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OAKLAND — Two months ago, the arts collective known as the Ghost Ship caught fire, killing 36 people who could not escape the two-story labyrinth inside. Since then, and despite promises to the contrary, city officials have refused to release police and fire documents that might help explain how Oakland missed several chances to shutter the unpermitted warehouse and save those lives. Related ArticlesJury selection in Ghost Ship trial set for AprilProminent Ghost Ship prosecutor resigns weeks before case goes to trialCiting inexcusable delays in disclosing public records, the Bay Area News Group told Oakland officials in a letter Thursday it will sue for the documents if they aren’t made available next week.
In a four-page letter sent to city officials Thursday, the two-month anniversary of the tragic ballet shoes book pdf fire, the news group demanded the release of records detailing police and fire contacts at the Ghost Ship warehouse in the years leading up to the tragedy, Those documents could show why the building — which lacked smoke alarms, sprinklers and unobstructed passageways, and employed a makeshift stairway between its floors — was never flagged for fire safety violations, The documents could also show how a large group of artists could live freely in a warehouse that was not permitted for residential use..
“Given the gravity of this tragedy and the overwhelming public importance of access to records enabling the public to understand why it happened and to start to find solutions to prevent such occurrences in the future, the City’s evident desire to control the message and delay the public’s right of access during this critical time to the public’s discourse on the matter is inexcusable,” Duffy Carolan, the news group’s lawyer, wrote in a letter to city officials sent Thursday afternoon.
Oakland government “may not delay access to public records so that it may create its own spin on their meaning,” Carolan wrote, Reporters requested records showing all police and fire department calls for service to the building and neighboring properties since 2013, as well as 911 calls about the fire, They also requested all building and code enforcement records for the properties, Based on interviews and record summaries available online, the news group reported on Dec, 5 that government employees, including members of the Oakland police and fire departments, ballet shoes book pdf had at least 10 interactions with the Ghost Ship arts collective since October 2014, Those contacts include firefighters dousing a sofa fire just outside the main entrance and police responding to a report of loud noise at a dance party there, However, no records have been released showing whether those employees reported the building to fire inspectors, leaving many unanswered questions as to whether warning signs were missed before the tragedy..
Oakland released some building department and code enforcement records on Dec. 7, although most of those were already available on the city’s web site. Calls to Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office and a spokeswoman for City Administrator Sabrina Landreth were not returned Thursday. The city last communicated with the news group about the request on Dec. 16, writing in a statement, “The search for responsive records is ongoing.” The statement said numerous records created before the Dec. 2 fire would be released, including police and fire dispatch transcripts, police arrest and incident reports, and all correspondence with warehouse owner Chor Ng, among other documents. None has yet been released.
Neil Chase, executive editor of the Bay Area News Group, which comprises the East Bay Times and Mercury News, said the demand for the records and threat of a lawsuit is about helping the public understand what happened Dec, 2 and holding city government accountable, “It’s the city’s responsibility to keep people safe,” Chase said, “and to share the information that explains why people weren’t safe at the Ghost Ship warehouse, As Oakland’s local news organization, it’s our responsibility to seek that information on behalf of our neighbors if ballet shoes book pdf it’s not forthcoming.”..
The news group gave the city until Feb. 10 to turn over the records or face a lawsuit in Alameda County Superior Court. City Council members haven’t seen the records either. “You don’t have it, I don’t have it, I don’t understand why it wouldn’t be made available,” said Councilman Noel Gallo, who represents the Fruitvale district where the fire occurred. Releasing records documenting police and fire department interaction with Ghost Ship residents is an “effort of regaining the trust of the public that we are doing our job or not doing our job,” he said.
While the city has not released internal records, the police department recently released a nearly two-minute video documenting a number of supportive emails, texts and phone calls sent by the public commending first responders’ efforts at the fire, At a news conference Dec, 13, City Administrator Landreth assured journalists that fire inspection and other records would be released “if not today, within the ballet shoes book pdf next day.” Officials later admitted that the converted warehouse had never received a safety inspection by the fire department..