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Diablo's Week in Review July 25-August 1, 2009

California might still close Mount Diablo State Park, no BART strike, bank robber turns in loot to priest, MC Hammer cousin arrested in Livermore rape, and Oakland pot activists want to legalize, tax recreational marijuana.



Mount Diablo still on state park closure list: California parks officials and nonprofits organizations are desperately searching for ways to keep as many as 100 parks, including Mt. Diablo State Park, open. These 100 parks surfaced on a preliminary list of areas to be closed after Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger slashed an additional $6.2 million from the parks system budget. Mount Diablo State Park encompasses our region’s 3,849-foot geographical centerpiece and receives 700,000 visitors a year. If you want to voice your concern about the closure of Mt. Diablo and other state parks, or donate to the cause to keep them open, go to the California State Parks Foundation website.

State Department asks DeSaulnier to stop publisizing Tauscher's endorsement: The U.S. State Department has asked state Senator Mark DeSaulnier, one of 14 candidates running to replace former Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher, to remove all references of Tauscher's endorsement from his campaign materials. A legal adviser to Tauscher said the new Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security had not broken any laws in endorsing DeSaulnier but that she wants to avoid any appearance of impropriety.

No BART strike: After more than a month of warnings that they might have to find alternatives to BART, commuters and other users of the transit system can rest easy. BART management and unions, emerging from a marathon negotiating session, announced Friday morning that they had finally reached a four-year contract deal. The deal could save the system $100 million over those four years. It needs to go to workers for a vote next week.

New budget cuts mean bleak times for endangered children, the disabled, and frail elderly: Contra Costa County social service officials say $9 million in new state cuts could lead to longer delays in workers responding to child abuse reports, children spending more time in foster care, and an end to meal and housekeeping services for 3,000 elderly adults. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger slashed an additional $500 million following a state budget deal approved by the legislature. In the past year, the county has already let go more than 100 adult protective and child welfare workers. Also at risk: services to 10,600 families in the CalWorks program and child care, substance abuse, and mental health counseling programs.

Semi-penitent bank robber turns in loot to priest: A man who robbed a downtown Walnut Creek bank a few days earlier turned over the money to a priest during confession last weekend. But the robber’s guilty conscience only took him so far. After presenting the stolen money to a priest at Walnut Creek’s St. John Vianney Catholic Church, the robber did not turn himself into authorities and still on the loose.

Miwok burial grounds at Danville high school construction site grows: Workers excavating earth to build a foundation for a new gym at San Ramon Valley High continued to find remains of more bodies, believed to be those belonging to members of the Bay Miwok tribe. After work crews discovered the first skeleton on July 8, they have since found evidence of 22 more bodies. Construction continues on the gym, but under the supervision of archaeologists who will remove the remains for further study before turning them over for reburial at the Ohlones Indian Cemetery in Fremont.

MC Hammer cousin arrested in Livermore rape investigation: The 33-year-old cousin of entertainer and reality show star MC Hammer was arrested on suspicion of raping a woman in a Livermore hotel. The alleged victim said she became acquainted Marvin Turrell Grant, a regular on the Hammertime A&E TV show, through Twitter and e-mail exchanges. They agreed to meet for dinner in Livermore, but he accompanied her to her Livermore hotel, where, she said, he sexually assaulted her.

Swine flu-related deaths of two new moms raises concerns about risks for pregnant women: Two women, one from Hayward, each died of  illnesses related to swine flu within a month of giving birth. Their deaths focus attention on recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that pregnant women be among the first to receive the swine flue vaccine once it becomes available. In the Alameda County case, a 33-year-old woman started to feel sick a few days after giving birth. She wound up in the hospital, where she died of flu-related pneumonia on July 12.

Oakland pot activists want California voters to decide on legalizing taxing marijuana: Jeff Jones, executive director of the Patient ID Center, and Richard Lee, founder and president of Oaksterdam University, filed their proposed Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act of 2010 with the state Attorney General’s Office. This is the first step in preparing a petition to gather signatures to put the measure on the November 2010 ballot. Their effort follows a bill introduced earlier this year by state Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco to legalize, regulate and tax marijuana for recreational use. Taxing marijuana could bring in as much as $1.4 billion per year, according to state figures.

Contra Costa sex crimes prosecutor, himself facing rape charge, loses his job: As the case against Michael Gressett , 52, accused of assaulting a junior colleague, proceeds, he will no longer be on $140,000-a year paid administrative leave. His attorneys announced the veteran prosecutor had been fired but he will appeal this decision--as he continues to fight allegations that he raped and sodomized a female co-worker during a lunchtime break at his Martinez home in May 2008.