DELIVERING DISCOMFORT TO THE POWERFUL SINCE 2009
>

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.

>

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.

>

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Celebrating Earth Day After Stuffing Your Wallet With Calpine Money

Swalwell tweeted this photo Tuesday
from Hayward's Eden Landing.
HAYWARD | ENVIRONMENT | The Eden Landing ecological reserve on the Hayward shoreline is just miles south from the polluting Calpine Russell City Energy Center. During this primary season, Hayward mayoral candidates and Assemblymember Bill Quirk have been harangued by the deeply unpopular natural gas-fired power plant that was found earlier this year to be polluting the area with 10 times the amount of allowable water particulate.

Some candidates have resorted to hyperbole to describe the potential damage to the ecosystem, but others like Quirk have been saddled with criticism over their support for the plant and the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions they received from Calpine and its executives.

So, on this Earth Day, it was a bit ballsy for another local official to pose like he was helping rehabilitate the San Francisco Bay's marshlands when, he too, counts Calpine as one of his largest campaign donors. On Tuesday, Rep. Eric Swalwell tweeted a photo of himself at Eden Landing getting his hands dirty, both literally and figuratively.

Meanwhile, campaign finance reports from the last two election cycles show Swalwell padded his coffers with $20,350 in contributions from Calpine's political action committee and a number of its executives. The financial ties to the polluting power plant may present a weak spot for Swalwell's primary opponents to manipulate. Ties to Calpine have already tripped up two of the candidates for Hayward mayor.

In Hayward's 20th Assembly District race, Quirk's two challengers each sought to heavily exploit the issue during a candidate's forum earlier this month. Quirk has accepted over $14,000 from Calpine and its executives since 2012, according to finance recrods. But, potentially worse, he has registered support for the plant almost since its infancy while a member of the Hayward City Council. However, while Swalwell will say he supports the environment, don't expect him to call the plant "quite healthy" as Quirk did three weeks ago.

Coliseum Authority Offers A's a 10-Year Lease to Stay in Oakland

COLISEUM AUTHORITY | The A’s may be in Oakland through 2024 after the Coliseum Authority offered the team a 10-year lease Tuesday to remain at the O.co Coliseum. A press release only noted the length of the proposed deal, but no terms.

“We wanted to send a clear statement to the A’s, the fans, Lew Wolff, and Major League Baseball that we want the A’s at the O.co Coliseum and want to keep baseball in Oakland,” said Coliseum Authority Chairman and Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley.

“A ten year extension, lasting through the 2024 season, gives the team a place to a call home and our fans and sponsors a window to continue investing their time and passion in this team. We are also working to ensure this deal safeguards county and city taxpayers. We are meeting the A’s management where they say they want to be and hope to conclude these negotiations quickly,” he added.

Shortly after the late evening announcement by the Coliseum Authority, the San Francisco Chronicle reported a response from the team. “The A’s received the Oakland-Alameda County Authority’s proposal earlier this afternoon. While the proposal was for 10 years, it did not address all of our issues. Consequently, we cannot accept the terms of the offer. We have tried to negotiate in good faith for the past several months. As the Authority knows, it is still our preference not to negotiate this agreement through the media.”

Some in Oakland and the county had urged for costly financial penalties to be built into any long-term lease agreement to guard against the team’s ownership one day seeking a ballpark in another city.

A group of East Bay business people are also eyeing a potential ballpark at Howard Terminal near Jack London Square. However, A’s ownership has recently voiced favor for a new stadium at the currently Coliseum complex.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Case for Taxing Property Owners Who Leave Their Storefronts Empty

SD10 Republican 'Splintering' Dems | Superintendent Candidate's BF? | Forum Changes Working
CHAPTER 12 | There’s a book making waves among economists named Capital in the Twenty-First Century. In part, the tome by Thomas Picketty rising in influence since its release last year proposes a global tax on capital, not income. The plausibility of installing such a radical notion of taxation in its entirety is next to zero. However, the germ of the idea could possibly be applied to some local East Bay cities continuing to struggle on the revenue-generating side of the ledger. An editorial in last week’s Bloomberg Businessweek advocated for the idea. “For one thing, it gets the incentives right. If a global tax on capital were imposed, owners of valuable assets such as empty lots might be more likely to put them to good use, or sell them to someone who could, to cover the tax bill.”

Instead of allowing property owners to leave
storefronts empty, how about giving them an 
incentive to open their doors to commerce?
Empty storefronts in Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, San Leandro, Hayward and others, currently lie fallow even as the economy begins to percolates. But, the resurgence has been excruciatingly slow. All of the cities mentioned are beginning to see new small businesses sprout again, but more could be done, especially for properties owned by landlords who have learned having storefronts empty at this time pencils out to smaller losses than the risk of a new businesses opening its doors.

Case in point, Hayward’s downtown could sometimes act as a sound stage for the television show, The Walking Dead. Foot traffic is low and many storefronts are abandoned and the ones in business fail to capture the imagination of residents and out-of-towners. The notion Hayward can’t attract new businesses based on the merits of the city may not be entirely true. Last year, Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney specifically called out some property owners, many he said, who live in Hayward, for purposely leaving their properties empty in hopes of better rental deals in the future. Maybe Hayward could be the place to foster some sort of vacancy tax on empty storefronts?

They wouldn’t be alone. A staffer from another East Bay city said recently they may offer their city council a similar vacancy tax in the near future. Although the Hayward City Council is now notorious around East Bay political circles for their Draconian wage cut imposition against city workers, a vastly more progressive assault on greedy property owners would certainly garner appreciation from the 99 percent.

Additionally, with less than two months before Hayward elects a new mayor, the four candidates, three of whom sit on the City Council, have yet to prescribe any new ideas for putting the city back on track. Generally, the topics of conversation have been about how projects, long discussed and already built, have ruined Hayward. The Loop and the Russell City Energy Center are monuments to Hayward’s myopic past. Yet, almost nobody is talking about how Hayward can rise from the ashes. Hayward City Council candidate Rocky Fernandez, in fact, is talking about forward-thinking ideas like no other candidate in recent memory. His youthful outlook on the future includes using some of the empty storefronts as incubators for the new businesses and technologies of the future. If something like a vacancy tax could unlock some of those properties, the next Twitter, Facebook or some type of gadget or services we can’t even fathom today might grow there.
****
Peter Kuo
DEMS PAYING FOR SCA-5 Last week, Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski acknowledged the unintended consequences of State Senate Constitution Amendment 5, passed last January by the upper house of the Legislature, but now languishing in the Assembly. Wieckowski is running for the 10th Senate District seat, but out of nowhere, Republican Peter Kuo has used the issue to stir up concern and fundraising in the Asian American community against SCA-5. “Nobody liked Proposition 209,” Wieckowski said Apr. 12 about the referendum ending affirmative action in public universities nearly two decades ago. “We all benefited from affirmative action. We know the Republicans are using it as a wedge. Mr. Kuo, who is in this race, is raising boatloads of money and splintering the Democratic Party and having Hispanics and the [Asian Pacific Islander] Caucus and the African American Caucus think we’re not on the same page.”
****
SOUND OF SILENCE San Francisco Chronicle reporters Carla Marinucci and Debra Saunders were at last Tuesday's CA-15 forum in Castro Valley, featuring Rep. Eric Swalwell, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett and Republican Hugh Bussell. The Bay Area News Group's Josh Richman was there, too. So, why was I the only reporter who caught Swalwell in a lie when he obfuscated about his record on digital privacy rights? The silence from the local conservative media outlets was never more noticeable. Richman wrote a perfunctory rundown of the hour-long forum and Marinucci has been silent. Saunders, however, wrote a column attempting to link Corbett by association to her troubled State Senate colleagues, Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Rod Wright. The argument doesn't hold water. In fact, Saunders wasn't trying very hard to implicate Corbett, which, in a practical sense, says she really had nothing to write about this week. Furthermore, the corporate media's fascination with Swalwell is no longer a conspiracy theory. Not on board yet? Here's some homework: cobble together every article written by this trio and you won't find a single negative sentence about Swalwell. Dig deeper and you will find numerous occasions where they needlessly covered for him. Ask yourself? What benefit do these corporations receive from having Swalwell in Washington?
****
Karen Monroe
HERE AND THERE Expect to see Corbett more forcefully attack Swalwell for flip-flopping on government spying at future forums. Just ask me, Swalwell does not react to pressure in a courageous fashion, preferring flight to fight…During this week’s CA-15 forum, Swalwell quipped about his parents both being Republicans. Odd, since in the past, he claimed his mother was a Democrat and his father was a Republican…Does Ro Khanna’s campaign know most Christians will be spending this Sunday celebrating Easter with their families? Then why the email asking supporters to join him on the campaign trail on that day?...Among all California Democrats seeking a seat in Congress, Khanna’s $1.9 million in cash on hand is tops…California conservative sugar daddy Charles Munger, Jr. contributed $100,000 this week to the Santa Clara Republican Party. Might some of this cash be allocated to help CA-17 candidate Vanila Singh? Maybe Peter Kuo, to a lesser extent?...Last weekend, members of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee asked superintendent of schools candidate Karen Monroe, also currently an employee of the Alameda County Office of Education, if another of their employees is her boyfriend and whether he got the job on her behalf, despite disputed credentials. Monroe basically said, he’s not my man. Furthermore, is that even a fair question to publicly ask her?
****
APAPA moderator Hal Gin
ONE MORE THING A few weeks ago, I wrote about the relative value of some candidate’s forums in the East Bay, while questioning why the more familiar debate setup is never used in these parts. The League of Women Voters and Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA) listened and made some tweaks to their formats. The two pre-eminent groups offering candidate’s forums did not make radical changes, but giving candidates the opportunity to question each other directly or to further expand on a subject has already made the first few events more useful to voters. One group may even employ more radical changes during the general election when some races have been whittled down to two candidates. Nevertheless, one of the points I was trying to make is candidates need to have the ability to control their own destiny in these face-to-face match ups. If they don’t wish to seize the moment, then that’s their problem. And we’ve seen this happen twice—during the Hayward mayoral and city council forum and this week’s CA-15 forum—when each candidate chose a much more conservative battle plan. Nevertheless, the small changes have been a welcome addition.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

San Leandro Begins a Slow, Deliberate Approach Toward its First Dispensary

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | After San Leandro leaders moved to allow medical cannabis to be sold within its city limits, it now needs to find a suitable operator. Last December, the City Council voted to allow just a single dispensary, despite a push by some members to allow more to satisfy demand for the drug’s therapeutic properties.

In the meantime, city staff says it doesn't have personnel with sufficient knowledge for permitting future dispensaries. At Monday night’s meeting, the council will be asked to approve a Request for Qualifications (RFP) for the hiring of a consultant to aid the city’s search for a dispensary operator. The request could be released sometime this month, according to a staff report.

Following a thawing of opposition by some on the City Council starting last year, including Mayor Stephen Cassidy, the city’s move toward allowing a dispensary has been steady, but slow. A public hearing also scheduled for Monday will discuss an amendment to the city’s zoning regulations pertaining to off-street parking for the future dispensary.

San Leandro’s foray into medical cannabis, though, is still clearly in the early planning stages. Once a consultant is approved, city staff will seek a two-step process for culling the list of potential operators. A pre-qualification process will first screen applicants, says the report, based their business plan and experience in the industry. Applicants would then be invited to apply to the Request for Proposal. During this second step, applicants will provide a desired location for the dispensary--an issue many San Leandrans in opposition of the new ordinance want to know--along with plans for security, patient tracking methods and record keeping.

The City Council could have a better idea who may be interested in bringing San Leandro its first dispensary this summer. A timetable estimates the two-step application process could begin sometime after July. Then again, according to the report, it’s anyone’s guess how many groups might be interested in helping patients fire one up in San Leandro.

Bonta: Wage Theft a Sad Reality for Fast Food Workers

By Rob Bonta
Bonta at a McDonald's in Oakland.
OPINION | Imagine being pick-pocketed every time you show up to work. For thousands of low-wage workers right here in the Bay Area, that’s the sad reality they face each day. Their employers, mega-corporations in the fast food industry, are illegally downsizing workers’ paychecks in much the same way they supersize a meal.

A recent poll shows that nearly 90 percent of fast food workers have experienced wage theft. But now workers are starting to speak out.

McDonald’s workers in three states joined class action lawsuits to recover wages stolen from their paychecks when they were forced to work off the clock or were denied overtime pay. Here in the Bay Area, I joined scores of community members at a local McDonald’s this month to support their call for fair treatment and a living wage. The outpouring of community concern echoes growing outrage nationwide as the consequences of the fast food industry’s low-wage business model have come to light in cities across the country.

I am proud to stand with these workers in their demand to change an industry that for too long has taken advantage of low-wage workers without regard to the detrimental impact they have on the communities in which they operate.

When the $220 billion fast food industry bloats its profit margins by squeezing pennies from its workers, the damage to our communities is profound:
  • Workers like SG, a mother of four who earns minimum wage, serve customers with pride at Burger King. But at home, she struggles to put food on the table on her low wages. Her struggle is made even more difficult when her paycheck routinely comes up short of the dollars she’s actually earned.
  • Dollars stolen from workers’ pockets go to the fast food giants’ corporate headquarters, siphoned away from our local businesses and economy.
  • Taxpayers are also victimized every time wage theft occurs, because when fast food giants short their workers’ paychecks, they also underpay their share of payroll taxes.
  • Taxpayers pick up the tab again when wage theft increases pressure on our social services. Workers who can’t possibly survive on less than poverty wages must turn to food stamps or public assistance to feed, clothe, and shelter their families. A UC Berkeley study pegged the tab taxpayers pick up because of low-wage, low-benefit fast food jobs at $7 billion annually.
I’ve heard from many fast food workers who were forced to work off the clock or had their paychecks shortchanged the overtime pay they’re owed under law. Hearing from the many wage theft victims who took part in the Oakland protests, it is clear that the industry needs to step up and become a real model of opportunity in the community.

More Americans than ever are working fast-food jobs. When the industry should be providing an opportunity for low-income workers to earn a living, they’ve instead fought workers’ attempts to organize for fair wages and working conditions by cutting hours or firing workers who speak up. To restore the trust of our communities, fast food companies should immediately do all of the following:

Respect workers. Fast food workers are the engine of the industry’s profits, but their wages tell another story. The fast food industry must respect the rights of workers to organize for fair wages and working conditions.

Respect the law. Minimum wage and overtime rules are the law of the land, and corporate giants can’t operate outside the law.

Respect the communities where customers live, work, and eat. Be a model of opportunity by providing quality jobs with a living wage and competitive benefits that allow workers to provide for their families.

I encourage all of us to consider the consequences of wage theft to our working families and to our communities. We all should agree that fast food workers deserve humane and dignified treatment and a fair living wage.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta serves California's 18th Assembly District representing Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro.

Moneyball: East Bay First Quarter Congressional Finance Reports

Rep. Mike Honda crosses the
$1 million threshold.
CONGRESS | CAMPAIGN FINANCE | The candidates are official and well-financed candidates in three local congressional races are getting ready to spend their campaign largess. All three incumbents have the money to defend their re-election, while a young upstart continues to fascinate political pundits nationally with a large, albeit slowly shrinking, fundraising advantage.

CA17 Money continues to flow, but, for the first time, it's Rep. Mike Honda rolling in more of it. Honda reported $689,000 in receipts this year. That's more than his last two reporting periods combined. Symbolically, his relatively low amount of disbursements allowed Honda to cross over the $1 million mark in cash banked. Ro Khanna's finance report is no slouch, either. Khanna is beginning to put his money to the test. The $467,000 spent over the first quarter of this year is easily the most he has laid out since joining the race. His last three finance reports have also been relatively consistent. However, it's hard to beat the stunning $1.04 million he received in the July 2013 report. In addition, Republican Vanila Singh performed well in her first full reporting period since jumping into the race last December.

CA 17.......End Cash....1Q-In.......1Q-Out
KHANNA......$1,948,833  $467,252  $494,883
HONDA.......$1,083,690  $689,887  $229,186
SINGH.......$  300,422  $224,110  $ 30,973
VANLNDINGHM.no report filed

CA15 Rep. Eric Swalwell's campaign finance ledger has been quite consistent over the past three reporting cycles. His haul of over $273,000 from the beginning of the year to Mar. 31 is nearly identical to reports during the last half of 2013. However, the campaign appears to be ramping up its spending. Over the last three months, Swalwell spent more than all of the last three cycles combined. Meanwhile, Corbett reported just $34,000 in contributions--her lowest total since the October 2013 report. It follows her best showing last December when she posted contributions of $91,000.

CA 15.......End Cash..1Q-In.....1Q-Out
SWALWELL....$922,581  $273,834  $174,614
CORBETT.....$208,005  $ 34,007  $ 34,660
BUSSELL.....$  1,950  $  4,140  $  2,190

CA13 Again, Rep. Barbara Lee is facing a group of untested challengers for her re-election. Nevertheless, Lee is a big spender. Over the last year, her campaign has disbursed nearly $572,000, including $92,940 to the Democratic Party Congressional Committee. You might call it tribute to the House leadership.

CA 13.......End Cash..1Q-In.....1Q-Out
LEE.........$127,721  $148,950  $122,476
SUNDEEN.....$  2,014  $  4,240  $  2,226
JELINCIC....$    414  $  2,085  $  1,840
ALLEN.......no report filed

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Feeling Out Period in the Initial CA-15 Candidate’s Forum

CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | It’s too early to get nasty in the 15th Congressional District. Democrats Rep. Eric Swalwell, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett and Republican Hugh Bussell mostly spoke in generalities, while taking pains to avoid confrontation during their first candidate’s forum of the election season. The top two vote-getters in the June 3 primary will advance to the November general election.

Initially, there appeared to be very few differences between the two Democrats and the Republican who joined the race just prior to the filing deadline last March. All opposed fracking, supported a pathway for undocumented immigrants to achieve citizenship and backed campaign finance reform. However, it was the pressing concern of government surveillance that created some space between the candidates.

Bussell, the Alameda County Republican Party vice chair, uttered one of the night’s memorable sound bites when he referred to the belief, by some; the recent “Heartbleed” computer virus was related to the National Security Agency. “I’m not that quite paranoid, but if people are out to get you, it’s not really paranoia, is it?” said Bussell. When it comes to government surveillance of Americans Internet and cell phone use, Corbett vowed to protect privacy rights, as did Swalwell.

“We cannot, must not, sacrifice our privacy in favor of security,” said Swawell. “There is one vote on the NSA that was taken in Congress and that was to defund its phone collection program and I voted against funding that program. I stood for the rights of privacy.” However, Swalwell voted for an earlier bill allowing the government to view the Web histories of citizen without their knowledge.

[READ Swalwell Says He Stood for Privacy Rights; Record Says Otherwise.]

In what may become a major point of contention during this election, Corbett mentioned Swalwell’s previous vote, however, in vague terms. Similarly, Corbett attempted later to skewer Swalwell’s freshman status in Congress, saying she would not use it as an excuse for inaction. But, the hour-long forum was notable for its comity.

Raising the minimum wage is an issue that has pervading all levels of government. Swalwell said he supports President Obama’s plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, but admitted the figure needs to be higher. Legislation Swalwell offered last year to allow small businesses to defer payroll taxes during the first year would also help boost wages, he said. Local municipalities, though, have been successful in raising the minimum wage on their own, said Corbett. Bussell, though, was less committal when it came to how much he would raise the minimum, other than taking a hands-off approach. “Employers want to pay what they can to keep [employees],” he said. Forcing higher wages may mean “some people will not be hired or lose their jobs," he said.

In the end, it was Bussell, the Republican with seemingly nothing to lose, who delivered the most poignant dig of the night while acknowledging his opponents' legal backgrounds. He asked, “Does Washington really need more lawyers?”

At Forum, Swalwell Says He ‘Stood for Privacy Rights,’ Record Says Otherwise

Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Rep. Eric Swalwell said at a candidate’s forum Tuesday night in Castro Valley he voted against government intrusion into the digital records of Americans, but the assertion is false.

When the question of upholding certain privacy rights was posed, Swalwell said he voted on just one such bill since becoming a member of Congress last year.

“We cannot, must not, sacrifice our privacy in favor of security,” he said. “There is one vote on the N.S.A. that was taken in Congress and that was to defund its phone collection program and I voted against funding that program. I stood for the rights of privacy.” He added, “No law-abiding American should have their data blanketly collected.”

Swalwell is referring to his vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) last July. Although, Swalwell voted for the amendment hoping to block the N.S.A.’s plans, it ultimately failed. However, this was not the only vote he took as a member of Congress pertaining to government infringement of privacy rights revealed last spring by Edward Snowden.

His challenger this June, State Majority Leader Ellen Corbett questioned the assertion, although vaguely. “I want to say there have been some votes in Congress very recently when all members of the Bay Area delegation voted against a bill that would have allowed for looking at people’s private records without subpoenas and I’m actually very concerned about that.”

In April 2013, Swalwell was the only member of the Bay Area Democratic Caucus to vote for legislation called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) allowing the government to access users’ online activity, including social media sites and personal email without their knowledge. The bill was intended to help the government in the event of a national cyber attack, but privacy advocates said it lack protections for misuse. Although CISPA passed the House with Swalwell's help, it was never offered in the U.S. Senate.

During an era when more Americans, regardless of their ideological beliefs, are deeply concerned over the government’s spying on ordinary citizens, Swalwell’s uneven record on the issue is an enormous target for his challengers this June and the November general election.

In the past, Swalwell, also a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, has struggled to connect the dots between his vote for CISPA, allowing the types of warrantless government intrusion described by Snowden and his subsequent reversal months later as a defender of digital privacy.

On Tuesday night, he pretended the first vote never happened.

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 Election 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.
****
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.
****
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.
****
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.”