A wrap-up of important local news from the week that was
Pamela Winfrey, a senior artist who started working at the museum in 1979 and just had her hours scaled back, said the Exploratorium has always felt like a family. "I think there are new directions in the wind as well as a budget shortfall," Winfrey said. "It's a complicated picture."
And across the board, she added, the Exploratorium must contend with the fact that there's a steadily eroding pool of funding for arts and science. "Funders are really having to think about whether they want to feed starving children," she said, "or feed the mind." (Rebecca Bowe)
Prisoners end hunger strike
Bay Area legislators Tom Ammiano (D-SF) and Loni Hancock (D-Berkeley) — who chair the Assembly and Senate Public Safety Committees, respectively — played pivotal roles in the Sept. 5 decision by California prison inmates to end their hunger strike (see "Hungry for reform, July 3) after 60 days.
The legislators called for legislative hearings to consider implementing some of the reforms that the prisoners and their supporters have been calling for, including changes to solitary confinement policies that critics say amount to illegal torture under international law.
"I'm happy that no one had to die in order to bring attention to these conditions," Ammiano said. "The prisoners' decision to take meals should be a relief to CDCR and the Brown administration, as well as to those who support the strikers."
The question now is whether the legislative hearings, set for next month, can persuade the executive branch to finally take action, despite the fact that both Gov. Jerry Brown and the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation have taken a hard line on prison issues, even resisting federal court orders to reduce the population in the severely overcrowded prison system and to improve substandard health care.
Ammiano spokesperson Carlos Alcala told the Guardian that the end of the hunger strike could help end that stalemate: "Mr. Ammiano is hopeful that CDCR's intransigence has been directed at negotiating under the hunger strike pressure, but that they will now be open to making some changes that are meaningful."
CRCR head Jeffrey Beard issued a public statement saying, "We are pleased this dangerous strike has been called off before any inmates became seriously ill."
Issac Ontiveros of the Oakland-based California Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity group said the hunger strike generated international attention and support, waking the public up to horrific conditions in the prisons and putting pressure on the CDCR to implement reforms.
"Their demands are legitimate and they are pointing out human rights violations in California's prisons," Ontiveros told the Guardian, noting that Amnesty International and a long list of other groups are putting pressure on California to reform its prison practices. "What made them call off the strike was the political gains that they made...It was a thoughtful civil rights strategy." (Steven T. Jones)
SFPD handling of cyclist fatalities probed
In the wake of revelations of shoddy and insensitive police work related to the Aug. 14 death of 24-year-old bicyclist Amelie Le Moullac, who was run over by a commercial truck driver who turned right across her path as she rode in a bike lane on Folsom Street at Sixth Street, Sup. Jane Kim has called for a hearing on how the SFPD investigates cyclist fatalities.
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