Bay Area Briefs

Friday November 30, 2001

Domestic partner benefits approved 


OAKLAND — The City Council unanimously has approved an ordinance that will require city contractors to provide domestic partner benefits. 

The ordinance, sponsored by council member Danny Wan, will apply to all contractors who do at least $25,000 worth of business with the city and who already pay for benefits for their employees’ spouses. 

It will require them to extend equal benefits to domestic partners who are registered with the city or another government agency. 

The new law needs a second vote in two weeks to become official, and will take at least six months to implement. 

The ordinance, modeled on one San Francisco adopted in 1996, is expected to have only minimal costs for businesses. The Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Berkeley, Los Angeles and San Mateo County also require contractors to provide domestic partner benefits. 




Feds ask for local help in Arab questioning 


FREMONT — Federal authorities in the Bay Area wishing to chat with Arab visa holders as part of their terrorism investigation have asked local police for help. 

Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler said Justice Department officials intend to interview six people in Fremont, and that his department will be assisting federal officials. 

“We spent a long time building relationships with the community, and I don’t want to see those relationships jeopardized,” Steckler said. 

However, several Bay Area local law enforcement officials said Wednesday they lack the legal authority and the resources to conduct the informational interviews being requested by the Justice Department. And some fear that any participation could erode community ties they have worked hard to build. 

“We don’t have any legal authority to question people. Unless they could articulate some suspicious activity, no, we wouldn’t participate,” San Mateo County Sheriff Don Horsley said. 

Horsley and others said the federal government’s plans to question some 5,000 people solely because they fit a profile — Middle Eastern men ages 18 to 33 who have been in the United States on non-immigrant visas since Jan. 1, 2000 — are tantamount to racial profiling, a practice they have long worked to discourage. 

Northern California U.S. Attorney spokesman Matt Jacobs would not comment on how many people are on the interview list the Justice Department gave his office, or when those interviews might be conducted. He stressed that none of the people on the interview list are suspects.