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HONDA DOMINATES LATEST FINANCE REPORTS

Khanna's spending spree may soon end. Finance reports show Honda with almost five times the cash as Khanna.

THOU SHALL NOT ATTACK A FELLOW...DEMOCRAT

Similar progressives in AD15 are fighting each other with help from the county party chair.

BART STRIKE COMES HOME TO ROOST

He was once labor's guy at BART, then he wasn't, now they want him gone.

AN ALTERNATIVE IN ALAMEDA

When it comes to development in Alameda, the candidates for mayor are on opposite sides of the Island.

PROXY WAR OVER CASSIDY'S LEGACY IN THE 'DRO

Two low-key members of the City Council and one business owner with enough charisma for the entire race vie for San Leandro's open mayor's seat.

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!

REGISTER TO VOTE NOW! CLICK HERE

Don't sit out the Nov. 4 General Election. The deadline to register is Oct. 20.

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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Send in your Census

With questionnaires due April 1 to the U.S. Census, 52 percent of the househoulds nationwide have completed their forms. Statewide, California is below average at 49 percent, along with Alameda County. The City of San Leandro, though, has one of the higher participation rates in the Bay Area at 53 percent. The Marina Faire neighborhood near the San Leandro Marina tops the city at 60 percent. San Leandro's bigger neighbors to the south, Hayward, conversely are lagging behind at 47 percent. The national average last time around in 2000, garned nearly three-quarters of all households. Below is a color-coded map of San Leandro and Hayward's participation rates, according to the U.S. Census.



Tuesday, March 30, 2010

District Prepares for Word of Hospital Closure

ABSENT RATNESAR CHOSEN FOR NEGOTIATING TEAM; CALLS CONTINUE FOR HIS RESIGNATION
By STEVEN TAVARES


THE DISTRICT v. SUTTERThe Eden Township Healthcare District moved to fortify themselves in advance of Sutter Health's impending move announcing the future closure of San Leandro Hospital by selecting a team of negotiators, while supporters continued to call for the resignation of Boardmember Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar.

"Let's be reminded that tomorrow is Mar. 31," Eden Township Healthcare District Chair Carole Rogers said. "Sutter, legally at this point in time, can file with the state to close the emergency room and if we have a negotiating panel in place, at least, it shows that we are willing to talk about stopping that action in lieu of an injunction, which we are prepared to do." 

Last Friday, a memo to San Leandro Hospital employees from the CEO of Eden Medical Center "assured" no announcement about the future of the facility would be made this week.

The chosen negotiating team did not satisfy supporters of keeping San Leandro Hospital open, who objected to the inclusion of Ratnesar, whose name was picked out of a hat due to the beguiling "Rule of Necessity" used to ensure a quorum of boardmembers. Ratnesar was not present at Tuesday's special meeting. Ratnesar has not yet responded to an inquiry about his absence late Tuesday night. (UPDATE: Wednesday morning Ratnesar told The Citizen, "I have no intention of resigning" and indicated last week he would not be attending Tuesday's meeting because of prior work-related events.)

The District's lawyers have concluded four of the five members of the board have some sort of conflict of interest within the situation. Only Dvorsky has been deemed free of any entangling circumstances. He, along with Ratnesar and Sawhney will conduct negotiating with Sutter, if and when they should occur, but many found fault with one of the targets of the District's lawsuit Sutter participating on the panel.

"If he was here, he should recuse himself, at the minimum," said San Leandro Hospital Nurse Carol Barazi. Despite the awkwardness of allowing member once deemed to have conflicts to be allowed to be reinstated by the drawing of lots, the District's Counsel Gerry Hinkley "I know it seems irrational, but all have debilitating conflicts of interest." He also added the "Rule of Necessity" is recognized by California law.

California Nurses Association Representative Mike Brannan, though, told the board Ratnesar's situation deserved some distinction among the other alleged conflicts of interest. "It really seems like Dr. Ratnesar should be held to some higher standard because he is as, Carol [Barazi] mentioned, part of the lawsuit, part of the reason why there is a lawsuit." Brannan also presented the board with a petition calling for the Ratnesar's resignation.

The District's lawsuit against Sutter, filed Mar. 10, asserts, among other things, Ratnesar, former boardmember Dr. Francisco Rico and current Eden Medical Center CEO George Bischalaney gained financial benefits from Sutter at the time of the 2007 agreement giving San Leandro Hospital two years to become solvent.

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Around the East Bay Blogosphere: 3/30/10

Dublin ain't doing so good, either. the Around Dublin Blog looks at the city's budget woes that look similar to Hayward and San Leandro. Property taxes have dried up along with sales tax receipts. According to Around Dublin, that's nearly three-fourths of the city's revenue. Like San Leandro, a recent survey of residents listed public safety as their top priority....

In advance of tonight's city council meeting in Oakland, the blog Oakland Local asks, "What will Oakland's Energy and Climate Action Plan look like? If it looks anything like San Leandro's climate action plan passed late last year, it will be quickly placed on the budgetary chopping block within months. The plan in Oakland goes further than San Leandro's, calling for greenhouse gas emissions to be reduced 47 percent below 2004 levels by 2020 and provide half of the city's powers with clean energy by 2017....

In recent days, the City of Berkeley has floated the idea of charging customers for recycling. In turns out, residents are so conscience of recycling, that regular garbage pick-up is declining in both trash and revenues. Robert Gammon at the East Bay Express 92510 blog says, "Charging for curbside recycling could prove to be an eco-disincentive if it’s set up wrong."....

New AC Transit routes had some customers confused Monday. The Oakbook chronicled the day along with interesting links to the transportation authority's history.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

Candidates Flesh Out Stances on Hospital

HAYWARD FORUM FEATURES PAST, PRESENT, FUTURE(?) 
 SUPERVISOR-DIST 3The most pressing issue for the three candidates hoping to replace Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker is San Leandro Hospital. The San Leandro-centric issue may also deliver the city and the board seat to the person who best communicates a strategy going forward. Below are excerpts from Saturday's candidates forum held by the Hayward Demos Democratic Club along with analysis of each response:

WILMA CHAN
As you probably know the board of supervisors voted last year to make [San Leandro Hospital] into a rehab-only facility and that is not satisfactory to the community. I would work to change that plan. Right now, I think there are two viable options that I'm actually looking into, so I don't know which one we'll end up with. One would be if Sutter would release the lease and another provider would come in and buy it. The other option is the county continues the lease, but to do a hybrid model where it would be one or one-and-a-half floors of rehab, but retain acute care beds and the ER. I'm working with the unions. I'm working with folks in the community. I went down to the hospital and talked to some of the doctors. I've already started working on this. I think we need to see which one is more viable. The main goal is this hospital has been here 50 years, it serves 27,000 in the emergency room. If it goes away where are these people going to go?

Chan has already shown an impressive grasp of the San Leandro Hospital situation, both its history and the various plans bandied about during the past year. Her background is health care and she has her fingerprints on a few of the local instances where communities nearly lost their hospitals, but were saved. Her statement, though, is similar to the current supervisor, Alice Lai-Bitker, who voted for the county to convert the hospital to a acute rehabilitation facility. When the possibility of another provider, Prime Healthcare, made its interest known, Lai-Bitker tried to rescind the county's offer in advance of possibly negotiating with the Southern California provider. She could not find a a decisive third vote on the board and Sutter publicly balked at a rival in the vicinity of a rebuilt Eden Medical Center. Two things to remember, if Chan could cajole Sutter into allowing a competitor at San Leandro Hospital, the supervisor's seat is hers, but the odds are greater Jesus IS resurrected next Sunday outside the Marshall's on Marina Boulevard. In additiohn, the "hybrid option" has been mentioned by nearly every politician in the county, but without the elusive subsidies behind it or cooperation by myriad entities, it's the equivalent of lazily kicking a can down the road.

BEVERLY JOHNSON
This is a critical issue not only for San Leandro, but for our entire region. Alameda Hospital was at risk of closing eight years ago and I helped lead the process to establish a hospital district and to do what we needed to do to keep the hospital open. The delivery of healthcare doesn't just affect the community where it is but every community around it. I think we need to stop--and I've also been working on this issue--we need to stop the progress where we are now. Bring it to a screeching halt. Sutter says that hospital is operating at a loss. We don't know that. Sutter is a big enough corporation through accounting techniques, they could assign more losses to San Leandro Hospital and assign more revenues to some other hospital to make San Leandro Hospital do worse than it really is. I'm sure it's not doing really well because no hospital really is. Alameda Hospital is also having to find out how to survive. I believe we need to stop this process right now and develop a long-term straregic plan for the delivery of health care services throughout the county and that's what I would work on as supervisor.

If Chan represents the candidate who could possibly step into the San Leandro Hospital issue at the county level without playing catch-up, Johnson's statements here and earlier, may show someone more in line with the current healthcare district's vein of activism. She says she wants to call a ceasefire and push reset. In many ways, this is what Carole Rogers and the Eden Township Board is trying to do by suing Sutter and whiping away the disastrous 2007 memorandum of understanding. Accusing Sutter of cooking the books is also a constant critique by supporters of the hospital and gobbled up like dangling juicy hanger steak over a hungry pack of wolves. Also, when she says, "do what we needed to do" in reference to keeping Alameda Hospital open, what she means is the city taxed itself to fund the facility. Not to put words in her mouth, but a similar proposal is in the whisper stages in San Leandro. Although, she has been vague on what a comprehensive county-wide health care plan would be, the view fro county health officials is any plan for San Leandro Hospital and the system as a whole needs to include long-term investment, something nobody has come close to offering up.

HAROLD LOWE
San Leandro Hospital, I think, covers somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 people a year and it's interesting to understand someone would talk about closing a hospital when we're getting ready to add 30 million people who have no health insurance--4 million in California and roughtly 200,000 in the our county. I think that's the compelling argument right now. We have the ability to talk to Summit [Sutter?] and say, look, we have 30 million people coming from the rolls of the uninsured. I like to be able to address that. One of the things you'll find from me is I want to have top-to-top conversations and the broaden the conversation.

First of all, mistakingly calling Sutter Health, Summit, is not good when the county's interaction with the health care provider is one of the board of supervisor's most pressing questions. Second, misstating the number of patient visits to the emergency room by a third only makes it appear the 41-year-old financial planner may be over his head (Chan deftly used the opportunity to squeeze in the correct figure, 27,000, during her own response). Aside from the glaring mistakes, many in the audience were impressed by Lowe, with one calling him a future prospect in local politics, but his statements regarding the hospital amounted to a general indictment of closing x-hospital, in y-city, in z-state within the backdrop of post-healthcare reform America. As far as having a "top-to-top" conversation with Sutter, anybody even sure what that means?
-STEVEN TAVARES 
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Sutter Says Hospital is Safe...for this Week

MEMO TO EMPLOYEES ANNOUNCES NO EMINENT ANNOUNCEMENT 
The CEO of Eden Medical Center issued a memo to employees at San Leandro Hospital last Friday announcing, in effect, there will be no announcement about its future this week. But maybe next week? Here's the memo:
TO: San Leandro Hospital Employees
FROM: George Bischalaney, President/CEO Eden Medical Center, Ronnie Bayduza, Administrator San Leandro Hospital
DATE: March 26, 2010
RE: San Leandro Hospital

We are aware of a number of rumors regarding the future of San Leandro Hospital, specifically about pending deadlines related to the hospital's future. We want to assure you that no announcement will be made next week.

Thank you for your patience, and for all you have done and continue to do during this uncertain period.
The presence of "rumors" is more than just whispers in the nurse's lounge. According an arbitrator's judgment earlier this month, the Eden Township Healthcare District must relinquish ownership of the hospital no later than this Wednesday, Mar. 31. It is unlikely, with the District's current lawsuit against Sutter, this will occur. What happens when the clock strikes midnight April 1 is unknown. According to Bischalaney's memo, nothing--yet.

The memorandum of understanding states Sutter must notify the District and the community of its intention to close the hospital 90 days in advance. Doing so, as close to the beginning of April, would lead the countdown to the hospitals closing to around July 1, which is also the end of Sutter's one-year window to purchase the facility.

In the event Sutter announces it's pulling the plug, what would the District do next? They could do nothing and stay on their current course. Sutter would likely sue for the deed to the hospital, and the District would use the courts to nullify Sutter's intent to close San Leandro Hospital. The District's current lawsuit against Sutter alleging 2007 agreement was signed with numerous conflicts of interest is also instructive. The Mar. 10 suit includes references to seeking an injunction to help the hospital stave off closure, at least, in the short-term, if Sutter announced its intention to close the emergency room.

Either way, the ball won't resume rolling until Sutter moves San Leandro Hospital to the critical list as early as next week.
-STEVEN TAVARES
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Around the East Bay Blogosphere: 3/29/10

Having issue with your opponent's ballot designation is apparently standard-operating procedure around the East Bay. The blog Halfway to Concord reports the Contra Costa County assistant district attorney, is running for the top job, is suing the Registrar of Voters allowing him to use his job title as his ballot designatioon. His opponent, who is the former assistant D.A., lodged a complaint. Last week, two candidates for the Alameda County Board of Supervisor, District 2 race were accused of misrepresenting their designations on the ballot....

The Island of Alameda blog has a poll showing residents overwhelmingly supporting a school parcel tax. Spread over eight years the tax could cost Alamedans around $659 and replace two other measures on the books....

The second in a six-part series on the business side of cannabis in the city is at OaklandLocal. Taking classes at Oakland's Oaksterdam sounds exactly like signing up for a semester at any local community college.... 

The home of Alice Waters and the concept of locavores were shutout of San Francisco Magazine's compendium of the best sandwiches in the Bay Area.  You can get a good sammich in Oakland, but not Berkeley, they ask? The Berkeleyside  blog offers up four suggestions of their own.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Supervisor Candidates Squabble Over Job Descriptions

LOCKYER SUPPORTER FILES SUIT OVER FIGUEROA'S BALLOT DESIGNATION; DOWLING ACCUSES LOCKYER OF THE SAME 
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

SUPERVISOR-DIST 2A supporter of District 2 Alameda County supervisor candidate Nadia Lockyer has accused former state senator Liz Figueroa, also a candidate, of misrepresenting her job title in a ballot statement to the county registrar, while another candidate for the seat is alleging the same of Lockyer.

Hayward City Councilman Kevin Dowling says in a statement released late Thursday afternoon, Lockyer's ballot statement also misstates her job description. Lockyer lists her occupation as "county manager" for the Alameda County Family Justice Center. According to Dowling, no such description exist and says her actual title is "project director."

“This is hypocritical beyond belief,” said Dowling, who quoted from Lockyer's press release against Figueroa, "‘In this time of economic distress for Alameda County's families, candidates should not be playing politics with voters by trying to portray themselves as something they are not.’ I completely agree, but I think Mrs. Lockyer should take her own advice.”

A day earlier, a supporter of Lockyer's filed a lawsuit against the county registrar's office alleging Figueroa's description of "job developer/educator" is erroneous, when she is actually employed by the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board, according to the suit in the Alameda County Superior Court. Figueroa's campaign page on Facebook indicates the government appointment as her sole employer from January 2007 to present.

"The ballot statement is misleading because she is not a job developer," said Katie Merrill, a spokesperson for the Lockyer campaign. "She's paid $127,000 for going to meetings once a month. She doesn't list that." Merrill also called Figueroa's part-time teaching assignment at U.C. Berkeley "specious" and characterized it as a two hour-a-week pass/fail course.

Figueroa told the Oakland Tribune today, "I'm outraged. It's amazing to me people have the time and money to file these nuisance lawsuits. Right now the county is in a budget crisis, and someone goes and sues the registrar in a suit like this?"

Merrill says the filer of the lawsuit, Hayward Attorney Suizi Lin, is not affiliated with the Lockyer campaign, but has loose connections to Lockyer's husband, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer. Lin worked as an extern at the state attorney general's office in Los Angeles during the time Lockyer held the office. Lockyer was also "of counsel" for a law firm for which Lin practiced. Lin told The Citizen, she was approached initially by the Lockyer campaign and agreed with the premise Figueroa had "blantantly" misrepresented her employment as a job developer to voters.

Politically, the suit is chance for the Lockyer campaign to ward off Figueroa's attempt to attract voters who may be swayed by a candidate offering job relief to an area hit hard by unemployment. "With this economic downturn, everybody would love a candidate who could resurrect jobs in the area," said Lin who added, "but she hasn't had that occupation for years." Figueroa told the Tribune she owned a job development consulting firm until 1994, but still performed duties in that career.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Speakers Exalt Crowd for Fighting Sutter

Eden Township Healthcare District Board Chair Carole Rogers speaks to supporters Monday evening at a rally in support of saving San Leandro Hospital. Also pictured is Mike Brannan of the California Nurses Association and Zenei Cortez, one of the council of presidents for CNA.


ROGERS CALLS FOR COUNTY D.A. TO INVESTIGATE RATNESAR FOR CRIMINAL WRONGDOING 
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

THE DISTRICT v. SUTTERLeaders and supporters of the cause to save San Leandro Hospital unleashed fiery rhetoric at Sutter Health Monday evening, while urging a throng of over 250 people Monday evening to continue their efforts to keep the community hospital's door open at the behest of the corporation and the county, who plan to convert it to an acute rehabilitation facility.

The gathering located beside the San Leandro Medical Arts Building adjacent to the hospital is the largest group of supporters since state Sen. Ellen Corbett organized an event at the San Leandro Library in August of last year. That event was informational in tone, while last night's was clearly organized to rally the troops.

"San Leandro Hospital is not going to close," shouted Eden Township Healthcare District Chair Carole Rogers, who has been at the forefront of leading the charge against Sutter Health and later led supporters during a  candlelight vigil down East 14th Street.

Rogers reiterated her call for fellow boardmember Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar to resign his position for alleged conflicts of interest outined in the District's lawsuit against Sutter. Rogers announced she has sent a letter to the Alameda County District Attorney's office urging it to investigate any criminal wrongdoing on Ratnesar's part during the negotiation and approval of the 2008 memorandum of understanding. The document ultimately allowed Sutter to purchase the hospital if it did not sufficiently improve its financial situation. Sutter last year announced it would lease the hospital to the county for what is says is much-needed acute rehabilitation beds in the area. The lawsuit alleges Ratnesar was employed by Sutter at the time of the disputed agreement.

Labor Representative Mike Brannan of the California Nurses Association, who has been working with supporters of the hospital for over a year, had stern words for Sutter, "We stopped you from closing San Leandro Hospital last year and we're going to stop you this year," he said. The nurses union also announced it will erect a billboard in support of the hospital nearby during the next week overlooking East 14th.

Eden Township Healthcare District Director Dr. Vin Sawhney, who along with Rogers has been a constant critic of the proposed plans by Sutter and the county for San Leandro Hospital, praised the community for whom many observers on all sides of the conflict believe are the sole reason the facility is still functioning today.

"Look at what you have accomplished," said Sawhney. "Go back a year ago, we were all told San Leandro Hospital would be closed on Sept. 30, 2009. Many people believed that would happen, but this community fought." He also added "It is the power of the community that has put Sutter where they are today."

Sawhney, along with two other speakers, made reference to Sunday night's passing of health care reform as both a reason not to close hospitals in advance of any additional 32 million new consumers entering the sytem with health insurance, but also as a symbol of have far communities can affect change."We have accomplished as a nation something very dramatic and very historic," said Sawhney. "I believe as a community will be able to overcome the power of a huge corporation and have our hospital serving our community our way."

Lower photo: Supporters with picket signs and candles walk down East 14th Street Monday evening. 
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Monday, March 22, 2010

Stark Tells Colleagues He is Using Oxygen Tube

SAYS HIS HEALTH IS IMPROVING; DOES NOT SPEAK ON HEALTH REFORM LAST NIGHT 
The headline in yesterday's Roll Call says "Stark Says His Health is Improving," but not enough to appear before the House Sunday night in what was likely the most historic vote of Rep. Pete Stark's long career in Washington.

According to Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill, Stark sent a note last Saturday to his congressional colleagues saying he was returning to good health. “The good news is, that after months in the hospital last year, there is no more pneumonia. Unfortunately, my lung capacity was diminished and for a while I need to use supplemental oxygen to operate at 100%. So don’t panic if you see me with a little plastic tube at my nose. It’s a bit inconvenient, but it works,” wrote Stark.

Stark did not read his statement in support of the health care reform bill passed last night in the House into the record. Rep. Sander Levin (D-Mich.), instead, submitted the 78-year-old's statement into the record. Nationwide coverage of the floor debate across all cable news outlets would have been a rare opportunity for the congressmen who has made health care reform one of his signature issues, a chance to bask in the spotlight. On second thought, maybe not.

A reading of Stark's remarks in support of the bill is tempered in its enthusiasm in a way typical for Stark and his contrarian streak even when it comes to raining on his own party's parade.

"It isn’t the bill I would have written," the statement reads. "However when it comes to legislating health insurance reform in America, we will not get everything each of us want.  This bill is a compromise that bridges the differences among us." This is hardly what House Speaker Nancy Pelosi would want broadcasted to the millions of viewers watching across the country, but why did Stark miss his chance to grandstand?

Was it the oxygen tubes he alluded to in his statement this weekend to House Democrats or is his health worse than his constituents are being led to believe? Stark was believed to had been fighting the effects of pneumonia for the most part of last year. He appeared before his constituents in September and October for town hall meetings targeted by Tea Party supporters and looked in reasonably good health as he chatted about the proper use of urine with a resident in Fremont. At subsequent public appearances, he walked with a pronounced limp and had trouble hearing, but his speech sounded loud and robust. 

With news of Stark relying on a breathing tube to perform his duties--he has the fifth-worst attendance record in the House--there may be justifiable concern whether his health is actually improving from last year bout with pneumonia or not.
-STEVEN TAVARES
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Saturday, March 20, 2010

I Heard From a Friend of a Friend Campaigning

Jockeying for Santos | Eden District's Big Bills | Dvorsky's Ghostwriter | Mayor vs. SL Times | Burrell Dumps
The political equivalent of an "unforced error" in tennis is probably announcing an important local endorsement when it wasn't yours just yet. District 3 candidate for supervisor Beverly Johnson's inauspicious blunder tainted what was an otherwise charming opening event to her campaign to replace Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, but the premature announcement of San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos' endorsement is a glaring mistake with the only bright spot being it occurred much early than later in her campaign. The Johnson camp had reached out to Santos as early as Feb. 19 to secure his backing over the likes of Wilma Chan or even at time Lena Tam or Shelia Young. Johnson told The Citizen a colleague of Santos informed her of his endorsement just before Tuesday's event. The next day, Santos responded quizzically to news of his endorsement for Johnson. It actually was something like this: "Whaaaat?!" Johnson said she spoke to Santos Wednesday and apologized for the misunderstanding and still hopes to secure his endorsement soon. For his part, Santos appears conflicted on whom to endorse, but mentioned his work with Johnson on various regional boards as a plus. "I am staying neutral for time being," said Santos. "I must say I work with Bev on number of agencies, so I do need to stay on her good side. I know them both and like them both, so it is a real dilemma for me." Like in tennis, it doesn't matter how good you are, the presence of crucial errors like the one Tuesday night will sink any campaign.

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BILLABLE HOURS Just how much is the Eden Township Healthcare District going to spend on legal fees in its battle with Sutter Health to save San Leandro Hospital? If the price tag for February's work by the law firms Archer Norris and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is any indication, it could be hefty. According to the District, $364,000 was spent on legal fees that featured the latest lawsuit against Sutter hoping to invalidate the 2008 memorandum of understanding. The District will also be on the hook quite ironically to supply representation for Ratnesar and Dr. Francisco Rico, who were named in the lawsuit. Rumors have been circulating saying the total bill could range somewhere between $4-5 million. Eden Township Healthcare District CEO Dev Mahadevan told the San Leandro Times it could be as high as $2 million. Once you extrapolate February's outlay over the many months the legal skirmish between the two sides may drag, its final numbers could easily be somewhere in between the two figure, or perhaps, exceed them. Critics say that money could be better served towards the $6-9 million subsidy needed to run a hybrid model of services, including the emergency room, at the hospital. The problem is the county and Sutter would rather convert San Leandro Hospital to a acute rehabilitation facility rather than the political security blanket that is the "hybrid model." It appears for the emergency room to be saved, the District has been given no choice but to write hefty checks to their attorneys.

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SIGNED: SUTTER HEALTH? In this era of emails and text messages, who says letter writing is a quaint endeavor from a bygone era? In fact, when the letters arrive with a return address to Sutter, the outcome is usually another peek into the invisible hand of the Sacramento-based health care provider. This week came news Eden Township Healthcare District Director Dr. Harry Dvorsky sent a correspondence to the board requesting an opportunity to change his vote on the Feb. 18 decision to file a lawsuit against Sutter. The circumstances around Dvorsky's reversal (he was one of two votes in the affirmative) are still unclear. He did not answer questions last Wednesday evening, but some believe the elderly director was coerced into an attempt to switch sides. Dvorsky's grasp of the situation surrounding the board and Sutter are said to be basic. Boardmembers have been known to boil down arguments to their lowest common denominator for him. He has stated his goal is to keep San Leandro Hospital open and choices presented to him have been framed in that respect. Did Dvorsky composed the letter on his own volition or did someone else? Who knows, but the existence of two other letters tied to Sutter have made waves in the past six months. Late last year it was revealed Sutter had sent a letter to Prime Healthcare, the outfit with designs of taking over San Leandro Hospital, threatening legal action if they began negotiations with the District. The missive was triggered by comments made by Director Dr. Vin Sawhney vaguely mentioning Prime's intervention in quotes reported by The Citizen. More infamously, December's "Letter to the Community" supposedly written by another Director Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar, was found to be ghost written by an employee of Sutter. Since nobody outside of the board has seen Dvorsky's letter, is it possible someone has been watching the cartoon Inspector Gadget and began employing letters that self-destruct after 15 seconds?

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PROP. 13 IMBROGLIO Mayor Tony Santos was inundated with phone calls and emails from constituents who read in the San Leandro Times he was in favor of repealing the property tax-slashing Proposition 13. "Nothing could be further from the truth," Santos said in an email this week. "At no time have I advocated repealing proposition 13 nor will I ever make such a proposal." In numerous conversations with Santos he has lamented the loss of property tax dollars because of the landmark 1970s referendum in the context of San Leandro's coffers bleeding red, but has never went as far as to advocate a repeal of Proposition 13. Santos said he asked the San Leandro Times for a retraction of story, but the request came after the paper's latest edition was put to bed. 

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FIELD OF NIGHTMARES These are brutal economics times, but the crumbling edifice of Burrell Field is an outright embarrassment for the city. The rickety wooden stands, crab grass-infested infield and pebble track is not suitable for recreation. In fact, it's best use would be for auxiliary parking for a fair, if one were to set up shop on the edge of the 880 freeway. What a stark difference to the sports facilities in nearby Castro Valley. During the past two Saturdays, the athletic fields off Redwood Road have been bustling with women's soccer games, high school baseball, track and field competitions and girls softball leagues with practice in full swing. The quality of the new stadium is evident in the fact that the world's top female soccer player, Marta, will play her home games for F.C. Gold Pride of the Women's Professional Soccer in Castro Valley. It is not so much that the fields are being used for competitive sports or even exercise, but the sheer sense of community on these Saturday mornings is what San Leandro is lacking with Burrell Field languishing in such disrepair.  On the bright side, the elements of a truly special facility are already there with the baseball field and serviceable tennis courts. That is what supporters of the San Leandro Sports Foundation are hoping to build upon by reconfiguring the two adjacent baseball diamonds and football stadium into a facility similar to the one in Castro Valley. How Burrell Field became such dilapidated dump or how nobody has accidentally crashed through its warped and crack stands is astonishing. It is time to get on the ball. Is it any wonder there has never been an exceptionally-gifted athlete ever raised in San Leandro? - S.T.

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Johnson Opens Campaign with Nod to San Leandro

ALAMEDA MAYOR SAYS SAVING SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL IS TOP PRIORITY
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

SUPERVISOR, DIST 3Alameda Mayor Bev Johnson's upstart candidacy for county supervisor has a certain San Leandro flavor. The candidate hoping to replace current supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, outstretched her hand to supporters of saving embattled San Lenadro Hospital last Tuesday at her kick-off event.

"It is an absolutely critical first issue that I will be working on and even before I am elected supervisor," said Johnson, "because we can't wait until January to start working on this issue.

Johnson, who lists 12 years as an elected official, says the struggle to keep San Leandro Hospital and its emergency room operating is similar to what Alamedans experienced eight years ago with their own local hospital. "If you lose your hospital, you lose your emergency room," said Johnson. "If you have a disaster you don't have the ability to provide for health care."

She admits the situation in San Leandro is more complex than the set of problems at Alameda Hospital where the solution was to create a health care district to oversee the facility and residents of the island passed a parcel tax of nearly $400-a-year to fund the hospital.

Johnson believes the county needs to explore whether there is a business model that will keep the hospital economically viable on its own and if one cannot be found, to start looking for subsidies. She also says the county needs to take a larger role. "The supervisors don't seem to be giving much direction and people seem frustrated with how the process has gone," said Johnson. "From what I know about the process, I think they are very justified in that."

Other than the hospital situation, which many in the group of supporters at her Alameda event seemed unaware of, Johnson highlighted the rough economic landscape many in the county and nation are facing. "I don't need to tell you our people are hurting out there," she said. People are losing jobs,  she said, losing health care coverage and struggling to keep up with mortgage payments, while residents are demanding more help from the grovernment. "We're in an era where government is going to have to find a way to do more with less," she said.

Johnson's other platform issues include securing a county-wide jobs ordinance to put people back to work, keeping Alameda's three bridges fully-funded and making sure residents are safe as the state's releases more prisoners because of budget cuts.

Assembly Sandre Swanson, who has endorse Johnson along with Oakland state Sen. Loni Hancock and former state Sen. Don Perata, says the race for supervisor against Wilma Chan will be "very intense." The surprise withdrawal of Alameda Councilwoman Lena Tam may have reverberations in Johnson's campaign vying for the crucial Chinatown area of District 3. The belief among political strategist is Chan and Tam had the possibility of splitting the vote in Chinatown, allowing another candidate to swoop in on the backs of San Leandro and San Lorenzo voters. With Tam out of the race to focus on the Alameda city council, securing enough votes in the southern portion of the district is certain to be a battleground with San Leandro Hospital as its likely epicenter. "I'm not going to concede any area," said Johnson. "I'll do what I can do to get support in Chinatown, but I think Wilma will have a lot of support there."

Johnson says she is actively seeking the endorsement of current supervisor Lai-Bitker, along with San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos. In what was the first flub of the early campaign season, Johnson announced Tuesday night she had received Santos' backing, but he said the next day he had not yet made a decision on the race. Johnson told The Citizen there was a miscommunication between herself and a colleague of Santos, who erroneously informed her of his support. Santos said he will meet with representatives of both Johnson and Chan in the next month before making an endorsement.

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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Rogers, Residents Call for Ratnesar to Step Down

RATNESAR CALLS REQUEST 'INAPPROPRIATE', SAYS 'I NEED TO THINK ABOUT THIS'
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

THE DISTRICT v. SUTTERThe chair of the Eden Township Healthcare District took the unprecedented step Wednesday night of calling for the resignation of long-time boardmember Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar on conflict of interest charges stemming from his involvement in the 2008 agreement between the  District and Sutter that is at the center of their latest legal skirmish.

"This request is made not only because of Dr. Ratnesar's apparent conflict of interest," said Board Chair Carole Rogers," but because he also voted against filing a law suit against Sutter Health in our last closed session where he is mentioned as a party to the illegality of the 2008 [memorandum of understanding]."

Ratnesar has been the target of criticism for over a year for his employment by Sutter running concurrently to his stint on the board. After a string of residents also called for his resignation, he said, "I don't want San Leandro Hospital to close any less than anyone here, but I don't want the new hospital construction stopped as well."

To further elaborate on his rationale for voting against filing the Mar. 10 lawsuit, Ratnesar may have inadvertently described board deliberations made during closed session when he said the District's lawyers had advised them it was a "50-50 chance" Sutter could step away from the rebuild of Eden Medical Center currently underway in Castro Valley." Rogers later disagreed with the context of the discussion Ratnesar had described.

During the meeting, Ratnesar did not respond to Rogers' request, which he says he only learned about during the meeting. When asked afterwards whether he planned to resign he said, "I need to think about this. There is an equal amount of people who are very worried that the hospital may not get built."

Ratnesar, who also said he would not seek re-election this November, criticized Rogers for making the unorthodox request of calling for a boardmember's ousting. "It was inappropriate," said Ratnesar. "If she wants to come out here as a public member, then yes, but I think it was very inappropriate. I was given no warning. We were just told we were going to discuss the policy. We did not discuss the policy tonight."

Rogers' statements came late in the nearly two-hour hearing and followed a string of residents who earlier called for Ratnesar to step down. Carol Barazi, a nurse at San Leandro Hospital, told Ratnesar as he blankly glared at the podium, "I'm sorry, but I think for everybody in the community and probably for you as well, that should resign."

John Kalafatich, a popular pharmacy technician at San Leandro Hospital affectionately known as "Papa John", faulted Ratnesar for failing to heed the wishes of the community by not assisting in saving the hospital's emergency room. He then alluded to his own recent health problems and said, "If you're having a heart attack, every minute counts and you are interfering with the possibility of me living."

San Leandro mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy went further and told the board if Ratnesar did not resign, his case should be referred to the state's attorney general's office for investigation. "This has gone on far too long," said Cassidy.

The board also voted to postpone for a third time the sale of their partnership in the San Leandro Surgery Center to Sutter. The issue of approving the sale for $1.1 million has the possibility of being further delayed indefinitely until a settlement is reached in the two legal disputes between the District and Sutter. The planned use of the "Rule of Necessity" for the third occasion was also postponed. This time in reference to the issue of a conflict of interest found last week involving Rogers and her employment with the Alameda County Medical Center. The board questioned whether the District was actually near the point of negotiating with ACMC.

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Rogers to Ask for Ratnesar's Resignation

BOARD CHAIR SAYS HE VIOLATED DISTRICT'S CONFLICT OF INTEREST CODE
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

THE DISTRICT v. SUTTEREden Township Healthcare District Chair Carole Rogers will ask tonight for the resignation of fellow boardmember Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar. Rogers told The Citizen she will cite the District's own Conflict of Interest Code calling for a member to either resign their position or relinquish any financial interest derived from the conflict of interest.

The former chief medical officer of Eden Medical Center was recently named in the District's Mar. 10 lawsuit against Sutter challenging the validity of the 2008 memorandum of understanding. At the time of the negotiation and approval of the controversial agreement, the suit alleges Ratnesar possessed a conflict of interest stemming from his duties on the board and as an employee of Sutter.

Ratnesar, who has been on the board since 1998, was also singled out recently by the District's lawyers for having a conflict of interest derived from his employment at Eden Medical Center, which ended in November. Ratnesar's employment only months ago is still within the one-year yardstick considered to trigger charges of impropriety.

He, along with Directors Dr. Vin Sawhney and Dr. Bill West, were advised to recuse themselves from any further decisions regarding the District and Sutter, but because the action left less than half of the remaining board, one of the three excused were allowed back assure a quorum of three votes. After blind lots, that member was Ratnesar.

Over the past few months, the board has undergone a change of focus that has allowed it members to become more eager in combating Sutter in the courts, Ratnesar is the lone remaining boardmember who solidly votes against the majority of members who tend to favor keeping San Leandro Hospital's emergency room services intact.

As public meetings go, tonight's monthly meeting (5:30 p.m., HARD Office, Hayward) may be quite eventful. In addition to Rogers' action, the board will also take a third look at selling its interest in the San Leandro Surgery Center to Sutter for over a $1 million. Members of the community have shown disapproval against the transaction with Sutter amidst dueling lawsuits in the courts. The District will also draw lots to find two recused boardmembers to gain a quorum when and if they ever enter negotiations with the Alameda County Medical Center. Rogers, who is employed by ACMC, was found last week to be the fourth member of the board to have some sort of conflict of interest.
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The CiTiZEN FILE on....CONFLICT OF INTEREST 
>>>Three Directors Asked to Recuse Themselves over Surgery Center, Feb. 18, 2010.
>>>Eden District Edging Towards Voiding Disputed MOU, Feb. 25, 2010.                                                 
>>>'Void and Unenforceable', Mar. 10, 2010.

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District Member Tried to Change Important Vote

DVORSKY SENT LETTER TO BOARD AFTER APPROVING SUIT AGAINST SUTTER
By STEVEN TAVARES 
The Citizen

THE DISTRICT v. SUTTERIIn the days after Eden Township Healthcare District Director Dr. Harry Dvorsky cast one of the two deciding votes approving the board's Mar. 10 lawsuit against Sutter Health, he sought to change his vote in opposition, according to sources who have seen the letter sent to the board shortly after the Feb. 18 executive meeting that approved the filing.

A copy of Dvorsky's letter has not been obtained, but Eden Township Healthcare District CEO Dev Mahadevan confirmed its existence along with board Chair Carole Rogers. Mahadevan said Dvorsky had "second thoughts" about his vote to move forward with the District's lawsuit challenging the validity of the 2008 memorandum of understanding at the center of the fight between the District and Sutter to save San Leandro Hospital.

Mahadevan said lawyers for the District explained to Dvorsky no action on changing his vote could not be made until the item was added to the agenda at a subsequent meeting. The matter does not appear on tonight's amended agenda. Rogers says the item is not likely to appear on the agenda in the future since the lawsuit was already filed by the District last week. Dvorsky could not be reached for comment as of this afternoon. A spokesperson for Sutter Health had no comment, saying it was an issue for Dvorsky and the board to handle.

Chief among Dvorsky's concerns, according to Mahadevan and Rogers, is uncertainty the District's lawsuit might endanger the $300 million rebuild of Eden Medical Center by Sutter, which broke ground in July of last year. A source connected to the District believes the long-time director, who is believed to be in his late-eighties, was coerced into reconsidering his vote. Others, who chose to only speak on background, questioned whether the current board was ignoring Dvorsky's letter. They cite the legal action by the District was decided Feb. 18, but was not filed until after an arbitrator sided with Sutter Mar. 5 and awarded the title to San Leandro Hospital no later than Mar. 31.

The mental state of the noted retired thoracic surgeon has been something of the pink elephant in the room. Boardmembers routinely help and encourage his participation during meetings and privately question whether he has full command of the issues being discussed. During the interview process last November to find a replacement for the departed Dr. Walter Kran, Dvorsky read the same question to every candidate. "If chosen, will you run for re-election?" Of late, his only recognizable actions during board meetings has been an unofficial designation as issuer of seconding boardmember's motions.
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The CiTiZEN FILE on...Dr. Harry Dvorsky
>>>Questioning an Eden Board Member's Mental Fitiness, Aug. 20, 2009. 
>>>Sawhney and Rogers Emerge as Defenders of Hospital, Oct. 6, 2009.
>>>One Question on Their Minds: What will you do for SLH?, Nov. 5, 2009. 

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Supervisor Race has Pieces Falling into Place

DISTRICT 3 SHAPING UP AS TWO-WOMAN RACE
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

SUPERVISOR, DIST 3Alameda Councilwoman Lena Tam is out of the race for District 3 Supervisor. Shelia Young is also out, but seemingly always in...yes, no, maybe, I don't know. Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson is moving forward. Wilma Chan is measuring the drapes at the supervisor chambers. Novice politico Harold Lowe is only known as Nate Miley's guy and that's just the Clif's Notes version of the nascent supervisors race to the June primary, but there is far more to it.

Suffice to say, Tam's quick exit from the race is clearly a boon to the Chan campaign who no longer needs to worry about the possibility of splitting votes in the crucial Chinatown area. The subtraction of Young from the equation increases the chance of either Chan or Johnson winning the seat outright in June, although such a scenario is unlikely.

In her statement yesterday, Tam's reason for leaving the race centered around fulfilling her duties in Alameda. "The City of Alameda needs my experienced leadership more at this time," said Tam, but the real reason for her abrupt withdrawal may lie later in her statement. "During the last few weeks, it seems that every member of the Alameda City Council is running for some office, either mayor or board of supervisors and actively campaigning," said Tam. "I believe that the time needed for me to campaign can be best dedicated to running the City of Alameda."

A few observers believe Tam is angling for more power in Alameda with higher chances for victory by hanging around the island. In addition, a scenario bandied about has Johnson, who is not running for re-election, slipping back into city hall at the council level, if she were to lose outright this June.

In the meantime, Johnson held her kick-off party Tuesday evening in Alameda telling a large group at the Blue Dot Cafe her top priority is saving San Leandro Hospital, which is red meat to San Leandrans and part of her strategy to pull in chunks of San Leandro and San Lorenzo. Both areas have been shut out of the supervisor's chambers for over a decade.

Johnson took a quick opening shot at Chan saying, "As some of my opponents groan on and brag about what they have done in the past, IO want to change the conversation to how we are going to sustain the many important programs and services that the county provides going into the future."

With Young out of the race (was she really in it?), Johnson may benefit from the lack of a candidate from the southern half of the district. One source told The Citizen, Young may have miscalculated in leaving the race just as Tam withdrew and her endorsement of Chan is a head-scratcher since many in San Leandro have been critical of Chan's perceived lack of attention towards the area during her first stint as supervisor.

Rumors of Young's political future, though, are still swirling as they have for months. She has been linked to nearly every open seat in the area from mayor of San Leandro, the supervisor's seat, the sanitation district and possibly Emperor of Davis Street. A spate of news stories reporting her withdrawal from the race were peculiar since she was seen last week in San Leandro gathering signatures to put her name on the ballot for the Democratic Central Committee. If that isn't enough, there is still a feeling she could still enter the mayor's race at the last moment.

UPDATE: It was reported today District 3 supervisor candidate Beverly Johnson told supporters in Alameda she had been endorsed by San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos. While it is accurate Johnson publicly announced the endorsement, Santos says he has not made a decision whether he will endorse a candidate for the race. 

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Fourth Eden Member has Conflict

DISTRICT CITES 'RULE OF NECESSITY' FOR SECOND TIME
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen 

THE DISTRICT v. SUTTERYou can add Carole Rogers to the list of Eden Township Healthcare District boardmembers with a conflict of interest. The chair of the board joins Dr. Vin Sawhney, Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar and Dr. Bill West as directors the District's lawyers deem to have financial interests in different parts of its dealings with Sutter Health, Eden Medical Center and the Alameda County Medical Center.

The latest instance of a conflict of interest revolves around Rogers' employment as a registered nurse for ACMC. Lawyers for the District her employment precludes her from involvement in negotiating any possible deal involving ACMC. After exercising its option to purchase San Leandro Hospital last summer, Sutter quickly leased the facility to ACMC to convert it into an acute rehabilitation center, thereby, closing the emergency room, among other services.

According to a letter sent to the board by Eden Township Healthcare District CEO Dev Mahadevan, the District will again invoke the "rule of necessity" at Wednesday's meeting to secure a quorum. Only Boardmember Dr. Harry Dvorsky can currently preside over the entire negotiating process involving portions pertaining to both Sutter and ACMC. Similar to earlier this month, the board will draw blind lots to add two conflicted members back to the negotiating team and regain a majority of three votes.

Sawhney, Ratnesar and West were excluded by lawyers because of income derived from employment or work performed for Sutter. After drawing lots, Ratnesar was allowed to regain his vote. The three-person board subsequently voted 2-1 (Ratnesar voted against) to approve the filing of a lawsuit in Superior Court challenging the validity of the 2008 memoradnum of understanding.

With all the variations of negotiating teams dealing with the San Leandro Hospital conflict, it is conceivable a legal version of musical chairs could occur with different groups of boardmembers separately deciding subsets of the entire question of how to deal with Sutter and the hospital.

Mahadevan says the District's lawyers believe the "rule of necessity" which allows, in this case, boardmembers with a conflict of interest to return to the decision-making process is not legally "foolproof." "If someone wants they could challenge the contracts made by these boardmembers," said Mahadevan. One way to strengthened the validity of the legal maneuver, he said, would be ask for an opinion from the state's attorney general. Lawyers have told the District, receiving such an opinion in an expedient manner is unlikely and "not worth the time."

The District has experience in this matter. Shortly after his election, Boardmember Sawhney's ties to a Hayward clinic were questioned as a  potential conflict of interest. In that case, an opinion from the attorney general's office was not given quickly, Mahadevan said.

Rogers Questions Former Member's Comments

RICO, RATNESAR HAVE SAID OPPOSITION HAS BEEN VOCAL MINORITY 
SAN LEANDRO HOSPITALEden Township Healthcare District Chair Carole Rogers is going on the offensive, again. In a press release late Monday night, the boardmember at the forefront in attempting to maintain the emergency room at San Leandro Hospital, took a jab recent remarks made by former member Dr. Francisco Rico. Over the weekend, Rico posted comments on The Citizen, including a frequent opinion made by him and another current member Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar, that residents outside the healthcare district care little about the fate of the hospital. Here's the statement:
We have heard from the San Leandro community as well as residents of surrounding areas – when you expressed yourselves at numerous public hearings – that you want to keep San Leandro Hospital open as a 24/7 emergency room and acute care hospital.

Dr. Frank Rico stated in a recent post in the East Bay Citizen: “It is an assumption on your part that an overwhelming number of residents oppose Sutter's plans. Realize that the District encompasses all of Hayward, Castro Valley, Union City as well as San Lorenzo and San Leandro. Most of those citizens do not use SLH. The opposition has been from a vociferous minority that is localized mostly in San Leandro.”

The Board of Directors of Eden Township Healthcare District invite the “vociferous minority” from all areas of the District to participate in a Candlelight Vigil on March 22 at 5:30 p.m. in the San Leandro Hospital - Medical Arts Building parking lot to “Save San Leandro Hospital.” Music, food, speakers and candles will be provided.

Even if you live outside of the San Leandro Hospital area, please attend. The closure of the hospital’s emergency room with 20,000 visits per year will severely impact the ER services of surrounding hospitals and claim lives.

If you can’t attend, write a letter to the Eden Township Healthcare District, 20410 Lake Chabot Road, Castro Valley, CA 94546 or email me Carole.rogers@ethd.org and make your wishes known. We cannot allow Sutter Health and Alameda County to close our community hospital and need your show of support now.

Carole Rogers, RN
Chairperson
Eden Township Healthcare District
To read more of Rico's conversation with a supporter of keeping San Leandro Hospital open, click here.
-STEVEN TAVARES
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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Rocky Roads

Friday, March 12, 2010

Eden District Puts Sutter on the Defensive

DISTRICT'S COMPLAINT MAY LEAD TO SUMMER FACE-OFF OVER CLOSING
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

THE DISTRICT v. SUTTERThe relationship between Sutter Health and the Eden Township Healthcare District is best viewed in phases. The Pax Eden ended in 2004 when the District purchased the hospital and leased it to Sutter. Within two years, seeds of corporate bullying began to emerge. It's the great girlfriend who became the monster wife. The ill-advised purchase of a Hummer followed by $5-a-gallon gasoline and the tattoo on your lower back that seemed like a good idea way before those two kids popped out. The Buyer Beware analogies could go on forever and everywhere along the line. Since 2004, Sutter has held all the cards by shrewdly gaining leverage over the District by dangling the rebuild of Eden Medical Center as both the carrot and the stick, that is, until this week.

The District's lawsuit alleging a conflict of interest against three members of the group who negotiated the 2008 memorandum of understanding is a gamechanger. It's the moment when the District can possibly begin to erase the deal that in its shocking simplicity, effectively gave Sutter total control over the future of the District's two main assets--Eden and San Leandro Hospital.

Assuredly, there have long been voices shouting the lawsuit's same transgressions against Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar and Eden Medical Center CEO George Bishalaney and, to a lesser extent, former boardmember and vociferous defender of the MOU, Dr. Francisco Rico. Proving all three had blatant conflicts of interest does not seem hard to see. How anyone in 2008 thought having Bischalaney, who was the CEO of both Eden and the District, directly involved in its execution is preposterous and only conjures up a flood of conspiracy theories centering on the deep-seated perception Sutter, indeed, controlled previous incarnations of the District board and its recently deposed legal counsel.

In addition, Ratnesar was and is currently cozy with Sutter, although he denies impropriety by telling the local paper when it comes to any conflict of interest the righteousness of his heart apparently negates the rule of law.  Rico, although amazingly eloquent and thought-provoking, was also uniquely tied to Sutter through a parntership in a medical group with ties to Sutter. It seems to beg the question, why wasn't anyone paying attention to this obscene flouting of the public's trust?
The presence of the District's lawsuit could likely keep the hospital running for months after the deadline and only heightens Sutter's greatest fear of all: an outside operator, namely an entity like Prime Healthcare flirting with the District.
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What this lawsuit illustrates is Sutter engaged in a surreptitious and massive takeover of a local government entity in the interest of increased profits and reduced competition in the area with profound implications to the residents of the community. Sutter's moves were made with such deftness that many did not see the signs until it became apparent the plan was to trade San Leandro Hospital for a shiny new hospital in Castro Valley. A call to action gained steam in the early part of last year, but it was nearly too late and gave Sutter a huge upper hand that it still enjoys. At every battle since, Sutter has merely plowed forward with reckless abandoned. Most infamously, they invoked their right under the 2008 MOU to purchase San Leandro Hospital and quickly leased it to the Alameda County Medical Center, bluntly saying 'I'll take that and do whatever I want with it' and attempted to do without paying a single dime. That certain amount  of arrogance, though, may have been muted by the District's lawsuit this week.

Dowling Collecting Support of Hayward's Finest

USE THE EASY TO FILL OUT 'ENDORSE KEVIN DOWLING MAD-LIB' FORM 
SUPERVISOR, DIST. 2Hayward City Councilman Kevin Dowling, in a bid for a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, has been racking up an impressive list of endorsements from city leaders, especially those who protect it.

Dowling followed up an endorsement from the city's Police Officers Association Feb. 25 with a nod from its firefighters, but maybe he makes it easy to grant an endorsement. Here's why: a quick look at both press releases touting Dowling's endorsement by police and fire bear quite a stark resemblance, almost like a political version of MadLibs. Last month, Dowling's campaign sent this release:
(Hayward, CA)--The Kevin Dowling for Alameda County Supervisor campaign announced today that is has received the endorsement of the Hayward Police Officers Association.

“Kevin has been a leader on public safety in Hayward,” said Hayward Police Officers Association President Mike Sorenson. “Alameda County residents can count on Kevin to help keep our communities safe.”

“I am honored by this endorsement,” said Kevin Dowling, Hayward City Councilmember and candidate for Alameda County Supervisor District 2. “I’ve been working with the Hayward Police for 11 years as a member of the Hayward City Council, and they know my commitment to making our neighborhoods safer.”

The election for Alameda County Supervisor will be held on June 8, 2010. If one candidate doesn’t receive over 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters will head to a run-off in November.
Then, here's yesterday's press release for the firefighters endorsement:
(Hayward, CA)---The Kevin Dowling for Alameda County Supervisor campaign announced today that is has received the endorsement of the Hayward Firefighters, Local 1909.

“Kevin Dowling has a proven track record of supporting public safety,” said Hayward Firefighters, Local 1909 President Jason Livermore. “We know that the safety of the citizens of Alameda County will be one of his top priorities.”

“I am honored by this endorsement,” said Kevin Dowling, Hayward City Councilmember and candidate for Alameda County Supervisor District 2. “I’ve been working with the Hayward Firefighters for 11 years as a member of the Hayward City Council. They know that I will be committed to making our neighborhoods safer throughout Alameda County.”

The election for Alameda County Supervisor will be held on June 8, 2010. If one candidate doesn’t receive over 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters will head to a run-off in November.
Yesterday's press release is nearly identical to the one Feb. 25. Change the name of the organzination, its president and you too can endorse Dowling. Try it!
(Hayward, CA)---The Kevin Dowling for Alameda County Supervisor campaign announced today that is has received the endorsement of the Hayward Boy Scouts.

“Kevin Dowling has a proven track record of supporting the Scouts and helping the elderly across the street,” said Scout Leader Bill Johnson. “We know that the rope-knotting needs of the citizens of Alameda County will be one of his top priorities.”

“I am honored by this endorsement,” said Kevin Dowling, Hayward City Councilmember and candidate for Alameda County Supervisor District 2. “I’ve been working with the Boy Scouts for 11 years as a member of the Hayward City Council. They know that I will be committed to making our neighborhoods safer throughout Alameda County.”

The election for Alameda County Supervisor will be held on June 8, 2010. If one candidate doesn’t receive over 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote getters will head to a run-off in November.
-STEVEN TAVARES 
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Thursday, March 11, 2010

Corbett to Run for Re-Election to State Senate

Citizen Exclusive! 
SENATOR EXPLORED RUN FOR ALAMEDA COUNTY SUPERVISOR WITH URGING OF SUPPORTERS
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
LEGISLATUREState Sen. Ellen Corbett ended weeks of speculation regarding her political future by announcing Wednesday she will run for re-election in June.

In a telephone message late Wednesday, Corbett said she had explored a possible campaign to replace departing Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, but reconsidered to continue representing the tenth district.

"After careful consideration, I decided, of course, I would like to continue my work as a state senator," said Corbett. The former San Leandro mayor and assemblywoman says she enjoys her work a senator in Sacramento and puts saving San Leandro Hospital as her top priority this year.

Corbett said many of her supporters encouraged her to run for supervisor and out of respect of their wishes, she attended meetings on behalf of political groups, including endorsement interviews with the Central Labor Council.

Corbett's brief flirtation with moving from the capitol to closer to home in Oakland started slowly two months ago after the suddenly decision by Lai-Bitker to not seek re-election. The subsequent news allowed for a slew of candidates to be quickly thrown onto the slate. Former Supervisor Wilma Chan, former San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young and Alameda Mayor Beverley Johnson quickly rose to the top of possible candidates. Whispers quickly began to include the name of the first-term state senator, but while most local politicos thought it might be possible, most dismissed the rumors as a sideshow to Corbett's believed intention to move to a statewide office somewhere down the line.

As Lai-Bitker enthusiastically endorsed Alameda City Councilwoman Lena Tam over Chan and possibly fracturing the all-important Chinatown voters in the north of District 3, the Corbett rumors once again heated up. Numerous local politicians told The Citizen, Corbett had a more than cursory interest in the supervisor's seat. Several sources then told The Citizen this last Monday Corbett had ended his her look at board of supervisors and would return to her work in the senate.

According to the Alameda County Registrar Office, Corbett's declaration of her candidacy was filed Wednesday. The deadline for candidates to file for the June primary is Friday, Mar. 12. At this moment, Corbett is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination. A rematch of her previous senate race could occur in November with Republican Lou Filipovich, whom she handily defeated. Robert Blake Maffit and Jeffrey Wald are also likely opponents for the Republican nomination.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

'Void and Unenforceable'

EDEN TOWNSHIP DISTRICT FILES COUNTERSUIT AGAINST SUTTER WEDNESDAY MORNING
******** 
SUIT ALLEGES RATNESAR, RICO, BISCHALANEY OF 'MAINTAINING FINANCIAL INTEREST' IN NEGOTIATION OF 2008 AGREEMENT
******** 
ARBITRATOR: TITLE MUST BE CONVEYED TO SUTTER BY MAR. 31
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
THE DISTRICT V. SUTTERJust days after an arbitrator ruled in favor of Sutter Health's claim to San Leandro Hopsital, the Eden Township Healthcare District filed a countersuit Wednesday morning against the hospital chain alleging the contentious 2008 agreement is "void and unforceable" due to three instances of a conflict of interest during the negotiations and approval of the deal, according to court documents filed in Alameda County Superior Court.

The District's lawsuit alleges Eden Medical Center CEO George Bischalaney, current District boardmenber Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar and former boardmember Dr. Francisco Rico all "maintained financial interest" in the 2008 Memoradum of Understanding (MOU) which constituted "substantial conflicts of interest," the suit states.

At the time of negotiations and approval of the MOU, Bischalaney served as CEO of both Eden Medical Center and the Eden Township Healthcare District. It also alleges Rico earned "substantial income" from his partnership in a medical group of anesthesiologists contracted by Eden Medical Center and Ratnesar served as the hopsital's chief medical officer at the time of the 2008 MOU, the lawsuit asserts.

A spokesperson for Sutter Health said the company has not seen the lawsuit, but believes in the validity of the 2008 MOU. "We believe we have a legally binding agreement with the District that was approved by the District and outlines the District's authority to enter into the agreement," said Stacey Wells. "We are confident that the court will uphold this agreement and we will receive title to San Leandro Hospital, as outlined in that agreement."

In essence, the District's lawsuit hopes to turn the clock back to the 2004 agreement between Sutter and the District. That agreement called for Sutter to operate San Leandro Hospital for the next 20 years and rebuild Eden Medical Center. Construction of the $300 million hospital in Castro Valley began last July.

The 2008 MOU came to existence, according to observers, from a belief Sutter was seeking to extricate itself from operating San Leandro Hospital in favor of building the state-of-the-art facility just a few miles away. In testimony given to the healthcare board in November during interviews to replace Dr. Walter Kran, who resigned, former member Rico said the 2008 MOU was needed to stop Sutter from leaving the district completely and, therefore, saddling the District with a seismically-deficient Eden Medical Center facing a costly mandate to retrofit by 2013.

News of Sutter's victory in arbitration was not known publicly until it was contained in today's lawsuit. According to the filing, an arbitrator found Sutter "properly exercised its option to purchase San Leandro Hospital, as described in the 2008 Lease." The arbitrator then ordered the title to San Leandro Hospital be delivered no later than Mar. 31. The suit says the arbitrator allowed for the District to file a countersuit in the meantime, which they exercised Wednesday.

What happens next is unclear. Sutter could conceivably move forward with its plans to lease the hospital to the Alameda County Medical Center and commence transforming the facility into an acute rehabilitation center. Doing so would likely entail closing the emergency room within the next month.

Eden Township Healthcare District Chair Carole Rogers, recalling past comments by Sutter in the past, believes they could move forward with their plans to close the hospital's emergency room. The lawsuit notes the possibility of the District issuing an injunction if Sutter attempts to close to the emergency room before adjudication of today's countersuit.

The timing of the lawsuit comes five days after the arbitrators ruling against the District and Rogers says she never wanted to go to arbitration," That was a decision favored by Ratnesar, Kran and Boardmember Dr. Harry Dvorsky, she said. Rogers also says Wednesday's filing was not a response to the arbitrator's decision last Friday, but part of the District's new strategy to keep the hopsital open. "I've always said we should have dealt with the problem last year." Clamoring for Ratnesar specifically to step down because of alleged conflicts of interest derived from his employment by Sutter have been voiced since as early as last May by detractors of Sutter, including the California Nurses Association.

Rogers specifically criticized Ratnesar's continued involvement within the decision-making process in the District's fight with Sutter to keep San Leandro Hospital open, calling for him to recuse himself. "He should stand down," said Rogers. In fact, the attorney for the District recently found three members of the board, including Ratnesar to possess current conflicts of interest regarding financial dealings with Sutter. Ratnesar, though, was  allowed to participate in discussions regarding the District and Sutter to maintain a quorum of three that was lost by recusing three of the five boardmembers. According to the legal "rule of necessity," Ratnesar was allowed back in by way of winning a drawing of blind lots.

The allegations against the three named in the lawsuit come with possible legal jeopardy. According to the state attorney general's web site, public officials partaking in the negotiation and execution of a government contract when a financial conflict of interest exists could face "criminal, civil and administrative sanctions."

San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos told The Citizen he would like to see an equitable solution to conflict and said he supports keeping the emergency room at San Leandro Hospital open either in its current form or as a hybrid facility of many small scale operations within the building. "I would hope the two sides would sit down and keep the hospital open past June 30," said Santos. "We have to have a facility in town for people to go when they suffer some kind of ultra emergency."

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The Statute at the Heart of the District's Strategy

THE DISTRICT V. SUTTERThe lawyers for the Eden Township Healthcare District are attempting to void the 2008 Memorandum of Understanding between the District and Sutter Health. At the heart of the lawsuit filed today in Alameda County Superior Court is a quite simple and straightforward government statute prohibiting officials from participating in contracts from which they may have a financial interest. Below is the text of California Government Code Section 1090:
Members of the Legislature, state, county, district, judicial district, and city officers or employees shall not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity,or by any body or board of which they are members. Nor shall state, county, district, judicial district, and city officers or employees be purchasers at any sale or vendors at any purchase made by them in their official capacity.

As used in this article, "district" means any agency of the state formed pursuant to general law or special act, for the local performance of governmental or proprietary functions within limited
boundaries.
Although the statue does not specifically define the moment an official begins to possess a financial interest in the contract, the state's attorney general says, "courts have applied the prohibition to include a broad range of interests."
The courts have continually reiterated that no matter how twisted and winding the trail may be, if the connection between the financial interest of the official and the contract can be made, a violation of section 1090 will be found.
For more information on Code Section 1090, click here to go to the state attorney general's web site.
-STEVEN TAVARES
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Glenn Beck: The Citizen is Enemy #1

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Transit Project Struggles to Find Adherents

COUNCIL COULD DECIDE ON PLAN OR ALTERNATIVES IN APRIL 
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen
SAN LEANDROOver the past decade, ACT Transit's $234 million dream bus line that cuts through three East Bay cities, has drifted in and out of vogue, yet even as it nears full funding, San Leandro is still sitting on the fence.

The city has actually never been keen on AC Transit's planned Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) which would build dedicated bus lanes down the center of E. 14th Street allowing buses to travel nearly uninterrupted from U.C. Berkeley to Bayfair Mall. AC Transit says the route would significantly shave nearly 15 minutes for those traveling from one end to the other. Since 2004, the city's official position, though, is to end the line near the San Leandro BART station in an attempt to emphasize revitalization of its downtown. AC Transit has long maintained it end near Bayfair.

Former Mayor Shelia Young led opposition to AC Transit during her tenure and current Mayor Tony Santos has also been skepitcal of the plan, which he again voiced Monday night. Santos criticized the transit agency's lack of alternatives at this point of the decision-making process. "We're long into this and it seems to me alternatives should have been discussed," said Santos.

AC Transit has been criticized by some in Oakland and Berkeley for attempting to push their initial plan without consulting the community. In response, AC Transit staged a flurry of local presentations last year in all three communities to uneven success. Some local politicians criticized the events as merely one-sided conversations, while others expressed confusion when they routinely received different answers from AC Transit representatives.

Councilwoman Ursula Reed, whose district would be most affected by BRT, had pointed opposition for the proposal seeing it as a project already sufficient filled by existing transit opportunities with the current E. 14th bus line and BART running parallel. "What we have right now seems to be working," said Reed. Many businesses and current riders of the existing bus route reside in Reed's district. AC Transit officials have countered BRT does not have the same function as BART since bus customers can ride the line shorter distances rather than riding fixed distances--station-to-station on BART.

Reed also voiced concern for the planned loss of some parking spots on the corridor which would be eliminated to make room for the loss of a lane set aside for BRT. All the same concerns have been communicated in Berkeley along with the perception the agency should be focusing on the existing ridership during a poor economy instead of cutting routes. "Maybe AC Transit should have taken that funding," said Santos, "and provided more frequency in service not only in San Leandro, but the entire corridor."

Councilmen Jim Prola and Michael Gregory said they support the original BRT plan with or without any detours around the downtown area to Bayfair. Both have long been advocates of promoting alternative transit. Gregory espoused the benefits to the environment and to personal health along with urging the city to continue with its long-term transit-oriented policy for its downtown.

Part of BRT's benefits, supporters say, will get people out of their cars and onto to mass transit. Lowering emissions is one of the city's priorities according to the Climate Action Plan approved last year. BRT would go a long way towards fulfilling the goal of reducting emissions by 25 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, although the climate plan may not be funded this year because of the city's hefty deficit.

While the city appears amendable to listening to alternatives to the initial BRT proposal, most of the council voiced the same concerns they offered last year. The city's planning commission will discuss the various plan Mar. 25 and the council could make a decision in April.

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Friday, March 5, 2010

Starosciak and The Hurt Locker

HOW RCV COULD HELP STAROSCIAK
Ranked Choice Voting is coming to San Leandro this November, but it's already changed the way Oscar voters determine their Best Picture and the surprise winner Sunday night might be a guide to what happens in the race for mayor.

After the normally staid Academy Awards doubled the numbers of nominees for its top prize from 5 to 10 last year, it also added a new wrinkle in how it determines a winner that is the exact voting system San Leandro voters will use in this year's elections for mayor and city council. Voters whether they are deciding the cinematic superiority of "Avatar" over the "The Hurt Locker" or Mayor Tony Santos' leadership over Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak will rank their preferences until one of the choices garners a majority of the vote.

Ranked Choice Voting rewards a consensus, which in the world of the Oscars, is trending towards the underdog film, "The Hurt Locker," about a band of bomb-diffusing soldiers in Iraq. This may be surprising since nearly everyone has seen "Avatar" and gush over its stunning moviemaking, but "The Hurt Locker" is currently the odds-on-favorite to win.

The New Yorker's Henrik Hertzberg wrote last month about the possible upset of "Avatar" due to Ranked Choice voting:
This scheme, known as preference voting or instant-runoff voting, doesn’t necessarily get you the movie (or the candidate) with the most committed supporters, but it does get you a winner that a majority can at least countenance. It favors consensus. Now here’s why it may also favor “The Hurt Locker.” 
An article in the USA Today adds, "Though the new system ensures some consensus, it raises the possibility that a movie with more No. 2 and No. 3 votes could beat the film with the most first-place ballots" Meaning, a film like "The Hurt Locker" or "Inglourious Basterds" could surprise movie lovers. Eschewing flying blue aliens and revenge-seeking Jews, a candidate with fewer first-place could become mayor in San Leandro this year and that person may be Vice Mayor Starosciak.

As it stands, the incumbent Santos is without a doubt the frontrunner. Most would place Starosciak second and former school board trustee Stephen Cassidy third. Depending on who you talk to, Santos will either win easily with a majority of the votes even before the mechanism of Ranked Choice Voting begins or the three candidates will nearly split the first place votes by a third with Santos narrowly leading. There is a wide spread there, but here is the likely breakdown past voter's first preference.

It is a good assumption supporters of Cassidy will not rank Santos second on their ballots. There's quite a bit of bad blood that flows both ways, but it is more evident from Cassidy supporters than the other way around. Santos supporters would likely vote the current consensus for the mayor, Starosciak and Cassidy, 1-2-3. Since many of the mayor's supporters are also shared with the vice mayor, they may be inclined to feel comfortable with Starosciak as similar to Santos. Where does that leave Starosciak, then? Probably piling up a large number of second-place votes.

Noted San Francisco State Political Science Prof. Rich DeLeon said in The Citizen, his research regarding Ranked Choice Voting in San Francisco, did not uncover a race that was overturned by a candidate who upset the apple cart. The voting system merely saved money and gave more people a chance to run and to participate. Proponenets of Ranked Choice voting, when they lobbied the city last year, did not dwell on this possibility of an upset ocuring because of the system. Nevertheless, there is a chance a movie nobody has heard of will win Best Picture and a candidate could become the mayor of San Leandro with more second-place votes than first-place votes and that would make for a good movie.
-STEVEN TAVARES
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