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Diablo's Week in Review April 18-25 2009

Contra Costa DA raises stink by saying his office won't prosecute some misdemeanors, race to replace Tauscher heats up, and Berkeley animal-rights activist named an FBI Most Wanted Terrorist for bombing Pleasanton company.

Contra Costa District Attorney Bob Kochly received plenty of attention locally and outside the Bay Area for his decision to not prosecute certain misdemeanor crimes, due to budget cuts.

Contra Costa District Attorney's Office

Contra Costa DA raises stink, saying some misdemeanors won’t be prosecuted: District Attorney Bob Kochly alarmed county supervisors, police chiefs and ordinary citizens by saying that his office, as of May 4, won’t review or file charges on a selection of misdemeanors, including petty theft, drug offenses, simple assault, and trespassing and loitering cases. Kochly said the budget crisis has forced him to lay off 18 attorneys and leaves him with no choice but to eliminate the number of cases his office handles. His office, however, will continue to prosecute misdemeanor DUIs, domestic violence cases, and sex crimes. Police chiefs have vowed to continue making misdemeanor arrests as usual, while the supervisors are calling for a special meeting to address Kochly’s decision.

Race to replace Tauscher heats up: Recently elected state Assemblywoman Joan Buchanan of Alamo has announced that she wants to replace U.S. Rep. Ellen Tauscher in the 10th congressional. Pending U.S. Senate confirmation, Tauscher leaves Congress to take a top post in the State Department. The announcement by Buchanan, a Democrat, comes one day after another Democrat, Lt. Governor John Garamendi of Walnut Grove officially joined the race. Buchanan’s announcement complicates a race that is growing crowded with top names in local politics. Another Democrat already committed to running is state Senator Mark DeSaulnier; he has received weighty endorsements from state Assemblyman Tom Torlakson, U.S. Rep. George Miller, and Tauscher herself.

Others still in exploratory mode are these Democrats: Dan Richard, former BART director, Piedmont; and former Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla of Pittsburg. On the Republican side are: Contra Costa Sheriff Warren Rupf of Martinez; 2008 GOP nominee Nick Gerber of Moraga; California GOP Vice Chairman Tom Del Beccaro of Lafayette; Fairfield Councilwoman Catherine Moy, also executive director of Move America Forward; Attorney David Harmer of Dougherty Valley

 Berkeley animal-rights activist named a Most Wanted Terrorist for bombings in Pleasanton, Emeryville: Daniel Andreas San Diego, 31, a computer specialist and fugitive since the 2003 bombings, became the first accused domestic terrorist to be listed as an FBI Most Wanted Terrorist, joining the likes of Osama Bin Ladin. San Diego is accused of helping to carry out attacks at Shaklee Corp., a comestics and nutrition company in Pleasanton and Chiron Corp., an Emeryville biotech firm. He allegedly was part of a revolutionary group tjat claimed the two firms worked with a company that conducts research on animals.

Livermore multiplex installs nation’s largest movie solar-power system: For Earth Day, Livermore Cinemas officially unveiled the 132-kilowatt system that covers most of the First Street theater’s 20,000-square-foot roof. The system provides about 35 percent of the 13-screen theater’s electricity needs.

San Ramon will have to wait two years longer to get its long-awaited downtown: The recession has put on hold the timing to break ground on the city’s planned 40-acre city center project. The city hoped to have the center, housing shops, restaurants, a movie theater, and new city hall and library, open by 2010’s holiday shopping season. The city is now projecting a 2012 opening.

Guess which East Bay ‘burb is enjoying revitalization? Pleasanton, or so say business leaders who boasted this week of new businesses coming to downtown. They are a tasting room for Sunol-based Little Valley Winery, two new restaurants and a “high-quality, deep-discount store.”

In other Pleasanton news, the city is getting a holiday ice rink: The city has worked out a deal with the company that owns the San Jose Sharks to operate a 14,000-square-foot skating rink n the Pleasanton library parking lot. The city will lease the space to San Jose Arena Management to manage and operate the rink. The rink is expected to operate Monday through Sunday, from November 19 to January 10, 2010.

Man who horded an arsenal in his West Contra Costa home denies stealing them from police: A 20-year-old man told the Contra Costa Times that he did not steal any of his assault rifles, ballstic vests and other gear from locked patrol cars at Clayton, Martinez, and Clayton, and a California HIgway Patrol lot in Martinez. Sheriff Warren Rupf called Daniel Vess a "domestic terrorist," and sheriff's investigators, after raiding his dilapidated, junk-strewn home near San Pablo, described him as a loner with an unhealthy fixation on weapons and paramilitary gear. 

Woman dies after being injured in San Ramon crash: The California Highway Patrol is reopening its investigation into an April 5 crash on Camino Tassajara that fatally injured Margarita Ghavami, 68, of Pleasanton. She was riding in a BMW that was struck by a 2009 Ford Mustang driven by a 16-year-old Danville boy who failed to negotiate a curve and swerved into the opposing lane of the two-lane road. Drugs and alcohol do not appear to be a factor, and Ghavami, who fell out of the BMW, may not have been wearing a seat belt. The Mustang’s driver and a 15-year-old passenger were also injured.

Cal student’s TB diagnosis prompts search for other possible cases: UC Berkeley health officials were looking for about 225 students and faculty who had close contact with an unnamed student who was recently diagnosed with tuberculosis. The student has been placed in isolation, while anyone who had contact with the student are being advised to be tested. The bacterial infection slowly attacks the lungs, but generally cannot be passed through brief or casual contact.

Oakland A’s and nine other Major League Baseball lose value: The A’s, the Giants, and eight other MLB teams--one third of all MLB teams--lost value over the past year, according to estimates by Forbes magazine. The A’s dropped 1 percent to $319 million and ranks 27th in value. The Giants declined 5 percent to $471 million, but are ninth of the list. The biggest loser in terms of value were the Washington Nationals, down 12 percent to $406 million.

Very Berkeley Earth Day festivities planned for Berkeley: First, the Dalai Lama is coming to town, and making two appearances, one at the Greek Theatre, where he will talk about "Peace Through Compassion."  Then, the Earth Day Festival, from noon to 5 p.m. at Civic Center Park, will feature music, dancing, and, yes, bio-diesel demonstrations. The farmers market, near Civic Center Park, special gifts and prizes will be given out to celebate the elimination of plastic bags from all Berkeley farmers markets. For more information about Berkeley's Earth Day festivities and downtown street closures, visit the city's website.