EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009
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THE NEW EBCITIZEN COMING NEXT YEAR

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'GENERATIONAL HAND-OFF' IN OAKLAND

Oakland Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf in her first press conference pledged support for bringing business to East Oakland, keeping sports teams in town.

SPENCER POSTS SUPRISE VICTORY IN ALAMEDA

Eight days after Election Day, Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore concedes victory Trish Spencer, a member of the school board.

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

EBC Year-In-Review, Jan-Mar: Primary Races Heat Up; DAC Is Dumped

JANUARY
Dan Siegel
>>>With Bryan Parker, Joe Tuman and Libby Schaaf already in the race, civil right attorney Dan Siegel announces his candidacy for Oakland mayor while pledging to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and end the city’s proposed surveillance hub. The former soon to become a major electoral success for workers in the city.

>>>Ro Khanna challenges Rep. Mike Honda to four debates prior to the June Primary. It’s the beginning of a year-long debate mostly in the corporate media’s editorial pages over Honda’s reluctance to meet Khanna face-to-face.

>>>Rep. Eric Swalwell places a bet over on the San Francisco 49ers playoff game with a Republican representative from North Carolina in a lengthy YouTube video showcasing Swalwell’s acting skills, or, lack thereof.

>>>Rep. George Miller retires after four decades in Washington. 

>>>Oakland mayoral candidate says he will accept campaign donations in the form of the crypto-currency Bitcoin. The futuristic embrace doesn’t exactly help Bryan Parker's campaign when some in the tech community question his understanding of its usefulness for helping the poor in Oakland.

>>>Joe Tuman’s campaign for Oakland mayor releases a video in which he refers to the city as the “Detroit of the West.”

>>>Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign unearths a gem of a video showing Ro Khanna profusely praising the representative’s work in Congress almost two years prior.

>>>The early cash receipts in Oakland’s pivotal mayoral race are in: Bryan Parker leads with $140,000 in cash. Mayor Jean Quan, though, struggles to finish third just ahead of Libby Schaaf, whose $119,000 in donations stood as an impressive one-month haul to begin her campaign.

FEBRUARY
>>>Highlighting that the 15th Congressional District isn’t totally Swalwell Country, the Alameda County Democratic Party fell short of giving him their pre-endorsement for the June Primary race against Ellen Corbett. Swalwell, however, will have to pull significant strings to win the endorsement at the Democratic Convention in March.

This revelation likely upended Stewart Chen's 
re-election in November.
>>>It is revealed Alameda Councilmember Stewart Chen, up for re-election in fall, has a dirty secret. He was convicted two decades prior for insurance fraud, but never told anyone about it despite a long career in public service.

>>>With 100 days until the June Primary, a poll shows Rep. Mike Honda leading Ro Khanna by 19 points. The result will be prove prescient come the summer.

>>>Port of Oakland commissioners reject maritime uses for Howard Terminal, just north of Jack London Square, paving the way for the possibility of a downtown ballpark for the Oakland Athletics touted by a group of local businessmen.

>>>The Hayward City Council takes a Draconian step toward its city workers by imposing a five percent pay cut. Over 300 city employees have been on the job without a contract since April 2013. The union vows to make elected officials up for re-election in June pay for their decision. 

MARCH
Deanna Santana
>>>Embattled Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana resigns her post. In recent months she was a finalist for the same job in Dallas and Phoenix. Her assistant, Fred Blackwell, is appointed to replace her with great fanfare, but weeks later, he too, will leave the city for a San Francisco non-profit. Henry Gardner becomes the interim city administrator through the end of the year.

>>>The daughter of one of Rep. Eric Swalwell’s biggest individual contributors snags a job in the congressman’s D.C. office.

>>>The controversial Domain Awareness Center, a high-tech surveillance hub originally proposed to protect the Port of Oakland from terrorist attacks, but ballooned into a city-wide proposal, returns to its initial purpose after the Oakland City Council approves limits on the center. This decision marks a major victory for privacy rights activists. 

>>>The National Journal places Rep. Mike Honda in a seven-way tie for the most liberal member of Congress in its annual rankings. However, among the Bay Area’s eight members of Congress, East Bay Rep. Eric Swalwell is the seventh least liberal.

>>>With the mystery of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 deepening, Swalwell seeks out the advice of American hero and Danville resident, Capt. Sully Sullenberger. Later, Swalwell passes his first bill.

>>>A Sacramento Superior Court judge shakes up the CA17 primary when he orders the removal of Vinesh Singh, a political unknown who happened to have the same surname as another Republican candidate some believed would pull votes away from Ro Khanna. Chhallenger Vanila Singh, however, suspects Khanna put up the other Singh into running.

>>>At an endorsement meeting for the Hayward Demos, Assemblymember Bill Quirk says the controversial Russell City Energy Center on the Hayward shoreline is “quite healthy,” despite constant concerns by the community that it is not. Quirk’s contention and connection to Calpine through campaign contributions, however, will not become an impediment to his re-election.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Report reveals Oakland Councilmember McElhaney's hypocrisy over gentrification

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | One thing is clear from the report in the East Bay Express Wednesday on Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney—her personal finances are in shambles and it’s affecting her role as a steward of the city.

In an area of Oakland racked by fears of gentrification, McElhaney has often employed rhetoric in opposition to rich entities moving into the West Oakland neighborhoods and pricing out current residents. But, according to a report in the Express, McElhaney’s housing non-profit has been flipping homes for profit. From the article:
Gibson McElhaney's house-flipping deals also contradict her claims that she's concerned about low-income Oakland residents being squeezed out of the housing market. The deals occurred at a time when soaring housing prices and rents have caused a crisis of affordability for many residents — a crisis made worse by shadowy investors, including those that Gibson McElhaney has done business with.
The instances may not be illegal, but likely to arouse cries of hypocrisy against McElhaney, who won the council seat in 2012. While she does not refute the allegations in the article, the report reveals the personal finance of her and her husband, along with the non-profit, are facing troubled times.

In addition, McElhaney still owes $17,000 to the IRS for unpaid taxes that was revealed after her election to the council. McElhaney later indicated the tax lien from 2006 was being taken care of, but it has not nearly two years after the pledge, according the Express. McElhaney’s husband is also in financial dire straits, said the report.

Furthermore, McElhaney told the Express one reason for the house-flipping strategy was to replace state and federal grants that had recently dried up. But, to make matters worse, McElhaney’s sister was also given a piece of the action with a fair amount of obfuscation offered to the paper over the link between the council member’s knowledge of her sibling’s involvement.

Keep in mind, McElhaney is still less than two years from her first re-election campaign, which is, politically, light years away from today and that’s about the only positive she can glean from this report.

Alameda welcomes a new mayor while the previous one skips the swearing-in

Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer takes the oath
of office Tuesday night. PHOTO/Steven Tavares
ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Alameda’s new Mayor Trish Spencer still can’t believe her good fortune and the outgoing mayor skipped out of the council chambers before the new mayor was sworn-in to replace her. The Alameda City Council also added two new members, Frank Matarrese and Jim Oddie, at a ceremony Tuesday evening.

Spencer, who upset the incumbent, Marie Gilmore, by a scant 120 votes, said her election last month is “another part of my life I didn’t see coming.” Spencer, who was an Alameda school board member, only pulled papers to run for the seat four days before the early August filing deadline. She rode a path to victory over frustration among Alamedans concerned about over-development on the Island and historically low voter turnout.

“We will do our best to meet our needs,” Spencer said of the new council, but before later adding, “We will do good work.” In fact, Spencer took the oath of office twice Tuesday night to allow an overflow crowd of supporters to witness the event. Each time she took the oath with young children. Afterward, Spencer said the inclusion of children during the oath symbolizes the city’s work is ultimately about the future.

Tuesday’s meeting also ended Gilmore’s four years in office. In her remarks, Gilmore acknowledged Alameda is changing, but urged for continuing the planned development of Alameda Point proposed under her leadership. “Change is never, ever easy,” said Gilmore, “Even when it’s good change.”

However, during a brief recess between the regularly scheduled council meeting and the swearing-in ceremony, Gilmore and her husband, ESPN college football analyst, Rod Gilmore, exited the proceedings and again highlighted the frostiness during and following the November election from Gilmore toward Spencer.

Tuesday also marked the return of Matarrese to the City Council. Matarrese served two terms before unsuccessfully running for mayor in 2010. “Life doesn’t give you many second chances,” he said. “and I will not waste this one.” Oddie, who won the second open seat on the council last month, signaled a desire to seek common ground with his colleagues on a council potentially divided, at least, on the issue of development.

With two new members taking the oath, two others ended their terms. Lena Tam wrapped up two terms on the City Council, along with Stewart Chen, who failed to win re-election after serving the final two years of former Councilmember Rob Bonta’s term. “It was a good run,” said Chen who finished third last month in a race with two open seats. Chen thanked supporters and notably, his critics.

“The process made me a better person,” said Chen, whose campaign was likely undermined by a report earlier this year highlighting a never-disclosed charge of insurance fraud two decades ago. “We make mistakes,” he said, “but I’m a better person than before or even 20 years ago.”

The Alameda City Council will get back to work in January. In addition, as the highest vote-getter in the November election, the council unanimously selected Matarrese as vice mayor.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Doris Rodriquez, former Hayward councilmember, civic leader, dies

Doris Rodriquez
HAYWARD | Former Hayward Councilmember Doris Rodriquez, known for her wit and collaborative spirit, died last Sunday after a brief illness. She was 86.

Rodriquez served two terms on the Hayward City Council after an appointment to the council in 1991. Rodriquez, subsequently, won three full terms starting in 1992.

In 2006, she returned to the dais after being appointed to fill the last two years of Councilmember Matt Jimenez's term following his passing.

Many of the changes in Hayward over the past few years, such as the push to revitalize the downtown area, the Hayward Loop, the Highway 92/Interstate 880 interchange contain Rodriquez's footprint, along with the push for a new Hayward Library.

Even after her retirement from politics, Rodriquez still held sway at City Hall and served on numerous boards in Hayward, said former Hayward Councilmember Kevin Dowling.

"Doris was one of these people who brought everybody together," said Dowling. While many of the former council members moved on, he added. Rodriquez's opinion was often sought by others in the community. "People knew she took things seriously and she was fun to be around."

Black elected officials, faith leaders to hold town hall on police relations

ALAMEDA COUNTY | Aside from Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks’ remarks regarding racism last week, many of the region’s elected black officials have stood in the background as protesters demonstrate on the streets of Oakland and Berkeley on almost a daily basis following national attention on police brutality against blacks. This may be changing.

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson is leading an effort to allow members of the community to vent their frustrations following non-indictments against white police officers who killed black men alleged of crimes in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City. Cases of police brutality have also occurred in the Bay Area over the years adding a strong local link to the anger felt all over the country.

Members of the public can participate in the town hall this Wednesday being called “A community meeting with elected officials and community leaders on solving the strained relationship between law enforcement and our communities.”

The event is Dec. 17 and begins at 7 p.m. at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, 3900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ellen Corbett's next step is improving education in Hayward

Hayward schools get a boost from the addition
of Ellen Corbett.
HAYWARD | Ellen Corbett's near future will be with the Hayward Unified School District. The termed out former State Senate majority leader accepted a position last week within the school district's administration.

The announcement ends speculation as to what would be Corbett's next career move following her tenure in Sacramento.

Corbett new role as Hayward Unified's director of institutional advancement will entail advising the district on legislative matters and procuring state grants, along with fundraising, among other duties, she said Monday evening.

"It's a good fit for me," said Corbett, whose first day was last Friday."I believe the most important thing we did in the State Senate was our work in education."

This is not Corbett's first foray in education in Hayward. Before she was elected to the State Assembly in the late 1990s, Corbett taught government at Chabot College.

Earlier this month, Corbett ended eight years in the State Senate after unsuccessfully running for the 15th Congressional District seat last June.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Labor leads compromise pushing bullhook ban in Oakland to 2017

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The use of bullhooks and other implements for controlling circus elephants will be banned in Oakland starting in late 2017 after city councilmembers reached a compromise agreement to phase-in the prohibition rather than the beginning of next year. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan offered the amendment after labor leaders reached an agreement with the operator that it would not pull the circus out of town within the next three years.

The ordinance passed, 5-2, with Councilmembers Larry Reid and Desley Brooks voting no and Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney abstaining.

Hours of testimony on the issue Tuesday night followed a similarly contentious public safety committee meeting a week ago. On both occasions, a vast majority of the speakers supported the ban on the bullhook — a fire-poker like device with a metal point and hook attached to one end, the use of which, critics say, amounts to torture.

“If you stop and think about it — it is cruelty — and it’s a sign of our values,” said Councilmember Noel Gallo, who, along with Councilmember Dan Kalb, sponsored the legislation, which originally sought to ban the bullhook immediately. “This issue is about banning the bullhook. We didn’t want to ban the circus. That was his choice and his argument,” Gallo added, referencing threats made by representatives of Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN EAST BAY EXPRESS

Desley Brooks' amazing speech on race in Oakland; need for civil disobedience

Desley Brooks: "Our city has been torn up
by angry, young white people, but that’s
not the perception that goes out.
"
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Councilmember Desley Brooks can sometimes confound even her strongest supporters with a propensity toward inflammatory and in-your-face remarks, but when she is on, few in Oakland speak with more passion and clarity than the East Oakland council representative.

While introducing a resolution calling on authorities in Ferguson, Mo. to file charges against the police officer who killed teenager Michael Brown, Brooks launched a charged screed against the hypocrisy in Oakland toward the killing of black people before urging the community to eschew violent protests in favor of acts of civil disobedience such as the Black Friday shut down of the West Oakland BART station. Below are her remarks during Tuesday's City Council meeting:
Racism is alive and well in the United States. And we talk about a justice system—and it isn’t simply the justice system—it’s the education system. It is so many systems in this country that are denying people an opportunity in equal opportunity that looks at them because of the color of their skin and makes decisions. It is a fallacy for us to believe that the criminal justice system is the only system that’s not working here. It is a fallacy. There are too many things that have gone wrong. Black lives matter. And today I’m talking about black lives, not just all lives, I’m talking about black lives. Because we are dying in too many numbers to make any sense. And it isn’t just when we talk about the end point of people dying and we go back to business as usual or we don’t speak up until tonight when injustice has been done on a regular basis in this country. You know, we had an opportunity to get out in front to talk about this issue, but we gotten into a society that says that if you talk about race, that you’re pulling the race card. We are so politically-correct. Black lives matter.  
We are dying in this country and people go on as business as usual when we die. And I’m not talking about when black on black crime happens because they are not charged people who are killing people in the streets with protecting us and that’s the difference. And every time we raise that as an issue and act like it’s a justification, we do a disservice to our communities. Black lives matter. We have an obligation to address the race issue in this country and in this city because racism isn’t just alive and well in the United States, it’s alive and well in Oakland. And we would be lying and not talking about the real elephant in the room if we fail to acknowledge the racism that exists right here. 
When I watch the news media talk about the protest and make it seem as if black people are out tearing up our city, when we know and the chief knows that 80 percent of the people who have been out there since Oscar Grant have been white tearing up our city, but we will allow it to be put out over and over again that the destruction is being done by black people. I’m not saying that there aren’t any black people out there tearing up the city, but let’s talk about the real issues and put the real issues on the table. Our city has been torn up by angry, young white people, but that’s not the perception that goes out. We can talk about the killing of people on a daily basis when they have no hope or opportunity in their communities. And yet, it’s okay, we’ll come out and talk about elephants, we’ll come out and talk about the zoo, we’ll come out and talk about everything but—everything but—when do our lives matter?
Later Brooks called for “real reform” at the police department and “reform in the systemic system that makes sure black and brown lives don’t matter.”

She also lauded the effort last month by protesters who chained themselves to BART trains in West Oakland as opposed to the recent street protests that have often been highlighted by violence and broken windows. “We need to teach our children the difference between protest and civil disobedience,” said Brooks.

“I would encourage all those who believe that something is wrong with this system to go out and to take part in civil disobedience—shake it up, make a difference in this community—because we all have an obligation."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New San Leandro council members hail city's promising future

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | Upon receiving the oath of office from former San Leandro Mayor Ellen Corbett, Mayor-elect Pauline Russo Cutter said she is enthusiastic about her new job. "I'm just as excited as I was 17 years ago," she told a packed City Council chambers Monday night to witness her swearing-in, along with three other new members.

Cutter, who beat two challengers last month, takes over for Stephen Cassidy. However, Cutter and new Councilmembers Deborah Cox, Lee Thomas and Corina Lopez, will not officially take office until New Year's Day.

In her brief comments, Cutter urged members of the community to "come back and share their ideas" for improving the city many consider an up-and-coming tech hub. "We're all in this together," she added. At the conclusion of Cutter's remarks, one of her mayoral opponents, Dan Dillman, in fact, gave her a standing ovation.

The city's rosy outlook was mirrored by the new council members, who collectively represent the largest turnover of members in the city's history. "I'm truly looking forward to the future we have in San Leandro," said Cox, who defeated three other candidates for the District 1 seat.

Thomas, who replaces termed out Councilmember Diana Souza in District 3, thanked his wife and added, "Let's make great things happen."

Meanwhile, Lopez, who won the District 5 seat left open by Cutter's run for mayor, told supporters she loved them and offered, "We are going to accomplish a lot of great things."

Hip-Hop icon Russell Simmons supports Oakland’s proposed bullhook ban

Russell Simmons is urging the Oakland City
Council to ban the bullhook.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | PETA, long known for connecting the entertainment world to its advocacy for better animal treatment, is upping the ante in advance of Tuesday night’s proposed ban on the bullhook before the Oakland City Council.

Hip-hop icon Russell Simmons weighed-in on Oakland’s proposed ban on the hooked and pointed tool used to control circus elephants.

"I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe elephants in their natural habitat in South Africa. The magnificent animals I encountered weren't performing headstands or standing on tubs like they do at the circus, where they're routinely beaten with bullhooks,” Simmons said in a press release Tuesday. “Instead, they were tending to their young, running free, and living in peace. I urge the Oakland City Council to ban this weapon that causes elephants such immense suffering."

Others like Davey Havok of the musical group AFI and a former Oakland Raider, David Carter, also offered support.

Oakland’s proposed ordinance, co-authored by Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Dan Kalb, would prohibit the use of bullhooks by circuses performing in Oakland. The parent company of Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Circus, however, says the ordinance effectively means their traveling company and other acts they own, such as the motor cross, monster trucks and Disney on Ice, in the future, will not come to Oakland.

Monday, December 8, 2014

San Leandro to swear-in four new City Council members

Mayor-elect Pauline Cutter will be sworn-in
Monday, but won't assume office until Jan. 1.
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | The largest class of new San Leandro council members in the city’s history will be sworn-in during a special meeting Monday night.

Four of the seven seats on the City Council will have new members. In addition, to Mayor-elect Pauline Russo Cutter, new council members Deborah Cox (District 1), Lee Thomas (District 3) and Corina Lopez (District 5) will take the oath of office at the San Leandro City Council chambers.

But, despite the swearing-in ceremony, the new members won’t assume office until Jan. 1, 2015, according to the City Charter.

Meanwhile, Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who did not run for re-election last November, wraps up his final month in office. The council will also bid farewell to a pair of two-term members, Michael Gregory and Diana Souza.

During safety walk to highlight prostitution on International Blvd; Quan mistakenly hops into a stranger's car

Volunteers walk the streets on International Boulevard in Oakland, Dec. 5, to highlight public safety.
Mayor Jean Quan's difficulties with personal
transportation continued Friday night.
OAKLAND | Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo couldn’t help cracking wise.

During a neighborhood safety walk he led last Friday evening on International Boulevard--also attended by Mayor Jean Quan--to highlight and deter criminal activity in his district, the out-going mayor mistook a car that pulled up beside the group for her own and got in.

Many in the large group walking International Boulevard watched quizzically as Quan approached the beaten down Toyota Corolla with a cracked windshield and hood badly oxidized by the weather and hopped in.

The driver and two passengers seated in the back seemed equally perplexed as to why a stranger was sitting in their vehicle. In fact, it was not readily apparent to Quan that she was in the wrong car for between 45 seconds and a minute before exiting.

When it became clear to onlookers that Quan had indeed entered the wrong vehicle, the group roared with laughter. One person joked, “There’s goes another missed YouTube moment."

Quan, though, seemed visibly embarrassed as she returned to the sidewalk and walked away with the correct driver in the opposite direction, but not before Gallo loudly blurted out within feet of the mayor and her husband, “Ahhhhhhhh! She got in the car like she was hustling!”

Friday, December 5, 2014

Oakland City Council will decide whether to ban the bullhook at circus next week

An elephant trainer holding a bullhook.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | One year after the Oakland City Council passed a watered down ordinance regulating the safety of circus performances in the city, a proposed new law would go further by banning the use of bullhooks and other implements used for controlling elephants. The proposed ordinance is headed for discussion to the full council later this month.

The proposed ordinance, passed the Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee on Tuesday night, is far more strict than one introduced late last year by Councilmember Libby Schaaf, which fell short of banning the bullhook. Animal activists say the tool, essentially a stick with a small hook and point attached to the end, wields unnecessary fear in elephants and constitutes torture.

But representatives from Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey Circus, among other properties that use the Oakland Coliseum complex for performances, are threatening to drop Oakland from their touring schedule if the ban of bullhook is approved. Feld Entertainment also brings motor-cross and monster truck events to the Coliseum, along with various Disney on Ice productions. City staff said the Coliseum complex, which is jointly operated by the city and Alameda County, could lose up to $1.4 million in revenue if Feld Entertainment were to pull out of Oakland.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN EAST BAY EXPRESS

How Libby Schaaf got her groove back and became Oakland's next mayor

Oakland Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf
OAKLAND | Sometime in August, Libby Schaaf found her groove. With less than three months before Election Day, Schaaf’s hardworking, technically advanced campaign had not yet found its voice. Late in the summer, The New York Times had a delivered a blow to Schaaf’s populist rhetoric when it described her as the candidate who “speaks to the city’s wealthy old guard, in leafy Oakland Hills.”

Sure, Schaaf’s “Made in Oakland” tagline was there from the start, but for some voters the real question was, which Oakland? The more affluent hills, or the rugged, overachieving flatlands?

The answer, ultimately, was both.

One August afternoon, following an outdoor luncheon in East Oakland, the infectious beat of the popular line-dancing track, “Cupid Shuffle” blared, “To the right. To the right. To the left.” Schaaf had been schooled on the dance’s intricate moves by her campaign manager Peggy Moore. “She picked it up real quick,” Moore said. Video of the dance showing that Schaaf had, indeed, mastered its moves, was uploaded to social media. Weeks later, the campaign released a campaign commercial with Schaaf interacting with Oakland residents and business owners—standard for most political ads—but with the off-beat ending of the narrator saying, “Because it’s hella time for leadership in Oakland.” It was also around this time that Schaaf began letting her hair down in public appearances and photos.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN OAKLAND MAGAZINE

Alamedans showed election indeed have consequences

Mayor Marie Gilmore: one and done.
ALAMEDA | MAYOR | Alameda Mayor-elect Trish Spencer was discussing her victory. “Do you really know why I ran?” she asked. “Because nobody else did.”

And so, with the simplest of intentions, began one of the biggest electoral upsets in the entire East Bay. Spencer, a long-time school board member, filed paperwork to face incumbent Mayor Marie Gilmore on Aug. 4—just four days before the filing deadline. Three months to the date—on Election Day—the mother of four and seven-year cancer survivor had upended Alameda’s power structure by the slimmest of margins and possibly begun to lead a great deviation from the city’s current course for development on the Island.

In terms of political seismic shocks, the temblor that hit Alameda on Election Day was significant. In just a single election, the city’s clear path toward a pro-development policy at Alameda Point and other projects around the island slammed into political reality. Alameda voters are, indeed, skeptical of City Hall’s development plans at Alameda Point because of its potential, in part, to further clog traffic and change the character of the city. In its wake, the election left Mayor Marie Gilmore out of office after one term and Councilmember Stewart Chen on the outside looking in after just two years in office. Alamedans’ hunger for throwing the bums out this election cycle seemed to extend down the ballot to races not clearly connected to development, but to candidates representing the status quo. Long-time school board member Mike McMahon lost his seat, and termed-out Alameda Councilmember Lena Tam fell well short in her bid to defeat incumbent BART Board Director Robert Raburn.

But, no other race result defied conventional wisdom like Spencer’s upset of Gilmore by barely more than 100 votes. “Regular people like me can only do this with people at the grassroots,” said Spencer, a member of the Alameda school board since 2008. Greatly out-funded by Gilmore, who also possessed the endorsement of the powerful firefighters’ union and its own campaign largesse, Spencer spent only $9,000 on her campaign. That meant costly direct-mail pieces to voters were not within the budget. In fact, the only public presence that Spencer had in the race were some gorgeous dark green lawn signs strategically placed around Alameda. Spencer’s low-budget campaign strategy, including eschewing political consultants altogether, had worked for her in previous school board elections. In the much higher–stakes campaign for mayor, Spencer’s no-frills approach was part of her campaign’s charm in an era of expensive political contests even at the small-town level. For instance, shortly before the county registrar finished counting the ballot last month and it became clear Spencer had pulled off the upset, she asked this reporter, “What do I do after I win? Send a press release announcing I won?”

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN ALAMEDA MAGAZINE

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bonta chosen to lead two Assembly committees; Quirk to chair public safety

Bonta will add the powerful Health Committee
chairmanship in January.
ASSEMBLY | Assemblymember Rob Bonta will be pulling double-duty as chairperson of two committees starting in January.

Among the roster of chairmanships announced Wednesday by Speaker Toni Atkins, Bonta retained his position on the Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee while adding the powerful Health Committee.

Bonta’s position as Health Committee chair is another indication the Democratic leadership in the Assembly values his fundraising ability, not only for his our campaign coffers, but for the state party.

Committees that oversee legislation pertaining to powerful lobbying groups typically attract special interest contributions and few industries have more money to throw around than the health care and insurance companies.

Other East Bay assembly members were also named by Atkins to leadership positions. Assemblymember Bill Quirk begins his second term with his first chairmanship. Quirk was tabbed to chair the Public Safety Committee on Wednesday.

Newly sworn-in Assemblymember Tony Thurmond was named to lead of one of six Budget Subcommittees, this one pertaining to health and human services.

Concord Assemblymember Susan Bonilla was selected to lead the Business and Professions Committee, while San Jose Assemblymember Kansen Chu heads the Human Services Committee. Chu was elected last month to represent the 25th Assembly District, which also includes Fremont.

The full roster of committee members will be announced later this month, according to Atkins’ office.

Former San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young is back in the game and making history

ORO LOMA SANITARY DISTRICT | It took two attempts, but former two-time San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young is again a public servant. On Tuesday, Young was sworn-in as the first female board member in the 103-year history of the Oro Loma Sanitary District.

The five-person board, in fact, has been led by some of the same male board members for the past two decades. Two of the current members are in their 90s and the retirement of a third, Frank Sidari, this summer may have left the door open for Young to win an open seat last month. Young, along with incumbents, Howard Kerr and Tim Becker, all finished within a percent point of each other to win the General Election.

Despite the district’s aging membership, Young isn’t looking for to make wholesale changes on the board which oversees the sewers and recycling for over 135,000 residents in unincorporated Alameda County, Hayward, San Lorenzo and parts of San Leandro . "I look forward to working with the agency and learning more about the vision, objectives and goals from the seasoned veterans who currently serve the district."

“I don’t want to change their way of living,” says Young. “I don’t want change their culture. But, I think women think differently. We bring a different feel to the group.” The view dovetails with Young’s campaign slogan of “I’m the only woman for the job.” Young was the only female candidate in the five-person race.

However, she has a few ideas to add to the board which, in the past, has managed to keep rates low. For starters, Young believes the board could do a better job of working closely with StopWaste.org, the government body assigned to reduce waste in Alameda County. In the past, a few Oro Loma’s more conservative board members have openly questioned StopWaste.org’s usefulness.

Outreach to constituents by the Oro Loma board has been minimal in the past, according to Young. She believes members making personal outreach to residents, such as speaking before homeowners associations, instead of merely mailing out questionnaires, will foster greater participation.

Better communication will be increasingly important over the next few years, says Young, since financing for needed repairs to the district’s 100-year-old sewer system will become an even greater and costly priority.

Monday, December 1, 2014

East Bay Assemblymembers sworn-in; Wieckowski joins State Senate

Assemblymember Rob Bonta with his wife and
father at Monday's swearing-in.
PHOTO/@RobBonta
ASSEMBLY | STATE SENATE | Just like two years ago, Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta rocked traditional Filipino attire for his swearing-in Monday in Sacramento. Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk also took the oath of office for another term in the Assembly, along with newcomers Tony Thurmond and Catharine Baker.

In the upper house of the State Legislature, two-term south county Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski became the region's newest state senator. Wieckowski replaces termed out State Sen. Ellen Corbett, although, technically, because of redistricting in 2010, the seat covers a slightly different area. Kansen Chu, a former San Jose council member, replaces Wieckowski in the Assembly's 25th District.

Meanwhile, Democrats expected to have another new member of the Assembly in the 16th District, but Republican Catharine Baker scuttled that premise with her victory last month over Tim Sbranti. Baker's election gave Bay Area Republicans their first taste of victory in eight years. Notably, one of the most prolific donors to Baker's campaign, GOP billionaire activist Charles Munger, Jr., attended Monday's swearing-in ceremony and was seen on the Assembly floor.

Although Monday marks the beginning of the legislative schedule in Sacramento, it will not convene until Jan. 5. In the meantime, some legislators wasted no time in offering new or recycled bills for consideration in the new year. Bonta's sporting of a barong, similar to two years ago, marks a continued effort by the state's first Filipino American member of the legislature to honor his heritage. A bill honoring Filipino American labor leader Larry Itliong was quickly introduced Monday by Bonta to celebrate Itliong's birth date as a day of remembrance in the state.

Across the bay, but pertinent to the push by some East Bay cities to raise the minimum wage, San Francisco State Sen. Mark Leno re-introduced a bill to boost the state's minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2017. San Francisco approved a wage hike to $15 an hour last month, while voters in Oakland backed a measure raising the minimum wage to $12.25 an hour.

In addition to Wieckowski's move to the State Senate, Thurmond replaces termed out Assemblymember Nancy Skinner. Thurmond won a hard-fought race last month over fellow Democrat Elizabeth Echols.

Corbett mum about next move

Riding off into the sunset...until further notice.
STATE SENATE | Democrats in the State Legislature gathered Monday to welcome new and returning legislators, but for the first time in eight years, without Ellen Corbett

In a retrospective article in the San Jose Mercury News, the now-former State Senate majority leader did not rule out running for public office in the future, but sidestepped any specifics.
"I have not foreclosed that," she said in an interview last week in a San Lorenzo coffee shop, as she took a break from boxing up her district office. "I already have people asking me if I'll run for different offices, but for now I'm happy taking a break and doing something new for a change. "I have my resume put together, I've been talking to people in the district and in Sacramento" about jobs that would make use of her public policy experience, she added.
One potential landing spot could be the Alameda County Board of Supervisors if District 3 Supervisor Wilma Chan, indeed, chooses to run in 2016 for the open seat left by termed out State Sen. Loni Hancock. However, Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson reportedly also have their eyes on the same seat.

Meanwhile, as shoppers too lazy to put some thought into choosing a thoughtful present turn resort to purchasing gift cards this holiday season, recall it was legislation authored by Corbett that prohibited card issuers from placing an expiration date on them and nabbing your remaining balance afterwards. Merry Christmas, East Bay.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Morgan Stanley postpones social media effort in Oakland following protests

OAKLAND | FERGUSON | Morgan Stanley and the Alameda County Community Food Bank had planned to promote through Twitter the financial institution’s program to help provide children in Oakland with health screenings and better nutrition.

However, scenes of protesters in the downtown Oakland Monday night upset over the shooting of Missouri teen Michael Brown gave Morgan Stanley pause. The program called Healthy Oakland is part of similar efforts in Chicago and Newark, N.J.

The company postponed a series of tweets promoting Healthy Oakland planned for Tuesday because of the protests that included hundreds of people marching through the streets before commandeering a portion of the MacArthur Freeway.

Morgan Stanley says it plans to revisit the promotion possibly next week. Social media users were to be encouraged to retweet posts such as “In 6 months, #HealthyCities served 42k meals in Oakland. We’re working to #Fighthunger. Will you?”

Monday, November 24, 2014

Outrage in Oakland over Michael Brown

OAKLAND | FERGUSON | In the hours since a St. Louis County prosecutor announced there will no be no indictment against the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown this summer in Ferguson, Missouri, hundreds of people protesting the decision have arrived in Downtown Oakland.

Initially reports via Twitter detailed some protesters blocking the off ramp from Interstate 880. A nixle report from the Oakland Police Department said the intersection of 7th Street and Broadway was subsequently closed to traffic.

Later, police blocked protesters from the 580 freeway entrance at Grand Avenue and MacAruthur Boulevard
Eyewitness reports on the scene estimates the crowd growing to over 200 protesters and described as "charged" and "frenetic." Other estimates now show the crowd has grown to over 1,000.

Reporters from Oakland North and the San Francisco Chronicle also report numerous garbage cans being set on fire, including some near Lake Merritt.


The Oakland Tribune building on 20th Street was vandalized.

Oakland Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf offered a five-part tweet shortly after the Ferguson decision urging peace, but also continuing the city's dialogue between its citizens and the OPD.

Mike Honda gives Rand Paul a history lesson on internment camps

CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | When it comes to Japanese internment camps, Rep. Mike Honda is the beltway's expert. So, when presumptive Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul equated it to President Obama's immigration policy, Honda was ready to correct the record. "At best, he is confused. At worst, he is just wrong," said Honda in a statement Monday morning.

In remarks made last Friday in Lexington, KY, Paul said:
“I care that too much power gets in one place. Why? Because there are instances in our history where we allow power to gravitate toward one person and that one person then makes decisions that really are egregious. Think of what happened in World War II where they made the decision. The president issued an executive order. He said to Japanese people, ‘We’re going to put you in a camp. We’re going to take away all your rights and liberties and we’re going to intern you in a camp.’ We shouldn’t allow that much power to gravitate to one individual.”
As young boy, Honda spent time at a Japanese American internment camp in Colorado. He said, unlike President Roosevelt's notorious executive order, Obama's plan to shield up to five million undocumented immigrants from legal jeopardy "is an appropriate use of executive order because Congress did not do its job."
President Roosevelt’s action was based on racism, fear, hysteria, war, and the lack of real political leadership. He succumbed to political pressure to deny Constitutional protections to 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of who were US-born citizens.

Eric Swalwell named to list of 100 fittest politicians that includes Chris Christie

CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Whether Rep. Eric Swalwell belongs on any nebulous list of the most attractive politicians in America is highly debatable. However, any list ranking physical fitness is fair game.

Swalwell is young and keeps in shape, whether at the gym or whatever extra-curricular activities a two-term bachelor in Congress might do during the week.

The web site, Health Fitness Revolution, unveiled this week the Top 100 Fittest U.S. Politicians and named Swalwell among the group. The only description given to Swalwell, though, is that he played soccer and hits the gym.

But, the entire list may have some credibility problems. It also includes New Jersey heavyweight Gov. Chris Christie.

The list also includes Presidents Barack Obama and Bill Clinton, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sarah Palin.

Former Alameda County candidate for auditor pleads guilty to election fraud

Kati Knox plead to three misdemeanors.
ALAMEDA COUNTY | Kati Knox pulled out of her race for Alameda County auditor-controller last May just weeks before the June primary after she was accused of falsifying her address on campaign paperwork. Last Friday, Knox plead guilty to three misdemeanors for violating the state's election laws. Knox will serve three years probation, according to the San Francisco Chronicle and pay a $2,281 fine.

Upon filing paperwork for campaign, Knox listed her home address as 1345 Clarke Street in San Leandro. In fact, she lived outside of Alameda County. Investigators found Knox actually lived in Danville, not San Leandro. The address provided, though, was an assisted-living home Knox owned, but did not live. In May, she was charged with six felony counts of voter fraud.

Although Knox, who is the daughter of former Alameda County Supervisor Robert Knox, ended her campaign before the election, her name was already printed on ballots. Nevertheless, she won nearly a quarter of the vote in the race won by then-deputy auditor Steve Manning.

It remains unclear how or why Knox committed such an egregious violation such as being unaware a candidate had to live in the district in which they wished to serve. In addition, she was also a prohibitive underdog to replace retiring auditor-controller Patrick O'Connell.

However, there was more political intrigue involved than just Knox's violations. Long-running acrimony between Knox and some family members have been rumored to be the impetus for the tip to investigators over her residency issue. But, Knox's candidacy also posed a small threat to Manning's election last June.

More than a few East Bay insiders, at the time, noted the political gamesmanship that occurred following the short time frame between O'Connell's announcement to step down after three decades as auditor-controller and the filing window for the June election. To observers, it appeared O'Connell was seeking to sneak his deputy into the seat without a contested race. Knox, though, prevented this when she filed for the seat on the final day.

In bid for Raiders, looks like San Antonio sees the writing on the wall

RAIDERS | It's not like anybody anywhere believes San Antonio is a legitimate option for the Oakland Raiders, but the likelihood the entire story was a ruse received some sunshine Sunday in the San Antonio Express-News.

An NFL consultant told the paper what we already know: the bid is a serious long-shot. However, the city, which Raiders owner Mark Davis has recently visited twice, should keep itself in the running, just in case.
“Now, that doesn’t mean I’d pour lots of resources into it, or raise people’s hopes dramatically, said Marc Ganis. "But I certainly wouldn’t walk away, because you never know what happens in these things. These things can turn in odd ways.”
The article isn't all pie-in-the-sky. Ganis later offered a more likely scenario for the Raiders
“My best guess is they stay in Oakland or somewhere in the Bay Area,” he said. “Option two is they’re the second team in an L.A. stadium. Option three is relocating to a different market, and if that’s the case, I’d put San Antonio very high on that list, if not first.”
While rumors over a return of the NFL to Los Angeles have percolated recently, the scene in Oakland is also showing signs of promise. A new investor is on board for Coliseum City and Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf's stewardship of the stadium conversation starting in January has many in the East Bay hopeful the team will stay in Oakland.

Bonta shows support for Michael Brown

ASSEMBLY | 18TH DISTRICT | The shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri is a subject most politicians would rather avoid. Assemblymember Rob Bonta thought differently. The largest part of his district is Oakland, a city well accustomed to protests whether they be self-contained to the Bay Area or in other parts of the country.

A grand jury in Missouri will decide Monday evening whether the police officer involved in the controversial shooting will be indicted. Protests are likely in Oakland, as well as Ferguson, tonight, but Bonta, in a tweet this morning, called for justice, along with a quote from Mahatma Ghandi.
Bonta's sentiment today is not new. In fact, when word spread the grand jury in Ferguson was ready to announce its decision last Friday, Bonta posted an identical tweet.

He also has not been shy to speak out during other protests. In July 2013, after a jury in Florida acquitted George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin, Bonta urged protesters to focus peacefully on the injustice of the decision.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

OAKLAND ELECTION NOTES: Schaaf Jockeyed Into Position For A Dominating Win; Kaplan For Council President?

OAKLAND | Once Oakland Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf finally got it going, there was really no stopping her campaign. In terms of sports analogies, campaigns are often labeled horse races, but in this case, it is apt. Her team huddled away Schaaf in a crowded field and jockeyed her to the front down around the final stretch. In the end, the rest of the field was either severely unqualified to run in such a stakes or simply spent.

Schaaf’s dominating victory also overshadowed the fact that the lead horse, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, simply ran out of gas. Over the last six weeks or so of the campaign, it appeared to many Kaplan was hoping to run out the clock on what numerous polls suggested was impending victory. The campaign did little to attract attention to solidify those polls.

In the meantime, Schaaf did the opposite. Her campaign was easily the most aggressive down the stretch. Did Gov. Jerry Brown’s endorsement in early October really turn the tide? I doubt it was solely Brown’s imprimatur, but the attention it shined on Schaaf at precisely the moment people were actually starting to pay close attention to the race.

Noticeably, while Schaaf moved forward with another endorsement from Sen. Barbara Boxer, Kaplan was turning up aging B-list pop stars from early 1990s and Mayor Jean Quan was offering members of the Black Hole from Raiders home games. The latter, in fact, was the moment when it became clear Quan was toast.
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THE HILLS Schaaf also did an excellent job of showing Oakland voters she was more than Libby from the Hills. Jason Anderson, who finished eighth in the voting (he notes he finished first among candidates with no money), praised Schaaf this week for making an attempt during the campaign to reach out to voters in the flatlands. Furthermore, said Anderson, she didn’t even need to in order to win the election. “I knew she had the hills locked up,” he said. The Schaaf campaign’s decision to roll out commercials like the one declaring “Oakland hella needs new leadership,” is a positive sign she intends to unite the city from top to bottom, he added. Anderson’s analysis turns out to be correct. Schaaf cleaned up in the hills, according to election maps from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters. Despite Schaaf’s intentions, the perception she represents a return of the city’s old white elite will persist and watch for it to be an easy target for opponents to lob her way.

PERATA STILL DOESN’T UNDERSTAND RCV Why Don Perata bothered to endorse Bryan Parker so late in the game, or at all, still seems bizarre. In the end, Parker finished sixth place with less than eight percent of the vote. Was Perata not privy to polling that showed Parker running about the same position as the results on Nov. 4? Perata’s endorsement did nothing for Parker and even one member of his campaign admitted the former state senator’s reputation in Oakland was filled with negatives. In addition, the coalition of Parker, Joe Tuman and Courtney Ruby also did little to change the overall campaign calculus. The triumvirate together won over 23 percent of the first place votes. That’s six percent less than Schaaf gained, all by herself. Like Perata’s endorsement, this meeting of the minds came far too late in the game to have any impact. In hindsight, the campaign’s should have banded together by the end of September at the earliest.

Jean Quan
QUAN’S DEMISE Back in early 2012, the amount and frequency of vitriol I heard against East Bay Rep. Pete Stark was quite noticeable. That angst played out in November 2012 and led to his demise. Over the past year, the consistent level of discontent I heard when it came to Quan reminded me of Stark two years earlier. For different reasons, voters in Oakland had grown to dislike her to the point there was no going back. Furthermore, people in outlying cities who couldn’t even vote for Quan, loathed her, too, but that could also reveal how complicit the local media was in knocking her down at every opportunity. Frankly, Quan’s could have done and actually did a job as mayor and still would have faced the music last week. In fact, history will likely view Quan’s administration as the lead-in to an even greater renaissance in Oakland. Good thing Quan really loves Oakland because, electorally, she took one for the team. She also seems to be taking the loss exceptionally well. In fact, I have never seen a politician look more at ease with a high stakes loss like this one in my five years covering the East Bay.

DESLEY'S NEW SPARRING PARTNER? The changeover on the Oakland City Council continued this election cycle. The council swapped out Oakland-style moderates in Council President Pat Kernighan and Schaaf with progressives Abel Guillen in District 2 and Anne Campbell Washington in District 4. Coupled those two with progressive stalwarts Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Desley Brooks, who won re-election last week, and this council now has an even more leftist lean than before. But, this begs the question, who on the council will the irascible Brooks fight with now? The council’s reputation for raucous meetings is often cited by voters as a huge negative. However, with three new members in 2012 coming on board, this year has been noticeably quiet in terms of fireworks. Its most moderate member is now Councilmember Noel Gallo, but she and Brooks seem to get along, but its hard to guess how certain personalities react to each other regardless of ideology. When I interviewed Brooks as she drove around her East Oakland district, she seemed unsure about my opinion her and Guillen would work well together. If all else fails, Brooks can just return to hammering the new mayor. In addition, Brooks’ election results left a lot to be desired especially for a 12-year incumbent who took a beating over her behavior at council meetings. When the initial returns showed Brooks sitting in the low-40 percent range, she had to be sweating bullets over the potential for ranked choice voting to aid one of her opponents. It didn’t, but Brooks only defeated Shereda Nosakhare by less than five points after RCV tabulations.

Kaplan's Plan B could be council president.
NEW PRESIDENT Councilmember Larry Reid told me last month that he doesn’t ever want to be council president again. “I’d rather be fishing,” he said while roaming the halls of City Hall. Now that Kernighan is retiring next month, who might lead the next council? Similar to rumors you hear about some mayoral candidates having backups for employment if they’re out of government after the election—we all heard the one about Schaaf having a job lined up with Jerry Brown, if she lost—there was also one going around about Kaplan becoming council president if she lost the mayoral election. Well, she lost, and lost badly. But, Kaplan’s election to lead the council seems plausible and probably the best choice for this relatively young group. Five of the seven members will have only served since 2012 or later. Then there’s Reid, who this summer, raised the possibility of retirement. It was also notable that he publicly floated the name of his daughter, Treva Reid, as a potential appointee to his seat, which isn’t up for re-election until 2016. Reid often makes these types of declaration, but this last one was taken more seriously since the state of health was clearly evident. But Reid looks a lot better and there appears to be a sense around City Hall that Reid won’t be going anywhere in the new year.

EAST BAY ELECTION NOTES: The Reckoning For Khanna, Sbranti; A Budding Political Rival For Bonta?

Ro Khanna should be praying Rep. Ami Bera
pulls it out in CA-9.
STATE LEGISLATURE | In politics, like other arenas of life, there’s losing and then there’s royally screwing up and losing. This happen in two races that include Alameda County and bracketed by neighbors to the north and south.

Not only did Ro Khanna lose to Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District, but the significant amount of money the Democratic Party was forced to spend to keep the incumbent’s seat safe from a fellow Democrat quickly turned some local activists further against the upstart. That’s because Sacramento Rep. Ami Bera found himself in a very close race with Republican Doug Ose. Bera has since closed the gap and took the lead in the race, as of today, but Democrats are already blaming Khanna for the need to spend money in the South Bay rather than in a district in danger of being flipped to red.

Similarly, keeping a district some shade of blue is something Tim Sbranti did not do in the Assembly 16th District. A union-friendly Tri Valley official always seemed like a dubious expenditure for labor to be lavishing so much money upon. It simply did not work even with millions coming from the California Teachers Association and Sbranti lost the race to Republican political newbie Catharine Baker.

Since February, I had been raising concerns about Sbranti’s uncertain demeanor and odd lack of passion for his own arguments. It’s almost as if Sbranti was feeling some sort of internal conflict throughout the year. Oakland mayoral candidate Courtney Ruby exhibited the same sense that she was always thinking, “I don’t want to be here and just let me get through this so I can just go home!”

Conversely, it appeared like Baker sensed Sbranti’s fear and fed off it. It gave her confidence and it showed. This would all make perfect sense, however, if you had never seen Sbranti at the helm as Dublin mayor. In this settin, he’s confident, humorous and vaguely paternal. I don’t know where that guy went, but neither is going the State Legislature next month.
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In other local state and federal races, there was little doubt over their outcomes. Tony Thurmond again showed in the 15th Assembly District when all things are equal, including political affiliations, the cult of personality will always prevail. Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee again won re-election and did it with the highest percentage of voters in any race in the East Bay. Over 88 percent of voters chose Lee over the Republican Dakin Sundeen.

Over the past three elections, Lee and Assemblymember Rob Bonta have traded the mantle of top vote-getter and this also shows how quickly Bonta has become a popular fixture in the area. In fact, his star has risen so high and the field of potential roadblocks to higher office have diminished that he virtually stands at the top of the list for any potential opening like, say, if Lee decides to retire in the next few years. Keep in mind, Bonta can bide his time in the Legislature for another 10 years. General consensus is he will choose to stay in the Assembly and build toward a top leadership position instead of moving to the State Senate.

But, a potential challenger to Bonta’s hegemony might one day emerge in Oakland Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf. She is young, 49, and Oakland’s current status suggests Schaaf’s administration could do great things for the city. If Schaaf has designs on higher office in the distant future, it’s easy to foresee her and Bonta becoming rivals.

SAN LEANDRO ELECTION NOTES: RCV Isn't Going Away; Mayor-Elect Cutter Won't Be Like Cassidy

Mayor-elect Pauline Cutter will definitely
be a change of pace from her predecessor.
SAN LEANDRO | There were no surprises in San Leandro’s moribund races last week. Mayor-elect Pauline Cutter came within two points of gaining a majority without the use of ranked choice voting tabulations over Diana Souza. Corina Lopez, Lee Thomas and Deborah Cox also cruised to easy victories. Like Oakland and Berkeley, San Leandro has used ranked choice voting since 2010. However, its utility has been vastly underused here.

Aside from the 2010 upset of Mayor Tony Santos by Stephen Cassidy that brought a 200 vote win through rounds of ranked choice voting and one tight race for council two years ago, very few races have either featured enough candidates to have the system make much of difference or the winners have blazed through a simple majority on their own by way of first place votes. In fact, two of three council races last week, did not need ranked choice at all. Lopez and Thomas quickly topped majority and Cox only padded her lead over three similarly strength opponents.

Ranked choice voting was instituted four years ago to save cities money during a time when the Great Recession had hit the hardest. Initially, the system is more expensive in the short term, but considerably less going forward. Theoretically, San Leandro can opt-out of ranked choice after its third use. This election was its third use, but also the point when the price of elections will drop significantly. Nothing odd happened during this cycle to ratchet up the concern some have for its usefulness. Something like Dan Dillman winning the mayor’s race with its help. And that means only one thing: it’s not going away anytime soon.
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COLLABORATION San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy alienated just about everyone in town who could have helped him over the past four years. His reign of boorishness is nearly over. Mayor-elect Cutter takes over in January and there is hope for the City Council to quickly heal its wounds. Cassidy did not wreck the city. In fact, he built upon some of its early building blocks like the new Kaiser Permanente completed this year and OSIsoft’s downtown fiber optic loop. San Leandro is on a definite upward trajectory, but it could have been steeper with better leadership.

Cassidy made enemies even before his election with the police department, city employees and with regular people who couldn’t stand his misplaced arrogance. Every conversation quickly became a competition for Cassidy to assert he was always the smartest person in the room at the same time suggesting you were the dumbest. Soon, his council colleagues often privately grumbled Cassidy's behavior was even worse behind closed doors. Cutter, though, is completely different in style.

She may not be qualified to be mayor based on her accomplishments and her vision, but neither were the other two in the race, but her council colleagues will be able to work with her. For one, Cutter needs to limit her association to Cassidy from the outset. He is controlling and some at City Hall will be watching whether Cassidy won't be controlling her behind the scenes. There was already that impression when he was mayor and she was the council member who routinely voted with him.

But, it’s very conceivable that Cutter makes the city work in a better fashion by acting as a mayor among equals on the City Council. However, the comity that results could be wasted if it resorts to a common problem in San Leandro when all the council returns is a conga line of 7-0 decision. Sheer group think won’t help move San Leandro forward, either.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Alameda Mayor Concedes Race To An Improbable Winner

Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore concedes her race to school board member Trish Spencer during a press conference Wednesday morning in front of Alameda City Hall. PHOTO/Steven Tavares
ALAMEDA | MAYOR | Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore conceded her close race to school board member Trish Spencer Wednesday morning. With only few thousand provisional ballots yet to be counted in Alameda County, Spencer currently holds a 129-vote lead over the incumbent most believed was heading toward sure re-election.

During a press conference at the steps leading to Alameda City Hall, Gilmore congratulated Spencer and the two new members of the City Council for their victories. She also ruled out a recount of the slim tally. Gilmore, however, has not spoken with the mayor-elect to offer her congratulations, she said. “I haven’t had the opportunity. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about this and what is going to be in the best interests of the city. That’s why I didn’t ask for recount to end the process and move on.” In an interview, earlier this week, Spencer said she wasn’t expecting a call from Gilmore.

Alamedans have waited eight anxious days for a result to last week’s election. The outcome is likely the most improbable result of any race in the East Bay. Very few political observers saw this upset coming, although, concern over the city’s speed toward development, including Alameda Point, has been simmering for years. The issue may have also cost Councilmember Stewart Chen his seat last week. Former Councilmember Frank Matarrese, whose stance toward development closely mirrored Spencer’s, finished first in the council race for two seats. Jim Oddie, also the district director for Assemblymember Rob Bonta, won the other seat. He plans to maintain both positions.

During the somber press conference, Gilmore thanked supporters and volunteers, in addition, to members of the police and fire department in attendance, along with City Manager John Russo and Councilmembers Lena Tam and Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. “Even though we came up short, I continue to be gratified by all the love and support shown by all of us. I have truly appreciated my opportunity to serve this community that I really love and I will continue to work with all of you to move Alameda forward as our new council tackles important issues like moving forward with Alameda Point and the issue of rising rents for many in our community.”

Gilmore, the city’s first African American mayor, told reporters her messaging could have been better during the campaign, but in an interview, she appeared flummoxed by the election’s result ending her time in the mayor’s office after just one term. “I can’t explain it, but it was an odd election not just in Alameda, but throughout the county,” Gilmore said of her defeat. “It was just a very weird election.” Low turnout may have also skewed the results, she added.qq

When asked if she had underestimated her opponent who spent under $10,000 during the campaign and hired no political consultants to win the race, Gilmore said she did not, but her supporters may have. “An early warning sign,” Gilmore said, was a prevalence of supporters who questioned why she was campaigning at their doorstep. “What are you doing here? You have it in the bag,” some voters told Gilmore. “I told them, ‘You can’t say that,’ but that seemed to be the feeling out there, but I never bought into it.”