Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Mayor Charity

Brother, can you spare Mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy a dime? San Leandro's new top man will not take a salary until June 2011, at the earliest.
By Steven Tavares

Mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy's bargain basement pledge to run San Leandro for free could come to fruition during the council's second meeting of the year, according to City Manager Stephen Hollister.

An ordinance will be prepared for the Jan. 18 meeting, said Hollister, who was advised by the city attorney. The council will consider whether to set the mayor's pay at $0, effective Jan. 1 to June 30, 2011. Mayor Tony Santos made around $32,000 last year.

Cassidy had campaigned for mayor on the promise he would not take a salary until the city's budget was balanced. Some have wondered exactly what this means since all municipal budgets are required by law to be balanced each fiscal year. Although the previous city budget was balanced, it was reconciled by dipping into the city's reserve funds. Those dollars are currently dangerously low. Cassidy has not said whether he would have forego payment from various county and regional committees he may sit on as mayor.

During his inauguration speech Dec. 21 Cassidy may have cleared up any confusion by describing a balanced budget as when "revenues equal expenditures."

If current financial projection hold for 2011, the council will likely take up extending Cassidy's donation to the city's budget when it votes on approving the 2011-12 budget sometime in June. San Leandro Finance Director Tracy Vesely said last week that she expect flat revenues in the coming year.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN www.eastbaycitizen.com

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In the Union's Dog House

The silhouette of San Leandro School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose. Her comments Dec. 21 critical of the city employee contracts raised the eyebrows of some union members.
By Steven Tavares

Members of the San Leandro School Board like to preface their comments to other government body's by acknowledging their forthcoming words are theirs and not those of the same person, otherwise known as the school board trustee. Trustee Mike Katz uses this linguistic hula hop as does Board President Morgan Mack-Rose. Mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy also used it last week when he urged the city council to hold off voting on two city employee contracts. As if speaking as a private citizen is any different than the same person giving their opinion on the chamber dais.

Of course, doing so, gives each some wiggle room, if needed, in the future. The beginning of the Cassidy era in San Leandro was auspicious in many ways. An outsider in the mayor's office and the skirmishes likely to follow with the city's status quo, but it also provided a rare and visible pivot point in the where many local pols stand on one issue: unions.

For the city's employee unions, last week's vote on their new two-year contracts, asked "are you for us or against us?"

The San Leandro Police Officers Association already pegged Cassidy as public enemy #1 last October, but others have emerged from their recent comments. Mack-Rose not only employed the dual-personality preface, but also told the council she may not understand the contracts, but nevertheless, found problems with them, specifically the drop in furlough days from 12 to 6. The act was similar to an old Saturday Night Live skit featuring Phil Hartman as the thawed-out caveman who becomes a lawyer. "I'm just a caveman," the lawyer used to punctuate his argument to the everyman jury. One union rep smiled knowingly after her comments. The large of group of union members at the council chambers guffawed when one opponent portrayed them as high-priced government workers.

Others were justifiably quiet over the contracts, but their inaction spoke volumes. Councilmember-elect Pauline Cutter strode a fine line between alienating her union support during the campaign, but she popped her head on the pro-pension reform side too often. Her call, along with Cassidy, to hold off on the contracts raised eye-brows along with Councilwoman Ursula Reed, who abstained on the basis of showing the two in-coming members the confidential labor negotiations. Reed said she fears no retribution from unions in the future and said she supports the new labor contracts. Councilmembers Jim Prola, Joyce Starosciak, Michael Gregory and even outgoing Mayor Tony Santos, conversely, all said the right things to union brass.

While the political scene may have been jumbled recently with the election of Cassidy, one bromide continues to exist: you can't expect much of a political future in this city without sustained union support. It's the reason Katz did not dare voice an opinion on the union contracts, even at the urging of his wife.
Dominic Dutra
FREMONT'S HIRED GUN? Stephen Cassidy is not the only white knight hoping to save city finances by forcing the unions to pay. Fremont's newest city councilmember is hoping to achieve the same trick.

When Fremont City Council approved former member Dominic Dutra to replace Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski earlier this month, the appointment likely sends a message to the city employee unions who are due to negotiate contracts in 2011. Fremont, like almost every Bay Area city is struggling with budget shortfalls.

Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman told the Oakland Tribune, "When we have to tackle very tough budget problems, he won't shy away," Every member except Councilman Bill Harrison named Dutra as their first choice. Dutra says he will not seek re-election in 2012, but power has a way of changing minds.

Republican Senators Place Hold On Stark's Bill

By Steven Tavares

Rep. Pete Stark took one last shot at Republicans and health insurance companies before Congress wrapped up business for the year. Stark had unkind words for a group of anonymous Republican Senators who placed a hold on voting for his Medicare anti-fraud bill until next year.

"Fraudsters and crooks who bilk millions out of Medicare just received a Christmas present courtesy of anonymous Republican Senators," said Stark. The bill (H.R. 6130) would have added teeth to existing laws punishing insurance companies and their executives from defrauding Medicare. Health insurance companies can bypass exclusion from participating in Medicare after a conviction, says Stark, if their top executive leaves the business beforehand. "These executives are able to move from one company to another and continue to defraud Medicare, seniors, and taxpayers," said Stark.

The bill would also put an end to convicted insurance executives from creating obscure shell companies to absorb any liability for the parent company, said Stark.

The parliamentary procedure known as legislative holds can be placed by any senator with full anonymity. The procedure has become a useful tool for Republicans in the minority to fluster and bog down the Democrat's agenda in Congress. H.R. 6130 was co-sponsored by Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA), who will replace Stark as the chairman of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee. The bill passed in the House by a simple voice vote and will await introduction, hopefully, sometime next year.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Thursday, December 23, 2010

East Bay Citizen's Best Quotes of 2010

You can't hand out awards for the most clever, ironic and sometimes inflammatory comments that pass through the lips of politicians, critics and voters because that's entirely their job to titilate. Mine is to write down their eloquence. In 2010, there was no lack of a good quote. It was an election year and prickly barbs are part of the war of worlds that occur in the battle for public office. From San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos' sharp jabs often times struck with a coy smirk to the the angry words of Tea Party activists ostensibly the result of these trying times, the East Bay Citizen presents the best quotes of the past year followed by the Quote of the Year--four simple words, but, oh, so ironic.

"You're in trouble now and you're in danger of going into bankruptcy by early 2011 because you're running a $7 million structural deficit that you're going to see next year as well. The house is on fire, but you're not calling the fire department."
-Stephen Cassidy, the future mayor-elect, warning the San Leandro City Council of the city's rising budget deficit at a January meeting.

"I may have not been fast enough. I may have not been good enough, but when I got here, our black and brown kids were not achieving."
-Christine Lim, former San Leandro school superintendent, addresses the school board during her final meeting after being fired in December 2009.

"My house has been robbed twice since I've been on the city council. Do you want me to run out of town? We have murders at Southland Mall. We have bank robberies. Do we want to close all of those because there are occasional problems?"
-Bill Quirk, Hayward city councilman, refuting claims in February made by the city's police officers and others that medical marijuana dispensaries attract any more crime than other businesses.

If you're having a heart attack, every minute counts and you are interfering with the possibility of me living."
-John "Papa John" Kalafatich, a San Leandro Hospital employee and heart patient, chides Eden Township Healthcare District Board Director Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar at a February meeting for his votes against keeping the hospital open

-Tony Santos, mayor of San Leandro, reacts to news Alameda Mayor Bev Johnson told supporters he had endorsed her for county supervisor without his knowledge. She later said it was a misunderstanding.

"For whatever reasons, which are somewhat unexplainable, we skipped that cell,"
-Cindy Cathey, then-interim superintendent, on how her office made a $1.6 million accounting error when calculating its budget for 2011-12.

“The deal is signed, sealed and delivered.”
-Santos tells councilmembers in opposition of approving an ordinance for ranked-choice voting at a meeting in April. The vote is deadlocked and fails, but they successfully re-vote two weeks later to disastrous results for him in November.

"The unstoppable rap artist, political activist and mother of three prepares to conquer her next challenge: campaigning for mayor of her hometown”
-Sara Mestas, the rapper turned politician, in a press release announcing her candidacy. She went on to finish fourth in November.

"As far as I am concerned, all the illegals of all kinds should be rounded up and escorted out of the country. They need to get the right papers and learn to speak English if they want to live here."
-Dorothy Allen, a San Leandro resident, responds to the rise in tenor regarding undocumented aliens in a letter to the editor in the San Leandro Times.  It was the first of a few inflammatory letters published by the paper.

“Who are you going to kill today?” 
-Rep. Pete Stark made national headlines and stoked the rising tide of Tea Party activists when he made the comment to a member of the Golden Gate Minutemen who was filming the town hall in Fremont last June.

"We must not allow a biased root to become a full-grown poison ivy of racial injustice," 
-Francisco Zermeno, Hayward councilman, in June criticizing the controversial Arizona immigration law. The city eventually sent a letter to the governor of Arizona protesting the law.

“We need to stop making excuses for our kids,” 
-Michael Sweeney, the mayor of Hayward, calls for the city to raise its own expectations in July as he highlights its worsening school system.

"Blaming Sacramento or the recession for all of the city’s budget woes is like the captain of the Titanic blaming the sinking of his ship on an iceberg."
-Cassidy refuting claims San Leandro's poor economy is only due to problems in Sacramento and the recession at July meeting approving a sales tax measure for the November ballot.

“I don’t need a camera to do that.”
-Tim Goeppner, an East Bay resident and critic of Rep. Stark, is overhead saying to the congressman at town hall meeting July. Stark had joked he was afraid the man might "knock him over the head" with his tripod.

“I’m disappointed in the woman she has become.”
-Santos on Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak's allegation against him for breaking the Brown Act at a meeting in September. Santos has known her since she was a child.

"Shame on you Ms. Lockyer! Shame on you, there is no excuse for this camaraderie"
-Liz Figueroa, former state senator and candidate for Alameda County supervisor, criticizes Nadia Lockyer for attending a fundraiser organized by Mario Juarez, who was accused previously of hitting his young son over 30 times.

“It’s not time to break out the party favors, but it’s better news.”
-Perry Carter, San Leandro's then-interim finance director, on news the city's economy may have hit bottom and may be ready to begin making a slow recovery in 2011.

“Our advice to Liz Figueroa…Sell the Mercedes. Pay your taxes.” 
-Nadia Lockyer, in an October campaign mailer to residents of Southern Alameda County referring to Figueroa's problems with unpaid property taxes.

“Tell him, I’m not conceding anything.” 
-Santos says nearly a week after election day results give Cassidy the official victory for mayor of San Leandro.

Quote of the Year 2010

"I’m just a volunteer. "
-Bill Lockyer, state treasurer and husband of then-Alameda County supervisor candidate Nadia Lockyer, at the April grand opening of her campaign headquarters in Hayward. Lockyer spent nearly $2 million to win the seat for his wife. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cassidy Gets The Keys To The Mayor's Office

By Steven Tavares

Mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy was sworn-in as San Leandro's eighth elected leader since 1962 Monday night in the aftermath of a tense debate on the issue upon which his successful campaign was based.

Cassidy laid out a mix of budgetary responsibility and government transparency to the large gathering at the San Leandro City Hall chambers. His address took place after the City Council approved two city employee contracts which Cassidy had criticized for the potential to worsen the city's financial situation as he takes office Jan. 1.

"My goal is to be a mayor for everyone," said Cassidy, who later acknowledged, "I recognize that this office belongs to you. I have a four-year lease on it." Cassidy won an uncommonly brutal election season that featured the first-time use of ranked-choice voting. Although he did not finish with the most first-place votes, he secondary support among voters delivered a narrow victory over Mayor Tony Santos last month.

In his remarks, Cassidy thanked the departing mayor for his service and accomplishments over the years, primarily his work in controlling airplane noise near the Oakland Airport. Santos, though, did not refer to Cassidy Monday night and has maintained he will never concede the election.

Cassidy laid out what he termed his, "guiding principles" for running the city the next four years. He vowed to "restore city to fiscal health" while specifying it be done without dipping into its already scant rainy day fund. "Revenues equal operational expenditures and not the use of reserves," Cassidy said. He also called for the use of multi-year budget forecasts and twice-monthly finance committee meetings until the budget situation improves.

Openness would appear to big a major portion of Cassidy's plans as mayor. Cassidy told residents he intends to "speak truthfully," "lead by example," and "communicate with respect." Partnering with the city's struggling business landscape will also be focus for Cassidy, he said. He hopes to develop a sorely-needed strategic plan to grow and attract commerce. Referring, in part, to the future Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Leandro, Cassidy said "we need to leverage those assets" to better the city.

Cassidy, whose political background consists of four years on the San Leandro School Board, said he aims to open a more robust working relationship with the school district. "I want to end the dialogue I hear of 'your kids.' No, these are 'our' children," said Cassidy. "We have a responsibility to provide the best education we can."

San Leandro Mayors
Mayor-elect Cassidy become the eighth directly elected mayor in San Leandro history. Before 1962, the city council elected its leader. Here is the list of recent mayors and the years they served.

Jack Maltester................1962-1977
Val Gil.......................1979-1986
Dave Karp.....................1987-1993
John Faria....................1993-1994
Ellen Corbett.................1995-1998
Shelia Young..................1999-2006
Tony Santos...................2007-2010
Stephen Cassidy...............2011-

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

'A Little Better Than We Expected'

By Steven Tavares

San Leandro's climb back to financial stability, these days, is measured in hope as much as it is in dollars and cents. The city's new finance director brought a glimmer of cautious cheer to the city's outlook. Conservative budget projections and fortuitous injections of better than expected tax revenues will significantly lower a budget shortfall once predicted to be as high as $7.3 million last June to around $2.2 million for the end of 2010, according to Finance Director Tracy Vesely.

"We're ending the year better than we thought," she told the three-person Finance Committee Tuesday afternoon. "It's a little early, but we're not seeing a trend of over-expenditures in the near future."

Two recent developments buoyed some hope that the city's finances are, at the very least, holding steady rather than continuing its precipitous slide during the past three years. The State Board of Equalization notified the city of a larger-than-expected amount of sales tax receipts totalling $1.7 million, said Vesely. Commerce in San Leandro has not ramped up over the past year. It is still flat, but Vesely said the city overpaid in 2007-08 and the state recouped the difference last year. She says the city also projected low in its last budget.

Vesely also reported hopeful news regarding the city's first installment of property tax revenue from the state. She expects $400,000 more than expected. She was encouraged by the figures since around 47 percent of the total property tax receipts come in the first outlay, but she also predicted flat revenues for the next fiscal year. Between the two small injections of revenue, Vesely projects a net increase of $1.7 million. The ending budget figures do not include a $5 million emergency fund, potential Measure Z sales tax revenue starting next April or the one-time $3.1 million payment from Kaiser for road improvements surrounding its future medical center in the city.

Tony Santos in his last official meeting as mayor used the news to portray his administration as leaving the city in better financial health than many of his critics expected. "The city faces a much brighter picture than imagined in June of this year," said Santos. "The city will definitely be frugal over the next 18 months, and we can thank our employees for extending their contracts over the next two years without any increase in salary.

Councilwoman Diana Souza, who also sits on the committee with Councilman Jim Prola, said she is still uncomfortable with the city's still precariously low reserves. "We can't continue like that," said Souza.

San Leandro's investment report also took a beating in the second half of 2010. Its $91 million portfolio plummeted to $78 million at the end of last September. According to staff, the city's asset management company has floated a plan to increase corporate investments in the fund. Corporate investment has been anathema to the city's conservative fiscal policy in recent years and comments made Tuesday indicated it is something the city would listen to, but a financial plan it would likely not follow.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

San Leandro Approves Union Contracts Despite Cassidy's Protest

By Steven Tavares

During a combative, sometimes riveting, city council session Monday night, it was the union's who struck back after a long campaign season in which their service was often villified by candidates. The council approved, 5-0, two city employee contracts covering over 300 workers and containing no wage increases for a third straight contract along with cuts in salary up to 2.8 percent from 6 furlough days. Vice Mayor Ursula Reed and Councilman Bill Stephens, in his final meeting before retirement, both abstained.

It was the night when many of San Leandro's political leaders had to ante up and show their cards regarding their support of the two controversial union contracts and in many ways illustrated how they may interact in the future with new the mayor.

The negotiations with the San Leandro Management Organization (SLMO)and San Leandro City Employees Association (SLCEA) had been on-going for months. The end of their one-year contract expires at the end of this year. Mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy had urged the council to put off finalizing any deal with the unions until he takes offices Jan. 1. Throughout the campaign Cassidy had espoused fiscal responsibility and zeroed in on ballooning city employee pensions. The two deals, still to be ratified by the unions, do not contain concessions on the issue of pension. A string of opponents to the proposed union deal voiced concern to its possible affects Monday night.

"If they do not make concessions, they may not have jobs," said Johanne Dictor, who described herself as a former union shop steward. Dictor also participates on Cassidy's transition team. San Leandro School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose also criticized the deals for reducing the number of furlough days from 12 to 6 amid severe budget uncertainty. Dave Johnson, the CEO of the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce asked the council to reassess the deals next year. "Patience may be the most prudent course of action for all of you," said Johnson.

The notion the two deals could be altered in the new year under the incoming administration was rebuffed by the city attorney who said any changes to the deal under collective bargaining could put the city in legal jeopardy. Councilman Jim Prola thanked the employees for their concessions during the tough economic environment and said any changes to the deals would constitute "regressive bargaining," which he noted is against the law. "I'm not going to be the Grinch and I'm not going to do something illegal," Prola said.

Various speakers and councilmembers noted the current pension deals with city employees were adopted in 2000 as a way for the city save money while giving workers a pay increase. Sharon Cornu of the Alameda Labor Council said the next couple of years could be a continuation of the current economic doldrums, but the future could also be better. Like Stephens, Mayor Tony Santos was participating in his last council meeting. Santos continued his long-time support for union causes. "Workers need to work together to protect their rights," said Santos. "For anybody to deprive any individuals of that right is a violation of the American dream."

Cassidy and Councilwoman-elect Pauline Cutter had urged for a say on the vote when they take office, but the likelihood their potential votes against the deal could have changed the outcome of the vote was erased when the council unanimously approved the deals. While Stephens abstained on the vote saying he would support giving the new members a look at the confidential negotiations, but he doubted their opposition would made a difference. "You can delay the vote a couple of weeks, but I still don't think the end result will be different," said Stephens. Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak assured the incoming members the city's negotiating team had bargained effectively with the unions and believed once apprised of the deal would agree with her assessment. "I hope you will ultimately see the merits of this proposal," said Starosciak.

The potential two-year deals with SLMO and SLCEA will put all the city employee contracts in line to expire at the end of 2012. Highlights of the two city employee included no wage increases for the next two years. City employees will have gone five years without a pay increase by the end of the proposed contract. Workers will lose 2.8 percent of the salaries through 6 furlough days, with a re-opener clause that could increase the number within the next two years. Similar to their previous contract, city employees will pay half of any increases to their health insurance premiums. The city estimates cost-savings totalling $675,000 from the deals.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/


By Steven Tavares

San Leandro City Council approves, 5-0, to sign two public employee union contracts. Councilman Bill Stephens and Vice Mayor Ursula Reed both abstained.

Cassidy and his supporter along with new Councilwoman Pauline Cutter called for the council to hold off the vote until after Jan. 1, so the new council could look at the two drafts of the union deal.

Councilman Prola and City Attorney Jayne Williams strongly cautioned the council that going back on their negotiators deal could seen by the unions as bargaining in bad faith and could put the city at legal risk.

The deal to be ratified by both union groups is ostensibly the same as the deal for the past five years. No pay increases, lost pay from 2.8 percent due to 6 furlough days and paying up to 50 percent of any increases in health care insurance. The deal will last for two years, putting it in line with other government labor deals set to expire simultaneously in 2012.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

San Leandro City Manager's Surprise Resignation

Steven Tavares

S.L.City Manager
Stephen Hollister resigns
As a wave of uncertainty continued to flow into San Leandro at rate unexpected only a month ago, Mayor Stephen Cassidy was sworn-in Monday night in council chambers. In past weeks, changes were already moving towards San Leandro. City Manager Stephen Hollister hired the city first female police chief in the city's history along with a full-time finance director to lead the city's budget woes back to respectability. New people in important position throughout the city structure are now the norm. Add another: Santos announced after closed session meetings, that Hollister had offered his resignation, ending June 30, 2011.

Councilmember Jim Prola and Michael Gregory and Santos would not discuss the events leading to the Hollister's resignation. During the past few weeks, closed session agenda items contain performance reviews for Hollister's work as city manager. From the timing of the resignation--just minutes before the next mayor is installed lead most to suggest Hollister's support had greatly dwindled over the past year. His reputation for not being able to cozy himself up to small businesses and the Chamber of Commerce may lead to speculation the next city manager will possess a greater expertise on keeping existing commerce in San Leandro, while, more importantly, attracting the next big thing in small and large-sized corporations.

Hollister replaced long-tme City Manager John Jermanis, who was in the auduence Monday night, Many of Hollister's detractors took umbrage over living in nearby Castro Valley and not San Leandro. Retiring Chief Ian Willis also took some of the same shots for living outside city limits.

HOMEGROWN POLITICS http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Monday, December 20, 2010

Reading the Tea Leaves

By Steven Tavares

No matter the amount of conflict resolution counseling San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos and Mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy partake, they will never be cordial. Ever. Not only will Santos never concede last month's election, but he will likely be as much of a detractor of the new mayor as Cassidy was for him the past two years.

Santos told Cassidy this weekend to prepare to offer the City Council an apology for campaign season rhetoric criticizing their handling of the city budget. "You owe our council an apology and if you were up to it you would come Monday night prepared to do so," Santos replied in an email from Cassidy. "Your trash on deficit spending and bankruptcy needs to be challenged."

The latest spat between political rivals came from Cassidy's decision to cancel an annual dinner meeting with the city's federal lobbyist from Washington, D.C. The dinner was scheduled for Jan. 10, but Cassidy asked the city manager to reschedule without the dinner. The meeting with Len Simon, the city's long-time representative, is now a work session for the same night featuring discussion of the city's top project pitches for federal funding. Cassidy chided the outgoing mayor for forwarding news of the meeting change with Simon, telling him it was "inappropriate."

"It is appropriate, and customary, for the city manager to communicate scheduling matters with the City Council by email message," wrote Cassidy. "It is inappropriate, however, for you to share such communications with non-members of the City Council." Santos responded saying, "Do me a favor, don’t communicate with me period."

This would not be Cassidy's first brush with instituting frugality over tradition. He claimed last year to have encouraged the council to discontinue pre-council meeting dinners while the city experienced budget shortfalls. Several councilmembers and the mayor say it was not his idea or changed at his urging. Most meetings now feature various members snacking away at the Monday night gatherings.

In recent days, Cassidy has slowly exerted some pressure on the city's existing power structure and culture just to gauge how much political strength will be needed to make changes at City Hall. His supporters lobbied the council in closed session last week to hold off on approving the city's two employee union contracts until the beginning of Cassidy's term in January. Both Cassidy and Councilwoman-elect Pauline Cutter said they wanted a chance to vote on the contract, but it is not clear whether the two votes against the deals with change the direction of the board, nor is there any evidence of an alternative strategy to save even more than the $675,000 the current proposal offers can be articulated.

So, now we read the tea leaves for the nascent Cassidy administration:

The Cassidy/Cutter connection could be a reimagination of the Cassidy/Mike Katz super mini-minority during their time together on the San Leandro School Board. Cassidy's divisiveness on that board is well known along with a knack for failing to gather support for their causes. Cutter, who received union support, cleverly gave indications during the campaign that she supported her union brethren, but also levied criticism against them at the same time.

What does Cassidy mean when he called Santos out for sharing public emails? Cassidy will likely say opening the meeting with Simon to the public is good for government transparency, but the tone conveys an old criticism of those around him from his time on the school board that religiously hides facts dealing with the process of decisions. Any of the emails contained in the article could have been procured using the Freedom of Information Act. Of course, doing so would take time and ingenuity.

For now, Cassidy first few hands are showing he is angling to tackle the city's problems quickly and expects the city and council to rid itself of old habits. Bring a coat. He might shut off the heating at City Hall next.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Proposed City Employee Contracts Will Save $675k

By Steven Tavares

Two of San Leandro's largest city employee unions will go without a pay increase for a third straight contract, if the City Council approves a new two-year deal Monday night.

The total cost savings to the city is estimated to be $675,000 between the two contracts, according to the city. The San Leandro Management Organization represents 43 full and part-time city employees while the much larger Sen Leandro City Employees Association represents 280 employees ranging from clerical to technical and professional workers.

Each deal, which the council will vote upon tonight, is similar to last year's one-year contract which included a wage reduction due to a number of furlough days throughout the year continuing through 2011. The city will gain cost-savings from a third and fourth year of wages freezes for city workers. Furlough days will account for a 2.8 percent cut in wages along with a continuation of the previous deal where workers will foot the bill for half of any increase to medical and dental insurance. Both unions still need to approve the contracts, if the council agrees to the extension.

Mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy had balked at the city's deal being negotiated so close to the begin of his administration Jan. 1. Reducing employee costs had been one of his prime campaign promises. According to the city, the bulk of the negotiations with the unions occurred last month as the one-year contract neared expiring. Cassidy had proposed union employees pay up to 9 percent of their wages towards the cost of their pensions, which he said would save $3 million. Opponents of his plan questioned how such a proposal would pass muster in collective bargaining with the unions or whether a majority of board, backed by union support, with go along.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Friday, December 17, 2010

Cassidy Upsets Santos Amid Status Quo in East Bay

Stephen Cassidy became the first person to unseat an incumbent mayor in San Leandro history.

Nadia Lockyer easily crosses the $1 million mark in campaign fundraising. Nearly all of it comes from her husband. More is to come.

Retiring Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele surprises everyone and makes an endorsement for her seat. It’s not Lockyer, but Figueroa she says, citing the obscene influx of campaign cash for the election.

Hayward bans Styrofoam containers from its local restaurants. San Leandro will likely follow suit in the coming year.

Santos misses a council meeting after going to the hospital. He is diagnosed with vertigo.

Santos supporters claim Cassidy broke election laws by campaigning at a school event. A complaint is sent to the Fair Political Practices Commission.

Ron Carey is appointed by the San Leandro school board to replace Trustee Lisa Hague.

The most repellent campaign mailer of the election season arrives in the mailboxes of District 2 residents. The mailer sent by the Lockyer campaign features a logo for Mercedes with the words, “Our advice to Liz Figueroa...Sell the Mercedes. Pay your taxes.”

A little late? On election day and with Nadia Lockyer close to raising $2 million, Supervisor Scott Haggerty pushes forward a county ordinance limiting campaign finance to $20,000.

Nadia Lockyer easily wins the District 2 supervisor seat with two-thirds of the vote; Victoria Kolakowski becomes the nation’s first transgender judge and Corbett, Hayashi and Stark win re-election in landslide victories.

By the end of election night, Stephen Cassidy leads Santos by just 66 votes. Once the final RCV algorithm is processed, Santos ends up winning the most first-place votes, but loses the election to Cassidy. Starosciak finishes third.

Santos vows to never concede the election to Cassidy and says he will stop ranked-choice voting from getting a foothold anywhere in the country. The world moves on. Don Perata, in the same boat as Santos, concedes to Jean Quan in Oakland.

An Alameda County Superior Court judge rules for Sutter Health in the Eden Township’s pivotal March countersuit alleging conflict-of-interest.

Chair Rogers says, “Damn the torpedoes!” and the Eden Township Board of Directors approves seeking an appeal of the Superior Court decision in favor of Sutter.

San Leandro approves a 10-month moratorium on medical marijuana grow facilities and dispensaries. The vote, though, appears to show elements of support in the future for the pot trade coming to the city.

Sandra Spagnoli is named the first female police chief in San Leandro history. She replaces retiring Chief Ian Willis. The naming of a female leader hopefully ends the department’s recent turmoil with sexual harassment claims within its ranks.

New finance director says an additional $850,000 is needed to fund larger-than-expected funding for CalPERS.

Eden Township files appeal and offers revelations portraying the Eden CEO of gaming the negotiating process in 2008 in favor of Sutter.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Stark: GOP Is 'Dangerous To America's Health'

By Steven Tavares

In a report released today by Rep. Pete Stark ominously titled, "Dangerous to America's Health: The Republican Plan to Dismantle Health Care," the East Bay congressman lays out a game plan to fight House conservatives who say their top priority is to repeal health care reform passed earlier this year.

The 14-page report contains 24 bullet points to counteract likely arguments made by the incoming Republican majority in Congress. Among the possible consequence of repeal health care reform, include increasing the number of Americans without insurance along with making it more difficult and costly to afford care.
  • Reinstate discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions: One of the first sections of the health care law came into effect last September when health insurance providers were banned from excluding coverage for children with pre-existing conditions. Once insurance "exchanges" are formed, the practice will be discontinued for all Americans. According to Stark, repeal will allow insurers to continue the arbitrary money-saving practice.
  • Repeal free preventive care: Stark says free mammograms, colonoscopies, immunizations and pre-natal care will be subject to deductibles charged by insurers. "Republicans would repeal this reform and allow Medicare and insurance companies to charge patients for preventive screenings--reducing the likelihood that patients will benefit from these life-saving measures," Stark said.
  • Increase the number of uninsured Americans by 29 million: The somewhat unformed plan put forth by Rep. John Boehner would actually increase the number of uninsured to 52 million by 2020, says Stark, while the current law provides cheaper insurance through tax breaks and exchanges to 95 percent of Americans.
  • Force women and older individuals to pay more for insurance: Stark claims women pay 48 percent more for the same coverages as men and also include 11.4 million uninsured Americans between the ages of 45 and 64 who are not yet covered by Medicare. "Republicans would eliminate these consumer protections, guaranteeing the right for insurers to continue to discriminate and charge older people and women sky-high premiums for the same coverage as others," said Stark.
While most observers believe the repeal of the landmark health care bill is an extreme long shot, it is likely to be a highly-potent political football for Republicans hoping to unseat the president in 2012. Stark has more to lose in this fight than other Democrats. He was one of the authors of the bill in the House and chairs the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health. (Read the entire report here.)

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

The Darkside of Politics Rears Its Ugly Head

The ire of Tea Party activists were stoked by two summer town hall meetings "Who are you going to kill today?" asked Stark of a questioner and told a woman the government can do whatever it wants.

Tony Santos says medical marijuana grow facilities are courting San Leandro. Some estimates say the city could benefit with up to $5 million in yearly tax revenue. A 10-month moratorium against the centers is placed in November.

In a rousing address, Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney calls for the struggling city to raise its own expectation. He blames everyone, including himself.

Another angry throng of mostly conservative voters fill Hayward City Hall to shout insults and threats at Stark. Once again, the whole thing is on YouTube.

Budget cuts to school crossing guards received an outpouring of opposition in 2009, yet the city again fails to include it in the next fiscal budget. Money will eventually be found by the first day of school.

The president of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association in San Leandro accuses Joyce Starosciak, who is also running for mayor, of interfering with their elections. He later says he made her cry.

The 50-year-old San Leandro Police Chief Ian Willis announces he will retire once a successor is found, sometime in the next few months.

An internal poll taken by the Santos campaign shows the incumbent mayor well ahead of Starosciak and challenger Stephen Cassidy.

Financial records show Hayashi received $1,000 in campaign donations from the enemy of liberal thought--Fox News.

A large crowd watches the first of two mayoral forums in San Leandro.

San Leandro City Council approves splitting the cost of school crossing guards with the school district for a second consecutive year.

Figueroa calls out Nadia Lockyer for attending an Oakland fundraiser organized by an alleged child and spouse abuser. Lockyer later says, at the last minute, she did not attend.

Stark continues a series of salvos against the health insurance industry. “Insurance companies can’t be trusted,” he says. The assault will continue through the end of the year.

Retiring finance director says San Leandro’s budget situation is not getting better, but notes “we may have hit bottom.”

Starosciak accuses Santos of violating the Brown Act in a letter to her supporters. This allegation is not true and she later denies ever making the claim.

Racist graffiti is found in Heron Bay making disparaging remarks about Asians and Mayor Santos. Police look at hateful letters to the editor printed in the San Leandro Times as a possible suspect.

San Leandro receives a much-needed $2.4 million grant from the Department of Justice to fund five new police officer positions.

During the second mayoral candidates forum, Starosciak calls Stephen Cassidy’s stances against public employees “disrespectful.” She tells audience he has a bad track record in employee relations.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cleantech's Future Resides in California, Flourishes in Bay Area Cities

By Steven Tavares

Fremont cleantech firm Solyndra.
A report from the Bay Area Council Economic Institute says California's has a unique opportunity to enhance its international and economic standing in clean technologies, but cautions against the aggressiveness of policymakers in China and Europe within a global context.

The report comes after an election season where conservatives raised doubt over the effectiveness of environmental legislation known as AB 32. It calls the law instrumental in attracting venture capital to the state. The Bay Area and specifically Fremont has made great strides in attracting clean or green tech to the area and may well harness the state's next great economic revival. The Bay Area Council Economic Institute is a local public policy group founded by the Association of Bay Area Governments. (Click here for the entire report.)

Significant amounts of capital has already been invested in California companies, according to the report, but urges for the state to ramp up access to investment from China. "China's strong position in particular raises policy and economic issues fro California," the reports says. Nine Chinese cleantech firms have recently opened offices in San Francisco, including three of the largest, it says.

Two of the state's largest union pension plans--CalPERS and CalSTRS have  also invested over $500 million into cleantech while the government has issued large loan guarantees to a pair of Fremont-based firms, Solyndra and Tesla Motors. In the last year, Solyndra received a visit from President Obama and $535 million in loan guarantees from the Department of Energy. Tesla received $465 million in loan guarantees from the federal government. Both hope to create 1,000 jobs apiece in the next couple years.

The flood of foreign investment could mirror the rise of Japanese investment 30 years ago, they say. Locally, the partnership between Toyota and General Motors in 1982 resulting in the NUMMI auto plant in Fremont is a prime example. "Some of these companies will eventually manufacture in the U.S. much as Japanese auto manufacturers did starting in the 1970s and 80s," it said. In the past year, San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos has met with officials from a Chinese solar panel company looking to invest in the area.

Tax exemptions signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for cleantech businesses purchasing equipment will also stoke investment in the state, the report says. The passage of AB 32 in 2006 has signaled to investors and competing states and nations, a willingness by California to lead the way in the burgeoning industry. Conservatives had argued through Proposition 23, the landmark environmental law, which failed last November, would kill jobs. Not so, it says. The state's adoption of various climate change legislation has reversed a national trend of rising energy consumption, the report says. Over the past 30 years, while the state's population has risen precipitously, the level of energy usage has remained flat. California ranks 47th out of 50 in energy consumption.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Hayashi Gains Two Assembly Chairpersonships

Speaker John Perez announced today committee positions in the assembly. Two-term Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi received two chairpersonships and freshman Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski received one. Both assemblymembers serve on the Insurance Committee along with another East Bay legislator, Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner. Below is details on each committee assignments along with those served by Sen. Ellen Corbett. (Chairperson in italics):

Asm. Mary Hayashi (D-18)
Business and Professions, chair
Subcomittee on Oversight and Performance Review, chair

Asm. Bob Wieckowski (D-20)
Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials, chair
Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security

Sen. Ellen Corbett (D-10)
Judiciary, chair
Business, Professions and Economic Development
Energy, Utilities and Communication
Environmental Quality
Legislative Ethics
Public Employment and Retirement

Money was the Message for the Lockyers

The will of Bill Lockyer to fund his wife, Nadia Lockyer's campaign for county supervisor kicks into high gear before the June primary.

Fran David becomes Interim City Manager of Hayward after Greg Jones quits among rumors he will run for the school board. David eventually gets the job and Jones confirms the East Bay's juiciest rumor--that he and Councilwoman Anna May are an item. They will get married later in the year.

Although the city council approved the deal with the county for ranked-choice voting, they still needed to approve an ordinance, which does not pass as Councilwoman Diana Souza votes no. The vote is deadlocked, 3-3, with Councilman Michael Gregory on vacation. The mayor vows to bring the back vote back two weeks later and it passes. It may go down as one of the biggest political blunders in San Leandro history.

Sutter Health’s financial statement shows the company made $700 million in revenue in 2009. San Leandro Hospital, though, continues to lose money, according to Sutter, which only riles critics who says they are fudging the hospital's finances.

Alice Lai-Bitker switches her endorsement to Wilma Chan for supervisor after Lena Tam leaves the race. A scandal in Alameda involving the developer of the vacant former Alameda Naval Air Station will take up most of Tam’s time.

San Leandro school district makes a $1.6 million accounting error and nobody is held responsible. After already cutting $2.7 million from the budget, the mistake is not publicized for three weeks.

The parties partnered with the city of San Leandro to build the initial $110 million phase of the Crossings housing project near the San Leandro BART station bail on the city because of the failing economy.

Two years after being elected to the council, Ursula Reed becomes the new vice mayor, replacing Starosciak. Most had expected Councilman Jim Prola to get the nod.

The largest construction project in San Leandro history is approved. The 436,000 square-foot Kaiser Permanente hospital is slated for opening in 2014.

Sara Mestas, rapper turned local activist, announces she will run for mayor.

Shortly after Toyota closes the NUMMI plant in Fremont, it teams up with Tesla Motors to build electric cars. The announcement burnishes a reputation for Fremont as a hub of green technology.

Nadia Lockyer tells a group of senior in Fremont that she has received the endorsement of Sen. Ellen Corbett. The senator quickly denies the boast.

The first in a developing story of campaign largess appears as Lockyer receives over $400,000 in campaign fundraising dollars in March and April from the campaign of her husband, Bill Lockyer. Less than one percent of her $647,000, at this point, comes from the district she wishes to represent.

Less than a week before the June primary, Lockyer alleges Liz Figueroa has not paid property taxes for the last three years on her Sunol residence. Figueroa says she has worked a deal with the county.

Lockyer wins the District 2 supervisorial race, but heads to a November runoff against Figueroa who narrowly beats Union City Mayor Mark Green for second. Chan wins the District 3 seat outright over Johnson; replaces Lai-Bitker.

In Hayward, Marvin Peixoto and Mark Salinas win the race for city council, replacing Dowling and Anna May.

Stark invites a firestorm of anger from the right when he asks a questioner from the right wing group, The Minutemen “who are you going to kill today?” The YouTube video of his June town hall meeting in Fremont becomes an Internet sensation.

The Hayward City Council condemns Arizona’s controversial immigration law. The council approves, 4-0, to send a letter to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, but Mayor Michael Sweeney and members Bill Quirk and May abstain.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

City Budgets Prepare For The Worst in 2010

BAD OMEN: A black cat strolls into a conference room at San Leandro City Hall in January as the finance director announces the city is in the red $7.3 million.

Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker announces she will not run for re-election citing a desire to spend more time with her family.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi praises the historical significance of incoming Speaker John Perez who is gay without even using the word “gay.”

Nearly a month after the San Leandro school board votes to fire its superintendent, they finally announce the 4-3 decision, while naming Cindy Cathey interim superintendent. They will later make her permanent.

San Leandro City Council approves ranked-choice voting for the November general election. Councilmembers Joyce Starosciak and Bill Stephens vote no.

A invoice to the Eden Township Healthcare District’s from its public relation person, shows one of their directors may not have penned a much-derided letter to the community in objection to the board’s prevailing opinion. The name on the invoice? A Sutter Health employee.

The House Ethics Committee clears Rep. Pete Stark of any wrongdoing for allegations he received improper tax breaks from his Maryland home.

A neighborhood black cat in San Leandro strolls into a finance meeting where the projected deficit is announced to have risen to $7.3 million.

TnT Podcast co-host Nick Terry announces he will run against Hayashi for assembly. He quickly drops out.

Two public employee unions representing 350 city workers agree to a second year without pay increases and forfeit nearly 5 percent of their wages through furloughs. The one-year deal saves $1 million. Mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy continues to say they have not given enough.

Lai-Bitker endorses Alameda City Councilwoman Lena Tam to replace her, angering Wilma Chan.

Hayward does not join Oakland in the bustling pot trade. The council bans dispensaries within city limits because of previous problems with crime and uncertainty over Prop. 19 and the existing prohibition by the federal government. The real culprit? The city police officers union.

Rumors of state Sen. Ellen Corbett’s interests in replacing Lai-Bitker for supervisor heats up.

It was fun while it lasted! Stark becomes chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee for one day before being replaced by Michigan Sen. Sander Levin.

San Leandro faces deep cuts to services as an additional $1.4 million needs to be trimmed.

Eden Township Board of Directors files a countersuit against Sutter Health alleging the central arguments for closing San Leandro Hospital is “void and unenforceable.” In the suit they allege three negotiating members of the 2008 agreement had financial conflict-of-interests. One, current Eden Hospital CEO George Bischalaney, also held the same position for the healthcare district.

Despite being urged by some of her constituents, Corbett says she will not run for supervisor and turns attention for re-election to the state Senate.

Eden Healthcare District Director Dr. Harry Dvorsky says he tried to change his majority vote in approving the countersuit against Sutter. He says Chair Carole Rogers did not listen to him, others see Sutter behind the reversal.

Rogers also calls for member Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar to step down for his involvement with Sutter. He votes against countersuit while also being named in the complaint.

Alameda Mayor Bev Johnson announces she is running for supervisor. During her announcement she thanks San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos for his endorsement. “What?!” says Santos. Johnson says it was a misunderstanding.

Stark tells colleagues in Congress he using a breathing tube to help him breath. The once-svelt lawmaker makes appearance on the House floor looking puffy and breathless.

A preview of what is to come: District 2 supervisor candidate Nadia Lockyer says her opponent Liz Figueroa fudges on her job description for the June primary. She is not an educator or job developer, they contend. Another candidate Kevin Dowling says Lockyer is not a “county manager.”

POLITICS HOMEGROWN www.eastbaycitizen.com

Santos Calls Cassidy Supporters At Meeting 'Brown Shirts'

By Steven Tavares

Apparently hoping to collect on the spoils of last month's mayoral victory, a small group of mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy's supporters asked the San Leandro City Council Monday night to postpone finalizing labor contracts with city employee unions until next year.

The group of Cassidy insiders, including San Leandro School Trustee Mike Katz and his wife, Margarita Katz, Tim Holmes and Mia Ousley, urged the council during closed session to allow for negotiations to bleed into the new mayor's term. The council discussed negotiations with two city employee unions, the San Leandro City Employees’ Association/International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and the San Leandro Management Organization. It is believed both contracts will be signed along with a deal with the San Leandro Police Officer Association before the end of Santos' term next week.

Cassidy had vigorously campaigned against the city's employee unions saying more of their earnings should be paid towards their own pension plans. Any question whether Cassidy's assault on public employee unions was campaign rhetoric or a resolute call for changing how the city deals with rising costs may have disappeared with Monday's call by his inner circle. Mayor Tony Santos equated the group's display to intimidation tactics used by "Brown Shirts" in Nazi Germany.

"There isn't any question in my mind that the group intended on intimidating us into not taking action," said Santos. "Cassidy campaigned against our employees. (It) appears the group used a little 'brown shirt' tactics. I believe this is what San Leandrans face in the future."

Santos also referred to Holmes, who was Cassidy's campaign manager, as the group's "field marshall." Four members of the group spoke before the council, including an unidentified person. According to Santos, when the wife of Mike Katz addressed them, she called out her husband to speak, but he declined and left the room.

During the campaign, Santos had supported the city's unions, saying they had already made significant concessions to help the city battle declining revenues and rising costs. A year ago, its largest public employee unions agreed to a one-year contract foregoing a second straight year without pay raises while paying more towards health care insurance. Fifteen furloughs days throughout the year also amounted to a pay cut of nearly five percent. During the same time, the city also suffered through a $3 million shortfall that has nearly drained its entire reserve fund.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN www.eastbaycitizen.com

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hayashi's Bill Brings The Pain To Hospitals

By Steven Tavares

Does Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's latest piece of do-good legislation give an opening for officers at hospitals to carry firearms? The bill, introduced last week, would strengthen existing state law protecting hospital workers from the dangers of working with patients at, among other places, state institutions. The impetus for the bill, AB 30, came after a nurse was strangled to death last October at the Napa State Hospital. Another attack of a Napa State Hospital worker by a patient was reported Monday.

One seemingly innocuous line in the legislation stands out. "This bill requires the hospital to adopt specified security policies as part of the plan." While broad in scope one clue to its practical meaning comes from a report at the investigative web site, California Watch.

The death of psychiatric technician Donna Gross may give various correctional groups a chance to arm their members with guns. The report says groups like the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association are not pushing for weapons on hospital campuses, but rather for patrolling surrounding areas and transporting psych patients to and from facilities. “It’s a good bill,” said the union's legislative liaison.

Medical professionals, of course, are not in favor of the sight of firearms comingling within the therapeutic environment of treating patients. Many at facilities like Napa State Hospital are deemed unfit to stand trial or guilty of crimes by reason of insanity.
Among the features of the bill, include lowering the timeframe hospitals are required to report instances of violence to authorities to 24 hours. Current law requires only a 72-hour period. A yearly report detailing incidence of violence at state hospitals would be required starting in 2014, if passed, and annual training would be given to hospital workers regularly assigned to psychiatric units, although the bill does not contain any funding.

Cassidy's Transition Team Announced

Here are the members of San Leandro Mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy's transition team. According to his web site, the group met Dec. 2 and plan two other meetings before his Dec. 20 swearing-in. Although the press release refers to over 30 participants, only 26 28 are listed. A vast majority of the committee draws influence from the San Leandro school district, which Cassidy was a part of from 2004-08. In contrast, the transition team for Oakland Mayor-elect Jean Quan consists of only 24 members for a city many times larger than San Leandro.
  • Hermy Almonte, San Leandro School District Trustee
  • Kinkini Banerjee, resident
  • Madeleine Budnick, resident
  • Faye Clements, San Leandro Education Foundation Director
  • Peggy Combs, San Leandro City Commissioners
  • Joan Dalpe, resident
  • Phil Daly, San Leandro City Commissioners
  • Kathe Frates, President of Political Action Committee for Excellence
  • Gordon Galvan, former San Leandro Council member
  • Leah Hall, resident
  • Louis Heystek, former San Leandro School District Trustee
  • Tim Holmes, San Leandro business owner
  • Dave Johnson, CEO, San Leandro Chamber of Commerce
  • Mike Katz, San Leandro School District Trustee
  • Benny Lee, Heron Bay Homeowners Association board member
  • Bob Leigh, Washington Manor Homeowners Association board member,
  • Patricia Minnis, resident
  • Wing Mok, San Leandro teacher
  • Mia Ousley, resident
  • Isobel Polvorosa, San Lorenzo School District Trustee
  • Gaye Quinn, San Leandro Chamber of Commerce Director
  • Scott Rennie, resident
  • Leroy Smith, Measure B co-chair
  • Cheryl White, resident
  • Dawn Valadez, San Leandro Education Foundation board member
  • Martin Vitz, former City Planner
UPDATE: Two names were left off the initial list: Johanne Dictor, former president of Estudillo Homeowners Association and Sara Nash, Estudillio Homeowners Association board member.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Episode 15 of the TnT Podcast Now Available

The infection of Internet lies reaches criminality after someone leaks closed session council business. The Hayward School Board grabs two newbies off B Street and makes them board president and veep. Who wants the job with state receivership looming on the horizon? No one and breaking news on the Lockyer political power couple. Bill sets up committee for 2014 and more on the East Bay’s only political podcast--The EastBayCitizen.com TnT Podcast.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Crusade Against Ranked-Choice Voting

By Steven Tavares

Opponents of ranked-choice voting typically share one unique trait--they have been bitten by its topsy-turvy results in the past. Newly-minted adversaries of the election system include San Leandro Mayor Tony and Don Perata. Santos was in favor of RCV before he was against it and now vows to became a lightning for opposition of its implementation across the country.

"Know this, most people who are against RCV were once for it." said RCV opponent Terry Reilly in an email to Santos. "They might have thought it was a cool sounding idea in theory, bought the sales pitch, but upon further study, or experiencing it, they find it is not all that it is cracked up to be." Reilly has been a vocal opponent of RCV in the South Bay and has drawn the ire of supporters from the New America Foundation and FairVote, which have went to great pains to discredit him.

Santos says he plans to give voice to opposition of RCV around the country starting with a ballot measure set for next April in Fort Collins, Colo. The epicenter of the anti-RCV cause is its repeal in Pierce, Wash. where the heavily-populated county rejected ranked-choice voting after just one election.

"Down the road, I hope to never have a RCV election in San Leandro, again," Santos said Monday night at a city council meeting. "It turns out RCV is really undemocratic," he said, while maintaining the city's mayoral election last month did not produce a charter-mandated majority winner. Santos, like Perata in Oakland, received the most first-place votes, but ultimately failed to gain enough second and third-place votes to stave off their challengers. He believes the number of exhausted ballots from the other three candidates were disenfranchised by RCV. "I'm not too sure those you voted for Starosciak, Mestas and Palau are happy to know their votes really did not count," Santos said.

San Leandro resident Benny Lee asked the council Monday night to take steps to repeal RCV for future elections. Lee called the system "highly flawed" and "deliberately disenfranchises voters." Another resident, Hendy Huang, who has been critical of mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy in the past, agreed and said outreach by the city and county explaining RCV was a problem for many in the Asian community of whom English is a second language.

"RCV worked exactly as we were told it would work," said Councilman Bill Stephens. The termed-out member had been an opponent of RCV in the past and had raised many of the same issues, such as voter disenfranchisement and fairness of the system, before the council approved its use back in January.

Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak, who finished third in the race for mayor sounded resigned to the results of the election. With her voice on the verge of cracking, Starosciak lobbied, along with Councilwoman Diana Souza, to return to simple plurality elections and reiterated her opposition to RCV along its increased up-front costs in a time of budget austerity. "I know the race this year has been difficult. San Leandro will make the decisions it makes," said Starosciak.

It is likely the post mortem on RCV in San Leandro has yet to be written. In the meantime, a period of post-election healing from a hard-fought election season was urged by Stephens. "When the fight is over, we smile, take the tally and move on," or in Stephens' case, put your house up for sale and move out of town.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Police Union 'Cautiously Optimistic' of New Chief

By Steven Tavares

By most accounts, the hiring of Sandra Spagnoli as the first female police chief in San Leandro history is not the token hire some believe it to be. While a riveting and sometimes revolting slew of sexual harassment suits against the department definitely hardened the city's resolve to put the incidents behind it, the hiring of a woman to lead the department is smart decision in the realm of public relations, but she appears more than qualified to make the leap from smaller force in Benicia to San Leandro.

Spagnoli sits on the appointed California Police Officers Standards and Training (POST) Advisory Committee and first vice president for the California Peace Officers Association.

San Leandro Police Officers Association President Sgt. Mike Sobek says the department is "cautiously optimistic" of their new chief. Spagnoli is only the second chief hired from outside the department in the city's history. The other made the short leap from Oakland and most of the longest-serving officers are never worked with an unknown quantity during their tenure.

"We now have a clear plan for the future," said Sobek, who believes Spagnoli's youth and potential stability will help the department over the next few years. Spagnoli is 43.

One of Spagnoli's first tests on the job when she takes command Jan. 10 will be quelling discontent by some senior officers who were passed over in favor of her. The POA is making the first gesture to their new leader by inviting her to the union's Christmas party.
Word arrived this week to the resolution of one of the worst periods in the history of the San Leandro Police Department when a reporter inquired about the last three of seven sexual harassment suits filed against the city by female members of the police department. The last two suits were settled adding an additional $270,000 in costs to the city. The seventh suit was dismissed by a federal judge.The total loss to the city: $675,000. When were the suits settled? July (!).

Why did it take over four months to notify the public? San Leandro City Attorney Jayne Williams told The Citizen Monday that the Brown Act allowed for the resolution of closed session settlements not to be publicly announced unless they were inquired by the press or public. When the first four settlements were reached earlier this year, news of the deal was announced during a city council meeting along with the names of the plaintiffs and their monetary rewards. This time around, the city found no news was good news, that is, until the arrive of Spagnoli brought the story back to the forefront. It is no secret the city wanted this story to go away and they succeeded for awhile.
San Leandro Mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy announced a rather large transition team this week, but the question of whether his controversial campaign promise for pension reform was only rhetoric remains to be seen. One indication he is serious is Cassidy has yet to contact the San Leandro Police Officers Association. The issue could be a landmine for Cassidy. Backtrack and alienate a core pillar of his campaign or risk paralysis by playing hardball with the police officers and other city employee unions in the next two years.

New Assemblyman Offers Legislation on Day One

Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski was sworn-in last Monday and quickly got to work. On the same day he replaced termed-out Alberto Torrico in Sacramento, Wieckowski already had his first piece of legislation in the pipeline. AB 14 hopes to coordinate redevelopment of the area surrounding the former NUMMI plant and the forthcoming Warm Springs BART station.

Asm. Bob Wieckowski
Wieckowski was honored by the Fremont City Council Tuesday night along with some requisite needling from Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. Wieckowski beat Republican Adnad Shahab last month and showed electoral sour grapes are not limited to San Leandro. Shahab wrote on his campaign website last month, "I will not congratulate Bob Wieckowski. The way my opponent conducted himself during his entire bid for the Assembly District 20 seat was not honorable," wrote Shahab, who also vowed to keep a close on eye on Wieckowski in Sacramento. Fremont now has an open council seat to fill with up to seven potential applicants for the job, including the runner-up from the November election.

Wieckowski's elevation to the assembly raises the question of who, at the local level, is next to make the leap to Sacramento? The bench appears bare. Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk is a likely candidate even though he is taking a wait-see approach to how the district's potential new borders will look like. That's about it, but don't take your eye off of San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola or even the Mayor-elect Stephen Cassidy. Prola is, by far, the hardest working member of the council and Cassidy looked into a run for assembly a few years ago before Democrats urged him to rise through the local ranks.
Editor's Note: Since Bob Wieckowski is a new member of the assembly and AB 14 is his first piece of legislation, The Citizen will offer a civics lesson and closely follow its path to hopeful passage into law.

Stark Cannot Support Obama's Compromise on Tax Cuts

President Obama put himself in a precarious political position this week by reaching a compromise on the extension of all the Bush tax cuts. The deal, which some Democrats believe is skewed towards the wishes of conservatives, puts Obama in a maelstrom between raging members of his own party and chronically uncooperative Republicans. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Tuesday there may be Democrats who jump ship with the president's wishes. A local member of the House appears to be one of the first overboard.

In a piece for the Huffington Post, Rep. Pete Stark sharply criticized Republicans for employing fear tactics on the rising deficit for their own political means, while looking the other way for extending tax cuts for the richest Americans. "In 2008, with a Democratic President and Congress, the Republicans suddenly found religion on the deficit," wrote Stark. "If Republicans want tax cuts for the wealthy, we should demand that they explain how to pay for them right now."

Stark was also a signer of Vermont Democrat Rep. Peter Welch's stinging rebuke of the president's proposal in a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Welch called the plan "fiscally irresponsible" and "grossly unfair" to the majority of Americans. Extension of the tax cuts may add $900 billion to the deficit.

Stark believes Republicans, once in the majority next year, will "flip-flop" back towards the rhetoric of deficit reduction while targeting cuts to social programs. He did find some bright spots in the deal, notably a 13-week extension of unemployment insurance and tax cuts for working families with children, but on the whole, he will not support the president's compromise.

"These are important provisions that I want to see make it into law," said Stark. "but I cannot support them when they are coupled with outrageous deficit spending to benefit the rich."

It's notable that Stark tread lightly by not criticizing the president, but instead challenged Democrats to mimic Republicans and stand their ground saying, "protecting the middle class is the right thing to do."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Corbett Named Senate Majority Leader

State Sen. Ellen Corbett is named Senate Majority Leader by the Democratic leadership

By Steven Tavares

Sen. Ellen Corbett is now the second-most powerful lawmaker in the California State Senate.

Monday, President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) elevated the San Leandro legislator to majority leader. Corbett replaces the termed-out Dean Florez.

The move shifts power in Sacramento ever so slightly to Northern California and specifically to the East Bay. Corbett's promotion to majority leader is the highest a San Leandro-based politician has risen in state politics since Bill Lockyer began his run of accomplishments as Senate pro tem from 1994-98 and all the way to attorney general. Lockyer was re-elected state treasurer last month.

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle,” Corbett said. “I want to thank Sen. Steinberg for his trust in me and I look forward to serving with him.”

Steinberg also named Sen. Kevin DeLeon (D-Los Angeles) to lead the Democratic Caucus. He replaces Sen. Jenny Oropeza, who recently passed away.

Corbett's duties will include running the senate floor operations and setting the Democratic agenda.

Earlier in the day, Corbett, while surrounded by family, was sworn-in for a second term representing the 10th District after her decisive Nov. 2 victory.

“It is an honor to serve my constituents for another four years in the State Senate,” Corbett said. “I talk to people every day in grocery stores and on soccer fields, and I know that they simply want Sacramento to work for them. I will continue to work hard every day to make sure those of us in Sacramento listen to the people we are here to represent.”