DELIVERING DISCOMFORT TO THE POWERFUL SINCE 2009
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HAYWARD TO CHOOSE NEW COUNCIL MEMBER ON TUESDAY

Five candidates are seeking the short two-year term left open after Barbara Halliday's election to mayor.

SANTOS WANTS CASSIDY TO APOLOGIZE FOR PREVIOUSLY OPPOSING SALES TAX MEASURE

san Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy opposed Measure Z in 2010, but is now advocating for its renewal this fall.

YOUNG AND VULNERABLE

Few elected officials have a longer, more notorious list of misdeeds than AC Transit member Joel Young, but defeating him won't be easy.

HAGGERTY VOWS TO DELIVER THE TRI VALLEY

Two years ago, the Tri Valley helped to undermine a massive transportation sales tax, its county supervisor says he won't be embarrassed again this fall.

JUNE PRIMARY COVERAGE ONLY AT EBCITIZEN.COM

Assemblymember Rob Bonta casts his ballot June 3 in Alameda.

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

Less Than Superlative Week for Lockyer

Rapper's Delight | Katz of Many Hats | Free Press Coverage | Training Video for Mayor's Re-Election
This has definitely not been a good week for Nadia Lockyer. She allowed The Chronicle to join the fray when she couldn't get her facts straight on whether she was a deputy district attorney for the county and exactly when her campaign removed the false claim from her web site. She followed that up by telling voters in Fremont state Sen. Ellen Corbett had endorsed her when she had not. You knew something odd was going on when both her opponents at the Wednesday forum quickly looked up strangely at her and furrowed their brows in confusion when she said her father founded the Democratic Party in Orange County. Lockyer's propensity for making Sarah Palinesque statements like the one in today's Chronicle where she says "very few people have access to the Internet" and "I don't trust Kevin Dowling" is making many worried about her fitness for joining the Board of Supervisors. It is believed The Chronicle may be working on investigating exactly what Lockyer's county-funded Family Justice Center does and whether it is truly a non-profit. In addition, two more mailers from the Lockyer campaign arrived in mailboxes this weekend touting her as the only one of the four candidates who "has direct experience working as a county manager inside county government." The proliferation of mailers has some speculating whether the campaign's internal poll costing over $20,000 showed a soft spot in her support. Her opponent, former state Sen. Liz Figueroa also criticized a recent mailer targeted towards the district's Republican voters (the race for supervisor is non-partisan) featuring former Southern California Republican state Sen. Jim Brulte. Figueroa said she can't see why a candidate endorsed by the Democratic Party would ever use a Republican in her campaign materials . Brulte has a interesting connection to the fight to keep San Leandro Hospital open. Brulte is close to Dr. Prem Reddy, the owner of Prime Healthcare and one-time suitor willing to purchase the hospital last year. Brulte, who is now a lobbyist, was seen last June at one of the three heavily-attended community meetings involving San Leandro Hospital.
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When rapper turned mayoral candidate Sara Mestas stood in front of city hall Wednesday to announce her candidacy, the man she hopes to replace Mayor Tony Santos was sitting in his second-story office within viewing distance of the press conference filmed by a NBC Bay Area cameraman. When I met with the mayor to discuss a separate story I was working on, his secretary alerted him to my arrival. The mayor yelled out, "Tell him I'm having a press conference in here!" It was a joke on the mayor's part, but points to his disapproval of another candidate entering the race, but Mestas inclusion may help Santos far more than the other candidates--Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak and Stephen Cassidy. During her press conference, Mestas called Santos "a friend." She has previously supported Santos for re-election and counts him as the person who urged her to apply for a seat on the city's rent review board. If Mestas has any chance to completely upend the political establishment of San Leandro, she will likely need to bring a large number of new voters into the fold. Under Ranked Choice Voting, gaining a number of those new second-place votes could greatly help Santos' bid for a second term, so it doesn't make sense for Santos to be so combative towards Mestas. In the parlance of the RCV, she is the classic rabbit candidate, meaning Tony the Magician just may have surprised his opponents by pulling Mestas out of his hat.
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Sara Mestas the Rapper and Sara Mestas the Candidate have never really been in the same place at the same time. She rarely makes reference to her nascent rap career without prodding, but her unique story is doing wonders in getting her attention--for free. Articles on Mestas in the Daily Review and San Leandro Times have focused on the fish-out-of-water aspect of the gangsta rapper throwing her do-rag into the race. As both articles have noted, she is surprisingly informed and full of ideas. In just two short weeks, the newcomer to the race has garnered infinitely more free press coverage than both Starosciak and Cassidy combined. Both candidates have been in the race since last fall and have struggled to grab much attention. In contrast, Mestas appeared on the evening news of the local NBC affiliate, was featured on the web site of SF Weekly, covered in the local newspapers and may appear in a coming issue of the East Bay Express (the article posted this week in The Citizen).
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Mike Katz-Lacabe, the blogger and San Leandro school board trustee, is now giving his wife the school board president's imprimatur for a spot on the Democratic Central Committee next month. Last week, Katz posted an article previewing the race for the six seats on the party's central committee--the race in which his wife is a candidate. In light of criticism from this column calling for a higher level of transparency regarding Katz's identity on the blog and better journalistic decision-making when covering issues and people who he may have a distinct conflict in covering, he wrote about his wife. The posting included a lengthy introduction for his wife including a quote for readers. He also blogged about Sara Mestas' decision to run for mayor. Both presented conflicts even when prefacing in the article Margarita Lacabe is his wife and indicating his endorsement for Mestas' opponent Stephen Cassidy for mayor. To be specific, Katz is more than endorsing Cassidy, but a member of his campaign team. Mestas told The Citizen, Katz emailed her a list questions in preparation for his posting on her candidacy. The list included queries into where and when she last registered to vote. Katz, the man of many hats, also transformed himself into a political consultant, according to Mestas. He told the rapper the best way to garner votes would be for her to publicly support the November ballot measure making marijuana legal in the state. Great advice if you are on the campaign committee of Mestas' opponent like Katz is. As one professional political consultant said, "Maybe he should stop writing on his blog and start finding that $1.6 million missing from the school budget."
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If this rapping becomes the new new thing in San Leandro politics, I'm thinking Mayor Tony Santos just may have a chance. By most accounts, he's hip for a grandfather. Not a bad trash-talker, routinely visits the gym and is a relative maven with email. This video may give him a few pointers if he needs to duel Mestas this November for that elusive San Leandro hip-hop voter bloc. -S.T.

A Starting Point in Negotiations

Eden District Director Calls Possible Sutter Proposal A 'Starting Point" By Steven Tavares
Very little news has trickled out the past month with the Eden Township Healthcare District 's battle with Sutter Health over the fate of San Leandro Hospital. The reason according to numerous sources is the countersuit filed by the District March 10 forced Sutter Health to "stand down" as the District Chair Carole Rogers said earlier this month. The successful gambit by the District's lawyers to allege conflict of interest by two members of the 2008 board along with Eden Medical Center's CEO raised the stakes, according to one source in the county.

If the 2008 memorandum of understanding signed by the District and Sutter can be proven to have been signed within the realm of a conflict of interest by the alleged parties, the entire agreement is nullified according to state law. The District best outcome would be to wipe out the 2008 deal and revert to the far more favorable 2004 agreement that held Sutter responsible for rebuilding Eden Medical Center and, the most important part of the deal in the District's mind, keeping San Leandro Hospital open for the next 20 years.

After nearly two years of hardball tactics by Sutter, the District's countersuit has for the first time pushed the Sacramento-based health care provider to make an offer. According to sources familiar with the propsal, Sutter has floated a plan for which they would provide $1.5 million towards the $6-9 million annual subsidy needed to keep the hospital operating. Sutter would complete the $5 million in capital improvements laid out in the 2008 MOU (This point is referenced in Sutter's response to the District's countersuit with Sutter in agreement) and keep the hospital open until 2013. Nothing is news about the first two points. The possibility of Sutter, the county, the District and the city of San Leandro splitting the subsidy has been mentioned before, but never with any sort of timetable. A spokesperson for Sutter knew nothing of the plan, but sources believe the idea did not come from the District or county, but Sutter. District Director Dr. Vin Sawhney, who is one of three who sit on the exclusive negotiating team dealing with Sutter denied any knowledge of Sutter's proposal, but said it "would be a good starting point."

Such a deal would appear to be advantageous to Sutter. The reconstructed Eden Medical Center would be near completion by 2013. In addition, the new Kaiser Permanente campus in San Leandro would be a year away from operation, possibly eliminating one of the main concerns of residents--the lack of a nearby emergency room. It would also quiet the vociferous band of citizens who many believe have stymied Sutter's efforts to close the emergency room for over a year.

Another concern on the horizon involves San Leandro Hospital's operating license expiring Oct. 31. It was previously reported the lease would lapse at the end of June, but this is not the case, according to a source. The issue of the hospital's expiring license poses numerous problems to all sides of the conflict. The dueling lawsuits between Sutter and the District show few signs of being solved this summer and Alameda County Health Services has indicated several options could be applied to the license. The worst case scenario, though, would be allowing the license to lapse. According to the ACHS, reapplying for a state license would cost up to $30 million; money the county doesn't have or burdening the hospital with an additional large expenditure added to any possible purchase of the facility.

The Heat is On in Contra Costa County

Around the East Bay Blogosphere
Halfway to Concord blogged this week about the area's race for the 11th Congressional District. The tone of the campaign is ratcheting up as opponents tie David Harmer to Wall Street fat cats, San Francisco Liberals and claims the candidate lives in Utah. Hot stuff. The blog also covered the simmering open carry movement making news in places like Walnut Creek. Halfway to Concord visited the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco's debate of the issue...

In these times of budget-slashing times, The Island poses an interesting question in covering Alameda's school parcel tax, Measure E. What if the school district has more fat to cut than they are willing to admit? The four-part look at Measure E raises questions that could be posed to any governing body pleading poverty while seeking to tax its residents....


San Leandro Councilman Michael Gregory thinks he's cool by eshewing automobiles for bicycles, but the Berkeleyside blog writes Berekeley Mayor Tom Bates got rid of his gas-guzzler and started walking to work. In a year, Bates says he has walked 5,000 miles and lost 20 pounds...

A group of African-American clergy have descended upon Arizona to protest the state's controversial immigration law. Oaklandlocal reports many in the group are from Oakland. One protester told the blog, "I firmly believe the Black and Latino quest for liberty and justice is one, and that's why, just as we rode to the south so many decades ago, I'm proud to go to Arizona."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Bill Lockyer Contributes Hefty Sum to Spouse's Campaign

Bill Lockyer campaign donates over $300,000 in last two months; Less than 1% of Nadia's fundraising comes from within District By Steven Tavares
In the past two months, Alameda County supervisor candidate Nadia Lockyer has raised over $410,000 with most of it coming from the campaign largess of her husband Bill Lockyer's re-election for state treasurer, according to reports filed with the California Fair Political Practices Commission.

The Bill Lockyer for Treasurer 2010 campaign made two donations totalling $300,000 in April and May to his wife's campaign. To date, Biil Lockyer has been, by far, the largest contributor to Nadia Lockyer's bid to replace retiring supervisor Gail Steele on the Board of Supervisors. Of the $647,000, Nadia Lockyer has raised in this campaign, Bill has contributed over $469,000.

Lockyer's opponent, Hayward Councilman Kevin Dowling, called the sum "breathtaking" and says reform is needed to manage fund-raising at the county level. "This shows the county needs campaign finance reform," said Dowling. "If this election was in Hayward, Bill could not be able to give this kind of money because of fund-raising limits we have."

According to the report filed with the FPPC, Bill Lockyer's campaign also contributed $2,262.24 in child care services to Nadia Lockyer's campaign. Dowling told The Citizen Friday afternoon that he questions whether listing the services of a nanny for their young child is a legitimate campaign expenditure.

Dowling's campaign fund-raising report was not available Friday, but he says he has raised between $15,000-20,000 over the past two months with $10,000 cash-in-hand. Former state Sen. Liz Figueroa, meanwhile, reported raising just $5,000 with $17,000 cash-in-hand. In contrast, Nadia Lockyer brought in over $341,000 over the past two months and over $50,000 in cash-on-hand with the help of her husband's campaign, but with very little local financial support, something her opponents have long criticized.

Less than one percent of Lockyer's two-month fund-raising total comes from contributions within the district she hopes to represent. A total of $3,025 was raised mostly from supporters in Hayward, according to the FPPC. The campaign has faced lingering criticism from its opponents over the appearance Lockyer's support only emanates from outside the area. Earlier this year, Dowling sent a press release slamming Lockyer's lack of local support by trumpeting a mere one percent of her fund-raising at the time came from within District 2.

Controversy erupted over the issue, when the campus newspaper at Cal State-East Bay published an article asserting the one percent allegation. Numerous apologies were issued by The Pioneer. Its faculty adviser Dr. Robert Terrell says the Lockyer campaign asked to remove the reporter for alleged acts that questioned a bias towards one of the other candidates. Terrell, though, says the Lockyer campaign never requested to retract the story.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Stephens Defends the Constitution for the Powerful

Outgoing Councilman Stephens breaks out his American History Textbook
From his Estudillo Estates villa, patriot and San Leandro Councilman Bill Stephens watched as the servant tended to the cherry orchard. He spoke from a libertarian point-of-view. The infamously inflaming letter printed in the San Leandro Times two weeks ago was replaced in today's edition with a far more intellectual and better written version, but the sentiments was the same--outsiders go home. Well, there isn't any cherry orchards in San Leandro anymore, but you could almost see the tricorn hat of the Revolutionary period materialize atop Stephens' head. Here, the council's lone conservative, defended freedom of speech during last week's council meeting:
On Sept. 17, 1787, the Continental Congress approved the U.S. Constitution. James Madison was very proud of himself in that regard and sent a copy to an individual by the name of Thomas Jefferson, who was in France at the time, with a copy saying, "Isn't this wonderful!" Thomas Jefferson sent it back saying it was missing 10 points. The first one was the Bill of Rights, which obviously, was the First Amendment, which is, "Congress shall make no law abridging freedom of speech, press or the right of peaceful assembly. It took two more years before we could get to the Bill of Rights inculcated into the United States Constitution but they have become the benchmark of our freedom.They are the things we fight for and hold dear. They are things when people say things we disagree with we listen, lest they be speaking the truth and we be in error. It is what makes us unique as people and citizens of this great planet and this great country. There are times we I hear and read things I disagree with, but I am so happy to have that opportunity.
Stephens' speech flipped the argument against the Times by defending the generalities of freedom of speech. The author's speech was not impugned. Neither was the freedom of the press compromised, unless you intend to argue the Times acting on their own would have sullied their freedom's through some sort of convoluted argument of self-censorship. The last time anyone looked, the Bill of Rights never included the right of individuals to have their diatribe printed in the newspaper.

Stephens, who is termed out this year after eight years in the council, luckily never faced a challenger for his seat. This is not the first time Stephens' highfalutin rhetoric appeared to back those with so-called higher definitions of self-determination (the "pick themselves up by the bootstraps set). Last September, in the middle of loud community outrage over the city's decision to cut school crossing guards from the budget, Stephens' Address that night urged residents to make priorities, but came across as indicating the safety of children was on the same list as pruning trees and unclogging street gutters.

Stephens is correct, our freedom of speech is indeed precious and unique, but the Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld certain reductions in that right when it comes to hate speech. The letter in the Times was undoubtedly hate speech given 32,000 times the volume of one person's voice by the San Leandro Times publishing the letter. The person's views Stephens and others want to protect on a symbolic level puts the poor, weak and minorities on the defensive for no reason other than to preserve the city's old guard and dusty views towards race and outsiders.
-STEVEN TAVARES

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Corbett Denies Lockyer's Endorsement Boast

District 2 Supervisor hopeful falsely tells Fremont seniors she has senator's backing By Steven Tavares
On a day when two local media outlets published scathing articles about the honesty and political motivations of Alameda County supervisor candidate Nadia Lockyer, she told a group of seniors in Fremont she had obtained the endorsement of state Sen. Ellen Corbett, but the East Bay legislator says no.

"Sen. Corbett has not endorsed a candidate in the race," said her spokeswoman Lynda Gledhill, who would not elaborate on whether conversations over Corbett's backing of Lockyer have occured. The campaign manager for Lockyer, Katie Merrill, says there may have been a "misunderstanding" over the erroneous endorsement that was "conveyed by a third party."

This is not the first time a candidate for supervisor has jumped the gun by mentioning a false endorsement this primary season. Bev Johnson, the mayor of Alameda and supervisor candidate for the county's other open seat told supporters at her kick-off party in March she had received the important backing of San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos to his surprise. Santos has not endorse a candidate for either race.

Later in the 90 minute candidate's forum at the Fremont Senior Center, Lockyer also said her father, noted Southern California Civil Rights Attorney Wally R. Davis" was a founder of the Democratic Party in Orange County." Following the statement, her opponents Hayward Councilman Kevin Dowling and former state Sen. Liz Figueroa both reacted to the apparent gaffe. Afterwards, Dowling questioned whether the Democratic Party was already entrenched in Orange County during the 1960s before Davis's involvement in the local Hispanic community. Merrill defended Lockyer's description of her father's accomplishments saying Davis helped build the structure of the party in traditionally conservative Orange County.

Dowling and Figueroa also criticized Lockyer for repeatedly referencing former East Bay lawmaker Johan Klehs as a former state senator, when in fact, he spent 12 years in the assembly representing the 14th and 18th districts before losing in a state senate primary to Corbett in 2006. "Are these the issues Kevin Dowling thinks will help people in this District?" asked Merrill. "This is what losing campaigns do and Kevin's campaign is losing."

Lockyer awoke Wednesday morning to a highly critical story in the San Francisco Chronicle alleging she had misstated her position on her web site as a deputy district attorney for the county. Lockyer told the Chronicle the designation was a mistake, but according to the story, her campaign spokesman maintained its validity, then said the web site was corrected and questioned whether Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley knew if Lockyer worked in her office. Merrill told The Citizen the Chronicle article "did not represent my conversation." but admitted, "We made a mistake."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Bill, Nadia, Liz, Kevin, Mark and Bill

District 2 County Supervisor Candidates can't help being pulled into Bill Lockyer's orbit By Steven Tavares
State Treasurer Bill Lockyer is not running for Alameda County Supervisor, but he may be the most important person in the race to replace retiring Supervisor Gail Steele. Former state Senator Liz Figueroa, Hayward Councilman Kevin Dowling, and Union City Mayor Mark Green may have deeper roots in Alameda County’s District 2, which encompasses Hayward, Union City, Sunol, and parts of Fremont, but it’s the newcomer who has made the biggest imprint on the race going into the June primary. Nadia Lockyer is the executive director of the county’s Family Justice Center and is married to the long-time East Bay power broker Bill Lockyer. Their partnership has shaped this race from the beginning.

An open seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors is a rare occurrence, let alone two in the same year. The other seat opened when Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker announced she also would not seek re-election. In the battle over Steele’s spot, Lockyer has attracted the most attention thus far thanks to her husband’s connections and the powerful statewide apparatus of the Democratic Party. She recently sent a mailer to residents featuring gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown and has parlayed the party's support into a significant fundraising advantage.....

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE FROM THE EAST BAY EXPRESS HERE or pick up a copy at newsstands around the East Bay.

Mo for Mayor

Total Blank

Eden Township Director can't recall why he asked for re-vote on pivotal vote to file lawsuit against Sutter By Steven Tavares
When lawyers for Sutter Health filed their highly-anticipated response to the Eden Township Healthcare District's March countersuit, more than a few observers raised an eyebrow over what appeared to be the central argument against the legal action--the inclusion of a letter from Dr. Harry Dvorsky attempting to withdraw his vote to file the lawsuit in the first place.

It turns out, Dvorsky, whose exact age is not known, but believed to be close to 90, says he does not remember why or when he sent the letter to the District a day after his vote allowed their legal team to file a countersuit against Sutter alleging three signers of the 2008 Memorandum of Understanding possessed various financial conflicts of interest.

In addition, two people serving the District, who requested anonymity because their connection to the district, say Dvorsky told them he could not remember sending the handwritten letter February 23 to District CEO Dev Mahadevan. Dvorsky has been beset with health problems and has difficulty hearing. He rarely speaks during District meetings and has appeared confused during various important votes pertaining to Sutter and San Leandro Hospital.

Sutter's response to the District's suit filed in Alameda County Superior Court April 22 described the events surrounding Dvorsky's surprising request, which was only published in The Citizen, but without District Chair Carole Rogers' specific response. "Sutter Health and Eden Medical Center are informed and believe that Dev Mahadevan passed Dr. Dvorsky's request along to Board Chair Carole Rogers who immediately refused the request." Rogers told The Citizen she does not know how Sutter received their information saying she had not spoken to others outside of the District about the letter. Mahadevan said in an interview this month he has also not spoken to Sutter about the event.

Also contained in Sutter's response is a section denying conflicts of interest around the signing of the 2008 agreement between Sutter and the District. Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar, a current member of the board; Dr. Francisco Rico, a former member; and current CEO of Eden Medical Center George Bischalaney are alleged to have been employed in some capacity by Sutter at the time of the contentious deal. The response contends all three named where found by the District's lawyer to have no conflicts with Sutter. At the time, the District's legal counsel was Craig Cannizzo, whom the board fired in December citing a lack of trust in his legal opinions. Cannizzo infamously responded to the firing by telling the board he would not cooperate with whomever the District would replace him with and stormed out the building.

Sutter contends, Cannizzo informed both Carole Rogers and fellow Director Dr. Vin Sawhney in June 2009 of a conflict of interest pertaining to the agreements with Sutter. At the time, The Citizen reported the entire board had been notified of various conflicts. Rogers agrees with the assertion, but says her lawyer drafted a response in her favor, of which Cannizzo later agreed and followed with a letter in her favor.

In regards to the Dvorsky letter, this is not the first time the identity of a document has been questioned in the nearly two year fight to keep San Leandro operating as fully-functioning facility with emergency room services. In December, critics loudly questioned a three-page "Letter to the Community" written by Ratnesar. Reports in The Citizen had several sources questioning the authorship of the piece that drew the ire of supporters, the nurses union and state Sen. Ellen Corbett. In January of this year, an invoice from the District's public relations consultant surfaced listing work on the letter attributed to a Sutter employee.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Ms. Mestas Goes to City Hall

Mo Wiley, Sara Mestas' musical alter-ego in a video for her single, "You Can't Touch It".
How one candidate's rap identity is too provocative for San Leandro officials to Touch by Steven Tavares

Sara Mestas can't walk on water. She says she's no saint, but her rap persona Mo Wiley can. In a recent video for her single, "You Can't Touch It," her alter ego sashays across the Bay in high heels, tight-fitting top with a large crucifix dangling and blue jean rapping about typical hip-hop tropes of money, power and sex. "You can't touch it unless I says so," she sings, along with the tagline, "Now where's my dough!"

When City Manager Stephen Hollister and Police Chief Ian Willis saw the video on the Internet, the image of scantily-clad women in the video along with the chorus were deemed unsuitable for the city's youth, in their estimation. Hollister went further saying the subject was questionable for anyone. "The music conveys multiple messages that are not suitable for children or anyone, for that matter," said Hollister, who then informed Mestas the city would not sponsor her proposal to help mentor the city's youth  through a program with the Police Activities League and a free baseball rec league sponsored by the San Francisco Giants.

In its aftermath, Mestas has faced a rude introduction to local politics highlighted by personal attacks, attempts by city staff to protect its own turf along with a vicious subtext of elitism. "I was introduced to dirty politics for the first time," said Mestas. "I felt threatened like they were going to drag my name through the mud at all costs." It will only get rougher for Mestas in the coming months. She is slated Tuesday morning to join two others in the race to unseat San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos for mayor this November.

Its quite common for aspiring citizens to enter the political arena without ever dreaming about representing their community beforehand. If you asked her about politics a year ago, she might not have had an answer until Mestas, like hundreds of parents of San Leandro schoolkids walked to the first day of school last fall only to find the familiar orange-jacketed crossing guards absent from the street corners across the city. Earlier in the year, the city council had cut funding for the program without much notice.


When asked for specifics, Willis said in the video, Mestas was "pointing to her vaginal area."


Mestas, whose daughter attends a San Leandro elementary school, joined a chorus of angry parents who complained to their principals, wrote emails to the school board and heavily attended city council meetings. The council and school board would take over two months to come to an agreement to split the cost of reinstating the program for the school year, but someone had to fill in the gap in between (The school crossing guard program is again currently not funded in the city's preliminary budget for the next fiscal year.)

Mestas volunteered to help. She worked the morning and after-school shift, donning a reflective orange vest, waving an aluminum stop sign and blowing a mean whistle. When the city government signed a deal with an outside contractor, she stayed on and was hired. Her numerous public comments before city leaders began to catch her notice around town. She met with some of them, talked about the school crossings fiasco and began to recall her own trouble childhood and the various city services in San Leandro she credits with helping her get back on her feet. Within months a savvy, quite different political animal was developing with new ideas in hand, a seat on the city's rent review board and a few mentoring projects ready to be implemented--that was until a few city officials saw her rap video on the Internet along with rumors about her criminal past being worse than expected.

Hollister said he did not have a problem with Mestas' background. "What somebody did in the past is not as important as what she is doing now and the things Sara is doing now is great," he said found fault with her video. "In my interpretation it glorifies prostitution," he said, "which is not only a crime, but also the objectification of women in general."

Mestas says the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce CEO David Johnson also objected to the video, saying it was "overly provocative" and believed local business owners would scrutinize the partnership. He also proposed she change some lyrics and edit the video, according to Mestas, but she explained to Johnson she did not own the rights to the particular song or the video. She says her sole income over the past three years has come from her burgeoning recording career.



When she again met with Johnson on the subject of the PAL program, Mestas said, he  responded by asking," So you're not going to go away?" When she told Johnson she was thinking about running for mayor, he called her "Don Quixote," he of "Dream the Impossible Dream" fame. She recalls thinking, "I just wanted to take my ball and go home." Later, Johnson said he did not fear pressure from the business community and added he did not want to appear like an "out-of-touch, old white man" and lauded Mestas' tenacity to help the community.

The entire situation also ruffled feathers at the San Leandro Police Department. Working with Mestas and her rap music was one problem, but aligning the department with an artist whose music video featured attractive and fleshy women dancing to the groove would be too much for a department in the middle of sexual harassment suits brought forth by seven female officer against a the former police chief and one of his sergeants. "I already have sexual harassment cases going on in the department," said Willis. "I really don't think I can justify working with type of subject matter."
"As a middle-aged man I don't understand the music, but everything is up for interpretation," Hollister said. "But I think the music glorifies criminal behavior."
Willis said he had asked a number of peers in the law enforcement community about the video and what message it conveyed. There was a consensus, he said, the video "promoted prostitution and other criminal activities." When asked for specifics, Willis said in the video, Mestas was "pointing to her vaginal area."


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Do-Over Says County In Trees Removal Flap

COUNTY'S PLAN TO REMOVE HAZARDOUS TREES FROM SL CREEK RAISES THE IRE OF NEIGHBORS
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

SAN LEANDRO The Alameda County Public Works Agency apologized to a group of San Leandro residents angered by the county's lack of transparency regarding a plan to fell over 40 trees in San Leandro Creek. A day later he says the county is suspending the controversial Hazard Trees Removal Project and renewing the process to include more public involvement.

"I have decided that it would be better to re-start a new process that will better engage community members along the creek," said the Alameda Public Works Department Director Daniel Woldesenbet.

The communities of St. Mary's Avenue, Huff Avenue and Cary Drive will be invited to separate meetings to discuss the removal of certain non-native Eucalyptus along with trees deemed to be hazardous in the future, said Woldesenbet.

Residents in supporting both sides of the growing issue over the removal of trees in San Leandro Creek, which snakes through the city, voiced concern and often times anger over the plan. The county says the impression they received from affected residents communicated support for the plan to cut 42 trees in different locations along the creek.

"In the past we heard a lot more from those who would like the trees removed, and assumed that it was the desire of the overall community," he said. "However, from what we heard last night, that assumption was not entirely correct." Some of those residents voiced agreement with the county officials present at the San Leandro Library Wednesday night, saying they feared falling broken branches and root systems damaging their homes.

Others disagreed with the county's contention the plan was only a program to remove dangerous damaged or leaning trees from the area, while a few preferred the privacy and the beauty of the trees over any future problems. One woman asserted removing the trees in our elderly parent's backyard would "kill them" since they both suffer from dementia.

Much of the reason for the confusion on both side is the lack of transparency leading up to the county accepting bids for the contract to cut the trees, opponents say. San Leandro resident Gary Molitor is one of the most ardent critics of the county's plan and his email to locals last month significantly raised the profile of the proposal. The county now claims the plan Molitor circulated, calling for the removal of up to 1,000 trees, was out-of-date. People around the St. Mary Avenue say they only became aware of the plan when workmen were seen surveying the trees around their homes. Some say a few of those men abruptly climbed over fences into private properties startling many residents.

VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

Green Day in Fremont

PHOTO: Special to The Citizen
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Toyota President Akio Toyoda, and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk at a press conference announcing a partnership between the two companies to build electric automobiles at the former Nummi auto plant in Fremont. Toyota plans to invest $50 million into the Palo Alto-based company. "Toyota is a company founded on innovation, quality, and commitment to sustainable mobility," said Musk. "It is an honor and a powerful endorsement of our technology that Toyota would choose to invest in and partner with Tesla.” Production of the Tesla Model S electric sedan could begin next year. The Nummi plant can manufacture 400,000 cars annually, but Tesla says only one-fourth of that number will produced leaving the possibility the Nummi site could still be developed for housing and retail or the future home of the Oakland Athletics.

VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

Stark Transformation



IN THE ROLE OF PETE STARK IS HAROLD RAMIS
They say television makes you look ten pounds heavier, but does YouTube add an extra 75? Rep. Pete Stark addressed Congress this week to honor the 75th anniversay of the East Bay Parks District looking puffy and sounding tired. You can hear a slightly audible wheezing in his voice with a periodic gasp of breath. The person in the clip looks more like actor and director Harold Ramis than the irascible East Bay lawmaker.

The video of Stark is the latest in a series of clues regarding the long-time congressman's declining health since last year. Stark has not held a town hall meeting in the East Bay for months and told fellow members of Congress not to be alarmed because he was using an oxygen tube to help his breathing since a long bout with pneumonia. Sources around the East Bay political scene believe Stark condition does not allow him to fly from the nation's capitol to his home district.
-STEVEN TAVARES
VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

Tesla, Toyota to Build Electric Cars at Nummi Plant

FIGUEROA SAYS DEAL WILL BRING 1,200 JOBS TO THE NUMMI PLANT
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen 

FREMONT Bay Area electric car-maker Tesla Motors and Toyota will partner in bringing 1,200 new jobs to the recently shuttered Nummi plant in Fremont, says former state Sen. Liz Figueroa.

News of the partnership broke Thursday morning when Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger made refernce to the deal, but gave no further details. Tesla has been shopping for a site to expand its small boutique electric car company for months. Tesla recently received a $465 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy to build a lower cost electric sedan.

An Associated Press story reported a city councilman from Downey was informed this morning of the decision from Tesla's CEO Elon Musk. According to the story, Downey's City Council was prepared to vote on a lease deal with Tesla to replace its own vacant auto plant in the Southern California city.

Figueroa, who is running for Alameda County Supervisor in District 2, which incorporates part of Northern Fremont, says negotiations for the deal have been going on for over two months and believes the news of the possible deal was tightly-held to avoid any political grandstanding. According to Figueroa, the partnership will create 1,200 jobs in a growing sector of the green economy. She did not know how many of those jobs would bring part of the over 4,700 Nummi employees who lost their jobs back to the plant.

The Nummi plant was closed nearly two months ago after the partnership between General Motors and Toyota was dissolved in part due to government intervention to keep G.M. afloat. For the Nummi plant, the news today is history repeating itself. The sprawling plant located next to Interstate 880 sat vacant for after General Motors closed shop in 1982. Two years later, Toyota and GM formed a unique partnership to build cars from both brands that lasted until two months ago. This time around, the auto plant is set to return in a smaller scale, but possibly better positioned for future growth than its predecessor.

VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

Monday, May 17, 2010

BRT Tries to Woo San Leandro with Alternative

AC TRANSIT'S BRT PLAN RETREATS TO CITY'S EARLIER DEMAND
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

BRT IN SAN LEANDRO AC Transit's Bus Rapid Transit line (BRT) is half the man it use to be. After a setback from the Berkeley City Council earlier this month and a small victory in Oakland, BRT is headed to San Leandro for consideration.

The 17-mile bus line from Berkeley through Oakland to San Leandro looks vastly different than the plan kicked around for the past decade or two. The first incarnation of the $234 million project envisioned a fast moving bus line featuring a single dedicated lane running through the heart of the East Bay. AC Transit says an end-to-end trip on BRT from U.C. Berkeley to San Leandro's Bayfair mall would shave nearly 15 minutes over the present route. Detractors in all three communities have voiced significant disapproval, but not enough to stop some sort of version of BRT from possible construction in the future. Local businesses and groups with an eye to keeping their local aesthetic intact have changed AC Transit's ideal plan all along the way.

In San Leandro, which will vote tonight on approving AC Transit's "locally preferred alternative" for San Leandro, looks similar to the city's only official stance on the project over five years ago. Under former Mayor Shelia Young, the city objected to ending BRT at Bayfair as designed by AC Transit and offered instead to end the line at the city's burgeoning downtown area near the San Leandro BART station. To the consternation of some city officials, AC Transit continued advocating their original plan in numerous public events in the past year.

In previous city council meetings, city officials have voiced concern over the impact to BRT similar to the comments made in Berkeley. San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos along with other local businesses located on East 14th Street have issue with slower traffic along with onerous procedures delivery trucks may encounter with a narrow road way and the reduction of parking stalls in some sections of the line.

Despite setbacks in Berkeley and compromises with the plan within the Oakland sections of the line, the fate of BRT is far from decided. Berkeley's city council did not vote against BRT but sent the proposal back to the drawing board, while Oakland's approval of their preferred alternative only allowed the plan to proceed to the an environment impact review. It is still conceivable any or all of the three communities could reject BRT in the future.

The reworked proposal from AC Transit to the San Leandro City Council is likely to be more palatable than the previous plans that ended at Bayfair. In the past, there has been a majority of councilmembers against the dedicated bus lane aspect. Of the six councilmembers and mayor, only Jim Prola and Michael Gregory have stood firm with BRT.

VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com Follow on Twitter! Be the first to know the results of tonight's BRT vote and other hijinks. LiveTweeting begins at 7 p.m. tonight at twitter.com/eastbaycitizen

'Women Do Not Belong in Police Work'

THREE REMAINING SEXUAL HARASSMENT SUITS NEAR SETTLEMENT 
By STEVEN TAVARES

SLPD LAWSUITS Little has been publicly reported about the seven female San Leandro police officers who sued the city for sexual harassment last year. Until now, the public awareness of the complaints filed in 2009 began and ended with reports of a settlement with four of the officers totalling over $400,000. The city council Monday night will likely announce details of the remaining three suits, one of which acted as the pivot point linking all the others. Officials from the San Leandro Police Department and city have declined to speak on the subject at this time for legally reasons. What follows is accounts taken from complaints filed in U.S. District Court in and around August 2009. This article is an excerpt from a longer piece on the San Leandro Police Department's workplace.

Officer Catherine Pickard joined the San Leandro Police Department in 1991. She floated around as a dispatcher for five years until becoming a cop in 1996. A year later, Pickard graduated from the police academy with honors; being named valedictorian. It looked like she was on the fast-track to a long, successful career in law enforcement, but things don't always go as planned.

After 17 years at the SLPD in one position or another, she was pushing 40, unmarried and looking for promotion from the job she had more than satisfactorily performed for the past decade, except the same unfair hurdles many successful women are forced to endure these days because of their gender also presented themselves at the police department.

Pickard and the six other police officers alleged sexual harassment in the workplace, but the real problem was derived from a spate of in-house female candidates being passed over for promotion to lieutenant, but the two went hand in hand. One of the central questions is how did the police department become this toxic environment for ambitious women officers and did it only begin with the previous chief Dale Attarian. The former police chief is named as a co-defendant along with Sgt. DeWayne Stancill, in all seven suits. Stancill is the father of the young man recently sentenced to 40 years in prison for murdering a San Leandro High School student and currently suing the city in a sidebar to the current sexual harassment suits.
"Women do not belong in police work" was uttered, at minimum, over 50 times by male supervisors, including her own (Stancill) and male officers over the last 10 years. 
______________
Pickard was promoted to officer under Capt. Joe Kitchens, who would later become police chief and precede Attarian, but not without the seeds of future problems first being sown. Ktichens told Pickard during the early hiring process, the department was not looking for her "demographic." She issued a complaint over her "unequal treatment." She would eventually get the job. In another of the seven suits, the phrase "demographic" is also used within the context of the hiring process and is believed to be a reference to gender. At the time of the filings, seven female officers out of roughly 100-member force existed. None of the seven women held rank higher than officer.

At times, the SLPD exhibited attitudes and actions more befitting a frat house than a workplace designed to fight crime. Pickard and the others were viewed as inhibiting the inclination towards a boys-will-be-boys atmosphere. After her transfer to the detective division, Pickard was ignored by her colleagues and "observed a separation between herself and the men in the unit." She was excluded from search warrants and generally relegated to secondary roles. Her opinions and suggestions were routinely silenced to the point she recruited other officers to offer her opinions through their voices. "[The] Plaintiff was ostracized by the males in the unit, including the supervisors, for having spoken up," the suits claims. The wall of miscommunication had been built to the point male officers would abruptly quit conversations when she entered a room.

Pickard says she was subjected to sexual advances by fellow male officers throughout her employment starting with her training for officer in the late 1990s. A SLPD male field officer invited Pickard to have drinks with him off-duty during the time he was training her saying, "it would benefit her evaluations for her position." She declined.

When she was not wearing her dress jacket at work, she says she was subjected to comments from male officers about the size of her breasts and constant ogling, which made her feel "uncomfortable and different from the other members." Other plaintiffs described similar comments made by male officers, including Stancill, who told another female officer, among other things, her "jeans fit just right," in addition, to asking another of the plaintiffs if he could see her breasts.

Pornographic magazines and videos were commonplace at the SLPD along with graphic emails disseminated through the city's servers. The complaint from Pickard and many of the other plaintiffs reference this assertion as evidence of a work environment skewed towards juvenile and unprofessional conduct. Officers "routinely" perused pornography on the job in her presence. Others found magazines lying in restrooms and left in squad cars as late as two years ago.

According to the complaint, officers sending offensive and demeaning emails using the city's computer servers was a common and long-standing practice at the department going back over 10 years. Photos of naked women and videos featuring bestiality were forwarded around the department within a "mail all" distribution method. Pickard says the police chief at the time, Dale Attarian, was fully aware of the emails. She alleges seeing Attarian's name as a recipient on many of the emails.

The alleged hostility towards women in the SLPD lands on the feet of Attarian according to all seven of the lawsuits against the city. Attarian quietly retired from the force last year. Instead of hiring an outsider to take over the SLPD, City Manager Stephen Hollister, a former member of law enforcement himself, tabbed in-house candidate Ian Willis as chief.

Pickard asserts the "locker room comments and opinions" of her co-workers and supervisors forced her to understand she had to conform to the male-dominated environment if she wished to survive at the department. Pickard makes possibly the most explosive charge of any of the seven female officers when she says the phrase, "Women do not belong in police work" was uttered, at minimum, over 50 times by male supervisors, including her own (Stancill) and male officers over the last 10 years.

The suit also alleges Attarian was aware of the ant-woman bias in his department and says an outside investigative contractor hired by the city found the claims presented by Pickard and other plaintiffs had merit, but recommendations made to Attarian and the city were ignored. Instead, after Attarian learned of the seven suits against him and the department, he framed the development as the female officers forming a conspiracy against him. He then assigned Sgt. Stancill, who the suits allege had a cozy relationship with Attarian, to supervisor Pickard. This arrangement placed the victim with the alleged aggressor as supervisor in a workplace environment.

Of the seven lawsuits filed by the female San Leandro police officers, Pickard's stands as the center of the wheel where the other six spokes meet. How did seven women come together with similar allegations against law enforcement's top brass?

From 2004-2008, Pickard represented members of the police offers union against the the SLPD and the city regarding disciplinary and grievance procedures. At her position, Pickard, who, herself felt the brunt of workplace sexual harassment, began to hear numerous stories and anecdotes featuring similar events with other female officers on the force. In December 2007, one of the six other future plaintiffs against the SLPD reported instances of sexual harassment from Stancill and was being investigated for her response to one of his comments.

By February 2008, three months after the first of the seven plaintiffs first issued official  complaints against Stancill and Attarian, three had resigned from the force stemming either from specific instances of sexual harassment or the general atmosphere of anti-female attitudes prevalent within the department.

Pickard's knowledge of the details of other complaints made Attarian nervous. She was ordered under the threat of termination from Attarian and through a second outside investigator hired by the city to give up the names of all individuals who spoke to her regarding all allegations of sexual harassment in the workplace. In addition, Pickard alleges the SLPD and the city infringed on her civil rights by Attarian's order along with future chief Ian Willis, who she alleges told her to not speak about the investigation when she believed the inquiry and recommendations had been completed nearly two months before. The basis of civil rights was later mocked by Attarian and Stancill in June 2008 when Pickard complained Stancill came to work wearing a t-shirt with the word "ACQUITTED" embroidered across his chest. Attarian ruled Stancill could wear the offending shirt on the basis of freedom of speech. Stancill's affinity for making editorial comments through slogans continued when he placed a small plaque on his work desk saying, "Succes is the Best Revenge."

Stancill no longer works for the SLPD and has a racial harassment suit pending against the city. Attarian retired in early 2009. The city previously announced the settlement of four of the seven lawsuits filed by female members of the SLPD totalling $405,000. The three lawsuits remaining, including Pickard, will be discussed in closed session during tonight's city council meeting. Updates on the lawsuits, likely involving settlements will be announced afterwards.

VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Political Pugilism for Breakfast

ALAMEDA AND SAN LEANDRO SHARE MUCH IN COMMON: BIG SCHOOL CUTS ARE IN THE HORIZON


AROUND THE EAST BAY BLOGOSPHERE If candidates suddenly began to pull political punches, how dull would campaigns really be? The Halfway to Concord blog features a seemingly mundane Rotary breakfast this week in Walnut Creek that erupted into a classic grudge match between the two of candidates for Contra Costa district attorney. Don O'Malley and Mark Peterson, who previously tussled over each others ballot designation similar to the kerfuffle between Alameda County supervisor candidates Nadia Lockyer and Liz Figueroa, both came out punching according the account. At one point, the tone of the debate sounded somehting like, "neener, neener, neener, I've got five police endorsements!" to which, the other responded with something akin to, "you're stinky!"

Alameda Mayor and county supervisor candidate for District 3 thinks the people of her city are very similar to the demographic and attitudes of residents in San Leandro. But there is one similarity, San Leandrans would rather not have in common with their neighbor on the island. According to The Island blog, the city's board of education just approved over $7 million in brutal cuts and layoffs to their schools, something San Leandro's school board will likely face in a month or two. Most alarmingly, a majority of those cuts will remain even if the city approves Measure E, the parcel tax initiative on the June ballot. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's budget revise announced Friday will not alleviate budgetary woes, either.

Is a small, Berkeley non-profit on the radar of conservative groups looking for the next ACORN to demonize? The Berkeleyside has a post today with links about Greenlining, an organization committed to fighting for disadvantaged groups against economic redlining. It seems the non-profits support of the Community Reinvestment Act has conservative groups alarmed. As the post points out, the CRA has been a significant government intervention against the quaint practice of forcing low-income and minority groups to housing in less desirable areas.

In the end, we're all citizens. The San Francisco Citizen blog has a post on the East Bay Citizen and the Bay Area News Project's Bay Citizen. The answer to the post is no, the Bay Citizen did not ask me about the name, but the name the all-encompassing name of the news site slated to debut at the end of the month could be instructive. The Citizen covers the East Bay and more narrowly politics. The Bay Citizen seeks to cover the entire Bay Area as a general interest site. I don't mind any confusion over the names since the Bay Citizen has $5 million and the East Bay Citizen has a $20 Starbucks card and the first Star Wars trilogy on VHS.

VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

Friday, May 14, 2010

San Leandro Times Offers Platform for Hate

ANTI-IMMIGRANT LETTER PASSES MUSTER AT TIMES; CITY SPENDS TAX DOLLARS ON ADS IN PAPER

TIMES POST-PRODUCTION MEETING Next year, my father will be an American citizen for exactly 50 years. He's been American nearly four times as long as he was a citizen of Portugal. He, along with millions of immigrants, came to the United States with little more than hope and a change of clothes. For my father, all he remembers of Portugal is living in poverty as a teenager under the rule of Portugal's Socialist dictator and writing letters to his "rich Uncle" in California to sponsor his journey across the Atlantic.

Three years ago, while living in Yuba County near Sacramento, a supposedly "dyed-in-the-wool" red-blooded American neighbor of my father's surreptitiously sent a package filled with sheets of paper printed from the Internet featuring anti-immigrant rhetoric and a hastily-typed note questioning why my father flew both an American flag and a Portuguese flag in his backyard. "What kind of person flies a foreign flag in their backyard?" it read while questioning whether my father realized how many had given their souls to protect "his" stars and stripes.

I bring this up because this same sort of ignorance and stupidity was given a platform in the opinion pages of this week's San Leandro Times.
Wants Illegal Immigrants 'Rounded Up and Escorted Out of the Country'

Editor:
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. We should stop all these signs and printing on packages in different languages.

Illegal mean "against the law." We no longer have single family homes in San Leandro and the census will never get the right count. The people parading in the streets for immigrants rights don't understand that immigrants have no rights here if they are illegal.

Let the flag wavers volunteer to help these people help themselves in their own countries. We can no longer be everyone's keeper. California used to be known as "The Golden State" but we are sinking fast.

We have been taken advantage of by ignoring our laws and will pay dearly for it. It is not fair for California and its citizens to ignore this anymore.

-Dorothy Allen, San Leandro 
The point here is not to condone or even disparage Ms. Allen's opinion, however repulsive it is, but to question why the Times would even consider printing the screed in the first place.

A newspaper's letters to the editor page is not related to the a comments section featured in a blog. The contents of the page is carefully chosen in the same way any article is chosen based on the paper's ideological bent, newsworthiness and sometimes length. A blog's comments page exhibits the wild ethos of the Internet, an opinion page is carefully chosen. The Times "chose" Ms. Allen's anti-immigrant letter to post. More likely, it seems, the Times only had three letters to fill up the space as evidenced by running a syndicated editorial cartoon in the top right corner.

Worse of all, the Times attached the newsworthiness of the recent controversial Arizona law suspected to racially-profile people of color to the outrageous letter. Of course, that's reading too far into the situation. The Times could have left the column blank. They could have ran a recipe for Taco Salad in the spot or re-printed a "Best of Stephen Cassidy Letters to the Editor" column. Instead, the Times ran the most insensitive, callous and most embarrassing point-of-view possible.

Once, again, the Times' Editor Jim Knowles has shown blatant irresponsibility to his readers, advertisers and the city. This city was founded by immigrants and flourished under their hard work. It is reprehensible conduct like the Times' decision to run Ms. Allen's letter that perpetuates the perception San Leandro's days of housing segregation and racism still linger on every corner of the city. By handing over tax dollars to the Times for a full-page ad along with a quarter page spot for the Farmer's Market San Leandro is more than tacitly approving the newspaper's crude decision-making, but subsidizing its hate. With a city council meeting set for this Monday night, it is my plea to the mayor and councilmembers to denounce the publishing of the hateful letter by the San Leandro Times along with a threat of cancelling future advertising.

When I read rhetoric like Ms. Allen espouses and the Times happily passes along, I turn to the poet of American populism, Bruce Springsteen for inspiration.
The McNicholas, the Posalski's, the Smiths, Zerillis too
The Blacks, the Irish, the Italians, the Germans and the Jews
The Puerto Ricans, illegals, the Asians, Arabs miles from home
Come across the water with a fire down below

They died building the railroads, worked to bones and skin
They died in the fields and factories, names scattered in the wind
They died to get here a hundred years ago, they're dyin' now
The hands that built the country we're all trying to keep down
-STEVEN TAVARES
VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Musician Tries To Change City's Tune

MESTAS TO ANNOUNCE CANDIDACY FOR MAYOR
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

SAN LEANDRO Local activist and rapper Sara Mestas is poised to become the third challenger hoping to unseat San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos this November.

Mestas, who performs under the stage name Mo Wiley, issued a blunt press release Wednesday announcing her candidacy and equated herself as a Robin Hood-type figure defending the interest of the working class and poor.

"The unstoppable rap artist, political activist and mother of three prepares to conquer her next challenge: campaigning for mayor of her hometown," the release says.

She joins a mayoral race that has been set and a bit staid since August of last year. San Leandro Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak and former school board trustee Stephen Cassidy have been campaigning raising money for months. Rumors are also circulating another candidate or two may eventually emerging such as former Councilwoman Surlene Grant, who termed out in 2008. Mestas will officially announce her candidacy May 25 at a press conference in front of City Hall.

Mestas candidacy comes as a surprise. She is an admitted newcomer to politics. In December, she was named to the city's Rent Review Board, but her civic participation innocuously began last fall when she, like many parents in San Leandro, were unprepared to learn funding for school crossing guards had been cut by the city council earlier in the year. Mestas was one of the few parents who volunteered their mornings and afternoons to helping children safely cross streets. Afterwards, she stayed on duty after the city and school district agreed to split the costs of hiring crossing guards.

The issue of her nascent music career has also raised her profile among some residents and city officials in both positive and negative terms. Critics have questioned whether the content of her music is an appropriate face for the city along with her troubled youth, something, she says, she is not shy to reveal.

"The whole point of launching my career with an album about the streets is to tell people about the hard places I came from in my youth that listeners can relate to and then show them with later recordings just how I have matured and evolved since then," said Mestas. "There would be a huge disconnect if I did that first without showing the sequence of events that brought me to where I am now."

Mestas recently faced resistance from city officials who declined to work with her proposed youth mentoring program with the Police Activities League and a recreational baseball league sponsored by the San Francisco Giants. She says both the city manager and police chief flatly said her songs glorified a gangster lifestyle and, specifically, promoted prostitution.

COMING SOON: The Citizen has the inside story of the city's reluctance to work with Sara Mestas.

VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

East Bay Legislators Offer Resolution Honoring Perfect Game

BRADEN'S MOTHER'S DAY GEM ENTERS CONGRESSIONAL RECORD; WILL GIANTS FANS HATE?

CONGRESS Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden is basking in the afterglow of his perfect game last Sunday. He appeared on two network morning shows, read David Letterman's Top 10 list, is featured on the cover of this week's Sports Illustrated and now Braden's fabulous Mother's Day gem is receiving attention in the halls of Congress.

Rep. Pete Stark, along with Reps. Jerry McInerney and Barbara Lee today offered a resolution for consideration recognizing Braden's May 9 perfect game. A press release from Stark's office says the trio is working with others in the California delegation to build support for the resolution. No word on whether members from the San Francisco peninsula will support recognizing Braden's accomplishment. Here's a section of the resolution that may upset congress members with a majority of Giants fans in their district:
Whereas the team has played at their current home in Oakland since 1968, winning 4 World Series, 6 American League pennants, and 14 West Division titles.
Why would Giants fans fret? Since arriving in San Francisco in 1958, the Giants have won zero World Series titles, which is the same amount your recreational softball team has won.

To put it in perspective, when Stark was first elected to Congress, the Giants attempt for greatness had already been fruitless for 14 years. Older Giants fans have lived and died without a championship parade in The City. America  has fought a Cold War with the Soviets, put a man on the moon, invented Velcro, clobbered communism and put up with David Hasselhoff all while the Giants failed to reach the pinnacle of their sport.

Legislators from San Francisco might not be the only lawmakers uninterested in recognizing Braden's accomplishment. Delegates from New York could protest Braden's feud against Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez for trotting across the lefthander's mound in a game last month in Oakland.

Who's kidding who, nobody pays attention to honorary resolutions, anyways. In this case, though, the fans also get recognition from Stark and company.

HR 1351 not only lauds Braden's emotional perfect game Sunday against Tampa Bay but also thanks the legion of A's fans across the Bay Area and nation (There were over 12,000 fans for a Sunday game, Stark could have presumably thanked each one personally.) And if any Giants fans here have any snarky rhetoric against the Athletics, may Bill King haunts your dreams tonight.

VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Willie Brown Handicaps The Election Season

JERRY BROWN WILL WIN; DEMOCRATS WILL RETAIN CONGRESS
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

SACRAMENTO Willie Brown sounds like a politician with no interest in ever running for election. In fact, he told members of the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco five times Tuesday evening he had no intention of running for office, although he said he might think about accepting a bid to the Supreme Court if Elena Kagan's nomination falls short under one condition. "Only if they took Clarence Thomas off," he said.

The San Francisco sage of California politics took humorous potshots at nearly ever current moving target running for office while offering his view of a worsening state economy--term limits are the problem, he says.

Brown believes the other famous Brown across the Bay, Jerry, will win a second go-around in the governor's mansion and believes Republican Meg Whitman has squandered major financial resources against State Insurance Commissioner Steve Poizner. Some polls now have Whitman up 2 points over Poizner from a high at one time of 49.  Brown joked Poizner's campaign probably put out the prior poll to enhance the impression of a monumental comeback, but sees the race getting even tighter. "I wouldn't be surprised if Poizner wins," said Brown, "but I have great respect for [Whitman's] $150 million."

At one point, Brown needled Jerry's Brown lack of youthful good looks, while boasting of the beauty of current San Francisco District Attorney and Attorney General candidate Kamala Harris and the dashing Mayor Gavin Newsom. "It sure helps to be attractive," he said. Brown received his loudest round of laughter when he said Jerry Brown and Poizner look physically similar. "They both look like they were sired by Alan Cranston," Brown said referencing the long-time former U.S. Senator from California.

Jerry Brown's road to victory will be much simpler for him rather than his opponents, said Brown, since most of the Democratic hopefuls bowed out of the race early. "Jerry just sat back in Oakland and waited for everyone to die and hope he would go to heaven," said Brown who believes Jerry's age will be a strong target for the Republican nominee to exploit. Another, interestingly, may be his sister's employment with Goldman Sachs. Brown's sister, Kathleen, who lost the 1994 gubernatorial race to Pete Wilson is a senior advisor for Goldman Sachs's Western region. "If she were my sister, she would be resigning," joked Brown.

Brown offered other provocative politics insights Tuesday night:

  • Contrary to conventional wisdom, Brown says the loss of Sen. Ted Kennedy's Senate seat to Republican upstart Scott Brown ("not a relative," said Brown) is the main reason Democrats were able to pass health care reform last March. "It dampened the aggressiveness of the Progressive side of the Democratic Party. They knew they had to scale back on whatever they were demanding to place in that health care bill."
  • "Mr. Obama made the wrong decison in allowing the Congress to be the leaders in solving health care," he said. "There too many divergent views among the 535 people that make the Congress and Senate." 
  • "If the health care issue had been resolved in February to May of last year, there would not have been the opportunity for the freightening demonstrations that occurred as members of Congress returned to their home for purposes of addressing their constituency."
  • Democrats will retain a majority in Congress and the Senate.
  • Obama has performed "reasonably well."
  • Newsom's campaign for the Democratic nomination lieutenant governor will be "a walk in the park" over Janice Hahn. Brown says Hahn is not well-liked in Los Angeles and may perform better in Northern California than her home region. A general election victory for Newsom is likely, too, but Brown mocked him saying, "He'll have to actually work for it."
  • Tea Party demonstrators are part of "Old America," says Brown. "From back when there was less diversity and less intelligence."
  • Term limits are the problem with gridlock in the state Legislature. Because time in Sacramento is fleeting, no particular expertise in solving problems is needed, he says. "Every single member there is doing something to highlight their career." 
VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

State Raids Local Redevelopment Dollars

STATE TAKES $116M FROM COUNTY, INCLUDES $4.26M FROM SAN LEANDRO; $5.3M FROM HAYWARD
By STEVEN TAVARES
The Citizen

SACRAMENTO Nearly a year ago, San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos defiantly warned lawmakers in Sacramento hoping to balance the state's finances to "keep your hands out of our budget." After a Sacramento Superior Court judge ordered municipalities last week turn over over $2 billion in redevelopment funds, Santos said Tuesday afternoon, "Well, they got their hands in it now!"

San Leandro's share consists of $4.26 million in funding, already transferred to the Alameda County Auditor. The immediate dilemma for cities and counties is how to fund current and future development projects. In San Leandro, projects such as the city's downtown Town Hall Square project, undergrounding of utilities on East 14th Street, traffic and beautification projects around 150th Avenue and its successful commercial facade program will be hampered by the state's raid of redevelopment dollars.

Santos said the outlook for redevelopment projects in the city looks "dismal" and will likely slow various projects in the planning stages or shovel-ready.

"The state's take of money from local redevelopment agencies who are one of the state's strongest job creating engines, at a time when job creation and economic development are desperately needed, seems short-sighted," said San Leandro Business Development Manager Cynthia Battenberg.

Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly ruled last week the state's demand for local redevelopment funds was legal, despite ruling against the state on a similar case. The approved transfer will save the state $1.7 billion towards this year's budget. The state is drowning in the red with a $18 billion deficit. News of the ruling stoked already angry local governments across the state who charge Sacramento with failing to make difficult budget decisions in favor of using local dollars.

"The judge was wrong," said Santos. "What can I say?" The California Redevelopment Association plans to appeal the ruling, but Santos says it is unlikely to help. "The belief is that the money is gone," he said. "They have it and its impossible to get it back."

In total, Alameda County is on the hook for over $116 million. Hayward's part includes $5.3 million, which will slow redevelopment of the area surrounding the South Hayward BART station and improvements to the City Center and downtown retail projects.

VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com  

Monday, May 10, 2010

Dead-End Demographic Gets A Lift

YOUNG ADULTS HIT HARD BY ECONOMY TO BENEFIT FROM HEALTH INSURANCE PLAN

CONGRESS In the past, if a young adult had the choice between buying his friend's souped up Chevy and purchasing health insurance, the hot ride usually won out.

With unemployment especially crippling young adults more than any other demographic, new health insurance guidelines announced by President Obama for those under 26 may help keep them insured.

Today's change will allow young adults to receive benefits from their parents health insurance policies up to age 26 and without being listed as a dependent or living at the same residence.
 
The administration has recently tried to attach specifics to last March's landmark health reform bill. Last week, the president announced a plan to give $5 billion to aid early retirees to keep or obtain health insurance.

Rep. Pete Stark, who chairs the House Ways and Means Subcommittee applauded the expansion of benefits to young people. "Many young adults are still seeking employment, but are left without affordable health care because they're no longer dependents on their parents' plan," said Stark. "These regulations eliminate barriers that keep many young adults from maintaining health coverage."

The Associated Press reports the change will not come without costs. According to Health and Human Services, the guideline will increase premiums almost one percent, but will insure 1.2 million young adults, half of which they estimate would be uninsured without the new provision. Young adults are notorious for lacking basic health coverage for reasons ranging from inconsistent employment, cost or apathy because of good health.
-STEVEN TAVARES
VOTE JUNE 8! www.eastbaycitizen.com

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Many Local Cities Exploring Tax Measures

ALAMEDA TAKES PAGES FROM HAYWARD'S ANTI-POT CLUB PLAYBOOK 

AROUND THE EAST BAY BLOGOSPHERE The Island of Alameda blog has two excellent stories this week. The City of Alameda voted this week against medical marijuana dispensaries and comments made by the Alameda City Council bear an almost comical similarity to ones made by politicians in Hayward last March. In my story published in the East Bay Express, I detailed how the various interest sought to block pot clubs in the "progressive" city. Hayward's Mayor Michael Sweeney was vehement is his disapproval. The Island reports Alameda's Mayor Bev Johnson was also against the clubs and called them "legalized drug dealing." Coincidentally, Johnson is running for Alameda County supervisor as is Hayward Councilman Kevin Dowling who also sternly voiced opposition last March. In Hayward, the city staff hinted spending staff hours to study pot clubs was not worthwhile and described an unwillingness to lead on the burgeoning county and city issue. Alameda's  Planning Services Department said the same thing and, of course, both police chiefs said pot clubs bring an increase in crime.


San Leandro is not the only municipality looking to shore up its tax coffers through ballot referendum. Alameda's schools are banking on the passage of Measure E next month to bridge shortfalls in the district's budget. If the parcel tax is passed. Alameda property owners would pay $659 over an eight-year span. Commercial property owners, according to The Island, stand to contribute a maximum of $9,500. It is almost a certainty San Leandro will place a tax revenue initiative on the November ballot. A two-thirds approval of the tax may push the city's sales tax rate briefly to 10 percent. One of the highest in the state.

On the other hand, the Around Dublin blog reports the city will not seek a tax referendum this year. Such a tax was briefly discussed. Instead, Dublin will make do with budget cuts while dipping into its "rainy day fund" to balance the books.

NFL hall-of-famer Lawrence Taylor put the spotlight on the rise of youth sex trafficking this week when he was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old girl in New York. Oakland Local's detailed and shocking investigative series shows just how this gruesome crime is becoming more prevalent in Oakland, especially as the economy sinks forcing already struggling individuals to further diminish their outlook for the future.

How about something for mom in advance of Mother's Day? The Berkeleyside blog has a feature on the only "bean-to-bar" chocolate factory in the East Bay. The company called Bittersweet is located on Fourth Street and until recently, the Bay Area possessed a once-vibrant chocolate cognoscenti with Ghirardelli, Guittard and the former Scharffen Berger, which recently closed shop in Berkeley. (By the way, that's Martha Stewart's favorite chocolate. How do I know that? I love Martha and so does my mom. Happy Mother's Day!)


Around the East Bay Blogosphere appears every Saturday in The Citizen.
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Friday, May 7, 2010

The Times' Anti-Union Stance Against City Workers

KAISER STOPS PAYING PROPERTY TAX AROUND '14; TIMES DOESN'T THINK ECONOMY WILL IMPROVE?

SL TIMES POST-PRODUCTION MEETING San Leandro Times Editor Jim Knowles is not present, nor is his reporter or the lady who answers phones. I brought Krispy Kremes. We'll start the meeting without them.

You don't have to look much further than read the San Leandro Times' letters to the editor section to realize why the weekly is committed to undressing the benefits of the city's unionized city workers. Mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy receives space far too frequently for many tastes, while others linked to him through his time on the school board also lend their opinions almost weekly. As part of his economic plan to save San Leandro from "bankruptcy," Cassidy, who has long backed cutting the city's growing pension program and called for the cuts in staff. Mayor Tony Santos famously equated Cassidy's plan to self-styled Republican revolutionary Lou Filipovich for his comments and again mocked Cassidy recently by asking rhetorically if "Cassidy has joined the Tea Party."

This week's edition of Times revisits one of its off-the-mark stabs at curing the city's current ecomomic woes: blame the few high-wage earning city workers for the problem. The Times reported San Leandro City Manager Stephen Hollister's new contract calls for a 15 percent boost in his earning above the next city employee. According to the Times, Hollister will make over $202,000; that's a 1 percent increase over his last one-year contract, but there is more. The Times also reports Hollister, like other city employees, will lose 5 percent of their salaries through 12 furlough days approved by the city council last winter. So, the "City Manager To Make Over $200,000" headline is actually "City Manager Takes 4% Pay Cut." That is a huge difference in editorial decision-making and just another attempt to erect divisions between workers of the virtually the same economic class. Hollister making $200,000 is hardly the equivalent of Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein. (Watch Saturday Night Live's spoof on public employees, here.)

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In the name of saving the city's economy, The Times wrote one of its most egregious articles two weeks ago by painting the construction of the new Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in San Leandro as some type of money-draining endeavor. The underlining story to nearly every event in this city and the nation is the poor economy, but isn't the largest construction project in the city's history far more lucrative than the loss of property taxes on the Kaiser site? What the Times did not report is Kaiser will be paying property taxes on the land for the next four years or until the complex is operational. If there is one issue pointing to a complete lack of editorial judgment, it is this one. Is the paper needlessly stoking fear in its readers or does it know something Nobel Prize-winning economists do not foresee? By 2014, the Great Recession of 2008-11 will surely be behind us and alarmist stories like these only foment discontent where none exists. Besides, it's a hospital, not a racetrack.

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Typographical errors: none.

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The Times said, "San Leandro got a new vice mayor at Monday night's City Council meeting, District 2 representative Ursula Reed was elected by her fellow council members, unanimously, but Jim Prola also wanted the job." Did he? Councilman Prola told The Citizen he did not want the job and had attempted to enlist Councilman Michael Gregory instead. Did the Times writer make the insinuation because Prola seconded Gregory's motion of his own appointment? Prola, in fact voted for himself, but Reed also voted for herself, too. The unanimous vote for Reed was 7-0. The clear subtext to the vote was purely political. It was a proxy vote for backers of Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak against her mayoral opponent, Tony Santos. That was the story.
-STEVEN TAVARES

Starting today and every Friday, The Citizen will try to set the record set with a post-production criticism of the San Leandro Times, but get this, without its staff. There's nothing more interesting than a newspaper war! Coming tomorrow and every Saturday, we'll have a rundown of the week's most interesting blog postings from sites around the East Bay blogosphere and every Sunday, a compendium of links to stories and features from the world of politics set in the context of our region and state.

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