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News: Transit Center Debacle Continues, Bombs are sent, and Nationalism Ferments

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It seems like every week we do this, I have to preemptively apologize for the circus of bad news that seems to grow in severity with each passing Thursday, and this week did not disappoint. So again, I’m sorry! But before we get into the national yuck, let’s touch on the Salesforce Transit Center woes, some local school safety planning, bad religious leaders and some updates on all that is balls. Let’s go…

Salesforce Transit Center under fire

It’s been less than a month since cracks were identified in two steel beams at the monstrosity that is the Salesforce Transit Center. The structural integrity concerns forced closure of the newly opened facility on Sept. 25 to allow for investigation and safety assessment, which was quite the blow for developers hoping to secure their God-like status and quite the mess for the city of San Francisco and its mass of disgruntled commuters.

Things went from bad to worse for the Transbay Joint Powers Authority Tuesday when the San Francisco County Transportation Authority voted unanimously to suspend Proposition K funding for what is supposed to be the next phase of construction at STC. Commissioners charge the TJPA with mismanagement of the $2.2 billion transit center – if they want the taxpayer funding reinstated, they must agree to evaluations and oversight by the City Controller’s office and SFCTA staff.

Salesforce Transit Center funding suspended for mismanagement. Photo courtesy of SF Chronicle

Aaron Peskin, a very vocal SFCTA Board chair, took to Twitter to say that “TJPA has bungled the management and delivery of this project for far too long” and stressed that voters need “faith that their tax dollars are being spent responsibly.” We might add that commuters would also prefer faith that their commute through the center won’t kill them.

The project’s lead contractor filed a lawsuit against TJPA just last week, alleging that they were provided “incomplete and defective design documents” that resulted in what they estimate as $150 million in damages. The cracks discovered in September have since been shored up for safety and are being tested to determine the cause.

Contra Costa County gets with the school safety program

Approximately 150 school administrators from districts throughout Contra Costa County gathered around a swath of catered muffins and frittata in Pleasant Hill Wednesday to have an uncomfortable conversation about gun violence and at-risk students in our learning institutions. The first annual School Safety Summit was hosted in collaboration with Sandy Hook Promise, an organization spearheaded by three families who lost children as a result of the tragedy that unfolded on Dec. 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.

Nicole Hockley did not consider herself a political person prior to the shooting that took her son Dylan. At the time, she had no idea who Wayne LaPierre was and why reporters would want to know her thoughts on his insensitive comments. She was just a mother facing a day that no mother should ever have to face. And it’s still that maternal instinct that drives her to help other parents and students avoid the nightmare she experienced. She’s more interested in finding common ground in the polarized fight about gun violence in schools and as she said at the podium Wednesday, she never wants to let another kid fall through the cracks.  

The video below, produced by the organization, was shown during the summit to bring awareness to warning signs we may overlook. Warning, it is difficult to watch, but ignoring the topic will only lead to more tragedy and that is exactly what people like Hockley hope to avoid.

The Sandy Hook Promise is a four-part program offered to schools nationwide and free of cost. Contra Costa County districts will have a choice to implement all, part or none of their program that focuses on recognition of at-risk students – validating their existence, warning signs of suicide or violence, safety assessment and an anonymous reporting system they rolled out in app form this past March. We will have to keep tabs on individual districts to see how they choose to embrace the program or not, but the first annual summit was a good first step toward ensuring our kids make it back home from school each day.

This summit carries a lot of weight this week in particular as it was reported Thursday that Freedom High School in Oakley is under intense police presence due to a threat made on social media.

Bay Area clergy outed for sexual misconduct

Investigations into sexual abuse and misconduct in the Catholic Church have made their way to our shores. A report released Tuesday names 263 accused clergy members coming from San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose.

A lawsuit has been filed against all California bishops in response to what many believe has been a widespread coverup of abuse – one survivor, Joey Piscitelli, spoke publicly Tuesday about the lawsuit and the still-protected priest he claims molested him at the age of 14.

If you choose to review the linked report, we ask that you acknowledge what could be a trigger and make all attempts to care for yourself. Reach out to a crisis hotline or someone you trust if you feel overwhelmed by the information.

When hate = bombs

Fear and accusations spread like wildfire Wednesday as the U.S. Postal Service delivered suspicious packages in New York, Washington, Florida, Delaware and California. The initial news was filled with confusion about who actually got what, but by the end of the day, it became a worrisome story that hinted at the attempted assassinations of two former presidents, at least four prominent Democratic Party members and a left-leaning philanthropist.

What authorities found wrapped up in typical manila mailers were basically pipe bombs, rudimentary but functional in design and assembled with the embedded flair of a mock ISIS flag with Larry the Cable Guy’s famous catchphrase “Get er done” inscribed. When George Soros received a package Monday, it was considered an isolated threat, but Wednesday’s mail delivery to the Obamas, Clintons, Rep. Maxine Waters, CNN (addressed to former CIA director John Brennan), former Attorney General Eric Holder and Rep. Deborah Wasserman Schultz made it abundantly clear that somebody, or multiple somebodies, was targeting a very specific group of people. Those same people have been frequent targets of the president’s Twitter tirades for their public criticism of the Commander in Chief’s lack of appropriate command.

One of 10 package pipe bombs sent to prominent Democrats since Oct. 22, 2017. Photo courtesy of Pix 11

The packages have all been sent to Quantico in Virginia for a deep investigation that will hopefully lead to the apprehension of the sender(s), but at the time of this publication Thursday, the story was still unfolding as three more packages were intercepted on their way to former Vice President Joe Biden and actor Robert De Niro, bringing the total number of packages to 10 since Monday. Nobody has yet to step up and claim responsibility for the bombs.

On the surface, it seems obvious that individuals who have had the gall to criticize Donald Trump are being targeted, but we are reminded by experts that we don’t know anything until the investigation is complete. And we are rather good at conducting this type of investigation. It could be that somebody is diverting attention by jumping into the politically-charged hotbed, or if you believe the right-wing conspiracy Q folks, it was a scheme devised by Democrats ahead of the Nov. 6 election.

This Robert De Niro video may explain why the actor was targeted with other critics of the president.

In other national nausea

One week of Trump: The president announced he would withdraw the U.S. from a nuclear arms treaty with Russia because they weren’t following the rules (pull out and pray method wins out over imposing sanctions, go figure), embraced the “nationalist” label with vigor in front of an angry rally crowd and it was reported that he’s been giving away the family secrets to China and Russia by way of unsecured cell phone conversations. Oh, and the DOW and Nasdaq tumbled out of bragging rights. But it’s cool, right?

Sidenote: Speaking of nationalists, three members of the Rise Above Movement were arrested at LAX for their involvement in the violence at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. The white supremacist group, RAM, was also on the scene during the April 15, 2017 Berkeley rally that turned into a bloodbath. So, it’s totally the perfect week for Trump to associate himself with the likes of those “very fine people.”

Balls!

It’s been a while since we’ve focused on Bay Area sports teams (admittedly, probably since the end of last year’s basketball season – because, let’s face it, I just like basketball more) but before we get hyper-local, we have to give a nod to the women putting their goal-tending male counterparts to shame.

JACKSONVILLE, FL – APRIL 5: Alex Morgan #13 of United States handles the ball in the first half against Mexico at Everbank Field on April 5, 2018 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo courtesy of Logan Bowles/Getty Images)

The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team rolled over Jamaica 6-0 on Oct. 14, solidifying their spot in the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup for what will be their eighth consecutive appearance. The men’s team, who according the SF Chronicle was still “without a coach and…a clue” by Oct. 3, has failed to qualify for the men’s World Cup or generally keep up with the caliber of talent on the women’s side of the house.

The 49ers are sucking on the hind tit so far this season with a 1-6 record, sparking discussions about potential trades leading up to the Oct. 30 deadline. Richard Sherman’s calf injury will keep him out of the game (again) in Sunday’s matchup against the Rams, which is probably not so comforting as the team brass is eyeballing players to offload.

The Raiders aren’t looking much better than their rivals across the Bay. The Oakland team clocked their fifth loss of the season Sunday against the Seahawks and are looking to make a comeback against the Colts this weekend. But one thing is certain, Derek Carr has the support of his team behind him, and he can cry if wants to. Hey Nevada, how’s that deal looking now?

And…neither Bay Area bat and ball team made it to the World Series, so there’s that. Local fans will have to get their satisfaction in hoping the Red Sox shit all over the Dodgers. Cause, it’s all about the love.

The Golden State Warriors are five games into the regular season with one loss to the Nuggets and a near-miss with the Jazz Friday. The Dubs will face the Knicks in New York Friday night and if they can’t take the W against a team with a 1-4 record so far, they’ve got some explaining to do. But if Steph Curry again channels the 3-point beast that showed up Wednesday when he scored 51 points, things should be just fine.

Steph Curry scored season high 51 points in Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards. Photo courtesy of NBC Sports

Weird shit to do on your day off

What you should be doing this weekend is studying your voter pamphlet! But if you need a break from the alphabet soup of propositions and you’re in the mood for some controllable fright, head out to South San Francisco Saturday to get in on a scary movie marathon being hosted at the Grand Avenue Library. The screens go live at 10 a.m. and the screams are free of charge. Check it out.

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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.