EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009
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COUNTY DEMS WANTS LANDIS TO RESIGN; RECALL MAY BE NEXT

Laython Landis says he won't resign, but steps by the public may soon force his hand.

GAMESMANSHIP

Candidates for the special election in State Senate District 7 don't have much time before the Mar. 17 primary.

NATIONAL SPOTLIGHT ON HAYWARD

The worlds of Hollywood and pro football overlapped Wednesday with Hayward and its schools.

ALAMEDA DEVELOPMENT ESCAPES COUNCIL REPEAL

Trish Spencer's first act as mayor is to repeal a developement agreement. It fails and she ends up voting against the repeal.

THE 2014 YEAR-IN-REVIEW PACKAGE

Including the best and most memorable political quotes in the East Bay topped by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

THE NEW EBCITIZEN COMING THIS YEAR

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Monday, January 26, 2015

Police and race relations in Oakland headline an eventful discussion

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | It may have been Oakland’s most eventful public meeting in recent memory. Rep. Barbara Lee called for protesters to continue applying pressure toward alleviating social and economic equity and ridding the city of police brutality at a special session of the Oakland City Council. Public officials and stakeholders met to discuss the historically tattered relationship between police and residents in the black community.

Later, Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent acknowledged his department’s role in facilitating injustice over the years and Councilmember Desley Brooks called for the formation of a new city department charged with examining race and equity in its government.

“The laws of this land would not have changed had it not been for young people and had it not been for the protest and the street heat," said Lee. "That’s happening here in Oakland. So, you can be proud. I’m proud of what has taken place here.” Lee statement came within the context of the Civil Rights movement generations ago.

In regards to discussions many in the black community are having today about police relations and brutality, Lee recalled having the same conversations with her sons in the 1970s  “That’s un-American,” she said. “We shouldn’t be having these tough conversations about how to behave and how to interact and what to look out for in the streets. Let’s stop this. It’s time for change.”

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who convened the special meeting, said, suggestions made during the session will be offered by the City Council starting in February. “This is the beginning of a conversation, not the end," said McElhaney.

In a highly forthright manner, Whent acknowledged the historically strained relationship between residents and the police department. “The tactics employed by the Oakland Police Department have absolutely contributed to that strained relationship,” said Whent. “But, I also think it is important to point out the Oakland Police Department of 2015 is not the Oakland Police Department of the 1960s,” he added, nor the department he joined 20 years ago or even the group that met Occupy Oakland demonstrators over three years ago.

Whent said the department has responded favorably to reforms prescribed in the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, which highlighted troubles with oversight, training and internal affairs that discouraged complaints. “That environment does not create a situation where officers feel they have to act appropriately,” said Whent.

“The Oakland Police Department doesn’t want bad police officers on the streets any more than you don’t want bad police officers on the street,” he added.

The police chief’s comments were notably delivered without a single outburst from the audience. In fact, applause and cheers followed his words. The reaction was diametrically opposed to the response over the years given to past police chiefs.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf applauded Whent for his candor and urged city advocates to continue holding city hall accountable. “Nobody expects the past to be forgotten,” said Schaaf.

The new mayor also pledged to spend time during her first 100 days in office to sit in with 100 youths in restorative justice situations.

But, these are difficult times for many elected officials, including Schaaf, who were drawn to public service to help uphold the law, she said. “We came to work in government believing that this was part of our call to social justice. And yet we have to acknowledge that the institutions that we serve are built on a foundation that is steeped in racism.”

A few of the afternoon's more confrontational moments included Brooks, who called for the council to put add more funding toward restoring social justice in the city. At the end of the nearly six hours meeting, Brooks criticized the lack of new ideas offered Saturday and the rare mention of more funding needed to combat racism in the city.

Earlier in the session, Brooks put on the spot elected officials in the audience to publicly call for the BART Board of Directors to drop all charges against the so-called Black Friday 14 who shut down BART service to San Francisco the day after last Thanksgiving. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office called for $70,000 in restitution for each demonstrator. BART’s general manager later asked for community service. Brooks, though, called for dropping all the charges.

Brooks later aimed to put public officials on the spot and asked them to sign a letter agreeing with her suggestion. Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan agreed with Brooks. BART Board of Director Robert Raburn, however, appeared to be sympathetic to the proposal while speaking out against “inequitable punishment.” But Raburn added, “We are elected official, not judges.”

Brooks again pressed Raburn to commit to dropping all charges. “At this time I cannot make this commitment,” said Raburn as he immediately walked away from the podium. Members of the Black Friday 14 then began singing “Which side are you on?”

Legislation from the statewide level may be on its way to help bring accountability to police officers who kill while in the line of duty. Assemblymember Rob Bonta says he will offer a bill in the State Legislature that would call for a special prosecutor in such cases. Critics say the current system tucked within the police department tends to insulate officers from fault in the alleged suspect’s death.

A preview of how Republicans will react to a Lee appointment to Cuba

Rep. Barbara Lee’s popularity is unquestioned in her district. But, the National Review offered a stern reminder that the East Bay’s brand of progressivism is very much like a small echo chamber amid more moderate ideologies across the nation. We tend to forget admiration for Lee on the right is non-existent.

If Lee is ever offered the ambassadorship, and she accepts, here is a taste of the rhetoric Republican are sure to unleash against her.

Columnist John Fund, in the National Review, said Lee would be the “ambassador of disaster” if appointed to the diplomatic post in Cuba.

The conservative commentator wrote beltway insiders on both sides of the aisle cringed at the Lee rumor and sprung to action.
Within hours of Lee’s name being floated, dossiers on her record were delivered to the State Department and White House by Congressional colleagues of both parties. “There was some concern it could happen,” one Senate staffer told me. “After all, Obama appointed Lee in 2013 to be a U.S. representative to the United Nations General Assembly.” Luckily, Lee got the drift and issued a statement yesterday that she will stay in Congress to fight for better relations with Cuba. One source told the Chronicle that restoring ties to Cuba has been Lee’s “life work.”
And then the boogeyman was released:
She was involved with the Black Panthers and twice visited Panther leader Huey Newton when he was in exile in Cuba. “I was known as ‘Comrade Barbara’ at the time,” she notes in her autobiography. At age 33, the then-social worker joined the staff of Ron Dellums, the radical Congressman from Berkeley. She rose to become his chief of staff.
Numerous references to Lee being a Marxist and interfering with the 1982 invasion of Grenada follow.

****
Daily Kos for CA-13?
Meanwhile, the founder of the popular progressive blog Daily Kos says he would be interested in running for Rep. Barbara Lee’s seat, if and when she leaves office. Markos Moulitsas lives in Berkeley and his progressive cred fits nicely with the majority of voters in the 13th Congressional District.

Moulitsas told The New York Times he hopes Lee continues to serve as his congresswoman. “That said, my goal in life is to promote progressive values and policies…How I accomplish that goal is always changing, and it will keep changing in large part based on the opportunities before me.”

Earlier in the week, there were reports and then denials by Lee that she was eyeing an appointment to become ambassador to Cuba, if such a position is made available before the end of President Obama’s term. She later said she will not "seek the nomination."

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Alameda's Mayor Trish Spencer has overcome the odds many times before

ALAMEDA | Trish Herrera Spencer had been told that she couldn’t do something so many times before she pulled off the mammoth upset of Alameda’s incumbent mayor in November that the latest round of naysayers was almost imperceptible to her ears. As a second child of five children who arrived in the South Gate neighborhood of Los Angeles in the 1960s just as a wave of white flight was quickly transforming the city, change came quick for the family. They were the first Latino family to move into what was a predominately white, middle-class neighborhood. That didn’t last long, as Caucasians fled to be replaced by more Latino and African-American families. Riots in nearby Watts soon erupted in the distance.

“There was racism; I grew up with that,” Spencer said. “The area changed rapidly in a short amount of time.” Spencer’s father struggled to keep the family afloat. At times, she recalls, they subsisted on food stamps. Her father worked many odd jobs during the time. “I rarely saw him,” she recently recalled. Eventually he became an electrician, but Spencer holds a poignant memory of her father reading the Sunday newspaper every weekend. “I only remember him reading the classifieds, always looking for a job.” It became clear to Spencer that, to succeed in this environment, she would have to work harder just to compete.

She immersed herself in her school work, became president of her high school’s honor society, and led other academic clubs. Spencer would became the only child among her siblings to go directly from high school to college. Her bid for secondary schooling, however, represented what would later be a recurring theme in Spencer’s life. Call it a propensity for being overlooked in spite of her credentials or merely passed over for nebulous reasons; Spencer’s ability to succeed despite the hurdle placed before her started with a high school guidance counselor who attempted to dissuade her from applying to the University of California.

During lunchtime, a counselor invited a number of seniors to his office to begin filling out applications to the U.C. system. When Spencer, who possessed at the time a 3.67 grade point average, approached the door, the counselor stopped her. “He looked at me and said, ‘You can’t come in.’ ” She later recalls him pointing to specific students, mostly Caucasian, and told Spencer, “If you were like this one and that one, then we would think you were U.C. material.” The local community college was a better fit, he told Spencer. Nonetheless, she filled out university applications on her own on the dining room floor. She enrolled at U.C. Santa Barbara. Spencer, in fact, was U.C. material. She later graduated with a degree in sociology and later enrolled in law school, eventually passing the Bar Exam on her first attempt.

“Outlier is one word you can use to describe me,” Spencer said. “It’s a good thing to be an outlier. What that can mean is that you exceed the odds. You go beyond what society expects from you.”

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT ALAMEDA MAGAZINE

Friday, January 23, 2015

Eden director says talks over payment to San Leandro Hospital are 'not friendly'

San Leandro Hospital and its emergency
room remain open.
EDEN TOWNSHIP | As part of the settlement that ultimately saved San Leandro Hospital from closure in 2013, the Sacramento-based Sutter Health allowed the Eden Township Healthcare District, which lost the case, to divert payment from its defeat to the operating budget of the San Leandro facility.

Payments by the district would begin in the second year, according to the deal, which is now. But, the district, which no longer has any hospitals to oversee, say they cannot afford to make the payments.

The cry of hardship by the district, however, is not new and preceded the end of the lawsuit with Sutter Health in 2013. Members of the elected board of directors at the time resisted arguments it could sell off some of its holdings, primary a medical office in Dublin, in which it paid $82 million in 2007.

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, who helped forge the deal with Sutter to keep the hospital open, has reiterated the idea the district could use proceeds from selling the building to make its payments to San Leandro Hospital, according to media reports. “I’m disappointed,” said Chan to the board last month.

The board and its executive director, however, say such a financial maneuver is not that easy since the district has various loan obligations separately tied to the building, which was purchased seven years ago as a bargaining chip to block Sutter Health from closing Eden Hospital in Castro Valley and potentially moving to the Tri Valley.

In some ways, sacrificing the district’s cash cow to fulfill its part of the legal settlement, might also lead to it ceasing to exist. Dev Mahadevan, the health care district executive director, stresses the government body is not a tax-collecting entity. Instead, it relies solely on the revenue from its holdings to provide charitable grants to health care organizations doing work in the community.

Chan and others in social services say the county already provides some of the same services. “If that was always true then why were these districts created if there was no need?“ said Eden Township Healthcare District Director Dr. Vin Sawhney.

In addition, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors are also leaning in favor of dissolving the district. It has pushed the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) to determine whether the government body has a purpose any longer to the community it has served since its formation in 1948.

Mahadevan does not believe LAFCO will come down against the district. He cites the lack of precedent for such a move, along with a belief similar healthcare districts in the state will rally around the Eden Township’s defense.

“I don’t really see it,” Sawhney says of the county’s intent to snuff out the district. “I’m just hoping Sutter and the district can come to an agreement soon.”

Residual acrimony following the long legal showdown with Sutter over the past five years still exists, Sawhney said. He deemed the tenor of negotiations between attorneys for both sides as “not friendly.”

“Wilma Chan and the county supervisors are putting pressure on the district,” added Sawhney. “The pressure must go to Sutter.”

SD7: Steve Glazer says 'I'm in'

Steve Glazer is ready to launch his second
campaign in the last year.
STATE SENATE | 7TH DISTRICT | Just under the Friday deadline, Steve Glazer has filed to run for the special election in the State Senate 7th District. The seat is open after Mark DeSaulnier was elected last year to replace George Miller in Congress.

Glazer filed campaign papers Friday, according to the Contra Costa County registrar. He also declared his candidacy in an early evening tweet. "I'm in. Voters deserve an opportunity to elect a fiscally conservative, independently minded, bi-partisan problem solver," wrote Glazer.

His interest in the race had been rumored for weeks. The primary is Mar. 17, followed by the May 19 special election.

Glazer, who once served as Gov. Jerry Brown campaign strategist, is one of three strong Democrats in the race. He joins Assemblymember Susan Bonilla and former Assemblymember Joan Buchanan. Mark Meuser, a Republican attorney from Walnut Creek is viewed as the strongest candidate on the right.

The state senate special election could include up to eight candidates, although, the list of candidates is not official Friday.

With Glazer's entrance into the race, voters in the 7th District will likely again hear the drumbeat of opposition to the 2013 BART strike, which Glazer used to bring much attention to his campaign for the Assembly last year.

Glazer, however, finished third in an expensive June Primary and failed to advance to the General Election, which was won by Republican Catharine Baker over Democrat Tim Sbranti.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Noel Gallo's safety walks hope to highlight, limit crime on International Blvd

Residents walking the Fruitvale business
corridor last December led by Councilman
Noel Gallo.
OAKLAND | On a rainy Friday night in December, Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo addresses about 40 residents as they prepared to walk International Boulevard and promote public safety.”Don’t worry about the rain; it won’t hurt you,” Gallo tells the crowd.”It might even wash away your sins.”

Since being elected in 2012 to represent the District 5 seat on the Oakland City Council, Gallo has been known as a tough-talking councilman who leads a weekly brigade of residents combating the city’s persistent illegal dumping problem, one discarded mattress at a time. But, starting in December, Gallo began using a similar tactic to boost the Fruitvale corridor’s profile by leading neighbors and small business owners on Friday night safety walks from around the Fruitvale BART station to up to 15 blocks north up International.

“This is old-fashioned organizing,” says Gallo, who is wearing a fluorescent yellow safety vest issued by the city’s public works department.”It says you have to be held accountable for your streets.”

Gallo has worked over the past months to encourage many small businesses lining International near Fruitvale Avenue to stay open later on Friday and Saturday nights. And, if not, to ask them to at least keep their stores lit overnight. The residual light makes a difference in persuading potential criminal acts from occurring in the neighborhood, he says. Streetlights have also been fixed recently, adding even more light as well as creating the sense the city cares about the area.”I tell people they need to take over their neighborhoods,” Gallo adds.”Don’t rely on the police.” As Gallo’s group passes through the small shops and Mexican restaurants near 36th Avenue and International, women exercising to thick Latin beats follow the throng with their eyes, and a small line of patrons ordering food at El Farolito turns and stares. In each case, Gallo sticks his head in and greets them with a quick hello. On the other side of the street, a man in his car screams profanities at the group, believing they are protesters who have taken to the streets of Oakland and Berkeley in recent days over police brutality.”We love you, too!” Gallo yells back.

Additional eyes on the streets will undoubtedly deter crime in the district. But as of today crime persists, whether through robberies or the sex trafficking that still occurs along International. Most area robberies, Gallo says, occur on Friday nights. During the safety walk, he routinely greets young, hooded teens walking past the group with a stern,”How ya doing?” Most scurry away or change the direction of their paths toward the other side of the street.

“I know a lot of these kids,” Gallo says.”There’s no reason for them to be out here alone at night.” One inherent problem with robberies in Fruitvale, he adds, is the prevalence of day laborers in the area who are often paid under the table. Criminals know these groups are prime targets for shakedowns since they carry cash.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN OAKLAND MAGAZINE

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

U.S. Senate run rejects Swalwell

Rep. Eric Swalwell
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Two-term Rep. Eric Swalwell will not run for U.S. Senate this year. The 34-year-old will instead endorse presumptive favorite State Attorney General Kamala Harris to replace the retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Swalwell never officially entered the race, as the San Francisco Chronicle noted, but the trial balloon floated by his political consultant, was widely suspected to be no more than an attempt to raise his profile and possibly form an exploratory committee. Doing so would allow Swalwell to collect campaign contributions without ever actually running.

The strategy to bring attention to the congressman may have fell somewhat flat. In numerous stories on the U.S. Senate race, both locally and nationally, Swalwell’s name was rarely listed as a potential candidate. More familiar names in Swalwell’s Tri Valley and Contra Costa strongholds, like former Rep. Ellen Tauscher and Rep. John Garamendi, overshadowed him.

The open senate seat is the first in the state since 1992. But, many believe Sen Dianne Feinstein’s tenure is also coming to a close within the end of her current term. If so, the list of potential candidates will likely include the ambitious Swalwell.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Alameda County Democrats call for Landis to resign; recall may be initiated

Oro Loma Sanitary District Board Director
Laython Landis during public comment at 
meeting Tuesday afternoon.
ORO LOMA SANITARY DISTRICT | The Alameda County Democratic Central Committee called for Oro Loma Sanitary District board member Laython Landis to resign this week following his use of a racial slur during a meeting in December.

The sanitary district, which services customers in San Leandro, San Lorenzo, and unincorporated Alameda County, censured Landis last month and removed him from all of the board’s standing committees for a number of inappropriate acts, including him uttering the phrase, “It’s raining cats and dogs and [n-word] babies.”

Landis, 88, apologized for using the description, but continued to use the remark later during television and radio interviews. Landis, who is white, said Tuesday afternoon that he will not resign and plans on running for re-election in 2016.

His unwillingness to leave the board and the perception that he is not acknowledging the severity of the incident prompted local Democrats to call for his ouster.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT EAST BAY EXPRESS

BART board may pull the plug on vaping at its stations

BART's Board of Directors may enact an
ordinance prohibiting vaping at its stations.
BART BOARD OF DIRECTORS | Without a doubt, smoking is banned on BART trains and its station. The use of e-cigarettes may be next.

The BART Board of Directors will decide during an evening board meeting Thursday whether to add to its current prohibition of cigarettes, the use of battery-powered electronic cigarettes that allow users to consume liquefied nicotine without the smoke many find displeasing.

“A number of complaints have reached the Board of Directors about people using electronic cigarettes and vaping devices on BART property,” said BART Board Director Robert Raburn. “Other transit providers have enacted prohibitions that we now propose to enact.”

Although, there is not yet agreement whether e-cigarette use is less harmful that tobacco-based cigarettes, the BART board’s decision comes a day after national researchers offered a report Wednesday finding vapor from e-cigarettes emit far more formaldehyde than regular cigarettes.

A staff report offered to the BART board states some similar potential health risks due to e-cigarettes. Despite the lack of scientific absolutes, many local municipalities have chosen to error on the side of prohibitions similar to those against cigarette use in public spaces. BART staff estimate about 45 municipalities ban e-cigarettes in public.

Transit authorities in Los Angeles and Santa Clara have similar bans to the ordinance being proposed Thursday night, according to the staff report.

While e-cigarettes remain unregulated, attempts by the State Legislature have fallen short. Most recently, a bill by former State Sen. Ellen Corbett was gutted by special interests to exclude e-cigarette manufacturers.

Games(wo)manship in the State Senate Special Election Race

Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, seated in purple, listens as her opponent for the open State Senate 7th District seat, Joan Buchanan, asks the Tri Valley Democratic Club in Dublin for their endorsement.
PHOTOS/Steven Tavares
STATE SENTATE | DISTRICT 7 | After Assemblymember Susan Bonilla made her roughly 17-minute pitch for the Tri Valley Democratic Club's endorsement Monday night, she walked toward the end of the first row of seating and angled the white folding chair toward the next speaker.

Susan Bonilla and Joan Buchanan woo Tri
Valley Democrats before the Mar. 17 primary.
Joan Buchanan, a former Assembly member who termed out of office last month, was another Democrat vying for the club’s imprimatur for the coming special election in the State Senate 7th District to replace Mark DeSaulnier, who is now in Congress.

Buchanan, like Bonilla peppered her speech with vows to strengthen education in the state. But, on several occasions, it was clear that Buchanan felt Bonilla’s gaze emanating from her right. While addressing the center of the audience, Buchanan eyes, nonetheless, darted to the right on at least three times.

Was this a case of subtle political gamesmanship?

Bonilla said no. After the endorsement meeting in which Buchanan easily won the club’s backing, Bonilla said she had no intention of rattling Buchanan and merely wanted a better look at her opponent while she spoke.

“Joan doesn’t get unnerved,” said Michelle Henry, a member of Buchanan’s campaign team. “It’s just politics.”

Buchanan and Bonilla, at times, Monday night, echoed scenes of camaraderie typically seen among a bunch of Democratic legislators pushing a new bill at a press conference. Both have pledged to run a clean race with Buchanan going as far as describing her campaign slogan as “positively for us.”

Buchanan’s endorsement Monday night, however, was not surprising. She is a member of the Tri Valley Democratic Club and its president Ellis Goldberg had already publicly touted his support for her candidacy. Buchanan received the backing of 29 voting members, Bonilla won two and four voters called for no endorsement.

Voters in the 7th District, which spreads from Contra Costa to Alameda Counties, may not have the appetite so soon for another negative campaign like the one that elected Republican 16th District Assemblymember Catharine Baker over Tim Sbranti and before that, in the primary, that included Steve Glazer.

Meanwhile, time is of the essence in this very short campaign. In addition to Buchanan and Bonilla, attorney Mark Meuser, a Republican, is in the race. The deadline for candidates to file is this Friday, Jan. 23, with much speculation centering on whether Glazer will attempt a run.

Furthermore, vote-by-mail ballots will be sent beginning Feb. 16 and due Mar. 10, with the primary set for Mar. 17. The general election is slated for May 19.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Tea Party insurgency at the Alameda County Republican Central Committee?

The Alameda County Republican Central
Committee is looking for a new chairperson.
ALAMEDA COUNTY GOP | Alameda County Republican Central Committee Chair Sue Caro helped register one of the local party’s biggest victories in years following the election last November of Assemblymember Catharine Baker.

Republicans in the Bay Area had been shut out of the Legislature for eight six year before Baker’s upset. In addition, Republicans knocked out two once-mighty Democrats in the June Primary—former lawmakers Ellen Corbett and Mary Hayashi.

Although, the party’s rise from oblivion has been slow and incremental, much of the credit has gone to Caro’s leadership. But, after two years on the job, she is not seeking re-election to the committee’s chair at tonight’s central meeting in San Leandro.

They list of possibly replacements include, Hugh Bussell, the current vice-chair who registered a stunning second-place primary finish over Corbett in the 15th Congressional District last June. Bussell’s election will likely continue Caro’s strategy of focusing on building a bench among local Republicans and, more importantly, getting out the vote on Election Day.

Some county conservatives, however, believe Caro is too moderate for the party. In fact, the central committee was plagued by insurgents before Caro’s tenure from the far right and idealistic libertarians backing Ron Paul. Both groups strongly advocated for party purity over the mechanisms of preparing the party for winning elections.

Those who describe Republican moderates as RINOs (Republicans in name only) are backing the candidacy of Kevin McGary, an African American member of the Tea Party from Hayward. McGary is also the chairman of the Frederick Douglas Foundation of California, a conservative group that believes in limited government.

The other conservative vying for the chairperson’s post is Lori Drake, a central committee member from the Tri Valley.

Barbara Lee says she's not interested in ambassadorship to Cuba

CONGRESS | 13TH DISTRICT | Rep. Barbara Lee attempted to shot down rumors she was eyeing a potential appointment as ambassador to Cuba. Currently, no such position exists and the U.S. does not have an embassy n iCuba. But, that doesn't means there will not be one soon.

Lee told The Huffington Post there is no "gentlewomen's agreement" between her and President Obama about taking the role in normalizing relations between the nations, as suggested this week by the San Francisco Chronicle.

"I will not seek the nomination to be Ambassador to Cuba," Lee told The Huffington Post. "I plan to continue the efforts to normalize relations with Cuba and the fight for our shared progressive values in Congress."

She will not seek the job, but what if it is offered to her?

Speculation over whether Lee will end her tenure in office has a expiration date, at least, as it pertains to Cuba. And there are some big ifs predicated on whether Obama will even have the opportunity to nominate an ambassador before he is termed out of office at the end of 2016.

Oakland City Council to vote Tuesday on extending ENA for Coliseum development

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and leaders of the City Council expressed support for extending an exclusive negotiation agreement with the current group interested in building new stadiums for the Raiders and Athletics in Oakland. The ENA is slated to expire at the end of this month.

Including in the agenda item to be voted by the Oakland City Council in closed session Tuesday evening is a clause allowing the city to allow any competing proposal brought forth by the owners of the Raiders and Athletics.

“I’m excited that, for the first time, both the Oakland Athletics and Oakland Raiders have expressed interest in coming to the table to join these serious discussions and that the City and County are poised to move forward together," Schaaf said in a statement released by the city. "This new approach represents real progress in crafting a project that protects the public dollar, retains our sports teams, and increases the economic vitality of the coliseum area.”

In the same statement, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who also serves as chair of the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, which oversees the publicly-owned stadium complex, applauded extending the ENA and its new parameters. “We’ll be doing our due diligence, but I’m optimistic that the City and County will start moving forward as a unified team after our January 27th action,” said Miley.

If approved by the Oakland City Council, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will discuss the extension at its next meeting on Jan. 27.

The proposed 90-day extension with development group New City, headed by Southern California businessman Floyd Kephart, comes at a critical moment. Recent reports suggest the Raiders will seek a one-year lease extension to play at O.co Coliseum for another year.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Periodic rumors of Rep. Barbara Lee's departure now focus on post in Cuba

If Rep. Barbara Lee's seat is open soon, Rob
Bonta could be in first in line to replace her.
CONGRESS | DISTRICT 13 | Every so often in the East Bay you hear chatter that Rep. Barbara Lee is pondering life outside of Congress. The San Francisco Chronicle's Matier & Ross pushed the periodic rumor in their column Sunday, this time having Lee becoming the ambassador to Cuba.

The planets may seem aligned for such a move since President Obama has sought recently to loosen Cold War-era restrictions on travel to Cuba. Lee has long made normalizing relations with Cuba and its people one of her pet issues. Lee also appears to be itching for a bigger role in public life.

However, the portrayal of a “gentlewomen’s agreement” with President Obama should put some shade on the rumor. Politics is a dirty game and such agreements are bound to be broken. In addition, there is the qualifier of whether such a job is available before the end of Obama’s term, which is already on the horizon.

The phrasing could have been applied to rumors last year that Obama was about to appoint Lee to a post within his administration. That Lee was passed over for the secretary of labor position even though the impetus for her consideration was the absence of any women in his cabinet, shows such agreements are nebulous.

Conversely, Obama may feel like he owes Lee. The ambassador to Cuba will assuredly be a high-profile post, at least, in the present. Regardless of the efficacy of the rumors, there is a perception in the East Bay that Lee is not the congressional lifer in the vein of Pete Stark and George Miller. In short, the number of years before Lee retires, or moves on to another role in government, could be counted on one hand, not two.

But, now to the politic parlor talk. Who could replace Lee is the very progressive 13th Congressional District? Matier & Ross listed first, termed out Assemblymember Nancy Skinner, and then 18th District Assemblymember Rob Bonta. The short list should be reversed.

Skinner represented the Berkeley side of the congressional district and is eyeing a run in 2016 for the state senate seat held by termed out State Sen. Loni Hancock. Bonta, in just one term in office, has successfully charted a quick course to the top of East Bay politics not seen in generations.

Bonta is the big dog in the East Bay. If you disagree, then you haven’t been paying attention. Anyone who followed the package of firearm legislation that came out of the East Bay Assembly caucus saw it was Bonta, despite being the freshman, who led the group. Meanwhile, longer tenured colleagues like Skinner came across as playing secondary roles.

Whether Bonta would jump at the chance to replace Lee is unclear, especially, when you take into account his rising stature within the California Democratic Party. Bonta is also from the 2012 class of legislators eligible to serve 12 years in Sacramento. If the first two years were any indication, the sky is the limit for what he can accomplish. The question for Bonta is whether there is ample opportunity for him to get as much done in Washington as he could in Sacramento, and, maybe in statewide office?

Libby Schaaf woke up this morning to the reality of being Oakland mayor

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
OAKLAND | Is Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf enjoying a free pass from the press that her predecessor Jean Quan never enjoyed? Yes. Example: the press scrum that followed Schaaf on a tour of Oakland schools earlier this month. You know, as if she didn't know the school district was in the dumps?

Will Schaaf receive the early benefit of the doubt from Oakland's aggressive and ideological band of demonstrators? No. Example: On Monday morning, the same groups of Oaklanders sent her a wake-up call.

It was reported about 50 demonstrators gathered in front of Schaaf’s home this morning. They chanted the mayor’s name, shouted through bullhorns and blasted portions of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches.

During the past mayoral campaign, Schaaf vividly recalled for me one poignant moment in 2013 as a city council meeting on the DAC barreled through the early morning hours. As Schaaf spoke, a young woman in the audience, screamed, “I hope you die in your mansion, Libby!” The provocative comment momentarily silenced Schaaf and the entire chambers. Schaaf continued and noted that, in fact, she did not live in a mansion.

Place these scenes in the back of your mind for future reference because this fractured relationship between Schaaf and protesters is very similar to the dynamic that hampered Quan following the infamous crackdown on Occupy Oakland. The issue manifested itself in many ways, including, the reason why Schaaf, not Quan, now sits in the mayor's office.

Demonstrators, today, said they arrived at Schaaf’s doorstep in response to her paying political alms to law enforcement on Day One. But, she should also take heed of their warning because they represent reality in Oakland and may evoke Quan’s first few months in office four years ago.

The city is a powder keg ready to ignite and the cause may not be readily identifiable at this point, but also avoidable. In January 2011, do you think Quan realized a bunch of people camping out in front of City Hall would effectively scuttle her administration? Its most likely bursting point center around issues in which Schaaf’s political constituencies are perceived to be the core problem. The haves versus have-nots, gentrification and police misconduct. among other issues.

If Schaaf doesn’t embrace these same people who stood in front of her home Monday, she won’t move all of Oakland forward. Instead, her first official duty was, in effect, to thumb her nose at the group that is most vocal and most liable to drag her down.

Hanging out with police on her first day on the job says I'm with the hills. It doesn't convey the campaign message of "I'm hella with all of Oakland."

Friday, January 16, 2015

Rearranging the pictures on the wall at Alameda City Hall

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer wants to bring her city’s residents back to local government. For starters, the island’s new mayor didn’t rearrange the furniture at City Hall, but she did move around some picture frames, if not, for the sake of symbolism.

Over the past four years visitors to City Hall saw a lone portrait of former Mayor Marie Gilmore on the wall just outside the doors of its council chambers. The placement evoked any federal building in the United States adorned with the picture of the President.

It also highlighted Gilmore’s disconnection with the public, an attribute that may well have been her downfall last November when she lost re-election to Spencer, a far more amiable populist than the detached and aloof Gilmore.

A lone hole from the nail that once held Gilmore’s portrait is noticeable around the new configuration that Spencer asked city staff to install. In addition, to Gilmore’s portrait, the wall now displays a host of past Alameda mayors.

Spencer has a temporary photo of herself on the wall right next to her past rival, but it’s much smaller and unadorned than the others. “I think it looks good for now,” Spencer says.

Although, her first meeting two weeks ago was something of a letdown depending on your point of view—Spencer says it was not, but a healthy conversation on the Del Monte project—she says the tenor of the audience is already improved over the meetings presided over by Gilmore.

Spencer and the City Council will hold a public meeting Wednesday, Jan. 21, for ideas on how meetings can better foster public engagement. During the campaign, Spencer often derided the prevalence of council meetings that ran deep into the night, saying, they dissuade participation of residents in the political process.

Spencer's initial read following her first tangible meeting earlier this month was positive. “To me the tone was different during the entire meeting. I never told anyone, do not clap,” she said of Gilmore’s typical admonition to the audience. “But, the crowd took care of themselves.” In fact, at one point during the meeting, a gentlemen in the back uttered what sounded like a crack against Spencer which was immediately hushed by other members of the audience.

Nonetheless, a squeaker of an election featuring divergent ideas is bound to illicit contempt from both sides. But, at least, for the new council’s opening night, the discourse was polite.

“Afterwards,” says Spencer, “all the members seemed pleased by the way the meeting was handled and I really am hopeful.”

San Leandro may seek short-term extension of city manager’s contract

San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata
took a pay cut in 2012.
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | City leaders want an extra six months to come to terms with its current city manager.

Chris Zapata’s three-year contract expires at the end of January. A city staff reports recommends a six-month extension of the current agreement through July 30.

All indications suggest the San Leandro Council plan on retaining Zapata, who was hired in January 2012 after stints in National City, Calif. and Glendale, Ariz.

If approved by the council Tuesday night (City Hall is closed Monday for MLK holiday), the city can continue to negotiate with Zapata for a long-term extension.

By most accounts, Zapata’s tenure is seen as positive, especially during a time when most municipalities were struggling to emerge from a long recession. In addition, Zapata’s early tenure was highlighted by a period of high turnover at City Hall following Stephen Cassidy’s election as mayor four years ago.

In the meantime, San Leandro’s budget has stabilized and it is seen as a burgeoning area for industrial tech companies.

Zapata’s past generosity, though, may be a sticking point in negotiations. Although, his original contract called for Zapata to earn an annual salary of $223,000—at the time, a very competitive salary among East Bay city managers—he later sought council approval to lower his pay by $20,000.

Zapata then earmarked the savings to retain San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli and Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall after some worry nearby cities would poach one or both from San Leandro. Both remain with the city.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Hayward irons out some kinks in its massage parlor regulations

HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL | Over the past few years, the Hayward City Council has tried to legislate away some of its more seedy downtown elements. On Tuesday, the council unanimously approved new regulations on massage parlors enacted by the State Legislature, they says will make residents safer.

The ordinance regulates all massage therapy operators to be certified by the state. It also hopes to further bar businesses conducting illegal sexual services under the guise of a massage parlor. The assembly bill based on the ordinance, AB 1147 went into effect on Jan. 1.

A proliferation of massage businesses have sprouted in Hayward, said Councilmember Francisco Zermeno, who lauded the legislation passed last year. There is also the possibility some nefarious massage establishments could be currently participating in sex trafficking, added Zermeno. “But, we just don’t know.”

Councilmember Al Mendall, a former member of the city’s planning commission, said some businesses were often approved in the past because no regulations existed to vote down applications. “I’ve been looking forward to this," he said Tuesday night. “It gives the power back to the city.”

The regulations not only dissuade illicit businesses in Hayward, said Mayor Barbara Halliday, but also encourage reputable healing arts practitioners. “It may have a bad connotation,” she said of massage parlors, “but, it’s a service people legitimately want and need.”

In addition, the ordinance gives Hayward’s police chief and city manager power to deny permits for massage parlors. Furthermore, the expunged convictions of applicants for massage parlors could be grounds for denial under the ordinance. However, the city may not exercise such authority, said city staff.

Hayward's local economy languished during the past recession and has struggled since to attract new business to its remade downtown.

Previously, Hayward city leaders moved to ban outdoor food-sharing groups from feeding homeless people in downtown parks and they were one of the first East Bay cities to crackdown on illegal Internet gaming storefronts. One such establishment, in fact, resided across the street from Hayward City Hall. 

However, the expansion of the Palace Poker Casino near Jackson Street in 2013, was approved by the city council and described glowingly by one council member. “We should feel lucky to have a place like this in Hayward,” said Councilmember Greg Jones. “I think it’s the right thing to do.”

GOP rollback of Obama's immigration policy is 'cynical,' says Barbara Lee


CONGRESS | DISTRICT 13 | House Republicans used an amendment to a bill funding the Department of Homeland Security through the fall to block President Obama's plan to protect nearly five million undocumented immigrants.

On the House floor Wednesday, Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee called the move by Republicans, both, cynical and anti-immigrant.

"It has nothing to do with our national security and everything to do with tearing down the President's legal executive action on immigration," said Lee. "It has been clear to me that whatever this president puts forward, Republicans will oppose."

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Cassidy is no longer mayor, but he isn't leaving San Leandro politics

Stephen Cassidy: Out of power, but not
out of things to say.
SAN LEANDRO | Stephen Cassidy left the mayor's office in San Leandro after just one term. There was no specific public reason for why he left thousands of his supporters in the lurch and bowed out of a likely successful re-election campaign.

The reason is believed to be job-related, which should reflect worse on his employer than Cassidy, but the gruff former mayor has never really cared about what people think.

In a farewell letter published by the Bay Area News Group Wednesday, he rehashed a similar piece written just before his decision to bypass a re-election campaign last spring. "I love San Leandro. It's been the greatest honor of my professional life to serve as your mayor. Thank you again for providing me this honor," wrote Cassidy.

As I wrote last March, Cassidy's list of accomplishments clearly belong to his predecessors and one private citizen, OSIsoft's Patrick Kennedy. From the building of the new Kaiser Permanente in San Leandro to steering the city out of the Great Recession on better footing than when it entered, each issue precedes him, and, in the case of the budget, came in spite of Cassidy's opposition to the sales tax measure he vehemently opposed in 2010.

Cassidy's place in San Leandro political history, though, is unclear. Although there are already early indications Cassidy will become what he was before his upset mayoral victory four years ago--a very vocal critic and city advocate.

During his final City Council meeting as mayor last month, Cassidy appeared to be dictating to his colleagues one last time despite his lame duck status. His demeanor, however, was nothing out of the ordinary. Cassidy's controlling and bullying nature has long been the hallmark of his term as mayor and four years beforehand on the San Leandro school board.

Cassidy's unwillingness to release some city council member's from his influence continued last week. During the well-attended public meeting on the police department's hope to purchase an armored emergency personnel carrier, Cassidy again came off as dictating to his now-former colleagues.

The private citizen Cassidy stepped to the mic and publicly asserted his support for the armored vehicle, but then spent the entire time lecturing the council member's seated before him, both on the merits of the purchase and their theoretical duties as a public servant.

One council member told me they didn't mind the tone of Cassidy's public comment last week. More tellingly, they joked about tuning him out a long time ago.

An uplifting Wednesday for Hayward's downtrodden school district

Tom Hanks and Jack Del Rio put Hayward
in the naitonal news Wednesday.
HAYWARD | When it comes to positive news, Hayward's struggling school district rarely has its day in spotlight. That changed sometime after midnight Wednesday when The New York Times posted an opinion piece by Hollywood actor Tom Hanks writing glowingly of his alma mater, Chabot College.

In the piece meant to highlight the need for making secondary education affordable to many, Hanks said of Chabot College, "That place made me what I am today."

The national spotlight on Hayward schools continued later in the day. Numerous sources reported that Jack Del Rio, one of Hayward High School's greatest athletes, is slated to become the next head coach of the Oakland Raiders.

"We're honored to welcome Coach Del Rio back to the Bay Area, and we're immensely proud that he's 'Made in Hayward.' He's a true role model for all of our students," said Stan "Data" Dobbs, Hayward's superintendent.

Since becoming superintendent of the beleaguered school district, it has been Dobbs' intention to focus on the positive aspects of its students and their potential. The school district's Made in Hayward Twitter feed, for instance, posted numerous photos of Del Rio from his high school days and his achievements as a multi-sport star who later attended U.S.C and starred as linebacker in the NFL and later as head coach.

Aside from Wednesday's news, the Hayward school district's good fortune can be traced back to last December with the high-profile hiring of former State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett. After being termed out of the Legislature last December, Corbett joined the school district as its executive director of advanced achievement.

Tom Hanks on Chabot College: 'That place made me what I am today'

Tom Hanks
HAYWARD | There was always an urban legend that Tom Hanks never bothered to pick up his diploma from Chabot College. It's likely not true.

In a New York Times opinion piece, Hanks gives a loving ode to his junior college alma mater, Hayward's Chabot College.

The impetus for the piece is to support President Obama's proposal to offer up to nine million Americans free access to a community college education.

Hanks, who graduated from Skyline High in Oakland, credits his time at Chabot for inspiring what later would become one of the most honored careers in motion picture history.
For thousands of commuting students, Chabot was our Columbia, Annapolis, even our Sorbonne, offering courses in physics, stenography, auto mechanics, certified public accounting, foreign languages, journalism — name the art or science, the subject or trade, and it was probably in the catalog. The college had a nursing program that churned out graduates, sports teams that funneled athletes to big-time programs, and parking for a few thousand cars — all free but for the effort and the cost of used textbooks.
I, too, share Hanks' sentiment for the school sometimes called, "Hesperian High."

Admittedly, upon graduating from high school, being "forced" to attend Chabot College is a common lament. However, like Hanks, I have always credited the school with teaching me more about who I am and what I wanted to do more than other institution.

I learned to fear Bill Johnson's red pen as he edited my stories for the Chabot Spectator. The late journalism instructor was tough, but I later understood his only intention was to teach, not to denigrate. Today, when Robert Gammon edits my work the East Bay Express, I trust he has my back. I learned that from the late Bill Johnson.

And yes, I also learned to drink beer at Chabot College.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Assemblymember's slate of Democratic Party delegates win big

DEMOCRATIC PARTY | East Bay Assembly members fortified their positions of power within the state Democratic Party over the weekend with the election of nearly every member of their respective slates of delegates for the party convention in May.

Seven men and seven women, according to party bylaws, were elected by Democrats in each assembly district on Saturday and Sunday. The roster of delegates, in many ways, will owe their allegiance to the assembly member who placed them on their election-winning slates.

Delegates elected last weekend are eligible to vote at the party's convention scheduled for May 15-17 in Anaheim and in 2016. Below are the unofficial winners in each East Bay district:

AD15
MALES: Ty Alper, Kevin L. Nichols, Brett Badelle, Joesph Knox, Charles Davidson, Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Gregory Lyman.

FEMALES: Wendy Bloom (executive board representative), Jessica Dervin-Ackerman, Rita Xavier, Raquel Donoso, Kathy Chao Rothberg, Jovanka Beckles, Karen Weinstein.

AD16
MALES: Ellis Goldberg, Jerome Pandell (executive board representative), Greg Bonato, Brad Tuvey, Don Biddle, Jeff Bowser, Dean Wallace.

FEMALES: Sharon Goldberg, Tanya Ludden, Debbie Look, Joan Laursen, Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Susan Piekarski, Amy Miller.

AD18
MALES: Karl Debro, Sean Sullivan, Keith Gibbs, Douglas Jones, Diego Gonzalez, Mike Heneberry, Jeff Del Bono (executive board representative).

FEMALES: Jahaziel Bonilla, Brendalynn Goodall, Pheleta Santos, Lena Tam, Malia Vella, Meriam Reynosa, Elizabeth Ortega, Lynette Gailord.

AD20
MALES: Gary Singh,Richard Valle, Jerry Ahuja, Rocky Fernandez (executive board member), Jason McCartney, Mark Williams, Kewal Singh.

FEMAES: Brannin Dorsey, Barbara Aro-Valle, Anu Natarajan, Sarabjit Cheema, Jatinderpal Sahi, Aisha Knowles, Zuhal Bahaduri.

Bay Area's burgeoning eyes in the sky

Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern angered privacy activists late last year when he ignored their sentiment against purchasing a small unmanned aerial drone. San Jose city leaders are grappling with the potential use of drones, as is Berkeley.

Bloomberg Businessweek takes a look at the burgeoning issue in the Bay Area at a macro level. From Bloomberg:
"Berkeley and the Bay Area have a long history of political discussion, protests and debate, and there’s a real concern around the use of these drones under those circumstances, and the broader privacy issues,” said Jesse Arreguin, a Berkeley city council member who represents the downtown area near the University of California’s flagship campus.
In all cases, those in law enforcement say their desire for deploying drones is not for spying on innocent residents or to monitor political protests, but only to aid in emergency situations.

For now, there are few reasons for jurisdictions to rush the drone issue since its use is not yet approved by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Special election to replace DeSaulnier in SD7 set for May 19; primary in March

Special election candidates: Joan Buchanan,
Mark Meuser and Susan Bonilla.
STATE SENATE DISTRICT 7 | When Mark DeSaulnier was elected to replace long-time Congressman George Miller last year, it created an opening for his State Senate 7th District seat.

Gov. Jerry Brown on Tuesday announced the SD-7 top-two primary will be scheduled for for Mar. 17. The special election will follow on May 19.

Former Assemblymember Joan Buchanan and current Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, both Democrats, are seen as the leading contenders. Republican Mark Meuser, an attorney, has also announced plans to run for the seat.

Special elections in SD21 and SD37 will also occur the same day, Brown announced.

The 7th District encompasses large parts of Contra Costa County, including Orinda Concord and Pittsburg along with the most of the Tri Valley in Alameda County.

The Tri-Valley Democratic Club will host Buchanan and Bonilla for a candidates forum, Jan. 19, 8 p.m. at the IBEW Hall in Dublin at 6250 Village Parkway.

Oakalnd to pay protesters $1.3 million for wrongful arrests at YMCA

Oakland Police Department has shown a great deal of restraint lately when it comes to interactions with various protests on its streets. However, the city is still paying the misdeeds of its near past.

From Courthouse News:
The 360 Occupy Oakland protesters who claim they were falsely arrested and subjected to unconstitutional jail conditions after a January 2012 protest have been granted class certification and a tentative settlement. 
U.S. Magistrate Judge Nathanael Cousins on Jan. 5 gave the class preliminary approval for a settlement of more than $1.3 million. 
Lead plaintiff Steven Angell complained that Oakland's police officers "corralled and trapped" the protesters in front of the Oakland YMCA on Broadway, where they were "pushed, clubbed and driven into a shrinking space."
Counsel for the lawsuit will receive $350,000 of the tentative settlement, according to the report.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Sanitary district board member says he may still use n-word among friends

Laython Landis is resisting calls for his
resignation.
ORO LOMA SANITARY DISTRICT | Oro Loma Sanitary District board member Laython Landis was censured by his colleagues for describing heavy rains in the area with an obscure racial slur.

During a radio interview with KGO’s Brian Copeland, the embattled official said he won’t use the n-word in public, but might use it in conversations with old friends.

Copeland asked Landis, 88, whether the 42-year veteran of the sanitary board and former San Leandro City Council member would use the phrase again, he said no. “You got that right,” said Landis. “One-on-one, I might privately, but no mas.” Landis, chuckled several times whenever Copeland repeated the offending statement.

“But it depends on who I’m talking about,” Landis said. Long-time friends are not offended by the phrase, he said. He also admitted to previously using the phrase in private, in particular, to describing heavy rain.

During a Dec. 10 sanitary board meeting, Landis referred to the heavy rains that hit the area last month as “raining cats and dogs and n-gger babies." He then reignited the firestorm during a Dec. 24 interview with KPIX-TV in which he repated the phrase. The board, which now contains the first female board member in the district’s 100-year history, censured Landis for the comments.

“I’ve been reprimanded enough time to know better,” saidLandis, who claims he is the nephew of Major League Baseball Commissioner Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis,

In addition, Landis says he won’t resign in the wake of the controversy. “They’ve got to fire me,” he said.

A group of elected black officials and clergy say they will call for Landis’ ouster at the board’s next meeting Jan. 20 and beyond, if needed, said Marlon McWilliams, an elected member of the Alameda County Board of Education. Landis is up for re-election in 2016.

Swalwell for Senate? It isn't a crazy idea

THE FLOAT: Rep. Eric Swalwell says he
may have interest in running for U.S. Senate.
U.S. SENATE | He isn’t serious? Is he?

While some of the biggest names in California politics are believed to be interested in replacing U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who announced her retirement last week, there were hints dropped by Rep. Eric Swalwell that he might be angling for a promotion.

His office told Politico last Friday: “Today, Congressman Swalwell is celebrating Senator Boxer's service to California's families and environment. Congressman Swalwell remains focused on his work to bring new energy and ideas to Congress. Any decision about the future will come at a later time.”

Swalwell’s name has not been in the mix of potential candidates, which include, State Attorney General Kamala Harris, Treasurer John Chiang, former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, current Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, SoCal Rep. Loretta Sanchez and wealthy environmental activist Tom Steyer, but not Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Since much of Swalwell’s first-term was predicated on marketing the idea he is a young, hard-working, tech-savvy leader through ebullient features in the San Francisco Chronicle and numerous media appearances to burnish said image, his interest in the job is likely meant to raise his profile.

Nonetheless, Swalwell’s over ambition is clearly evident and it has long been my prediction he would attempt a run at the U.S. Senate much earlier than later. Albeit, not this early, but his hubris is uncontrollable. Recall, on the day he was sworn-in to office for the first time in January 2013, Swalwell responded to a interviewer’s almost jokey question of whether he would run for president one day. Swalwell didn’t laugh off the query and gave a vague answer usually reserved for the Jeb Bush’s off the political landscape.

But, say, Swalwell’s interest is genuine, because there is actually a plausible path for the second-term congressman, if you apply his 2012 upset of Pete Stark to this race.

There are strange similarities, indeed, especially if the Democratic Party establishment moves to clear the field, most likely for Harris. Many East Bay politicos believe the key to Swalwell’s win was the absence of any other challengers to Stark. In this case, the Alameda County Democratic Party, through Stark’s insistence, unwittingly helped Swalwell by dissuading Ellen Corbett and Ro Khanna to sit out the race.

In addition, based on the early list of potential candidates, Swalwell would likely be the most moderate of the group. His predilection toward making Republicans feel comfortable with him was the electoral key to his 2012 victory. In the 15th Congressional District, Swalwell commands electoral superiority because he carries the Democratic Party moniker while seeking campaign contributions from wise conservatives who accept one of their own will never seat in that seat. Therefore, Swalwell is their least worst bet.

Now, whether Swalwell would help or hinder his political career by applying this strategy on the statewide level is debatable. The Chronicle wouldn’t mind, but other media outlets will likely pick up on the potential that Swalwell possesses in coming years for dialing the state’s dominant strain of liberalism. And nowhere on this list of potential competitors is a candidate like Stark who could implode at a moment’s notice.

There’ s no doubt Swalwell has a fair amount of naivete when it comes to governance, but one thing is clear, he currently has lady luck on his side and he sure knows how to run an insurgent campaign. That’s a pretty good start.

Friday, January 9, 2015

San Leandro may place limits on proposed armored police vehicle

A Lenco Bearcat MedEvac on loan to the San Leandro Police Department on display for public viewing Thursday before a public meeting at the San Leandro Senior Community Center. 
PHOTOS/Steven Tavares
A speaker addresses the city's police force 
and City Council Thursday evening.
SAN LEANDRO | San Leandro residents and opponents of their police department’s decision to apply for a state grant for an armored personnel carrier voiced skepticism over the proposal at a public meeting Thursday night.

However, when the issue comes before the San Leandro City Council for discussion in early February, they will like approve the expenditure, some members told the East Bay Citizen, but with specific stipulations for its use in the city.

Three San Leandro council members separately indicated the City Council could, for instance, forbid the police department from using the vehicle in non-medical situations, such as quelling a protest within its borders. The vehicle's purchase is proposed for use in medical emergencies.

San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli said the department will recommend a policy to the City Council in coming weeks and welcomed input from city leaders. “There’s policy that comes from the city and policy that comes from various departments. So, there’s a balance,” she said.

The armored vehicle is equipped for handling
medical emergencies in dangerous situations.
However, even if San Leandro city officials place their own limits, it doesn’t mean other law enforcement agencies borrowing the Lenco Bearcat MedEvac for use in their cities can't use the vehicle however they please.

Spagnoli likened it to differing policies in some city’s police departments for the pursuit of alleged suspects on the road. San Leandro Police, for instance, have their own rules for pursuit, but once a suspected vehicle enters another city, the rules may differ.

The Bearcat MedEvac armored personnel carrier lent to the city last November was on display for public perusal Thursday evening. The black, oversized armored truck configured like an ambulance has not been deployed, said police, but several officers have taken it for a test-drive. The loaner was meant to give the public an idea how the roughly $33,333 in asset forfeiture proceeds would be spent, said police and city officials.

Despite a brisk 30-minute presentation by police extolling the vehicle's benefits as a regional asset available for other East Bay jurisdictions, but also its ability to save lives, a few speakers described the vehicle as “scary” and “intimidating.”

“You can’t fool us,” said JP Massar of Oakland. “Just because you painted ‘Rescue’ on the side, doesn’t make it any less of a military vehicle.”

Few residents publicly backed the plan in what was a noticeably restrained conversation, especially for a current hot-button issue like the militarization of local law enforcement seen in places like Ferguson, Mo.

“It’s a dangerous world out there,” said Jeff Wald of Fremont. “It’s unfortunate that we have to consider getting vehicles like this, but public safety officers need to be protected.”

Two former San Leandro public officials, who recently ended their terms in office, both backed the purchase. Stephen Cassidy, the former mayor, told the new council members he supports the plan and also urged them to discuss placing limits on the vehicle’s use.

Diana Souza, who ended two terms in office last month, said the armored vehicle would provide a sense of safety for residents and police when in harm’s way. Souza acknowledged fear the vehicle may project to some, but noted it won’t be patrolling city streets. “If your life is in danger and you see something that can save your life, that’s going to make you feel good,” said Souza. “That’s when we’re going to see this vehicle.”

The pending state grant for the vehicle, police, instead, call a “Regional Rescue Vehicle,” stems from a joint application by the San Leandro Police, Fremont Police and Fire and the Alameda County Fire Department. San Leandro Lt. Randy Brandt, said Thursday, it was the Fremont Police who first approached the city about the grant's existence.

San Leandro is one of the few cities in the East Bay without a similar armored personnel carrier, said Brandt. In addition, while other versions of the Lenco Bearcat exist in the region, none are equipped with medical rescue equipment, said Brandt, which bolsters the grant application.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

BART Director: 'Rosa Parks did not shut down an entire transit system for hours'

BART Board Director Rebecca Salztman
BART BOARD OF DIRECTORS | When activist protesting on the West Oakland BART station platform chained themselves to a train the day after Thanksgiving, their civil disobedience shut down service from the East Bay to San Francisco for two hours.

The transit agency's police force now wants $70,000 in restitution for the act. However, BART's General Manager Grace Crunican said Wednesday the 14 protesters charged with misdemeanor that day should instead perform community service.

The protesters have yet to appear in court and their fate rest with Alameda County Distict Attorney Nancy O'Malley's office.

The demonstration was part of the Black Lives Matter movement that followed non-indictments against police officers in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City.

Meanwhile, East Bay BART District 3 Board Director Rebecca Saltzman, who represents stations in El Cerrito, Berkeley and San Leandro, among others, agrees with Crunican. In a posting on Facebook, Saltzman wrote:
For the past week I have been in conversations with BART staff about the charges and particularly the $70,000 restitution component. I appreciate that BART General Manager Grace Crunican and Police Chief Kenton Rainey recently reached out to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley about the pending charges and expressed interest in pursuing community service and restorative justice programs. I think that this is an appropriate path to pursue in lieu of financial restitution.
But, then things got weird when Saltzman referenced the Black Friday protesters on Twitter with Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks.

UPDATE: Saltzman later apologized for the statement on Twitter.

Saltman told the East Bay Citizen Thursday afternoon that she regrets the tweet. "I do know the history. I do see the difference," she said of the Montgomery bus boycott sparked by Parks' act of civil disobedience. "Those were protests over the racist policies of a bus system."

She added, though, when it comes to the Black Friday demonstration at the West Oakland station, "BART riders impacted did not necessarily have anything to do with what they were protesting."

The District 3 director says she stands by her statement today on restitution. "We can't just let people shut down BART all the time."

San Leandro to discuss militarization of its police department

The Lenco Bearcat MedEvac is really a
heavily-fortified Ford F-550.
SAN LEANDRO | When it comes to armored personnel carriers, San Leandro is one of few East Bay jurisdictions without the controversial vehicles, which some opponents charge overtly militarizes small local police departments like San Leandro. The city submitted a joint state grant last fall to fund the costs of the vehicle known as a Lenco Bearcat MedEvac, along with the Alameda County Fire Department and Fremont Police and Fire.

A version of the Lenco Bearcat will be on display Thursday afternoon at 5 p.m. and precedes a 6 p.m. public meeting (San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14th Street) on the efficacy of purchasing the armored carrier. The direct expenditure of the vehicle would be split among the three jurisdiction at a cost of about $33,000 apiece, the city says.

Knowledge of the grant was not well-know until some San Leandro privacy activists noted the police department's plans for the vehicle used for a host of dangerous law enforcement situations including SWAT, serving warrants and confronting alleged criminals deemed armed and dangerous.

The San Leandro PD, though, says the armored vehicle will be mostly deployed in medical emergencies and will be the first use of its kind in the East Bay. However, the police department has some familiarity with similar models of the armored carrier.

Since 2012, San Leandro PD has borrowed armored vehicles from neighboring cities on 10 separate occasions. A majority of the operations used armored vehicles from the Hayward Police Department, along with law enforcement agencies in Alameda, Union City and Fairfield, according the San Leandro PD. But, none of the stated uses included a medical-type emergency. Nearly every instance was described either as  a "high-risk warrant service" or "barricaded subjects."

The Lenco Bearcat MedEvac, which is basically an armored Ford F-550, has been on loan to the city from the manufacturer since late November. The then-mayor Stephen Cassidy noted in a press release, "The BearCat MedEvac will not be used in any rescue or law enforcement capacity by our police department or any other public agency during the loan period.”

In addition, the potential purchase of the armored vehicle is not military surplus, the city says, nor is is a military personnel carrier distributed through the U.S. Department of Defense.

Critics, though, worry the slow merging of the nation's perpetual war effort with local police departments will have a chilling affect on privacy and human rights down the line. Furthermore, defense contractors are a powerful lobby interested in cultivating new customers as the war effort winds down. For instance, the promotional video for the Lenco Bearcat, first noted by East Bay Express contributor Darwin BondGraham, highlights an over-the-top macho tone.

Among the members of the San Leandro City Council, few have taken a clear stance on the armored vehicle. Although, it was  a campaign issue during the most recent election, most public officials have questioned whether the vehicle is appropriate for a quiet suburban city like San Leandro, while also offering deference to Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli, who backs the purchase.

This week, newly-elected Councilmember Deborah Cox urged residents to take a look at the armored vehicle for themselves while suggesting it was less imposing than what critics describe.