2010 in Oakland: The year’s biggest stories

Photo by Dara Kerr.

Photo by Dara Kerr.

2010 was a tumultuous year for Oakland as both the city and state faced a heated election season, the courts conducted several high-profile trials, and the effects of the 2008 financial collapse continued to echo throughout the local economy. But there were plenty of new starts, too: new local businesses, new city plans and policies, new court decisions and by the end of the year, new faces in the top ranks of the city’s government, including Oakland’s first female, Asian American mayor.

Here’s our guide to Oakland’s biggest stories in 2010 — and please cast your vote in our poll for which of three of these events you think will most influence the city’s future.

January

Testimony began in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the legal challenge to Proposition 8, the 2008 California ballot initiative that amended the state’s Constitution to define marriage as only between a man and a woman. Although the trial was held in the San Francisco courthouse of U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn R. Walker, it was closely watched by same-sex marriage advocates throughout the Bay Area and the state. Closing arguments were delivered in June, and Walker then had several months to decide whether or not to overturn Proposition 8.

Plans to build a hotly contested connector between BART and the Oakland Airport hit a snag when the Federal Transit Administration warned BART officials that  it would withdraw $70 million in federal stimulus funds because the project proposal did not comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. The news about whether the project would go forward or fall apart would seesaw throughout the coming year.

February

City Attorney John Russo announced that his office would seek a gang injunction covering approximately 100 blocks of North Oakland’s Golden Gate neighborhood in an effort to curtail criminal activity by members of the North Side Oakland Gang. (The injunction later took effect in June, and drew some community protest over civil liberties and racial profiling concerns.)

The Federal Transit administration made good on its warning, withdrawing $70 million from the connector project, reallocating it for regional bus and rail improvements. And facing a lean fiscal year, the City Council voted in $15.3 million in budget cuts.

March

On March 4, teachers and students throughout the state marched to oppose state education budget cuts. In Oakland, a crowd of 1,500 students, teachers and other supporters gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza for a peaceful protest. Later that afternoon, approximately 150 protesters were arrested after attempting to stop traffic on the 880 freeway. (Oakland North’s full coverage of California’s education budget crisis can be found here.) Perhaps the Oakland public education program hit hardest by the financial crisis was adult education, which faced steep budget cuts and layoffs.

March also brought the return of the Oakland Running Festival (AKA the Oakland Marathon) after a 25-year hiatus, and the Tech girls and Castlemont boys brought home the Oakland Athletic League hoops titles. It was, of course, time for the annual Oakland Museum of California White Elephant Sale.

April

On April 22, better known as Earth Day, Oakland released the first draft of the city’s proposed Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by 36 percent of what they were in the year 2005 by the year 2020.

After rejecting the Oakland Unified School District’s “last, best and final” contract offer, on April 29, Oakland public school teachers and students went on strike over contract negotiations and salaries that have not increased since 2003.

The news that drew the highest Oakland North site traffic for the month? Bakesale Betty opened a second storefront.

May

The Oakland Museum of California celebrated its re-opening and redesign with an overnight party; Oakland North put together a special interactive exhibit showcasing the museum’s new design that you can see here.

In response to Arizona passing S.B. 1070, a stringent immigration reform bill, Oakland’s City Council voted to boycott Arizona, and protesters rallied at Fruitvale Plaza. In the same month, Alameda County adopted a controversial fingerprint deportation status check for arrestees.

June

In June, the Oakland City Council laid off 80 police officers in an attempt to close the city’s $30.5 million budget gap, leading to changes in the way that the OPD handles non-violent crime and community policing. Tensions flared as city officials held meetings throughout the city to discuss Oakland’s budget deficit.

In San Francisco, Judge Vaughn Walker heard closing arguments in the Proposition 8 trial, and in Los Angeles jury selection began in trial of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle trial over the 2009 shooting of Oscar Grant on the Fruitvale BART station platform. The trial had been moved out of Alameda County after a judge ruled that Mehserle could not get a fair trial here.

June also meant it was time for fun summer events: local bike groups launched Oaklavía, Oakland’s version of the “Sunday Streets” program, Oakland caught World Cup Fever, and young musicians got their kicks at Girls Rock Camp.

July

The Oakland City Council voted to allow four industrial-scale medical marijuana farms to be established in Oakland. (In November, it later voted to double the number of pot farm permits it would issue, although the permitting process was suspended in December after the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office warned the council of potential conflicts with state and federal law.)

On July 8, a Los Angles jury issued its decision in the trial of former BART police officer Johannes Mehserle. The verdict: involuntary manslaughter. A peaceful planned protest in downtown Oakland turned violent after dark, as a smaller group of people looted shops, vandalized downtown buildings and set small fires. 78 people were arrested. (You can find Oakland North’s complete coverage of the Mehserle trial here.)

August

On August 4, Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned Proposition 8, California’s same-sex marriage ban, but issued a stay on his ruling, preventing couples from marrying immediately. In the ensuring weeks, confusion reigned as Walker lifted his stay, then Proposition 8 proponents appealed his ruling to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which imposed another stay on same-sex marriages until the end of 2011, pending an appeal of Vaughn’s ruling. Ultimately, same-sex marriages were not permitted in California throughout 2010.

Also in August, Oakland Mayor Ronald Dellums announced he would not seek a second term, setting off a free-for-all to elect his replacement. Several candidates had previously thrown their hats in the ring including former State Senate President Don Perata, District 4 councilmember Jean Quan and councilmember at large Rebecca Kaplan, but by mid-August, a total of 10 candidates had registered to run.

Oakland’s festival season kicked off, too, with the Eat Real Festival and StreetFest, the National Night Out block parties, the 10th anniversary of Art & Soul, and the first Oakland Underground Market.

September

Festival season continued in earnest throughout September with Rockridge Out and About, Oakland’s Underground Film Festival, the annual Dragon Boat races, the For A Safe Town (FAST) Festival, Sundays in the Redwoods, the Taste of Temescal, and the return of Oakland’s Pride Festival after six years on hiatus.

Bike advocates brought PARKing Day to Oakland, and Children’s Fairyland celebrated its 60th birthday.

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts presented a comprehensive overview of Oakland’s crime rate to the City Council, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission gave the BART-Oakland Airport connector project a second wind by allocating $20 million to it.

October

On October 4, Johannes Mehserle’s attorney, Michael Rains, filed a motion asking for a new trial, saying that the defense had discovered a previously unknown case that could have tipped the results of Mehserle’s trial. Later that month, City Attorney John Russo announced that the city was suing people who had allegedly participated in the looting and vandalism following the Mehserle verdict.

Also in October, Russo announced that his office was seeking a second gang injunction which would name 42 alleged Norteno gang members in the Fruitvale area. Although most decision-making on the injunction petition has been postponed until 2011, the proposal has drawn criticisms about racial profiling.

BART broke ground on the Oakland Airport Connector project, although the moment was largely symbolic; construction is not expected to begin until at least February, 2011.

November

In what was perhaps the biggest news month of the year, the election led the headlines as 10 candidates faced off to replace Dellums as mayor. (Oakland North profiled all 10 candidates on our comprehensive 2010 election page, and you can also check our our “Know Your Candidates” interactive.) The race quickly became contentious as the 10 candidates squared off at a long series public forums (and then squared off over who should be allowed to participate in the public forums). One of the biggest bones of contention: whether the Perata campaign’s spending had violated campaign expenditure limits.

2010 marked the first time Oakland has used the ranked choice voting system, which allowed voters to choose their top three candidates in order of preference. In ranked choice voting, if no candidate receives a majority of the votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated and those who voted for that person have their second choice votes counted. The process continues until one candidate has a majority of the votes.

The November 2 vote turned into an eight-day nailbiter after Perata, who finished the first choice balloting 11 points ahead of Quan, failed to garner a large enough margin to win the race outright. On November 5, the Alameda County Registrar of voters announced that Quan had taken a slight lead over Perata after second and third choice votes were counted, but that thousands of ballots remained uncounted.

On November 10, after the official tally gave her a winning margin of just under two points, Quan declared victory. After being inaugurated on January 3, 2011, she will become Oakland’s first female and first Asian-American mayor.

The vote count went quicker for Oakland’s former mayor Jerry Brown, who on November 2 handily won his bid to return to the state Capitol for a third term as California governor; he hosted his election night victory party at Oakland’s Fox Theater, and promptly promised the next morning that he’d keep Oakland as his home base.

California voters defeated Proposition 19, which would have legalized recreational use of marijuana for adults. The ballot initiative had several strong Oakland supporters including Oaksterdam University president Richard Lee as well as Oakland City Attorney John Russo. (You can find Oakland North’s complete coverage of Proposition 19 and California marijuana law here, including a state-by-state breakdown of American pot laws, a timeline of California’s marijuana laws and an interactive map of which how pot-related ballot measures fared in California’s November election.)

Oakland voters passed Measure BB, which allows the city to continue collecting Measure Y funds without requiring a certain police officer staffing level. Rival Measure X, which would have enacted a $360 parcel tax to be used for public safety, failed to pass, as did Measure L, a $195 parcel tax that would have funded teacher salary increases. You can get a full rundown of the measures on the 2010 Oakland ballot by clicking here.

On November 5, Los Angeles County Judge Robert Perry pronounced Johannes Mehserle’s sentence: two years in prison, including time served. He also dismissed Mehserle’s attorney’s motion for a new trial. Although volunteers trained to act as peacekeepers to prevent protesters from becoming violent, once again, after a planned peaceful daytime protest, a smaller group of people marched through the streets breaking windows, jumping on cars and throwing objects at police officers. 152 people were arrested.

On November 8, Oakland police officers shot and killed East Oakland barbershop owner Derrick Jones after he fled from officers responding to a domestic disturbance call. Jones’ death sparked community protest. Shortly after his death, the OPD hosted sessions for the media and the public about how officers are trained in the use of force.

December

In a second officer-involved shooting in two months, on December 20 Oakland police officers shot and killed Obataiye Edwards when four men in a vehicle police believed had been used in connection with a previous shooting led officers on a three-mile car chase. Police said they’d been trying to prevent a gang-related shooting.

Oakland’s City Council gave new life to hopes for a new A’s ballpark within city limits, approving a study that would examine citing it at Victory Court near Lake Merritt.

Also in December, a three-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments for and against the overturn Proposition 8, which prohibits same-sex marriage in California. The judges are expected to render a decision in 2011.

For a look at the most striking images of the year, click here to see 2010: Oakland North’s year in photos. Stay tuned for more news in 2011. Happy New Year to all of our readers!

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