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Bay Area News Briefs

By Mike Aldux

January 15, 2008

Dellums delivers State of the City address

Being mayor of Oakland is more difficult than being the president of the United States, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums said Monday in a state of the city address that largely focused on the city's crime problems.

Speaking to an overflow audience of about 1,400 at the Oakland Marriott Hotel, Dellums said the president "has more resources" and can escape to the privacy of Camp David on weekends but the mayor of Oakland "can't escape anywhere."

Dellums, who was elected mayor in 2006 after serving in Congress for 28 years and working as a lobbyist for eight years, said, "This is an immediate, in-your-face job and you feel every death," referring to the city's crime problem, which included 127 homicides last year, Dellums' first year as mayor.

Dellums pointed out that the homicide total was 15 percent less than 2006, when Oakland had 148 homicides, and was a better result than the 6 percent increase in homicides nationally.

But he admitted, "You can't take solace when over 100 people are killed" and "the elephant in the room is public safety."

Dellums said, "People have a right to go about their lives with a sense of peace, security and safety."

Dellums pledged to do "whatever it takes" to bring Oakland to its authorized force of 803 police officers.

The city is about 70 officers short of that goal now, but Dellums was quick to blame former mayor Jerry Brown for that shortfall.

Dellums, who said he wanted "to set the record straight," said Brown and other city officials failed to realize that "baby boomer" police officers would retire around this period and leave the city with a shortage of officers

Alameda County Sheriff's office investigating cockfighting ring

Alameda County Sheriff's officials Monday continued an investigation into a large-scale cockfighting ring discovered near Livermore at about 1 p.m. Sunday that resulted in seven arrests, according to the sheriff's office.

Deputies received a call reporting a possible cockfighting ring in the 4000 block of North Livermore Avenue in unincorporated Alameda County, officials reported.

Arriving deputies found a cockfight in progress, according to the sheriff's office. Seven suspects, two from the city of Alameda, two from the Livermore area, one from San Jose, and one from Las Vegas, Nev., were arrested and booked into the Santa Rita Jail in Dublin, officials reported.

Sheriff's officials obtained a search warrant for the property and during the course of a search conducted Sunday night discovered more than 300 gamecocks used or intended for use in illegal cockfights, officials reported.

Officials investigating United Airlines collision

United Airlines, Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board officials Monday were investigating why two United Airlines planes backed into each other at San Francisco International Airport's Terminal 3 Sunday night, officials reported.

At about 7:30 p.m. a United Airlines Boeing 757 collided with a Canadair Regional Jet owned by SkyWest Airlines and operating a United Express flight, FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

The United Express flight was carrying 54 people to Boise, Idaho, and the Boeing was not carrying passengers as it was scheduled for maintenance, United Airlines spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said.

The planes, pushed by aircraft tow tugs, were directed to push back from their gates by air traffic controllers when, for an unknown reason, the planes' tails collided, Gregor said.

Both planes reportedly sustained damage to the tails and were taken out of service for repair work, officials said.

Travis Air Force Base couple died from carbon monoxide poisoning

Vacaville police said Monday afternoon that a Travis Air Force Base couple found dead in their car Friday afternoon appear to have accidentally died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Sgt. Bob Denton said an examination of Chad and Jessica Cheswick's 1992 Chevrolet S-10 Blazer at the city's central garage found three areas in the exhaust system under the vehicle where carbon monoxide could escape.

Tests performed at the garage found exhaust leaking into the passenger compartment of the SUV, Denton said. Tests to determine the amount that could enter the vehicle are being performed, Denton said. There were no signs the exhaust system was damaged or had been tampered with, Denton said.

The SUV's gas tank was empty and the key in the ignition was in the on position, Denton said.

Autopsies on the two, who were in their 20s, were conducted Monday. The preliminary examination found objective signs of carbon monoxide exposure to the couple, Denton said. The final cause of death is pending toxicology tests.

Dental records used to identify body found on Mount Tamalpais

The Marin County coroner's office is using dental records to identify the body of a woman found on the southeast side of Mount Tamalpais Sunday afternoon.

The Marin County Sheriff's Office said an autopsy will be conducted during the next few days.

The body was found at 1:30 p.m. during a training session by members of the sheriff's office's search and rescue team in a remote and heavily wooded area near the Slide Gulch Ravine below the Hoo Koo E Koo fire road and several hundred feet off the Corte Madera Trail.

The discovery has lead to speculation the body is that of 25-year-old Veronica Ruiz, of Mill Valley, the Internal Revenue Service agent who disappeared while hiking on Mt. Tamalpais on Dec. 3.

Newsom endorses Speier

Former state Sen. Jackie Speier received the endorsement of San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom Monday in her quest for a U.S. congressional seat in November.

Speier, 57, announced Sunday she would seek to fill the District 12 seat that is being relinquished by U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, D-San Francisco/San Mateo. The district represents a small portion of southwest San Francisco and much of northern San Mateo County.

"I don't think anyone is more qualified, I don't think anyone is more experienced," said Newsom at a news conference with Speier outside West Portal Elementary School, after a brief tour of the school and a meeting with students.

Newsom stressed the need for advocacy on a federal level for local improvements to education and health care, as well as energy independence and environmental concerns.

Speier said her intention was to make San Francisco schools "the best in the nation," and that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's current budget proposal would leave less for students.

Border Patrol officer charged with impersonating peace officer

The Santa Clara County District Attorney's office announced Monday that a U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officer has been charged with impersonating a peace officer for allegedly pulling over a motorist in September 2007 on U.S. Highway 101 in San Jose.

Officer Thomas Murphy, 59, is not a peace officer and is not authorized to make traffic stops, according to the District Attorney's Office.

Investigators believe that Murphy may have pulled other motorists over in his 2002 green sport-utility vehicle between October 2006 and September 2007. Anyone with information about Murphy is asked to call Department of Homeland Security Special Agent Lamont Scott at (510) 637-5051.

Murphy is currently on administrative leave from the Department of Homeland Security. He is next scheduled to appear in court in San Jose on Feb. 25, 2008.

Lofgren endorses Obama

One of Silicon Valley's most prominent female political leaders, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, Monday endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president.

Lofgren has represented much of San Jose and other parts of Santa Clara County in Congress since 1994. While she respects Obama's major opponent in the Democratic presidential primary, Sen. Hillary Clinton, she believes it is time for a change.

"We've had either a Clinton or a Bush as president since 1988. It's time for something new,'' Lofgren said.

Lofgren dismissed recent criticism leveled by the Clinton campaign that Obama's talk about hope is not enough to win the presidential race in November.

"There are times when you need someone who can inspire the nation the way that Bobby Kennedy did and the way that Sen. Barack Obama is,'' Lofgren said.

San Jose City Councilman Sam Liccardo also endorsed Obama Monday. Both he and Lofgren appeared at the opening of Obama's San Jose campaign office.

"It's from places like San Jose that Barack Obama will be propelled into the White House. We are the place that propels great ideas,'' Liccardo said.

Obama is scheduled to come to the Bay Area next week for a series of fundraisers. He will also hold a public event at a location to be determined later, according to a campaign spokeswoman.


Copyright © 2008 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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