed and three were injured Friday afternoon in a shootout during the attempted robbery of a Brink’s security truck in East Oakland, police and witnesses said.

The attempted robbery occurred around 2 p.m. in the parking lot of a NAPA Auto Parts store on the 4400 block of International Boulevard and left one Brink’s employee injured at the scene and an apparent would-be robber dead, police and witnesses said. Two more people transported themselves to a hospital with injuries, including one whom police described as an innocent bystander.

As of Saturday afternoon, the wounded people who sustained gunshot wounds remained in stable condition, said a spokesperson for the Oakland Police Department.

Two people who said they witnessed the violence described the scene to The Chronicle. Robbers made their move on the Brink’s truck after one security guard entered the NAPA Auto Parts store, leaving one guard with the truck, said Rafael Barrazos, who sells used cars on International Boulevard and was walking across the bustling street near a taco truck when the shooting began.

“They waited till one of the guards was by himself,” Barrazos said. “The guns started going off right after. The way the bullets were flying I told everyone getting tacos to get down, and it felt like the bullets were going above our heads.”

When the gunfire ended, two people were lying on the ground — the person police said was killed was down besides the Brink’s truck, and the Brink’s guard went down in the roadway on International, just outside the parking lot where the truck was parked.

Barrazos said he saw an injured, shirtless man run from 44th Avenue toward the person lying next to the Brink’s truck, grab what appeared to be a gun from the victim, then jump into a white Toyota Rav-4 that fled the scene.

Oakland resident Elizabeth, who wished to be identified only by her first name, said the violence erupted as she was taking her daily walk down International between 44th and 45th avenues.

“I saw one man and then another — both with masks,” Elizabeth told The Chronicle, adding that the shooting renewed feelings of anxiety. “You can’t take your kids out when you like, you can’t put any jewelry on — it’s just gotten out of control here in our neighborhood.”

Before first responders arrived on the scene, a crowd of people tried to help the injured Brink’s worker, a scene captured on video posted on social media. A body could be seen lying next to the Brink’s truck.

Arriving officers pronounced the victim next to the truck dead at the scene, police said. The Brink’s worker was rushed to the hospital, police said. Two other men arrived to a local hospital separately, also with gunshot wounds, police added. One of those was an innocent bystander who had been struck by gunfire, police said.

At least 21 markers indicated bullet casings at the scene.

“We know that there was a white vehicle that was involved in this incident occupied by several individuals,” Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said at the scene in a video posted by KTVU. Armstrong said the department is looking for video of the people in an attempt to identify them.

A person who answered the phone at the NAPA Auto Parts store declined to discuss the shooting and hung up.

A spokesperson for Brink’s said the company is aware of the incident and working with law enforcement but couldn’t provide any additional information. The company is a worldwide security powerhouse with more than 16,000 security vehicles. Some employees are armed with weapons to guard money and valuables during transport.

“It’s been a tough week in the city of Oakland,” Armstrong said. “We have seen several homicides this week. We ask the community to continue to help get rid of the guns that plague our community.”

The shooting marked Oakland’s 92nd homicide of the year, he said.

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

A Tax Revolt in San Francisco?

Citizen tax revolts have been waged throughout American history. Indeed, the genesis of the United States was a dispute with Great Britain over taxes. The issue came to a head when colonists in Massachusetts dressed as Native Americans and dumped English tea into Boston Harbor. Literally, the original Tea Party.

But American independence didn’t stop citizens from protesting high taxes. Shays’ Rebellion in 1786 was an armed uprising in Massachusetts in response to a debt crisis among the citizenry and in opposition to the state government’s increased efforts to collect taxes both on individuals and their trades. Many historians believe that the difficulty in suppressing the revolt under the Articles of Confederation provided significant motivation to form a more powerful central government.

While the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788 did in fact provide stronger federal authority, it didn’t prevent tax revolts. The Whiskey Rebellion, a fierce revolt against the new tax on distilled spirits imposed shortly after the formation of the federal government, was an early test of George Washington’s presidency.

Fast forward to more modern times. California’s own Proposition 13, passed in a landslide election in 1978, initiated the modern tax revolt. And, in an echo of 1776, a new Tea Party movement began in 2009 with a call for lower taxes, a reduction of the national debt, and less government spending. The movement launched the political careers of several members of Congress, many of whom are still serving.

Today’s media likes to portray those of us associated with taxpayer advocacy as ultra-conservative. But in a surprising development, there is a nascent “tax revolt” in the Castro District of San Francisco — whose population, by any objective standard, is the polar opposite of “conservative.”

According to an article by Jessica Flores in the San Francisco Chronicle, business owners in the Castro have repeatedly complained to city officials about the damage that homeless people have inflicted in the neighborhood, only to have the city fail to address the problem.

In response to the indifference of city officials, the Castro Merchants Association sent a letter to city officials urging them to take action on behalf of the beleaguered neighborhood. The letter described the usual problems associated with California’s horrific homeless problem: Vandalized storefronts, open drug use, business owners and customers, not to mention the “psychotic episodes.”

Now merchants say the situation has gotten so bad that they’re threatening to possibly stop paying city taxes and fees. “If the city can’t provide the basic services for them to become a successful business, then what are we paying for?” a leader of the association told The Chronicle. “You can’t have a vibrant, successful business corridor when you have people passed out high on drugs, littering your sidewalk. These people need to get help.”

This threat to withhold taxes and fees may not be on the same level as the violent Whiskey Rebellion or the political sea change of Prop. 13. But it does reflect a problem more pronounced in California than almost anywhere else in America: Not getting the services we pay for.  Is it really so surprising that all citizens simply want services commensurate with the taxes they pay? In fact, complaints about California’s high tax burden often take a back seat to the fact that we pay a lot and get so little.

Click here to read the full article at OC Register

Appeals Court Allows Noncitizens to Again Vote in San Francisco School Board Elections

A California appeals court decision will effectively allow non-U.S. citizens to vote in San Francisco school board elections in November, despite a court ruling earlier this year that struck down the local law as unconstitutional.

California Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer struck down the city’s ordinance allowing noncitizens to vote on July 29. However, the First District Court of Appeal in August granted a request by the city for a stay of the decision.

The appellate court then denied on Sept. 9 a request to expedite Ulmer’s ruling against San Francisco’s noncitizen voting law in time for the General Election.

“The constitutional challenges … are significant ones that are entitled to deliberate consideration,” according to the appeals court decision. However, the court “decline[s] to order an injunction. No extensions of time will be granted absent a showing of exceptional good cause.”

This means noncitizens can cast ballots in the Nov. 8 election, according to James V. Lacy, an attorney who filed a lawsuit against the San Francisco ordinance on behalf of conservative groups in March 2022.

Lacy told The Epoch Times that the procedural delay will harm election integrity and allow the counting of votes that a judge has already ruled are illegal.

“It puts a cloud on the election,” he said on Sept. 13. “At a time of very high skepticism in the general public about the integrity of our elections, what the court has basically done is undermining the credibility and the vote of the San Francisco election.”

San Francisco voters approved the ordinance that appeared as Proposition N on the 2016 ballot, and the law was set to expire on Dec. 31, 2022, until the city extended it indefinitely last year. Since it went into effect, noncitizens have been allowed to vote in at least four local elections, according to court documents.

According to deputy city attorneys, noncitizens may only vote in school board elections and are not given an opportunity to vote for any other office.

The underlying idea was to give noncitizen parents a say in who is elected to school boards but “the problem is that it is illegal,” Lacy told California Insider host Siyamak Khorrami in an Aug. 24 episode. “It’s alarming that this ballot initiative even got on the ballot.”

Lacy contends that voting is a fundamental right of citizens only, and a cornerstone of democracy that should not be “tinkered with.”

The California Constitution clearly states that only U.S. citizens are allowed to vote in state and local elections, Lacy told California Insider at the time.

According to the constitution, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.” However, attorneys for the city argued the “may vote” language doesn’t prohibit a local government to allow others to vote.

In his July 29 ruling, Judge Ulmer said that based on the same flawed logic, the city could argue that “children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our Constitution does not allow.”

He said the constitution uses the words “may vote” for good reason.

“Had it instead used the mandatory word ‘shall’ … resident citizens of age would be legally required to vote. Election laws in many nations make voting mandatory, but not the United States,” Ulmer said.

Catherine Engelbrecht of True the Vote, a national election integrity watchdog group, denounced the appellate court’s decision to deny the request for expedition.

“Name any other country in the world that would allow noncitizens to vote in their country’s elections. There isn’t one,” Engelbrecht told The Epoch Times on Sept. 13.

Click here to read the full story at the Epoch Times

New Court Order Means Noncitizen Parents Can Vote in Nov. 8 Election for San Francisco School Board

Noncitizen parents will be allowed to vote in the Nov. 8 election for school board in San Francisco after a state appeals court rejected opponents’ request to decide a case about the legality of the city’s voting ordinance before then.

Conservative activists behind a lawsuit challenging the ordinance had asked the court to expedite its review of the case and, in the meantime, grant an immediate injunction to block the city from providing ballots to noncitizens. But the First District Court of Appeal in San Francisco rejected both requests in an order Thursday.

The three-member appeals panel noted, in its brief order, that opponents of the ordinance allowed “four elections to take place with noncitizen voting before filing the instant lawsuit.”

But the fate of San Francisco’s ordinance still hangs by a thread. The ordinance allows noncitizens — including undocumented immigrants and legal residents — to vote for school board candidates if they are a parent or guardian of a school-age child and are not in prison or on parole for a felony conviction.

In August, a Superior Court judge struck down the ordinance and said only U.S. citizens are permitted to vote. Conservative groups have cited a provision in the California Constitution that declares, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this State may vote.”

San Francisco challenged that ruling to the First District Court of Appeal, which restored noncitizen voting, at least for now. The appeals court granted the city’s request for a stay to set aside the judge’s ruling and leave the ordinance in effect while the case is on appeal. The justices said opponents of the law had not shown they would suffer “irreparable damage in their business or profession” if the law remained in effect during the appeal.

City voters approved the ordinance, the first of its kind in the state, with Proposition N in 2016. The law took effect in 2018, and was extended indefinitely by the Board of Supervisors in 2021.

The lead plaintiff in the case, James V. Lacy, said in a statement Friday that the Court of Appeal’s decision to not expedite its review of the case would likely result in noncitizens casting ballots that “will unconstitutionally dilute the voting power of all citizen voters, including those of ethnic minority groups.”

Noncitizen voter turnout has been low in past elections, possibly due to fears about sharing their identities with the government. Election officials said noncitizen voters accounted for 238 of the 180,000 ballots cast in the February election that recalled three school board members from office.

Attorneys for San Francisco contend the provision in the California Constitution stating that citizens “may vote” does not prevent a local government from allowing noncitizens to vote.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

Oakland Sued Over Ballot Measure to Allow Noncitizen Voting

Lawsuit says judge struck down similar San Francisco law

A judge’s recent ruling that a San Francisco law allowing noncitizens to vote in school board elections is unconstitutional threatens a similar plan in Oakland, as well as efforts in other cities like San Jose.

The same organizations and law firm that won their case against San Francisco’s 2016 law sued Oakland officials Aug. 16 to keep their proposed measure off the November ballot.

“Oakland’s noncitizen voting measure should be removed from the ballot because it will be a waste of public resources to spend money … to submit a measure to voters that can never be enacted,” the complaint said. “Allowing a vote on an unconstitutional measure will undermine the integrity of the initiative process.”

Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker said the city has yet to be served with the complaint and could not comment.

Oakland City Councilman Dan Kalb, who is leading the effort to get the measure on the ballot, believes it is legally sound because it would not directly extend voting rights to noncitizens, but allow the city to do so if it is not prohibited by state law.

“There’s no legal basis for their lawsuit,” Kalb said.

In January, the San Jose City Council voted to study the possibility of letting noncitizens vote in municipal elections, but they weren’t pressing to get a measure on the November 8 ballot.

San Francisco voters extended voting rights to noncitizens – both legal and unauthorized residents – to cast ballots in school board elections in 2016, and the Board of Supervisors extended the law indefinitely in 2021.

The conservative nonprofits United States Justice Foundation, based in Phoenix, and the California Public Policy Foundation in Laguna Niguel filed suit, arguing the provision was unconstitutional.

In a July 29 ruling, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard B. Ulmer, Jr. agreed, citing the California Constitution stating that only “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this state may vote.” Ulmer also noted that several sections of the Elections Code say voters must be U.S. citizens.

Ulmer rejected the city’s argument that the state constitution’s “may vote” language isn’t restrictive.

“By the same logic, children under 18 and residents of other states ‘may also’ vote in California elections, which our constitution does not allow,” Ulmer wrote, adding that had the constitution said “shall vote,” it would have made voting mandatory in the state.

Ulmer’s ruling came just days after the New York Supreme Court justice struck down a New York City law passed in November that would have let 800,000 noncitizens who are permanent legal residents or authorized to work vote in municipal elections, citing similar barriers in the state constitution.

On Aug. 12, Ulmer also rejected San Francisco’s request to stay his ruling while the city appeals, saying he disagreed with the city’s contention that the case presented “difficult questions of law.”

“This is not a difficult or close question,” Ulmer wrote.

The Oakland lawsuit argues that the city’s voters have “a constitutional right in avoiding the vote dilution that flows from extending voting privileges to those not authorized to vote in the state.”

James V. Lacy, the lawyer representing the organizations that sued over the measure, argued it would benefit Asians, Hispanics and Whites who have larger shares of noncitizens among them at the expense of Oakland’s nearly one in four Black residents. But Kalb said the city is home to a large number of noncitizen African immigrants as well.

There is a history of noncitizen voting in the United States. New York allowed it for school elections until 2000. Advocates for the Oakland measure said noncitizens could vote in the United States until 1926. Sin Yen, spokeswoman for Chinese for Affirmative Action, which led the coalition that campaigned for San Francisco’s law, said noncitizen voting efforts are also afoot in Santa Ana, New York, Boston and Chicago.

Advocates argue that immigrant parents of kids in city schools shouldn’t be denied a voice in their governance just because they aren’t citizens. Oakland estimates that 13,000 of 230,000 voting-age residents are noncitizens of various ethnic backgrounds, including Hispanic, African and Asian.

“If you’re a parent or legal guardian of children under 18, you should be able to decide who runs the schools,” Kalb said. “It seems so obvious, like such a no-brainer. It’s sad there are some people who don’t want that to happen.”

Critics say they’re not anti-immigrant but that extending the vote to noncitizens unfairly benefits foreigners at the expense of the country’s own citizens.

“The purpose of our lawsuit is not to denigrate noncitizen rights in the state – noncitizens have all kinds of rights,” Lacy said. “But the idea of voting is something completely different. If you talk to a general person in the state about what is the qualification for voting, the general feeling is, well, you have to be a citizen.”

Click here to read that the full article at the Mercury News

Frustrated Castro Merchants Threaten to Withhold Taxes Unless S.F. Tackles Drugs, Littering on Streets

For years, business owners in San Francisco’s Castro district have complained to city officials that homeless people struggling with mental illness and drug addiction have wreaked havoc on the neighborhood. Now, merchants say the situation has gotten so bad that they’re threatening to possibly stop paying city taxes and fees.

The Castro Merchants Association sent a letter to city officials on Aug. 8, urging them to “take action” because the neighborhood is “struggling.” In the letter, they said people living on the streets “regularly experience psychotic episodes” and have vandalized storefronts and harassed business owners, employees, residents and tourists.

“They need shelter and/or services and they need them immediately,” the merchants said. “Our community is struggling to recover from lost business revenue, from burglaries and never-ending vandalism/graffiti (often committed by unhoused persons) and we implore you to take action.”

The group asked the city to designate 35 of the city’s shelter beds for the neighborhood’s homeless population, create a comprehensive plan on how to offer services to individuals who repeatedly decline help, and provide monthly metrics on how many people in the community have been offered services and shelter.

If their demands are not met, the association is threatening civil disobedience by potentially asking store owners to stop paying taxes and other city fees, said co-President Dave Karraker. He said the association hopes to form a coalition with other neighborhood groups by October to come up with a plan to demand stronger solutions from the city.

“If the city can’t provide the basic services for them to become a successful business, then what are we paying for?” Karraker told The Chronicle on Tuesday. “You can’t have a vibrant, successful business corridor when you have people passed out high on drugs, littering your sidewalk. These people need to get help.”

In a letter sent to the group Tuesday, officials from San Francisco’s Department of Public Health and Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing acknowledged the association’s concerns and said they are working to address them. City officials said they originally sent the letter to the wrong Castro group on Aug. 19 and confirmed to The Chronicle that the letter was forwarded to the Castro Merchants Association on Tuesday.

Officials said teams “regularly” update Castro residents about the city’s efforts to tackle homelessness and public safety through meetings organized by Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, whose district includes the Castro.

They also said officials from both departments meet weekly to focus on providing assistance to individuals in the Castro.

According to city data available online, San Francisco currently operates about 2,100 shelter beds for adults and youths. While it is not city policy to dedicate beds to specific neighborhoods, the city said it was on track to expand capacity by 1,000 new or reopened shelter beds over the next three months that can provide shelter for unhoused people in the Castro and other neighborhoods.

“We greatly appreciate hearing from community members about what they are seeing on the streets and will continue to work with the Castro community to improve conditions for all in the Castro,” city officials wrote in the letter.

Homeless advocates have said the city doesn’t have enough permanent supportive housing and treatment beds to help people on the street.

Gwendolyn Westbrook, CEO of United Council of Human Services, a nonprofit that provides meals and services to homeless people in the Bayview-Hunters Point area, said Wednesday that unhoused individuals need more mental health services, such as therapy. She said she understands the Castro merchants’ frustrations and said it would be “a good thing” if the city provided shelter beds to specific neighborhoods.

“But that’s not the case,” she said. The city “gives shelter beds to whoever needs them, no matter what area you are from. I get both sides of it, but when you’re trying to help your neighborhood, you’re looking out for your neighborhood as you should be.”

Karraker said the group has been asking city leaders for help over the past four years. The group and Mandelman keep a running list of people who they said create chronic problems in the Castro — which fluctuates from 20 to 25 — and that the merchants asked for 35 beds to account for an influx of people who moved to the Castro after a recent crackdown in the Tenderloin.

Karraker, who is the co-owner of the gym MX3 Fitness on Market Street, said a person who appeared to be on drugs smashed the business’ glass door when the COVID-19 shelter-in-place order went into effect in 2020. He said there have been “multiple” instances where people displaying “bizarre behavior” have walked into the gym and attempted to steal items, such as weights and clothing.

Business owners across the city saw a rise in burglaries and vandalism in 2020 compared with 2019. In the Castro, the merchants association recorded more than 90 incidents totaling over $170,000 in repair costs since 2020, according to data provided by the association, which began documenting incidents during the pandemic. In 2021, there were a total of 25 reported incidents, the data shows. In March of this year, three men were arrested for allegedly burglarizing the historic Castro Theatre.

In response to the reported vandalism and burglary, city officials created a program that offers financial assistance to small businesses that have been affected.

Mandelman told The Chronicle on Tuesday that he supports the association and agreed with their demands.

Click here to read the full article at the SF Chronicle

San Jose’s proposal to allow non-citizens to vote could be in trouble after San Francisco ruling

San Jose is considering whether to allow non-citizens to vote in local elections, but the controversial proposal could be in legal jeopardy before it even makes its way to the ballot box.

The idea was proposed earlier this year by council members Magdalena Carrasco and Sylvia Arenas as a way to give a voice to residents who play a critical role in the community but are unable to participate in the democratic process and select their representatives. The move could affect non-citizens such as undocumented immigrants and legal non-citizens who are green card holders or have the right to study or work in the U.S.

More than a dozen cities in the U.S. currently allow non-citizen voting in local elections — most of them in Maryland. But locally, the concept is facing legal challenges.

San Francisco voters approved a measure in 2016 that allowed non-citizens — both undocumented and legal residents — to vote in school board elections if they had a child in the district. But two conservative nonprofits, the United States Justice Foundation and the California Public Policy Foundation, sued the city, arguing it was unconstitutional.

On July 29, San Francisco Superior Court Judge Richard B. Ulmer, Jr. struck down the law, citing a portion of the California Constitution that says, “A United States citizen 18 years of age and resident in this state may vote.” The city had argued that “may vote” isn’t restrictive — a notion that Ulmer rejected.

Litigation in Oakland has followed suit, with the same groups suing the city to try to keep a similar measure off the November ballot.

San Jose city attorney Nora Frimann said she believes San Francisco intends to file an appeal.

The uncertainty around the legality of non-citizen voting is enough for Mayor Sam Liccardo to want to hit the pause button on the issue.

“There’s going to be a lot of courts weighing in on this over the next year and a half or so,” he said. “It seems to me for us to be spending a lot of time on this issue before we even know whether or not it’s lawful is probably not the best use of our time.”

While no decision was made during a study session of the issue at Tuesday’s San Jose City Council meeting, Carrasco indicated her desire to move forward.

“It’s up to local jurisdictions to decide and create an environment where those who are contributing, who are participating and who want to engage have an opportunity to do so safely and legally,” she said. “And what we’re seeing throughout the country is that there is a real move towards voter suppression of folks who have previously been disengaged, who have previously been disenfranchised and when we have opportunities to truly bring them into the conversation, there’s a sense of threat.”

The proposal garnered an overwhelming amount of support on Tuesday from residents — many from immigrant communities.

Jose Servin, the advocacy director for immigrant rights group SIREN, called it an “opportunity to take a step forward and expand the American imagination.” He said many residents who are barred from voting because of their citizenship status have fought for worker protections, canvassed and helped register individuals to vote despite their own inability to do so.

“We’re not talking about giving anybody a handout,” he said. “I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with some of these people back here, countless members of the undocumented community, DACA recipients like me, TPS holders, people awaiting visas and many other people defined by the legal limbo that they’re stuck in to make our voice heard one way or another.”

Many of those speaking out in opposition argued that voting is a right, not a privilege.

“I believe it devalues the value of citizenship,” said Shane Patrick Connolly, the chair of the Santa Clara County Republican Party. “It was hard-earned by many of our great citizens here in San Jose.”

Allowing non-citizens to vote could be costly to the city of San Jose. The city of New York, which recently had its law struck down by a judge as well, estimated that it would add $4 million to its 2023-2024 fiscal year election costs to have an additional 900,000 non-citizen voters.

City clerk Toni Taber was unable to provide an exact number of how much it would cost but said they would need to factor in ballot design and printing, mailing, staff time, outreach, translations and postage. With an estimated number of possible non-citizen voters of 97,847, that base cost would be $260,274. The city would also need to budget an additional $600,000 to conduct outreach.

San Jose spent $2.2 million on the June 2022 election, but that included shared printing costs with other cities. A non-citizen ballot would have to be printed separately, with the city bearing the full costs.

Councilmember Dev Davis, who was the sole individual who voted against studying the proposal back in January, continued to vehemently oppose the idea on Tuesday.

“We are the most thinly staffed police department of any big city in America,” she said. “We are the most thinly staffed city in all of the United States. I can’t justify spending more than double what we already spend on elections when we don’t have enough police officers to keep everybody safe.”

Click here to read the full article at Mercury News

S.F.’s Highest-Paid Employee Makes $600K. Here’s What Every City Worker Gets Paid

The government of San Francisco employs tens of thousands of workers across its 50 city and county departments. Last year, full-time S.F. government employees made anywhere between $36,000 and $601,000, with the average at around $127,000, which includes overtime.

That’s according to data provided by the S.F. Controller’s Office on the amount paid to public employees each year. Using this data, The Chronicle analyzed the earnings of those who worked at least 2,080 hours during the 2020-2021 fiscal year — equivalent to a position working 40 hours or more per week between July 2020 and June 2021. This comes out to about 21,000 employees. Because we filtered on actual hours worked, our data does not include full-time workers who, for instance, were out on unpaid leave or started midway through the fiscal year.

The data includes the pay of top officials, like Mayor London Breed ($351,000), Police Chief Bill Scott ($344,000) and former District Attorney Chesa Boudin ($308,000). But it also has information on other public employees. Among them are office clerks, police officers, firefighters, nurses in the public health department and transit operators at the Municipal Transportation Agency. Job titles used in this article are those provided by the Controller’s Office.

The total pay number is made up of three types of earnings — regular or base pay; overtime pay for work exceeding 40 hours per week; and “other” pay which covers irregular payments such as leave pay, premium pay and payouts. It does not include the value of health insurance or retirement benefits, which can be generous in the public sector.

For most employees, the bulk of their pay comes from regular pay. But within the understaffed fire, police and sheriff departments, some employees racked up eye-popping amounts of overtime pay, which at times exceeded their regular wages. Across the three departments, the average person made $27,000 in overtime, and 153 employees collected over $100,000.

In an effort to boost staffing levels and reduce overtime spending in each of the three departments, the budget for the current fiscal year includes increased funding for hiring and retention. The police budget, for instance, went up by $50 million from the previous year, with most of the additional spending for backfilling 220 officer vacancies.

Across the 34 departments with at least 50 employees who worked 2,080 hours last year, the fire department had the highest average pay at $185,000, while the Recreation & Park Department had the lowest average at $96,000.

The Retirement Services and Administrative Services departments have the largest pay differences among its employees. The top earner in each department — Chief Investment Officer in Retirement Services and a medical examiner in Administrative Services — made about $600,000, which is $500,000 more than how much its least-paid employees earned.

The top earner in each department is typically the department head or person leading the office. For example, among the 109 full-time employees in the Mayor’s Office, Breed made the most at $351,000, which is $127,000 more than the next highest-paid staff member.

But in departments with significant overtime, the top earner is often a manager-level employee with unusually large overtime payments. The highest-paid person in the fire department, for instance, is a lieutenant with $154,000 in regular pay and $244,000 in overtime pay for a total of $421,000 — about $43,000 more than Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson’s total ($378,000). In the sheriff’s department, a deputy sheriff’s pay totaled $409,000, about two-thirds of which was overtime pay. That’s $131,000 more than what Sheriff Paul Miyamoto made last year ($278,000).

Click here to read the full article in the SF Chronicle

S.F’s Noncitizen Voting Law for School Board Was Struck Down. What’s Next?

Noncitizen voting isn’t a brand new idea. White, landowning, noncitizen men were once allowed to vote in 22 states.

Today, a handful of cities have granted noncitizen residents the right to vote in various local elections. Until recently, San Francisco was one of them: in 2016, voters approved Proposition N, which granted the vote to noncitizen parents of SF Unified students in school board races. 

But late last month, a state Superior Court judge struck down San Francisco’s law in a suit brought forward by conservative groups. The city has appealed the decision, and what happens next will have ripple effects across the Bay Area and the rest of the state.

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What Takes Years and Costs $20K? A San Francisco Trash Can

What takes four years to make and costs more than $20,000? A trash can in San Francisco.

That costly, boxy bin is among six trash cans hitting San Francisco’s streets this summer in the city’s long saga in search of the perfect can. Overflowing trash cans are a common sight in the Northern California city, along with piles of used clothes, shoes, furniture and other items strewn about on sometimes-impassable sidewalks.

City officials hired a Bay Area industrial firm to custom-design the pricey trash can along with two other prototypes that cost taxpayers $19,000 and $11,000 each. This summer, residents have the opportunity to evaluate them along with three off-the-shelf options added to the pilot program after officials faced criticism.

Last month, the city deployed 15 custom-made trash cans and 11 off-the-shelf trash cans — each of those costing from $630 to $2,800 — with QR codes affixed to them asking residents to fill out a survey. City officials said they intend to pay no more than $3,000 per can.

San Francisco began its search for the perfect trash can in 2018 when officials decided it was time to replace the more than 3,000 public bins that have been on the streets for almost 20 years.

Officials say the current bins have too big a hole that allows for easy rummaging. The bins also have hinges that need constant repair and locks that are easy to breach. Some people also topple them over, cover them in graffiti, or set them on fire.

The city is so serious about the endeavor it has created interactive maps so residents can track and test the different designs, which include the Soft Square, the priciest prototype at $20,900. The boxy stainless steel receptacle has openings for trash and for can and bottle recycling and includes a foot pedal. The Slim Silhouette, at $18,800 per prototype, is made of stainless steel bars that give would-be graffiti artists less space to tag.

If one of the custom-designed bins is chosen, the cost to mass produce it will be $2,000 to $3,000 per piece, said Beth Rubenstein, a spokeswoman for San Francisco’s Department of Public Works.

“We live in a beautiful city, and we want (the trash can) to be functional and cost-effective, but it needs to be beautiful,” she said.

But the good looks of the shiny new trash cans have not protected them from vandalism and disrespect. Three weeks after being unveiled, several have already been tagged with orange and white graffiti. Others already show the drip stains of inconsiderate coffee drinkers or have attracted dumping, with people leaving dilapidated bathroom cabinets and plastic bags full of empty wine bottles next to them.

Trash on San Francisco city streets has been an issue for decades. In 2007, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom eliminated about 1,500 of the city’s 4,500 trash cans because he said they were not helping keep streets clean and were becoming magnets for more trash. Officials couldn’t say how many receptacles are currently on the curb, but the city plans to replace at least 3,000.

“A trash can is one of the most basic functions of city governance and if the city can’t do something as simple as this, how can they solve the bigger issues of homelessness and safety and poverty?” asked Matt Haney, a former supervisor who lives in the Tenderloin neighborhood and now represents the area in the California Assembly.

New trash cans will be the latest addition to the city’s arsenal against its dirty streets. In 2014, San Francisco launched its “Pit Stop” program in the Tenderloin neighborhood, the epicenter of drug dealing and homelessness in the city, setting up portable public toilets. In 2018, the city created a six-person “poop patrol” team amid demand to power wash sidewalks.

Haney said that as a supervisor he reluctantly agreed last year to approve the pilot program despite the high prices to avoid delays.

“I think most people, including me, would say just replace the damn cans with cans that we know work in other cities, just do it,” he said.

Haney said the “whole trash can saga has this stench of corruption,” referring to disgraced former Department of Public Works Director Mohammed Nuru, who pleaded guilty in January to federal wire fraud charges. Nuru awarded the contract to maintain San Francisco’s trash cans to a company owned by a relative of a developer who has pleaded guilty to conspiracy and is cooperating with federal authorities in the case against Nuru.

On top of the corruption, the city has long been the butt of jokes for how long it takes to complete public works projects of all kinds.

A bus rapid transit system along Van Ness Avenue, one of the city’s main arteries, finally opened this year after 27 years of construction. A new subway line connecting Chinatown with other areas of the city that started construction in 2010 is four years behind schedule. In 2017, the city completed the Transbay Transit Center only a year late, but the $2 billion terminal abruptly shut down six weeks later after crews discovered two cracked steel girders.

Ultimately, what trash can the city gets will depend on feedback from sanitation employees, and the surveys completed by the end of September, Rubenstein said. The new cans are not expected on the streets until the end of 2023.

Diane Torkelson, who often picks up trash in her Inner Richmond neighborhood with other volunteers, recently trekked 5 miles (8 kilometers) with a dozen other civic-minded San Franciscans to examine three of the cans.

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