DELIVERING DISCOMFORT TO THE POWERFUL SINCE 2009
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FABULOUS FORUM SANS WIECKOWSKI

They didn't need Bob Wieckowski anyway after a concise and informative candidate's forum in the 10th State Senate District, including Mary Hayashi, above.

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RUSSELL CITY BLUES

At a candidate's forum for the 20th Assembly District, Bill Quirk takes the brunt of questions over the controversial Hayward power plant accused of polluting the air.

GHOSTS OF SAN LEANDRO'S PAST RETURNING?

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy has a history of dividing residents. His newest strategy involves splitting its large Asian American population.

SWALWELL'S FRESH VOICE TURNS STALE

A wealthy Tri Valley family gave Rep. Eric Swalwell over $25,000 in contributions. Later, Swalwell used taxpayer money to hire the daughter for his staff.

FOUR VIE FOR VACANT COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OFFICE

Alameda County Superintendent of Schools is retiring this year. She has a replacement in mind, but three others think changes is in the air.

CHEN: 'I DID NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG'

Alameda's council member won a seat on the City Council in 2012 and once served on the city's healthcare board, but nobody, it seems, knew about his embarrassing past.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rep. Swalwell Boasts No Other Freshman Dem Passed More Bills Than His One

Swalwell said he leads all freshman 
Democrats in bills passed with one.
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Offering fun facts and figures meant to add beef to his flimsy patty of work has been a hallmark of Rep. Eric Swalwell’s first term. In fact, he includes a running scoreboard on his congressional Web site boasting to have flown over 350,000 miles, attending 800 meetings in the district and holding 13 town hall meetings since January 2013. He offered another superfluous fact last Saturday in Alameda.

“I have passed more bills than any freshman Democrat in the Congress,” Swalwell told the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus. “It’s a divided Congress, but no other freshman Democrat has passed more bills than me. Now, only three others have passed a bill in Congress, but I am working to stand up for this community.”

Translation: Swalwell is currently in a four-way tie for most bills passed by rookie Democrats in the House with a grand total of one. President Obama signed legislation authored by Swalwell last month allowing donations to the Filipino typhoon relief fund be included on taxpayers’ 2013 returns.

Other freshman passing bills in the 113th Congress include Rep. Dennis Heck's (D-Wash.) Reverse Mortgage Stabilization Act of 2013 that deleted a period and added “and” to existing legislation, in addition, to a paragraph urging the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to improve fiscal safety for mortgagees.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) Helping Heroes Fly Act allows expedited airport screening of severely injured and disabled veterans and Rep. Ann Kuster’s (D-N.H.) bill named the air traffic control center in Nashua, N.H. after Patricia Clark.

The uninspiring list of legislation is no surprise given the entire Congress in 2013 passed the least number of bills in U.S. history. Incidentally, Swalwell's predecessor, Pete Stark, also passed just one piece of legislation during his first term in 1973-1974.

When Given the Chance to Attack Hayashi, Wieckowski Demures

Bob Wieckowski, Mary Hayashi
STATE SENATE | 10TH DISTRICT | When the ball was teed up for Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski to knock out of the park, he instead, asked for an intentional walk. On Saturday, during its endorsement meeting, the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus asked Wieckowski, "What is your response to the latest scandals involving elected officials of Asian descent?"

The query is undoubtedly related to Wieckowski's opponent in the 10th State Senate District race, former Assemblymember Mary Hayashi and her infamous 2011 brush with the law. The impetus for the question, of course, is also State Sen. Leland Yee's recent F.B.I. indictment. But, Wieckowski didn't bite. Following the question, he paused a few seconds then feigned ignorance. “Well, I think it’s just Leland Yee. I don’t know of any others.”

Wieckowski said he knows Yee and often lobbied him for his vote on legislation. “I think it has brought shame to all of us," said Wieckowski. The Leland Yee question has been quite popular during recent candidate's forums. Most, like Wieckowski, have chosen to frame their response around what they believe is the root cause of Yee's crime--current campaign finance laws.

For that, Wieckowski offered for the group his legislation in the Assembly urging Congress to overturn the Citizens United case, along with another related to the recent U.S. Supreme Court case McCutcheon v. Federal Communications Commission, which removes aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions. “We’re all going to have to work together to build the esteem of the institution," he said of the State Legislature.

In the past, Hayashi's opponents have been wary of publicly denouncing her past legal troubles. Although Richard Valle decline to criticized Hayashi during public forums for the 2012 Alameda County supervisorial race, he was more willing to skewer her in private. Valle also received help from an outside group which paid for a mailer featuring the tagline, "There's Something about Mary." Ultimately Hayashi finished third to Valle.

Monday, April 14, 2014

East Bay Political Groups Give Hayward Mayoral Candidates the Cold Shoulder

HAYWARD | MAYOR | As more local political groups continue to shun Hayward mayoral candidates seeking their endorsement, it’s becoming clear the trio who voted to impose a five percent wage cut of city workers carry a torturous Scarlet Letter around town.

You can pick whichever letter signifies Councilmembers Barbara Halliday, Francisco Zermeno and Mark Salinas’ transgression against city workers after yet another group last Saturday declined to endorse any of the three mayoral candidates. This time it was the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus of Alameda County giving the big no thanks.

According to the campaign Web sites of each candidate, only Halliday possess any support from a local endorsing body. Her site lists the Hayward Mobilehome Owners Association as an endorser, along with Gays & Lesbians Organized for Betterment and Equality (GLOBE). The latter likely from a connection between the group and former Hayward Councilmember Kevin Dowling, who is involved in Halliday’s campaign.

Barbara Halliday, Mark Salinas, 
Francisco Zermeno
In fact, nearly every endorsing group has grilled the three over their vote last February harshly opposed by members of Service Employee Union International Local 1021. Saturday afternoon’s endorsement meeting in Alameda was no different with all three having their vote questioned. While Halliday and Salinas held firm to previous statements, Zermeno continued a softening of his stance against workers. Zermeno, on two occasions, described himself a loyal Democrat. One time, offering the group, “If you want a good Democrat, I am yours.”

Later, Zermeno told the caucus he has personally apologized for his vote to various union members and offered to speak to every member of the nearly 300 SEIU Local 1021 workers in Hayward, if needed. However, he maintains his vote was made to protect the city’s promises of retirement and health benefits to workers in the future. “Down the line we see trouble ahead," said Zermeno. "I needed to make sure that we want to be able to keep our promise."

Halliday again struck a similar chord. “We want to protect the benefits these workers have," said Halliday. "We want to protect good jobs with good benefits and if we continue down the path we were we would be risking going bankrupt.” She added, “The union would not agree to anything short of raises this year and no contributions, so impasse was declared.” Labor negotiators have refuted the characterization they were uncooperative, saying city management failed to engage the union at the bargaining table since last April.

Salinas told the group every labor group in Hayward since he was elected to the City Council in 2010 agreed to concessions, notably paying up to 17 percent towards the cost of their benefits. “Every labor group stepped up and hit that target,” Salinas told the group, except for SEIU Local 1021. He later charged the union with waiting for the last minute to negotiate. “There was no negotiation, no proposal and we made proposals that had minimum impact to paychecks.” But, the union didn’t want to do it, he said. And later when it came to backing one or more of the trio, the Asian Pacific American Caucus, like other political groups in the area, said neither did they and offered no endorsement.

Schaaf, Councilwoman or Mayoral Candidate, Sends Messages to Quan

OAKLAND | MAYOR | Last week, Libby Schaaf stung Quan, both as mayoral candidate and member of the Oakland City Council in a pair of correspondence. However, while one letter sent by Schaaf to the mayor sent a message containing the strategy she hopes leads to Quan's ouster this fall, a separate, but similar newsletter to her constituents sounds quite similar and threads the line between mixing city business with her forthcoming campaign for mayor.

Writing in her district newsletter, Schaaf wrote, “Usually I try to keep this newsletter cheery, but today I need to let off some steam.” She then described the turnover at City Hall during her three and a half years on the council. Five city administrators and potentially a fifth police chief since Quan was elected mayor in 2010. “It feels like Oakland's management has been changing as often as Lady Gaga changes costumes,” wrote Schaaf. In the same letter, Schaaf laments the city's shrinking police force, which is also the subject of another letter she sent directly to Quan.

Last Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle reported the contents of a letter sent by Schaaf to Quan. In the one-page memo, Schaaf excoriates Quan for claiming the city’s funding levels for police officers were at their lowest at the start of her administration. Schaaf said Quan made this claim at the most recent police academy graduation and at the Apr. 3 public safety candidate’s forum.

“When I became Mayor, we were at the bottom of the recession, we had the lowest funding for police officers," Quan is quoted in Schaaf's letter to the mayor.

"This is simply not true," Schaaf said. "The facts are: When you became Mayor we did not have 'the lowest funding for police officers.'" Schaaf then wields the same hammer that likely finished former Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente's 2012 run citywide against Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan.

"Half a year after you became Mayor, you cast the tie-breaking vote to adopt a budget which funded the lowest number of police officers in years–knocking the force down to 613 budgeted police officers. I remember that vote well, since I had developed the budget alternative you refused to support–an alternative to fund more police officers."

Schaaf's letter to her constituents last week, however, contains the same argument condemning the few number of police officers on the streets, in addition, to her goal of reaching 700 officers by the end of the year. A clear reference is also made to the Quan administration's failure in hiring and retaining officers on the streets.

"Last year our police force reached its lowest staffing in 35 years at just 609 officers," she writes. "This year the force was down again to only 611 officers. This has not just been due to a lack of funding. This year there was funding budgeted for 675 officers -- that's 64 more officers that could have been on Oakland's streets this year if the administration had been more effective in hiring new officers and retaining the ones we already have. This is why I wrote Oakland's Full Police Staffing Policy. I'm hopeful plans are in place now to reach our full budgeted staffing of more than 700 officers this fall."

Aside from being one of the sharpest campaign jabs made by any of Quan's 15 potential challengers yet, it also highlights the slippery slope council candidates face when they oppose incumbent colleagues, in terms, of separating the race from their duties as a council member. Both correspondence, especially the constituent newsletter, include similar campaign-related rhetoric that enters a confusing ethical gray area for voters. Similarly, Quan's own newsletters have been questioned in the past by some for appearing to look and sound like re-election materials.

Members of Congress are often accused of a similar allegation when using taxpayer-funded franking privileges to flood constituents with mailers that sometimes look more like re-election materials than updates and services offered by the representative in the area.

NOTE: An addition was made to the article regarding Quan's own newsletters.

Friday, April 11, 2014

California Labor Federation Chooses Corbett over Incumbent Swalwell

Rep. Barbara Lee and State Sen. Ellen
Corbett both receive CLF's backing.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | In a region boasting some of the strongest labor organizations in the country, the California Labor Federation issued a rebuke Thursday by declining to endorse an incumbent Democratic congressman . The statewide labor group sidestepped Rep. Eric Swalwell and, instead, announced the endorsement of his June primary challenger, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, also a Democrat.

The news follows a less-than-convincing endorsement of Swalwell by the State Democratic Party last month. Skepticism by veteran party leaders in Alameda County regarding the first-term representative was also seen in February when Swalwell failed to garner enough votes to win the party's pre-endorsement.

Later, at the Democratic Party state convention, Swalwell eventually won the party's backing, but Corbett still received a sizable chunk of the votes. Both tallies were uncommon across the state as almost every other incumbent sailed through the endorsement process.

Curiously, Swalwell's first year in Congress has not been unfriendly to unions, said a member of the Alameda Labor Council earlier this week. Instead, labor is still unsure about Swalwell and deferred to the candidate they know best, they said. Corbett has long received labor's strong support during her almost two decades in public office. Practically speaking, taking into account her tepid campaign finance performance thus far, Corbett will need all the walking soldiers labor can provide.

In other June races, there were no other surprise endorsements from the California Labor Federation (All Democrats):
CA 11: Mark DeSaulnier
CA 13: Barbara Lee
CA 17: Mike Honda
AD 15: Elizabeth Echols, Tony Thurmond
AD 16: Tim Sbranti
AD 18: Rob Bonta
AD 20: Bill Quirk
AD 25: Kansen Chu
SD 10: Bob Wieckowski

Eric Swalwell Does His Best Dubya; Raises Terror Alert from Blue to Red

Wieckowski serves Peking Duck | Crazy, but Credible Allegation? | That Bonta Photo Shoot
CHAPTER 11 | Over a decade ago, the specter of terrorism again striking our shores was used to great effect by President George W. Bush. It kept Americans pliant to any and every whim of the Bush’s administration. Fear works. This week, Rep. Eric Swalwell used his pulpit as a member of the House Homeland Security Committee to raise the terror alert in the Bay Area to red.

Swalwell offered the Al Qaeda-produced Inspire magazine showing a photograph of a people mover at San Francisco International Airport. The evil doers are lurking, he implied. There was no mention of San Francisco, or any geographical area related to the photo, but a somewhat vague, but threatening call to arms was included. “Assemble your bomb, ready for detonation,’ said the text.

Bush with Ellen Tauscher, Swalwell's 
mentor, in an infamous photo of the 
president placing his hand on her knee.
During the meeting, Swalwell said he was “disturbed” by the graphic. Later he told the San Francisco Chronicle residents should go about their normal daily activities, but be vigilant. "I don't believe that people should change their travel and commute patterns,” said Swalwell. “Be alert, note your surroundings, and appreciate that there are still people out there who wish to do us harm."

The push-pull of telling the public to relax at the same time fostering anxiety is a tactic most of us lived through during the Bush presidency. In fact, it transformed a weak president into a brawny warrior overnight.

If Inspire magazine is the in-house apparatus of Al Qaeda, note who wrote the Chronicle story, Carla Marinucci, the reporter who never saw a flattering word she couldn’t waste on Swalwell. Is this a potential re-election story line in the making? Part of his strategery, if you will? Potentially. Who could resist voting for the candidate offering to protect your family from the baddies? Perhaps Swalwell has been watching too much of the Showtime drama, Homeland? He often tweets his fandom of the show.

The F.B.I., however, added there is no credible or specific threat to the Bay Area. But, that doesn’t matter. Americans, a decade ago, believed Bush protected us from drones sent by Saddam Hussein from Iraq to the U.S. and carrying dirty bombs. Mission accomplished.
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Wieckowski's empty seat
PEKING DUCKING Is Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski afraid to debate? After Wednesday’s no-show at a candidate’s forum hosted by the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA) for the 10th State Senate District, which he is a candidate, that made it two consecutive forums missed. While the Hayward Democratic forum three weeks ago may not have upset many, the people with APAPA appeared a bit insulted by Wieckowski, who only alerted the group of his absence about five hours before the event was to begin. When a member of APAPA was asked he they were upset over the late canceled, the member paused and simply said, “It was late.” Wieckowski has another chance to address the 10th District’s large Asian American community on Saturday at the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus endorsement meeting in Alameda. There may be a reason for Wieckowski to avoid these Asian American groups. There is a sense among Asian Americans of all political stripes Wieckowski did little to fight against the controversial constitutional amendment currently sitting in the Assembly effectively rolling back Proposition 209, the law passed by voters in 1996, ending affirmative action for enrollment at state universities.
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The ubiquitous Frank Chu
LACABE’S 12 GALAXIES Why you didn’t see a story here on the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) opening an investigation into the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee? At this point, it’s all about credibility and when the germ of the allegation begins with central committee member Margarita Lacabe, it’s best to wait until the FPPC formally releases a report, even though there might be something here. The San Leandro resident is very unpopular among her colleagues on the locally elected committee. Although the article in the Oakland Tribune this week slightly intimated Lacabe's role on the committee may be that of a heroic rebel with a cause, it’s nowhere near the case. She constantly clashes with committee members over mundane issues and often grinds proceedings to a halt. One member, possibly the same person who spoke disparagingly against Lacabe on background to the Trib, once frustratingly joked she wanted to punch Lacabe out. To best describe how much a pain Lacabe can be, two years ago, during an endorsement meeting for November races in Alameda County, she pulled the names of nearly every candidate in a host of races for interviews at a later date. This was despite common agreement by the committee which candidates had majority consent for the party’s backing. The subsequent endorsement interviews lasted over seven hours one Saturday that September. For the FPPC to start an investigation based upon Lacabe’s political writings is like state Attorney General Kamala Harris opening an investigation into aliens based upon the advice of Frank Chu, pictured above, the guy seen all over the Bay Area holding a sign describing the “12 Galaxies” bent on doing harm to Earthlings.
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Assemblyman Rob Bonta in Alameda Magazine.
HERE AND THERE A new member of Oakland Councilmember Libby Schaaf’s mayoral campaign once worked for former Rep.Pete Stark. Here’s the irony: whereas during their time with Stark this staffer was constantly on alert hoping, praying the boss wouldn’t utter another outlandish comment. Now, the tables are reversed. This same staffer is now pah-raying that the almost equally undisciplined Mayor Jean Quan is the candidate with leaky lips…Audie Bocks performance at Wednesday’s 10th State Senate District forum in Fremont was the best so far this election season. As an independent, she didn’t pander, but made excellent arguments for each side, both lauding and skewering the left and right. Better yet, her comments were whip smart and justifiably biting, especially when she said the EPA is using Hayward residents as guinea pigs with the polluting Russell City Energy Center…Mary Hayashi’s performance was also notable simply by reminding lefties just how progressive her rhetoric and record matches up perfectly…Wieckowski is probably doing Rocky Fernandez, his Assembly district director, a disservice by having him take his place at candidate's forums. Fernandez is running for the Hayward City Council. Talk about potentially confusing some voters in Hayward. "Isn't that guy running for the State Senate?" a Hayward voter might say. "I saw him talk about it the other night?"...Last month’s edition of Alameda Magazine published a feature on Assemblymember Rob Bonta, including a photo of him jumping, arms-extended, mouth agape from a concrete structure. My initial thought: who allowed him to do this?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

State Senate Candidates Offer Red Meat to All Parts of the Political Spectrum

Candidates for the 10th State Senate District, left to right at the dais: Roman Reed, Audie Bock, Peter Kuo, Mary Hayashi. Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski was absent for the forum at Fremont City Hall. PHOTO/Steven Tavares
STATE SENATE | 10TH DISTRICT | They talked about pension reform, BART strikes, affirmative action and the environment. However, candidates for the 10th State Senate District rarely mentioned one of their opponents, Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, nor did he speak up for himself, because he wasn’t there. Wieckowski’s campaign manager said the candidate stayed in Sacramento Wednesday to discuss one of his bills currently in committee. The Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) group which hosted the forum said Wieckowski notified them of his absence Wednesday just five hours before its start time.

Peter Kuo, right, with a new idea with  
former Assemblymember Audie Bock.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
“Too bad Mr. Wieckowski wasn’t here,” Republican candidate Peter Kuo said in his closing statement. There was only one other mention of Wieckowski during the 90-minute forum as a placard printed with his name sat before an empty chair at the Fremont City Council chambers.

What Wieckowski missed was a fast-moving, concise and informative debate on the issues, featuring former Assemblymembers Mary Hayashi and Audie Bock, Fremont Planning Commissioner Roman Reed and first-time candidate Peter Kuo, who has recently captured the attention of the state’s Republican Party.

In terms of the variety of candidates in this race, there is something for just about every chunk of the political spectrum: Hayashi and Wieckowski on the left; Reed and Bock in the center and Kuo right of center. No other issue Wednesday night emphasized the clarity of their ideological positions than the debate over Senate Constitutional Amendment-5 (SCA-5).

The legislation is opposed by many in the senate district’s large Asian American community. The bill, which was passed by the State Senate in January, effectively rolls back Proposition 209, passed by voters in 1996 to prohibit the state from taken into account a person's race when applying to state universities, public employment and government contracts. The bill was shelved last month in the Democratic leadership in the Assembly.

Roman Reed, paralyzed during a football game
at Chabot College said he supports education. 
“I had one muscle left, the one between my ears.”
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
“I would be 1,000 percent against it, if there is such a thing,” said Kuo, who has highlighted the issue to great effect with better-than-expected fundraising numbers and positive attention from within his party. “If you work hard and follow the rules, you will have the American Dream,” he said.

Bock, now an independent, who served a term in the Assembly in 2000 as a member of the Green Party, derided SCA-5 as a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. “We’re living in a new age of racism,” said Bock and added, “elaborations” on the law in subsequent years have allowed variations of racism to reemerge today. “There is no such thing as race to allow government to do anything,” said Bock.

Reed said he supports affirmative action, but does not support SCA-5 because you “cannot have artificial limits on race.” Bock shot back saying, “Affirmative action is racism. You cannot deny it. You can’t say you’re against racism and for affirmative action."

“SCA-5 is not the answer,” said Hayashi, although she fully supports affirmative action and credits it with helping women and minorities achieve greater success over the years. She added the issue is unnecessarily divisive. “Let’s work together with other minorities,” she urged.

Environmental concerns were also common Wednesday night. On several occasions, Hayashi referred to the state’s looming water crisis and her support for rebuilding the Delta’s aging levies. Hayashi noted Gov. Jerry Brown’s tunnel project, but added its does not touch upon supply concerns brought on by the state's on-going drought. “A major crisis is waiting to happen,” she said. Kuo listed clean energy and clean water as one of his priorities, but it was again the controversial Calpine Russell City Energy Center in Hayward that elicited the most complaints. The 10th District includes areas in Alameda County and Santa Clara County from Castro Valley to San Jose.

In February, the natural gas-fired power plant on the Hayward Shoreline, online since last August, was cited for releasing 10 times the allowable amount of water particulate into the air. Bock, long a critic, called it “wrongly-permitted” and a violation of presidential orders forbidding power plants in low-income minority communities. “We are the Environmental Protection Agency’s guinea pig,” Bock declared.

Reed called for a moratorium on the plant recently given one year to remedy the source of the increased pollution, while Kuo called for Calpine to be held accountable for the pollution being created. Hayashi said local officials should take immediate action against the plant (the Hayward City Council issued a resolution on the matter last month). She also touted an Assembly bill she authored ultimately discouraging a second power plant from coming to the Hayward.

In other local races, the discussion over banning BART employees the right to strikes is often a source of contentious. Not here. Kuo is the only candidate in favor, while the rest of the field faulted BART management for the sometimes chaotic pair of transit strikes last fall. Hayashi was critical of management allowing contract negotiations to fester until the last minute, while Reed called it the “nuclear option.” Bock agreed, but noted “there was a lot of bad behavior on both sides.” Bock, then inserted Wieckowski into the conversation, reminding the audience he was one of a short list of East Bay lawmakers thanked by union negotiators following news of the labor agreement.

Hayashi on State Pensions: 'There is no Problem'; Faults Banks for Budget Mess

Former Assemblymember Mary Hayashi speaking at a candidate's forum for the 10th State Senate District Wednesday evening at the Fremont City Council chambers. PHOTO/Steve Tavares 
STATE SENATE | 10TH DISTRICT | State Senate candidate Mary Hayashi said talk of California’s demise through unfunded public employee pension liabilities is unfounded. “There is no problem,” Hayashi said of the state’s promises made to state employee pensions. The comments came at a forum in Fremont for candidates eyeing the open 10th State Senate District seat.

Responding to a question on pension reform, Hayashi asked why the same level of criticism is not lodged against banks for their role in the state’s fiscal problems. “The reason for that: It’s called scapegoating,” she said. “There is no problem.” She added the state’s pension system, CalPERS, “does well.” Instead, she said, the discussion should be about equal pay for women and “How much teachers are paid and are they secure.”

Conversely, Peter Kuo, the lone Republican in the race, said the state needs to keep its promises to state workers, but acknowledges pensions are “out of whack” and could bankrupt California cities. “I don’t think it’s going to go away,” said Kuo.

Roman Reed, a Democrat like Hayashi and another candidate in the race, Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski who did not attend Wednesday evening’s forum, charged the media with fueling outrage against state workers. As a state senator, said Reed, “I couldn’t’ look my family in the eye if pensions are touched.”

Sacramento needs legislators willing to make difficult budget choices despite intense lobbying from their campaign donors, said former Assemblymember Audie Bock. “It’s not the only problem,” the former Green Party member running this June as an independent said of the pension issue. Counties are getting help from Sacramento, added Bock, but cities are not getting their fair share. In the meantime, issues like pensions are disproportionately affecting local municipalities, she said. “We are looking at the impoverishment of our cities at the state’s hands.”

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Sbranti Adds Another $100,000 from Labor; $485,000 total in Last 30 days

Tim Sbranti
ASSEMBLY | 16TH DISTRICT | In the last month, Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti’s campaign for the 16th Assembly District has attracted independent expenditures of over $485,000, as of Tuesday. One of his challenger, Orinda Councilmember Steve Glazer, well-known for his strong stance against the BART strike last year, criticized the massive infusion of campaign funds last week.

Undaunted, Sbranti, received two additional independent expenditures on Tuesday totaling another $100,000. Both Glazer and Sbranti are Democrats

The latest contributions came from the Professional Engineers in California Government PAC and the State Buildings and Construction Trades Council of California PAC. Seven of the eight donations were collected since Mar. 17, the end of the first quarter finance report period. Furthermore, Sbranti has received $200,000 combined from labor PACs in just the last seven days.

Labor’s interest in opposing Glazer is not a surprise after he forcefully called for a ban on BART strikes following the roller coaster negotiations between the union last fall and transit management. Despite an agreement ending resident's daily transportation uncertainty, Glazer has continued to use residual angst over the BART strikes to his advantage.

The open 16th Assembly District seat includes Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton in Alameda County and San Ramon, Danville, Walnut Creek and the Lamorinda area of Contra Costa County.

Democratic Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich and Republican Catharine Baker are also candidates in the June 3 primary, but it is Sbranti who has been able to attract labor’s time and money. In addition, Sbranti reported a campaign balance of just over $100,000 last month.

Glazer is hardly short on cash, himself, according to campaign finance reports. He reported an ending balance of over $429,000, more than enough to match Sbranti’s independent expenditure deposits.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Tuman and Quan Call Each Other Out at Public Safety Debate

Oakland mayoral challenger Joe Tuman
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
OAKLAND | MAYOR | “Did you hear the first words out of her mouth?” Oakland mayoral candidate Joe Tuman said incredulously of Mayor Jean Quan. “‘I’m sorry I misspoke.’ How many times have you heard that?”

Although, many candidates for mayor voiced specific displeasure with Quan’s first term in office at week’s public safety forum, there was only one brief, if not a passive, confrontation between the candidates. Quan versus Tuman.

Near the end of the forum, candidates were allowed to pose a single question to one other opponent. Quan chose Tuman. It was not clear whether the pick indicated she views Tuman as a threat or merely hastily chosen. Quan appeared momentarily like a kid having trouble picking an ice cream among many choices at Baskin & Robbins.

Some internal polls have shown Tuman's campaign has strong support. One poll last December, which included Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan and extrapolated with ranked choice voting, showed Tuman, not Quan, in the final two with the undeclared candidate.

However, Quan's question was simple last Thursday night. She asked Tuman, who ran for mayor four years ago, how many community meetings and ride-alongs with law enforcement did he attend before 2010? Tuman answered: two and zero.

When asked what he thought Quan was getting at, Tuman said he was wise to her. “She was trying to imply that I’m a Johnny-come-lately.” Tuman says there’s a simple reason why he wasn’t involved in Oakland politics before 2010. He was working as a political analyst for KPIX-TV. Crossing the line between media and advocacy would have been poor form. “The implication, somehow, that she has a longer history and, therefore, I’m not entitled to be mayor is typical of her logic,” Tuman added. “I’ve lived in Oakland 30 years. I’ve raised my children here, too,” said Tuman. “It’s ok, it's politics. She can take her dig.”

Later in the forum, though, Tuman took the opportunity to return favor. Despite technically not a public safety-related question, Tuman asked Quan to address an assertion she made during last month’s State of the City that a budget surplus now exists. “What I think I said,” Quan responded, “and I misspoke if I said that…” Quan added a city staff report said Oakland had higher revenues than previously projected.

Afterwards, Tuman said the response was unacceptable. “I think if you tracked down Deanna Santana or Fred Blackwell, they would give you an earful about the budget. There is no deficit. In fact, we may be facing a sizable deficit. To say otherwise during the State of the City speech is just election year politics.”

Tuman paused and said, “I was disappointed with her answer, to tell you the truth.”

Bryan Parker is Outraged

Bryan Parker
OAKLAND | MAYOR | Bryan Parker's demeanor is typically business-like. He wears nice suits and often shows polite empathy. But there was a more agitated Bryan Parker on display last Thursday night at the first major Oakland mayoral forum.

The packed house at Temple Sinai was forewarned. During his opening statement Parker alluded to the possibility he might be a lot more animated than usual. The reason for the outrage exuded by Parker may have been due to the subject matter. Thursday’s forum was dedicated solely to public safety. On a personal level, Parker’s sister was murdered by an assailant in 1998.

“I’ve got a city of people like my sister,” Parker said after the nearly three-hour forum. “I see them every day on my walks and it’s not getting any better.” The perception of rising crime in Oakland is seen as Mayor Jean Quan's Achilles Heel and nearly every other challenger's strategy is to use it to trip her up this fall.

But, when asked about the stark change in tone, Parker added he had coffee with an Oakland resident last week, who he says, was robbed by four people last month, with one pointing a gun at her head. “She can’t sleep. She says she can’t return to work,” he said. “People are getting robbed everyday and people are dying, if we’re not urgent about that, if people don’t see we share the pain, we will continue to have no confidence in the city.”

Monday, April 7, 2014

Hayward Council Candidates Agree on much and they really dislike The Loop

Six of the candidates seeking two seats
on the Hayward City Council.
HAYWARD | CITY COUNCIL |The seven candidates for two open seats on the Hayward City Council may be secretly rooting against Councilmember Mark Salinas being elected mayor on June 3. Instead of running for re-election to his council seat, Salinas is running for mayor against two other members of the council, both of whom are in the middle of their terms. If Salinas wins, two seats are available. However, if he loses, one of the five remaining candidates and others still have a chance, if not slightly. In the event either Councilmember Barbara Halliday or Francisco Zermeno wins the mayoral race, the City Council will need to appoint a successor to fill out the remaining two years of their term, according to Hayward City Clerk, Miriam Lens. In the meantime, much remains to be decided in the next two months.

Similar to recent elections in Hayward, public safety and the state of its downtrodden school district are again common themes. Councilmember Marvin Peixoto, who is up for re-election in Hayward’s at-large election (top two vote-getters win), is one of just two candidates in the field to have held elected office. Peixoto is running on a platform of “long-term financial sustainability” and public safety, he said. During the Great Recession, he added, Sacramento took advantage of small municipalities like Hayward. “We’re the bottom of the food chain,” Peixoto said at a candidate's forum last Wednesday night.

Rocky Fernandez, a former member of the AC Transit Board of Directors and currently district director for Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, said Hayward needs to follow other Bay Area communities in encouraging the new businesses of tomorrow to land in the city. He urged for smart growth and said the key to bringing life to the downtown is through a walkable city. Sara Lamnin, a well-known Hayward activist, who ran for the City Council two years ago, agrees and identified downtrodden Mission Boulevard as a possible incubators for new businesses.

“Public safety is a huge issue in our city,” said Rodney Loche, a member of the Hayward Planning Commission. He added, the city needs greater emphasis on the youth of Hayward, including its poorly-performing schools. Similarly, first-time candidate Philip Gallegos said Hayward is not doing enough to attract and keep families in the city. Himself a father of young children and a Hayward native, Gallegos worries about the “flight of families” due to the perception its schools are below standard.

A sales tax referendum on the ballot this June hopes to alleviate some of the city’s quality of life issues, including support for police and fire and a new downtown main library. Support for Measure C was almost unanimous among the candidates for council. Although she did not register opposition to the measure, Lamnin, however, questioned how local businesses would be affected by Hayward having one of the highest sales taxes in the Bay Area. Three-time council candidate Ralph Farias, Jr. was absent from Wednesday program.

When it comes to Hayward’s budget problems, Julie McKillop, as a certified public accountant, says she can help. “I know how to do it and I’ve done that,” said McKillop, who also runs a restaurant near City Hall. She also was critical of the infamous Loop, a one-way, multi-lane road that wraps around the downtown area from Main Street to Foothill Boulevard. However, later McKillop said through additions and corrections to the Loop currently in the works, it could be “one of the best things that has happened to the downtown in a long time.”

The Loop has faced considerable criticism from Hayward residents and those in neighboring cities for being confusing and wildly onerous for visiting patrons to the downtown. When a question regarding the Loop was posed Wednesday night, it immediately caused chatter among the packed audience. The issue also conjured the strongest comments of the night from the candidates.

“The loop contradicts everything we’re trying to do downtown,” said Peixoto, long a critic of the transportation project. “It’s not about Hayward,” he said, “it’s about getting people from Oakland and The City down to their homes in Fremont and Union City five minutes faster.” Downtown needs destination traffic, not through traffic, he added. Peixoto described a portion of the Loop at A Street and Jackson Street as the beginning of the Indianapolis 500. “You cannot create a pedestrian-friendly environment with a five-lane highway going smack down the middle of your city.”

Chronic traffic around the areas has been significantly alleviated, said Lamnin, but not in other sections of the Loop where changes and better signage are needed. “I’ve come from the freeway to get to D Street and taken my life into my hand,” said Lamnin. “We also need signage that says, ‘If we want to go to [Interstate] 580, you need to be in this lane, now.’”

Fernandez and Loche also found fault with the layout of the Loop. As a downtown resident, Fernandez said it presents the city with challenges. “One-way streets are the antithesis of trying to get to walkable communities and smart growth,” he said. Nevertheless, the Loop is here like it or not, said Loche. “It needs to be changed. It’s here now and we owe it to ourselves and our city to try and make it work the best we can.” Gallegos said he was under the impression from early drawings of the Loop, it would foster gleaming sidewalks and outdoor dining. The reality, however, is different than his previous perception. “It doesn’t feel like a place I would want live outdoors,” he said. “It feels like I’m on the side of the freeway.”

The Skinny: Oakland City Council Committee Preview, Apr. 8, 2014

Oakland City Council Committees Preview
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Tuesday, Apr. 8, begins at 9:30 a.m.
Hashtag: #oakmtg

>>> COMMUNITY & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT
Fox Theater restoration completed in 2009
CRAZY LIKE A FOX THEATER The investors for Oakland’s Fox Theater want the city to reaffirm certain tax credits used for the massive restoration project will be afforded to them in the future. A historic tax credit and new market tax credit was recently retired by the Fox Theater investors totaling $31 million, says the staff report. “The guarantees protect the investor in the event that the tax credits are recaptured. Recapture events could occur if the project or FOT is not compliant with New Market Tax Credits (NMTCs) or Historic Tax Credits (HTCs) re: regulations. The guarantees remain in place until expiration of the statute of limitations for an IRS audit of the NMTCs and the HTCs, which is generally three years after the expiration of the respective compliance periods for each tax credit, namely seven (7) years for the NMTCs and five (5) years for the HTCs. All of these recapture periods will be completed by Dec. 31, 2018 at which time the guarantees will end,” says the staff report. WHAT IT MEANS If the preservation effort for the Fox Theater is somehow out of compliance one day for the lucrative tax breaks it received in 2006 and 2008, Oakland taxpayers will be on the hook for the costs. That’s what the agreement already says, but, Fox Theater investors just want to make it clear. Cue Gene Hazzard. BE AWARE The developer behind Oakland’s Brooklyn Basin project seeks to transfer interest in the 3,100-unit waterfront development to the new partnership with Chinese investors to be called, Zarsion-OHP I, LLC…A resolution authorizing the city administrator to apply and appropriate $2 million in state funds to underwrite new affordable multi-unit housing in Oakland is also on Tuesday's agenda. (Meeting starts at 2 p.m.)

>>> LIFE ENRICHMENT COMMITTEE
ACA LOCAL IMPACT The city is hoping to leverage $200,000 for homeless services with the Alameda County Behavioral Health Services. Through the Affordable Care Act, new resources are available through the county to aid the homeless. Oakland may be able to leverage the $200,000 for an additional $150,000 that would go toward support of homeless residents at the Harrison Hotel, California Hotel and Savoy Hotel. BE AWARE Several important allocations for Oakland residents struggling in the aftermath of the Great Recession, they include: $180,000 for paratransit services through the end of this fiscal year; contracting with the San Lorenzo Unified School District to provide summer food service to children worth $285,750. (Meeting starts at 4 p.m.)

>>> FINANCE AND MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE
BUDGET TRANSPARENCY The raw budget data long hidden from the curiosity of the public is closer to seeing the light of day. The Finance Committee will discuss a Budget Advisory Committee report recommending the city publish entire budget documents in an open-data format on the Web in a downloadable and searchable format. The recommendation also urges the city facilitate side-by-side comparisons of competing budget proposals. The budget figures will be available at data.oaklandnet.com. WHAT IT MEANS This is Councilmember Libby Schaaf’s baby and will look nice on campaign mailers for mayor this fall. In May 2013, the City Council passed the budget transparency resolution, although, rival Councilmember Desley Brooks use the opportunity to mock Schaaf for her legislation in the midst of contentious budget negotiations last spring. Brooks, Councilmembers Larry Reid and Noel Gallo later came out on the losing end. (Meeting starts at 9:30 a.m.)

>>> PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE
HARRIS RADIO CONTRACT City staff recommends entering into a one-year, $500,000 service agreement with Harris Public Safety Communications to supply parts to its public safety radios. The deal includes an option for another year, for a total of $1 million and waiver for a no-bid contract. WHAT IT MEANS A consultant last year said the city did not have expertise to service its own radios. There also continues to be some at City Hall who say Oakland, instead, needs to join its neighboring cities in the East Bay Regional Communications Authority (EBRCSA).However, Harris stepped in last year at its own costs, said a staff report, to fill the gap until last January. Meanwhile, Oakland’s radios are manufactured by Harris and therefore, the corporation is the only manufacturer of parts. Further, implies the staff report, Harris was there for the city last year when they needed them, therefore, no-bid. BE AWARE For an informational report on the potential reauthorization of Measure Y coming before voters this fall and a city crime trends report from Oakland PD. (Meeting starts at 6 p.m. NOTE: Meeting held at Oakland Tech High School Girls Gymnasium, 4351 Broadway.)

>>> PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE
NEW STOP SIGNS Just one item on the agenda. Public Works asks for approval to install five new stop signs around the city at a cost of $6,000. A traffic study and collision reports suggest the new stop signs are needed, but sometimes the familiar red octagon doesn’t always do much good. Ask residents around Oakland's Longridge and Rosemont Roads. That’s the spot known for notorious “Hollywood stops” and the area Oakland mayoral candidate Joe Tuman accidentally ran over a dog. (Meeting starts at 11:30 a.m.)

NOW YOU CAN’T SAY YOU DIDN’T KNOW

Hayward Mayoral Candidates Explore City’s Budget Dilemma

HAYWARD | MAYOR | Hayward has two competing but inextricably related problems. One, is a long-held public perception the city is anti-development and, second, it's a bear for small businesses to set up shop making it difficult for Hayward to create new revenues streams. Meanwhile, the entire council, including three running to replace Mayor Michael Sweeney this June have received significant heat from city employees union for successfully imposing a stunning five percent wage on workers to lower Hayward’s rising expenditures. A candidate’s forum Wednesday night saw some softening in their previously hard stances against city workers while acknowledging Hayward needs to become friendlier to business, especially in its flagging downtown.

“There’s a lack of vision there,” said candidate and current Councilmember Francisco Zermeno. Earlier this month, he supported a housing and retail project at the vacant Mervyn’s property on Foothill Boulevard, which the City Council turned down. Zermeno said the project could have worked and would have funneled residents to the downtown.

Councilmember Barbara Halliday did not directly speak to the Mervyn’s project, but instead said Hayward needs to also maintain its existing big box tenants like Costco and Home Depot, which are tax revenue boons to its local economy. She fears the potential loss of brick-and-mortar stores to online purchases could negatively alter Hayward sales tax dollars while bringing an influx of trucks delivering goods to resident’s doorsteps.

Hayward mayoral candidate
Rakesh Kumar Christian
Even when business people show interest in Hayward, said Councilmember Mark Salinas, the city shoots them down. He lamented the demise of a proposal two years ago to bring a Walmart grocery store to the long-vacant Circuit City on Whipple Road. “The Council shot it down,” said Salinas. “We strung this guy along for years and it was struck down.” Same with the Mervyn’s project, he added. “As a council, we have to be careful of saying no.” Salinas, born and raised in Hayward, claims some buildings and storefronts in the city have been vacant for decades, some as long as he’s been alive. A member of Halliday’s campaign later questioned the last assertion as hyperbole.

However, the Walmart project, which was vehemently opposed by numerous local unions, also reveals the rift between the three mayoral candidates, as members of the current council, and the war of words still being fought with the Service Employees Union International Local 1021, which represent nearly 300 city workers in Hayward. All three candidates attempted to sidestep any direct words toward the union, whose leadership declared last February, “this is war,” after the City Council unanimously voted to impose a five percent wage cut even though the two sides had not bargained since the previous spring. On Wednesday, the trio all offered biographies included their own past involvement in the labor movement. A fourth candidate, Rakesh Kumar Christian, who is concurrently running for governor of California a second time, mixed a platform of anti-government stances with calls for Hayward residents to empower themselves.

Zermeno, the only candidate who backed off from any negative words toward the union said he was once a member of the United Farm Workers. “Then I realized I wanted to make my living with my brain and not my back,” he said. While leading teachers at Chabot College, where Zermeno is a long-time Spanish professor, he appeared to have tweaked the city’s controversial long-term budget forecast used to justify the contract imposition. At the community college, Zermeno said, the administration was offering a 30-year forecast during negotiations. “Talk about reality,” he said, “we have a 10-year forecast in Hayward.”

Halliday, however, mirrored her comments from February regarding the contract talks when obliquely questioning whether the union was taking the city’s stance into account. At the bargaining table, said Halliday, the other side “need[s] to respect that position and understand it as best you can and acknowledge that it’s valid.” Nevertheless, Halliday, who said her grandfather was a labor leader, believes the council’s decision helps guarantee pension promised to workers in the past will be paid in the future. “We do not want unhappy workers,” she added.

Calling them “our union brothers and sisters,” Salinas, also a member of two teachers’ unions, said Hayward needs a “new normal” when it comes to labor peace. He says his hands and those of the city were tied during negotiations. He implied other labor units who made concessions to the city did their homework when it came to the city’s budget realities, while SEIU Local 1021 did not. “It’s this constant dance back and forth that we constantly have to do,” he said, “We should focus on trust instead.”

Friday, April 4, 2014

Oakland Mayoral Candidates Discuss the Election's Defining Issue—Public Safety

A full house at Oakland's Temple Sinai Thursday night listened as nine of the city's mayoral candidates discuss a single issue--public safety. PHOTO/Steven Tavares
OAKLAND | MAYOR | Public safety, the likely signature issue of this year's Oakland mayoral election, received its very own candidate's forum Thursday night. Nine of the expansive list of challengers to Mayor Jean Quan offered their solutions for reducing violent crime in Oakland while sharply criticizing the current leadership at City Hall.

"You'll know when you're safe when you don't have to have public forums dedicated to public safety," said Joe Tuman, a university professor who finished fourth during the 2010 mayoral campaign. In the meantime, polls repeatedly show Oaklanders rank public safety, or the lack thereof, as the city's most pressing problem. Although nearly every candidate is running on a platform to reduce crime, few described specific approaches or how they woud fund the costly expenditure with Election Day just over eight months away.

Some like Port of Oakland Commissioner Bryan Parker said Oakland's understaffed police department should increase its number of officers to 800. But when asked how he would pay for the expensive process of conducting police academies and graduating enough cadets to fill those slots, Parker said, "The money is there, but its being wasted" on multi-million dollar legal settlements stemming from the crackdown on Occupy Oakland, an resident injured in a gaping pothole and salary spent on the federal overseer appointed to reform the OPD. Tuman estimated the number of cops needed to keep Oakland safe is more like 900, while Dan Siegel, a well-known Oakland civil rights attorney, offered a more modest estimate of 650-700 officers. "It's not a question of how many, but how smartly we use them," he said. Siegel's plan would assign nine officers and two detective to 60 beats across the city. He says the arrangement will help foster better understanding and knowledge of the each specific neighborhood.

Others were deeply critical of Quan's leadership over the last three years. City Auditor Courtney Ruby said Oakland has a "leadership deficit" and added, "as auditor, I look at the hard numbers, not excuses." Jason "Shake" Anderson, a Green Party candidate and member of the Occupy Oakland movement called Quan's administration "dysfunctional" following the the departure of yet another top city official this week. "Right now, we're failing at government." In fact, three of the first four candidates to open the nearly three-hour forum took direct shots at Quan, who often appeared to be staring blankly with arms crossed. Oakland activist Nancy Sidebotham said Oakland's political machine has run the mayor's office for the past three decades. "I'm running for mayor because I'm angry. I want change," she said.

Quan reacted to the comments by saying she takes every homicide personal. "Crime is trending down. It might not be enough, but it's a beginning." Quan later deflected suggestions her administration should hold off hiring a permanent police chief until after the election. She says reforms required in the police deparmentment's negotiated settlement agreement will be fulfilled much sooner with a new chief. Councilmember Libby Schaaf said compliance with the consent decree will only improve the OPD and potentially help reduce crime. Other cities like Los Angeles, said Schaaf, were able to greatly lower crime in the midst of federal oversight. Crime, she noted, is not an "urban tax for living in Oakland."

However, Parker, Ruby and Siegel pointedly called for a change of leadership at OPD. Parker said police and residents are afraid of each other. "The first thing I would do is hire a competent police chief." Ruby added, Oakland already had a fine police chief in Anthony Batts, who resigned under Quan, but lost him to City Hall's micro-management of his department. When a panelist asked Siegel about the city's poor record of proving cases of police misconduct, he said, "Not only do we need a new chief, but we need some new lawyers." Siegel said the city's next chief must make officer accountable for their actions and called for greater civilian oversight.

Patrick McCullough, an attorney infamous for shooting a 15-year-old who attacked him near his Oakland home, sat quietly for much of the forum as panelists repeatedly passed him over for questions. "You talking to me?" he responded with laughter from the audience when a question was finally posed to him. McCullough said youth today are unaware about how they should behave with each other and parents and government are to blame for failing to reinforce common decency. Later, he said private security guards should be allowed to carry firearms to protect themselves. "Ideally we would have police doing that," said McCullough, "Right now, we don't."

This article also appears in Oakland Local.

A Phantom Menace Lurks on the Outskirts of True Blue Alameda County

AD18 Conspiracy Theory | Circumstantial Evidence in CA17 | Is Wieckowski a Master Debater?
CHAPTER 10 | Last Friday, Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk became one of the first local elected officials to acknowledge the looming purpling of the East Bay and possibly the entire state. “We are getting more and more so-called New Democrats, moderate Democrats and it’s getting very difficult now to get some very good legislation passed,” Quirk told Democrats at a forum Mar. 28.

What’s to blame for rise of moderate Democrats, according to Quirk, who was elected in 2012? The top-two primary system, also called the “jungle primary,” where candidates compete for two spots on the November ballot, regardless of party affiliation. In the all-blue East Bay, this almost always produces two Democrats. This year, in its second use, there are indications the top-two primary has the potential to again harm progressive candidates. Moderates like Eric Swalwell and Ro Khanna theoretically become the de facto “only choice” for conservatives. Swalwell is banking on attracting this demographic this year, as is Khanna, however, in most cases, without announcing to Democrats they are actually playing footsie with the other side.

Part of the team, although, it's not clear
if Bob Wieckowski, left, is still part
of Team Purple.
Quirk described his experience in the Assembly when this group of masked Democrats makes their way to Sacramento. Progressive bills like those to regulate ammunition in the magazines of semi-automatic weapons gets mothballed, multi-national super corporations like Chevron in Richmond avoid negligence with paltry fines, and environmental protections are stripped down to nothing.

While some residents of the East Bay describe their region as proudly liberal, many are taking their eyes off the road. There is an unmistakable moderate and conservative strain slowly creeping into Alameda County while Democrats continue to pat themselves on the back and it’s coming from Fremont via Silicon Valley and from the Tri Valley in the east. The characters behind this mini-revolution includes names like former Assemblymember Alberto Torrico, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty ( a former GOPer), Fremont Mayor Bill Harrison (a contributor to Sen. John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign), Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy and the entire Hayward City Council, just to name a few. Of course, the poster boy for this infiltration is Swalwell.

Swalwell, right, reaching across the line of
scrimmage with a GOP House member.
Quirk’s characterization of New Democrats hindering progressive legislation applies to Swalwell as well, who depending on which audience he speaking to, openly seeks to work with House Republicans. He said that, but doesn’t say it when he’s in Hayward. If moderates in the Legislature torpedo gun control, water down fracking rules, what does a moderate like Swalwell do in Congress? Similarly, Swalwell voted to deny $1.3 million Americans of unemployment benefits around the time Santa was preparing to shower gifts on their children. Add that to coddling Chevron, keeping the chamber of your gun full and having the potential to light your water on fire, that’s what a Democrat working across the aisle really means in Sacramento and Washington today.

Ro Khanna
AMATEUR HOUR IN CA-17 It’s becoming increasingly clear there was some big time shady politics going on in the 17th Congressional District. Was Ro Khanna’s campaign involved in recruiting Republicans to run in an effort to diminish Republican opponent Vanila Singh? There’s no clear link to Khanna other than strong circumstantial evidence. However, someone in Fremont’s Indian American community clearly wants Khanna to succeed and apparently was willing to go to great lengths to make it happen, even if it threatens a local temple’s non-profit tax exemption. A report in India West asserts a religious institution sought nominating signatures on its grounds and used its email to promote Khanna’s campaign. Those are clear violations. Add this to the odd addition of Vinesh Rathore to the ballot a day after becoming a Republican and his disqualification last week. It only took a single successful challenge to one of the minimum 40 signatures to kick Rathore off the ballot. Khanna appears to have had some cursory contact with all of these mysterious characters, but left to their own accord, their zeal to help Khanna took an amateurish turn and potentially leaves a black mark on his otherwise excellent challenge to Rep. Mike Honda.

Rob Bonta
WHISPER CAMPAIGN Conservative conspiracy theorists are spinning a creative yarn linking embattled State Sen. Leland Yee to East Bay Assemblymember Rob Bonta. It goes like this: Yee, who was often described as a fervent anti-gun crusader was also a hypocrite, according to a F.B.I. indictment alleging Yee, in part, attempted to facilitate arms trading with a group in the Philippines. Similarly, goes the theory, Bonta, who is up for re-election this year in the 18th Assembly District, also supported numerous gun control bills last year in the Legislature. Bonta is also Filipino. You get where they are going with this? This week, David Erlich, a San Leandro electrician, who is running as a Republican against Bonta, released a statement this week, criticizing the accusation, at the same time promoting its existence. "I denounce any allegations made about Rob Bonta based strictly on his Filipino background," Erlich said. "I have been hearing whispering, but to talk publicly about speculation is only a distraction from the real issues. But if there is any evidence that ties him or anybody else to any of the corruption that is being, and going to be exposed in Sacramento, then it should be investigated. Rob Bonta has nothing to worry about if he is not involved."

If the Russell City power plant allegations 
surfaced last year, would Jennifer Ong
had pursued a rematch with Bill Quirk?
HERE AND THERE Some Hayward candidates may have been a little nervous at Wednesday’s forum. Council candidate Sara Lamnin inadvertently said one of her priorities was to “increase unemployment.” This was an honest mistake, but mayoral candidate Barbara Halliday said for city governments “the recession was a good thing, in some cases.” However, those who lost their jobs might not feel the same…Hayward Councilmember Marvin Peixoto, up for re-election, continues to jab labor unions, despite once being a member of their leadership. He called SEIU Local 1021 “a special interests group.”…Timing is everything in politics. If the current Calpine Russell City Energy Center controversy occurred this time last year, Quirk’s 2012 opponent Jennifer Ong might have had no choice but pursue a rematch. She only lost by 900 votes, while trying to link Quirk to the unpopular power plant….State controller candidate and Alameda’s own Betty Yee told the Sacramento Bee, “I’m a different Yee.”…On the heels of next week’s big 10th State Senate District forum in Fremont, there is questions over how good a debater is Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski. Four years ago, the veteran elected official was outwitted and overshadowed by a considerably less experienced candidate in Adnan Shahab. Wieckowski was an overwhelming favorite to win the election and did, but how will he react to a likely onslaught from Mary Hayashi?

Oakland mayoral forum Thursday night.
ONE MORE THING Too many candidates in the East Bay lack the eye of the tiger when they run. Generally, candidates misinterpret advice urging them to stay positive. But that doesn’t preclude criticizing your opponent, especially when that person is the incumbent. During a mayoral debate in Oakland this week, the nine candidates present were given the opportunity to ask any of their opponents one question, although the moderator urged them to mix it up, so as not to have all the questions posed to Mayor Jean Quan. But, c’mon, candidates don’t have to follow these rules while in the trenches. Nevertheless, a few confronted Quan, but all of them should have gone for the knockout punch. With television cameras and numerous newspaper outlets in the audience, this was their big chance. Over in Hayward this week, candidates for mayor and the city council failed even more spectacularly. When the moderator gave each person a chance to rebut another’s statement, all 11 candidates turned down the offer. If I’m running a campaign and see that, I have to ask the candidate, “Do you really want to win, or what?”

Thursday, April 3, 2014

State Senate Candidate Kuo Continues Rapid Rise in the Republican Party

Peter Kuo with Republican South Carolina
Gov. Nikki Haley, center.
STATE SENATE | 10TH DISTRICT | The rise of Peter Kuo may be a sign the California Republican Party is done with sticking its collective heads in the sand when it comes to the state's changing demographics.

In just five months, Kuo has risen from obscurity to catching the attention of Republican party leaders. On Thursday, Kuo was named co-chair of Republican lieutenant gubernatorial candidate Ron Nehring’s campaign and head of the campaign’s Asian American coalition.

"Peter Kuo is part of a new generation of Republican leaders who are working hard every day to provide a better alternative to what we see in Sacramento today, and I'm excited to have Peter join our team," said Nehring.

Kuo, a first-time candidate who is running along with Democrats Mary Hayashi and Bob Wieckowski for the open 10th State Senate seat, procured the audience of high-ranking state Republican officials after some in the party came to the realization his chances of finishing in the top-two primary penciled out positively. Republicans believe Kuo stands a chance to entice independent voters from the South Bay’s large Asian American population.

In addition, Kuo has deftly used SCA-5, an attempt by Democrats in the Assembly to roll back Proposition 209, the measure passed by voters in 1996, in part, ending affirmative action at state universities. Tinkering with Prop. 209 is deeply opposed by a good portion of Asian American voters in the 10th State Senate District reaching from Castro Valley to San Jose.

In addition, the Asian American demographic makes up a large portion of those enrolled in state colleges. There are also signs dissatisfaction with the issue among Asian American voters reaches across party and ideological lines. Subsequently, Democrats in the Assembly felt increased pressure from these groups and effectively shelved the issue for the time being.

Blackwell's Departure may be a Tipping Point for Quan's Re-Election Chances

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan at a Save Oakland Sports event last January. PHOTO/Steven Tavares
OAKLAND | ANALYSIS | Last year, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan suffered through an somewhat embarrassing few days when, in a matter of roughly 48 hours, the city saw two police chiefs abruptly resign. The third police chief, Sean Whent, still awaits word whether the interim tag will be removed or a permanent, and fourth chief, will soon be named. Was this exodus an isolated event at City Hall? Apparently not.

Last month, when Deanna Santana was pushed out by Quan as her city administrator, the story seemed different. Santana, too, was unhappy with leading the city for some time. She made public overtures for jobs in Dallas and Phoenix and was passed over for both. The damage was done and Quan made the move. Santana's assistant Fred Blackwell, a well-liked and capable technocrat, was elevated and the city's progressive community appeared content. But, now the story has come full circle to evoke the stunning merry-go-round at the police department a year ago. On Wednesday, Blackwell said he was leaving his dream job in Oakland for greener pastures at a San Francisco non-profit. It only took Blackwell three weeks to determine his dream may have been more of a nightmare. The news may also be a tipping point for Quan's tenuous political future.

Fred Blackwell
Going into April, just seven months before Election Day, Quan's re-election is anything but a sure bet, but her chances have been vastly understated by many. Quan still maintains the power of the incumbency and ,thereby, she controls and solely benefits from anything remotely positive that occurs from here to Election Day. You might say, conversely, anything negative only sticks to Quan, too, but the city's negatives are already ingrained in voter's mind. Say, a murder spree inflicts Oakland this summer, that's not necessarily a fresh narrative as it relates to Quan's administration. 

However, the imagery of the rats jumping ship at City Hall is a narrative that may begin to coalesce after Blackwell's departures this week. Does anybody want to work with Quan? Is she incapable of leading her own administration? Most striking, her opponents can now respond rhetorically, and with ominous wonder, what exactly is going on at City Hall? Any one of 15 potential challengers to Quan's could easily label her the "Worst Boss in America," both in serious and wildly comic tones.

Another way Blackwell's departure could severely hurt Quan's re-election is with the Raiders and Coliseum City. Since last December, Quan has frequently mentioned her goal of signing a stadium deal with the football team sometime this summer. Fairly or not, the statement is ostensibly a promise to voters and fans the team will remain in Oakland. However, Blackwell is the city's most knowledgeable mind on Coliseum City, along with deflecting the Warriors potential move to San Francisco. Now that he's gone there exists an enormous dark cloud over 66th Avenue and Hegenberger Road. And it's not clear who at City Hall possesses even a small percentage of his expertise on the complicated land deal that may have to occur before even one stadium is built at the current Coliseum complex.

In addition, if Blackwell's reported ability to ring a conciliatory tone in negotiations is lost, how will he cajole the Raiders to make the concessions needed? Who, for instance, will facilitate selling a portion of the team to potential stadium investors, along with working with some of the most combative members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to swing a deal to sell the Coliseum property to those same investors?

If the Raiders leave, then voters can just add them to a list of important people and entities who have bailed on Quan starting with former police chief Howard Jordan and followed by Capt. Anthony Toribio, Deanna Santana, Fred Blackwell and maybe a debilitating portion of Quan's coalition of supporters needed for another four years in office.