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Jayne Williams and Richard D. Pio Roda of Meyers Nave Law Firm Re-Retained by City of San Leandro

Jayne Williams of Meyers Nave Law Firm

The City of San Leandro’s City Council will continue to retain the law firm of Meyers Nave and City Attorney Jayne Williams and Assistant City Attorney Richard D. Pio Roda as the City’s legal advisers.   The Council on Tuesday Feb. 19 asked that Williams and the City Manager Chris Zapata develop a new contract between Meyers Nave and the City to continue its contractual services to San Leandro.

The Meyers Nave firm was founded in 1986 in San Leandro by Steve Meyers, Michael Nave, Libby Silver and Mike Riback.  San Leandro City Attorney Jayne Williams has served as City Attorney to San Leandro for the past 10 years and Assistant City Attorney Richard D. Pio Roda, a principal with the Meyers Nave firm, has served San Leandro for the past four years.

Ms. Williams previously served in this role for the City of Suisun City and as Interim City Attorney for the cities of Stockton and Merced. A former Managing Principal of Meyers Nave, she now heads the firm’s Crisis Management, Public Policy, Ethics and Investigations Practice Group.

Ms. Williams led the Meyers Nave team in the San Francisco Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART) confidential internal affairs investigation of the officer-involved shooting death of Oscar Grant. This New Year’s Day 2008 incident gained public attention throughout the Bay Area and the nation, sparking protests that extended for a number of weeks following the shooting. The investigation reviewed the actions of police officers involved in the incident to determine any potential misconduct. Before joining Meyers Nave, Jayne served at all levels of city government for the City of Oakland, eventually attaining the City Attorney position, which she held from 1987 to 2000. She began her tenure with the Oakland City Attorney’s office in 1974, specializing in housing and redevelopment. She then served as the City’s Director of Personnel from 1978 to 1980, before returning to the City Attorney’s office as Assistant City Attorney. As Assistant City Attorney, Jayne managed the litigation division of the office. As City Attorney, she directed a staff of 36 attorneys.

Through her career as a practicing public lawyer and leader, she has gained extensive experience and expertise in strategic planning, innovative public project initiatives, and managing and coordinating attorneys throughout complex legal transactions and civil litigation. She is an acknowledged expert in all aspects of the representation of elected and appointed public officials as well as public agencies. She is a past president of the City Attorney’s Division of the League of California Cities, and has served as an elected representative to the executive committee of the Ninth Circuit Judicial Conference and co-chaired the Northern District lawyer representative delegation to the Ninth Circuit.

The Recorder legal newspaper selected Williams for its 2012 “Women Leaders in Law” list. The Recorder selected 40 female lawyers who have been innovative and active in networking in order to create opportunities for their firms and for others.

“Jayne has accomplished both. First, Jayne is a remarkable attorney and her prominence in this field has paved the way early on for many other female and minority lawyers in California,” said Managing Principal David W. Skinner. “Second, Jayne has helped the firm expand significantly over the last decade. Without a doubt, she leads a busy life as both a leading attorney and a community leader.”

While this recognition is not her first, Ms. Williams noted that The Recorder’s criteria is significant.

“I think networking is vital for anyone who wants to leave an impact in the legal field and in their community. This includes both social networking — LinkedIn, Facebook, blogs etc.—and the personal connections. Not a week goes by that I am not meeting with a client, a colleague, or a mentee and attending a community event or client function,” Ms. Williams said. “I find these experiences to be both personally and professionally rewarding.”

Ms. Williams began her legal career in 1974 in the City Attorney’s Department for the City of Oakland. She eventually headed the department and served as Oakland’s City Attorney for 14 years. In 2000, Ms. Williams joined the Oakland-based firm Meyers Nave and served as the firm’s Managing Principal for six years.

During her tenure in the firm’s chief position, Meyers Nave experienced significant growth: opening regional offices in Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa; growing the attorney staff to over 80 attorneys; and taking on high-profile matters, notably the confidential internal investigation on behalf of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) in the officer-involved shooting death on New Year’s Day in 2008, which attracted attention nationwide and sparked numerous protests. Ms. Williams led the Meyers Nave team in the investigation.

Ms. Williams has also been a leader for law organizations, including as president of the City Attorney’s Division of the League of California Cities and as chair of the State Bar’s Public Law Section.

In addition to The Recorder’s recognition, her alma mater, UC Hastings College of Law previously selected her as “Black Alumni of the Year” and the school’s Clara Foltz Feminist Association gave her the “Award of Excellence.” Ms. Williams has also received awards from the California Association of Black Lawyers and the National Association of Black Public Administrators, among several others.

Ms. Williams actively participates in professional and civic organizations, including the Board of Trustees of Holy Names University, the Women Managing Partner Roundtable, Black Women Lawyers Association of Northern California and the SF Bay Area African American Partners in Majority Firms networking group.

Assistant City Attorney Richard D. Pio Roda, a principal with the Meyers Nave firm, practices in the areas of municipal and special district law, public contracts and construction, land use, real estate, and education law. He specializes in matters relating to the Brown Act, the California Public Records Act, construction, public contracts, public bidding and procurement, prevailing wage law, land use and planning, ethics, and conflicts of interest.

In the City of San Leandro, where he serves as counsel to the City’s Board of Zoning Adjustments and Planning Commission, he is also General Counsel to the Mendocino County Community Development Commission and the Rodeo Hercules Fire District. In addition to providing legal advice on public contracts, construction, public law and corporate transactions, Richard handles all aspects of advice and counsel to board members, commissioners, councilmembers and staff regarding public law and governance. He also routinely advises on risk and litigation management. From 2004 to 2007, he served as the Assistant City Attorney for the cities of Milpitas and Oakley.

In addition, he serves as Special Counsel to the San Francisco Unified School District’s 2003, 2006, and 2011 Proposition A Construction Programs, and the District’s Citizens Bond Oversight Committee. Prior to joining Meyers Nave, Mr. Roda was a Deputy General Counsel for the District. He advised the District’s Facilities, Business, and Operations Departments in school construction, real estate, procurement, finance, bidding and contracting, and transportation. He frequently counseled on all aspects of school construction, from design to close-out. He also served as Board Counsel for the District’s successful passage of its 2003 $350 million general obligation bond. He interfaced with City and County representatives, various community groups, bond counsel, financial consultants, the Citizens’ Bond Oversight Committee, and other District stakeholders as the Board’s representative.

He is frequently requested as a trainer and speaker on government ethics, conflicts of interest, public contracting, construction, and public procurement. He is also on the Lorman Educational Services faculty for topics such as government ethics; conflicts of interest; the Brown Act and the Public Records Act; and public contracting, procurement and construction.

Mr. Roda is also a professional auctioneer and fundraiser. He has raised money for various organizations, charities, foundations, and nonprofits throughout the world. A partial list of these organizations includes the Tokyo-English Life Line, the ABS-CBN Foundation, Inc. (“The Filipino Channel’s” international philanthropic entity), the American Cancer Society, the San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center, Children’s Heritage Foundation, various Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the Bay Area, Books for the Barrios, and the USF School of Law Public Interest Law Foundation.

Founded in 1986, the law firm of Meyers Nave is recognized for its work with all types of public entities in California. The firm provides the full scope of legal services to cities, counties, special districts, school districts, and successor agencies and oversight boards to former redevelopment agencies statewide. Meyers Nave’s areas of practice include labor and employment, city attorney and general counsel representations, economic development, eminent domain, litigation, torts, writs and appeals, public contracts, land use and environmental law, public finance, and crisis management.

The law firm is one of the most highly respected public law firms in the United States.  It’s representation of the City of San Bruno against PG&E resulted in the groundbreaking settlement of $70 million in restitution for San Bruno.  Other significant projects include work for the Cities of Reno, Nev.; San Jose, Calif., Pittsburg, Calif.; Inglewood, Calif.; Milpitas, Calif.; Petaluma, Calif.; Larkspur, Calif.; Dublin, Calif., Richmond, Calif.; Rancho Cordova, Calif.; Union City, Calif.; and other prominent cities, municipalities and government agencies.

In 2012, the Daily Journal legal publication selected Arthur A. Hartinger, a principal at Meyers Nave, as one of the “Top 100 Attorneys” in California. Mr. Hartinger chairs the firm’s Labor and Employment Practice Group and represents public entities statewide.

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Pistorius Rebutes Murder Charge in Court

By LYDIA POLGREEN and ALAN COWELL From the New York Times

PRETORIA, South Africa — Facing a charge of premeditated murder in the death of his girlfriend, Oscar Pistorius, the double amputee track star and one of the world’s best-known athletes, denied on Tuesday that he had intended to take her life when he opened fire at a closed bathroom door at his home last week, saying he did not know that she was on the other side.

“I fail to understand how I could be charged with murder, let alone premeditated,” he said in an affidavit read to the packed courtroom by his defense lawyer, Barry Roux, “I had no intention to kill my girlfriend.”

His assertion contradicted an earlier accusation from the prosecutor, Gerrie Nel, that Mr. Pistorius committed premeditated murder when he rose from his bed, pulled on artificial legs, walked more than 20 feet from his bedroom and pumped four bullets into the door, three of which struck his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, on the other side.

It was the first time that either the prosecution or Mr. Pistorius had publicly provided details of their radically divergent accounts of a killing that has shocked the nation and made news around the world.

The case broke open last Thursday when the police arrived at Mr. Pistorius’s house in a gated community here in Pretoria to find Ms. Steenkamp dead from gunshot wounds.

Developments since then have been all the more dramatic, since Mr. Pistorius had been an emblem of triumph over adversity, his sporting achievement on a world stage blending with the glamour of celebrity at home. Mr. Pistorius, 26, and Ms. Steenkamp, 29, a model and law school graduate, had been depicted as a golden couple.

“We were deeply in love and I could not be happier,” said Mr. Pistorius’s affidavit, read at a bail hearing. “I know she felt the same way.” As it was read out loud, the athlete wept so uncontrollably that the magistrate, Desmond Nair, ordered a brief recess to permit him to regain his composure.

Magistrate Nair adjourned the case until Wednesday without ruling on whether the athlete would be granted bail.

Mr. Pistorius said he and Ms. Steenkamp had gone to bed early on Wednesday night, but in the middle of the night he heard a noise from the bathroom and went to investigate on his stumps, not his artificial legs.

“I am acutely aware of violent crime being committed by intruders entering homes,” he said in the affidavit. “I have received death threats before. I have also been a victim of violence and of burglaries before. For that reason I kept my firearm, a 9 mm Parabellum, underneath my bed when I went to bed at night.”

He was nervous, he said, because the bathroom window did not have burglar bars and contractors who had been working there had left ladders behind.

The room was dark, he said, and he did not realize that Ms. Steenkamp was not in bed. He felt vulnerable and fearful without his prosthetics and opened fire at the door, he said, calling to Ms. Steenkamp to telephone the police.

Only then did he realize that she was not in bed, he said. He put on his artificial legs and tried to kick down the door before breaking it open with a cricket bat to discover Ms. Steenkamp.

He carried her downstairs, he said, and “she died in my arms.”

Earlier, Magistrate Nair said he could not exclude premeditation in the killing, so Mr. Pistorius’s bail application will be much more difficult. But he said he would consider downgrading the charges depending on evidence at subsequent hearings.

Mr. Nel said Ms. Steenkamp, who had just made her debut in a reality television show, had been in a tiny room measuring less than 20 square feet when the shots rang out. “She could not go anywhere,” he said. “It must have been horrific.”

“She locked the door for a purpose. We will get to that purpose,” he said.

But Mr. Roux, a lawyer representing Mr. Pistorius, said the defense would “submit that this is not a murder.” He said there was no evidence that Mr. Pistorius and Ms. Steenkamp had fought and no evidence of a motive. He also challenged the prosecution to produce a witness to corroborate its version of Mr. Pistorius’s actions.

“Scratch the veneer” of the prosecution case, he said, and there is no evidence to support it.

“All we really know is she locked herself behind the toilet door and she was shot,” Mr. Roux said.

Mr. Nel, the prosecutor, however, declared: “If I arm myself, walk a distance and murder a person, that is premeditated. The door is closed. There is no doubt. I walk seven meters and I kill.”

He added: “The motive is, ‘I want to kill.’ That’s it.”

If convicted of premeditated murder, Mr. Pistorius would face a mandatory life sentence, though under South African law he would be eligible for parole in 25 years at the latest. South Africa abolished the death penalty in 1995.

Mr. Pistorius was appearing in court for the second time since Friday. He arrived looking grim-faced, his jaw set. But, as during his earlier appearance, he broke down in tears when the prosecutor said that he had “killed an innocent woman.”

As the court went into a midday recess, Ms. Steenkamp’s private funeral service began in the southern coastal city of Port Elizabeth, her hometown, with six pallbearers carrying a coffin swathed in a white cloth and white flowers as mourners expressed dismay and rage. More than 100 relatives and friends attended the funeral at the Victoria Park crematorium.

“Why? Why my little girl? Why did this happen? Why did he do this?” June Steenkamp, the victim’s mother, told The Times of Johannesburg.

Gavin Venter, a former jockey who worked for the victim’s father, a horse trainer, said on Tuesday: “She was an angel. She was so soft, so innocent. Such a lovely person. It’s just sad that this could happen to somebody so good.”

The killing has stunned a nation that had elevated Mr. Pistorius as an emblem of the ability to overcome acute adversity and a symbol of South Africa’s ability to project its achievements onto the world stage.

Mr. Pistorius was born without fibula bones and both of his legs were amputated below the knee as an infant. But he became a Paralympic champion and the first Paralympic sprinter to compete against able-bodied athletes at the 2012 London Olympics.

But several companies have now withdrawn lucrative sponsorships and his case has played into an emotional debate in South Africa about violence against women.

Members of the Women’s League of the ruling African National Congress protested outside the building, waving placards saying “No Bail for Pistorius,” Reuters reported.

Lydia Polgreen reported from Pretoria, and Alan Cowell from London.

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Closing in on Truth and Justice in the Chevron Ecuador Case: Overwhelming Evidence of Fraud by Plaintiffs Against Chevron: The Global Lawyer

On Jan. 28 Chevron Corporation filed overwhelming new testimonial and documentary evidence of fraud by the Ecuadorian plaintiffs who hold a $19 billion judgment against it–including a declaration by a former judge that the judgment itself was procured through bribery. “Truth and justice are elusive,” ran the headline by Thomson Reuters. With all due respect to my former colleague Alison Frankel, who sets the standard for litigation journalism, this reaction is deeply wrong.

The first time I met the plaintiffs’ lead lawyer, Steven Donziger, I asked him if he was prepared to denounce the lawyers who rigged their cases against Dole Food Company in Nicaragua. Ironically, he answered yes. In refusing to condemn Donziger, many of us are now failing the same test.

Commentators continue to find balance where there is none, with the honorable exception of Roger Parloff. Human rights advocates, excepting Douglas Cassel, have rallied behind the allegations that Chevron is responsible for an environmental calamity in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Distinguished counsel in the U.S., Canada, Brazil, and Argentina are avidly seeking to enforce the Ecuadorian judgment. And most disturbingly, the enforcing courts are listening, with an Argentine court ruling on Jan. 30 that 40 percent of Chevron’s local affiliates’ revenues should be frozen pending enforcement.

Plaintiffs spokesperson Karen Hinton fairly notes: “We have not put forth every argument that we will make in briefs and arguments to jury if there ever is a jury trial.” And indeed, for a journalist to weigh evidence that will be considered by a jury is often inappropriate. But in this case it’s imperative. I aim to show here that the documentary evidence of fraud (nevermind the testimony) is now virtually unanswerable. To pretend otherwise is to encourage irresponsible courts to reward the alleged fraud.

Even before last week’s evidentiary bombshells, adjudicators outside Ecuador who have weighed the evidence have consistently condemned the plaintiffs. Eight U.S. courts have now found a prima facie showing of fraud under the crime fraud exception to privilege. In allowing Donziger to be deposed in November 2010, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in New York found “substantial evidence” of misbehavior. The verdict against Chevron came on Valentine’s Day 2011, and three weeks later Kaplan enjoined worldwide enforcement based on “abundant evidence” that due process had been violated. It is vital to note that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in no way questioned this factual finding when it reversed Kaplan in January 2012 after examining New York’s law on recognizing foreign judgments. (Seehere and here.) Finally, a panel of international arbitrators found the fraud allegations persuasive enough to order the Republic of Ecuador, also in January 2012, to take all measures to suspend enforcement.

In 2010 I disagreed with Roger Parloff that the plaintiffs’ suit was crippled, and I queried whether Chevron’s lawyers at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher had “botched the kill step.” The central fraud allegation at the time was that the plaintiffs had ghostwritten the damages recommendation of the main court-appointed expert, which they had for years passed off as independent. Chevron’s evidence on the “Cabrera report” was so strong–the expert was essentially caught on film taking orders–that the plaintiffs eventually admitted this ghostwriting (without admitting to fraud). I was among the first to decry this scandal, and to take seriously the companion allegations of judicial intimidation. But the plaintiffs found new experts, and, when the verdict later came down, they could say it was untainted by Cabrera. I reasoned that Chevron had delivered its knockout punch too soon, and had made a potentially fatal mistake by giving the plaintiffs time to try curing the taint before a final judgment.

My logic was sound. But it seems that I was too kind in assuming that these plaintiffs were capable of taint-free litigation.

After a long windup, the real knockout punch landed last week. Although few noticed except Parloff, Chevron has over the past year amassed serious evidence of ghostwriting in the Ecuadorian judgment itself. Last week Chevron added to that evidence, and a former judge in the case, Alberto Guerra, stepped onto center stage with a firsthand account of the alleged judicial ghostwriting arrangement. Guerra swears that parties routinely paid him (after his own removal from the bench) to ghostwrite orders in their favor for Judge Nicolas Zambrano, and that (after Chevron declined his services) the Ecuadorian plaintiffs paid Guerra to play that role in the Chevron case. Finally, Guerra says that the plaintiffs promised Zambrano a half million dollar bribe to let them ghostwrite the judgment themselves, with a few tweaks by Guerra. At least no one can say that these allegations are curable.

The plaintiffs’ initial response was to deny all, while noting–correctly–that Guerra has been disgraced on multiple counts, and that Chevron is paying him a king’s ransom. Hinton also finds it implausible that Chevron, in all its desperate efforts to discredit the case, never previously disclosed Guerra’s overtures to Chevron.

Personally, I would not expect the bag man to be a boy scout and a philanthropist. But let’s concede for the sake of argument that Guerra’s testimony will be completely discredited by the New York jury that is set to hear Chevron’s claims of fraud and racketeering at a trial before Judge Kaplan starting Oct. 15. And let’s suppose that the jury discounts the egregious Cabrera affair and all the other multifarious allegations that appalled Judge Kaplan and the arbitrators. What is the new documentary evidence of incurable fraud?

Most importantly, Chevron has forensically traced passages on 60 pages of the 188-page final judgment to seven files from Donziger’s hard drive, and one from his associate’s. According to Chevron, these files were not in the court record. This is confirmed by two Chevron experts–one who reviewed the 200,000-page record electronically, and one who reviewed it by hand.

After reviewing most of this evidence in a discovery action, a Maryland federal court concluded on Jan. 25: “Chevron has shown to anyone with common sense that this is a blatant cut and paste exercise.”

The plaintiffs have not shown any pages to the contrary, and they have not produced court-stamped copies of their supposed filings. Plaintiffs’ spokesperson Hinton says, “We believe that those documents were entered into the court record.” However, Chevron says that that plaintiffs have taken no such position in U.S. court, and Hinton was unable to show me otherwise. Instead, she directed me to a July 2011 filing by plaintiffs lawyer Pablo Fajardo in Lago Agrio, where he argued that Chevron must be behind the mysterious alien passages in the judgment. Fajardo reasoned that Chevron knew from my “Botched the Kill Step” column that it needed to discredit the final ruling, and suspiciously began to claim that Zambrano received “secret assistance” on the day after the verdict, before the record could be reviewed. I am flattered that the plaintiffs lawyers are aficionados of my work, and not just overplotted spy fiction.

It seems that the only response plaintiffs can make in court is to grasp at a speculative theory. At a discovery hearing on Dec. 21, a lawyer representing the Ecuadorian parties in New York, Larry Veselka of Smyser Kaplan & Veselka, floated the idea that Chevron itself might have secretly “slipped” Donziger’s files to the judge who handed down the $19 billion verdict. Judge Kaplan was bemused: “So they wrote parts of this decision hammering them as bad as anybody in world history has ever been hammered so that they could then attack it because the judge copied the bad stuff from them. Oh, please, Mr. Veselka. No. If I misunderstood you, please tell me….I have to give you credit for imagination on that, Mr. Veselka. I mean, really.”

Besides adding to its unanswered evidence showing plaintiffs’ fingerprints on the final judgment, Chevron last week produced files from Guerra’s hard drive showing that he ghostwrote for Zambrano nine preliminary judicial orders against Chevron, amounting to about 300 pages, and two non-Chevron judgments, including one shortly before the $19 billion verdict.

In response to the evidence from Guerra’s hard drive, Hinton offers a speculative theory similar to the one mocked by Judge Kaplan. “Is Chevron capable of intentionally placing information on Guerra’s computer?” she asks. “Yes. Do we know that? No. Other unethical and illegal conduct by Chevron during and after the trial would lead me to believe it’s possible.” The plaintiffs’ accusations against Chevron are reviewed in recent press releases (here and here), with links to court filings that discuss them more systematically. To date, none of the plaintiffs’ allegations of illegality by Chevron has been accepted by a U.S. court.

To top it all off, Chevron has produced two deposit slips showing $1000 deposits to Guerra’s bank account, with a signature and national identity number that Chevron attributes to an administrative assistant for the plaintiffs. On Oct. 27, 2009, two days before the first deposit, plaintiffs lawyer Fajardo emailed Donziger: “The puppeteer won’t move his puppet until the audience doesn’t pay him something.” Exactly a month later–on the same day as the second deposit–another plaintiffs’ advocate, Luis Yanza, emailed Donziger: “[T]he budget is higher in relation to the previous months, since we are paying the puppeteer.” Chevron interprets other emails to show that “puppet” and “puppeteer” were code for Zambrano and Guerra.

Hinton denies this, and says “puppeteer” may simply have been a bantering reference to one of the plaintiffs’ consultants. She says that no one “representing the Ecuadorians” made a deposit to Guerra, and that both the signature and ID number on the bank deposit slips are too visually obscure to prove the depositor’s identity. (I find the ID number on one slip quite easy to read. Readers can judge for themselves at the bottom of this image.)

So the documentary evidence seems to show that Guerra received two payments from the plaintiffs at roughly the same time that the plaintiffs chatted about paying a puppeteer; that Guerra ghostwrote nine preliminary orders for Zambrano in the Chevron case; that Guerra had a continuing ghostwriting relationship with Zambrano during the relevant period; and that the plaintiffs’ electronic fingerprints are on nearly a third of Zambrano’s final judgment against Chevron. The only significant point in Guerra’s testimony that’s not directly corroborated is Zambrano’s bribe.

Nor is Chevron done. It is seeking further bank records through its discovery action in Miami. Presumably, it will depose Donziger again before the close of New York discovery on May 31. And if Guerra’s arrangement with Zambrano was as extensive as his testimony suggests, then I suspect that Chevron will put into evidence a very large number of other ghostwritten judgments.

If proven, the relationship between Guerra and Zambrano would not be unique. In its 2010 report on Ecuador, the U.S. State Department stated that judges there are sometimes corrupt, and referred to media accounts on “the susceptibility of the judiciary to bribes for favorable decisions and resolution of legal cases and on judges parceling out cases to outside lawyers, who wrote the judicial sentences and sent them back to the presiding judge for signature.” Back in the day, experts for the plaintiffs presciently warned U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff in Manhattan that he should not ship the case back to Ecuador because of pervasive judicial corruption.

All this might incline a jury to credit ex-judge Guerra’s account of bribery. My point is that the existing documentary evidence, on its own, leads inescapably to the conclusion that the judgment is unenforceable as a result of corruption. Of course each party is entitled to a full legal defense on each legal theory in the New York civil trial (and any possible future criminal proceedings). I am not trying to hang the plaintiffs in advance. I am trying to expose the worthlessness of the judgment that, even now, they are racing to enforce.

The “truth” here is not elusive. On the contrary, we will rarely find a case where the truth may be established more fully. It took the discovery of documentary film outtakes due to an on-camera slip by the plaintiffs; the green light given to Section 1782 discovery as a result (see here and here); the near-complete piercing of Donziger’s privilege; and the extraordinarily high stakes that have justified Chevron’s unprecedented commitment of resources and unwillingness to settle.

In calling “justice” elusive, Alison Frankel is on firmer ground. But even there, I do not fully agree.

Some may resist Chevron’s protestations of victimhood because they believe that corporations are evil. It should be self-evident that seeking corporate accountability from this perspective is little better than racist prosecution. Others inexcusably assume that even if the plaintiffs were overzealous, Chevron must be guilty of the underlying charges, because it seems plausible and because the plaintiffs exaggerate so loudly and often. Frankel makes the more respectable argument that we will simply never know.

Actually, we have a large body of scientific evidence. I condemn Texaco (Chevron’s predecessor) for using the long-disfavored industry practices of dumping toxic sludge into unlined pits and pouring the water used in oil production back into the environment. But it cannot simply be presumed that massive contamination spread and led to massive health consequences. I believe that litigation is a horrendous context for scientific sampling, and I hope that the U.N. Environmental Programme’s alternative factfinding model in Nigeria is emulated. But the fact is that even the plaintiffs’ samples show no significant groundwater contamination except below the pits.

After wading into the scientific evidence on both sides–see here and here–I previously concluded that, setting aside the legal defenses, a factfinder in a trial conducted under the rule of law might find Chevron liable for a soil cleanup with a maximum plausible price tag of $1 billion. Douglas Cassel later reached a similar conclusion.

So, no, we will never know the outcome of a just trial on the billion-dollar claim of environmental devastation that passes the straight-face test. I agree with Frankel that this is a great shame. But we do know that the next $18 billion of the judgment is unjust to Chevron–and that wrong can be righted.

By far the greatest injustice is that the indigenous residents of the Ecuadorian Amazon suffer serious health and social problems. But we do not have the evidence to pin much blame for this on Chevron. And we should not forget the responsibility of Ecuador, which has operated the oil project at issue since 1990 and was the majority owner for most of the period when Texaco was the operator. What’s more, Ecuador collected so much in taxes that, when Chevron won an arbitration for diverted oil revenues, the award needed to be reduced from about $700 million to $100 million. Ecuador chose to spend precious little of its oil windfall on social services in the Amazon region. Sadly, this injustice is not amenable to litigation, except at the far frontiers of economic and social rights.

The likely truth of Chevron’s core allegations should now be evident to anyone who studies the evidence without ideological blinders–including the attorneys and judges. If the enforcing lawyers no longer believe in good faith that the judgment is pure, then they should withdraw from the case. That includes Patton Boggs, which is not implicated in any fraud (discounting Chevron’s most aggressive theories), but certainly finds itself in an awkward position. The litigation funder that brought Patton Boggs into the case, Burford Capital, has not only sold its interest, but accused the plaintiffs of defrauding them. Patton Boggs might wish to ponder what its lead lawyer on the case, James Tyrrell Jr., told me in December 2010: “I’m certainly not here to join in any fraudulent effort….My mission is to see that a judgment on the merits, warranting international respect, is entered in Ecuador, and, if we win, to enforce it.”

My most fervent hope is that Ecuador’s National Court of Justice reclaims its nation’s dignity by overturning this disgraceful and doomed judgment in the pending appeal. If it does, the enforcement actions will go away. If it does not, I optimistically believe that the enforcement actions will be dismissed, because they are now too shameful for even the most renegade court to approve.

Come what may, I expect Chevron to seek revenge on the plaintiffs’ team in the New York fraud trial, and to demand in arbitration that Ecuador cover its record legal bills. It would be fitting if Chevron donated such a recovery to environmental and health projects in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Chevron is closing in on truth and, in a very partial way, closing in on justice.

Clarification: With regard to bank slips that Chevron contends support its accusations of bribery, plaintiffs spokesperson Karen Hinton clarifies that she doesn’t contest that a national ID number is distinctly visible on the documents. Rather, Hinton told us she was referring to an account number that is partly redacted.

By Michael D. Goldhaber

The Litigation Daily

 

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Mayor Lee Announces New Videos to Celebrate San Francisco Companies & Innovators

Mayor Edwin M. Lee today launched the San Francisco is Where the World Changes Campaign with a six minute video celebrating the San Francisco-based companies and innovators and promoting San Francisco as the ideal place for doing business for potential companies and entrepreneurs and for workforce and investment.


“It is important that we celebrate and publicize the people and companies that make San Francisco the Innovation Capital of the World,” said Mayor Lee. “These great San Franciscans and their companies are continuing San Francisco’s history of changing the world. From our immigrants who built the railways, to the hippie culture that spawned a generation of social change to the products and ideas these innovation companies are currently growing, San Francisco is and will continue to be the place to come to create the next thing.”
The campaign kicks off with today’s six minute short film and two 60 second commercials highlighting some of San Francisco’s innovative companies and entrepreneurs. The cast of the film includes:


·      Ron Conway, Chairman, sf.citi

·        Craig Dalton, Co-Founder, DODOcase

·        Jack Dorsey, Founder/CEO, Square

·        Art Gensler, CEO/Founder, Gensler

·        Heather Hiles, Founder/CEO, Pathbrite

·        Lynn Jurich, Co-CEO, Sunrun

·        Regis B. Kelly, Ph.D., Director, California Institute for Quantitative Biosciences (QB3)

·        David Lee, Founder/Managing Partner, SV Angel

·        Laura Weidman Powers, Founding Executive Director, Code2040

·        Kevin Yeaman, CEO, Dolby

“Cities, states and even countries round the world are competing to be centers of innovation but thankfully, largely because of Mayor Lee’s enthusiastic support, San Francisco is in the lead,” said QB3 Director Dr. Regis Kelly. “In his Where the World Changes campaign, the Mayor is encouraging innovators in diverse fields ranging from social media, to biotechnology, to design, to see themselves as members of a single, creative San Francisco based, community. I feel honored to participate.”

“San Francisco brings innovation, entrepreneurship, collaboration and vision together in a way that I have not experienced anywhere else,” said Sunrun co-CEO Lynn Jurich. “Where the World Changes highlights this unique environment, a setting that has helped Sunrun thrive.”

Distribution of the videos will include the running of the thirty second spots in local taxi cabs and on SFGTV, as well as distribution through our partners in local and international trade offices. This coincides with the launch of www.wheretheworldchanges.com <http://www.wheretheworldchanges.com> , a website inviting people to learn more about moving or starting their businesses in San Francisco.

About the Where the World Changes Campaign
The Where the World Changes Campaign is a partnership between the Office of Economic and Workforce Development, San Francisco Center for Economic Development and San Francisco Travel designed to promote San Francisco as an ideal location to start and grow a business.  With financial contributions from Alexandria Real Estate Equities and in kind services from Automattic/Modern Legend/Vreeland Productions, this campaign serves to capture a collective understanding of what makes San Francisco such an incredible place to start and grow a business, to hold a conference, to shoot a film, to live and play, to raise a family and to just enjoy a visit.

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Construction begins on Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

Work is underway on the future home of the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAM/PFA) in Berkeley’s downtown arts district, BAM/PFA officials announced today (Tuesday, Feb. 12).

BAM/PFA Director Lawrence Rinder acknowledged the generous donors who have contributed $95 million in pledges toward the $100 million campaign for the new facility for the campus and community visual arts center.

“This is an incredible milestone for this campaign, now a full decade in the making. We will be forever grateful to all of those individuals who have offered commitments to the campaign, not to mention the campus and Berkeley communities who have given their overwhelming support and goodwill to the project,” said Rinder.

Barclay Simpson, a member of the BAM/PFA Board of Trustees and ardent advocate for the arts said, “The arts are a critical part of civil society and education and this new building will ensure that UC Berkeley and the city of Berkeley have a world class visual arts center befitting these communities for at least the next century.”

Designed by the renowned New York City–based firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R), the planned facility will unite a building that previously housed the UC Berkeley printing plant at the corner of Center and Oxford streets with a new structure that will anchor the corner of Oxford and Addison streets. Rinder has praised the design for its “bold new architectural form,” as well as for its beauty and accessibility.

Following a competitive process, UC Berkeley awarded the construction contract for the project to Plant Construction Company, which has begun work on site planning and mobilization. The early phases of construction focus on interior work in the existing building, including salvaging reusable materials and preparing for demolition of the adjacent parking structure. EHDD of San Francisco is the architect of record for the project.

More extensive—and more visible—work will begin this spring. Construction is targeted for completion in summer 2015 with the new facility opening to the public in early 2016.

Planning for the center began in 1997, after an engineering survey found that BAM/PFA’s current building on Bancroft Way does not meet present-day seismic standards and cannot be upgraded to do so without eliminating open exhibition spaces required for the galleries.

The new building will house BAM/PFA’s exhibition galleries, learning center, participatory art-making studio, works-on-paper study center, store, cafe, and offices. It also will also reunite the institution’s film theater, moved to an annex structure on Bancroft Way in 1999, with the galleries and operations areas. The center will be home to a 230-seat theater and a thirty-two-seat screening room, as well as a film library and study area.

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Chevron Ecuador Lawsuit: International Tribunal Cites Ecuador and President Rafael Correa in Breach of its Obligations Under International Law

An international arbitration tribunal issued an award yesterday finding that the Republic of Ecuador and the administration of President Rafael Correa has violated the Tribunal’s prior Interim Awards authorized under international law and a treaty between the United States and Ecuador by not preventing the attempted enforcement of a $19 billion judgment against Chevron Corp. (NYSE: CVX)  In prior rulings, the Tribunal put the Republic on notice that if Chevron’s arbitration ultimately prevails, “any loss arising from the enforcement of (the judgment) may be losses for which the (Republic) would be responsible to (Chevron) under international law.”

This decision is a stunning rebuke to President Correa and his re-election campaign in Ecuador and casts a pall on all efforts by the plaintiffs in the case  because of the illegal behavior of Ecuador and the plaintiffs.

Convened under the authority of the U.S.-Ecuador Bilateral Investment Treaty (the BIT) and administered by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, the Tribunal found Ecuador in breach of the Tribunal’s prior rulings and ordered the Republic to explain why it should not be ordered to compensate Chevron for all harm resulting from the plaintiffs’ attempts to enforce a judgment resulting from an environmental trial against the company in Lago Agrio, Ecuador.

Almost one year ago, the Tribunal issued a Second Interim Award ordering the Republic of Ecuador—and all of its branches, including the judiciary—to take all necessary actions to prevent enforcement and recognition of the Lago Agrio judgment, both inside and outside of Ecuador.  That award expanded upon a prior award requiring Ecuador to “take all measures at its disposal to suspend or cause to be suspended the enforcement or recognition within and without Ecuador of any judgment.”

“The Tribunal’s decision confirms that the enforcement actions being pursued against Chevron in Argentina, Brazil, and Canada fly in the face of international law,” said Hewitt Pate, Chevron vice president and general counsel.  “Yet Ecuador has consistently aligned itself with American trial lawyers who have used corrupt courts to advance an unprecedented fraud.  It is not too late for the Republic to reverse course, declare the Lago Agrio judgment illegitimate, and address the real challenges facing its citizens.”

Despite the Tribunal’s Awards, the Republic of Ecuador has facilitated the plaintiffs’ pursuit of enforcement in Argentina, Brazil, and Canada.  These actions are the result of Ecuador’s failure to meet its international law and treaty obligations.

Chevron’s arbitration claim stems from the government of Ecuador’s interference in the ongoing environmental lawsuit against the company in Ecuador and its courts’ failure to administer justice in a trial that has been marred by fraud.  Additionally, Chevron maintains that the government of Ecuador has failed to uphold prior settlement and release agreements that the government of Ecuador entered into with Texaco Petroleum Company (now a Chevron subsidiary) when the consortium between Texaco Petroleum and Petroecuador was terminated.

In its ruling, the Tribunal found that “Neither disagreement with the Tribunal’s orders and awards on interim measures nor constraints under Ecuadorian law can excuse the failure of the (Republic), through any of its branches or organs, to fulfil its obligations under international law imposed by the Treaty, the UNCITRAL Rules and the Tribunal’s orders and awards thereunder, particularly the First and Second Interim Awards on Interim Measures.”

In August 2011, a different international arbitration tribunal convened under the BIT awarded Chevron and Texaco Petroleum $96 million, plus interest, in a claim against the Republic of Ecuador related to past oil operations.  The Tribunal found that Ecuador’s courts violated the BIT and international law through their decade-long delays in ruling on certain commercial disputes between Texaco Petroleum and the Ecuadorian government.  A court in the Netherlands has upheld the award and Ecuador has filed a second appeal.

 

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The Castro Street Fair Announces Date for 40th “Ruby Anniversary” Celebration; Prepare to Paint the Town Red! The 40th Castro Street Fair, October 6, 2013 at Castro & Market

The 40th Castro Street Fair, October 6, 2013 at Castro & Market

Today, the Castro Street Fair Board of Directors announced the date for their Ruby Anniversary, celebrating 40 years! The fair will take place on Sunday, October 6, 2013 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. at Castro & Market Streets.
“It’s such an honor to continue a tradition that was started by Harvey Milk almost 40 years ago,” said Fred Lopez, President of the Castro Street Fair Board of Directors. “This year, we plan to highlight how this incredible San Francisco tradition continues, year after year, to bring this wonderful community together. We will celebrate the unique spirit of the Castro as we move toward the day of the fair,” he continued.

The Castro Street Fair is a part of the enduring legacy of Harvey Milk, who founded the Fair along with other local merchants in 1974. Since then, the Fair has been a thriving celebration for the Castro neighborhood, and for all of San Francisco. Plans are under way to make this one of the biggest and best Castro Street Fairs ever. Live performances and dance areas will pay tribute to some of the original Castro Street Fair entertainers– such as disco legend, Sylvester.

Charity

Every year, the Castro Street Fair raises money for local charities and the 40th year will be no different. The 39th Annual Castro Street Fair was a huge success, amidst one of San Francisco’s busiest weekends in history. The Fair attracted huge crowds and raised over $76,000 for local charities.

More than 460 individuals logged nearly 2,000 volunteer hours to assist with the production of the event.

On December 11, 2012, the Castro Street Fair Board of Directors distributed $76,327.21 in proceeds to over thirty local beneficiaries.
“The Castro Street Fair takes its role as a fundraising vehicle for local non-profits very seriously, while ensuring that everyone who comes to the Fair has a seriously good time” said George Ridgely, Executive Director of the Castro Street Fair Board of Directors.

Sponsors and Exhibitors

There are many exciting sponsorship opportunities for the Castro Street Fair 40th Anniversary. Exhibitor booths are expected to go on-sale in late March. For more information, contact: info@castrostreetfair.org

About the Castro Street Fair

The Castro Street Fair is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization and all proceeds go directly to charitable causes important to the Castro community. Additionally, the Fair funds the rainbow flag that flies over the intersection of Castro and Market.

The Fair is located in the heart of San Francisco’s Castro District, at the intersection of Market & Castro Streets and the surrounding area. The Fair is a piece of the enduring legacy of Harvey Milk, who was a co-founder of the Fair in 1974. The Castro Street Fair is a community street celebration – with hundreds of local artists, vendors, craftspeople, and community organizations lining the streets to celebrate the diversity of the neighborhood. Stages with live entertainment and dance stages can be found throughout the fairgrounds.

For more information about the Fair, visit www.castrostreetfair.org

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Will Citizens United Repeal Begin in a Marin Carpool Lane?

From the Pacific Sun

A lone Marin driver’s naughty sneak into the carpool lane could spell the end of corporate personhood as we know it—or at least that’s San Rafael resident Jonathan Frieman’s plan, as he heads to Marin Superior Court next week to challenge a traffic violation and, ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Frieman was heading south on Highway 101 through Novato on Oct. 2 when he was cited for violating California vehicle code 21655.5, which prohibits drivers from entering unauthorized vehicle lanes—in Frieman’s case, being a solo occupant in a lane requiring two or more persons. But Frieman plans to contest the $478 violation in court on Jan. 7, arguing that he had corporate incorporation papers in his car at the time and, he says, the state vehicle code views corporations as persons—therefore he and his corporation constituted a two-person carpool.

According to a press release from Kathleen Russell Consulting, the Mill Valley-based firm handling publicity for Frieman’s quest for justice, state vehicle code 470’s definition of a person includes “natural persons and corporations.”

If he loses in court on Monday, continues the press release, Frieman says he is prepared to appeal the ca se all the way to the Supreme Court “in an effort to expose the impracticality of corporate personhood.”

“Corporations are imaginary entities, and we’ve let them run wild,” says Frieman. “Their original intent 200 years ago at the dawn of our nation was to serve human beings. So I’m wresting back that power by making their personhood serve me.”

The concept of corporate personhood has been an ongoing controversy for years—but it hit the mainstream in 2010 following the Supreme Court’s Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision, which held that restricting political expenditures by corporations was a violation of their First Amendment rights to free speech. Implicit in such a ruling, some argue, is that the Constitution grants protections to corporations as if they were people.

Representing Frieman is attorney Ford Greene—he, too, says the state vehicle code treats a person and a corporation as equivalent.

“When a corporation is present in one’s car, it is sufficient to qualify as a two-person occupancy for commuter lane purposes,” says Greene, who’s also a San Anselmo city councilmember. “When the corporate presence in our electoral process is financially dominant, by parity it appears appropriate to recognize such presence in an automobile.”

Also unclear: If Frieman’s ticket is dismissed on the grounds that he and the corporation constitute a carpool–could the San Rafael activist then be fined for driving with an un-seat-belted passenger?

Frieman’s court appearance takes place Monday at 3pm at the Marin Superior Court, 3501 Civic Center Drive in San Rafael.

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St. Anthony’s Breaks Ground on Their New Dining Room on January 24 at 3 pm

After 60 years and almost 39 million free, hot meals, St. Anthony Foundation is partnering with Mercy Housing California to develop a new home for St. Antony’s dining room, crowned with 90 affordable apartments for seniors at 121 Golden Gate.

This partnership makes the most of the original Dining Room site by raising a new 10-story building that will bring St. Anthony’s Dining Room, Free Clothing Program, and social Work Center together under one roof and increase service and food storage space.

Above, Mercy Housing California will develop and operate 90 supportive studio and one-bedroom apartments for very low-income and formerly homeless seniors.  Residents will only have to take the elevator to get a nutritious meal or an emergenmcy grocery bag, a set of clothing. or advice from a social worker at St. Anthony’s.  Together, St. Anthony’s and Mercy Housing Califronia will enusre that seniors live in dignity in a safe, stable and accessible home.

Financing partners for the development include the CA Tax Credit allocation commitee, the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, the City and County of SF, Citibank Community Capital, National Equity Fund, Silicon Valley Bank, Federal Home Loan Bank of SF, and the Kendeda Fund.

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Drakes Bay Oyster Company Gets Backing From Virginia-Based Interest Group

The Virginia-based Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund has agreed to administer a litigation fund to be used to help finance the Drakes Bay Oyster Company’s lawsuit against the United States National Park Service.

The oyster operation was ordered to close by the government after its long-term lease expired in November. Drakes Bay is fighting the issue in court. Drakes Bay will solicit support from its customers, supporters, restaurants and others from the Bay Area and Marin, Sonoma and Napa counties with the defense fund managing the money.

The money in the fund will be used to finance the company’s public interest litigation against the park service. Contributions to the fund are not tax deductible as charitable contributions.

 

From The Marin Independent Journal

 

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San Francisco-Based Company Leases Entire New Construction Downtown Office Tower at 350 Mission; Space for Thousands of New Employees in Transbay District; Also Signs 100,000 Square Foot Expansion at 50 Fremont


Salesforce.com has leased approximately 450,000 square feet of office space in a new office tower to be built at 350 Mission Street. The largest San Francisco lease transaction of 2012 to date, the building will break ground in January 2013 with anticipated occupancy in 2015. Salesforce.com also announced a 100,000 square foot expansion at 50 Fremont Street. This comes less than a year after salesforce.com’s January 2012 announcement of a 400,000 square foot lease in the same building.

“Salesforce.com’s major expansion downtown proves once again that investor confidence is driving San Francisco’s economic recovery,” said Mayor Lee. “This will bring thousands of new jobs and anchor the City’s Transbay District as a leading destination for innovative companies. Salesforce.com started in San Francisco, and I want to thank Marc Benioff and salesforce.com for their commitment to grow and add jobs in the City.”

“I’d like to thank Mayor Lee and his team for their continued support of Salesforce.com’s expanding downtown San Francisco campus,” said salesforce.com COO George Hu. “We are proud to have our global headquarters in San Francisco and are committed to continuing to grow and add jobs in the City.”

Owned by Kilroy Realty, the 27-story office building at 350 Mission is set to break ground in January 2013 becoming the first new high-rise building built in San Francisco since 2008 and will be the first new LEED Platinum office tower in San Francisco.

“Eight weeks from purchase to full pre-lease is a new record for Kilroy Realty Corporation” said Kilroy Realty CEO John Kilroy. “It’s an incredible outcome that couldn’t have been achieved without a phenomenal tenant in salesforce.com and the support of the Mayor’s office. We are so thrilled to have salesforce.com occupy this iconic tower in the heart of the South Financial District.

50 Fremont Street is owned by TIAA-CREF.

Today’s announced leases total more than half a million square feet and will provide space for thousands of new employees in San Francisco.  This move expands salesforce.com’s “downtown campus” and is adjacent to the new Transbay Terminal under construction.   Salesforce.com will have 1.6 million square feet of office space in San Francisco by 2016, reinforcing their status as one of the City’s largest employers. 

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Stanford’s Hoover Pavilion Gets a Beautiful Rennovation and Update

After more than half a century, the rooftop of the Hoover Pavilion is once again graced with a finial, an architectural ornament akin to the cherry on a sundae. On a cold and overcast morning in late November, a crane hoisted the 500-pound aluminum sculpture more than 105 feet off the ground. It was then lowered onto a kind of pedestal — a cube-shaped concrete stack, sheathed in copper, that sits atop the Hoover Pavilion’s tower — and bolted into place by construction workers.

The undertaking capped a 14-month, $50-million renovation of the Art Deco building, which stands at the corner of Quarry and Palo roads on the Stanford campus. The Hoover Pavilion will house several community physicians, a medical pharmacy, the Stanford Neurology Clinic, Stanford Internal Medicine, Stanford Family Medicine, the Stanford Center for Integrative Medicine, the Stanford Coordinated Care Clinic, the main branch of the Stanford Health Library and a café.

“This was Palo Alto’s skyscraper in 1931,” said Laura Jones, PhD, director of heritage services and university archeologist at Stanford, referring to the year the building first opened. She stood in the parking lot watching the crane, her hands stuffed into the pockets of a brown leather jacket. “It’s such a great building,” she said. “I think it’s pretty exciting that it’s been revitalized and will be reopening soon. People will have a chance to see how fabulous it is.”

The edifice, which has a 105-foot-tall tower and 50-foot-tall wings, had become dilapidated over the decades. Before renovation work began last year, the façade was faded and dirty, with air-conditioning units protruding from windows. Now the roughly 82,000-square-foot building has been restored to its former glory on the outside and refurbished to accommodate modern medicine on the inside. (Those AC units are gone, too, thanks to the installation of centralized heating and cooling.)

The building is scheduled to reopen Dec. 17. Originally constructed as the Palo Alto Hospital, the building was designed in the style of a ziggurat — a terraced pyramid built by Babylonians and other denizens of ancient Mesopotamia. Its south and east wing, which was added in 1939, are each four stories and connect to a five-story tower, atop of which sits a sixth-story penthouse. The ziggurat form can be seen in many Art Deco skyscrapers and large structures constructed in the early 20th century.

An iron finial once stood atop the tower of this old hospital: The adornment consisted of a spherical object, resembling a cross between a gyroscope and an armillary sundial, on a pole supported by a four-prong base. But then the finial was removed, possibly for use as scrap metal during World War II. Nobody knows for sure.

In any case, the new finial is an exact replica, except that it is made of aluminum. “Fortunately, on this project we had significant documentation to show what it originally looked like,” said Erin Ouborg, a designer and materials conservation specialist at Page & Turnbull, the architectural firm in charge of restoring the building’s historic façade. “We had the original construction drawings with all the details.”

“It’s an interesting building without the finial,” Jones added. “But with the finial, it’s just superb.”

The original, decorative terra-cotta paneling that covers portions of the building’s facade was in remarkably good shape, said Rachel DeGuzman, a senior project manager at Stanford Hospital & Clinics who oversaw the renovation project. The same couldn’t be said of the steel-reinforced concrete making up the building’s floors; decades of remodeling had left a motley array of boreholes in many of the slabs, and they needed extensive patching, she said.

Some repair work also was needed to decorative relief panels in the façade, and hundreds of repairs had to be made to the exterior walls, Ouborg said. In addition, the clay tiles on the sloping roof of the tower were replaced. Original Art Deco grillwork and other embellishments, such as a rectangular metal angel above the entrance to what is now the health library, remain intact.

But the interior of the building has been largely reconfigured to support the clinics that will be there. The building appears to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places and the California Register of Historical Resources, according to Architectural Resources Group Inc., a San Francisco-based firm. The Hoover Pavilion renovation is part of the Stanford University Medical Center Renewal Project.

 

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Estate of Thomas M. Dross Makes Major Long Term Gift to AIDS Emergency Fund

The estate of San Francisco resident Thomas M. Dross intends to donate $1 million to the AIDS Emergency Fund (www.aef-sf.org) to be used over several years including for the solicitation of ongoing challenge grants. The gift was announced today in San Francisco as part of the 30th Anniversary gala benefiting the acclaimed nonprofit that provides ongoing support to the AIDS/HIV population.

“The AIDS pandemic has been with us for more than 30 years, and those living with the disease continue to need care, funding and support, especially as they age,” said AIDS Emergency Fund Executive Director Mike Smith. “This bequest, while the largest single donation ever made to AEF, does not eliminate the continuing and growing need for funding. In light of the continuing financial crisis and the challenge faced by the AIDS/HIV community to raise vital funds, we are especially grateful for the incredible generosity of the Dross estate, and the message it will send: AIDS is not over, and we still need your help in the ongoing fight.”

Dross, of Palm Springs and San Francisco, died following a sudden heart attack on January 7, 2012. Originally from Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, Dross moved to San Francisco in the 1970s where he became a well-known advertising and marketing professional, working for such prestigious firms as Pritikin & Associates. Later, he was the founder and owner of one of San Francisco’s most popular financial district restaurants, “Upstairs, Downstairs.” He attended Widner College in Chester Pennsylvania and received his degree from the University of Pennsylvania. As a youth, He went to St. Mary’s Parochial school, St. Matthew’s High School and was a member of St. Mary’s Church all in Conshohocken. Dross is survived by a family of friends in both Palm Springs and San Francisco and family in Pennsylvania.

“Tom was one of the kindest and most generous people we ever met,” said a joint statement from Alfredo Casuso and David Perry, co-executors of the Dross will. “His will stipulated that the main beneficiaries of his will would be AIDS charities. There is no greater example of the ‘San Francisco Model’ of AIDS care than the AIDS Emergency Fund. We look forward, over the next few years, to working with AEF to make sure these funds get put to good use.”

The AIDS Emergency Fund responds compassionately to the AIDS crisis by providing immediate, short-term financial assistance to help people disabled by HIV/AIDS to cover their basic human needs and stabilize their living situations. The AIDS Emergency Fund operates with low overhead to raise and distribute funding to those most in need who are experiencing genuine emergencies or have an opportunity to permanently stabilize their living situation. Short-term financial assistance from AEF is a key element of San Francisco’s continuum of care, and AEF collaborates with other service providers to insure that clients access all available resources and assistance.

Through compassionate intervention by AEF, people living with HIV/AIDS can maintain access to medical care and drug therapies, avoid eviction and homelessness, and live with greater stability and dignity during their illness. For more information go to www.aef-sf.org

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California Center for Sustainable Energy Appoints Rear Adm. Len Hering as Executive Director

Brings strategic leadership, business acumen and innovation in sustainability             

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) announced today, Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012, the appointment of retired Rear Adm. Len Hering Sr., a prominent military and civilian sustainability leader, as its new executive director.

Alan Ball, an energy consultant and chair of CCSE’s board of directors, said Hering was selected after a nationwide search to succeed long-time CCSE executive director Irene M. Stillings who served as the center’s executive director from 2002 to 2012. CCSE is a San Diego-based nonprofit organization that works with stakeholders throughout the state’s energy sector to meet California’s aggressive energy goals and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“CCSE’s entire board of directors is very excited to have an individual with Admiral Hering’s sustainability credentials take over leadership of our organization,” Ball said. “We are confident that Hering, working with CCSE’s talented staff, can provide the knowledge, skills and direction to take the organization to higher levels, offering its energy services statewide and beyond.”

“After extensive outreach and search, Len Hering’s outstanding leadership skills and proven track record in delivering renewable energy projects rose to the top from a group of very talented applicants,” said San Diego attorney John Moot, CCSE board member and search committee chairman. “CCSE is indeed fortunate to have someone of Hering’s skills follow in the steps of Irene Stillings.”

“Len Hering is an excellent choice to lead CCSE because of his broad experience and leadership role in planning and implementing a wide range of sustainable initiatives in both the government and private sectors,” Stillings said. “His passion and focus on saving the environment, becoming oil independent and reducing greenhouse gas emissions will serve well CCSE’s goals and will no doubt influence the business community and government agencies to move forward with programs and policies leading to a more sustainable energy future.”

Hering, a resident of Chula Vista, Calif., served 32 years in the U.S. Navy, retiring in 2009, and was noted as one of the Navy’s top experts in base operations and facility support with an emphasis on sustainability and the environment. He received several state, local and federal awards for efforts ensuring the Navy’s environmental responsibilities with fiscally sound practices, including the creation of the Federal Sustainability Network in the Pacific Northwest and Southern California.

Hering has also been recognized with awards for instituting numerous sustainable measures, including solar energy, water conservation and waste reduction, while vice president for business services and administration at the University of San Diego during 2009-2012.

Most recently, Hering has been an advisor to a number of boards and companies on matters of sustainability, energy use and water conservation. He was selected as one of San Diego’s Top 100 Influentials in 2006-7, 2008 San Diego’s Deal Maker of the Year, 2008 winner of the Spirit of San Diego Award and 2010 American Lung Association Climate Champion Award. He founded the San Diego Regional Sustainability Partnership, a consortium of business, government, academic and community organizations promoting practices that support a sustainable future for the region.

While in the Navy, Hering was responsible for building a team recognized throughout the Department of Defense as the best in environmental protection and sustainable innovation. Within three years, the team reduced energy consumption by nearly 42%, diverted 75% of Navy waste from landfills and reduced water consumption by more than one billion gallons, saving tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Hering instigated wind, thermal, photovoltaic and conversion technology at all levels in Navy facilities. President Bush awarded Hering a 2005 Presidential Award for Leadership in Federal Energy Management for recognition of efforts reducing oil spills and for recycling.

CCSE has almost 90 employees and closed 2011 with more than $75 million in revenue. During 2011, CCSE awarded about $62 million in direct incentive payments to Californians who made investments in sustainable energy by purchasing solar electric, solar water heating systems, fuels cells and electric vehicles. For more information, visit www.energycenter.org <http://www.energycenter.org> .

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The California Center for Sustainable Energy is an independent, nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions via consumer education, market facilitation and policy innovation. For more information and workshop listings, visit www.energycenter.org <http://www.energycenter.org>  or call 866-733-6374.

 

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Curry Senior Center’s Ends Fortieth Year with Increased Caseload, Increased Volunteer Hours and Ever-increasing Need

Curry Senior Center began operations in 1972 to assist the city’s most vulnerable population with medical assistance, housing and meals.   Completing its 40th year of operations this month, Curry’s mission is as important today as it was in 1972.

“As we begin our 5th decade of service, there is a growing population of seniors who need our in the neighborhood,” according to Dave Knego, Executive Director.  “The senior population is most concentrated in the Tenderloin and these people need a place where all of their needs – medical, nutritional, social, and housing – can be met.”

Medical visits to Curry have increased over 10% over 2011, serving 1,625 clients with 10,509 visits. Of these statistics, this includes 166 in-home visits by physicians and nurse practitioners for seniors too frail to leave their homes.

Curry’s meal site served 49,320 breakfasts and 61,480 lunches.

The housing arm of the agency was working overtime this year securing housing for 42 seniors who were previously homeless or at-risk of becoming homeless.  And the occupancy rate for Curry’s Senior Housing was 97.5%.

The mission of Curry is not possible without the dedication of it s volunteers who have donated over 10,000 hours of time serving the agency.  This includes over 540 hours of medical translation into languages including Cantonese, Lao, Mandarin, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Program highlights in the 40th year include:

  • Recruited  a new group of daily volunteers who help serve seniors and socialize with them
  • The addition of mental health services.
  • Enhanced the infrastructure with new kitchen equipment, sturdy chairs, an expanded bathroom, and a refurbished elevator
  • Preparing for electronic health records and transitioning to team-based care.
  • Health education efforts included the addition of pain management and smoking cessation classes and expansion of one-on-one and group education on diabetes.
  • Started a new after-lunch walking group and a monthly raffle in the Dining Room.

 

 

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AutoReturn of San Francisco Wins New Contract with Kansas City to Start Municipal Towing Program

Kansas City, MO.– After a nationwide procurement search and selection process, Kansas City selected AutoReturn, the nation’s leading municipal towing management and logistics company, to oversee the city’s towing operations and handle, track, and report on towed vehicles.  Kansas City selected AutoReturn for its unique municipal towing management and logistics program.

Kansas City’s choice of AutoReturn highlights the city’s dedication to transforming its municipal towing services and streamlining city operations. The contract represents a prime example of public and private entities coming together to share best practices to simplify government services.

“We believe our solution fundamentally transforms the way cities and residents think about municipal services,” said AutoReturn CEO John Wicker. “We have been working closely with city officials and the police department in Kansas City to provide superior service and make the sometimes unfortunate experience of towing a lot easier for everyone.”

AutoReturn’s Municipal Towing Management Addresses Safety Logistics Issues

“AutoReturn’s software, people and processes have already addressed some of Kansas City’s most difficult public issues related to towing,” said Gary Majors, manager of Kansas City’s regulated industries division.  “By shortening the time it takes for equipment to reach a tow scene, the city reduces officer wait times, decreases traffic congestion, and limits the chance of secondary accidents, saving money and increasing safety.”  The average response time from dispatch to arrival since going live in October, 2012 has been reduced measurably to approximately 11 minutes.

Additionally, said Lesly Forsberg, Manager of Kansas City’s Tow Services Division, “AutoReturn’s model has relieved Kansas City of the day-to-day management of towing operators and tow requests from the Police Department, allowing city staff and police to focus their time on different important public safety issues.”

AutoReturn Technology Benefits Small, Local, Women and Minority-owned Tow Companies

By leveraging Android applications, AutoReturn is able to electronically dispatch tow trucks closest to the call, helping reduce costs incurred by the small, local, women and minority-owned tow companies.  Timothy Marshall, owner of Recovery Tow Service, Inc., said, “AutoReturn technology runs on our existing smart phones, streamlining our business.  Their fair and transparent process provides me the tools to exceed service level expectations.”

AutoReturn currently manages municipal towing and logistics operations in Baltimore County, Maryland, San Francisco, San Diego and, now, Kansas City, Missouri.

The company was founded a decade ago in San Francisco and continues to grow its business nationally. AutoReturn has been praised by cities and municipalities for bringing transparency and efficiency to what the notoriously disorganized business of municipal towing.  AutoReturn uses a proprietary computerized system and software that allows the company to efficiently tow vehicles, reducing time and manpower of police departments and municipal staff while at the same time creating fast and efficient service in returning cars to owners. AutoReturn is expected to continue to grow as other municipalities, police departments, city and regional government review the advances that AutoReturn has made to the industry.

About AutoReturn

AutoReturn is the leader in municipal towing management and logistics solutions, partnering with municipalities and existing local tow operators to help achieve efficiency, superior service, and increased cost recovery. Founded in 2002 as a technology-enabled towing management and logistics company, AutoReturn has revolutionized municipal towing, making sizable investments in technology, repeatable processes, training programs and other infrastructure. Learn more at http://www.autoreturn.com.

 

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Arthur Beren Shoes Supports Project Open Hand This Holiday Season

Arthur Beren Shoes, a retail luxury shoe store located in San Francisco’s Union Square, is excited to announce that it will be raising money for Project Open Hand this holiday season through a joint promotion on Facebook.  Through the months of November and December, for every new sign up on Facebook, Arthur Beren Shoes will donate $5 to Project Open Hand up to a total amount of $5,000.

In addition, each entrant will also have the opportunity to win a free pair of shoes valued up to $500 in our random shoe giveaway.

 

About Project Open Hand

Project Open Hand is a nonprofit organization that provides meals and groceries for people with symptomatic HIV/AIDS and breast cancer and meals for people who are homebound and critically ill. They also prepare congregate lunches for seniors over 60 years of age. They serve San Francisco and Alameda Counties, engaging more than 100 volunteers every day to nourish the community. Learn more at www.openhand.org.

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California Center for Sustainable Energy Roadshow Guides Californians to Home Energy Savings

Center for Sustainable Energy’s mobile Energy Center travels around California.

 

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) wrapped up the Energy Upgrade California Roadshow on Sunday, Nov. 18 in Cupertino, California, the eleventh stop on the energy education tour. The program, Energy Upgrade California, took energy education for homeowners on the road with the Energy Upgrade California Roadshow, a statewide mobile exhibit on energy efficiency. The roadshow started in San Diego on Nov. 1 and ended in Cupertino last Sunday reaching hundreds of homeowners throughout the state.

The Roadshow spent the last two weeks of November traveling the state to educate homeowners on the Energy Upgrade California program, how to increase home efficiency, provide energy cost savings and improve home comfort.

The roadshow made eleven stops in nine cities including Woodland Hills, Pacific Palisades, Lompoc, Santa Barbara, Sacramento, San Francisco, Antioch, Oakland and Cupertino. The stops included local farmers markets, community workshops and UC Santa Barbara. In the Bay Area, the Roadshow stopped at the Greenbuild Global Conference in San Francisco, a Contra Costa Homeowner Workshop at the Antioch Community Center, Oakland Tech High School and Sears at the Vallco Shopping Center in Cupertino.

Energy Upgrade California provides a “whole house” approach that focuses on a house as a system and looks at how various elements affect energy use. The program presents residents with an array of improvements to increase home health, comfort and safety while saving money on their utility bills.

The program educates homeowners on basic improvements to increase home efficiency and provides eligible homeowners a chance to sign up for an assessment, the first step towards improving their home and receiving rebates. Rebates range from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on the energy savings achieved.

Eligible California homeowners can sign up for a home assessment by visiting the Energy Upgrade California website at EnergyUpgradeCA.org and typing in their county name or zip code.

About Energy Upgrade California

Energy Upgrade California™ is a program of the California Public Utilities Commission and California Energy Commission to reduce residential energy use, curb greenhouse gas emissions and create more comfortable and healthy homes. For more information on Energy Upgrade California, visit www.energyupgradeca.org.

About Energy Upgrade California Roadshow

The Energy Upgrade California Roadshow is a mobile exhibit in a trailer designed to inform and inspire Californians to learn about and install energy-saving improvements in their homes. The Energy Upgrade California Roadshow is funded in part by the Department of Energy in support of the goals of its Better Buildings Neighborhood Program. It was built by CCSE, an independent nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions, based in San Diego.

About the California Center for Sustainable Energy

The California Center for Sustainable Energy (CCSE) is an independent, nonprofit organization that accelerates the adoption of clean and efficient energy solutions via consumer education, market facilitation and policy innovation. For more information and workshop listings, visit www.energycenter.org or call (866) 733-6374.

 

 

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Airbnb Study Finds Online Travel Service Has Positive Effects on San Francisco Economy, Neighborhoods

Airbnb, the world’s leading marketplace for booking, discovering, and listing unique spaces around the world, today released a study that highlights Airbnb’s impact on local economies.

The study was conducted by HR&A Advisors, an industry-leading real estate and economic development consulting firm, and demonstrates that Airbnb provides a major economic boost both to its users and the neighborhoods and cities where they visit and live.  HR&A conducts sophisticated economic impact analyses for a wide variety of industries and clients, and cities around the United States come to HR&A for guidance on fostering strong and sustainable local economies and attracting new sources of economic activity.  Drawing on this expertise, HR&A developed a customized approach to quantify the unique impacts of the new kinds of tourism that Airbnb brings to San Francisco.

The study found that people who rent their homes on Airbnb use the income they earn to stay afloat in difficult economic times. Additionally, the study determined that travelers who use Airbnb enjoy longer stays, spend more money in the cities they visit, and bring income to less-touristed neighborhoods.

“Airbnb represents a new form of travel,” says Airbnb CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky. “This study shows that Airbnb is having a huge positive impact – not just on the lives of our guests and hosts, but also on the local neighborhoods they visit and live in.”

The economic impact study underscores the significant benefits that Airbnb, a pioneer of the new sharing economy, has on cities and their residents. Some highlights from the study’s findings:

- From April 2011 to May 2012, guests and hosts utilizing Airbnb have contributed $56 million in total spending to San Francisco’s economy, $43.1 million of which supported local businesses throughout the city’s diverse neighborhoods.

- 90% of Airbnb hosts rent the homes they live in to visitors on an occasional basis, and nearly half the income they make is spent on living expenses (rent/mortgage, utilities, and other bills).

- Airbnb guests stay an average of 5.5 days and spend $1,045 during their stay on food, shopping and transportation, compared to hotel guests who stay an average of 3.5 days and spend $840.

- 72% of Airbnb properties in San Francisco are located outside the central hotel corridor. More than 90% of Airbnb guests visiting San Francisco prefer to stay in neighborhoods that are “off the beaten track.” Over 60% of Airbnb guest-spending occurs in the neighborhoods in which the guests stay.

Founded in August of 2008 and based in San Francisco, Calif., Airbnb is a trusted community marketplace for people to list, discover, and book unique accommodations around the world – online or from a mobile phone.  Whether an apartment for a night, a castle for a week, or a villa for a month, Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences at any price point, in more than 30,000 cities and 192 countries.  And with world-class customer service and a growing community of users, Airbnb is the easiest way for people to monetize their extra space and showcase it to an audience of millions.

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President Obama, John Boehner begin year-end duel on taxes

Washington (CNN) — Flush with re-election vigor, President Barack Obama on Friday will provide his first public comments on the upcoming negotiations with Congress on how to deal with pending tax hikes and spending cuts that create the so-called fiscal cliff facing the economy at the end of the year.

Obama and House Speaker John Boehner are positioned as the lead negotiators in a showdown between Democrats and Republicans over the issue identified by voters as a top priority: reducing the chronic federal deficits and debt considered a threat to economic prosperity and national security.

Boehner, R-Ohio, has signaled a willingness to deal but also maintained hardline GOP opposition to any tax increase. He will speak to reporters two hours before Obama delivers his statement on the economy Friday afternoon at the White House.

His hand was weakened by the election results Tuesday that returned Obama to the White House, broadened the Democratic majority in the Senate and slightly narrowed the Republican majority in the House.

Retiring GOP Rep. Steve LaTourette of Ohio told CNN that a poll commissioned by centrist Republicans showed that voters wanted Congress to fix the nation’s fiscal problems rather than cling to political orthodoxy.

“They didn’t send the same bunch back to town in this election because they love what they’re doing,” LaTourette said. “They sent him back because they don’t trust either side, but they do expect them to get this thing done.”

While the result was another split Congress like the current session that has become a symbol of legislative dysfunction, both sides have signaled a possible new openness to an agreement that was unreachable in the past two years.

In the final days of the campaign, Vice President Joe Biden referred to private talks with members of Congress on the pending fiscal impacts of expiring tax cuts and mandatory budget cuts. This week, Boehner called on Obama to work with him to complete a comprehensive deficit reduction agreement — the “grand bargain” that eluded them last year.

LaTourette said both Boehner and Obama were held back from a deal back then because of pressure from their respective bases — Republicans who signed a pledge against any new taxes stopped Boehner, while liberal defenders of entitlement programs halted Obama.

“The ‘no tax pledge’ people in the Republican Party yanked Boehner back and the ‘don’t you dare touch the middle class’ entitlement people in the president’s party pulled him back, and as a result those talks collapsed,” LaTourette said.

Boehner made clear this week that a comprehensive agreement won’t happen by the end of the year in the lame-duck session of Congress. He proposed that the two sides use that time to set up a framework for substantive negotiations when the new Congress comes in next year while taking short-term steps to avoid the fiscal cliff.

Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, a top Democrat in the chamber, said such a timetable could work.

“We have a chance in the lame duck to at least start the process, and I think there’s a chance to rally bipartisan support,” he said. “These are basic issues we can work out, and the president is in a position to do that.”

The fiscal cliff comprises two main elements. Tax cuts from the administration of President George W. Bush will expire on December 31, triggering a return to higher Clinton-era rates for everyone.

In addition, $1.2 trillion in mandatory across-the-board budget cuts — known in legislative parlance as the sequester — will take effect next year unless Congress finds a way to offset that amount in the federal budget.

Another looming issue will be the need to again increase the nation’s debt ceiling sometime in the spring, creating the potential for more political brinksmanship that contributed to last year’s first-ever downgrade of the U.S. credit rating.

Both sides agree the best outcome would be a broad deal addressing the overall need for deficit reduction, including reforms to the tax system and entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

However, they remain far apart on exactly how to forge such an agreement.

Obama campaigned on having wealthy Americans contribute more to deficit reduction efforts, and administration officials say the president will veto any package that extends the Bush tax cuts for income over $250,000.

“I’ve already signed a trillion dollars’ worth of spending cuts. I intend to do more, but if we’re serious about the deficit, we also have to ask the wealthiest Americans to go back to the rates that they paid when Bill Clinton was in office,” Obama said last week on the campaign trail.

In an e-mailed statement, Obama campaign policy director James Kvaal said the president wants “a balanced plan that cuts the deficit by $4 trillion with $2.50 worth of spending cuts for every dollar in revenue and reduces spending on Medicare, Medicaid and other entitlements.”

Boehner and Republicans oppose raising taxes on anyone, and instead back a broad reform of the tax system that would lower rates further for everyone while eliminating some deductions and loopholes.

While Boehner said this week that his side was open to increasing revenue from such reforms, he made clear that such increases should come from resulting economic growth instead of higher tax rates.

In essence, Boehner proposed the kind of tax reform championed by failed Republican presidential challenger Mitt Romney, whose plan was criticized by Obama and many economists for being unrealistic in assuming that the combination of closed loopholes and economic growth would equal the lost revenue of tax cuts.

Obama’s victory gives him new leverage in the budget battles after Republicans forced the president and Democrats into prolonged and sometimes bitter showdowns in the last two years, including threats of government shutdowns and default.

One top Democrat with close ties to leaders on Capitol Hill and the White House said that the imminent expiration of the Bush tax cuts means Obama “doesn’t have to do anything and everyone’s taxes go up,” which is a GOP nightmare.

Such an increase would affect personal income tax, the estate tax, dividends and capital gains taxes.

In addition, some officials are hinting the feared sequester cuts don’t have to be implemented right away in the new year, giving at least a few months for a deal to be worked out.

By Tom Cohen, CNN. CNN’s Jessica Yellin and Allison Brennan contributed to this report.

 

 

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Victory for San Bruno, S.F., Ratepayer Advocates Over CPUC, PG&E Scheme to Impose Unilateral Mediation in San Bruno Blast Settlement

Former Sen. George Mitchell his law firm DLA Piper have offered to back out as mediators in talks to determine the fines Pacific Gas & Electric Co. should pay for the deadly San Bruno pipeline blast, the San Francisco Chronicle reported today.

“Sen. Mitchell and his law firm DLA Piper did the right thing by telling the California Public Utilities Commission that he wouldn’t mediate settlement discussions in the San Bruno explosion and fire without all the parties agreeing. We are very pleased and looking forward getting back to direct negotiations with PG&E,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane.

“We hope this decision sends an important message to the CPUC and PG&E. They must immediately return to the negotiation table and offer a real settlement to atone for the safety laws they violated and the people and community they have devastated.

“We thank the City of County of San Francisco, the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, and TURN for standing with us to fight and stand up for fairness and to ensure justice is done in San Bruno and statewide.  We also thank Assemblyman Jerry Hill and the citizens of San Bruno for standing firm and challenging the CPUC and PG&E actions.

“The unilateral announcement this past week by the CPUC that it had selected a mediator without consulting any of the parties is consistent with the cozy and unholy relationship between the CPUC and PG&E.  This action was symbolic of the broken, dysfunctional and dishonest relationship between PG&E and the CPUC, the agency that is supposed to be the watchdog and protector of the public’s interest.

“We call into question the integrity of the entire CPUC process that has occurred over the past two years since our community was ripped apart by the negligent and systematic safety failures of PG&E and the inability of the CPUC to independently protect and represent the interests of the residents of San Bruno and the people of California.

“We look forward to returning to the settlement negotiations to represent the interests of the citizens of San Bruno, the memory of those whose lives were taken by PG&E’s negligence, their families and friends, and equally important, every other city, town and community in the State of California so we can help others prevent what happened to us,” Mayor Ruane concluded.

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Francis Xavier “F.X.” Crowley For San Francisco District 7 Supervisor

Editorial: Sentinel Endorses Francis Xavier Crowley for District 7 Supervisor

There is only one candidate that truly represents the west of Twin Peaks neighborhoods and that is F.X. Crowley. We give Crowley our strongest endorsement as the best candidate to succeed outgoing Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and represent District 7.

Crowley is the right leader to represent the District and to ensure public safety by adding more police and fighting crime in our neighborhoods as well as being a voice of fiscal responsibility on the Board of Supervisors.  Having grown up in the District, there is no better candidate to represent D7 than F.X. Crowley.

Crowley is a native San Franciscan who was born and grew up in the District in Miraloma Park–and graduated from St. Ignatius College Preparatory (SI) in 1977. He is a longtime Stagehands union leader who has won the respect of the business community and a highly regarded civic leader, having served as the President of the Public Utilities Commission and a Port Commissioner with distinction.  He fought to rebuild and protect Hetch Hetchy on the PUC and was a strong leader for growth and fiscal responsibility as a member of the Port Commission.

Crowley has won the endorsement of Sen. Diane Feinstein; Lt. Gov. and former Mayor Gavin Newsom; San Francisco Police Officers Association; San Francisco Firefighters; Sen. Leland Yee; Assembly Speaker Pro Temp Fiona Ma; Former Mayor and Police Chief Frank Jordan, Retired Judge and former Senator Quentin Kopp; Planning Commissioner Mike Antonini; Justice Harry W. Low; Thomas “Tippy” Mazzucco, President, San Francisco Police Commission; Diarmuid Philpott, President, United Irish Societies, and retired SFPD Deputy Chief; Joe Russoniello, former United States Attorney; and Kevin Ryan, former United States Attorney.

And he has our endorsement as well.

Crowley’s leadership is in sharp contrast to the other candidates in the race, one of them being Mike Garcia, a retired Louisiana options trader who until recently was a registered Libertarian who expressed his desire to legalize drugs.  Garcia is clearly out of step with the voters of the District who favor strong enforcement of drug laws to prevent home break-ins; and Norman Yee, a left-wing/ Progressive member of the school board and advocate of legalizing prostitution, has demonstrated that he is out of touch with voters. Lastly, there is candidate Joel Engardio, who has at least been honest in admitting he is a carpetbagger who only moved into the district over a year ago to run for this seat.

There is only once choice for District 7 voters and that is district native Francis Xavier Crowley.

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DLA Piper, Sen. Mitchell Tainted by PG&E San Bruno Case: Recusal is the Only Path to Integrity for Law Firm, California Public Utilities Commission

George Mitchell: Reputation at Stake

Editorial

This week’s unilateral announcement by the California Public Utilities Commission to select DLA Piper—a global law firm that has represented the company headed by the current CPUC President Michael Peevy and worked to defend utility companies in major litigation—has sent shock waves throughout California’s legal community, elected leaders, the public and the media.

The fact that none of the parties at the negotiating table–with the exception of the ‘defendant’ in the case, Pacific Gas & Electric Co.–knew of or agreed to mediation nor was a party to the selection of the mediator, has raised ethical and legal questions that stun even the most passive observers in this monumental national public safety case.

The most fundamental basis of mediation is the agreement by all parties that it is necessary, closely followed by the mutual agreement of an unbiased and neutral mediator.  That very principal has been broken in every conceivable fashion by the California Public Utilities Commission and admitted as such to the Associated Press when CPUC Commissioner Mike Florio said in an interview he felt the move to inform PG&E first about the selection of DLA Piper had not been well thought out: “I think we handled this rather poorly. Announcing it before people were brought into it was not a good idea,” Florio said.

In our opinion, it’s beyond not being a ‘good idea,’ it breaks the very foundation of mediation and ruins the integrity of the CPUC process and DLA Piper’s participation.

If DLA Piper and Senator George Mitchell hope to retain any integrity and their reputations in the legal community, they must immediately resign this assignment now they have become aware of the unethical and potentially illegal manner in which they were selected.  We urge them to resign even before the CPUC leadership has the opportunity to rescind their appointment. It is not only the honorable thing to do, but it is the only thing that will preserve their reputation and demonstrate that they are not simply stooges for the utility industry and CPUC President Michael Peevy.

We commend San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera for standing up and demonstrating his leadership in joining the challenge to demand the CPUC decision to unilaterally appoint DLA Piper and Sen. George Mitchell as mediators when they have conflicts not only with their representation of utility companies, but directly with the interests of San Francisco itself.

As always, San Bruno must win praise for being a leader in its attempt to protect public safety and its citizens in opposing this dubious appointment.  And The Utility Reform Network and the California Division of Ratepayers Advocates should be justly proud that they stood up and truly represented the ratepayers in calling attention to this disgraceful appointment of the clearly conflicted DLA Piper and Sen. Mitchell.

We hope for the sake of Sen. George Mitchell and DLA Piper that they resign now that they know their appointment was tainted, their position conflicted, and their very reputation is at stake.

Their integrity is in their hands and their decision.

 

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San Francisco City Attorney Blasts CPUC, PG&E Over DLA Piper Law Firm Selection in San Bruno Blast: Will DLA Piper Recuse Itself?

DLA Piper Law Firm Conflict in CPUC PG&E Case

More Bad News for DLA Piper: Conflict is raised by SF City Attorney. DLA Piper is adverse to S.F. in litigation, claims several utilities among its clients. CPUC Has Refused Comment on Conflict, Call for DLA to Recuse Firm

San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera today expressed serious concerns about the California Public Utilities Commission’s unilateral appointment of former U.S. Senator George Mitchell and DLA Piper to mediate a settlement of enforcement actions against Pacific Gas and Electric Company over the deadly September 2010 explosion of its natural gas pipeline in San Bruno, Calif.

Mitchell currently serves as chairman emeritus of DLA Piper LLC, an international law firm that represents multiple parties currently involved in separate litigation against the City and County of San Francisco. The firm’s utility sector clients include Southern California Edison and Exxon Mobil.

“I have the highest regard for U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, and I greatly admire him for a distinguished public service career that includes major diplomatic achievements in Northern Ireland and the Middle East,” said Herrera. “But the legitimacy of an enforcement action involving one of the deadliest gas pipeline catastrophes in California history must be beyond reproach. What’s at stake in these proceedings is the safety of millions of Californians, and they deserve a process untainted by the appearance of utility industry bias. I don’t doubt Sen. Mitchell’s integrity or good intentions.”

Herrera continued “But the fact is, he leads a law firm that is both adverse to San Francisco in litigation, and that represents major gas utilities involved in cases before the CPUC. Moreover, the commission’s decision to unilaterally appoint a mediator raises larger questions about why the CPUC elected to appoint an outside mediator in the first place. It’s possible that mediation could prove helpful. But it is far more important that CPUC live up to its obligations as an industry regulator that protects the public interest.”

Herrera has been sharply critical of the CPUC following revelations from an independent review panel’s 2011 investigation into the San Bruno tragedy, which concluded that the commission’s “culture serves as an impediment to effective regulation,” and which went on to fault state regulators who “did not have the resources to monitor PG&E’s performance in pipeline integrity management adequately or the organizational focus that would have elevated concerns about PG&E’s performance in a meaningful way.” In July 2011, Herrera initiated steps to sue the CPUC along with federal regulators for failing to reasonably enforce federal gas pipeline safety standards as required by the U.S. Pipeline Safety Act. Herrera later elected to omit CPUC as a defendant after the commission showed signs of progress.

DLA Piper LLC contacted Herrera’s office last Friday, before the CPUC announced its appointment of Mitchell to serve as mediator, to inform city lawyers about litigation and other matters in which DLA Piper is currently adverse to the City and County of San Francisco. Those cases include litigation involving hotel chains and airlines.

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San Bruno, Ratepayer Advocates Challenge California Public Utilities Commission, PG&E: Demand CPUC Rescind Appointment of Sen. George Mitchell in Blockbuster PG&E Announcement

A blistering attack by the City of San Bruno, ratepayer advocates and Assemblyman Jerry Hill called into question the California Public Utility’s appointment of Sen. George Mitchell and his law firm DLA Piper as mediators in the PG&E explosion and fire settlement.

Mayor Jim Ruane of San Bruno, Thomas J. Long, Legal Director of consumer advocacy group The Utility Reform Network (TURN), and Karen Paull, Acting Legal Counsel, The Division of Ratepayer Advocates (DRA) all stood in front of the CPUC this morning and lambasted the “unholy and cozy alliance” between regulator CPUC and the regulated Pacific Gas & Electric Co.

The City of San Bruno and consumer advocates signed a letter demanding the CPUC rescind the appointment of Sen. Mitchell immediately because the CPUC  went behind their backs in appointing the mediator to oversee the talks and presented evidence that CPUC and PG&E had ex-parte contact in making the decision. The groups objected to the choice of mediator and said they should have been consulted before regulator CPUC appointed the mediator.

The California Public Utilities Commission had announced Monday that it had appointed former U.S. Senator George Mitchell to serve as mediator in the talks.

San Bruno City Manager Connie Jackson and attorneys with San Francisco and the consumer groups said the CPUC had notified PG&E before it appointed Mr. Mitchell, but didn’t notify San Bruno, San Francisco, or ratepayer advocates and officials.

“The unilateral announcement by the CPUC Monday that it had selected a mediator without consulting any of the parties at the negotiating table is consistent with the cozy and unholy relationship between the CPUC and PG&E.  This action is symbolic of the broken, dysfunctional and dishonest relationship between PG&E and the CPUC, the agency that is supposed to be the watchdog and protector of the public’s interest,” said Mayor Ruane of San Bruno.

“San Bruno is rightly concerned that the DLA Piper law firm has previously represented utilities–and that the firm was selected unilaterally by the CPUC and PG&E without the participation of any other party, which goes against the fundamental principles of mediation,” said Mayor Ruane at the press conference today.

“It also is of deep concern to us that DLA Piper has a lengthy list of corporate clients, including Southern California Edison, which the current chairman of the CPUC, Michael Peevey, once headed, according to news media reports about the appointment.

“In order for any mediation to succeed, the mediator will have to assure all the parties to our satisfaction that they have no conflicts, that they can be an unbiased mediator, and that the process will be open, transparent and fair,” Mayor Ruane said.

He continued: “We find that there is too much of a coincidence that one week before the announcement of DLA Piper as mediator, we were told that “a mediator with gravitas” is necessary to settle the negotiations, and now, with the unilateral start of mediation, that PG&E shareholders are paying for the mediation. This leads us, we rightly believe, to the conclusion that the CPUC and PG&E have had improper ex-parte contact as part of this process.

“We state unequivocally for the record that no fine or settlement with PG&E will ever be legitimate or credible without the participation of the City of San Bruno.

“We call into question the integrity of the entire CPUC process that has occurred over the past two years since our community was ripped apart by the negligent and systematic safety failures of PG&E and the inability of the CPUC to independently protect and represent the interests of the residents of San Bruno and the people of California.

“The healing process has physical manifestations in the reconstruction of our Crestmoor neighborhood. However, the scars and horrors of the explosion and fire remain. The City committed to its citizens that it would be an active and relentless participant in all of the investigations that followed.

“We remain at the table to represent the interests of the citizens of San Bruno, the memory of those whose lives were taken by PG&E’s negligence, their families and friends, and equally important, every other city, town and community in the State of California so we can help others prevent what happened to us,” Mayor Ruane concluded.

Mayor Ruane and the consumer advocate attorneys said Sen. Mitchell’s previous work for Southern California Edison, a utility where CPUC Chairman Michael Peevey was formerly an executive, made them question whether he would be impartial.

PG&E and CPUC investigators said Friday that they had started fresh talks to settle the investigators’ allegations that the utility violated numerous state and federal safety rules prior to the fatal 2010 pipeline explosion in San Bruno.

The CPUC had been holding public hearings following three investigations investigators completed after a section of the utility’s gas pipeline in San Bruno ruptured on Sept. 9, 2010, igniting a giant fireball that killed eight people and injured 58. The fire destroyed 38 homes and damaged 70 others. The neighborhood where the blast occurred hasn’t been fully rebuilt, although some houses have been rebuilt.

Both federal and state investigators blamed PG&E for the blast and found that defects in the utility’s aging pipeline and inadequate pipeline safety management contributed to the pipe’s rupture.

A CPUC judge suspended those hearings last week, after state investigators, who are employed by the CPUC, asked to stop the hearings to allow time for a fresh round of talks with PG&E.

Members of the CPUC have said they plan to order fines and possibly other penalties against PG&E over the San Bruno disaster.

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