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Bay Area Headlines: Tuesday, 6/16/20 PM

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PG&E Pleads Guilty / Stinson Beach Fire / San Luis Obispo Fire / Oakland City Council’s Mid-Cycle Budget Review

PG&E Pleads Guilty 

Pacific Gas & Electric pled guilty today to 84 felony counts of involuntary manslaughter for a wildfire that wiped out most of the town of Paradise. The nation’s largest utility took responsibility for the death and destruction caused by its history of neglect and greed. The hearing comes nearly three months after PG&E reached a plea agreement in the November 2018 fire. PG&E CEO Bill Johnson acknowledged that PG&E's rickety electrical grid set off the tragedy and apologized to the victims.The company has agreed to pay a $3.5 million fine and $500,000 for the criminal investigation.

Stinson Beach Fire

According to SF GATE, a fire that broke out in Stinson Beach this morning has damaged several buildings in the town's downtown area and shut down a stretch of Highway 1. The California Highway Patrol reports an explosion in the area may have caused the fire. At least one building was seriously damaged. Area residents say the fire is taking place in a building housing the Oceanic Realty office, near Al's Alleged Antiques and the Sand Dollar restaurant. The restaurant is a historic business dating back to 1921.

San Luis Obispo Fire

All lanes of U.S. 101 are open again after a fast-moving wildfire on California’s Central Coast closed the major highway and threatened dozens of homes. Authorities lifted evacuations late last night after crews made progress against the blaze at Avila Beach — that’s an unincorporated San Luis Obispo County community about midway between San Francisco and LA. The fire was reported at around 3 p.m. yesterday and quickly spread to about 400 acres. About 200 firefighters battled the blaze and remained on the scene overnight. At its height, the blaze threatened about 100 homes. The cause is under investigation.

Oakland City Council’s Mid-Cycle Budget Review

The Oakland City Council is conducting its mid-cycle budget review today. And community groups are calling for that budget to go less to the police and more to social services that support black communities.

One of the main drivers of this push is the group Anti Police-Terror Project or APTP. The group highlights the fact that OPD currently accounts for nearly half of the city’s general fund spending and wants to see that number cut by 150 million, or about 50 percent. 

The group wants to see that money go instead to a proposal they’re calling The Black New Deal. The plan would provide services to help address the disproportionate impacts of Covid on black communities - by providing things like free reusable face masks, hand sanitizer, and more testing. But the plan also calls for investing in services that go beyond the Covid pandemic, like keeping Oakland public schools open and investing more in black-owned businesses. The plan is supported by Desley Brooks and Alicia Garza, among other local activists. 

Also on the agenda today, the City Council will be discussing an immediate end to the use of tear gas during the pandemic and whether to fund more helicopter maintenance for the Oakland Police Department.