DELIVERING DISCOMFORT TO THE POWERFUL SINCE 2009
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OAKLAND MAYORAL RACE IS A 15 ROUND PRIZE FIGHT

A new mayor in San Leandro, a revisiting of the BART strike and many City Council races highlight the November election.

CLICK TO VIEW THE EAST BAY'S NOVEMBER BALLOT

Eighteen are running for mayor of Oakland alone! NEW! Campaign Websites Now Included!

BRINGING SEXY BACKWARDS

Roundly mocked list of the most beautiful people in the Beltway pegs Rep. Eric Swalwell as sixth.

JUNE PRIMARY COVERAGE ONLY AT EBCITIZEN.COM

Assemblymember Rob Bonta casts his ballot June 3 in Alameda.

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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

'09 Rewind: the Economy, the Hospital and the Economy

JANUARY
A second Walmart opens in San Leandro with the creation of 300 new jobs. Streams of San Leandrans flock to buy really cheap packages of Oreos at the new location on Hesperian Boulevard.


The city tabs Ian Willis to replace outgoing Chief Dale Attarian. Problems at the police department are exacerbated by a shrinking police force due to the economy and a spate of lawsuits against the department for misconduct.

FEBRUARY
In his State of the City address, Mayor Tony Santos sets the economic tone of the city's bleak budget outlook citing falling property and sales taxes ahead.

City Manager Stephen Hollister recommends 5-15 percent cuts to all city departments to alleviate a reported $10 million deficit.

MARCH
Richard Bailey is shot and killed in the Floresta Gardens neighborhood of San Leandro. It is the first of two homicides in the city.

APRIL
The City Council agrees to authorize the building of 200 affordable housing units to be named The Alameda located behind the San Leandro BART station. The decision sparks a vocal minority of residents who fear low-income tenants will drive housing prices down and flood local schools.

At the same council meeting, Davis Street Family Resource Center's bid for $500,000 to purchase a new property on Teagarden Avenue is approved. As the economy continued to dispossess more people, the timing of the donation now seems prescient.

The community begins to organize against plans by Sutter Health to close emergency room services at San Leandro Hospital. The battle to save the hospital would soon become the city's biggest news story of 2009.

MAY
The dean of San Leandro politics, Jack Maltester, dies. The city's longest serving city official is credited with laying the foundation of modern day San Leandro--both good and bad.

Seeking to exploit a dearth of local news, the East Bay Citizen goes live. After an initial interview with Tony Santos, the mayor writes, "Don't know what to make of your little web site. Doubtful I will grant another interview," but he does.

Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak is unanimously selected to replace Councilman Bill Stephens as vice mayor. A few months later, she announces intentions to erase the "vice" from her title in 2010.

During a meeting, Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty angrily crumples and tosses a letter from the San Leandro City Council into a garbage can. Haggerty's histrionics is the first of many astonishing slights lobbed at the council by the board of supervisors. Later in the year it is reported a former Oakland Raider puts Haggerty in a neck brace. The city's revenge? Maybe.

JUNE

City Council approves a $78 million budget for 2009-2010. Lowered sales tax projections quickly put the budget out of whack.

California Supreme Court sides with the San Leandro Unified School District saying barring political endorsements distributed through internal teacher mailboxes is reasonable. The court also says the mailboxes are not a open forum afforded greater free speech.

A series of three hearing by the Eden Township Healthcare District at the San Leandro Library entices hundreds of residents to voice nearly unanimous support for San Leandro Hospital.

The owner of a rival health provider, Prime Health, turns one meeting into a church revival and anoints himself the savior of San Leandro Hospital. The audience cheers and gives a standing ovation, but questions over the company's business practices and objections by Sutter push the proposal to the background.

JULY
Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi inexplicably votes in committee against a bill she co-sponsors with state Sen. Ellen Corbett regarding San Leandro Hospital. The nasty tit-for-tat between San Leandro's legislators confounds many and leads some to believe Hayashi is plotting a run at Corbett's seat in 2010. The rumor mill currently says Hayashi is having second thoughts.

The Daily Review's San Leandro beat writer retires and is not replaced. According to the beleaguered daily, nothing happens in the city for the next four months.

Sutter exercises its right, according to a two-year-old agreement between it and the District, to purchase San Leandro Hospital. The price: $0.

AUGUST
The District board votes to block the purchase of San Leandro Hospital by Sutter. The public learns crucial minutes from 2007 detailing the disputed Memorandum of Understanding are lost. The next day Sutter surprises all by announcing a deal was completed two weeks earlier to lease the disputed hospital property to the Alameda County Medical Center for rehab services.

Sen. Ellen Corbett announces to another heavily attended public meeting at the library her intention to ask Attorney General Jerry Brown to investigate Sutter's business practices in Northern California. The AG begins an investigation but has yet to pursue the allegations.

SEPTEMBER
Congressional Democrats begin to doubt the ability of House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel (D-NY) to keeps his seat after ethics allegations continue to grow. Speculation on Capitol Hill centers on the number two--Rep. Pete Stark--taking over to the consternation of both Republicans and moderate Democrats. News of Stark's own ethics problem in the past few days may scuttle those plans, too.

Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak announces her candidacy for mayor in 2010 and hires a noted East Bay political consultant.

The city's coffers become further constrained as the summer winds down and the city grapples with the idea of children returning to school without crossing guards. The program was cut earlier in the year and is renewed when the city and school district agree to split the costs.

Eden Boardmember Dr. Walter Kran abruptly resigns citing stress. His departure leads members hoping to keep San Leandro Hospital open a chance to appoint a like-minded majority vote.

OCTOBER
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signs nearly two dozen bills authored by Corbett and Hayashi into law.

Former school district trustee Stephen Cassidy becomes the second challenger to Tony Santos for mayor. With a poor local economy, he pledges if elected to work for free until the budget is fixed.

Sutter sues the District for the right to purchase San Leandro Hospital plus $5 million in damages, while rumors of a settlement over the "hybrid option" are tossed around for the next two months.

NOVEMBER
The city council votes to approve spending $61,000 on a series of three mailers to "educate" residents on the city's financial woes. The decision is met with derision led by Bill Stephens who states the literature amounts to preparing the city for a tax measure in 2010.

After two rounds of interviews, the District appoints orthopedic surgeon Dr. Bill West to replace Kran on the Eden board. In his interview West raises eyebrows when he says he was asked to take the position.

DECEMBER

The school board overwhelmingly approves the naming of the new ninth grade campus after internment camp survivor and civil rights hero Fred Korematsu.

Two of the year's biggest stories--the resignation of Kran and Sutter's lawsuit against the District--manifests itself in the District's firing of its legal counsel Craig Cannizzo.

After dodging ethics charges earlier in the year over tax breaks at his Maryland home, Stark gets a Christmas Eve notice of unknown charges by the House Ethics Committee.

2010 AND BEYOND....
The city council will continue t0 debate whether to change the way the city elects officials just after the New Year. Oakland will likely approve Ranked Choice Voting Jan. 6, while San Leandro again takes up the issue Jan. 19. At stake: who pays for the large startup costs and whether the expenditure is wise in 2010.

The economy in 2009 was a story that colored virtually every news story. In the past week, noted Nobel Prize-winning economists have said the nation's financial health will more than likely decline before beginning a substantial recovery in 2011. Such a recovery is depicted on the right as "w-shape". If all bad news falls downward, San Leandro's sticky budget situation will further deflate and likely become the top issue for the mayor's race.

Predicting the next break in the San Leandro Hospital saga is nearly impossible, but the recent move by the District to change its legal stance against Sutter promises to tie up any resolution for the better half of the year. What happens after June 30 is anyones guess.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Stark Target of Ethics Investigation

SUBJECT OF INQUIRY UNKNOWN; EARLIER TAX CREDIT PROBE BELIEVED NOT INVOLVED
Reporters on the beat in Washington thought Christmas was over until they found one more present hidden under the tree courtesy of the House Ethics Committee, who announced Rep. Pete Stark is the subject of an investigation. The statement was released Dec. 24 and reported today by the congressional newspaper Roll Call.

The subject of the investigation against Stark is unknown and creating rampant speculation whether the ethics inquiry is related to tax breaks the 19-term congressman received via his home in Maryland reported earlier this year. (Yes, your congressman does not live in Alameda County, although he is registered to vote in California.)

According to a Washington Post story in late October, the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) "terminated" its investigation of Stark Aug. 12. Three other congress members facing similar allegations of receiving tax breaks also had investigation dropped by OCE. Only Stark's name was mentioned for referral to the House Ethics Committee. There is speculation more information was attained by the OCE since August or new allegations against Stark prompted a new investigation. The OCE reviews possible misconduct before submitting cases to the House Ethics Committee for investigation. According to the OCE, an announcement regarding the subject of Stark's investigation will occur Feb. 10 or possibly earlier.

Possibly enhancing speculation, Stark's office has not responded to press inquiries, including The Citizen.

The Christmas Eve announcement of potentially embarrassing ethics violations is bittersweet for the long-time East Bay lawmaker, coming on the same day the Senate approved a bill pushing universal health care closer to fruition than it has ever been. Stark chairs the House Ways and Means Committee on Health and has taken a high-profile position in the House to improve access to health care to all Americans.

In March, Bloomberg News reported Stark received a $4,000 homestead tax credit by listing his Maryland home as his primary residence. Before 2007, the tax break was easily obtained until tougher rules were enacted by the Maryland Legislature. According to the story, Stark did little to deny possible violations and offered to repay the credit if he did not qualify. His comments led the state to open an investigation.

Stark is not the only Democrat in Congress facing questions of ethical impropriety. His counterpart on the Ways and Means Committee Charles Rangel (D-NY) has also been the target of numerous ethics investigations into his personal finances and alleged fundraising violations. Earlier this month, ethics allegations against Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) and two other congressmen were dropped by the OCE.
-STEVEN TAVARES
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Monday, December 28, 2009

Sound Bites: San Leandro Speaks Up in 2009

>>>CITY BUDGET CRISIS<<<
"Don't close Farrelly Pool. My brother is two. Can you leave it open? My brother loves it."

-A young girl named Lucinda addresses the San Leandro City Council in May asking to keep the neighborhood swimming pool from being temporarily closed due to budget cuts.
"Keep your hands out of our budget."
-Mayor Tony
Santos in May derides plans by legislators in Sacramento to balance the state's budget by raiding the coffers of local municipalities.

>>>SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL<<<
"We should keep fighting until the last day, even if we go down, we must fight."
-Eden Township Healthcare District Director Dr. Vin Sawhney does his best George Patton to energize supporters of saving San Leandro Hospital at an informal meeting of the District in September.

"What the hell are you trying to say?"
-A bit disoriented at a Eden District meeting, Boardmember Dr. Harry Dvorsky interrupts a doctor persuading members to block the purchase of the hospital by Sutter Health.

"In my conscience I have no conflict of interests."
-Eden Board Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar after a heavily attended public hearing at the San Leandro Library. A few audience members shouted charges of conflict of interests.

"George Bischalaney just called and said he will call the sheriff if you don't leave."
-Eden Director Carole Rogers tells a group waiting outside the conference room of a board meeting at Eden Medical Center. Attendees, including city councilmembers and a former San Leandro mayor, refused to leave after learning of the board's decision to bar the public from speaking.

"It is very disappointing when one thinks there are five city council people who don't think it's important enough to come to a forum of this nature with their own constituents sitting in the audience."
-Former Eden Medical Center Chief of staff Dr. Miles Adler chides the lack of participation of council members at a hearing in October featuring every public official except Rep. Pete Stark.

"We're still trying to figure this out."
Shawn Wilson, the chief of staff for Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, was left scrambling for answers after the supervisor said she would ask the board of supervisors to rescind the county's offer to move rehabilitation services to San Leandro Hospital. Ultimately, the proposal lacked a deciding third vote on the board and dropped.

"He has no clue and never has had one."
-Dr. Miles Adler responding to claims by Mayor Tony Santos that San Leandro Hospital's unprofitability is caused by doctors outsourcing procedures to other facilities benefitting physicians.

"That is a foolish assumption on your part, although you make a number of foolish assumptions."
-Former legal counsel for the Eden District Craig Cannizzo lashes out at Director Dr. Vin Sawhney for assuming his law firm would cooperate with a change in counsel. Sawney motioned to fire the long-time attorney for the District and failed, but succeeded four days later.

"If the hospital is closed after June 30, it will be because of the action of Rogers and Dr. Sawhney."
-Mayor Tony Santos causes a firestorm of criticism from supporters of San Leandro Hospital after pinning the future of the facility on the two Eden boardmembers leading the charge towards a more offensive legal approach to Sutter.

>>>PETE STARK AND WASHINGTON<<<
"Well I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg. It wouldn't be worth wasting the urine."
-Rep. Pete Stark responds to a constituent at a town hall meeting in Fremont who tells him "Don't pee on my leg and tell me it's raining." The exchange becomes one of the most infamous national political quotes of the year.

"Nobody wants to disrupt?"
-After raucous protesters make headlines at town hall meeting across the nation, Stark jokingly teases a tame group at the Alameda Democratic Club.

"The bill you get will be a bill I won't like and none of you will like."
-Stark tells a group of his strongly progressive constituents the bill ultimately passed by the House will not include a single-payer option most crave.

>>>RACE FOR MAYOR 2010<<<
"You know, we're a family and we choose to have our disagreements."
-Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak after her decision to vote against the city's budget last June. Her comments in the city council chambers angered a few fellow members and gave the first strong indication of her intention to run for mayor in 2010.

"We are in a state of decay."
-Starosciak raises eyebrows in November when she makes a veiled reference to the condition of the city under Santos.

"This city is not deteriorating. Anyone who says that is out of line."
-Santos quickly responds during a rambling seven minute monologue in city council chambers. He later says he will not let voters forget Starosciak's comments.

>>>BEST OF THE REST<<<
"There's an informal network of criminals who know if you commit crime in San Leandro, you'll get caught."
-With a touch of bravado, San Leandro Lt. Pete Ballew states the reason for the city's surprisingly low crime rates through the first six months of 2009.

"This may be considered blasphemy, but I don't like a lot of people to vote. I want informed voters to vote. I don't understand why we're trying to get numbers as opposed to intelligence?"
-City Councilman Bill Stephens, the only conservative on the board objects to increased voter participation--one of the strengths of Ranked Choice Voting the council hopes to debate in the New Year.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Health District goes on the Offensive

District Rolls the Dice on San Leandro Hospital | Mayor Santos Take the Heat | City Council's Bloodlust for San Leandro Times Reporter | Gregory's Baseless Attack | Joyce, Our Choice!
Make no mistake, Monday's firing of the Eden Township Healthcare District's long-time attorney may be the biggest story in San Leandro Hospital's run of notable developments this year. With the bold, yet risky move, Directors Carole Rogers and Dr. Vin Sawhney have reached the stratosphere of reverence among hospital workers and the community, while Dr. Bill West, according to numerous supporters of the hospital, has delivered on the promise of turning the District towards a more offensive direction against Sutter Health. Aside from overheated rhetoric this week from San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos and Ratnesar, the move by the District is a risky gamble, but one some have been long saying needed to be done. It is generally agreed Sutter, with the 2007 MOU, is operating from a hugely advantageous position that made the District's more defensive position a bit toothless. The next three to four months may prove whether the move was valiant and victorious or a historic blunder for health care in the East Bay. The stake are now as high as they have ever been and seemingly rest on a set of lawyers very familiar with Sutter who may have more of an uphill battle in San Leandro than in their previous battleground in Marin County.

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'WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON?' Tony Santos has been telling anyone who listens that he's had a finger on the San Leandro Hospital issue for two years--longer than anyone, he says--although Monday he says it's now three years. In the meantime, he has confounded supporters of the saving the hospital which is also a vast majority of the city, by positioning himself in the center of both sides, but more times than not oddly sounding like a Sutter apologist. He has criticized doctors at San Leandro Hospital for making it unprofitable by using facilities for some procedures and diagnostics. On numerous occasions, he has played the role of pragmatist by saying a private hospital chain is not entitled to provide a subsidy to keep a money-losing hospital operating and now has led the charge to discredit the Eden board's firing of their legal counsel. There is very little consensus as what Santos is aiming to accomplish, especially in the context of an election year in 2010. Supporters of the hospital have lit up message boards generally asking is he weakly trying to appear relevant or being used as a stooge by Sutter? One board member in a Facebook response to a comment from the mayor (now removed) actually wrote "Whose side are you on?" Despite noise over a possible deal with Sutter pushed by Santos and Ratnesar, sources still say the main issue with any hybrid option is a yearly subsidy of between $6-9 million. It was the crux of the problem before and still remains, sources tell The Citizen. An interesting side show to the this whole story, is a suggestion made by Alameda County Health Services Director Alex Briscoe where the District and the city of San Leandro pitch-in funding for some of the costs. Santos alluded to some groups asking the city to get involved and he seemed amendable to it. Any action would have to go through the city council where it would be interesting to see the issue debated between mayoral rivals Santos and Vice mayor Joyce Starosciak. In the past month, the two have used a few key city issues as proxy battles for next year's election. At a body where they have debated the use of a few measly dollars in a tight city budget situation, allocating a few millions dollars at San Leandro Hospital could be a heated showdown.

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THE COUNCIL OPTS FOR MOB VIOLENCE Politicians and reporters do not get along and nor should they, but there is usually a mutual appreciation of the services each other provides to their community. Reporters are sometimes critical of politicians and the reverse, but what numerous members of the San Leandro City Council did Monday night was over the line in criticizing a front page story in last week's San Leandro Times. The stoning of Amy Sylvestri's article on Measure WW funding was unmerciful. No less than five councilmembers commented on the piece. The Citizen is not here to vouch for the veracity of the article, but to remind the council to retain a bit of decorum. A journalists ability to present the facts of a story in a comprehensive and trustworthy manner is a reporters most cherished trait and it hampers their ability to put food on the table and pay the mortgage. Besides, the article was not factually incorrect, but a bit ambiguous. What the city sorely needs is to hire a public relations officer to make the city's case clear in such stories. Such piling on by the city council could have been glossed over if not for their residual bloodlust aimed at The Citizen. During a recess Monday night, Councilman Michael Gregory, referring to an article detailing his meeting with Eden boardmember Dr. Bill West, said he has not spoken with West for two months and said "You should get your facts straight." The statement, made as the face of the collective council was still dripping with the blood of the Times reporter, is preposterous. Here's the facts, the story quotes West saying he met with Gregory on the subject of the hospital while the mayor confirmed the meeting and another source detailed the conversation. Gregory was said to be uncomfortable with approaching West on the subject at the mayor's insistence. Other than the hospital being located in Gregory's district, he also lives in close proximity to West. Telling a reporter to get their facts straight when, indeed, they are rock solid is insulting and cavalier.

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GIVE ME A J-O-Y-C-E! You haven't seen campaign signs for Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak's run for Tony Santos' job yet, but a preview of one is on her web site and on glossy literature around the city. One irascible former city official thought they were "horrible" and another less cranky current official wondered if the absence of her last name meant she was admitting its was unpronounceable. Listen, it's not hard to say. Try it. Stuh-ROSE-see-ak. Aside from that, leaving out her surname from campaign signs is a bit peculiar when her name recognition is a bit low among most of the city. That being said, some have mocked the rhyming, sing-song tagline of "Joyce. Your Choice". I don't see anything wrong with it. In fact, after covering San Leandro for the last six months, I can tell you the city leaders are not only saddled with a financial deficit, but an extreme deficit of humor. Robin Williams would bomb at the city council chambers and if someone placed a banana peel on the ground for comedy effect, a councilmember would pick it up and put it in their compost bin. So, a little humor and personality is very welcomed and besides what would you expect from a former cheerleader? Gooooo team!--S.T.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Board's New Course Fraught With Danger

HEALTH SERVICES DIRECTOR SAYS LITIGATION COULD JEOPARDIZE HOSPITAL
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
Now that the Eden Township Healthcare District has cut ties with its legal counsel the board has effectively charted a new course in its bid to save San Leandro Hospital. The question becomes what exactly happens if the pursuit of a legal solution drags into the spring and summer months?

According to the Director of Alameda County Health Services Alex Briscoe, the move by the Eden board represents a risky gamble that may hamper the hospital's ability to function past July 1. "I think there's a faction on the board saying we are going to ignore the 2007 agreement," said Briscoe. "I hope the board has good legal advice from their lawyers that they can win and I don't know, maybe they do." The 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between Sutter Health and the District ensured the reconstruction of Eden Medical Center and gave San Leandro Hospital two years to reverse alleged financial losses. The agreement also gave Sutter the option to purchase the hospital which was pursued earlier this fall and blocked by the District. The dispute led to the filing of a lawsuit by Sutter in early November.

Briscoe agrees with statements made this week by San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos and Eden Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar saying the firing of long-time counsel Craig Cannizzo negatively influences any current deal to save the hospital. "They may have overstated it, but you would have to be a fool not to see this action could blow up in the board's face." Briscoe hesitated sounding the alarms on the hospital's demise but said, "Litigation could jeopardize any option at the hospital."

A day after the District's first attempt to remove Cannizzo, the attorney quickly scrambled to put together a deal involving the District, county and Sutter Health. Ratnesar told The Citizen, Sutter listened to the proposal out of respect for their long relationship with Cannizzo and the District. Sources, though, say Sutter has never had interest in entering into any arrangement with the hospital. Without confirming any talks with Sutter on a deal involving a hybrid medical facility at San Leandro Hospital, Briscoe said, "In the absence of real dollars, there is no deal." Briscoe has long maintained two studies confirm any hybrid option would need a yearly subsidy of between $6-9 million.

Stacey Wells, a spokesperson for Sutter Health, reiterated the health providers stance on the ownership of the San Leandro Hospital saying, "We have exercised our contractual right to acquire title to the property and we are pursuing title through the appropriate processes, given the District's refusal to convey title. This is an ongoing legal matter and anything further would be speculation."

Briscoe says the issue of the hospital's operating license becomes "critical to any plan" starting July 1 with or without a settlement of the hospital's ownership. When the county drew up plans months ago in advance of a possible transfer of the hospital, he says, part of the deal entails a short-term suspension of the hospital's license to avoid large additional capital expenses to the transaction's price tag instead of starting the licensing process from the beginning. What occurs if the current legal stalemate continues into the summer is unknown or whether an extension could be granted. Any announcement by Sutter to shutter the facility must occur 90 days before their year-long option to purchase the property passes July 1.

Santos told The Citizen Wednesday afternoon he supports the city procuring various government grants to keep the hospital open and says he has spoken with Rep. Pete Stark's office on the chance of receiving federal dollars. Santos, though, hesitated in supporting any allocation of city funds likely to run more than $1 million a year. Any deal involving city money would be difficult to come by in an already tight budget with drastic cuts on the horizon, Santos said.

Briscoe says the county will be willing to join any funding possibilities with the District and the city to add leverage to any plan against Sutter. He also indicated financial help to both entities could be discussed down the line, but fell short on indicating its likelihood in the current situation.

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Corbett Named Perfect Liberal

HAYASHI RECEIVES SCORE OF 89 IN CAPITOL WEEKLY'S YEARLY RANKINGS
Ranking the political ideology of liberals and conservatives is about as difficult as choosing your favorite child. Capitol Weekly, the Sacramento political newspaper attempted to separate the Legislature's political spectrum last week and found Sen. Ellen Corbett to be one of eight "perfect liberals in the State Senate. Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi received an 89 out of possible 100--100 being a "perfect liberal" and zero being a "perfect conservative."

Click here to view Capitol Weekly's rankings.

The charts were compiled from 19 bills including the budget bill, Harvey Milk Day, the infamously expunged oil drilling bill and legislation to bypass an environmental study for a football stadium in Southern California.

Others receiving a perfect liberal score in the Senate include state Sens. Loni Hancock, Christine Kehoe, Mark Leno, Alan Lowenthal, Fran Pavley, Joe Simitian and Pat Wiggins.

In the Assembly nine legislators received a perfect liberal mark, including Assemblymembers Tom Ammiano, Julia Brownly, Mark Feuer, Jared Huffman, Bonnie Lowenthal, Bill Manning, Pedro Nava, Mary Salas and Nancy Skinner.

Assemblyman Mike Villines was the only person in the entire Legislature to garner a perfect conservative score. Villines is running for state insurance commissioner in 2010.
-STEVEN TAVARES
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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lawyer Out; Questions Begin

EDEN DISTRICT BOARD VOTES TO FIRE LEGAL COUNSEL, 3-2....THREE FORMER BOARDMEMBERS FAIL TO SWAY DIRECTORS....RATNESAR ON HOSPITAL: 'IT WILL GO DOWN IN FLAMES'.....CRITICS SAY FIRING PUTS NEGOTIATIONS WITH SUTTER AT RISK....ALSO SAY HOSPITAL COULD BE CLOSED JULY 1


By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
HAYWARD, Calif. - A few members of the Eden Township Healthcare District added a new attorney to their Christmas wish list Monday night with the firing of its legal counsel. Critics, including Mayor Tony Santos and District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar, say the move puts the future of San Leandro Hospital at risk of closure July 1.

Directors Dr. Vin Sawhney, Dr. Bill West and Carole Rogers voted to replace long-time District lawyer Craig Cannizzo. The board appointed current co-counsel Colin Coffey of Archer Norris to interim general counsel. Coffey is said to be familiar with Sutter in the courtroom. Archer Norris also represents Marin General Hospital in its legal disputes with the Sacramento-based conglomerate.

It was the second such attempt to fire Cannizzo in less than a week. West switched his vote from last week, while Dr. Harry Dvorsky and Ratnesar maintained their dissent. Afterwards, Ratnesar said he fears the hospital will "go down in flames."

In addition to the move, the board approved the formation of a search committee to review a possible replacement and named Rogers, West, San Leandro City Councilman Michael Gregory and Lester Friedman, an attorney who previously sought to replace the departed Dr. Walter Kran on the board last month.


Earlier in the day, The Citizen reported disenchantment over the possibility of Cannizzo's removal from San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos. He believes significant movement made during the past three days regarding the "hybrid model" will be jeopardized by the firing. Ratnesar also agreed with the statement.

"I think we are in a crucial stage at this point," said Ratnesar. "Mr. Cannizzo, after last week's meeting, has made an attempt to get the discussion going with the hybrid option and there has been significant movement on that and I fear, if Mr. Cannizzo is taken off this, the whole thing will collapse."

When Ratnesar was asked Monday night if the firing of Cannizzo has killed the proposal he said, "This is what has happened" and said he fears a protracted legal fight could destroy the District's finances.

Sawhney also mentioned the possibility of Prime Health entering the picture after July 1. The Southern California-based health provider briefly entered the equation in June. Numerous sources say Sutter has no intention of ever allowing a competitor operate San Leandro Hospital just miles away from its $320 million soon-to-be remodeled Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. "It is a disputed lease," said Sawhney. "They can leave the same as someone else can come in."

The veracity of any deal between Sutter, the county and the District involving a hybrid facility was downplayed by Sawhney as a plan bandied about for over year without any success. "[Alameda County Supervisor] Alice Lai-Bitker tried it--it didn't go far. Ellen Corbett had a meeting. I met with multiple parties including the county, Alex Briscoe and political powers to look at that and it didn't go anywhere," said Sawhney. "Sutter has not indicated whatsoever, in any way, that they will be supportive of it."

Three former District boardmembers publicly spoke on behalf of Cannizzo to no avail. Dr. Francisco Rico defended Cannizzo's brusque personality saying, "Your best friend can be your best critic" and warned the group to be wary of any other law firms with financial incentive to gain representation. Dr. Walter Kran, whose resignation in September likely set the stage for Monday's actions, said Cannizzo "knows the details that we're not aware of." Another District alum Suzanne Barba said Cannizzo "has always had the District's back."

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"Sutter can virtually wipe the entire District out," Ratnesar said, but not everyone sees the firing in a negative light.

Sawhney expressed he was content with the board's decision saying, "I personally have a very positive outlook that the hospital will be around and the community needs it,"he said.

There is also dispute, according to Sawhney, absent a settlement between Sutter and the District over the ownership of San Leandro Hospital, that the facility will shutdown July 1. "
The property is in dispute. Without title to the property, they really can't close it," Sawhney said. "The issue would be they can walk away as of July 1, but that does not mean the hospital is closed."

Santos: Without Solution Hospital Will Close July 1

After receiving news of the Eden Township Healthcare District's decision to fire its legal counsel Monday night, San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos addressed the city council chambers and reflected the views of the District's chair criticizing the board's move and saying without a quick resolution to Sutter's lawsuit against the District, San Leandro Hospital will close July 1. Here is a transcript of Santos' statement:
I, along with Councilmember [Jim] Prola and Councilmember [Michael] Gregory were at the Eden Township hospital board meeting on Dec. 16 and I personally reiterated the position of San Leandro and that is we want the hospital and the ER to remain open. I offered and I have offered in the past and I continue to offer to work with all the parties to try and solve this matter short of litigation. There is a lawsuit pending and it turns out if that litigation is not solve real soon the hospital will effectively close on July 1.

So, with the firing today of the Eden Township Hospital District's counsel and a temporary replacement with the possibility of the present board setting up an ad-hoc committee to select a replacement counsel they may not have ample time to get an attorney up to speed and that could create a real problem. Therefore, it is--I hope council will think about this--but it is really imperative that the present board come up with a plan whereby they can work with all of the involved group to get some type of program in place which would keep the hospital operating beyond July 1. Whether or not the board can come up with a plan which everybody will accept--I'm not certain--but I hope they will work on that.

There has been a suggested plan to keep the hospital operating over the next four or five years with an ER with an urgent care unit with rehab on the fourth floor. Whether that is going to fly or not is up to the involved parties. I don't see a way they can solve this lawsuit without compromise in the next seven months. It's in their camp and hopefully they will be able to reach an agreement.
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Monday, December 21, 2009

Eden Board to Fire Legal Representation

>>>Citizen Exclusive<<<
MAYOR, COUNCILMAN MET WITH WEST; SANTOS SAYS FIRING WOULD HAMPER POSSIBLE 'ARRANGEMENT' IN THE WORKS
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
Eden Township Healthcare District boardmembers will attempt to fire their legal representation for the second time in less than a week. The District announced a special meeting for tonight less than two days after Director Dr. Vin Sawhney unsuccessfully moved to dismissed its long-time lawyer, Craig Cannizzo of Hooper, Lundy and Bookman, Inc.

The surprising turn of events at Wednesday's night regular meeting was tempered when Director Dr. Bill West, the board's newest member--in his first meeting--voted against Sawhney's motion, retaining the status quo for the moment, but multiple sources say the past 72 hours have been tumultuous leaving the potential for the already thorny San Leandro Hospital saga to become far more complicated.

According to sources, Cannizzo will be fired and replaced by the current co-counsel Colin Coffey of the law firm Archer Norris, but whether such a meeting would actually occur Monday night was up in the air over the weekend.

Rogers told The Citizen the District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar voiced concern over the legality of the meeting. Ratnesar believes members of the board violated the Brown Act by allegedly colluding to call the meeting--a charge Rogers denies. "Raj is doing everything to cancel the meeting," said Rogers. "They're pulling at straws."

This morning Eden Township Healthcare Distrtict CEO Dev Mahadevan said he found no such violation and the meeting will proceed as scheduled 5:30 p.m. at the Hayward H.A.R.D office.

Such a violation of the Brown Act, the landmark state law which encourages government openness, charged by Ratnesar would be an ironic twist in a story that with more surprises than an episode of "General Hospital." Members of the community and several San Leandro councilmembers charged Ratnesar Sept. 3 with violating the Brown Act when a supporters were denied access to the meeting at Eden Medical Center.

As of today, it is unclear what led West to change is mind from cautious prudence last Wednesday to certitude on Friday? Sources say West reconsidered and sought to call the special meeting in the days after Sawhney attempted to fire Cannizzo leading the lawyer to abruptly leave the meeting. His absence left the District without legal representation for over 30 minutes.

The Citizen has also learned West met with San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos and City Councilman Michael Gregory, who represents the district where San Leandro Hospital is located. Santos confirmed the meeting and said the purpose was to provide West with the city's perspective regarding the hospital. A source with direct knowledge of the conversation, though, says Santos and Gregory lobbied West against firing the District's legal counsel for fear talks between Sutter Health and the county could breakdown in the aftermath.

In an email Friday, West denied any discussion about Cannizzo with city officials saying, "Michael Gregory and I have had some informal and brief talks but not over the subject of legal council for the district and it would be very incorrect to imply that in any reports of yours."

Santos cautioned against the District's possible move to fire its legal representation saying it may scuttle a possible "arrangement" in the works. "This is not the time for this," Santos said Monday and later added "If the hospital is closed after June 30, it will be because of the actions of Rogers and Dr. Sawhney."

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Thursday, December 17, 2009

Santos Joins the Fight

MAYOR 'DEMANDS' HOSPITAL AND ER KEPT OPEN; RESIDENTS CALL FOR RATNESAR'S RESIGNATION
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
HAYWARD, Calif. - San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos made his most forceful public plea yet to save San Leandro Hospital and its ER. Speaking to the Eden Township Healthcare District Board of Directors Wednesday night, Santos pointedly called for the facility to remain open.

"The people of San Leandro are united on this issue and I stand firmly with them offering hope and demand that the facility remain open along the the ER," said Santos.

In the past six months, many in the community have criticized the mayor's perceived lack of involvement on the issue. While maintaining he has been working on the issue for over two years, his public comments since June have appeared to some as indifference and at times mirroring Sutter talking points, making Wednesday's statements without any equivocation the more surprising, although he later disagreed his position has changed.

"I stand committed to work with you and all other interested parties to find a way to insure everyone in the district has access to quality hospital services," said Santos. He told The Citizen later, the impetus for his more forceful comments came from a decision last week by the Alameda County Medical Center (ACMC) to not apply for a license to operate emergency room services at San Leandro Hospital. "To be quite blunt, I am upset at ACMC," said Santos. "If you say you're going to do something, you should do it."

If Sutter's claim to purchase San Leandro Hospital is granted by the Districit or the courts, it would then lease the property to ACMC to run the hospital as an acute rehabilitation facility without emergency room services. Santos, who is running for re-election in 2010, has backed a "hybrid" plan to operate the hospital as an acute rehab, surgical center and emergency room facility, but made no reference to it Wednesday night. The public exclusion of any alternative proposal for San Leandro Hospital by the mayor is telling and points to a breakdown in already tenuous negotiations between Sutter, ACMC and the District.

Santos' comments coupled with Eden Healthcare Director Dr. Vin Sawhney's attempt to fire the District's legal counsel Wednesday point to a new path by supporters of the hospital involving the courts and the legality of the 2007 Memorandum of Understanding between Sutter and the District. Director Carole Rogers said she has received advice from three separate law firms confirming her belief the agreement can be challenged in court.

Mention of District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar's open letter last week became combustible as some speakers called for his resignation and again raised doubts of his impartiality as a boardmember and employee of Sutter. The letter was criticized for fomenting what many believe is a non-existent split among communities.

"I think it unwise to try and pit people against each other in the two communities of Castro Valley and San Leandro," said state Sen. Ellen Corbett. "I have not seen that at any of the discussions at any of the public meetings that you have held. People are supportive of keeping both hospitals open."

Representatives for the California Nurses Association, the Save San Leandro Coalition and San Leandro City Councilman Jim Prola called for the resignation of Ratnesar and its legal counsel. "It is imperative and a matter of life and death for our residents to keep San Leandro Hospital as a acute care hospital with an ER," said Prola. "In order to do that you need to get more aggressive with Sutter and in order to do that you need a new board president and a new attorney to give you advice."
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The Citizen FILE on TONY SANTOS AND SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL
>>>Effectiveness of Local Pols has been Hit and Miss, Oct. 5, 2009.
>>>The Slowly Disappearing City Council, Aug. 28, 2009.
>>>Santos: Hospital's losses partly from Doctor's Private Practices, Aug. 6, 2009
>>>Enabled by Local Government; Sutter Holds the Cards, July 16, 2009.
>>>GRAPHIC: With Hospital on the Verge of Closing, Where's Tony Santos?, June 16, 2009.
>>>Where in the World is Tony Santos?, June 9, 2009.
>>>Santos Takes Timeout to Speak; Defend Self, June 1, 2009.
>>>Q&A with Mayor Tony Santos, June 1, 2009.

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Eden Board Unsuccessfully Attempts to Fire Counsel

DR. VIN SAWHNEY'S MOTION TO TERMINATE DISTRICT'S COUNSEL FAILS....NEW MEMBER DR. WEST TORPEDOES MOTION.....SAWHNEY: 'I DO NOT HAVE CONFIDENCE IN HIM.'....LAWYER CALLS SAWHNEY 'FOOLISH'.
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
HAYWARD, Calif. - Many in the community, including a few local officials, have long questioned the credibility of the Eden Township Healthcare District's legal counsel. Wednesday night, Board Director Dr. Vin Sawhney attempted to remove the District's long-time lawyer, but was blocked by its newest member.

The uncommonly combative exchange occurred near the end of the nearly four hour meeting when most of the larger-than-normal crowd and other reporters had left. After returning from executive session, Sawhney abruptly called for the immediate dismissal of its lead counsel, Craig Cannizzo.

"I personally think he's not the appropriate person to represent us," said Sawhney. "In my judgment the opinions that have been given to us by Mr. Craig Cannizzo--our legal counsel--have not been unbiased, so I do not have confidence in him."

Fellow member Carole Rogers agreed with Sawhney, while Dr. Harry Dvorsky and Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar voiced concern in modifying the District's legal counsel with a lawsuit by Sutter Health still pending. "This would be the wrong move at this point in time and would jeopardize all the efforts that have been put into this and send the wrong message to Sutter Health," said Ratnesar.

The board's newest member, the recently appointed Dr. Bill West, was thrust into controversy during his first meeting. West voted against the motion saying he did not feel he had enough information to make a decision, but not before Cannizzo voiced considerable displeasure with Sawhney's comments and mocked the assumption his law firm would cooperate with any possible replacement counsel.

"I am shocked that such a spontaneous accusation of bias and a lack of confidence never mentioned in any other forum or any communication whatsoever would be the basis of a motion. This is the very kind of serendipitous, reckless kind of behavior that I would not expect of this board," said Cannizzo.

"I'm just staggered that you would expect, under that kind of betrayal, to cooperate and make things gentle. That is a foolish assumption on your part, although you seem to make a number of foolish assumptions," said Cannizzo before Ratnesar interrupted in an attempt to diffuse the situation.

Shortly afterwards, Cannizzo gathered his belongings and stormed out the room telling the District's co-counsel they were free to leave. Eyewitnesses say they could hear Cannizzo yelling in the parking lot as the meeting continued.

Sawhney later refuted Cannizzo's assertion that he was unaware of some boardmember's lack of confidence in his legal opinions. "I have communicated it to him and others in many meetings have said the same thing," said Sawhney.

"He's upset because I'm trying to make a change. I heard everything he said. That's perfectly fine. That's his right. He made $600,000 in the last year and six months from the District for very small part-time work, so naturally when I'm trying to dislodge that it is a personal issue for him."

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Lawyer to Sawhney: You're Foolish

Eden Township Healthcare Director Dr. Vin Sawhney shocked many Wednesday night when he called for the dismissal of the District's legal counsel Craig Cannizzo saying he had "no confidence in him." Going back to the summer, many supporters of saving San Leandro Hospital and loud voices from the California Nurses Association have directed harsh words towards the long-time District lawyer. Earlier in the meeting, San Leandro City Councilman Jim Prola also called for Cannizzo's termination. Here is a transcript of Cannizzo's entire statement to the board, but directed at Sawhney:
I need to comment since the comments are all directed in my direction and it assumes a level of transition and cooperation which may or may not, depending upon the motion, actually occur. Let me explain: first of all, that I am shocked that such a spontaneous accusation of bias and a lack of confidence never mentioned in any other forum or any communication whatsoever would be the basis of a motion, this is the very kind of serendipitous, reckless kind of behavior that I would not expect of this board. Having said that, I do not know what the bias is or the lack of credibility you are referring because you've never discussed it. Furthermore, if there is an assumption that we will amiably transition a representation of this District over a period of time is a falsehood. It seems to be a predicate of the motion and will not necessarily occur that way and, in fact, if the motion were to pass it would very likely would mean we would withdraw from representation of this District effective immediately, so you need to keep that under consideration and that's why I brought it to your attention. It's an essential predicate of your motion that there would be a transition. Given the ambush that has been staged here--unsupported, undocumented, uncommented upon in any setting--I'm just staggered that you would expect, under that kind of betrayal, to cooperate and make things gentle. That is a foolish assumption on your part, although you seem to make a number of foolish assumptions.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

An Inspired Choice

THE EDITORIAL
The choice of Fred Korematsu is more than honoring a man, it honors an idea in short supply these days. Too often today our heroes are manufactured. As we've seen in the past few weeks, this sort of hero, while able to demoralize an entire field of golfers, has foibles just like the rest of us, but their worship is derived from excellence, not ideology. Therefore, athletes and movies stars are programmed to be perfect and when they are found to be anything but, they feed the tabloids and become fodder for water cooler discussions of the inane.

Fred Korematsu is a hero because history searched for him and not the other way around. While he believed Executive Order 9066 was deeply offensive to his sense of being an American, it was not until his arrest in San Leandro did history find the man who could fight back against the injustice of Japanese internment. It must be remembered, speaking out against the government was deeply frowned upon by the very Japanese-Americans who were forced to uproot families and live in dusty squalor. These were also deeply proud Americans who held the pain and humiliation of internment deep in their psyches. It is very common for the children of those sequestered during World War II to have known nothing of their parents experience into adulthood.

The U.S. government inflicted one of the most unkindest cuts in the 20th century and it took one man and a team of tenacious lawyer to reverse this immoral wrong. When Korematsu stood before District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in 1983 and said, “If anyone should do any pardoning, I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese-American people” it did more than chastise the actions of U.S. government, it summoned the ghosts of the American colonists who eloquently and bravely fought for our cherished independence. It bore the essence of millions of laborers who fought for rights which are slowly eroding in the present.

It is imperative that the inspired choice of naming the new ninth grade campus after Korematsu must also include current references to the post-9/11 handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay and the overall treatment of all Muslim-Americans in the years since. History has already repeated itself. This current saga in American history already has its own Fred Korematsu. Like the civil rights leader, the case of Salim Ahmed Hamdan aims to the core of overactive presidential authority just as Korematsu claimed back in 1942. Hamdan, a Yemeni who was detained and sent to Guantanamo sued the government in Hamdan vs. Rumsfeld. The U.S. Supreme Court eventually ruled the Bush administration's desire to try defendants in military tribunals was unconstitutional and ran afoul of the Geneva Convention. The charges against Hamdan were dismissed in June 2007.

Stephen Cassidy is right when he said the honoring of Fred Korematsu is a civics lesson for the youth of San Leandro. There is no better historical figure who can inspire the centuries old desire of Americans to fight against injustice to forge a better nation. The San Leandro School Board did the right thing Tuesday night. They should be proud and the city will one day soon bask in the spirit of Fred Korematsu's accomplishments as it begins to filter into the minds of a new generations of courageous Americans next fall.

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School Board Names New Campus after Civil Rights Icon

UNANIMOUS VOTE FOR 'SAN LEANDRO HIGH SCHOOL, FRED KOREMATSU CAMPUS'
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

During the height of Pearl Harbor hysteria, Fred Korematsu was arrested on the corner of East 14th Street and Joaquin Avenue for being of Japanese descent. Sixty-seven years later and less than a mile away, the San Leandro School Board unanimously voted to name the ninth grade campus after the civil rights leader.

Korematsu, who died in 2005, may not be the most recognizable in a short list of notable American civil rights heroes, but his contributions to rectifying one of the United States government's darkest moments is widely respected among activists and legal scholars

"I hope my father's story will be an inspiration to high school kids," Karen Korematsu said of her father, "because they need positive role models."

Through three rounds of balloting, Korematsu received votes from every school trustee. Slain San Leandro Policeman Dan Niemi and the generic word "freshman" were also finalists.

"This is an example of how we want to model our students after," said School Board President Mike Katz. "Because of his willingness to break the law, millions were able to regain their civil rights."

Former board trustee and mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy said none of the city's schools are named for San Leandrans or minorities. "This is an opportunity to offer a civics lesson," said Cassidy, who was one of a small group who revved the campaign to use the soon-to-be-completed high school campus to honor Korematsu.

Korematsu's friend from his time as president of the San Leandro Lions Club recalls an unassuming, gentle man who enjoyed his pipe. When asked what Korematsu would make of the school district's honor bestowed upon him, Ray Kaden said, "He would pull twice from his pipe and say 'good.'"

"You wouldn't know he did what he did," said Kaden. "You had to pull information out of him. He never boasted about it."

One overlooked aspect of the internment experience was a lack of opposition from Japanese-Americans who viewed capitulation as a way of proving their loyalty to the U.S. Kaden remembers a Japanese-American Lions Club member who still harbored animosity towards Korematsu's for his actions.

Korematsu's long fight for justice began after President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered over 120,000 Japanese-Americans into internment camps. Korematsu resisted and became a fugitive, attempting to alter his features to look Caucasian and changed his name to elude authorities. On May 30, 1942, he was arrested in San Leandro. His case was subsequently used to test the government's authority to detain Japanese-Americans. He was later convicted of disobeying the executive order which was upheld in the U.S. Court of Appeals and famously at the U.S. Supreme Court. Legal experts call the decision one of the worst in American legal history.

In 1983, a team of lawyers, including Alameda County Superior Court Judge Dennis Hayashi, successfully argued for the reversal of Korematsu's 1943 conviction. The decision later led to an apology from the U.S. government and reparations. With his legacy already secure, Korematsu stood defiant before the government once more and said, "“If anyone should do any pardoning, I should be the one pardoning the government for what they did to the Japanese-American people.”
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The Citizen FILE on FRED KOREMATSU...
>>>Civil Rights Leader Tops List of Ninth Grade Campus Nominees, Dec. 1, 2009.

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Monday, December 14, 2009

S.F. Weekly's Red Scare

SAVE SAN LEANDRO SUPPORTERS UNITE! WHAT?
Someone tell SF Weekly if you want to stoke the potent mixture of ideologiy and nationalism, the recipe of the day is fundamentalist Islam, not communism. That's soooo 1950, comrade. If the post-nuclear war holocaust of the 80's miniseries "The Day After" didn't spook you then the follow-up "Amerika" where the Soviets overthrew the U.S. government didn't make you think your Datsun-driving, Crystal Pepsi-drinking neighbor harbored Marxist tendencies, either.

Then why did SF Weekly's Matt Smith paint a well-meaning, yet assuredly shadowy activist group attempting to save St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco and San Leandro Hospital from being gobbled by Sutter Health, with such crusty Cold War descriptions in last week's edition? Because the newsweekly may have had more economic reasons in mind.

The article attempts to link the Physicians Organizing Committee, a small band of well-informed, sometimes militant supporters of San Leandro Hospital, to the National Labor Federation (NatlFed). Some believe the labor organization has political ties to the communist party, but Smith ups the ante with wild accusations grounded in reading too many Cold War-era comic books than evidence..

"Historically, the stated goal of NatlFed is one that would likely even discomfit the Bay Area liberals the organization targets for recruiting: the violent overthrow of the U.S. government," he writes. Ever been to Berkeley?

Other than numerous attempts to slip in nuggets of vintage Red Scare hysteria, Smith says the Physicians Organizing Committee and, by extension NatlFed, have never been charged with a crime and hilariously never accused of committing an act of terrorism. He cites lawyers who find nothing untowards by the groups other than their tactics grounded in common labor activism with a modicum of secrecy.

The Physicians Organizing Committee and the member cited in the article, Brian Tseng, have been ubiquitous at numerous meetings in support of San Leandro Hospital. Tseng, in particular, is known to be very passionate about keeping both hospitals functioning. A political consultant in the East Bay once told The Citizen, "Don't get in an argument with that guy." Make no mistake, Tseng is no shrinking violet.

After a meeting of the Eden Township Healthcare District last month he delivered a blistering condemnation of Sutter's alleged tactic of "medical redlining" poor patients from richer ones to former board member and Sutter-backer Dr. Frank Rico, A visibly flustered Rico called Tseng "a typical liberal." Tseng later told me he was surprisingly not a liberal. (Alert! He may have admitted his communist beliefs.)

In hindsight, the Physicians Organizing Committee has exhibited many of the behaviors Smith describes. Other than Tseng, the group appears to be a group of young followers and doctors who when asked for an opinion seem to go blank. This summer, when one doctor addressed a hearing featuring numerous local politicians including state Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, he publicly charged Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker with having "secret" meetings with Sutter. The accusation was unheard of at the time and when I asked him a follow up question he had no idea what he had just read. "Is that what I said?" he told me. Tseng rushed up to us, ended the conversation and stuck a generic press release in my hands.

It is not uncommon for volunteers to read pre-written statements in public hearings. Like the doctor, these people appear to have no idea what they are reading as they stammer over phrasing seen for the very first time. While the prose is illuminating and informative, they strike some observers as odd in their orchestration.

Some supporters, not affiliated with the California Nurses Association (CNA), say SF Weekly and Smith have shown a decidedly pro-Sutter/anti-labor stance in their coverage of St. Luke's--the San Francisco version of the fight to keep San Leandro Hospital from closure. In it, Smith describes various gambits on the union's part to stymie Sutter's drive to transform the region's hospital system.

In a Feb. 3 SF Weekly article, the same author prefaces his indictment of CNA--a labor union, attempting to protect union jobs while saving a community asset--by calling it his "favorite labor union." Some following the both hospital situations say Smith's articles smack of Sutter's talking points for its plan to close St. Luke's, which is located in a depressed area of San Francisco, and open a larger facility in a better part of the city. Sound familiar? The same charges are being levied against Sutter in San Leandro where more non-paying, impoverished patients frequent the hospital than the more affluent, under construction Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley.

"By holding up nearly $1.7 billion in shovel-ready infrastructure spending that would create thousands of jobs — just as America's economic free-fall threatens to throw millions of workers into poverty — is a cause unbecoming of my favorite labor union."

The imagery of shadowy conspirators lurking in the shadows does not end with Smith's prose, but is contained in a recent letter from an elected official in the East Bay. Fast forward to last week and Eden Township Healthcare District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar's "Letter to the Community" says essentially the same thing when he fingered fellow boardmembers, the community and unions as threatening the entire health care system. "The two Board members, encouraged by vocal supporters and labor unions in San Leandro, are secretly attempting to have the District attempt to rescind the agreement with Sutter Health which was approved by the District after five public meetings in 2007 and which lead to Sutter's commitment to rebuild Eden and support San Leandro Hospital," said Ratnesar.

If you need more evidence to believe SF Weekly is holding the bag for Sutter look no further than this pro-business statement: "David-versus-Goliath fulfillment of beating back a large corporation can confuse activists into thinking that victory comes when Goliath either dies or leaves town — even though exiting giants may take with them things the city badly needs," wrote Smith.
-STEVEN TAVARES
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The Citizen FILE on Labor Unions

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Starosciak Slips Up; Santos Gloats

Future of RCV Becomes Battle for Campaign Points | Ratnesar Rallies the Troop(s) | H1N1 to Save Hospital? | Hannity Hawking Chevys in S.L.
It's be a rocky few weeks for the Joyce Starosciak for Mayor campaign proving beating an entrenched incumbent is not all that easy. She raised eyebrows last month when she created the imagery of a "decaying" San Leandro, to which Mayor Tony Santos hammered away. He told The Citizen last Monday hours before an oddly riveting council meeting that he will allude to Starosciak's comment at every chance he gets. Now comes Ranked Choice Voting. A policy issue that Starosciak framed as an example of how she will adhere to budgetary constraint as mayor. One problem, though, Santos and Councilman Jim Prola outflanked Starosciak on the issue Monday night and may have delivered a stinging early defeat for the vice mayor. For Starosciak, the problem with RCV is not the mechanics of the voting system, but the cost. For Santos, it is ideological, which is less flexible, than dollars and cents. One observer Monday night wondered why Starosciak was not aware she lacked four votes to block RCV, but maybe she did. Once Councilman Bill Stephens reiterated Starosciak's belief the time for RCV was not now, it appeared she had the votes to score a big political victory. Then, Councilwoman Ursula Reed, who appeared highly skeptical about RCV in previous council meetings inexplicably jumped ship. The net zero outcome brought Starosciak's motion down in flames and allowed Prola to buy RCV a month's worth of time. In the meantime, Santos and Prola will need to find a way to neutralize Starosciak's money argument while search for alternate funding to lower the upfront costs. Prola's gambit worked and the motion passed 5-2 on the assumption Oakland approves RCV on Jan. 6 (they will) and San Leandro will pass the hat around the county. The political play on Starosciak looks triumphant for Santos right now. He was particularly proud of the council's decision afterwards, but the issues holding back RCV today may still exist Jan. 19 when the council revisits it. A person with knowledge of the county's budget situation said "funds would not be easy to come by." Alameda County, like most government bodies, is already dealing with a multi-million dollar budget shortfall. With city and county services being cut, it may be politically dubious for the county to front San Leandro money for an expenditure the public did not voice a preference to enact. One elected official at Monday's council meeting summed up the proxy battle unfolding over RCV saying, "Do you think this has anything to do with what the city needs? No. It's all about their campaigns."

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RATNESAR IS ATTACKING THE PEOPLE HE SEEKS The California Nurses Association sent out fliers this week hoping to attract a throng of supporters to the Dec. 16 Eden Township Healthcare District meeting. The militant tone of the leaflets are a hallmark of an self-respecting union and have been effective in both rattling and emboldening members of the board. "Don’t let Sutter, Ratnesar and Alameda County Steal our Community Hospital. Stand up to the intimidation," said the flier. Two weeks ago, The Citizen, called on local politicians to again rally opposition to Sutter Health's plans to shutter the hospital. Oddly, it is the District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar, who is whipping residents into a frenzy this week with his "Letter to the Community." Some around town are wondering just who the letter was intended for since it calls out supporters of San Leandro Hospital and labor unions. According to these sources, aren't those the people in the community Ratnesar is hoping to attract? District Director Carole Rogers pointed out in her response to the letter "99.9 percent" of those at public hearings are in favor of keeping the hospital open. As a reporter who has been at every meeting since the beginning of May I can report it has been a solid 100 percent. I have yet to hear one resident speak of the desire to have the hospital closed other than two of the former board members who actually negotiated the disastrous 2007 Memorandum of Understanding--Suzanne Barba and Dr. Frank Rico.

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THE SAVIOR OF SLH: H1N1? By now, it is well known Sutter flipped its collective lid when The Citizen reported Santos' comments in council chambers that the H1N1 virus would keep San Leandro Hospital open until the end of January. Did he muddle Sutter's secret plans or were they annoyed by the mayor placing an artificial date on their plans to lease the hospital to the Alameda County Medical Center? Santos said he didn't know why Sutter was so angry, but could you imagine the media scorn heaped upon Sutter for closing a hospital during this winter's much-hyped flu epidemic? Now, Dr. Ratnesar is the latest elected official to put a possible date on the hospital's demise. According to Ratnesar's letter, the patient has only six months to live. This latest threat of a mid-summer closing, in fact, may just be stating the end of the Sutter's one-year long window to close the facility. Nevertheless, the pullout date is as set in stone as President Obama's 2011 exit of Afghanistan, which is to say it will surely be fudged. Many in the community believe the hospital situation is in a legal holding pattern with Sutter's lawsuit against the District amid secret negotiations that will likely fail to achieve a satisfactory deal for the public. One scenario frequently mentioned is the possibility of legal action against Sutter which would bog down the entire situation in the courts. The positive side for supporters of the hospital is, with or without the curious help of H1N1, the facility could conceivably be open for another year.

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'TELL THEM YOUR FRIEND SEAN HANNITY SENT YOU' You could almost imagine the Bay Area as one huge bubble of liberal hegemony. I use to work in San Francisco during the heart of the tumultuous Bush years and good luck finding a Republican to argue the Bush policies of the day. We have no idea how the rest of the more moderate country really behaves. Around this area, names like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck are met with dirty scowls which it makes it odd San Leandro auto dealer FH Dailey would run radio ads with the pugnacious Fox News commentator Sean Hannity selling Chevrolets in San Leandro. The 60-second spots which run on local conservative talk radio station KSFO appeared after the Raiders triumphant victory last Sunday over Pittsburgh. KSFO runs Hannity's show weekdays, but the thought of enticing Chevy buyers to San Leandro with the bane of liberal thought is an odd marketing plan. The next thing you know Alan Colmes will be hawking rifles for a gun shop on East 14th. (Listen to the spot here.) S.T.

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Emanuel 'Hasn't Had an Honest Job in his Life' says Stark

STARK DISAGREES WITH OBAMA ON TAX CREDIT FOR HIRING WORKERS
President Barack Obama called for the creation of more jobs, Rep. Pete Stark called the president's chief of staff a bum. Just another day of Democrats snipping at each other.

Obama hesitated in calling his jobs bill another stimulus plan at a speech at the Brookings Institute, but added two new wrinkles to the plan that may displease members of his own party. One would be a tax credit for homeowners who remodel their homes to be more energy efficient. Critics have dubbed the proposal "cash for caulkers" and say the bill would be a boon for major home improvement corporations such as Home Depot and Lowe's.

More derisively, Democrats on Capitol Hill are unhappy with the president's plan to offer small businesses tax credits for hiring workers. Stark, who sits on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee told Bloomberg.com, "I’d say that’s not very popular among my colleagues.” But, he was just being kind.

In an article posted on the NASDAQ web site, Stark took out his anger on Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel for the inclusion of the tax credit for businesses."That's just Rahm Emanuel trying to be all things to all people. [He] hasn't had an honest job in his life," Stark said.

"My guess is that tax credits as a job creator are not something that would move out of our committee," said Stark. Many Democrats say they prefer to spur job growth through investments in infrastructure.

Undoubtedly, the former Congressman from Illinois and architect of the new Democrat majority, is one of Washington's most notorious trash-talkers. The president once said Emanuel rarely forgets to pepper a sentence with an F-bomb. In response to Stark, I'm sure Emanuel conjugated the F-word in every way possible.
-STEVEN TAVARES
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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ratnesar's Letter Ignites Firestorm of Responses

OPEN LETTER ACCUSES DISTRICT MEMBERS OF PUTTING HOSPITALS AT RISK...SEN. CORBETT CALLS IT "ANOTHER SCARE TACTIC"....ROGERS: BOARD DID NOT APPROVE LETTER...DESPITE LAWSUIT, RATNESAR CLAIMS 2008 MOU GIVES SUTTER RIGHTS TO SLH
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
In an open letter to the community, Eden Township Healthcare District Chair Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar accused two of its board members of putting the futures of both San Leandro Hospital and Eden Medical Center at grave risk.

The letter, sent Tuesday afternoon to various media outlets, ignited terse responses from state Sen. Ellen Corbett and current District Director Carole Rogers. Director Dr. Vin Sawhney and Rogers appear to be the intended targets of Ratnesar's surprising missive.

"Recent efforts by two District Board members are stopping progress and seriously threatening the future of all of our hospitals," writes Ratnesar. "In their well-intentioned attempt to save San Leandro Hospital, they are posing a serious threat to San Leandro Hospital, Eden Hospital, the future Sutter Medical Center in Castro Valley, and services at Alameda County Medical Center."

Corbett lashed out at the statement Tuesday calling it "disingenuous, inaccurate and another scare tactic to stop the public from fighting the closure of their hospitals in Castro Valley and San Leandro."

She also supported the efforts of the board, saying it is "working to protect a public asset and ensure that San Leandro Hospital does not become a victim of Sutter Health’s ongoing pattern of irresponsible practices.”

Corbett, who has asked the attorney general's office to investigate Sutter, also forcefully charged Sutter with not making a credible effort to find a solution to the hospital crisis , "It is Sutter Health that has filed the lawsuit that threatens to spend the important remaining assets of the district instead of agreeing to a thoughtful and legitimate mediation process that allows for a less costly solution.”

Rogers, in her response, said the Ratnesar's letter did not receive the approval of the entire board. (Below is an opinion piece from Rogers.)

Last month, Sutter Health sued the District for the transfer of San Leandro Hospital and $5 million in lost revenue. The lawsuit arose from a 3-1 vote by the District in October to block Sutter's option to purchase the hospital. A day after the vote, Sutter announced a lease agreement with the Alameda County Medical Center to run San Leandro Hospital as an acute rehabilitation facility without emergency room services. Afterwards, one director abruptly resigned. Proponents of saving the hospital believe his replacement Dr. Bill West give them a solid majority on the current board.

Despite the lack of a settlement between Sutter and the District over ownership of the hospital, Ratnesar paints a peculiar and somewhat defeatist outlook on the situation while alluding to a rumored settlement between the three parties reported last month in The Citizen. "Our 2008 agreement with Sutter Health gives Sutter the legal right to take ownership of San Leandro Hospital," writes Ratnesar. "It is our wish to work with Sutter and Alameda County Medical Center to find a regional solution that addresses the complex issues faced by all of our hospitals, and find the right mix of services that the community needs and will use."

Ratnesar says Rogers and Sawhney were encouraged by "vocal supporters and labor unions" and contends the continued legal action threatens to put the rebuild of Eden Medical Center in jeopardy. "[Sutter] can simply abandon the project," writes Ratnesar. This is not the first time the reconstruction of Eden has been leveraged by Ratnesar. Eden CEO George Bischalaney also used the threat in June to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors before they approved the Environmental Impact Report for the reconstruction of Eden.

Last month, the Director of Alameda County Health Services Alex Briscoe said pulling up stakes on the $320 million project is unlikely. He told The Citizen, "I can't speak for Sutter, but I don't see any reason for them to leave Eden. There's no impediment stopping them now from building."

Both sides are encouraging the public to attend the next District meeting Dec. 16, 5:30 p.m. at the HARD District Office. The hearing will also mark the debut of its newest member Dr. West, who was appointed to fill the remaining year of Kran's term.

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