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Bay News: Tamales for life and other sordid stories

Hey Bay Area, we’re unpacking a few key local and national stories. This week we have a legendary life-saver, a bad cop, a bunch of bills and a couple national circus highlights. Ready…set…ten-four, good buddy.

Remembering the life-saving Tamale Lady

Virginia Ramos was better known as the Tamale Lady, the saint for drunken sinners, the bringer of alcohol-absorbing grub. Ramos died Friday from an apparent heart problem at the age of 65, but her legacy has been celebrated in the streets of the Mission and on social media since.

Our own Stuart Schuffman took to Twitter to mourn and praise the amazing woman who rolled her tamale cart from bar-to-bar, bringing a little needed sobriety with her wherever she went.

One tamale at a time, she made bellies a little fuller and San Francisco a little safer, but it was the special ingredients that made a real difference: love and laughter.

The legendary Tamale Lady, Virginia Ramos. Photo courtesy of SFGate

Her daughters shared with Eater SF details of their mother’s vigil and funeral service, open to all those who loved her, and San Francisco is filled with people that did indeed love her:

“Friends and family we know that The Tamale Lady has touched many lives and everyone would like help honor her. The Vigil will be from 4-7pm with the rosary at 7pm on Tuesday October 9th at Duggan’s on 17th Street.The Funeral Service will be at Mission Dolores Church Wednesday October 10 at 11am.”

A gofundme page has been set up in her honor and donations are expected to help with funeral costs – any little bit will help the family of a legendary woman who brought so much joy and yum to the city’s finest bingers. You probably owe her your life, so kick down if you can.

Sergeant faces four felonies for rolling over suspects’ rights

There’s this cool little protective measure we have called attorney-client privilege, but apparently one sergeant at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office is either unaware of that basic right or really gives zero f#cks about when it comes to suspects. Sgt. James Russell is facing four felony charges for “eavesdropping after he illegally recorded privileged conversations between juvenile suspects and their public defender,” as the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The illegal recordings in question were all taken from March 15 at Eden Township Substation in San Leandro, but prosecutors are reviewing all juvenile cases submitted by Alameda County Sheriff’s Office as part of a wider probe.

What’s great about all this is that Russell essentially confessed to what he inferred was common practice at the agency by way of his own body-cam footage. If convicted, the sergeant could be sentenced to up to five years in prison, where he’s sure to meet all sorts of old acquaintances.

Gov. Brown and the tale of 183 bills

The California governor was a busy man over the weekend, swiping his pen like a sword with approvals and vetoes through a pile of 183 bills he was required to address by Sunday night.

Gov. Brown signs and vetoes 183 bills. Photo courtesy of Inland Empire

LA Magazine wrote up a nice summary of 18 key bills that were either stalled out or passed through, but here’s a rundown of some of the more potent decisions:

Here’s a sampling of what was passed:

(SB-822) Net Neutrality: California’s attempt to protect equal internet access was signed into law, but surprise, surprise, internet providers have already begun a lawsuit to prevent us from implementing the protection Californians voted for.

(SB-820/SB-1300) Both bills offer protection for victims of sexual assault, harassment and discrimination by doing away with nondisclosure agreements used to silence people who might report such offenses.

(AB-748/SB-1421) This pair of bills aims at police procedures. One requires that body-cam footage be released within 45 days of a police shooting and the other allows public access to police records in use-of-force and sexual misconduct cases.

(SB-1391/SB-439) These bills reform how our justice system deals with juvenile defendants. As of January, 14- and 15-year-olds will not be tried as adults and 12-year-olds will no longer be prosecuted for most crimes – both bills have exceptions built in for extreme cases like murder and forcible sexual assault.

Additional approved bills impact a myriad of issues, notably in the affordable housing development and gun control arenas.

Of the bills vetoed, two in particular stand out:

One would have allowed safe injection sites in San Francisco and the other would’ve made it legal to get our drink on until 4 a.m. in nine pilot cities across the state, including here at home.

The Never-ending Story of Bart, Oh Kavanaugh

When we left off last week, Christine Blasey Ford was still in the throws of testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. The nation was moved by her measured and emotional story – people from both sides of the line were taken back by her credibility.  Shortly after last week’s news wrap was published, we all became acutely aware of Brett Kavanaugh’s underlying anger issues and party allegiance, and the GOP’s commitment to confirming the judge regardless of Ford’s “compelling” account. You can read our analysis of that whole situation here. But the point is that last week, we were awaiting what seemed to be an inevitable “yes” vote to move forward on his confirmation.

Donald J. Trump with SCOTUS nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Photo courtesy of The New Yorker

Somehow, one week later, after a last-minute, half-ass FBI “investigation” that concluded Wednesday night, we’re back in the same exact position, playing the waiting game and eyeballing every move and expression from the four possible swing senators: Jeff Flake, Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins and Joe Manchin. The report is being privately reviewed by senators Thursday, but it’s become widely known that the investigation was far from thorough, that the White House administration severely limited the scope, preventing the FBI from interviewing several people who have come forward with information that may corroborate allegations made by Deborah Ramirez and Ford. Despite pleas from Democrats and oh, about half the country, it’s likely the full Senate will hold a floor vote Saturday and Kavanaugh could be sitting pretty on the SCOTUS bench next week.

The silver lining for Democrats: If Kavanaugh is indeed confirmed, you can bet the already juiced-up base will be even more willing to get out and vote on Nov. 6 and the recent excitement among Republican voters will fade after their guy makes it through.

And in other national news

The New York Times published a scathing 40-page investigative report conducted over an 18-month period, which basically charges Donald J. Trump with being a big, fat liar and conman. The evidence they put forth, based on mountains of records and depositions, asserts that Trump’s line about only borrowing $1 million from his dad and turning it into a $10 billion fortune is simply bullshit. Records show he received today’s equivalent of over $400 million from his father over the course of his life, and more importantly, that he, his father and siblings engaged in all-out tax fraud and devaluation schemes, which protected them from paying their just dues in estate tax. Of course, Trump and team have refuted all claims in the article but there’s a chance some agencies in New York will help us work out what’s true as they investigate the outlined allegations, including the charge that Fred Trump and family used one of their money laundering schemes to illegally raise rent on low-income tenants.    

Donald Trump and father Fred Trump, whom the president claims hardly helped him financially. The New York Times begs to differ. Photo courtesy of Getty Images

And…Elizabeth Warren announces she’ll “take a hard look” at running for president.

Weird shit to do on your day off

If you’re looking for something to help shake off the news funk Thursday night, check out the Exploratorium After Dark for about $20. The ticket will get you in the door and you’ll be treated to a Hardly Strictly Bluegrass preview show.

If you can’t make it to Pier 15 tonight, you can get your butt down to Golden Gate Park Friday through Sunday for the full-scale HSBG festival, which is still free for all. The full daily lineup, including Mavis Staples and Alison Krauss, is available here.

Have fun, my pretties. Seriously. You’ll need it leading into next week.

Until then…

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Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Nik Wojcik - East Bay Editor

Journalist, editor, student, single mom to a pack of wolves, foodie, music lover, resident smart ass, and champion of vulgarity and human kindness.