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Daily news roundup for Thursday, May 7, 2015

Mike Koozmin/SF Examiner
The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve waiving taxi medallion renewal fees for this year, which are $1,000 annually.

Here's what's happening in the Bay Area, as curated by KALW news:

Taxi drivers catch a break from SFMTA // SF Examiner

"Fearing unfair competition from Uber and Lyft, The City just cut taxi drivers a break. The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency board of directors voted unanimously Tuesday to approve waiving taxi medallion renewal fees for this year, which are $1,000 annually.

"'We’re trying to level the playing field,' said Kate Toran, taxi director at the SFMTA. Uber and Lyft drivers do not pay the fees to start driving, but taxi drivers must own or lease medallions from The City. Since 2010, medallions cost $250,000, and require annual renewal fees. Medallions are essentially permits to drive…. The SFMTA estimates it will lose about $800,000 from waiving the fees this year."


Oakland Has a Transparency Problem // East Bay Express

"Oakland has a transparency problem. Numerous city boards and commissions do not comply with California's Ralph M. Brown Act and the Oakland Sunshine Ordinance, which require that government agencies inform the public about public meetings in advance. The Brown Act requires that the public be notified 72 hours before a meeting. The Sunshine Ordinance requires ten days notice for city council, planning commission, and port commission meetings, and 72 hours for other boards and commissions. State and city laws also require government agencies to post the agendas in a public place that is accessible 24 hours a day.

"However, the city is part of a public joint powers authority (JPA) that receives taxpayer funds and has no functioning website and hasn't posted meeting agendas or minutes in years, despite the fact that the JPA's board is holding frequent meetings and spending public money. And that's not the only board or commission that has failed to inform the public about what it's doing. 'Telling people when a public meeting is and what's on the agenda is one of the most basic functions of government,' said Joshua Daniels, a good government gadfly who closely watches Oakland City Hall."


S.F. supes back music venues against noise complaints // SF Chronicle

"Sorry, noise-sensitive San Franciscans: The Board of Supervisors passed legislation Tuesday aimed at protecting music venues from lawsuits. The measure, introduced in December by Board of Supervisors President London Breed, prohibits neighbors of music venues from suing them as a nuisance if the club is operating within the constraints of its entertainment permit.

"It would also require developers and city agencies to take into account the existence of the venues during the construction of new housing and to notify potential residents of their existence before they sign a lease or buy a unit. The legislation addresses tensions that have arisen as housing developments are built close to existing clubs."


SF supervisors' views mixed on Mission housing moratorium // SF Examiner

"A debate over how best to address the housing crisis in the Mission has taken political center stage after the Board of Supervisors was asked Tuesday to temporarily halt market rate housing development in the neighborhood. The debate is expected to continue for weeks as the proposal’s supporters and Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission and introduced the legislation, will call on the board to approve the housing moratorium.

"Whether Campos can secure nine votes to pass the legislation is unclear, though many say he won’t. On Tuesday five supported it: Supervisors Eric Mar, John Avalos, Jane Kim, Norman Yee and Campos. Meanwhile four supervisors remained undecided, saying they needed more time to review the proposal. Those were London Breed, Malia Cohen, Katy Tang and Julie Christensen. Supervisors Scott Wiener and Mark Farrell opposed the legislation."


California Standardized Tests Spark Backlash in Oakland // East Bay Express

"Chaz Garcia's fourth-grade students spent twelve hours taking standardized tests last week. The teacher at Esperanza Elementary School in the Elmhurst district of East Oakland had anticipated that the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC), a new state exam tied to federal Common Core standards, might be draining for students. But it was worse than she expected. That's because her students were taking the test on Chromebooks — new Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) laptop computers that, according to multiple teachers, have been plagued by technical malfunctions before and during the test.

"'They are stressed out ... and they are discouraged,' Garcia said of her fourth-graders, explaining that one student's exam essay was completely erased because of a glitch that Garcia couldn't fix. Others had to restart computers because of various malfunctions, including the failure of audio technology required for certain questions. 'These kids are guinea pigs,' she said, adding, 'We all know this is not the best use of student time.'"


SF Rec & Park Clarifies Dolores Park Police Enforcement Policies // Uptown Almanac

"… In addition to announcing that the north side of the park would reopen to the public late “June-ish,” and that the south side of the park would be closed for roughly twelve months, [Taylor] Emerson took time to make it clear that Rec and Park is not trying to shut the wonderful party that is Dolores Park down. Rather, they are attempting to ensure the park is safe and enjoyable for all—including the vilified IPA drinking crowd. To this end, she said that park rangers patrolling Dolores would focus enforcement on hard alcohol and amplified sound, leaving the hypothetical weed smoking didgeridoo player free to drone on in peace.

"What’s more, in a fascinating example of dedication to informed policy making, Emerson detailed an afternoon she spent shadowing Michael—better known as the dreadlocked, machete-wielding coconut and rum dude. Calling him “a very important part of the park,” and “an ambassador,” Emerson explained that by working with Michael to impress upon his clientele the importance of composting spent coconuts, almost 100% of the coconuts he sold that day were properly sorted into the compost dumpster. It is this type of approach—working in collaboration with those who use the park instead of ticketing them—that seems to be the most thoughtful way forward."