EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009
>,

COAL BANNED IN OAKLAND, BUT LAWSUIT IS THREATENED

The Oakland City Council votes, 7-0, to ban coal shipments through it port; destined for Asia.

WHO'S RUNNING FOR OFFICE IN 2016?

UPDATED FOR NOVEMBER! The exclusive East Bay Citizen Candidates List is back by popular demand. See who is defiintely running in 2016 and who is thinking about it from Congress all the way to your local East Bay city.

FORMER KHANNA STAFFER SAID HE WAS TWICE STIFFED FROM A PAYCHECK

EXCLUSIVE! Former staffer says he wasn't paid by Khanna for work in 2004, 2014. Emails weave a strange tale that ends in an even stranger fashion

EAST BAY ELECTION RESULTS HERE!

From the Democratic presidential race in Alameda County to the Hayward City Council race, all the election results are here in one place.

EAST BAY CITIZEN PODCAST WITH NANCY SKINNER!

Former Assemblymember Nancy Skinner is a candidate this June for the open Ninth State Senate District seat. She makes her case for the expansive East Bay seat.

>

Monday, June 27, 2016

Breathe easy: Oakland bans coal shipments; but legal action threatened

Signage seen in and around Oakland in recent 
months urging a ban on coal in the city. 
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL |
The burning issue of coal in Oakland was snuffed out Monday night. After hours of sometimes rowdy debate, the Oakland City Council voted 7-0 to thwart a plan to ship coal through its port.

The proposal was vigorously opposed for more than a year by members of the public for its threat to the local and global environment, while some labor and church leaders lauded its potential for creating jobs.

Representatives from a group including Oakland developer Phil Tagami and Terminal Logistics Solutions CEO Jerry Bridges previously maintained the city did not explicitly rule out the transport of coal when it approved the project more than four years ago. Denial of the coal shipments, the group has argued, could deal a blow to financing for the entire Oakland Army base reconstruction as a premier port.

In advance of the meeting, Mayor Libby Schaaf and Councilmember Dan Kalb introduced legislation to ban coal shipments through the city, primarily from Utah and destined for Asia.

Coal was never in the picture, said Councilmember Anne Campbell Washington, who worked for the city government before joining the council two years ago. In addition, she said, it harms residents and puts the health of workers in danger.

“It’s not about making a dollar, it’s about social responsibility,” said Councilmember Noel Gallo. Numerous studies, said Gallo, had already showed coal is unhealthy and dangerous for Oakland.

Long-time Councilmember Larry Reid, viewed beforehand as someone somewhat sympathetic to coal came out firmly against. While praising the business acumen and future of success of two of the plan's backers, including Bridges, Reid added, however, “I don’t want them to be successful shipping coal through our city.”

Reid also said that the group, in a letter, had not only threatened legal action against the city if a prohibition on coal in Oakland was approved, but also against individual councilmembers. Reid said he hopes a long legal battle is avoided, but "this city is prepared to be in court.”

Featuring numerous outbursts from the public, primarily from supporters for the coal proposal on the grounds of securing jobs derived from the project, Monday’s highly-anticipated meeting delivered on its promise of a contentious evening despite the expected outcome. However, the rancor may continue for many more months.

Gregory McConnell, an Oakland lobbyist representing the consortium backing coal shipments further warned a lawsuit is imminent after tonight's decision. “It is not going to end tonight. Even if the decision you make tonight is to ban coal.” He later admitted the city council would vote Monday to ban coal shipment, but on several occasions asserted the decision was pre-determined and likely a point of contention within a possible lawsuit against the city. McConnell was also critical of the city releasing its lengthy study on the health and safety of coal in Oakland until last Friday night.

The city staff report McConnell referenced, however, was solidly opposed to coal in Oakland for its health and safety factors. Much of the report’s contents came as no surprise to opponents of the plan. Oakland Assistant City Manager Claudia Cappio said fugitive coal dust emission would impact air quality in West Oakland and the region while exposing the public to spontaneous combustion of coal dust, in addition to furthering global warming and pollution.

The report also found various solutions from the developers were unfounded, especially keeping coal dust out of neighborhoods by covering rail cars. “There are no effective means demonstrated by either coating or covering rail cars,” said Cappio.

Although a certain segment of local labor groups voiced strong support for bringing coal through Oakland, far more powerful groups with the labor movement added even more by way of opposition. Josie Camacho, executive director/secretary for the Alameda Labor Council said it was “insulting” for the developer to use labor as a wedge dividing workers. She called for “nothing less than a total ban” on coal and labelled the threat of losing jobs from the prohibition on coal “bogus.”

Derrick Muhammad, a representative for the local Longshoreman’s union questioned the efficacy of the pro-coal argument when it comes to jobs since most of the opportunities at the port are union jobs. “What jobs are we talking about?” he asked. “You’re not in the union to get in the project in the first place.”

Numerous public officials and representatives from several legislative offices also registered opposition to coal in Oakland. Earlier, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates presented the council with a letter signed by 11 East Bay mayors urging them to ban coal.

Coming into Monday's vote, the stakes for the bulk commodities facility was high. A group backing the coal plan sent a campaign-style mailer over the weekend to some Oakland residents asserting the plan’s opposition from the Sierra Club was being pushed by out-of-state members. The mailer, discredited by Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, also placed logos of several local labor groups falsely suggesting support for the coal proposal. Judging by the outpouring of clear opposition to coal in Oakland, the mailer appeared to have little effect.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Alameda County set to place affordable housing bond on the November ballot

Alameda County Supervisors Scott Haggerty
and Richard Valle.
ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | During a meeting earlier this year, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty was nearly in tears.

The lack of affordable housing that has created so much fear in the East Bay and, in many cases, has forced residents to move elsewhere, had reached his inner sanctum.

His daughter was being priced out of the East Bay and was moving to Oklahoma where a new home was decidedly more affordable. This is why the county needs a housing bond, he went on.

After numerous meetings and extensive public outreach, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will move next Tuesday to formally place a $580 million affordable housing bond on the November ballot.

The general obligation bond would require support from two-thirds of voters and benefit low-to-moderate income families by bridging the affordability gap for renters and new homebuyers, according to a county staff report.

As currently proposed, a vast majority of the measure's proceeds--$460 million--would be set aside for rental housing. The remaining $120 million earmarked for aiding middle income, first-time home buyers, along with a program to help seniors and those with disabilities stay in their homes.

The proposed measure comes at time when the issue of affordable housing and gentrification in the East Bay is a major concerns for voters. In addition, the fall ballot will likely include measures enacting variations of rent control in Oakland, Richmond and Alameda.

Last week, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors approved a $950 million affordable housing bond for voters to decide next November.

Catharine Baker wanted to head off a vote on four bills to regulate assault weapons

Assemblymember Catharine Baker voted against
an amendment to move four assault weapon bills
for a vote in the near future.
ASSEMBLY | 16TH DISTRICT |
In the wake of the Orlando tragedy and a full-throated protest by House Democrats this week calling for Republicans to allow a vote on gun-related legislation, there is great pressure from the public for legislators to do something to quell gun violence.

However, East Bay Assemblymember Catharine Baker and other Assembly Republicans Thursday unsuccessfully voted to block a package of four gun control bills from coming to a vote in the Assembly.

The procedural vote, approved by Democrats, moved the bills from the Assembly Appropriations Committee to a third reading possibly next week.

Republican leadership in the Assembly objected to the amendment because the bill's cost have not yet been reviewed by Appropriations. All four bills were approved by the state Senate last May.

Instead, the quartet of legislation will force Baker, who is in a tight re-election campaign against Democrat Cheryl Cook-Kallio, to register a vote on the hot-button issue. How Baker votes on the gun control bills could become a major campaign issue this fall.

The batch of gun legislation, according to the authors, was initially a response to the shootings last December in San Bernardino. Together they propose to ban the sale of assault weapons with a so-called “bullet button,” which allows users to easily detach its magazine (SB 880); and require gun owners to report the theft of their weapon to authorities within five days of realizing it was stolen (SB 894).

Another bill would require background checks on ammunition purchases, and for vendors to register with the state (SB 1235). More on this from the Sacramento Bee.

A fourth bill (SB 1446), authored by East Bay state Sen. Loni Hancock, seeks to ban the possession of assault weapons with a magazine of more than 10 rounds of ammunition. Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta is also a coauthor of the bill.

In addition, Senate Bill 880, the bill to close the "bullet button" loophole, is coauthored by another East Bay legislator, state Sen. Steve Glazer.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

License plate readers and surveillance cameras now pervasive in the Tri Valley

Dublin and Danville in Contra Costa County approved
license plate readers and other cameras this week.
SECURITY | City and Town Council's in Dublin and Danville voted this week to welcome the addition of automated license plate readers to their cities. They join Pleasanton, Livermore and San Ramon, which have previously approved similar surveillance tools.

The devices are not cheap. The Danville town council approved last Tuesday an initial expenditure of $840,000 for 36 license plate readers and 33 other cameras called "sitcams" that capture real-time footage at intersections.

On the same night, the Dublin City Council agreed to spend $327,500 for 8 vehicle mounted readers and 6 pole-mounted cameras along entry points to the city from Interstates 580 and 680, according to the East Bay Times.

While residents in Oakland and its neighboring cities have lodged complaints about ALPRs and their ability to capture bulk data, in addition, to concerns over how long the license plate information will be stored and who will have access to the information, many more conservative East Bay communities have registered few concerns.

Despite the cost and concern about the systems in some East Bay cities, there was no comment made by members of the public in Danville, according to the Pleasanton Weekly and very little questioning in other cities outside the Greater East Bay.

In Fremont last year, the city council approved up to 10 surveillance cameras to be placed near freeway on ramps and exits with a single public comment. There was also a push to place surveillance cameras in some Fremont neighborhoods to help stem the perception of rising crime in that.

Some cities like Dublin, however, have been able to successfully enlist its resident's help in keeping an eye on the public realm by offer the local police department access to their own private surveillance cameras.

Berkeley, meanwhile, is using five license plate readers for another use--monitoring street parking.

Glazer's Port Chicago 50 resolution unanimously approved by state Senate

State Sen. Steve Glazer's resolution asks President
Obama for an executive order exonerating the Port
Chicago 50 of their convictions in 1944 for mutiny.
STATE SENATE | 7TH DISTRICT |
The state Senate voted Thursday to urge President Obama to fully exonerate members of infamous Port Chicago 50, the group of World War II-era African American soldiers who were wrongly convicted of mutiny at the Concord naval installation.

East Bay state Sen. Steve Glazer, the author of the senate resolution said, “It’s hard to believe that I have to stand here today and make this plea after so many decades of delay and inaction.”

“With this we can close an ugly chapter in California history and American history," he added. "These men and their families deserve to have their names cleared from this miscarriage of justice.”

Berkeley state Sen. Loni Hancock, who publicly backed the resolution on the senate floor Thursday, said, “This story is legendary as an example of injustice in our area. It’s time to rectify it.”

The resolution was unanimously approved, 35-0.

The incident followed the explosion of a transport ship in July 1944 that was being loaded with munitions at Port Chicago near Concord. The blast killed 320 American soldiers and injured another 390. Most of the soldiers were African Americans, and many, including the 50 later convicted of mutiny, were quickly ordered to return to the damaged and unsafe site to begin the clean up and reconstruction effort.

Their white counterparts, meanwhile, were given 30 days leave. When the group of servicemen balked, they were later court marshaled and convicted to jail sentences, some as long as 15 years.

Soon after public opinion turned against the military’s handling of the case and the 50 soldiers were released, but their convictions stood, along with their record of service sullied. The U.S. Navy ultimately rescinded their dishonorable discharges, but they were never officially exonerated. All have since passed away.

President Obama, however, has previously said he does not have authority to overturn the convictions, but Glazer’s resolution asks instead for an executive order acknowledging the racial injustice surrounding the action.

Ro Khanna's major upset over Mike Honda officially declared by the state

Ro Khanna beat Rep. Mike Honda by 4.5 percent
in Alameda County, the northern portion of CA-17.
CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT |
Ro Khanna's upset primary victory over Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, was officially declared Thursday by the California Secretary of State's office.

The results of Khanna's surprise win will certainty be referenced hundreds of times from now through November. Here's the breakdown:

Khanna beat Honda by 2,226 votes in the Fremont and South Bay district. Khanna's 1.7 percentage point victory represents a clear upward trend for him as he seeks a second attempt at unseating Honda. He lost by nearly 20 points in the 2014 primary, then by just under 4 points in November, and overcame Honda two weeks ago. Both are Democrats.

In both counties the district runs across, Khanna registered the most support. However, in the largest portion--Santa Clara County--Khanna topped Honda by just 777 votes. In Alameda County, Khanna performed better, beating Honda by 4.5 percentage points. The result is not surprising since Khanna lives in Fremont and he enjoys strong support within its large Indo-American community.

However, in what could be a very close November election, Honda may need to focus more on Fremont, an area of the congressional district that is newest to the district. Meanwhile, voters in the entire district, clearly sent a message earlier this month that Honda's on-going ethics investigation is significantly tamping down his support.

The true ramifications of the primary result will not begin to be fully understood until after mid-year campaign finance reports are revealed next month. Did Khanna's performance energize new and existing donors to further fill his coffers? Will the reports begin to show signs Honda's fundraising is suffering as some past donors possibly forecast a loss for him in November?

Khanna is already using the primary victory as a catalyst for attracting additional campaign financing. An email to supporters Thursday trumpeted Khanna as one of two Democrats in the entire country to have beaten a congressional incumbent this June and asserted, "our opponent is already ratcheting up the negativity of his campaign."

17th Congressional District...............VOTES    PCT
PRECINCTS REPORTING 100%**

Ro Khanna (D).............................51919  39.1%
*Mike Honda (D)...........................49720  37.4%

Peter Kuo (R).............................12205   9.2% 
Ron Cohen (R).............................10421   7.8%
Pierluigi Oliverio(D)....................  5521   4.2%
Kennita Watson (LP)....................... 3115   2.3%
*incumbent
**including Santa Clara County

Lee, Honda, Swalwell represent East Bay for House gun control sit-in

Democrats protesting on the House floor.
CONGRESS | Alameda County’s three members of the House of Representatives had starring roles in the historic protest by Democrats on the House floor Wednesday urging for votes on a pair of gun-related bills.

Reps. Barbara Lee, Mike Honda and Eric Swalwell all spent the duration of the nearly day-long (still going) sit-in listening to colleagues rail against gun violence, while giving their own addresses.

Labeled on social as #NoBillNoBreak, the protest by Democrats was not televised by C-SPAN after Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan called for a recess. Microphones on the House floor were also turned off.

Honda, who continued posting tweets and videos well after 4 a.m. Eastern time, told fellow Democrats, “I’m here to tell you this Mike is still working.” While House rules strongly forbid the type of demonstrations seen Wednesday, Honda said, “We are breaking the rules to be heard.”
Swalwell, one of the youngest members of Congress, and a noted social media maven, naturally acted as one of a handful of representatives who utilized Periscope, a burgeoning livestreaming app, to broadcast the protest around the nation and world.

Later, he addressed the group, asking, “When is congress going to do something about this?” Swalwell said enacting legislation to combat gun violence is difficult, but a solution should be found, nonetheless. “Damnit, isn’t that why we came here?" He added, later, “Our constituents are fed up. The victim’s families are fed up.”



Lee, who represents Oakland, one of the cities hit hardest by gun violence, carried a photo of 16-year-old Reggina Jefferies, who was shot and killed last week. “I also have pictures of other young people killed in my district," Lee added.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Proposed fees for funding Alameda's rent stabilization program find little support

Alameda Councilmembers Jim Oddie and Marilyn
Ezzy Ashcraft with renters last year.
ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL |
A plan to fund Alameda's new rent stabilization ordinance through a so-called Renter Program Regulatory Fee fell flat Tuesday night with a majority of the City Council calling for more time to monitor how much the estimated $1.95 million bureaucracy will really cost.

Upon approving the city's rent stabilization ordinance last March, the City Council allocated $300,000 to seed the program though June 30. In April, an additional $493,000 in general fund monies was approved for operations through Dec. 31.

Tuesday night's presentation was intended to secure funding the program through the end of the next fiscal year in June 2017. The council, however, had second thoughts, with some expressing doubts over the true cost of the program.

"More time buys us more accuracy," Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft said of the proposed fee.

Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese, added, "I would like to see six months of data to how much it really costs." Another councilmember worried about the city further expanding its bureaucracy.

The size of the nearly $2 million program made Councilmember Tony Daysog a bit uncomfortable. He too added uncertainty on its real costs, but suggested the existing city administration could absorb some of the program's fees.

The plan detailed by Community Development Director Debbie Potter would enact a $131 per unit fee to help fund the program. Landlords would be allowed to pass on 50 percent of the costs to tenants over 12 months, said Potter, which averages out to $5.46 per month in additional rental costs to tenants. The fee would not be included as part of any rent increase, she said.

A main feature of the rent stabilization ordinance is reforms requiring landlords to petition the city's Rent Review Advisory Committee for rent increases over 5 percent and a spotlight on mediation between tenants and landlords. The mediation process would be costly under the current proposal, around $4,705, according to Potter.

During the first year, renters seeking mediation services would be allowed to pay 5 percent of the costs, roughly $235; while landlords would put up another 10 percent, rough $471. The remainder would be paid the next year when city staff believes it will have a better handle on its costs.

After Tuesday's council direction, city staff will return sometime in December to again discuss the renters' fee for the next round of funding for the program, said City Manager Jill Keimach.

However, the atmosphere surrounding the issue could be vastly different at the end of the year since two possible ballot measures are destined to be place before voters in November--one charter amendment proposal to enact rent control and another banning it altogether.

San Leandro eyes potential ballot measure to tax cannabis, parking lots

San Leandro may ask voters to approve a ballot
measure that would among other uses, replace
its police station.
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL |
Over the past three election cycles, San Leandro voters have helped the city bolster its treasury through various tax measures. It may ask for help again this fall through another tax-raising ballot measure.

Although the city's finances are relatively robust, San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata said Monday its aging police and fire department facilities need upgrades soon.

Additional funding could come through a proposed ballot measure for November that includes a package of new taxes coupled with cuts to business fees accessed on small businesses with three or fewer employees, he said. Two of the city's five fire stations need improvements, said Zapata, and its police station is "50-years-old and cramped."

The City Council was presented Monday night with a sketch of the proposed ballot measure that features a mixture of higher taxes on parking lots and warehouses, along with a new tax on cannabis sales. If approved, the package of taxes could bring in up to $1.8 million in new revenues to the general fund, said Assistant City Manager Eric Engelbart.

Specifically, the city staff's proposal to tax cannabis sales could generate up to $500,000 in annual sales tax if set to up to 7 percent of gross receipts. San Leandro first medical cannabis dispensary is scheduled to open sometime this year, and a second is currently under consideration.

The plan also proposes taxing warehouses up to $100 per 1,000 sq. ft. of space and taxing parking lot operators up to 10 percent on gross receipts. The additional tax on parking lots is intended to take advantage of various long-term airport lots in San Leandro that are assessed far lower taxes than similar lots in Oakland, which are taxed up to 18 percent, said Engelbart.

Although the proposed measure appears to highlight funding for public safety facilities, Engelbart said it is designed to be general purpose. The designation would allow the measure to need only a simple majority to pass, as opposed to the more difficult to attain two-thirds majority required for measures intended for a specific purpose.

If eventually placed on the November ballot, one selling point to the public may be the likelihood the proposed taxes would not directly impact a vast majority of San Leandro residents.  

Nonetheless, San Leandro voters have been quite receptive toward approving local tax measures in recent years. In 2010, voters approved Measure Z, which most credit with helping keep San Leandro's finances afloat during the Great Recession. Two years ago, voters also approved Measure HH, which bolstered funding for public safety, roads, and other city services.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Alameda County grand jury comes down hard on Oakland city government

Alameda County grand jury concluded Oakland 
Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney used
her position for personal benefit.
ALAMEDA COUNTY GRAND JURY | Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney used her position for her own personal benefit, said an annual report from the Alameda County grand jury. In addition, the City of Oakland abandoned its own procurement rules for its $1 billion Zero Waste garbage contract, according to the report, resulting in far higher rates for Oakland customers.

According to the report released Tuesday, the grand jury, which only deals with civil, not criminal complaints, found that McElhaney “had a conflict of interest that prohibited her from using her elected position to influence an administrative decision on the townhouse project.”

The grand jury concluded, “Backroom dealing cannot be the standard by which the city of Oakland is governed.”

READ: Entire 2015-16 Alameda County grand jury report.

The townhouse project was slated to be constructed near a property owned by McElhaney and her husband. The grand jury concluded that McElhaney violated ethics rules when she instructed her chief of staff to write a letter in opposition and contacted a city department head registering similar concerns.

“This gave the appearance that the department head was an advocate for the councilmember,” the report concluded. It added, “The Grand Jury believes that was a misuse of city resources solely intended to benefit the councilmember personally.”

The grand jury was also critical of McElhaney using a city planning commission to voice opposition and “inappropriately used her position to question city policy, to challenge staff, and to interrupt proceedings.”

The report also admonished the Oakland City Council and Oakland Public Ethics Commission for failing to address McElhaney’s actions. Later in the report, the grand jury suggests one remedy for McElhaney behavior is censure by the City Council.

The grand jury also came down hard on the entire Oakland City Council and city administration for its handling of the 2014 Zero Waste garbage franchise contract. It found the city failed to offer a “safeguard the ratepayers’ financial interests” leading to vastly higher garbage fees for Oakland residents and businesses above those in nearby municipalities.

“The city’s goal was that the selection process be open and transparent,” the report acknowledged. “However, the process moved to ‘behind closed-door’ negotiations between the two contractors. In the end, the public and even city staff were left on the sidelines.”

The City Council in late 2014 awarded the contract to California Waste Solutions, a small locally-owned company over the previous franchisee, Waste Management, who then sued California Waste Solutions and later settled the lawsuit. The City Council then agreed to split the contract between the competing bidders. But the grand jury concluded Oakland city officials had little to no input on the final outcome of the garbage contract.

“The Grand Jury investigated whether the city of Oakland was an integral party to the settlement agreement between WMAC and CWS, but found no such evidence,” the grand jury reported. “Instead, evidence presented to the Grand Jury suggests the city was marginally involved, if at all, other than simply ratifying the end result of the agreement.”

In recent years, the Alameda County grand jury has been highly-critical of Oakland’s city government. It previously strongly admonished Councilmember Desley Brooks for violating city non-interference rules and shined a light on the dismal record of the Oakland Police Department’s crime lab for processing criminal evidence.

Friday, June 17, 2016

EBCampaign: BAKER critical of health care funding for the undocumented—FARMWORKERS raise pitchforks against QUIRK—ALAMEDA's Disaster-In-Chief

142 DAYS UNTIL ELECTION DAY |
Republican East Bay Assemblymember Catharine Baker voted against the state’s $122.5 billion budget package this week.

However, there were some parts of the budget Baker supported, such as setting aside $2 billion for the state’s rainy day fund. Baker, though, criticized increased spending and additional funding for high-speed rail, a project she has always vigorously opposed.

Baker, who is up for re-election for the first time (she is facing Democrat Cheryl Cook-Kallio in November), had one other gripe with the budget bill—the additional funding of medical benefits for undocumented immigrants.

In a statement, Baker disagreed with the allocation of “nearly $200 million to cover Medi-Cal benefits for undocumented immigrants at a time when legal residents already cannot get timely access to care the Medi-Cal provider network continues to shrink.”

The sentiment would not be popular in the Greater East Bay, but might be amendable in the purplish 16th Assembly District centered in Walnut Creek, Lamorinda and the Tri Valley. Give her credit, though, she didn’t say “illegal aliens” or any other pejorative for immigrants often used by Republicans. She said undocumented immigrants. Might that also be due to the large shadow of Donald Trump possibly darkening her re-election campaign this fall?
*****
Assemblymember Bill Quirk in San Lorenzo.
GRIPES AND WRATH OF LABOR While on the subject of Baker, she also voted against an Assembly bill earlier this month authored by Southern California Democratic Assemblymember Lorena Gonzalez that would have lowered the number of hours from 10 to 8 for farm workers in the state to receive overtime pay. That’s not news. Assembly Republicans led the charge in defeating the bill, but opposition from Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk, a labor-friendly Democrat, was surprising. Quirk voted for Assembly Bill 2757 a week earlier as a member of the Assembly Appropriations Committee, but voted no during the final tally on June 2. Suffice to say the United Farm Workers and other labor unions are quite upset with Quirk. Other Assembly Democrats also jumped ship and voted no. But, more curiously, Quirk’s defection is additionally surprising when you take into account that he represents Hayward, a city with the largest percentage of Latinos in the East Bay.
*****
In the event of a disaster, Alameda Mayor Trish 
Spencer believes she should lead the response team.
ALAMEDA'S DISASTER-IN-CHIEF The dubiously named Alameda Disaster Council will be hotly debated at next Tuesday’s Alameda City Council. The emergency body is designed to coordinate the island’s efforts in the event of a disaster, natural or man-made. The City Council will discuss formalizing rules over the Disaster Council's composition and roles next week. Mayor Trish Spencer, though, is reportedly predicting a “blood bath” Tuesday night, according to a City Hall source. That’s because she believes the Disaster Council should be headed by the mayor, not the city manager, as prescribed in the current proposed ordinance. Spencer voiced the same opinion when the Disaster Council was discussed during a City Council meeting last December. Alameda’s municipal governance structure, like many other medium-sized Bay Area cities, is predicated on a strong city manager model. The city manager runs the day-to-day operations of the city and the mayor is basically a glorified member of the city council. Spencer clearly dislikes this set-up and also dislikes new Alameda City Manager Jill Keimach. Recall, Spencer was the lone vote against her hiring earlier this year.
*****
Hayward placed restrictions on dispensaries six
years ago after a string of robberies.
HAYWARD OPENS ITS MIND ON POT More than six years ago, Hayward residents with a medical marijuana card could buy the product within city limits. A few robberies—one that incidentally occurred while then-councilmember, now Mayor Barbara Halliday was touring a local dispensary—was co-opted by the Hayward Police to persuade the Council to ban the shops in town. Now, with the increasing likelihood voters in the state will approve a ballot initiative legalizing marijuana altogether, the Hayward City Council may be changing its tune, or, at the very least, putting itself in a position to react appropriately. On Tuesday, the council provided direction to city staff to create a possible ballot measure for November that would ask voters to give the city the authority to tax marijuana in different forms in the event dispensaries are again allowed in Hayward. The city might also ask voters to approve certain regulations on where dispensaries or other marijuana-related businesses are able to set up shop. For instance, the council might ask voters whether the industry should be limited to doing business in warehouse areas in Hayward, and a certain distance from schools and residential areas. Hayward Councilmember Francisco Zermeno, a long-time opponent of dispensaries in the city, softened his stance Tuesday night. He said his mother, who recently broke her foot, was contemplating using medical marijuana for pain management. He then added, “I do not smoke marijuana myself, but I used to when I was a hippie.”
*****
Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo could have
at least one challenger this November.
ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT'S LARRY Candidates for local November races have until the end of August to throw their names into the ring. Some are already doing it. In Oakland, for example, Councilmember Larry Reid and the three freshman members of the council—Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Noel Gallo and Dan Kalb—are up for re-election. Oakland probate attorney Kevin Corbett already has a campaign web site for his bid for Kalb’s North Oakland district. Gallo is rumored to have an opponent showing interest in challenging him for the District 5 seat centered in the Fruitvale. Viola Gonzales, CEO of AnewAmerica, a socially-conscious business incubator for immigrants, women and minority groups, is one prospective challenger. As for Larry Reid, who knows if he’s running for re-election? It wouldn’t be summertime if Reid doesn’t express election-year doubt over whether he wants to continue representing District 7 for another four years. He also may be waiting for another signal from the Almighty. Two years ago, Reid said he was thinking about running for mayor against Jean Quan, provided God issued a sign one way or another. God allegedly said, “No, Larry.”
*****
SANDERS LEADS IN OAKLAND Even though the mainstream media declared Hillary Clinton the presumptive Democratic nominee for president about 12 hours before the polls opened in California last week, voters in Alameda County, and specifically, Rep. Barbara Lee’s 13th District centered around Oakland were feeling the Bern. On Thursday, Bernie Sanders nudged past Clinton in the 13th Congressional District. Overall in Alameda County, Clinton still leads Sanders by less than four percent, but the margin has continually dropped since the June 7 primary. However, being that this part of the Bay Area is likely one of the most progressive areas in the country, it makes you wonder why Sanders didn’t do better? Could the mainstream media’s bid to abruptly end the primary season the night before the California Primary be the culprit?

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Despite evidence, embattled Hayward supe says, I'm not going anywhere

HAYWARD SCHOOLS | Hayward school board member John Taylor, with some panache, publicly asked embattled Superintendent Stan "Data" Dobbs at a meeting Wednesday night whether or not he intends to leave the school district anytime soon. Dobbs, appearing to follow a script, defiantly answered that he was here to stay. Supporters of Dobbs, many of whom spoke in favor of him during two hours of public comment, cheered wildly.

However, a three-page letter sent May 23 from Dobbs' attorney to the school board's legal counsel shows his declaration is not entirely true.

The letter was obtained by the East Bay Citizen early Wednesday and contains 10 bullet points laying out Dobbs' demands for a negotiated settlement to end his employment at the Hayward Unified School District, including a resignation date of June 30.

Aside from standard requests for post-employment pay and benefits, Dobbs is also asking for a non-disparagement clause against the school board punishable by a $25,000 fee for each occurrence and indemnification from any legal claims made against him while employed by the district.

This would not be the first time Dobbs publicly pledged allegiance to the Hayward school district despite evidence to the contrary. Just prior to be hired in 2013, Dobbs pulled his name out of consideration for the job. Days later, he had second thoughts.

The East Bay Citizen has chosen not to publish the entire letter (see below) due to concerns for Dobbs' privacy. Passages at the beginning and conclusion of the letter describe personal details that are unrelated to his employment.


Alameda landlords submit signatures for ballot measure banning rent control

Alameda City Council at a special meeting on
rents at Alameda High School.
ALAMEDA | RENT MEASURES |
A group of Alameda landlords who back a ballot measure that would prohibit rent control of any type on the island, submitted 7,491 signatures to the city clerk's office on Monday.

The potential ballot measure, backed by Alameda landlords Farhad Matin and Marilyn Schumacher, now heads to the Alameda County registrar for verification of its signatures. The measure needs 6,420 valid signatures for inclusion on the November ballot.

Another rent-related ballot measure backed by the Alameda Renters Coalition would, conversely, enact rent control, submitted 7,882 signatures to the city clerk's office on May 24.

The potential rent control measure would tie annual rent increases to a percentage of the Consumer Price Index. Word on whether proponents of the measure accumulated the requisite number of valid signatures is expected within the week from the county registrar's office.

The competing ballot measures, however, could be at risk of not securing the minimum number of valid signatures required. Typically, ballot measures strive to secure an additional 25 percent over the minimum number of signatures to account for invalid entries. In this case, both fell short of that recommendation.

A third rent-related petition offered by Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog is not expected to secure enough signatures in time for November.

On July 5, the Alameda City Council is expected discuss each pending ballot measure. If both are green-lighted by the county registrar, the City Council would then be asked to formally approve placing both on the fall ballot.

Later this year, Alamedans will also be choosing to fill open seats on the city council and school board, whether to renewal a school parcel tax, in addition, to making selections for expected contested races for city auditor and treasurer.

San Leandro may raise its city wide minimum wage to $15 by 2020

Councilmember Jim Prola proposes raising San
Leandro's minimum wage to $15 by 2020.
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL |
The minimum wage in San Leandro could reach $15 an hour by 2020, the city council proposed Monday night. If approved at the July 5 council meeting, San Leandro's minimum wage would increase to $12 an hour starting in mid-2017 and $1 a year thereafter to $15 in 2020, according to a proposal offered by Councilmember Jim Prola.

"It's a crafted compromise," said Prola, "and it's the only thing that I can get four votes at this time." Support among his colleagues appeared strong. Councilmembers Lee Thomas and Ursula Reed voiced strong support, as did Corina Lopez.

If the council approves Prola's proposal next month, San Leandro residents would earn $15 an hour 18 months before a majority of workers in the state.

"Fifteen dollars an hour isn't going to solve all problems," said Thomas, "but it's a start." He also expressed concern for those at low-wage jobs who struggle to feed their children. "At this point, we have a responsibility to help some folks as much as we can."

Outside of Prola, the councilmember most interested in ramping up much sooner the city's minimum wage was Reed. "The word 'minimum' in the dictionary means we're just getting by," she said. Lopez said it's "unconscionable" that some major big box retailers like Walmart give more deference to their stock holders over the welfare of their workers.

In addition to a quicker wage increase schedule, the proposal put forth by Prola Monday night would not make any distinction between small and large businesses. He told the council that creating definitions for a number of different business types would unduly complicate the plan.

Mayor Pauline Cutter, possibly the most reticent of the minimum wage proposal, urged for specifics on how a minimum wage increase would be enforced by the city and whether additional money will need to be allocated to its next budget for a compliance officer.

Enforcement of the proposed wage increase, said Prola, would be based upon self-reporting by businesses and employees. It's a model already used successfully, said Prola, with the city's living wage ordinance.

The minimum wage discussion at City Hall has been a slow simmer, starting sometime last summer. Prola brought the issue to the City Council's three-member Finance Committee in October 2015. The issue has been debated and shaped there for six of the last seven monthly meetings before coming to the full council on Monday night.

San Leandro has no minimum wage rules on its books. It currently follows the statewide minimum wage which is set to increase from $10 an hour to $10.50 beginning Jan. 1. It will rise again to $11 an hour in January 2018 and $1 per year through 2022, ending at $15 an hour. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Amid growing sex scandal, Oakland police oversight measure moves forward

Oakland Councilmember Abel Guillen voted against
moving the police oversight measure to the full
council but later urged for a equitable compromise.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | In the wake of a sweeping police misconduct and sex scandal, a ballot measure that would create an independent citizen police oversight commission is headed to the Oakland City Council for discussion in early July. If approved the measure would be placed on the November general election ballot.

The Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee moved the potential ballot measure to the full council Tuesday evening despite strong opposition from the Oakland Police Officers Association and other several other labor unions.

The measure’s future appeared in doubt after some councilmembers appeared to be stymieing its path last month toward approval in time for the November ballot. However, news reports detailing widespread police misconduct with a 17-year-old sex worker in Oakland and coverup, which apparently led to the firing of Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent, has changed the political will within the City Council.

Opposition to the measure by councilmembers, including Abel Guillen and Anne Campbell Washington was withdrawn after the damning East Bay Express report last Friday. Guillen and Campbell Washington on Tuesday attempted a long list of amendments to the proposed ballot measure language offered by Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo, including reinstatement of non-binding arbitration for police officers. Kalb did not accept the specific amendment despite pushback from union leaders.

"The proposal eliminates due process rights available for generations,” said Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association. “It’s completely uncalled for.” Donelan and a representative from the Teamsters added some councilmembers had reneged on promises to the union to maintain non-binding arbitration protections, “You don’t have to weaken union to have strong police oversight,” said Zac Unger, president of the Oakland Firefighters’ union.

Public opinion, however, has significantly shifted towards greater police oversight in just the past five days as the police sex scandal has ballooned to include as nearly two dozen officers within numerous local law enforcement jurisdictions. “Overwhelmingly the huge majority of police are good people doing a difficult job,” said Kalb. “We also know all too well in recent days, misconduct happens. It needs to be dealt with high standards.”

A growing number of Oakland residents had been clamoring for the right to vote on the proposed oversight measure in the fall. Gallo said he was heartened by the fact the proposed measure is being driven by citizens. “At the end of the day it is their call,” he said, and labeled the measure as “not anti-police, not anti-union. It’s about making progress in the city.”

Councilmember Desley Brooks was harsher in her criticism, even alleging Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf knew early on about the alleged misconduct. “The administration is unable to look out for the residents of this city,” Brooks added. She also suggested hearing rumors about police misconduct and rebuffed when asking questions about it, but also said much of what is now know about about the scandal has only been furnished by news reports. “We are learning about stuff in the media just like the rest of us.”

Support builds for comprehensive review of San Leandro's 'archaic' city charter

San Leandro Councilmember Ursula Reed advocated
for extending council term limits, but discussion
turned toward revamping the city charter.
SAN LEADNRO CITY COUNCIL | San Leandro’s city charter, its guiding document for governance, is archaic and need wholesale changes, said several councilmembers last week.

The issue of San Leandro’s city charter was introduced last week after termed out Councilmember Ursula Reed advocated during a meeting last May for extending the City Council’s term limits beyond two four-year terms.

Support for longer terms that would have only benefited future councilmembers, however, failed to receive any support at the June 6 meeting. Several councilmembers, instead, said the city charter should be reexamined and potentially put before voters in November 2018.

Councilmember Jim Prola called the charter “archaic” and suggested a comprehensive look at the charter could not be accomplished in time for inclusion on the November 2016 ballot. “I don’t think you should put it on the ballot in a rush,” said Prola, who also feared a charter amendment initiative would put other potential San Leandro ballot measures next fall at risk for failure.

Councilemmbers Corina Lopez, Lee Thomas and Deborah Cox agreed that the city charter may need revamping in the future. However, a motion to send the item to the City Council’s Rules Committee was never made last Monday night. Criticism of the city charter's current utility has been questioned in the past and has not been updated for more than 40 years.

The charter, though, was amended in 1974 to enact term limits on the mayor and city council terms. Reed’s initial inquiry into extending those limits was met with opposition from the public, according to some councilmembers on the receiving end of emails from the public. According to the San Leandro City Clerk Tamika Greenwood, 49 similar ballot measures in the state since 2008 have been placed before voters. A vast majority, however, were for implementing term limits and succeeded. The few, like Reed was proposing, to lengthen council terms, all failed.

Hayward superintendent Dobbs offered school district terms for his resignation

Hayward superintendent Stan Dobbs wants to be
indemnified against any potential legal action. 
HAYWARD SCHOOLS | Hayward school superintendent Stan “Data” Dobbs is looking for an exit out as the school district’s top administrator, according to letter he sent to the school district last month. Dobbs, who was hired in 2013, has sent the school district a letter detailing the financial terms of his resignation effective June 30, according to sources.

Dated May 23, the letter obtained by the East Bay Citizen, lays out a negotiated settlement offer from Dobbs to the school district that would lead to his resignation later this month. Included in the offer from Dobbs is one years termination pay, accrued vacation pay and $25,000 for moving costs.

In addition, Dobbs is asking for a non-disparagement clause to be applied to all members of the school board who might publicly criticize his tenure as Hayward superintendent of schools. Dobbs also wants to be indemnified against any legal claims against him while serving as superintendent.

ALSO: Despite evidence, embattled Hayward supe says, I'm not going anywhere

The timing of the letter is important as it is believed to have been sent to the school district amid widespread rumors the Hayward school board had sent their own letter to Dobbs notifying him of his removal from his job on June 30. Such a dismissal is unfounded, say sources.

In fact, any decision by the school board to remove Dobbs would not unfold in this manner. The slightest hint from the school board that they were at least raising the possibility would occur in closed session and agendized under a general description pertaining to the superintendent.

The superintendent is hired by the school board and conversely, also fired by board, at any time, provided a majority of the five members agree.

Dobbs' tenure in Hayward has been successful in raising the profile of the struggling school district in the area. The marketing aspect of "Made in Hayward" tagline has attracting mostly positive attention.

However, the decision to invite Ray McDonald, a former 49er defensive end currently on trial for rape, to speak to at-risk youths at Tennyson High School upset some parent and was even debated on an ESPN talk show.

Then, following a physical confrontation between Dobbs and two school board members in closed session last September, Dobbs kept his job without incident. But in the months since, his standing among some board members has dropped.

NOTE: Additions to this article was made Wednesday afternoon to reflect the date of the letter sent by Dobbs to the school district and that it was obtained by the East Bay Citizen.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

EBCampaign: East Bay June Primary Post-Mortem

152 DAYS UNTIL NOVEMBER ELECTION
Time to put the 2016 June primary to bed.

Ro Khanna finally won a political campaign. That's was the gist of a text message I received Wednesday morning. Khanna's victory Tuesday night was by far the best possible and least likeliest outcome for his second attempt to unseat Rep. Mike Honda. Last Monday, Khanna said privately that he was hopeful for around a 12-point spread between he and Honda on Election Night. That prediction turned out to be way off. I had the total percentage of all other candidates in the race at 23 (it was 24), but the distribution of the other three-fourths of all voters clearly broke from Honda to Khanna. Through Wednesday afternoon, Khanna leads Honda by just 177 votes.

Ro Khanna, the newly-anointed front runner
in the 17th congressional district.
Unofficially, either way, the results from the primary are devastating for Honda going forward. In the coming months, the most troubling ramifications from the result for Honda is whether his fundraising will dry up? Nobody in politics wants to be associated with a potential losing candidate and absolutely nobody wants to throw good fundraising money on them either. This problem for Honda is amplified by the fact Khanna has almost always outraised him going back to early 2013. Another issue to keep an eye on in this race is whether labor's support for Honda begins to crack? If one big name union or a labor council pulls away from Honda, it's over. Here are some other things to watch in CA17 over the next five months:

There has to be more than one debate and/or forums in the fall. It's now in Honda's best interests to show a more public face. Voters might actually tire of seeing Khanna. Who knows? Honda must also get out in front of the ethics investigation story. How exactly is not clear, but Tuesday's results show the passive drumbeat over the past year of hearing the words "ethics investigation" attached to his name significantly eroded his support in the district. Honda is letting this "on-going investigation" dictate his campaign. Meanwhile, momentum is high for Khanna. How he handles being the front runner for the first time in his political career will be important. It's much different being the chaser than being the one chased.
****
Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley
dominated Oakland's flatlands and Pleasanton.
A STERN MESSAGE TO COUNTY REFORMERS If Khanna was truly shocked by his likely, but still unofficial upset primary win over Honda, imagine how Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and his opponent Bryan Parker felt a little after 8 p.m. last Tuesday night? I've never come across a race where both campaigns, in hindsight, were so oblivious to their own chances. Over the past few weeks, Miley was literally walking around like a beaten man. His campaign was acting like an outfit haphazardly throwing every strategy they could think of to pull out a win. Parker totally believed he was on the cusp of victory earlier in the day, yet the polls showed a very familiar result: An easy win for an Alameda County supervisorial incumbent to the tune of a 24-point shellacking.

There is a lot of head scratching going on over this beating. For one, Parker spent $140,000 to improve by just 10 points on the previous challenger's under financed performance from four years ago? Election maps released Thursday show Miley dominated Parker in Oakland's flatlands above San Leandro and trounced him in Pleasanton. In fact, Parker won just one precinct in Oakland, roughly in the hills and the most eastern precinct in Pleasanton. Parker fared better in the northern parts of Castro Valley, but indecisively. Going forward, however, Parker's defeat is going to have bigger ramifications than Miley winning. The lesson learned to anyone thinking about unseating a sitting county supervisor is this: Don't do it. Parker seemed well-equipped to pull off an upset. To start, he had the money. Is it reasonable to believe if someone like Parker can get trounced, nobody else could possibly have a chance? Meanwhile, in coming days and weeks, there will be many theories as to why Parker did so poorly. I'll offer this one.

It never felt like a good idea for Parker to believe he could win head-to-head matchup with Miley in June. He needed two bites at the apple and that would have entailed having a third or fourth candidate in the field. Parker, however, was adamant about avoiding this situation and was pleasantly surprised last March when two other potential candidates decided not to finalize their campaign filing papers. A different composition of candidates would have had us talking today about how Parker could put together a coalition of voters to beat Miley in November. There was momentum in the last two weeks about Miley's questionable deeds as supervisor. The Youth Uprising story last week that showed the Oakland non-profit with ties to Miley was missing $1 million, that story sounds like ACAP all over again, the county program also with ties to Miley that was dissolved after money went missing. If there was a November runoff in this race, we would have surely been talking more about Miley's character, or, lack thereof.
****
Nancy Skinner topped Sandre Swanson by
19 points in the June Primary.
SLOWLY DISAPPEARING STATE SENATE RACE Sandre Swanson is going to need the oil and tobacco-backed IE Alliance for California's Tomorrow to spend big money on his behalf in the fall. He might even need help from another IE. It might not matter how much help Swanson gets over the next five months unless he figures out a specific reason why he's better than his progressive facsimile, Skinner. Pick one easy-to-understand issue and pound away. And be bold. Swanson also needs to ween people off the prevailing wisdom that the heavily progressive district really can't go wrong with either candidate. That doesn't help Swanson since Tuesday's result reinforces the perception that Skinner is the de-facto incumbent in this race. Following Election Night, the interesting part of this particular campaign is just how far it fallen in terms of star power and potential for being a hard-fought and interesting race. Nine months ago, it appeared the race would be a three-way battle featuring some of the most experienced people in the entire East Bay. But when Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan withdrew last October, the dynamics changed. Now, after Swanson's poor performance, it makes you wonder if he truly showed up either?

How will Catharine Baker make the Sixteenth
Assembly District great again?
BAKER HAS TOUGH RACE AHEAD Of the seven Assembly Republicans viewed as most endangered to win re-election this year, East Bay Assemblymember Catharine Baker actually performed slightly better than the pack Tuesday night. Her 54 percent of the vote against Democrat Cheryl Cook-Kallio, however, puts this race in play in November. During the primary Baker campaigned on her ability to work with Democrats in the Legislature. The Contra Costa County and Tri Valley seat is in play because its makeup boasts a slightly higher percentage, but still woeful number of Republicans, and a large number of independents. It's the closest thing to a purple district in the East Bay. In the fall, Baker has a Trump problem and she hasn't yet indicated support the party's presumptive nominee. Cook-Kallio should push her to make a decision. Surely, some IE will plaster Trump's image on a mailer opposing Baker. And beware, the amount of special interests mailers will again be significant. In fighting back Cook-Kallio's candidacy, Baker should describe her as the establishment's pick. In many ways, it's true. Assembly Democrats were turning over every rock in the district looking for someone to challenge Baker before finding Cook-Kallio, a former Pleasanton council member. Conversely, Baker's description of being a moderate does not always jibe with reality, especially with women's issues. That may be why finding a woman to challenge Baker is so important.

DEAR LEADERS STRUGGLE The Alameda County Democratic Party and Republican Party chairs both barely won seats on their respective central committees in the 18th Assembly District. Local Democratic chair Robin Torello won the 10th and last seat on the central committee and David Erlich, chair of the local Republican Party, won the seventh and last seat. The results does not likely mean much about their leadership. Central committee races are somewhat of a crapshoot.

MORE QUAN WOES In the Democratic Central Committee for the 15th District, which includes parts of Oakland to Richmond, one of the notable candidates to miss out on one of nine open seats was Floyd Huen, the husband of former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. Recall, a few months back that Huen vowed revenge against the central committee for not endorsing his wife's re-election for mayor two years ago.

UPSET AT COUNTY ED One of the biggest down ballot upsets was at the Alameda County Board of Education where board member Marlon McWilson was defeated by Amber Childress. Making a bad day worse, McWilson also lost his seat on the Democratic Central Committee.

Bernie Sanders won 46 percent voters in
progressive Alameda County.
SORT OF FELT THE BERN Alameda County felt the Bern a bit more than others in the state. Hillary Clinton beat Bernie Sanders in the county by eight points. Meanwhile, Donald Trump won 64 percent of Republican voters in Alameda County, followed by John Kasich with 16 percent and Ted Cruz with 10 percent.

MEASURE OF SUCCESS Every consequential ballot measure in the county successfully passed Tuesday. The lone exception was Measure L, a bond measure for the little-known Lammersville Unified School District around Mountain House. The measure actually lost by one vote. In fact, just 22 votes were cast. Twelve voted in support of the measure which needed to win 55 percent of the vote for passage. It received 54.55 percent.

NEAR VERDICT FOR JUDGE Criminal attorney Barbara Thomas is headed to a November runoff for the open Alameda County Superior Court judicial seat against county prosecutor Scott Jackson. Thomas, an Alameda attorney, won 48 percent of the vote--two points short of avoiding the runoff. Her 19-point advantage over Jackson may not be as formidable as it looks. Thomas is somewhat of a controversial figure in Alameda politics. Last year, for instance, she raised eye brows by publicly threatening the Alameda City Council with a lawsuit if it passed an ordinance limiting rent increases. The very public declaration potentially violates the state bar's code of conduct for judicial candidates who are not permitted to take political stands. Meanwhile, some local progressives believe the county bench desperately needs more diversity and Jackson, who is black, would fit the bill. In fact, the local party was quite split over whether to endorse Jackson or David Lim, who finished third on Tuesday with 23 percent. Look for a strong and unified push by Democrats this November in favor of Jackson.

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond received the 
highest percentage of votes in Alameda County.
BEST BEAT DOWN AWARD GOES TO... During most state and federal elections in Oakland, Rep. Barbara Lee usually receives the highest percentage of votes in any race in Alameda County. Not during this primary, though. Richmond 15th District Tony Thurmond took the prize Tuesday with 91.8 percent of the vote against Republican Cal student Claire Chiara. Lee was just behind with 91.1 percent over Republican Sue Caro. However, when votes from the Contra Costa County portion of Thurmond's district are included, his percentage drops just below Lee at 90.3 percent.

LOOKING FORWARD TO NOVEMBER Races in the 14th Assembly District between Democrats Mae Torlakson and Tim Grayson , along with Baker's 16th Assembly District will receive statewide attention. The Honda-Khanna rematch will receive national attention and the 9th State Senate District race between Skinner and Swanson looks moribund right now, but could perk up by November.

Oakland Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Noel Gallo are all up for re-election, as is at-large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. All four are likely winners, but the Kaplan race will take center-stage if Jean Quan decides to run. It's not all that clear that she will, however.

Berkeley has four council seats up for grabs and a mayoral race to replace the retiring Tom Bates. Aside from Berkeley's fascinating cast of characters, the Jesse Arreguin-Laurie Capitelli campaigns for mayor will be, well, captivating.