Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Judge says San Jose's deal with A's broke law

Santa Clara County Superior CourtSan Jose's attempts to lure the A's to the South Bay, which were already on life support, have been dealt a potentially deadly blow -- thanks to a court ruling that the city should have sought voter approval for setting aside a piece of downtown real estate for a new ballpark.

"The city is and has been in violation of (the law) for several years and it does not appear it will comply with the terms in the foreseeable future," said Judge Joseph Huber of Santa Clara County Superior Court in finding for opponents of the deal.

The judge backed a lawsuit to block the city's potential sale of the land to the A's. The plaintiff was Stand for San Jose -- a citizens group that has close ties to the Giants, who claim the South Bay as their territory and have no desire to see the A's move in.

The group's attorney, Ron Van Buskirk, called the judge's ruling a "significant victory."

San Jose officials say they will appeal last month's decision, which some say could jeopardize the city's legal standing to challenge Major League Baseball's antitrust exemption before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall in a last-ditch bid to clear a path for the A's to move south.

"The option agreement (allowing the city to sell the land to the A's) has no relevance on whether the city of San Jose has standing to sue," Mayor Sam Liccardo said Tuesday.

The A's have spent the past decade trying to get Major League Baseball to clear the way for them to move to San Jose but have been rebuffed every step of the way -- largely because of opposition from the Giants.

In 2011, with the loss of its Redevelopment Agency, San Jose formed a joint powers authority to take possession of 5 acres known as the Diridon Property, then entered into an option agreement for the A's to buy the land for $25 million as a prospective home of their new ballpark.

Stand for San Jose sued, saying the deal violated a 1988 voter-approved initiative that requires a city vote before any tax dollars are spent in San Jose to build a stadium or sports arena.

The city's option agreement with the A's was extended just last year -- but in his ruling, Huber ordered the city to withdraw it until there's a vote of the people.

"The judge got it wrong," said San Jose City Attorney Richard Doyle. He said the city had always intended to seek voter approval for the ballpark deal, and had held off only at the request of Major League Baseball.

"Either way, San Jose has been damaged by Major League Baseball's refusal to allow us to compete with other cities," Liccardo said in a statement. "Ultimately, the final issue will still be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court, which is what we've sought all along."

Soccer spring: The parents and players in the Santa Clara Youth Soccer League once again showed their political and media smarts this past weekend in a made-for-TV demonstration calling out the San Francisco 49ers over their outdoor smoking section outside Levi's Stadium, adjacent to the soccer fields.

Before the youngsters marched onto the fields, league officials sent an e-mail to parents and supporters detailing their plan to "distribute dust masks to players and spectators and gas masks to coaches and referees."

"Get the players to hold homemade signs protesting the smoking. ... Then stand united holding the signs for 30 seconds so the media can capture on video and with pics," said the e-mail from youth soccer rep Burt Field.

There was also an outline of talking points and a call for volunteers to staff the Twitter and Facebook feeds.

"I call it the 'soccer revolution,'" said Santa Clara City Councilwoman Lisa Gillmor.

It was the second time in as many weeks that the pint-sized soccer players had taken on the Niners. The first round was a beat-back of a deal at the City Council to lease the soccer league's fields to the Niners for development.

"We aren't going to bring the circus out every time," Field said. "But we want to let them know that we can bring out the circus, if that is what it takes."

By the way, the Niners had already posted no-smoking signs.

Real deal: Some folks in high places took exception to our account Sunday that a group led by UCSF Foundation chairman Bill Oberndorf had made a serious competing bid for the Warriors' arena property at Mission Bay in hopes of land-banking it for future expansion of the medical center.

One UCSF donor privately told us Salesforce was open to a sale but that Oberndorf's group never came up with the $150 million or so for the deal or made a formal offer.

Our sources are sticking to their story, saying Oberndorf had hoped to help finance the purchase of the Salesforce land with UCSF Foundation money and that the plan had been openly discussed among foundation board members.

Not in Kansas:  The San Francisco Drug Users Union -- yes, Toto, there is one -- is tossing a benefit for its Tenderloin drop-in center and needle exchange program Saturday at the Palace Theater in Oakland.

Featured acts include Leftover Crack, Broke Fiends and the Shlurs -- plus "live action demonstrations" on how to reverse a drug overdose.

Part of the money will go toward the union's goal of setting up the first supervised injection facility in the U.S.

"Due to the radical nature of our program, a lot of our work is extremely controversial and cannot be used for grant solicitation," director Holly Bradford said in the release announcing the benefit.

No kidding.

By Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross

Source: The San Francisco Chronicle
Marijuana enthusiasts and law enforcement don't agree on much. But there is one point both concede: Louisiana's marijuana laws are exceptionally strict.

Caught with a small amount of pot? Face up to 20 years in prison on your third arrest.

And even though a medical marijuana law has been on the books since 1991, it's essentially meaningless because the state hasn't developed guidelines to cultivate and distribute the drug.

That could soon change. The state's powerful law enforcement associations, which have stymied efforts to change marijuana laws in the past, are shifting their stance -- even if only a little.

For the first time, the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association has removed its opposition to a bill that would make medical marijuana available to sufferers of cancer, glaucoma and a severe form of cerebral palsy, though smoking the drug would still be illegal. That measure, sponsored by Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, won passage Monday from the Senate and heads next to the House for debate.

The Louisiana District Attorney Association opposes medical marijuana, but it does support decreased sentences for people with multiple marijuana possession convictions -- a measure by Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, that is scheduled for consideration Wednesday in the House criminal justice committee.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell said the de facto response used to be: "We are really tough on marijuana -- and it is working."

"Now we are having conversations about marijuana that were not even possible five years ago," the New Orleans Democrat said.

Discussions about reducing sentences in Louisiana follow the court case of Bernard W. Noble, a New Orleans father of seven, who was sentenced to over 13 years after he was arrested on his way to work for having two joints. Noble's court battle came to an end last year after losing his last appeal.

Former New Orleans Saints player Darren Sharper was "in possession of very potent and powerful narcotics used to perform sexual assaults against women and gets nine years in federal prison, whereas you can have a guy with two cigarettes for his own use and he gets 13 years?" said Badon, who is proposing to reduce the top sentence for a repeat marijuana possession to eight years.

Morrell is sponsoring a bill that would reduce sentences more drastically, decriminalizing a first offense and capping jail time for repeat offenders at 30 days.

Pete Adams, executive director of the District Attorney Association, described Morrell's bill as going "radically far," though he indicated he's open to limited negotiation.

Cities and states across the U.S. have increasingly reconsidered get-tough-on-drug laws. Eighteen states including New York, Nevada and Mississippi have decriminalized marijuana possession, and recreational use is legal in Washington and Colorado.

At the same time, polls show Louisiana attitudes are changing toward marijuana.

Support for legalizing medical marijuana had reached 60 percent, a public opinion survey by LSU's Public Policy Research Lab found earlier this year. And 67 percent said people convicted of possessing small amounts of marijuana shouldn't serve jail time.

The cash-strapped state -- where one in 14 arrests is for marijuana possession -- could also benefit, saving an estimated $23 million a year by reducing felony marijuana possession to a misdemeanor, according to Louisianans for Responsible Reform.

Still, pot proponents shouldn't get their hopes up too high.

Measures to decriminalize marijuana, or mimic California's permissive medical marijuana law, appear to be nonstarters -- including a bill currently before the Legislature calling for a statewide election to determine whether pot should be legal.

Asked whether law enforcement was softening its stance on marijuana laws, Michael Ranatza, head of the sheriffs' association, said he doesn't see a shift.

Still, the advocacy of a colleague's terminally-ill daughter led Ranatza to a recent change of heart regarding medical marijuana, and he passionately pleaded for lawmakers to approve Mills' medical marijuana bill.

"This is about medicine," Ranatza said. "This has nothing to do with a shift of position or our belief."

By Brian Slodysko, Associated Press

Source: The ABC News