Friday, October 29, 2010

The Beginning of the Nadia Lockyer Era?

By Steven Tavares

Oct. 29, 2010 | "What nationality are you," Nadia Lockyer asked me as she attempted to make small talk last April at her Hayward campaign headquarters. "I'm Portuguese," I said to the candidate for Alameda County supervisor. "Do you remember the movie with Robert DeNiro where he helped the indigenous people in South America?" she said. "I think it was called The Mission," I answered and noted I had not seen the film from the early 1980s. I began sensing Lockyer was stalling me while oddly relating my ancestry with that of an obscure character in a 30-year-old film. Shortly before we started the hour-long interview one of Lockyer's political consultants dropped-in unannounced and asked to sit-in on the interview. "Sure," I said while the consultant sat on an office chair to my left while Lockyer sat on the couch to my right.

Lockyer never seems comfortable speaking publicly. She becomes aloof and unfocused by interviews and during candidates forums throughout this election season. It is a stark contrast to the persona she gives off in one-on-one contact. I have seen countless occasions where young woman absolutely gush at her presence, often asking to snap pictures with her. That all crashes, though, when Lockyer puts on her campaign hat. Instead, what nearly ever observer of this race sees is a candidate shockingly unprepared for the rigors of county supervisor and a campaign constantly befuddled by entitlement and secrecy.

A few question into the interview it became clear Lockyer was stalling me until her consultant Katie Merrill arrived at the B Street office. A pattern began to emerge where Merrill would finish and slightly recalibrate Lockyer's answers. After one question about what made her different from her then-primary opponents Lockyer gave me her stock answer about being the only candidate with county experience. It was a longer than expected answer, but when I turned to ask Merrill a related question my attention was brought back to Lockyer who was slightly nodding her head as if to seek approval of the answer she had just given. I noticed this stealth exchange for affirmation on two other moments that afternoon. A few days later, Lockyer met with a  reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, but has never agreed to sit down with another reporter since.

It is the hallmark of well-heeled politicians to keep the door close on access. We have seen it in full bloom as Meg Whitman has spent over $150 million of her personal fortune in her quest for governor of California. Whitman has had many high-profile clashes with the media and has largely ducked their probing questions at every turn. In many ways, Lockyer and her war chest derived nearly entirely from her husband, Bill Lockyer's campaign, has kept a tight lid on the candidate's statements and access to her. The campaign learned earlier not to let Lockyer stray from the script.

During our interview I asked about a mailer sent to voters that initially received more attention by its cost than its content. In it contained a glossy photos of her family, a letter and an actual campaign banner folded to fit inside the large packet. Shortly afterwards, some in the community began voicing displeasure with the inclusion of a photo showing Lockyer's elementary age child and their family dog. Included was his name, the puppy's name (which he is holding in the photo) and the name of their street. Critics of Lockyer who pointed out she had made the welfare of children one of her platform points were disturbed she had revealed so much information about her child in a campaign mailer. Merrill said the campaign was proud of the particular mailer, but when asked whether Lockyer knew three convicted child sex offenders lived within two miles of their home, she said she was aware. In fact, she had complained to police the year before when one of the offenders, in her opinion, overly decorated their front yard for Christmas, under the guise, she believed, of luring children to his property. "I actually think it makes him more safe," Lockyer said of the information in the mailer. "The more information that is out there, the more people there are to keep him safe." It was not the answer the campaign wanted to be put out there. Similar mailers displaying family photos did not include information about their son and the street he lived on, but the entire episode also showed how Lockyer's political connections and money quashed any criticism of her from several county social service providers. None would dare speak on the record about the situation for fear of sabotaging already shrinking county dollars to their programs. To many, it was a good bet to cooperate with Lockyer under the notion keeping silent would keep them in her good graces once she becomes supervisor.

Her perceived entitlement to the seat is clear, but many find additional discomfort by her lack of experience for the job. This angle led directly to Gail Steele, who his retiring from the seat in District 2, to declare her support for Lockyer's opponent, Liz Figueroa. Never has Steele immersed himself in the endorsement process, but her religiously frugal ways and concern over Lockyer's complete lack of local roots and considerable cash swayed her to make the surprise announcement earlier this month. The torrent of campaign money from Bill Lockyer's resources continues to flow even up to the last week before the election. According to the Chronicle, Lockyer's spending is on par with average expenditures usually seen for in a race for Congress. The money issue leads many to wonder why he Lockyers believe the seat is worth up to $2 million to win.

Lockyer's experience rests solely on one term on the Santa Ana School Board and three years at the Alameda County Family Justice Center. The thin resume has been the source of derision by many opponents of her campaign who openly ask what exactly the center does? Lockyer has never answered the question. Others call it a successful operation, but admit its importance ranks low on the list of important services made available by the county. Others contend the center was specifically created for Lockyer to launch her nascent political career, but her debut on the local political scene has proven to be gaffe-ridden.

No other mistake raised more eyebrows than when Lockyer told a group of seniors in Fremont she had just received the endorsement of state Sen. Ellen Corbett. Figueroa and then-candidate Kevin Dowling looked peculiarly at Lockyer as she relayed this information. Actually, Lockyer had not received Corbett's blessing, at all. Merrill blamed it on miscommunication between staffs, but the mistake caused a rift, according to sources. It also fit a pattern, observers noted, of Lockyer's unfocused demeanor that often appeared scatter-brained. Some described a young and vivacious professional lawyer up until a serious accident a decade ago left her infirmed. A few who knew her tell me she is not the same since the incident. Many of her answers to me and queries during public forums feature bland answers amounting to little meaning, but without standard evasion featured by most politicians.

There is some question whether Lockyer will be able to withstand the tension of the Board of Supervisors that is populated by some of the most hard-nosed politicos in the county. Supervisors Scott Haggerty, Nate Miley and Keith Carson tend to aggressively throw their weight around. It was one of the reasons the more laid back Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker soured on the constant confrontation from the trio. Supervisor-elect Wilma despite her small appearance is also no pushover. Conventional wisdom is split on whether Lockyer will be able to have a puncher's chance on this board. Some says the group, in the absence of damage to their political futures without term limits, will eat her alive. Others say, the group will use kid glove so as not to attract the ire of Bill Lockyer. Conversely, many believe her time in Oakland will only be long enough until the next open seat in the Legislature becomes available. You don't spend $2 million to settle on a supervisorial seat, goes the thinking. In politics money can't buy love, but it sure can buy votes.

Figueroa Investigation Forwarded to AG's Office

Four days before election day, the San Mateo District Attorney's office has forwarded its findings into whether Liz Figueroa lied about her primary residence on voter registration forms to state Attorney General Jerry Brown, according to the East Bay Express.

There is no timetable for a determination on the allegation Figueroa ever lived at the dilapidated, tarp-covered home on Kilkare Road in Sunol, despite listing the address on her registration forms for her run for Alameda County supervisor. She denies living in San Mateo County during the past three years and instead rents a home in Sunol. An anonymous resident of San Leandro is believed to have made the complaint against Figueroa.

The investigation was transferred from Alameda County to San Mateo to ease concerns of a conflict-of-interest. Nadia Lockyer is endorsed by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley in addition to being employed by the office. Consequently, Attorney General Jerry Brown has also endorsed Lockyer and is featured prominently in several mailers and on her website. No specific charges were described against Figueroa by the San Mateo D.A.'s office.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

FPPC Complaint Filed Against Cassidy

By Steven Tavares

Opponents of Stephen Cassidy's bid for mayor of San Leandro submitted a complaint Tuesday to the Fair Political Practices Commission charging the candidate for failing to claim his interests in the controversial school fair they contend was a political event.

The complaint alleges Cassidy's current Statement of Economic Interest does not contain contributions from groups involved with the Oct. 16 school fair at Roosevelt Elementary School, including the PTA and Zocolo Coffeehouse, which is owned by Cassidy's campaign manager. "This event was clearly political," says the petition, "and the evidence is supported with videos, flyers and emails, as well as, statements from other concerned parents."

Cassidy is the only candidate named in the complaint, although School Board President Mike Katz, who is up for re-election, and Superintendent Cindy Cathey are referenced in the document. One of the witnesses in the complaint is San Leandro parent Latrina Dumas, who is running against Katz.

It also alleges the Cassidy campaign in conjunction with the Roosevelt PTA, Tim Holmes and Katz "orchestrated a political event" on the school grounds. Specifically, the complaint focuses on a flyer advertising the festival which reads, "Dunk our principal, our parent/politicians and more!" Listed below is a schedule detailing Cassidy as "Mayoral Candidate, Parent" along with Councilman Michael Gregory, Lance James, a candidate for the board, and Katz. It also alleges Cassidy was introduced as the "next mayor of San Leandro" on numerous occasions. Video of the event clearly shows a gentleman believed to be part of the PTA uttering the phrase while introducing Cassidy.

The complaint filed by parent Hendy Huang alleges "unsolicited political propaganda" was distributed to children and parents along with a campaign booth at the festival. He also says he alerted Cathey to the potential violations by email the day before the event without a response.

Cassidy denies the event was anything but a school fundraiser and was merely participating in the dunk tank event to raise money for students. While he acknowledges he wore a campaign t-shirt to the event, that in itself, is not a violation, he says, and denies any political literature was distributed nor was a table set aside for him.

Cathey also denied Wednesday the event was nothing more than a fundraiser for students at Roosevelt and not a political event. The school district's investigation, she says, found no evidence of campaign literature at the event nor was a table sponsored by any candidate. In addition, no school resources were used to promote any candidate, says Cathey, but she acknowledged a volunteer's introduction of Cassidy. "It is regrettable that one of the volunteer auctioneers referred to a participant as the next mayor of San Leandro as part of that fundraising effort," says Cathey. "However, this was neither planned nor approved by the PTA/Dad's Club prior to the event."

The complaint was sent Tuesday to the FPPC and the government body allows three days to notify the person alleged of the violation within three days. It is very unlikely any determination will be made by the FPPC before the Nov. 2 election.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Prop. 19 Debate at the Commonwealth Club

The Commonwealth Club of California held a discussion Wednesday night in San Francisco on the "Economics of Marijuana" and Proposition 19, the ballot initiative to legalize cannabis up to one ounce for those over 21.

Included in the discussion is Oaksterdam founder and co-sponsor of the initiative Richard Lee; Tim Rosales, the campaign manager for No on Prop. 19 and Beau Kilmer, the co-director for RAND Drug Policy Research Center. The program is moderated by the Oakland Tribune political and legal affairs reporter Josh Richman.

Kolakowski Set To Make Judicial History

By Steven Tavares

"My commitment to public service and equal rights leads me to seek election to Judge of the Alameda Superior Court," Victoria Kolakowski wrote in her candidates' statement. "Less than a third of the judges currently serving on the Alameda County Superior Court are women, and it is time for another experienced woman to be added to the Court." Except that Kolakowski is a woman bent on U.S. judicial history.

If elected next week, she will become the first openly transgender judicial court judge in U.S. history. She faces Alameda County Deputy District Attorney John Creighton in a runoff for Office 9 of the court. Kolakowski garnered 46 percent of the vote during the June primary over Creighton's 32 percent, but failed to win an outright majority setting up Tuesday's runoff.

Despite the background of Kolakowski, 49, the race has been largely without controversy. Judicial races lack the negative campaigning of other races. Candidate typically sign pledges to refrain from partisan bickering. Nevertheless, it is not Kolakowski's sexuality that has been criticized but her campaign description of herself as a judge. A group of county attorneys banded together to protest signage that depicts Kolakowski as "judge," which she contends is true. Some have said the argument is a proxy for her gender. Kolakowski is currently an administrative judge for the California Public Utilities Commission.

John Creighton
She told the gay rights' forum change.org her unique personal experiences give her depth in understanding human nature and also allows her to shuffle around certain ingrained prejudices. "I believe that wisdom lies in being aware of these potential impacts, and distinguishing between helpful experience and biased preconceptions," she said. "We have to be aware of when we are making value judgments, and be self-critical in evaluating whether that is helping or harming. This is why not just anyone with legal experience should be a judge. Wisdom and a good temperament are at least as important as knowledge of the evidence code in the courtroom."

Kolakowski is not the only local candidate aspiring for history next Tuesday. Across the bay where Harvey Milk became the first openly gay official in U.S. history, Theresa Sparks hopes to become their first transgender board member. Openly transgender candidates are also on the ballot in Oklahoma, Oregon and Hawaii.

Creighton, though, hopes to stand in front of history. With a vast majority of the county judiciary in support of his candidacy along with that of his primary opponent, Louis Goodman, Creighton has the power to erase the large lead gained by Kolakowski during the primary. One of his platform positions calls for the creation of a gang court that would mete out punishment for offenders and help rehabilitate them. Creighton was also one of the attorneys who crafted the county's prosecution of former BART cop Johannes Mehserle, who was convicted of killing Oscar Grant.

How Hospital Could Have Been A Thorny Issue For Santos

By Steven Tavares

A year ago, San Leandro's economic outlook was the basically the same as today. More businesses were leaving than coming and the city's financial reserves continue to nosedive as more programs and services were cut to balance the budget. If the national economy is of any indication, the next year or two will likely be the same tale of woe and cost-cutting, but there was another developing issue that threatened to swallow whole two candidates for re-election next week if it lingered, except it didn't.

The fight to keep San Leandro Hospital from oblivion was the city's biggest news story of last year. Angry and organized residents, including nurses and doctors flooded meetings consistently through the last half of 2009. The upheaval laid claim to the government agency in charge of health care in the area and matched grassroots furor against corporate greed and corruption.

If there was ever a populist issue in San Leandro, this was it, yet San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos never participated in the us-versus-Sutter Health bandwagon. His comments during the height of the fight to save the hospital, which today is still unresolved, rankled many in the community who believed the mayor was standing with the corporation aiming to close their community hospital. Santos still believes the path chosen by the Eden Township Healthcare District and boardmember Carole Rogers to take Sutter head-on in the courts is folly and bound to fail, while costing the cash-strapped district millions in legal fees.

It is well-known Rogers and Santos do not get along, so there is irony in the fact the district's aggressive move against Sutter to file a countersuit against the hospital provider in March effectively mothballed any decision on San Leandro Hospital and indirectly helped Santos' campaign. His handling of the situation with the hospital communicated his office was powerless to stop Sutter while pouring doubt any case could be made to reverse the county's goal of converting it to an acute care rehabilitation facility. There may be some truth to both concerns, but Santos continued to alienate a very vocal and determine group of residents by never acknowledging he was on their side. Stephen Cassidy likes to trumpet his involvement in the cause to save the hospital, but beside offering his support and words, he too has done little. Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak, by contrast, has been mum on the issue throughout. She has offered obvious platitudes to keep the hospital functioning, but has been by far the candidate for mayor least involved in the process.

Councilman Michael Gregory is another candidate who also dodged the speeding bullet of San Leandro Hospital. The facility lies smack dab in the middle of Gregory's district. Last year, the worry-wart councilman voiced concern over being blamed for losing the hospital. "Nobody wants to be the guy who loses a hospital," he said at one meeting at the San Leandro Library. Gregory is facing a challenge next week from David Anderson, who  is a former Oakland school trustee.

Possibly fearing a backlash if the hospital was closed, Gregory became involved with the District when appointed by Rogers to lead the committee to locate candidates to replace a district member who abruptly resigned from the board. That search ultimately brought Dr. Bill West to the board, who is also up for re-election next week. That appointment is credited with reshaping the board and leading to its legal maneuverings earlier this year. The board could be further strengthened with another anti-Sutter member with the replacement of long-time member Dr. Harry Dvorsky. Rogers and West are running for re-election while retired nursing assistant Susan Reisz and attorney Lester Friedman hope to finish in the top three. Both are seen as supporters of the board's current strategy against Sutter.

Campaign Manager Said Santos Didn't Create Crime Problem

Under the file of be careful what you say on video in the age of YouTube, Stephen Cassidy's campaign manager said, in a two-year old video, San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos did not create the city's perceived crime problem nor does a mayor have little power to combat it.

The statement made by Tim Holmes came near the end of a quite memorable January 2008 meeting of homeowner association presidents on the topic of crime. Santos drew the ire of some local residents when he insinuated their fear was unwarranted according to crime statistics. Holmes, who owns a coffee shop in San Leandro and is a vocal critic of Santos and the city, is also Cassidy's volunteer campaign manager and feared Rasputin.

"I want to make it very clear, Tony didn't make this crime. Its been going on longer than he's been mayor," said Holmes. "He has little ability to affect it, in my opinion."

The statement differs from today as Cassidy has attempted to focus on crime to connect the dots showing consistent failure at City Hall during Santos' four years in office. The situation surrounding crime is nearly identical to the time of the video. Then as now, the San Leandro Police Department says crime is down at the same time perceptions of residents believe it is on the rise.

UPDATE: Oct. 27, 8:00 p.m. - Access to the video below was recently switched to private by the user. The video comes from the YouTube page of San Leandro Bytes, which is authored by School Board President Mike Katz, who is also part of the Stephen Cassidy for Mayor campaign.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Papa Grizzly Tabs Cassidy


The lone conservative voice on the San Leandro City Council has endorsed Stephen Cassidy for mayor, according to the campaign. Councilman Bill Stephens, who is termed out this year, painted his choice is his typical tone of folksy statesmanship.

Bill Stephens
“Stephen Cassidy is the only candidate capable of taking on the needs of this city and seeing us through these tough times," said Stephens. "Other candidates have had their chance and have not shown they can succeed. Stephen’s fiscal discipline, long term planning, and independence make him uniquely qualified to lead our city at this moment in history. We’re lucky to have this choice and we shouldn’t allow it to slip away, the consequences for our city would be dire.”

Stephens has spent the past eight years on the council without running a campaign. He ran unopposed twice and clearly lays claim to the moderate/conservative end of the council's ideology. In the past year, though, Stephens has become quite detached from his position on the council. It has been typical for him to arrive late to meetings and look disinterested on dais, oftentimes reclining in his chair. He recently announced his retirement from the Fremont Unified School District and intends to put his San Leandro home on the market.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Candidates Miscalculate RCV's Kumbaya Factor

It's difficult to attract the cooperation of your opponents within RCV when divisive ads like the one above alienate a large segment of the electorate.
By Steven Tavares

The most endearing part of Ranked Choice Voting, say its supporters, is the kumbaya factor it supposedly encourages. The precepts of the new voting system debuting next week in Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro, contend candidates fair better if they can also garner the second and third place votes. To do that, you have to play nice. 

In Oakland's unwieldy 12-person race for mayor the three second-tier candidates have banded somewhat together against favorite Don Perata. Councilwomen Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan along with college professor and television analyst Joe Tuman want voters to only choose them over the Perata monolith. Long-time Perata critic, the East Bay Express, even told its readers to vote for the trio in any combination, thus ensuring The Don's ouster. This is how RCV works, except San Leandro never got the memo.

San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos, Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak and Stephen Cassidy have pummeled each other with verbal spats, stingy personal attacks and icy stares. Santos has eschewed RCV's attempt at harmony saying he is looking for a majority of the vote in the first round. Starosciak has asked voters recently for their second place vote if they forego making her their top choice. Cassidy has publicly made neither offer to voters. This is not how RCV is suppose to work, according to numerous experts, including a seminar earlier this year by the New America Foundation detailing the growth of of the voting system in San Francisco.

In fact, the only candidate for mayor playing RCV to the fullest is surprisingly political neophyte Sara Mestas. The rapper turn local activist is seen as the fourth place candidate, but that has not stopped her from giving her allegiance to the expected front running incumbent mayor. The strategy being Mestas needs to jump two opponents before she can think of challenging Santos. Why Starosciak and Cassidy have not reached some sort of detente with Santos is likely due to hubris and a clash of personalities among the three. The absence of any coalition of the willing in opposition to Santos could be the defining moment of the election if the mayor is re-elected next week.

When I Find Myself In Times of Trouble, Mother Mary Comes to Me


Two years ago, Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi was criticized for transferring $30,000 from her own campaign to get her husband, Dennis Hayashi, elected Alameda County Superior Court judge. Of course, that's a mere pittance this time around when the new price of political love between  hovers somewhere between $1-$2 million (See Bill and Nadia Lockyer).

With a week until the election, Hayashi steered $4,000 to the campaign of Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak today, according to late filings with the San Leandro city clerk. The source of the contribution comes from Southern California-based Economic Development Alliance. In the past the organization has mainly donated money to the various campaigns of Dennis Hayashi. In addition, Starosciak always reaped $1,000 from an Oakland contractor last Friday, according to the city clerk.

Hayashi is by far Starosciak's most powerful ally and the contribution had been expected for months by observers in tandem with the lingering rumor the candidate has eyes on the assembly seat in 2012. The rumor, denied many times by Starosciak has always been bolstered by the belief she would have been the front runner to replace Santos in 2014, if she had skipped running this year.

Hayashi is up for re-election next week against Republican nominee and student Michael Havig.

Bathroom Humor

It's not too often that you see ClipArt of money going down the toilet on a political banner. Hera Alikian, a candidate for the Castro Valley Santitary District, prominently features the sign below on the corner of Castro Valley Boulevard. When it comes to snappy sanitary district slogans nobody beats former San Leandro mayor Shelia Young, who is running for a spot on the Oro Loma Sanitary District. Young likes to joke, "Vote for me. I know my s**t."

Dirty Politics, Dirty Car

Alameda County voters in District 2 last weekend received this mailer from the campaign of Nadia Lockyer telling her opponent to "Sell the Mercedes. Pay your taxes."

By Steven Tavares

There's negative campaign mailers and then there's dirty campaign mailers. Conventionally wisdom sometimes bunches the two together under the rubric voters dislike such mudslinging. Don Perata sending a mailer saying to vote for anyone but Oakland Councilwoman Jean Quan for mayor is negative, but hardly dirty. A hit piece detailing various candidates in Alameda accepting $250 from the controversial developer in the middle of the biggest story on the island is getting closer. Sending a mailer to voters telling your opponent to sell her automobile to pay her taxes is potentially the stuff of local campaign legend.

With a week until election day, Nadia Lockyer, the District 2 candidate for Alameda County supervisor, hatched the latest variation on what has become the campaign sole discussion against former state senator Liz Figueroa--her taxes. "Our advice to Liz Figueroa...Sell the Mercedes. Pay your taxes" read the mailer below a large Mercedes-Benz logo.

The Lockyer campaign, which has strength in numbers and highly paid is employing a huge gamble with this piece, said one observer of both campaigns. For one, the previous image put out by Lockyer showing Figueroa's dilapidated shack somewhere in the middle of nowhere strikes a sad, pitiful chord. Three months later, Figueroa is now the rich, fat cat, driving around town in her Mercedes sports car without paying her share of taxes. Which is it?

The current hit piece follows another three weeks ago that is shocking in the historical precedent it seems to ignore. Former county tax assessor Robert Knox, who now lives in Utah and dabbles in the bond market, put his name on a mailer designed to look like a county tax bill detailing Figueroa's tax troubles. Knox's mailer is nearly an exact replica of current Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney's blunder against Figueroa for state senate in 1998. The main difference: Sweeney's campaign used the exact copy of the tax bill replete with Figueroa's social security number. To this day, the normally affable Sweeney can hardly be nudged to speak about the ill-fated race. The inclusion of the social security number was the county record's fault, he maintains, but local lore still points to the error, made late in the campaign while he was reportedly leading, the reason he lost to Figueroa. Ironically, you won't see Sweeney endorsing Lockyer against his former rival. That is because sources in Hayward say Sweeney is also quite peeved at Bill Lockyer for his hand in getting Figueroa elected in 1998 while they were an item Sacramento.

There seems to be no recollection of Figueroa's previous escape of the tax issue by the Lockyer campaign. Figueroa, many in the area say, is quite adept at the fostering sympathy. Will voters make the connection between the surprising, oblivious cockiness of the Lockyer campaign. It is Lockyer who is virtually fully-funded by Bill Lockyer to the tune of over $1.1 million in campaign donations from her husband. That figure, sources say, will likely ended up being closer to $2 million once the book is closed on this election. Many believe the race has tightened greatly since the primary. After the Knox ad hit mailboxes, it brought the current holder of the supervisorial seat, Gail Steele, to endorse Figueroa. It will be interesting to see if this latest ad stokes a similar reaction from others in Hayward who privately grumble about the Lockyer's experience and obvious connections.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Episode 10 of the TnT Podcast Now Available


The other “T” in TnT is back! With just over a week before the November 2 election, Steven Tavares and Nicholas Terry discuss the growing controversy with mayoral candidate Stephen Cassidy and how he can avoid it becoming an even bigger issue. Nick also has a critique of Nadia Lockyer’s campaign commercial and it’s totally tubular! It’s all on the East Bay’s only political chatfest--The EastBayCitizen.com TnT Podcast.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Cassidy's Politics of Personality (Or Lack Thereof)


Stephen Cassidy announcing his run for mayor last year.
By Steven Tavares

Stephen Cassidy readily admits it's not his personality you should vote for, but his ideas. He is the self-proclaimed "black sheep" of his family; not because of a proclivity to trouble. Instead, he comes from a family of jocular salesman armed with a witty lines or two. Cassidy doesn't have that. It's sometimes difficult to watch him form a smile. It sometimes appears like he believes the potential voters he's chatting with is judging him and, of course, they are.

In a time when perfectly quaffed, well-tailored, handsome men seemed to be on the cusp of victory on November 2, Cassidy is making a threat to upset the political apple cart in San Leandro the old-fashioned way--with ideas--some very unpopular, some practical. So, the question is: can substance solely trump style or do you need a little of both?

"I'm not a political animal," says Cassidy, yet he has correctly read the political tea leaves of the last year when more Americans are losing jobs and struggling to pay everyday bills. The rise of the Tea Party has tapped into this growing disenchantment, albeit, in very general terms. The result has been a zigging and zagging of multiple and divergent issues, which sometimes careen against each other at the same time. Some question whether this group is burgeoning political party, but many see it as a hodge-podge of unfocused anger. Cassidy's campaign, in deeply blue Alameda County, has become a life line to these voters who tend to sit on the right of the political spectrum. One Cassidy supporter living on eastern side of San Leandro, all at once, complained about President Obama, health care, San Leandro schools, the decline of his neighborhood and immigrants. He also fit the profile of Tea Partier: older, white male and very unhappy.

It's become common knowledge among volunteers walking precincts in San Leandro to find a stark correlation between Republican voters and the Cassidy for Mayor lawn signs displayed in their front yards. Cassidy says there has been no concerted effort on his part to court the right, "I'm courting everyone," he says, but whether by design or not, Cassidy's 18-month campaign for the mayor's office has revealed little in terms of hopeful rhetoric for a brighter future in the city. His standard stump speech always contains the line "we are on the path to bankruptcy" along with fueling perceptions of an increase in crime and a conga line of businesses leaving the city. "Most people know that we're not achieving full potential," said Cassidy. "We're not where we should be." To be fair, one of the more depressing developments during this election season is the dearth of sunny projections for San Leandro. Fellow mayoral candidate Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak has called the city in "decay" and even Mayor Tony Santos has unconvincingly said, "San Leandro is doing okay" during a recent candidates forum.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Splish Splash: Cassidy, Katz Take A Bath

This video posted on YouTube today shows former school trustee Stephen Cassidy and San Leandro School Board President Mike Katz donning campaign t-shirts at an event last Saturday organized by the Roosevelt Elementary PTA. The inclusion at the beginning of the video featuring the event flyer and advertising an opportunity to "dunk" politicians may be the crux of the problem for both and others. Cassidy is running for mayor this November. Katz is running for re-election. Not shown, but included on the flyer is Lance James, who is a candidate for the school board.

Opponents of Cassidy and Katz point to two regulations. Below is a PTA bylaw against partisanship:
All PTA bylaws, whether national, state, district/region, council, or local, require the association to be nonpartisan in that it cannot support or oppose a political candidate. However, PTAs may propose, support, or oppose legislation needed to achieve the objects, provided that those efforts do not exceed the limitations placed upon such organizations under the federal tax laws.
While a possible violation of the PTA bylaw is straightforward and could possibly bring the school principal or superintendent into the fray, the FPPC guideline under "Misuse of Public Resources" is open to legal interpretation
The Political Reform Act prohibits public financing of campaigns, except for elections in charter cities and counties. In addition, laws outside the Act prohibit the use of public resources, such as office equipment, staff time, etc., for campaign or personal purposes. Government Code Sec. 54964 prohibits an officer, employee or consultant of a local agency from expending or authorizing the expenditure of any local agency funds to support or oppose a ballot measure or a candidate.
It is believed at least one candidate has already explored a cursory inquiry into filing charges against Cassidy, Katz and the school district.

School Board Appoints Carey New Trustee

By Steven Tavares

Very few seemed enthused to replace outgoing San Leandro School Trustee Lisa Hague during the campaign filing period forcing the board to appoint long-time resident Ron Carey to the seat beginning next year.

The board unanimously approved Carey's appointment partly on the basis of his record of altrusim to local schools and his personal stake in the district's success. "He has more of a clue with what's going on," said Trustee Pauline Cutter.

Carey, 46, was one of two applicants for the Area 6 seat, the other was San Leandro resident Gordon Emberton.. But, it was Carey who won over trustees with his years of involvement with local schools through volunteerism. Carey graduated from Pacific High School in 1982. His son recently graduated from San Leandro High School, while his daughter is a junior. "As a homeowner and parent, I have a vested interest in our school system," said Carey, who also took umbrage at some who criticize the school district as underperforming. "A lot of people don't think highly of our district and high school," said Carey. "I would be working to change that."

Hague said Tuesday night her time on the board was the "toughest and proudest things I've ever done." She announced her intention not to run for re-election during the summer. A single candidate filed to run for the seat, forcing the school board to appoint a replacement. Attracting prospective members has proven to be a problem for the board. Hague, herself, was appointed to the seat. "I'm sad nobody would competitively run for this seat," said Trustee Morgan Mack-Rose. "I'm sad people think it's not worth it." Trustee Diana Prola, who initially stated support for Emberton, but voted for Carey in the spirit of unanimity, said she was happy with the qualifications of the two candidates, but had doubts anyone would apply for the position.

The other candidate, Gordon Emberton, a 30-year union plumber, detailed he has suffered from dyslexia most of his life. His experience with helping children with disabilities would be beneficial to the board, he said. He said his background in buildings and plumbing would also give the board a better understanding of problems relating to aging schools. "San Leandro's district is no different from any other district," said Emberton. "Infrastructure is always a problem." Emberton, 46, is a 11-year resident of San Leandro and has stepchildren and grandchildren in the school system. Emberton, though, said he has never attended a school board meeting, which may have hurt his cause among trustees.

Carey will be sworn-in next January along with the two winners of the November 2 election.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Express: The Gloves Are Off in San Leandro

By Steven Tavares
The former mayor of San Leandro summed up Mayor Tony Santos' chances for re-election with her typical straightforward style. "Tony hasn't killed his wife and he hasn't stolen any money," said Shelia Young. "There isn't a good reason for him not to win." But four candidates, with varying backgrounds and degrees of experience, see it a different way.

In fact, since San Leandro began directly electing its mayor in 1962, an incumbent has never lost. But in an election laced with high voter angst derived from a poor economy, hard-knuckled political pugilism, and the unfamiliarity of ranked-choice voting, San Leandro is in the middle of one of its most intense mayoral races in years.

Like most municipalities, San Leandro is struggling to maintain basic services while showing few signs of significant recovery. The general fund has been trimmed here and there, including continued cuts to its city staff and police. Its reserve fund, once overflowing five years ago at more than $20 million, has been whittled down to just $1 million. This forced the city's former finance director to sound the alarm this summer, saying that San Leandro could have trouble meeting day-to-day expenses in the next year. Still, despite the grave economic outlook, the city is more fiscally sound than many nearby cities...


Express endorses San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos for re-election along with Measure M, but denies Measure Z since sales tax increases tend to hurt lower-income residents disproportionately

Cassidy's Reputation Catches Up To Him

By Steven Tavares

News of Saturday's controversial school fair at Roosevelt Elementary has created a stir in the city unrivaled during this quite raucous campaign season. Eyebrows were raised over the perception the event was tinged with political overtones earlier in the week when a flyer began circulating around city insiders. The fact there is video of both Stephen Cassidy and School Board President Mike Katz resplendent in campaign t-shirts and shorts points to the fact opponents were ready to pounce on the opportunity and got more than they expected.

"Ladies and gentlemen, this is your opportunity to be the first to dunk the next mayor of San Leandro, Stephen Cassidy," said a man believed to be part of the school's PTA through a bullhorn. Video of Cassidy's dunking in a water tank picks up a voice in the background introducing Cassidy along with his political aspirations, "He used to be on the school board, but that wasn't big enough for his ego, so now he's running for mayor."

Two people in attendance Saturday told The Citizen they felt uncomfortable with the mixing of campaigning with a school event organized to raise money for students and called it "inappropriate." Cassidy's past in threading a fine line between politics and the school district has now been detailed, but it is no coincidence he lives and dies by his support from parents and teachers. Most of Cassidy's strength comes from the school district, so much so that insiders often say he appears to be running for the non-existent title of "mayor of the school board." That strength, though, is blunted by a small, but significant group of parents, notably Asian-Americans, who loathe Cassidy, Katz and anyone deemed with a hand in deposing former school superintendent Christine Lim.

To further their ire, to date, there has never been a precise accounting of the reasons for Lim's dismissal last January from Cassidy, Katz or the San Leandro Teachers' Association. In fact, a code of silence blankets any discussion of Lim or Cassidy's notably tumultuous time on the school board. Past colleagues of Cassidy routinely spoke on background criticizing his tense, oftentimes bullying demeanor on the board up until a year ago. Afterwards, known adversaries refused to talk about Cassidy and his reputation for not playing nicely with others. Although Cassidy says he served only a single term on the school board at the urging of his wife, most believe he decided against running for re-election in 2008 after repeated failures to broker any consistent support for his ideas, aside from Katz.

The scene this past Saturday is certainly problematic for Cassidy, but the real concern in light of his opponents appetite to attack him, is how exactly will he govern with nearly the entire city (public employees, labor unions, councilmembers and minority groups) sharpening their knives to be first to take him down?

San Leandro Readies Its Own Attack On Polystyrene

Hayward banned polystyrene
 foodware last week from
 its local restaurants.
By Steven Tavares

San Leandro could be the next Bay Area city to ban polystyrene foodware from its restaurants. Councilman Jim Prola asked the city manager Monday night to bring the discussion to the next rules committee and appear to have already attain a consensus on the council.

Last week, Hayward unanimously approved such a ban joining neighboring cities in Oakland, Richmond, Alameda and Fremont in ridding the landfill-clogging material from its city limits. Councilmembers Bill Stephens and Michael Gregory along with Prola have urged the city on numerous occasions to seek an additional ban on plastic bags. Making the leap to polystyrene cups and plates would appear to be easy. Like other nearby cities, the possible plastic bag ban has been deemed to be a bit more tricky to pass because of court challenges, but not so with polystyrene which are commonly used in restaurants featuring take-out.

If Hayward's ban is any indication, the possibility of a polystyrene ban in San Leandro would appear to have few challenges. Hayward's prohibition did not focus on the increased stress to landfills, but instead on limiting litter on its streets and environment. While polystyrene can take hundreds of years to breakdown, it can become extremely brittle making it difficult to dispose when exposed to the elements.

Despite pleas from the restaurant owners who voiced concern over the additional cost of biodegradable containers and the lack of quality to hold some of their signature dishes, the Hayward City Council was steadfast in their belief environmentally-friendly alternatives were readily available and the increased cost to the restaurant owners are bound to decrease as demand increases.

The sole question for San Leandro, whose residents are clamoring for more eclectic dining choices, is how a regulation increasing restaurant costs will go over with a business atmosphere perceived to be less than helpful to local establishments.

Kids for Cassidy?

By Steven Tavares

Stephen Cassidy
Stephen Cassidy is using support from the San Leandro school district to flout election fair practice laws, according to his opponents, Mayor Tony Santos and Sara Mestas.

The Santos campaign is asserting an elementary school fair last Saturday became a defacto campaign event when Cassidy and three other candidates up for election this November were advertised to attend. A flyer for the event refers to Cassidy as a "parent/mayoral candidate" slated to appear for a dunking contest. School Board President Mike Katz, Councilman Michael Gregory and school board candidate Lance James were also listed. James is also listed as a school board candidate on the flyer.

According to Santos, no other candidates were extended an invitation, while Cassidy and Katz wore campaign t-shirts, giving the impression the event was being used as a campaign event. "Here's a guy who just can't follow the rules," Santos said of Cassidy on Monday. "This is a clear violation." As of Monday night, a decision has not been made whether to issue a formal complaint to the Fair Political Practices Commission, although Mestas says she intends to hammer Cassidy over the issue.

Video of the event shows Cassidy introduced as the "next mayor of San Leandro." The event was also sponsored by the local coffee shop owned by Cassidy's campaign manager, Tim Holmes. Cassidy called the allegations against him "unsubstantiated." While he acknowledged the introduction, he says the two men heard in the video were not his volunteers and were speaking on their own accord.

Cassidy's use of schools for the purpose of politicking has come under fire in the past as recently as last month. On the evening of the second candidates forum Sept. 30 a complaint was also levied against Cassidy's campaign. Observers said they witnessed a volunteer for Cassidy distributing campaign literature at San Leandro High School during its Back to School Night. Passing out campaign brochures is not illegal as long as they are handed out away from school property. According to witnesses, volunteers for Cassidy were seen distributing literature on campus and on one occasion inside the school. San Leandro School Superintendent Cindy Cathey in an email acknowledged a report of an individual that night distributing campaign materials at the high school.

The district had notified school administrators this fall to be vigilant in detecting the use of their schools for political campaigning, but a group of community leaders and parents led by Hendy Huang contend Cassidy has repeatedly undermined the school district. According to Huang, a female volunteer for Cassidy was seen in front of a school entranceway distributing his literature during Back to School Nights Sept. 16 at Roosevelt Elementary and Sept. 23 at Bancroft Middle School. Principals at both schools told Cathey they were unaware of any possible violations.

Huang has led the way in trying to rid politics from school yards this campaign season. He was also part of a small band of parents who vigorously opposed the firing of Christine Lim, the former superintendent of schools and blamed Cassidy and Katz, among others, for her dismissal on the grounds of racism. Huang says the recent instances of alleged impropriety extends back to Cassidy's time on the school board three years ago.

During the end of Cassidy's only term as school trustee he was reprimanded by the FPPC in 2008 when an article bearing his name and title appeared in the school newsletter. Cassidy says he penned the column for the high school PTA, but a volunteer parent editor printed the column with his name in boldface. "That was her decision," Cassidy said. "I had no part in the production of the newsletter. As it it turned out having my name in bold was against the FPPC's interpretation of a set of arcane regulations concerning the sending of material through the mail by a public agency in which elected officials are named." The letter from the FPPC notifying Cassidy of the violation was also sent to the school's principal. Ultimately no fine or further action was taken by the FPPC.

Cassidy also said he had no knowledge of a volunteer distributing campaign leaflets, but was aware of the allegation. "All that I have heard is that one volunteer at solely the high school back to school night may have been on school property at one point," said Cassidy. "He was told to not distribute literature on the school property, a direction that the volunteer promptly followed."

On Monday night, Gregory told the city council he had no part in the burgeoning controversy. Gregory noted he was at the event solely as a resident, even wearing a San Leandro High School t-shirt to the dunking. Gregory said his appearance at the school fair was not political.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Santos Misses Council Meeting After Bout of Fatigue

San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos was absent Monday night for a shortened meeting of the city council after undergoing tests at Kaiser Hospital earlier in the day for fatigue and dizziness. A full battery of test turned up negative. According to the Santos campaign, the mayor is resting comfortably and intends to be back to work Tuesday.

"Mayor Santos thanks everyone who has expressed their concern over his well-being," the campaign said in a statement, "he intends to be performing his official duties tomorrow just as he was today."

The rigors of the campaign season may have caught up with the 77-year-old mayor who spent the past weekend walking precincts in preparation of the November 2 election. After feeling lightheaded during the middle of the day he spent the rest of the afternoon at the hospital for precautionary testing.

UPDATE - Oct. 20: Santos says he did not suffer from fatigue Monday. His doctors diagnosed him with vertigo which he says caused his dizziness.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Episode 9 of the TnT Podcast Now Available

It is safe to say a San Leaandro mayoral candidate has never had a hip-hop campaign song. Rapper turned local advocate Sara Mestas visits the EastBayCitizen’s TnT Podcast to shed light on her campaign as it heads down the final stretch with the premiere of her song “Where Da Money Go.” It’s all on the East Bay’s only political podcast--The TnT Podcast.

Also, don’t forget to register to vote. The last day is this Monday, Oct. 18.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Express: Bill Lockyer's Million Dollar Baby

By Steven Tavares
The race for Alameda County supervisor comes down to one donor: Bill Lockyer. The state treasurer, himself up for re-election this fall, has contributed more than $1 million to the campaign of his wife, Nadia Lockyer, in what has become the most expensive supervisorial race in Alameda County history. The cash haul has largely overshadowed anything of substance in the candidate's race against former state Senator Liz Figueroa to replace the retiring Gail Steele.

County supervisor elections do not have fund-raising limits, which has allowed the Lockyers to almost fully fund a campaign relying on large outlays to political consultants and staff. Financial disclosure forms filed last week showed that Bill Lockyer's campaign for treasurer pumped an additional $450,000 in donations to his wife's campaign, pushing the total amount of cash over $1 million. And this doesn't include in-kind contributions such as web site construction, child care, and staff...

Read the entire article in this week's issue of the East Bay Express on newsstands throughout the area.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

LiveTweeting from Hayward City Council

Follow the East Bay Citizen on Twitter! Here's a few tweets from Tuesday's Hayward City Council meeting in 140 characters or less. Visit twitter.com/eastbaycitizen for up-to-the-minute news and observations from scheduled political events and public meetings, along with retweets from across the state and nation.

>>LiveTweeting from Hayward: food night begins! City council discusses hand cart vendors in Hayward.

>>Quirk and Henson are voicing concern the ban on hand carts is a waste of time; Zermeño surpisingly in favor.

>>Francisco "Viva la Hayward" Zermeño is going against hand cart vendors. He's never had a juicy mango con chile on A Street?

>>Henson is concerned Hayward's public image might suffer from the sight of hand carts on its streets.

>>Mayor Sweeney: current rule makes it easier to enforce hand cart ban since they are all illegal. No consensus is found to move forward.

>>Somebody ate a big bowl of unhappy for dinner tonite. Hayward City Attorney Michael Lawson has yet to move a face muscle conveying happiness

>>Discussion of polystyrene container ban begins. Ever had Jamba Juice in a paper cap instead of styrofoam? Not good.

>>Hayward Public Works Director Bob Bauman=George Costanza.

>>Restaurant owners would not be allowed to use polystyrene in Hayward, but others can purchase the same containers in the city.

>>RT @HaywardPundit @eastbaycitizen Hey man, there's a recession and bowls of unhappy are 2 for 1 at Smart & Final.

>>Seriously, City Attorney Lawson has a perpetual sneer on his face. He just glanced at me like he's follwing me on Twitter.

>>@CSUEB, Chabot College and Hayward School District would not be subject to the proposed polystyrene ban.

>>St. Rose Hospital reportedly balked at proposed ban saying it would cost them up to $140k/yr.

>>Zermeño favors polystyrene ban because it's "protecting Mother Earth and its fauna." Also encourages school district to follow, if approved.

>>Quirk says he wants city blog for users to weigh-in on controversial subjects. He clearly has never read The Citizen's infamous "Manuel."

>>Ban could cost restaurants up to $250/mo. The Citizen may charge the same amount for advertising. Hayward is killing my business!

>>Doesn't appear anyone on the council will take up restaurant owner's concern over the costs of ban. Quirk, Henson, Zermeño, so far in favor.

>>WingStop franchisee says special paper boxes from TX corporate cost 3x more. Quirk: "We know in TX they don't believe in the same things as CA."

>>BREAKING: #Hayward unanimously approves municipal ban on polystyrene foodware at city restaurants.

Hayward Looks to Ban Styrofoam from Restaurants

By Steven Tavares

If approved, the ban on polystyrene
 containers at Hayward restaurants
 would begin July 2011.
The Hayward City Council will begin discussion tonight on an ordinance banning the use of polystyrene containers used by roughly 100 locally-owned food establishments. If approved by the city, the prohibition would include non-biodegradable food service products including cups, plates, bowls and hinged containers ubiquitous at many take-out establishments.

The ordinance would force restaurant within Hayward to switch to more expensive recyclable and biodegradable service products. A city staff report estimates most small to medium-sized restaurants may incur between $150-$250 in monthly costs associated with the proposed ordinance. Environmentally-friendly products typically costs 2-4 percent more than polystyrene versions, according to a city survey.

Concerns over the city costs of cleaning litter from its streets and unsustainable stress on landfills to handle to slowly degrading cups and plates led to the proposed ordinance.

Although, the ordinance would end the use of polystyrene by restaurants, it would not ban it outright. The sale of the containers at retail outlets in Hayward would continue. Foods packaged with polystyrene outside of city limits, but sold in Hayward would also be exempt.

The California Restaurant Association opposes the ban saying it does little to temper litter and hurts restaurants owners. The Hayward Chamber of Commerce recently asked the city to delay implementation of the ordinance citing the state of the economy. A timeline created by city staff says the ban on polystyrene could begin by July 2011.

Neighboring cities that have approved ordinances against polystyrene containers include Oakland, Fremont, Richmond, Palo Alto and San Francisco.

The city council will also deal with the continued city-wide use of food sellers relying on hand cart to sell their products. Hayward currently prohibits the use of movable carts pushed by hand as opposed to stationary carts and catering trucks, which are allowed with a permit, but a push to make them legal could be underway.

According to the city, the low-priority of enforcing the ban by police has allowed the number of illegal push carts to increase. Many low-income and undocumented workers gravitate towards the use of push carts, according to the staff report, but they do not necessarily own the business.

The proposal would call for prospective push cart owners to obtain a permit and adhere to certain health standards before selling their perishable goods. A buffer zone around city schools could also be enacted.

Baker's Libertarian-Leaning Ethos

Forest Baker, the Republican challenger to Rep. Pete Stark's congressional seat appeared on The Bob Zadek Show last Sunday saying the federal government is standing in the way of capitalism and favors banking and business interests.
I'm a grizzled old capitalist. I've been doing this for 40 years. The problems in the nation today are fundamentally economic and against our practice of capitalism. As a libertarian or as a very hard libertarian-leaning conservative Republican, it's clear to me that the government is intruding into the practice of capitalism with their own agenda, especially the supply-side agenda, which consolidates power into the corporations and banks and denies access to the practice of capitalism.
Zadek is a libertarian radio host for 910 KNEW, the Fox News Radio affiliate in San Francisco. Baker is running against Stark in the 13th congressional district.

Listen to Baker on The Bob Zadek Show, here, starting at the 12:30 mark.

Former SL Hospital Suitor Accused of Bilking Medicare

There will be blood and it may or may not be dirty, according to a federal and state investigation into claims by Reps. Henry Waxman and Pete Stark that Prime Healthcare Services, which once showed interest in purchasing San Leandro Hospital, had overbilled Medicare for up to $18 million in 2008 by fraudulently increasing the number of cases of septicemia they treated

The Los Angeles Times say officials in July became aware of the the abnormally high rate of septicemia, also known as blood poisoning, among older people at facilities owned by Prime Healthcare. The 12-hospital conglomerate showed interest in buying San Leandro Hospital in 2009 only to be rebuffed by Sutter Health, which operates the hospital jointly with Eden Medical Center.

After initial enthusiasm by activists fighting to keep San Leandro Hospital from closing, county officials began to voice doubts over Prime's business model and its acrimonious reputation among labor unions and insurance companies. An official for Prime told the Times, investigation is an attempt by the members of the Service Employees International Union to "extort concessions' while it negotiations a new contract.

The company, led by Dr. Prem Reddy, is known for turning around underperforming and bankrupt hospitals in the Southern California area. Prime made a recent foray into Northern California two years ago when it turned a bankrupt Redding hospital into a $30 million earner a year later. Prime's business model, though, is unsustainable according to some Alameda County health officials who criticized the company for funneling nearly all its patients through more lucrative emergency room visits. Labor unions and insurance are also highly skeptical of Prime, which is known to quickly void existing contracts with insurers, at the same cutting hospital staff.

After a brief flirtation with San Leandro Hospital and vehement opposition from Sutter, the Eden Township Healthcare District, which initially employed Prime's interest as a talking point against charges there was no interest in the facility, has now moved in a different direction in regards to keeping the hospital open through competing lawsuits against Sutter.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Steele's Surprising Announcement

Retiring Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele surprised the local cognoscenti Monday when she broke her policy of not offering endorsements to local politician and announced her backing of Liz Figueroa to replace her on the board over challenger Nadia Lockyer. Here is text of Steele's statement:

As Alameda County Supervisor, and for 26 years as an elected official, I have adhered to my policy of not endorsing. However, with excessive dollars and smear campaign, I must reverse myself. The person who takes my seat is entitled to disagree with my priorities, I would hope that ethics and value of community would be present.

Most of our county clients suffer from poverty, difficult family matters, or both. This in turn affects their mental health, health care, personal safety or family safety. If one is privileged with unlimited wealth and a need to exploit others’ misfortunes--where does non-judgmental caring develop in sorting out county finances and program priorities?

County government is no picnic, for sure. Of all levels of government, decisions of the Board of Supervisors make the most direct impact on people's health, safety, and economic stability. It takes courage and experience to prioritize needs, as critical funding dries up. This is especially hard when cooperation on difficult issues becomes extremely painful. The Board of Supervisors can be a lonely and frustrating place, with no secure way to reach agreements that satisfy everyone.

Wash Your Mouth With Soap, Bill!

State Treasurer Bill Lockyer's first television commercial features the word bullshit in its closing tagline. According to the Los Angeles Times, the ad is currently airing in Southern California, where his opponent for treasurer state Sen. Mimi Walters hails.

The majority of the spot features footage from Lockyer's now infamous "Just Stop It!" speech admonishing lawmakers in Sacramento. The 30-second commercial ends "Bill Lockyer for Treasurer. Straight Talk, No Bull#*+!" yet the announcer does not voice the expletive.

Lockyer is likely the most accomplished politician in the history of San Leandro, so where did this native son learn such salty language? Probably East 14th Street.


Steele Makes an Exception, Endorses Figueroa


By Steven Tavares

Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele doesn't do political endorsements, but she is making an exception for the race to succeed her. Steele has eschewed campaign horse trading for over two decades, until today, when she announced support for former state Sen. Liz Figueroa to replace her over Nadia Lockyer.

Alameda County
Supervisor Gail Steele
The 26-year veteran of the board of supervisors from District 2 had been rumored to be contemplating such a move for over two weeks. A source with first-hand  knowledge of Steele's thinking said concerns over Lockyer's lack of community ties along with the avalanche of campaign fundraising dollars had been rising of late. In a statement sent to The Citizen Tuesday morning, Steele struck a similar chord in endorsing Figueroa.

"Over $1 million dollars has already been raised and spent by one candidate to replace me on the Board of Supervisors," said Steele. "I am completely disheartened and troubled by this excessive expenditure to win an elected office, when our county has so many needs. When money is allowed to shape the future of elected government, proven community leadership loses out."

A person who truly comes from the community and has worked in the community does not need that amount of money to win an election. A person who is committed to public service will build name recognition and earn the reputation of getting the job done. Support should come from people working toward a common goal, motivated by principles, not money."

She described Figueroa's ties to the community as a prime factor in making her decision to endorse her. "She is the only candidate in this race who truly is from this community and has given back to it," said Steele. Figueroa said she is "beyond being honored" by Steele's backing and lauded her for her work in the community. "She will leave a legacy in the community that is not only about politics, but about helping people."

Steele's words reflect a growing chorus of voices who are growing critical of Lockyer's campaign after financial disclosure statements released last week showed the campaign of her husband, Bill Lockyer, has contributed over $1 million to her bid for supervisor. Noted environmentalist and former Cal State East Bay professor Sherman Lewis also spoke out this weekend on Lockyer's lack of community connections and called alleged arm-twisting of local politicians to support her campaign, "unacceptable." A spokesperson for the Lockyer campaign could not be reached this afternoon.

Lockyer's Lack of Local Background is Hurting

By Steven Tavares

Just how much Steele's surprise endorsement changes the dynamic of this race with just three weeks to go is still up in the air. A former Hayward official who chose not to be named said Steele's reputation in the community is strong. "Gail is not a typical politician," they said, "but she has a personal touch with everything she does. I think people remember her for that."

Shortly after news last week of Lockyer's robust fundraising figures, a scathing mailer was sent to voter last Wednesday again highlighting Figueroa's on-going problem with delinquent property taxes. The letter, designed to look like a tax bill, details Figueroa's tax liabilities and noting her $120,000 salary at the state unemployment department. Ironically, current Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney employed a near replica of the mailer to Hayward voters in 1998 when he ran against Figueroa for state senate. That mailer also alleged she was a tax cheat, but infamously included Figueroa's social security number.

The mailer is also part of local Hayward poltical lore and is widely believed to have cost Sweeney that election. When asked about the historic significance of the Lockyer mailer, Lockyer's campaign consultant Katie Merrill said, "We didn't talk about that. That was before I was around."

The release of this latest mailer is showing a softness in support of Lockyer, some believe. According to person who has seen internal polling done three weeks ago by the Lockyer camp, Figueroa has nearly erased her opponent's lead from the June primary despite the wide disparity in fundraising. The source tells The Citizen, the poll showed Lockyer leading Figueroa by just two points, without factoring in the statistical margin of error. Lockyer won the June primary with 38 percent of the vote. Figueroa advanced to next month's runoff by narrowly beating Union City Mark Green with 25 percent.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Million Dollars, Baby!

By Steven Tavares

Treasurer Bill Lockyer and
Alameda County supervisor
 candidate Nadia Lockyer.
Nadia Lockyer is waging the most expensive campaign for county supervisor in Alameda County history. She is not using large numbers of local campaign donations, but someone else's money--her husbands.

The filing of State Treasurer Bill Lockyer's campaign finance reports this week merely made official what almost everyone has long expected--a cash infusion eventually topping $1 million from his campaign to hers. According to the reports, Lockyer transferred $450,000 in cash during the last filing period, pushing the total to $1.1 million for the year. A staffer for the a Alameda County supervisor told me last year, "Bill will do everything he can to help Nadia win that seat," they said. "He will not let her lose," emphasis on the NOT

The stream of campaign donations has been consistent through the year. Here is a list of cash expenditures from Lockyer's campaign for treasurer to his wife's run for supervisor:

Sept. 3    $325,000
April 12   $150,000
May 13     $150,000
June 15    $115,000
July 12    $100,000
June 7      $75,000
Dec. 18     $75,000
March 17    $40,000
TOTAL    $1,030,000

The haul for Nadia Lockyer is even larger if you include in-kind contributions such as web site design, staff and consultant fees and controversially, child care services for their 7-year-old. A month before the June primary, Lockyer's opponents, former Hayward councilman Kevin Dowling and her November runoff challenger Liz Figueroa criticized the use of a nanny on disclosure reports. After Nadia Lockyer reported $2,262 in child care expenditures in May, Dowling questioned its legality and asked whether she would charge the county for babysitting if she eventually won the seat. Listing the service as a campaign expenditure is not illegal to a certain point, but the Sacramento Bee challenged the Lockyers last week for repeatedly using the loophole. The law allows babysitting fees up to $200 per event, which the campaign exceeded on numerous occasions, according to the Bee.

Nadia Lockyer has made her advocacy for women and children the main focus of her campaign since the beginning, but exactly who is taking care of little Diego, whose visage has been prominently featured in campaign mailers throughout the campaign? According to the Bee's accounting, the Lockyers listed babysitting services for 23 of the 92 days within the third quarter filing period amounting to $4,643.

For the Lockyer's part, at least, they didn't use Meg Whitman's nanny.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Episode 8 of the TnT Podcast Now Available


San Leandro city council candidate Corina Lopez visits the East Bay Citizen TnT Podcast. Lopez talks about the lack of Latinos in San Leandro government, her plans for boosting the city’s economic fortunes and calls the green salsa at East 14th Street’s Taqueria Los Pericos as good or better than her mother’s (that’s big). It’s all here on the East Bay’s only political podcast--the EastBayCitizen.com TnT Podcast.

Also, a big announcement on The Citizen’s plans to expand its pages to food next month. Watch out! Here comes San Leandro Bites!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Council Begrudgingly Gives Measure M Its Blessing

By Steven Tavares

Process, politics, personality, whatever it was nearly scuttled  the city council's endorsement Monday night of the San Leandro school district's plan to massively upgrade the city's sports facilities. After consecutive near-misses, the council unanimously supported the $50 million school bond--Measure M--but not without another round of political gamesmanship by three members surrounding an obscure guideline against the body endorsing ballot initiatives.

According to Kathy Ornelas, community relations representative for the city, the new language contained in the handbook would ask members to seek consensus for the measure or proposition--for or against--before inclusion on the agenda and assuring public funds would not be used in support of the resolution. Despite the non-binding guideline, the city had weighed-in on initiatives in the past, said Ornelas, including Measures O, WW and Propositions 22 and 99. But, the new guidelines appears to run counter to what the dissident group had asked from city staff.

Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Joyce Starosciak raised the existence of the guideline within the council's handbook Sept. 21, first regarding a proposed resolution in opposition of Proposition 23. The issue then bled into discussion of supporting Measure M. Councilmembers Bill Stepens, Diana Souza, Ursula Reed and Starosciak voted to "table" the issue until Monday's meeting.

The vote created a potentially tumultuous response from the school board who, themselves, had postponed a vote in support of the city's s ales tax proposal--Measure Z. In the meantime, the school board voted the next day to support the city's sales tax measure and the Rules Committee recommended Sept. 28 to loosen the 2004 guidelines, according to staff reports. San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos also called for a suspension of the council's 4-3 vote to table leading to Monday's go around.

Stephens and Souza, though, found issue in the near-term with forming a consensus before the resolution is discussed. Stephens contended endorsing Measure M Monday night would immediately be in violation of the new guideline, if adopted. City Attorney Jayne Williams disagreed saying it was not a "noticing issue" since the item already appeared on Monday's agenda. "This was tabled over process," said Stephens referring to the council's last meeting. "I'm not prepared to vote in convolution of the process," he said.

"I don't want people to say, 'You made an exception before'," said Souza after it was suggested to vote on endorsing Measure M before approving the new guidelines.Without resolution to argument put forth by Stephens and Souza, the council unanimously voted to approve both the guidelines and endorsement.

During the council comment, though, Starosciak thanked the city staff for making the more expansive changes to the members' handbook causing one member to grin and wink towards a reporter in the audience. When questioned whether tabling the issue last meeting was intended to further restrict the guideline, not loosen it, she said, "I always supported allowing us to vote on ballot measures," Starosciak said after the meeting. One city official who declined to be identified questioned her response saying, "If that was true, then why did she vote to table it last meeting?"

The roller coaster path to the simple endorsement of a ballot measure may be further proof, some say, that the business of governing is taking backseat to a wilder than usual and tight race for mayor. "In a small city you don't usually see candidates attacking each other," one observer told The Citizen. "But, this one is a tough one."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Police Union Says Dual Endorsement is Intended to Stifle Cassidy

By Steven Tavares

It wasn't anything Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak said that lead the San Leandro Police Officers Association to split their endorsement for mayor between her and Mayor Tony Santos, it was a statement against their challenger, Stephen Cassidy, said the police union president.

"He is not a friend of the POA," Sgt. Mike Sobek, president of the SLPOA said of Cassidy.

The reason for the surprise dual endorsement after the union initially announced its full backing for Starosciak last month came from two factors, said Sobek. "The board, at the time, thought Joyce did better at answering our questions," he said, in addition to unknown factors stemming from the city's use of a new election system "With ranked choice voting, we felt the public needed to know there were two good candidates out there," Sobek said, who admits nobody quite knows how the intricacies of RCV will play out.

He was unequivocal, though, in saying the dual endorsement was anti-Cassidy. The candidate's consistent stance calling for reform of city employee pension and opposition to Measure Z has rankled city employees. The city says the proposed sales tax increase to 10 percent will reinstate city jobs, especially at the police department.

"He wants to balance the budget on the backs of city employees," said Sobek. "He's taking lessons straight from the playbook of Meg Whitman." Santos has also criticized Cassidy's ideas as right-leaning in the past as did Starosciak last week during their second candidates forum. "That man makes a ton of money and he's talking about working people paying their share," Sobek said of Cassidy's occupation as a consumer attorney.

Cassidy said Tuesday that he agrees with Sobek in support of bringing the police force to full-strength. "Where we disagree," said Cassidy, "is solely on the issue of whether San Leandro can continue to afford to pay 100 percent the cost of its employee pensions." Cassidy called for the police department to join other cities and agencies like the Alameda County sheriffs and firefighters, along with police officers in San Francisco in contributing annually to the cost of their pensions. "Otherwise," said Cassidy, "we will see continued reductions in our police force and San Leandro could join Vallejo in declaring bankruptcy, placing the safety of our community at risk."

Despite the police union's comments on Cassidy, numerous sources last week told The Citizen the group had become increasingly disenchanted with a few of Starosciak's public comments in the weeks after receiving their endorsement. At a Sept. 8 forum, Cassidy called out Starosciak for comments vaguely critical of city employee pensions. Cassidy told the audience her answer that night were in opposition of comments she gave days before to the Alameda County Central Labor Committee.

"We can also hold our employees accountable for their good pensions," she said that night. "It's important to remember: good pay should equal good results," She also called for the unions to make concessions regarding their pension during collective bargaining, which two city employee unions had already agreed to earlier this year. Starosciak also raised eyebrows during at Sept. 21 city council meeting when she grilled representatives from the Alameda County Fire Department and city police over funding for the increased interoperatibility of emergency radios.

The SLPOA's rebuke of Cassidy follows an equally stern criticism of Cassidy's handling of the now-fired school superintendent Christine Lim last week from Starosciak leading some to believe the former school trustee's quixotic run for mayor is gaining support with a month until election day.