Thursday, September 30, 2010

Candidates Begin to Make Their Moves







  • Check back to The Citizen tomorrow for full coverage of Thursday's forum.
  • Listen to Mayor Tony Santos' interview on the TnT Podcast starting Friday at 4 p.m.

San Leandro to Receive $2.4 million Grant for Five New Cops

By Steven Tavares

San Leandro is one of many
municipalities, announced today,
 receiving funding from the
Justice Department.
Help is on the way from the federal government. San Leandro officials say the city will receive a $2.4 million grant, they say, will fund up to five uniformed police officers over the next three years.

The police force currently numbers 90, but faces cuts to seven officers in the next year, if not for additional resources and a successful passage of the city's sales tax initiative--Measure Z--but, the federal grant will go far to help, said San Leandro Police Chief Ian Willis. "We're very happy today," he said.

Depending on numerous factors, the department will be able to at least stop the bleeding as the city and state fight steep drops in revenue amid soaring costs. Willis is set to retire upon the city hiring his replacement, possibly some time in the new year.

"We're now going to have the officers out there that the people are asking for," said an upbeat San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos, who along with City Manager Stephen Hollister personally broke the news to members of the police department. "They were so happy and relieved," said Santos. "Some started hugging each other." Santos, who has long advocating increasing the city's police force to 100, called the work behind obtaining the federal funding is one of his proudest achievements as mayor.

Hollister was notified of the federal grant late Thursday morning from the city's Washington, D.C. lobbyist. San Leandro infamously missed out on funding last year when the federal government reasoned the city's crime situation was not in as dire need as other neighboring cities.

The additional resources, according to Willis, could allow them to add personnel to crime prevention, one additional school resource officer and bicycle officer each along with bulking up their special operation forces.

Racist Graffiti Found in Heron Bay May Be Political

By Steven Tavares

A racist and potentially politically-themed piece of graffiti was found two weeks ago in the Heron Bay neighborhood of San Leandro, according to the police department. There is no suspect in the case, they say.

Morning walkers passing by a building owned the East Bay Municipal Utilities District noticed the scrawlings that comment San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos was to blame for the modest influx of Asian-Americans to the city. The graffiti uses a derogatory term commonly referring to Asians along with claims Santos is driving away businesses from the city.

San Leandro Police Chief Ian Willis says a "gang-type reference" is included in the defacement, although, he says the department is not familiar with the group. One lead in the investigation, according to Willis, involves a letter printed in the San Leandro Times praising Santos for his work with the local Asian community, followed by a far less flattering portrayal the next week in opposition.

Police increased their patrols around Santos' home in the days following the report, Santos said, although no direct threat was made towards him. Neither Willis or Santos dispute the possibility the messages in Heron Bay could be related to the increasing vitriol within the final stretches of the fall campaign season.

Second San Leandro Candidates Forum, 6 p.m., Tonight

WHO: Sponsored by the Eden Area League of Women Voters and the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce.

WHAT: The five candidates for mayor along with candidates for the two seats on each the city council and school board will answer questions on the future of San Leandro.

WHEN: Thursday, Sept. 30, 6 p.m.

WHERE: Marina Community Center, 15301 Wicks Boulevard, San Leandro.

HOW: Candidates will present 2-minute opening and closing statements in addition to fielding questions from the public.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Property Owner Interested in Mayor's City Email Account

By Steven Tavares

A former San Leandro resident and critic of Tony Santos has filed an official request for the archives of the mayor's city email account from the past year.

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request was made this week, according to the city, by a San Leandro property owner who says he hopes to find electronic correspondences between Santos and other parties that reference his campaign for mayor. The use of the city's email delivery system for campaign-related work is prohibited, according to the Fair Political Practice Commission.

Frank Lynn, who is an out-spoken critic of Santos and supporter of mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy, is best known for rallying opposition to the city's plan to build the San Leandro Crossings housing development near East 14th and Davis Street. The project was held up earlier this year after the developer temporarily shelved its plans due to the poor economic environment.

Lynn says his interactions with Santos in the past along with rumors he is coordinating his campaign through his city email, gave him the impetus to request the documents which may contain thousands of potentially mundane emails. Lynn moved from San Leandro to Pleasanton, but says he still has interest in the future of the city since he still owns rental property here.

Santos said he is confident there is nothing illegal in the emails and says he routinely forwards campaign-related emails to his personal or campaign account for a response. The FOIA requests comes after a spate of accusations and attacks among Santos and his two main opponents, Cassidy and Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak.

UPDATE: Lynn said Thursday he has withdrawn his request to the city.

Special Guest Tony Santos on this Friday's Podcast

Out-spoken San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos will appear on the EastBayCitizen.com TnT Podcast this Friday, Oct. 1. The special election edition featuring Santos focuses on his bid for re-election this November and the issues facing the East Bay city. Included in the program are his view of the city's economy, public employee pensions and the rising tenor of the five-person race, which features the first-ever use of Ranked Choice Voting in San Leandro history.

The TnT Podcast with The Citizen reporter Steven Tavares and co-host Nick Terry is available every Friday morning at www.eastbaycitizen.com.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Guv Signs Corbett's E-Cigarette Bill

By Steven Tavares

Selling so-called electronic cigarettes to adolescents is now against the law Monday night after Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed state Sen. Ellen Corbett's high-profile bill into law. E-cigarettes are often laced with fruity flavorings and marketed to teenagers in convenience stores and sales carts located in shopping malls.

The device, which looks like a cigarette, produces a smokeless form of nicotine through individually-purchased cartridges. E-cigarettes are not regulated the Food and Drug Administration, which led to Corbett's SB 882. An initial fine of $200 may be levied for selling the device to those under 18 years of age and up to $1,000 for a third offense. A bill, written by Corbett, strengthening existing state law against producing toxic toys was also signed by the governor.

Schwarzenegger vetoed three bills authored by Corbett including one that would have set up a pilot program at three state universities allowing students to submit absentee ballots on campus instead of an election day precinct and another ensuring government procurement contracts were certified to be produced without slave labor. "I believe this bill could further compromise the business environment in California during difficult times for many businesses in this state," the governor reasoned in the veto statement. In addition, he vetoed a bill establishing a regional council charged with establishing a recovery plan in the event of a catastrophic earthquake or other disaster

In addition, to scurrying at the capitol to resolve the longest-running budget impasse in state history, the governor was slated to sign or veto nearly 500 bills by the Thursday deadline. Monday night, Schwarzenegger signed 102 bills into law, while vetoing 37.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi also had three bills approved by the governor Monday night. One establishes state license plate adorned with a design honoring prisoners of war and another to designate excess tax liabilities toward the Police Activities League. Another Hayashi bill, AB 2104, will allow for the state board of pharmacy to appoint its own executive officer with the approval of the director of Consumer Affairs.

Monday, September 27, 2010

In Hayward, Burglaries Dot the Entire City

PowerPoint slide showing burglaries in 2009.
PowerPoint slide showing burglaries in 2010.
By Steven Tavares

The Hayward Police Department said last week they have been tracking a crime trend in the rise of home invasions in their city this summer. Lt. Sheryl Boykins told the city council the department has found a "significant increase" in the number of residential burglaries without commenting on any theories for the jump. From the first half of 2010, 646 break-ins were reported in Hayward as opposed to 614 during the same  time last year. The figures amount to a five percent increase, the department said, but whether the Hayward Police were merely posturing to appear busy or acting in a prudently pro-active manner is open to debate.

"Burglars are opportunists," said Lt. Reid Lindblom. According to the police, most of the suspects arrested for burglary are out-of-towners. Forty-four suspects have been arrested since June, police said and many are not committing just a single crime, but many. "When criminals find a technique they are comfortable with they stick with it," said Lindlom. "We recognize the techniques." Burglaries in neighboring cities are also on the rise, they say, but problems in Hayward have persisted on a higher level. By comparison, other local municipalities, both larger and smaller than Hayward, have posted vastly lower levels of break-ins. In the first half of last year, San Leandro reported just 176 burglaries; Union City, 165, while the largest of the four--Fremont--reported 435.

The crime reports filed by local police departments, though, are notorious for inaccuracies that help bolster rhetoric for increase policing and numbers in the field. The PowerPoint presentation presented last Tuesday, for instance employed a clever use of colors used to denote the burglaries in Hayward. The map representing last year (shown above) showed a clutch of pale green dots splashed over the map of the city. The identical map, below, to representing this year's burglaries revealed bright blue dots, which at first glance, showed a more dire situation. After comparing the two visually numerous, the maps showed very little difference in the number or distribution of dots. Nevertheless, Lindblom declared, "If crime shifts, we'll shift with it."

Pareja Becomes Official Write-In Candidate for Congress

Chris Pareja's late run for inclusion on the November ballot fell about 4,000 signatures shy last month, but his campaign announced Monday he has received official status by the Secretary of State's office to oppose Rep. Pete Stark and the Republican nominee Forest Baker as a write-in candidate.

"Note to Pete and Forest: We are coming for you in November," Pareja wrote followers today on his campaign Facebook page. "The people of the 13th have a choice that actually lives in the district, listens to them, treats them with respect and will represent their interests in Washington, D.C."

Pareja's grassroots campaign has drawn interest from local Tea Party group and he has aligned himself with detractors of Stark, who call the East Bay lawmaker rude and out-of-touch with voters in the 13th District.

In a video posted today, Pareja is shown challenging Stark to a debate to which the congressman replies, "not a chance" and asks, "why should I help you with your campaign?"

Armas' Connections Becoming a Political Football

Opponents of Hayward School Trustee Jesus Armas appear to be circling in the distance over the belief the former city manager and recently-appointed board member is reaping the benefits of nepotism.

As Eric Kurhi reported in the Daily Review last week, the fractured Hayward Board of Trustees broke out in some parliamentary fisticuffs more reminiscent of Thailand than B Street. Outgoing Board President Paul Frumkin summoned the police to escort School Trustee Luis Reynoso from the city hall chambers after the two exchanged angry words on the dais. At issue is Reynoso's argument that Armas, who is running for the re-election, is running afoul of state laws against nepotism. His wife works for the school district and, according to the Review, his two children were employed as tutors this summer. School district lawyers say Armas is not in violation of the law since his appointment came long after his wife's employment, but the seeds of the legal argument against Armas has been coalescing.

Thursday's verbal altercation appeared to make clear an odd exchange just a day before by a Hayward resident during the public comment period of Tuesday's city council meeting . The speaker posed a question to City Manager Fran David regarding the city's rules against nepotism; without reference to Armas. After confusion as to whether the speaker could follow-up with a question to David's answer, she said the city took the issue "very seriously" and monitored all situations as they arose. Seemingly content with the answer against nepotism, the speaker returned to his seat. The next night the issue blew up at the school district.

Armas' time as city manager is typically regarded as a success by many in Hayward and his influence in many arenas around city government is well-known. After his appointment last March, Armas is seeking to retain the two-year seat on the board against Lawrence Fitzpatrick and Annette Walker.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Episode 6 of the TnT Podcast Now Available

Jerry Brown is against Prop. 23, so is Meg Whitman. San Leandro is seemingly against it, but should local council’s weigh-in? Rep. Pete Stark is safe because he has the best medical insurance in the world, but this week he again took on insurance providers. And Yo’ mama is so ugly she ran for mayor just to use the toilet paper! Mayor Santos and Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak take the personal politics to a new level on the East Bay’s only political program--The TnT Podcast on the East Bay Citizen.com.

Here's the Hit List of people and ideas criticized in this week's program:

Vegans, Prop. 23, Meg Whitman, Jerry Brown, stuffy talking heads, the ladies, Pete Stark, insurance companies, c-blockers, paying bills, Mayor Tony Santos, running suits, smack talking, yo mama jokes, pie eating, Daily Review, San Leandro Times, Stephen Cassidy, calling legislation "landmarks", Bill Lockyer, caper sauce.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Blogger Pete

Get Pete Stark an account with Blogger! The long-time East Bay congressman has not one, but two published opinion pieces in today's papers. Stark celebrated the enacting of several new health care regulations that begin today in an article for the Oakland Tribune. He also pushed in the Financial Times for taxing speculative Wall Street micro-trades to help underdeveloped nations in advanced of the UN Summit beginning next Monday in New York and found time to rip Republicans for protecting insurance companies.

Some might say it is just the wily Stark making an election season play for votes this November, but his single obligatory campaign sign that typically signals victory was seen this week on the corner of San Leandro Boulevard and East 14th Street. Mind you, it is not the huge diamond-shaped, on-deck circle size campaign sign, but the much smaller model suitable for lawns. Apparently, the smaller the sign, the less worried Stark is about his re-election chances.

A word to candidates, the use of the font Trajan will always guarantee victory. Look it up. Conversely, hand-lettering your signs from leftover paper plates like former San Leandro city council candidate Mark Tichy employed two years ago before falling to Councilman Jim Prola, will only lead to defeat, but a strong showing for third grade treasurer.

Stark's plain white signs with a red font have not changed in seemingly 25 years. I've said this before, but I believe Stark got great deal on 50 campaign signs in 1986 and merely employed one every two years. By that accounting, he still has 20 years left in Washington. By that time, he will hold his town hall meeting in hologram form begging the question: will adults still understand the pop culture reference "Pete, your our only hope" and will Golden Gate Minuteman cameraman Steve Kemp have the technology to record the see-through image of the congressman? On a deeper note, will Stark support illegal avatars from Mexico jumping onto U.S. servers? Hmm, I think he will and so will Emperor Obama.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


California State Treasurer Bill Lockyer is one of the most candid big-time politicians around so it is not totally surprising he took a stick to the Democratic Party's eye with his comments about their prospects this November.

Lockyer painted a bleak picture for Democrats today to San Francisco Chronicle business columnist Andrew S. Ross. He was a bit on the fence about Jerry Brown's chances this fall, called attorney general race for the Republican and dampened enthusiasm for Sen. Barbara Boxer but saying a "wave of idiocy" could play a role in that race.

Lockyer, however, was far more bullish on his own re-election for treasurer against Southern California state Sen. Mimi Walters. He revealed he was $5 million in the bank just in case things get hairy. In addition, most believe his campaign will eventually deposit over $1 million into his wife, Nadia Lockyer's race for Alameda County supervisor.

Maverick tendency are nothing new to Lockyer, but Wednesday's statements might sound less like the Straight Talk Express himself, Sen. John McCain, and more like a liberal apostate to the ears of lefty voters statewide. A quick look at the past decade shows a tendency of tough love towards Democrats more than anything else. He has been a consistent supporter of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and infamously lectured the state legislature to better focus their attention by telling them, "Just stop it!"

Yet for all the bluster, the biggest head scratcher may have been his belief Sacramento can do little to spur the state economy. "We pretend a lot, but realistically state government can't do much to influence the economy or job creation--not when there's a lack of consumer demand and businesses aren't hiring," he said.

And that is the most disheartening and brutally honest comment of them all.

Starosciak and Santos Fighting a War Within the Council


By Steven Tavares

Mayor Tony Santos has a new battle front in his bid for re-election this November after his opponent for the office Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak accused him last week of violating the Brown Act in a email to supporters. She backtracked on the allegation Monday night saying "It wasn't on the agenda. It's like it never happened."

Violating the Brown Act is a potential criminal misdemeanor, if proven.

In the email sent Sept. 14, Starosciak characterized her campaign as "restrained" but a brief confrontation between her and Santos during a meeting of the Shoreline-Marina Committee Sept. 13, of which they both sit along with Councilman Jim Prola, forced her to speak out, she said. "You need to hear what is going on," said Starosciak. "San Leandro, we deserve better."


At issue is the replacement of a seat on the 32-person Shoreline Citizen Advisory Committee. News of the open position was communicated during the meeting by a city staff member. Santos and Prola told The Citizen the conversation at the meeting to fill the slot with an unnamed member of the audience was informal, although Prola mentioned he would be in favor of the appointment and Starosciak wrote Santos ended the discussion by abruptly telling her, "It's done."

Starosciak said Monday she agreed with the order of the events and said the Brown Act, designed to allow for greater transparency of government decision-making, was not violated by Santos. Her email, though, strikes a different tone.

"This was not only an inappropriate, knee-jerk reaction, it’s a blatant Brown Act violation," said Starosciak. "There was no process for the selection; it wasn’t even on the agenda. The resident who was appointed on the spot, even stated he didn’t want the position." On numerous occasions Monday night, Starosciak said "It's about the process" and added, "It needs to be followed." Any appointment to the board would go through the committee and set for approval by a full council vote.
Santos called Starosciak's accusation "vile" and says he turned over the email to the assistant city attorney.

The relationship between Santos and Starosciak has soured precipitously since she announced her candidacy for mayor in Aug. 2009. At the time, Santos told The Citizen he believed a councilmember running against a sitting mayor would adversely affect the council's ability to function. Santos reaffirmed those beliefs Tuesday. Looking back, he says, he declined to run for mayor in 2002 against then-Mayor Shelia Young, despite support, "because it would cause dissension on the council."

Both candidates have not spoken to each other outside of council chambers for months, yet tensions between them have even been evident during numerous meetings where Santos has repeatedly cut off Starosciak's comments and oftentimes fails to address her by her title as councilmember. As the level of comity continues to drop, both resorted to cutting each other off Monday night leading Starosciak to retaliate by cutting short Santos' comments and asking for clarification from city staff regarding a question regarding the interoperability of police communications being discussed, instead of Santos' explaination.

The nasty, personal tone of the campaign has become palpable as the days until election day become shorter and risks bleeding into the new council next year. "She is rude and has no respect for others," Santos said. "I've known her since she was a little girl and I'm disappointed at the kind of woman she has become."

"Tony Santos is reactive, not pro-active," Starosciak said in her email. "He doesn’t listen to residents until he fears that his re-election is in jeopardy. And then the response is short-sighted. This is detrimental to our City. It is time for a change in Leadership."

If Santos wins re-election this fall, time will tell if the rift between the two city official will ever be mended.

Text of Starosciak's Letter to Supporters

Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak, who is running for mayor against the incumbent Tony Santos, accused him of violating the Brown Act during a Sept. 13 Shoreline-Marina Committee meeting. Here is the entire text of an email entitled "San Leandro needs a New Mayor" sent to supporters Sept. 14:

So far in the race for Mayor, I have been very restrained, focusing on the fact that I have the experience and energy combined to be a Mayor for the future of San Leandro . But yesterday that changed. You need to hear what is going on. San Leandro , we deserve better.

At the Council Marina Committee meeting yesterday morning, Staff was giving a presentation on the Shoreline Citizens Advisory Committee. Tony Santos, in hearing that there was an opening on the Citizens Advisory Committee, decided to take it upon himself to appoint a resident of Mulford Gardens on the spot to fill that seat. Councilmember Prola agreed. When I objected, saying that this is not the process, Tony said, “It’s done”.

This was not only an inappropriate, knee-jerk reaction, it’s a blatant Brown Act violation. There was no process for the selection; it wasn’t even on the agenda. The resident who was appointed on the spot, even stated he didn’t want the position.

Tony Santos is reactive, not pro-active. He doesn’t listen to residents until he fears that his re-election is in jeopardy. And then the response is short-sighted. This is detrimental to our City. It is time for a change in Leadership.

San Leandro needs a Mayor who will always listen first, then work with the community until the job is done. Here are some examples:

Mayor Suspends Council's Decision Tabling Measure Endorsement

By Steven Tavares

The political winds sweeping across San Leandro abruptly changed Tuesday night once the school board unanimously voted to endorse the city's 10 percent sales tax hike. The move has forced Santos to scramble to return the district's favor. Santos announced Wednesday morning his intention to use powers given to the mayor under the city charter to suspend the city council's 4-3 vote Monday night to table discussion of the school district's ballot measure.

San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos struck a grim tone yesterday as to whether its school district would endorse the city's ballot initiative Measure Z a day after the city council tabled its backing of Measure M--the school board's own $50 million school sports facilities bond.
This is only the second time in Santos' stint as mayor that he has used powers written into the city's charter to overturn a council decision. Santos used the same powers earlier this year to suspend a council vote in opposition of ranked choice voting. The council later approved the new election system set to debut this November.

Section 305(h) of the city charter reads: The Mayor “posses the authority to suspend implementation of any action taken by the Council by filing with the City Clerk, within three days after such Council action, a notice of suspension thereof. Such suspension shall constitute a motion for reconsideration of the action taken, to be voted upon by the Council at its next regular meeting.”

Councilmembers Joyce Starosciak, Bill Stephens, Ursula Reed and Diana Souza successfully voted to table the endorsement this week after a long and often contentious debate over whether the council had the jurisdiction to vote on resolutions not at least partially emanated from their body. Included in the motion was a plan to send the question to the council's Rules and Communication Committee, which meets Sept. 28. Santos, Stephens and Councilman Jim Prola sit on the three-member rules committee.

Prola, whose wife, Diana Prola, also sits on the school board of trustees, has been a strong backer of both measures and is believed to have been working through back channels to gain the school district's support of the proposed sales tax increase.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Finance Director Says City Budget Has Hit Bottom

By Steven Tavares

Interim Finance Director Perry Carter hopes San Leandro has seen the worst of the treacherous Great Recession. Carter is set to officially retire at the end of this month. During his last finance meeting Tuesday afternoon, he offered "Things may not be getting better, but the good news is: we may have hit bottom."

The city's 2010-11 budget still features a nearly $3 million shortfall, but slightly higher than anticipated increases in revenue give Carter the impression the current budget estimates are coming in line with the economy. "We did better than what I thought in May," said Carter. Deep cuts in expenditures over the past two years along with still-low revenues are allowing a "better match" for the city's accounting for this fiscal year. Doing so, Carter says, will deter the finance department from making periodic adjustments throughout the year as occurred in the last year. "It's not time to breakout the party favors," said Carter, "but it's better news."

Carter said sales tax figures from the end of the last fiscal year of $17.827,000--not far off from the estimated $17.850,000 contained in the current budget--show "consumers aren't dead." The city's sales tax increase known as Measure Z, if passed in November, could also positively help its cash flow. Carter did note, though, the city will likely confront yet another drop in property tax revenue as delinquencies continue to rise.

Nonetheless, many unknown factors still exists for the city, including the specter of a "double-dip" recession dragging the economy underwater again along with the still unresolved state budget situation in Sacramento. Councilman Jim Prola, a member of the finance committee along with Mayor Tony Santos and Councilwoman Diana Souza, thinks lawmakers will again grab money from the local level. "The budget is not settled and doesn't look good," he said. Two of the likely areas, he said, Sacramento could draw from its coffers reside in the redevelopment agency and gas tax revenue.

At the end of the meeting, Santos thanked the well-liked Carter for his service saying, "You have taken us through tough times. I personally appreciate it." Carter then deferred the compliment to his staff.

PG&E to Address San Leandro on Gas Lines

PG&E says the closest high-risk
 gas lines is in Fremont
By Steven Tavares

Long-time Mulford Gardens resident Audrey Albers remembers the explosion of a jet fuel line on the corner of Fairway and Doolittle Drives as excavators nicked the pipeline running to the Oakland Airport.

Although, PG&E's much-anticipated list of the Top 100 high-risk gas lines in the state placed none in San Leandro, Hayward or the vicinity, residents everywhere are understandably concerned with another accident similar to the explosion earlier this month in San Bruno.

San Leandro City Manager Stephen Hollister said Monday the city has invited PG&E to address either the Facilities and Transportation Committee or the entire council, but noted,"We are not in the danger zone."

Albers addressed the city council to impress upon them many pipelines do not show up on various maps making them susceptible to damage. Hollister agreed saying there have been problems in the past with a few lines uncovered by accident, mostly feeder lines running from the main line. "Sometimes there has been a problem with the markings," said Hollister.

The nearest area of concern in proximity to San Leandro and Hayward, according to PG&E's report, lies in the pipelines running from Sunol to Livermore and a segment located in Fremont. A year ago, the California Public Utilities Commission recommended both lines be replaced by 2014.

Endorsement Standstill in San Leandro

By Steven Tavares

The two main governing bodies in San Leandro can't find a way to support each others ballot measures. After the San Leandro Board of Trustees tabled formally endorsing the city's sales tax measure two weeks ago, the City Council, with seemingly ancillary discussion over its ability to endorse the school district's sports facilities bond, returned the favor Monday night.

Despite comments from both sides offering personal support for each others measures, election politics and a cool relationship between the groups has denied any endorsement. All eyes now turn to the school board tonight as they again look at Measure Z.

Councilman Jim Prola said he believes the school board is willing to work with the council, although he said earlier in the meeting, former school trustee and mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy had pulled sway with supporters on the school board to block support of the city's initiative. Prola's comments were later stricken from the record by City Attorney Jayne Williams. When asked if the school board will back Measure M at their meeting tonight after the city council failed to endorse their measure, Mayor Tony Santos said "Why should they?"

Numerous sources tell The Citizen Prola has sought out the school board's support through a quid pro quo, but those talks may have been squashed by Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak who turned the agenda items regarding support of Measure M and opposition to Proposition 23 into a discussion of the council's guidelines against making such endorsements.

Regarding Prop. 23 and latter Measure M, Starosciak said she understood there was policy against making such resolutions in support or opposition to matters outside of the council's jurisdiction going back to 2004. City Manager Stephen Hollister says the policy was a guideline created in 2004, but never incorporated into the council's handbook. Starosciak says she personally supports both items, but recommended the question be sent to the rules committee for clarification. The resolution in opposition of Prop. 23, the ballot measure hoping to overturn AB32, the state's landmark environmental legislation, passed 5-0 with Councilmembers Bill Stephens and Diana Souza abstaining, but official support for Measure M failed 4-3 with Starosicak and Councilwoman Ursula Reed joining Stephen and Souza to block the council's support. Both items will head to the rules committee as early as next week.

"I'm not going to be bound by a guideline by a council in 2004," said Prola, who was the prime backer of the resolution against Prop. 23. "I won't hide behind a guideline." Prola, who was unusually animated said, "We have the obligation to take a position to protect our residents." Mayor Tony Santos agreed and said the issue pertains to the city which he says has a high rate of asthmatics and has issued legislation within its borders to combat greenhouse gas emissions. Others disagreed with the council weighing-in on matter they says is outside of their purview. Stephens called it a "slippery slope" leading possibly to discussion of every issue imaginable. "Everything affects San Leandro," said Stephens. "The war in Afghanistan effects San Leandro. We should consider were we go with this."

UPDATE: A correction was made to the council vote for Prop. 23. Members Stephens and Souza did not vote against, but abstained.

'Insurance Companies Can't Be Trusted' Says Stark

By Steven Tavares

With a number of new regulations from the landmark health care reform bill passed earlier this year set to go into effect Thursday, three insurance companies have decided to stop offering plans to children with pre-existing conditions, according to the Washington Post.

The plans, known as "child-only" represent a small percentage of insurance company business, but critics say Wellpoint, Cigna and CoventryOne are making an end run before the new regulations halting rescission, the practice of indiscriminately dropping customers with costly illness, become law this week.

"Plain and simple, insurance companies can't be trusted," Rep. Pete Stark said in the latest of a string of recent statements highly critical of the insurance industry. He also cites a letter from the head of American Health Insurance Plans last March which offered the cooperation of insurance companies in abiding by the new regulations.

"Six months ago, the insurance industry trade association promised that their members would 'fully comply' with the provision in the health reform law outlawing discrimination against children with pre-existing conditions," said Stark. "Now with this consumer protection about to go into effect, we find out they didn't really mean it. The insurance industry has once again shown their reckless disregard for the well-being of consumers, which is why we need the health reform law that holds them accountable."

The insurance companies say they are not attempting to deny insurance to children. Instead, encouraging parents to included their child on more standard family health plans, they say.

In the past few months, Stark has sternly criticized insurance companies for steeply raising premiums offered to customers while reporting hundreds of million of dollars in profits. Stark is one of the co-authors of the health care reform bill and chairman of the House Ways and Means Health subcommittee.

Monday, September 20, 2010

S.L. Surgery Center Caught in the Middle of Hospital Fight

By Steven Tavares

The San Leandro Surgery Center has become the neglected child in the long-running custody battle between Sutter Health and the Eden Township Healthcare District over the fate of San Leandro Hospital.

Before tensions between the two entities increased earlier in the year as the District countersued Sutter's attempt to takeover the hospital, administrators at the East 14th Street center believed a deal was set.

In late January, Sutter was set to purchase the District's interests in the facility for just over $1 million, but activists rose in opposition to any further financial transactions with Sutter while the two sides battled in court. The board eventually put off approval of the sale for the next two monthly sessions with mistrust over Sutter's intentions for the small surgery center prevailing.

In the meantime, administrators at the surgery center have become increasingly antsy for a resolution. Their anxiety became so high that they have now threatened the District with litigation. A letter earlier this month from the surgery center called for the District to move forward on the sale, effectively saying, "Or else!"

Despite the threat of legal action, the District's plans for the surgery center remain in a holding pattern in regards to any deal with Sutter until their legal disputes are settled. When that could be is anybody's guess.

LEGAL BILLS MOUNTING? A staffer for the Eden Township reported last week the hospital district has spent nearly $1.5 million in legal bills since the beginning of litigation with Sutter Health in November 2008. Included in the total is $190,000 for the month of August alone.

Sensing reporters might latch onto this rapidly increasing total, District Chair Carole Rogers, striking a rallying chord, said the outlay of monies won't matter once they are victorious in court. "We when prevail, Sutter will reimburse these fees," she said.

On the legal front, movement between Sutter and the District may be coming to a head by the end of the year. Lawyers for the District filed a lengthy motion Sept. 15 for summary adjudication. In the meantime, San Leandro Hospital is nearing one year on so-called borrowed by virtue of their legal maneuvering. Sutter had announced last year they would close the hospital Sept. 30, 2009, but that never occurred. One county official, spun the rising legal costs for the District this way: it would have cost them between $6-9 million in subsidies to keep the hospital open, according to many estimates. By spending $1.5 million in legal fees and getting their desired result--keeping the hospital open--the District is actually saving money.

NO HEALTH CARE FOR DIRECTORS Chair Carole Rogers already has free health care, but she is worried about attracting the next generation of Eden Township directors, who might not be so lucky. Rogers recently pushed for offering health care benefits to future directors, hoping to bring new and younger voices to the board, but the she ultimately ended up in a minority of one.

"I'm not sure it would attract people," said Director Dr. Vin Sawhney. "If they run, it's because they want to be here, not for the benefits."

Director Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar agreed and said he was not comfortable using District funds as an enhancement to an elected position. "I don't think we can justify this," said Ratnesar. "It may be a misuse of public funds."

It is typical of most hospital districts to be populated by people with backgrounds in the medical field and Rogers and others have pushed for different voices, such as those with resumes in finance, to come forward. Three director's seats are up for re-election this November. Director Dr. Bill West and Rogers are on the ballot, while Dr. Harry Dvorsky chose not to continue his decade-long stint on the board.

Attorney Lester Friedman and Susan Reisz, a nurse are also on the ballot. Friedman had interviewed last year to replace former member Dr. Walter Kran. That seat was given to West. Reisz recently received the endorsement of the local Democratic Party. Both are viewed as candidates sympathethic to the current board's drive to save San Leandro Hospital through the courts.

San Leandro City Council to Oppose Prop. 23

Protesters at a Valero gas
 station in Los Angeles.
By Steven Tavares

San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola and his wife School Trustee Diana Prola are Cal alumni and big Golden Bear fans. After Cal's season opening 52-3 thrashing of UC Davis Sept 4, the Prola came across picketers surrounding a Valero gas station on the stroll back from Memorial Stadium. The protesters were upset over the Texas-based oil company funding opposition to Proposition 23, the attempt to unravel the landmark clean air legislation signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and due to come into effect in 2012.

Prola said he and his wife grabbed a picket sign and marched with the group. "It's what we do," said Prola during a recent city council meeting. Jim Prola is known as the council's leader on the left with a noticeable sensitivity to labor unions causes.

The council will weigh in on the issue during tonight's meeting. Among the agenda items posted Friday is a vote in opposition to Prop. 23. The initiative has raised the ire of many lefty groups who believe the laws within AB 32 allow California to be a leader in environmental causes. The bill calls for greenhouse gas emissions in the state to be reduced to 1990 levels by 2020.

Critics of the bill, including Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, say it is a job killer. Prop. 23 would block AB 32 until unemployment in California falls below 5.5 percent for four consecutive quarters, something that has happened only 3 times in the last 30 years. With the state unemployment currently at 12.4 percent, reaching such a threshold is unlikely for years to come.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Episode 5 of the TnT Podcast Now Available


The race for Alameda County supervisor continues to heat up. Nadia Lockyer changes her mind and ditches the controversial fund-raiser in her honor. Liz Figueroa, still stinging from primary attacks on her taxes, evens the score. What could possibly happen next? Steven Tavares and Nick Terry discuss it along with news of San Leandro Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak accusing Mayor Santos of breaking the Brown Act. It’s all on the East Bay’s only political chatfest--The East Bay Citizen’s TnT Podcast.

Here's the Hit List of people and ideas criticized on this week's program:

Fundraisers, Nadia Lockyer, Liz Figueroa, child abusers, Bill Lockyer, Always being the bridesmaid, jumpsuits, self-tanning, John Boehner, Tony Santos, accusations of breaking the law, Pro-Wings, Pop Rocks, Rachel Maddow, The BayTrail, Lacy Peterson, homicide, playing footsie, pundits, tax cheats, Chili Dogs, cottage cheese and vomit.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Hayward Approves Bidding for Demolition of Centennial Hall

Hayward's Centennial Hall, once
the seat of the city government.
By Steven Tavares

Centennial Hall, Hayward's once gleaming civic jewel is one step closer to demolition. The city council voted 6-1 Tuesday to begin bidding for the deconstruction of the crumbling former conference center and office complex, estimated at just over $1 million.

The edifices, includes the iconic 11-story office building off Foothill and sometimes derisively named the "toaster", has become a problem for the city since its closing last year. Numerous break-ins and instances of vandalism have made the area a magnet for crime. General maintenance for the buildings, even though out of use, have also diverted precious funds from the city's coffers.

"It's time we move on with this," said Councilman Olden Henson, who said he understands the community's nostalgia for the building and its history as part of the old Hayward Union High School.

Councilwoman Barbara Halliday was the lone dissenting vote among the council, who also believes the structure is of historic significance to the city. "I cannot support it," she said. 

Nevertheless, the council's action will lead to immediately advertisement of the project. According to staff reports, Centennial Hall's deconstruction could begin as early as Nov. 15. In addition, the city says a recent study found the buildings to contain significant amounts of asbestos in the fire-proofing, drywall and other construction items leading to larger than expected costs related to its demolition.

The future of the site, the city hopes, will one day house a hotel and convention center along with office space. While Centennial Hall already features an office building, City Manager Fran David says the current configuration of the buildings does not allow for the hotel portion of the plan.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Figueroa and Lockyer Duel Over Experience

By Steven Tavares

The two candidates for Alameda County Supervisor barely acknowledged each other Monday night in Hayward. As Nadia Lockyer and Liz Figueroa sat next to each other answering questions against the backdrop of an increasingly bloody campaign, both tried to grab the mantle of experience from each other.

Lockyer told the near capacity city hall chambers she is the only candidate with experience managing a county program. As executive director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center since 2007 Lockyer says she has saved the county over $1 million during her tenure. "We can be more efficient," she said. Asked how she would retain services amid extremely large deficits Lockyer said, "I will not cut vital services unless those inefficiencies have been met."

The former state Sen. Liz Figueroa, has been in public service for nearly as long as Lockyer has been alive--39 years--and she attempted to use her expertise in South Alameda County and Sacramento to differentiate herself with the less experienced Lockyer. "These are not times we can start with inexperienced personnel," said Figueroa, who later followed with a similar jab, "It's about experience, not on-the-job training."

The experience question came starkly into play when each candidate was asked how they would balance the concerns between cities and unincorporated areas in the district. Figueroa said, "You have to understand the uniqueness of each city, understanding sometimes they work against each other" and took credit for smoothing over concerns with the nearly completed Highway 238 on-ramp at Jackson Street. Lockyer answered the same question saying, "I never pretend to know it all" while adding she would create "leadership teams" to keep her abreast of situations in the district.

With less than two months before election day, the hallmark of this campaign has been tersely-worded press releases and document-laden exposes from both campaigns largely overshadowing what is a very important and rarely open seat on the board of supervisors. Times are tough for Alameda County, which recently reconciled a $152 million budget deficits through excruciating cuts to services. Figueroa said she believes the county's budget situation will only get worse next year. When asked if she would pledge to not makes cuts, she declined, calling it a "false promise" and faulted lawmakers in Sacramento for repeatedly dipping into the coffers of local communities.

Figueroa said her experience as a lawmaker in the state senate would help her keep tax dollars in the county. "I know what goes on in Sacramento," she said. "I know the language." In her closing statement, Lockyer countered saying, "Sacramento is not Alameda County" and shot back at Figueroa's earlier comments regarding her resume. "It's not about titles and tenure," Lockyer said. "It's about tangible accomplishments." In addition to her experience at the county-level, she said she would rely on her experiences as a mother and as an advocate. She said voters are yearning for a new voice. "I want to break down the disconnect between people and government," said Lockyer. "Government can and will restore hope."

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Lockyer Chose Not to Attend Controversial Fundraiser

By Steven Tavares

Alameda County supervisor candidate Nadia Lockyer said Tuesday night she chose not to attend a $1,000 fund-raiser hosted by an alleged child abuser last week. The change of plans were a response to a press release sent late Thursday afternoon, just hours before the event, from the campaign of her opponent, former state Sen. Liz Figueroa.
Nadia Lockyer

In the statement, Figueroa was highly critical of Lockyer's attendance at the office of former Oakland city council candidate and real estate agent Mario Juarez. Court papers allege Juarez hit his young son over 30 times. He was also arrested on domestic abuse charges filed by his then-wife.

After a somewhat tense candidates forum with Figueroa Tuesday night at Hayward City Hall, Lockyer said both she and her husband, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, decided not to attend the event held in Oakland. She did not answer any questions pertaining to knowledge of Juarez's background beforehand, but faulted Figueroa for initiating campaign mudslinging, calling it "puke politics."

"I want to say it is unfortunate my opponent started the campaign in this way," said Lockyer. "I work with victims of domestic violence everyday. I take this very seriously." Lockyer has repeatedly spotlighted the importance of protecting children and families throughout her campaign.

Figueroa says she recognized the name of Mario Juarez last week along with his spotty background and criticized Lockyer for not knowing her own backyard "This shows she doesn't know what's going on in her own community," said Figueroa.

The campaign for Figueroa sent the press release late last Thursday, just before the scheduled event leaving and leaving Lockyer scrambling. "We were doing a lot of running around," Lockyer said in response to a previous query the same day that went unanswered. "When did her and Bill decide not to go?" asked Figueroa. "On the car ride over there?"

The two-term state senator, who represented nearly the same imprint as the county seat she hopes to win, lost the June primary to Lockyer and barely won a chance to face off in the November general election. Lockyer has parlayed an enormous money advantage over Figueroa on the back of over $550,000 in donations from the campaign of her husband (as of the last filing period) making her the prohibitive favorite to replace the retiring Gail Steele on the board of supervisors this November.

It's Not All Doom and Gloom for Council Candidates, but Mostly

Moderator and former San Leandro councilman Bob Glaze (standing) oddly places the candidates from separate council races at different tables. (Left-right) David L. Anderson, School Trustee Pauline Cutter, Councilman Michael Gregory, Corina Lopez.
By Steven Tavares

Residents of San Leandro will not be afforded a spoonful a sugar to help the medicine to go down. The budget for sugar may have been already cut.

The four candidates for two city council seats in San Leandro, at times, looking hangdog, did not hide from the city's poor economic outlook, a few were just a bit more gloomy than others.

District 1 Councilman Michael Gregory, the lone incumbent among the group, made little effort to run from the city's record of declining revenues over the past four years. "These are very challenging times," Gregory said. "We have endured unprecedented cuts. Let's tough this out together."
Gregory's challenger David L. Anderson, in response to question on pension reform declared, "Everybody needs to hurt."

Anderson is a recent transplant from Oakland who led the city's school board in the early 90s and faced allegations he attempted to trade his vote for its general counsel in return for a consulting position with the city. No charges were filed, but the accusation has lingered. While Anderson has strong union ties, Gregory does not, yet both have received tepid support from labor.

The race for District 5 came across as somewhat more sunnier to the large midweek crowd at the Marina Community Center last Wednesday. San Leadnro School Board Trustee Pauline Cutter and local businesswoman Corina Lopez hope to replace the termed-out Councilman Bill Stephens.

Both candidate tried to straddle the line between tightening the city's belt and positively moving forward. "We need to stretch our dollars so to keep the things we want," said Lopez. "We can no longer claim victim to the economy."

Cutter called for both police and fire, the largest segment of the city's expenditures, to help out. "I would call everyone to the table," she said. "Everyone needs to share in this. Everybody is a part of the solution and the recovery."

On the issue of Measure Z, the city's initiative to raise the sales tax to 10 percent, Cutter tried to carve a slight distinction between her and Lopez. Cutter called the plan a "Band-Aid" while Lopez said the increase in revenue, if passed, would help San Leandro "soften the blow" from a weak economy. Both Anderson and Gregory also support Measure Z. Anderson, though, took exception to the length of the proposed sales tax increase at seven years.

In many ways the council forum that preceded the candidates for mayor focused far more closely on the state of San Leandro's lagging business climate. District 5 encompasses much of the downtrodden and empty storefronts on East 14th Street surrounding City Hall. "We're at a crossroads with our businesses," said Lopez. She also called for the city to offer more attractive and competitive incentive packages for large corporations. The statement was in reference to the parent company of The North Face, which was recently lured from San Leandro to Alameda by virtue of lucrative tax breaks. "To be good, you have to be competitive," said Lopez. "We have failed to be competitive."

Gregory, always the patron saint of good health and urban walkability said the city's continuing effort to transform its downtown to a walking friendly region for consumers will attract more businesses. "We're going to have to build our downtown to get these stores," he said in reference to stores such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market.

When it came to one of the area's hot-button issues--pension reform--the four candidates were all over the board. Cutter said, "I believe everyone needs a pension." but later added "they cannot be sustainable." Lopez, on the other hand, appeared to place herself as one of the few candidates in any race sounding reticent about the near-term benefits of having city employees pay a portion of their pensions. "The two-tier system is not the answer," said Lopez. "The benefits will not be realized until 10-15 year from now."

She also described herself coming from a poor, working-class background with her father, now retired, collecting Social Security and a union pension, yet still struggling to make ends meet. "It's not enough," she said while concluding the treatment of the growing number of Baby Boomers may be a "generational issue" to contemplate. Gregory and Anderson both supported pension reform but did not give any further details.


Council Forum Quote Sheet

A compendium of notes and quotes from the candidates forum Sept. 8 for San Leandro city council:

  • Says businesses oppose Measure Z; in favor, but does not favor 7 year clause.
  • Would support raising taxes, attracting Silicon Valley companies, marijuana farm
  • Asked what does oath mean to you? Gregory says he carries around the Constitution, shows it to audience.
  • On Marina: "We have a plan." then said "We need a comprehensive plan."
  • On stores: "We have a lot of storefronts." If walkability to downtown is built, "I think more businesses will come."
  • Would also reduce traffic congestion downtown.
  • Says public safety makes up 60-62% of budget; those groups need to help city.
  • Referring to the school board: "We handle our money well."
  • "We should spend what we're bringing in and not continue using our reserves."
  • Called for more youth programs.
  • On Marina: "It has to be developed." "Residents have said they want restaurants and open green space there."
  • "Bayfair has a reputation for not being safe."
  • Called for transit spokes sprouting out from main E. 14th Street lines into neighborhoods.
  • "I come from a poor, working class family. I was the first to attend college in my family."
  • ""If we have business thriving, we're thriving overall."
  • Supports sales tax measure. Says it "softens the blow."
  • Says her father is retired, on social security and with a pension. "It's not enough."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mayoral Candidates Struggle to Define Policy Differences

San Leandro mayoral candidates (left-right) Stephen Cassidy, Mayor Tony Santos, John Palau, Sara Mestas and Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak Sept. 8 at the candidates forum in San Leandro.
By Steven Tavares

All politics is local, yet the areas of concern for mayoral candidates at a San Leandro forum last week mimic those both statewide and nationally. Pension reform, business quality of life issues allowed the four candidates hoping to unseat incumbent Mayor Tony Santos a chance to peg their policy differences in front of a large Wednesday night gathering of over 350.

Santos' job last week was extensively to fend off criticism from all of his opponents the city's economy during the four years has been lacking along with a less than rosy outlook for the future. "I kept business strong when other cities were not," Santos said while mentioned the construction of the new Kaiser Permanente building--the biggest construction project in the city's history, according to Santos.

If re-elected Santos would become the longest serving politician in San Leandro history passing former Mayor Jack Maltester. He noted his experience during the hour-long forum while gesturing to his opponents, specifically Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak. "My colleagues have not been a part of government as much as me," said Santos. "None come close."

Pension reform in the city has become a simmering issue in San Leandro as the city budget continues to hemorrhage in the red while dollars set aside for employee pensions rise. "Your employees have given a great deal," said Santos who cited recent concessions from the Police Officers Association saving almost $800,000 along with steep cuts to all eight city departments. But challenger Stephen Cassidy says the mayor is not doing enough, making reform of city pensions his signature issue.

"I'm the only candidate with the courage to take on pension reform head-on," said Cassidy, who also said the path to economic solvency by collectively coming together as a city. "There's a third way to [fixing] the economy: Ask everyone to sacrifice," said Cassidy. The night's only contentious moment came in response to Starosciak's answer in favor of pension of reform. Cassidy maintained Starosciak's answer did not match statements made to the Alameda County Central Labor Council earlier in the week. "You hear different voices to different groups," Cassidy obliquely said in response to Starosciak's comments. A campaign aide to Santos also agreed with Cassidy's view of Starosciak's apparent flip-flop.

Starosciak, whose campaign has failed to gain much momentum, called for city employees to make concessions during collective bargaining. At one point in response to a question on employees and pension reform she said, "Good pay should equal good results." She reiterated her platform calling for "low crime, good schools, well-paved roads" and good places to shop. Her constituents say there are eschewing dining and shopping in San Leandro for better places in Castro Valley and Pleasanton. In a flyer passed around Wednesday, Starosciak vowed to bring premium stores such as Trader Joe's and Whole Foods Market to the city.

Activist and rapper Sara Mestas attempted to carve a niche as the outsider candidate saying, "I have no allegiances to any special interests, only to the citizens of San Leandro." Mestas said she would create both union and non-union jobs in San Leandro and believes economic development will get the city out of its current troubles. She curiously offered keeping pensions for the police department at 100 percent while others would only contribute slightly. Later in the forum, she reversed herself saying all employees should contribute to their pensions.

John Palau, the late entry to the mayor's race failed to give much to the crowd other than comic relief. At one point he jokingly (hopefully) said he would clear the city and plant cherry trees before offering a rambling closing statement about fishing. On two separate occasions, Palau's solution to San Leandro's problems emanated from the pocketbook of Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle. Apparently confused, Palau referred to Ellison as the CEO of Yahoo!


Mayoral Forum Quote Sheet

A compendium of quotes from the Sept. 8 San Leandro mayoral forum:

  • Said he was "black sheep" from a family of salespeople. "They tell jokes. Have stories. I don't have those qualities." Later says, "I have analytical skills."
  • Said to restore police force to full-strength. 
  • "Strong schools create strong cities."
  • "Only candidate with a plan to solve the budget crisis without a 10 percent sales tax."
  • Took jab at senior center contrasting it with 9th grade campus 
  • Said we should "look for businesses we think will thrive in the next 50 years.
  • "We must define our values."
  • On Measure Z: "We need to raise taxes for now."
  • "I will put my two-cents aside and side with the majority of citizens."
  • On pensions: "They are unsustainable right now."
  • Called for "Green Marina."
  • Said youth can help keep E. 14th Street clean.
  • "I want to eliminate new taxes." 
  • "I want to restore honest government for the people, by the people.
  • Review system of pensions to locate "obvious abuse."
  • On Marina: "We are going to continue what we've been doing. We need to make that marina self-sustaining. We need to make it more productive."
  • On pensions: "Your employees are working hard."
  • "I'm here to protect your public safety."
  • "People from foreign countries come up to me and say our streets are so clean."
  • How she differentiates herself "through experience and energy."
  • Would hire a full-time finance director
  • "Spend within our means."
  • "The marina has always been a destination. We should build and sustain a good marina that will make us proud San Leandrans." "We should not rush into it."
  • "We need to focus on more business."

Insurers Tussle with Government, Stark over Rising Premiums


The landmark health care reform bill passed by Congress this year is Rep. Pete Stark's baby. Beware insurance companies, don't mess with Pete's baby!

Stark, who is one of the authors of the House's version of the historic legislation, has stern words for insurance companies, who critics say are raising premiums and high-tailing out of certain markets in advance of forthcoming regulations within the new law.

"Insurers are using the consumer protections in health reform as a cover for their own greed," Stark said last week in support of a letter from Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebulius to heads of health insurance providers. "They're making billions more in profits over last year. Now they want us to believe that they're hurting so badly they need to keep gouging consumers."

Sebelius's equally terse letter to insurance executives, threatened to leave certain companies out of the important health care exchanges due to begin in 2014 if they did not cease dispensing what she called, "misinformation." "Simply stated, we will not stand idly by as insurers blame their premium hikes and increased profits on the requirement that they provide consumers with basic protections," said Sebelius

In the months after health care reform was passed by Congress, Stark has feuded on numerous occasions with insurers who he says have steeply raised premiums for its customers while reeling in record profits.

Karen Ignagni, the president and CEO of America's Health Insurance Plans, wrote Sebelius arguing there was nothing nefarious about the increases. "It’s a basic law of economics that additional benefits incur additional costs, and the impact on premiums depends on the type and amount of coverage policyholders had before," said Ignagni. The passage apparently raised the ire of Stark who countered with his own view of Econ 101.

"As long as we are abiding by the basic laws of economics, we can all agree that with bigger profits should come lower premiums," said Stark. "Given that the second quarter earnings reports of your member organizations show billions more in profits over last year, I am eager to hear how you intend to share these profits with policyholders."

Friday, September 10, 2010

Episode 4 of the TnT Podcast Now Available


San Leandro progressive activist and Citizen contributor Craig Williams sits in for Nick Terry as the TnT Podcast focuses on this week’s candidate forum. Pension reform and the economy is the on the minds of all the candidates but one is talking pot and another wants to level the city. We’ll talk local politics on the East Bay’s only weekly political program--the TnT Podcast.

Here's the Hit List of people and ideas criticized in this week's program.

Hostage-taking, Bill Lockyer, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods Market, Joyce Starosciak, double cheeseburgers for votes, Michael Gregory, John Palau, pot farms, sticking it to the working man, lack of diversity, Republicans, hostage videos on YouTube.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Figueroa Faults Lockyer for Fundraiser Hosted by Alleged Child Abuser

Mario Juarez was accused
 of hitting his child over 30 times,
 according to reports.
By Steven Tavares

Nadia Lockyer has consistently dedicated her campaign for a seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to protecting children, but her opponent says she is cavorting with an alleged domestic abuser in the name of fundraising dollars.

Former state Sen. Liz Figueroa lashed out Thursday at Lockyer's scheduled fundraiser tonight held by the controverisal former Oakland city council candidate Mario Juarez. According to a profile two years ago in the East Bay Express, Juarez who eventually was defeated by incumbent Ignacio De La Fuente, was accused by his wife Araceli Juarez of hitting their young son over 30 times.

"Shame on you Ms. Lockyer! Shame on you, there is no excuse for this camaraderie" Figueroa said late Thursday afternoon, just hours before the $1,000 fundraiser at Juarez's real estate office in Oakland.

A spokesperson for the Lockyer campaign could not be reached Thursday for comment.

Figueroa faulted Lockyer for failing to do her job as the executive director of the Alameda County Family Justice Center to promote the safety of victims of domestic violence. "Holding lavish parties with their abusers is not only a violation of public trust but a clear betrayal of those she claims to protect," said Figueroa.

The location of fundraiser spotlighting Latino businesses in Oakland is outside of the boundaries of the district Lockyer hopes to represent. During the primary campaign, Lockyer's opponents made issue of this after a review of Lockyer's campaign finance documents showed less than one percent of her war chest was raised in the district. Furthermore, Lockyer has received over $550,000 in donations from the campaign of her husband, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, in the past year leading to an overwhelming money advantage over Figueroa.

Juarez was also arrested for domestic abuse against his wife and a complaint was filed in Alameda County Superior Court in 1999. The Oakland businessman has also been in-and-out of bankruptcy over the past decades along with numerous lawsuit filed against him for non-payment. The perception of a candidate who could not manage his own finances campaigning to fix Oakland's ailing budget situation went a long way towards his defeat for city council two years ago.


Council Approves Split-Funding of Crossing Guards with School District

By Steven Tavares

When stuck between a rock and hard place, the San Leandro City Council unanimously approved sharing the cost of school crossing guards for a second consecutive year. Similar to last year, the council belatedly approved funding roughly half the cost of guards after leaving the expenditure out of their mid-summer fiscal budget. The city stand to be on the hook for roughly $35,000 this year.

San Leandro schools went without crossing guards for the first three months of last year's school leading to sometimes raucous opposition towards both the city council and school board leading to a cost-sharing deal similarly approved Tuesday night. The city covered the cost of crossing guards until last year when the program was cut due to rising deficits. The council did not fund the program for this fiscal year amid some confusion among council members on whether it was included or not.

"It seems like last year, we said the same thing, 'Ok, we'll do it this time.'," said Vice Mayor Ursula Reed.

"We continue to say, 'Oh, Ok' and it is eating away at our reserves, which are already low," said Councilwoman Diana Souza. Although Souza says she is in favor of funding crossing guards she wanted to find expenditures for cutting to balance the other side of the ledger, which has become increasingly difficult with the rise of small factions in the city successfully rescuing their programs from trimming.

"We passed a budget and we need to stick to it," said Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak, who also asked the city manager to investigate whether the city's Traffic Safety Fund could be used to fund the program.

After the city council and school board liaison meeting last August, the school district approved funding guards for the first half of the school year. School Trustee Diana Prola said the board did not have a plan for funding the rest of the year if the council had not approved sharing the cost. "This is late in the game," said Prola. "It will be hard to find the money."

Souza urged the city to begin a dialogue with school district immediately to stave off any confusion in the future, but the some members did more than imply the city is looking to get out of the crossing guard business. "We must give a message to the school district that we can't follow through in the future," said Councilman Jim Prola. He urged parents and teacher to volunteer in the future and has witnessed quality of the hired guards to be uneven. "They have year to get the act together," said Prola.

Souza: Why Did School District Think We Would Pay?

By Steven Tavares

San Leandro Councilwoman Diana Souza was uncommonly agitated Tuesday night when discussing the council's Hobson Choice between ponying up $35,000 for crossing guards or possibly putting young children at risk. At issue was the perception the school board was given the green light by the city to move forward with paying their half of the cost-sharing for the program.

"How did they think we had said this?" Souza asked. "We need to know why they thought that."

The answer may come from the July 29 city council/school board liaison committee meeting where San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos made the offer to the school district members. "We can't go in there and say we're not funding this,"Santos told The Citizen afterwards, despite continued resistance from City Manager Stephen Hollister.

Tuesday night, Hollister told Souza he consulted with the city attorney and sent an email to the school district saying it would honor half of the first month of instruction as the first day of school quickly approached.

Through extensive budget revisions throughout the early part of this year, the contentious issue of school crossing guards inexplicably never enter the discussion. Amid numerous presentation of the proposed fiscal budget a few council members were in the dark as to whether funding for the guards was included.

At one finance committee meeting, Souza was overheard whispering to Santos whether the guards were a part of the budget presentation given by the interim finance director. It was not and the budget was unanimously approved without crossing guards.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Large Crowd Hears Candidate's First Salvos

Over 350 pack Marina Community Center Wednesday for Candidates Forum
Cassidy Calls Out Starosciak for Alleged Flip-Flop on Pension Reform

Santos: 'Your Employees Have Given a Great Deal'

Starosciak says 'Good Pay Should Equal Good Results'

Lopez Touts Poor, Working-Class Background; Says 'We Can No Longer Claim Victim to the Economy'

Council Candidate Backs Cannabis Farm to Increase Revenue

Mayoral Candidate Palau Wants to Clear San Leandro, Plant Cherry Trees

FULL COVERAGE OF WEDNESDAY'S FORUM TO COME...Along with coverage of Tuesday's council meeting.

City Council Debate Preview

Councilman Michael Gregory, David Anderson
What a difference a year makes for Gregory. Last year, the sharp-dressed, well-groomed councilman had more than a few hairs out of place. Under his watch, there was a strong possibility of losing San Leandro Hospital, which sits in his district. He was also on the outs with local labor unions, which insiders say caused him more than a few night's sleep. Fast forward and the political landscape looks far more rosy for Gregory. San Leandro Hospital's future is not secure, but the bleeding has been stopped for time being and labor support has even come his way. Gregory is simple: he is all about improving lifestyle. He promotes ditching the car for a bike and eating your vegetables. He's congenial and well-liked, either because he smiles a lot or does not aim to make waves. His opponent, though, comes to San Leandro with quite a bit of baggage. David Anderson is not well-known. What he is known for is accusations of wrongdoing at the school district in Oakland. Anderson, though, is a strong union man, which made Gregory nervous. In the end, the labor unions, seemed to have shied away from Anderson in favor of Gregory. It will be interesting exactly how Anderson tacks against Gregory sunshiny persona and whether he has sounds like he has the experience to match the incumbent. If you are looking for political fisticuffs this is probably not the race for you.

School Trustee Pauline Cutter, Corina Lopez
With two months to go, this is the race most likely to produce a surprise. Four years ago, Ursula Reed played this role. This time around it could be the Princeton-educated Lopez who pulls it off. District 5 has not seen a competitive council race in over a decade. Councilman Bill Stephens was re-elected twice without an opponent. Lopez is well-spoken and intelligent, but her main asset could be her grasp of the undervalued and unrepresentative Latino demographic. She is also a ballroom dancer, which should go well with the Dancing with the Stars set. In a city with a burgeoning Latino flavor, neither the city council or school board is represented by a person of Hispanic descent. If she can connect to those voters, she could defeat the more experience Pauline Cutter. Rallying that large sleeping giant of a demographic, though, is a big if. Cutter has shown herself to be a part of the more moderate wing of the school board. For instance, she sided against giving departed superintendent a pink slip earlier this year in opposition to the Katzites who had it in for Christine Lim. Some though say she has done little to set herself apart from a quite lackluster school board. While she has a good deal of union support, it is a bit spotty and her support among the current school board members is waning. This summer she seemed fearful of losing Tony Santos' support which is only exacerbated by Santos acolyte Charles Gilcrest being involved in Lopez's campaign. Cutter is a bit laid back in demeanor and will likely step up the rhetoric making this race a tossup and with any close race, it usually comes down to who makes the biggest mistake and when.