Monday, February 28, 2011

Employees Complained Of Inattention By Director; Unpaid Utility Bills

By Steven Tavares

In recent weeks, current and former employees of the struggling Associated Community Action Program (ACAP) complained of unpaid work, while saying they lacked the tools and supplies to effectively perform their jobs, including the sporadic lack of utilities due to non-payment.

On the evening the 13-member ACAP board voted to place its executive director on administrative leave—she we was later terminated—a chorus of disgruntled former and current employees complained of mismanagement and disarray at the organization formed 36 years ago to distribute funding across the county to help those struggling with poverty.

At the Feb. 2 meeting, four current ACAP employees accused the former director Nanette Dillard of ignoring repeated requests for supplies and maintenance of office equipment. A third current employee said monthly reports detailing the program’s difficulties to maintain services for the public went unanswered by Dillard. Mike Rubio, an ACAP employee, told the board a rise in unpaid bills became a cause for concern sometimes leading to utilities periodically being shut off.

In what may have been a precursor to ACAP’s inability to pay its employees Feb. 18, two former employees spoke of their difficulty receiving back pay from Dillard. Mary Divine, who was terminated, complained Dillard refuse to approve her request for unemployment benefits. She has also yet to have received payment for unused vacation days, she sad. Another former employee says he has not received his final paycheck since quitting ACAP.

ACAP member and San Leandro Councilwoman Diana Souza asked the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Feb. 17 for a $321,000 loan to pay its 30 employees, but was rebuffed. Instead, the Board of Supervisors approved a $75,000 loan five days later allowing workers to be paid their previous months work, but the future of the program still remains in doubt.

ACAP’s governing board caught fire from some supervisors for agreeing to pay Dillard and her husband, Paul Daniels nearly $20,000 after their termination instead of paying its employees. ACAP’s Interim Director Sam Tuttelman said Feb. 24 the organization will be forced to downsize. In addition, finger pointing continues among mayors and councilmembers who represent the 12 Alameda County cities and county in overseeing the program which coordinates over $3.5 million in state and federal grants for various local non-profits. While some members continue to say they did not know how eminent ACAP’s fall appeared in hindsight, others, including Supervisor Nate Miley say a consultant told him months ago it could be going “off the cliff” at anytime.

Miley also told the governing board Feb. 24 that he was aware of Dillard’s difficulties in running the organization and attempted to help her work out some of its  issues. Miley was interrupted by the board’s counsel who feared his comments was veering into the realm of “too much information.” Miley’s insight into ACAP’s inner-working may also be enhanced by his daughter's employment by the group.

An ongoing investigation into ACAP’s financial problems under Dillard is expected to be finished within the next 2-3 weeks, said Tuttelman.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Lee: 'Enough Is Enough'

Rep. Barbara Lee on MSNBC last Thursday says the possible government shutdown March 4 will hurt those in need the hardest.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Stark Defends President Over DOMA Decision

Rep. Pete Stark addresses constituents Thursday night at the Fremont Senior Center.
By Steven Tavares

Rep. Pete Stark said Thursday night he supports the Department of Justice’s decision this week to not defend the controversial Defense of Marriage (DOMA) Act in court. At a town hall in Fremont, Stark said he may file an amicus brief against any court case involving DOMA in Congress.

President Obama and the Department of Justice surprised many last Wednesday by releasing a six-page memo announcing the government would no longer defend the law limiting marriage between a man and a woman. In effect, the administration believes the law is unconstitutional. Regardless of the merits of the president’s decision, some have wondered why he would jump head-long into a likely ferocious bipartisan social debate in a time of economic uncertainty. Possible 2012 presidential candidate Newt Gingrich and other Republicans have already raised the question of impeachment over the Obama’s intention to not uphold the federal law.

Stark has rarely stepped back from a fight and said he would do his part in defending the president’s decision by filing an amicus brief, or friend of the court petition, in support of repealing DOMA. “I would defend it as a human right,” Stark told a resident. “I don’t the federal government should have anything to do with marriage.”

Stark, who is the only known atheist in Congress, laid out the legal aspects of marriage along with those along religious lines. “On the religious aspect,” said Stark. “I don’t care about that.”

Residents were particularly keen on hearing Stark’s take on a number pressing national issues circulating in Washington, among them, the possibility of a government shutdown and rising gas prices from uncertainty in the Middle East.

If a budget deal between Democrats and Republicans is not reached soon, the federal government could fall into sleep mode as early as March 4. "I hope this is all a game chicken,” said Stark, who expressed disbelief Republicans are using a famously unsuccessful tactic from 1995 to shut the government down. Many believe the decision directly led to President Bill Clinton’s re-election the next year.

Stark says the local fallout of a shutdown will likely mean late social security checks and other services offered by the government slowing to a standstill. “Politically speaking, I can’t understand any politician going back to their district and saying to them, ‘well, we fixed you’,” said Stark.

As revolution creeps across the Arab world from Tunisia to Egypt to Cairo, the price of democracy is being paid increasingly at the pump for many of Stark’s constituents. In response to two questions regarding opening the federal petroleum reserves, Stark said he sees no reason to tap those reserves. In many East Bay communities, gasoline prices are quickly spiking towards $4-per-gallon. He also voiced support for billionaire natural gas magnate T. Boone Pickens and his desire to wean the country off foreign oil in favor of cleaner alternatives. “I would rather buy natural gas from him,” said Stark, who acknowledged Pickens’s extensive stake in the alternative, “than buy oil from overseas.”

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Friday, February 25, 2011

Episode 22 of the East Bay Citizen Podcast is Available

A local intergovernmental agency may not have been paying attention as it executive director is alleged to have raided its treasury. Why are so many local politicians not showing up to meetings? Former San Leandro mayor Tony Santos remembers former councilwoman and women’s rights advocated Faith Frazier, who passed this week. Is labor’s last stand destined to come to California and the East Bay? And Nick Terry gives us his Oscar predictions on the East Bay’s only political podcast--The East Bay Citizen Radio Program.


The East Bay Citizen's Nick Terry is a former Hollywood agent. Who better to handicap this Sunday's Oscars? Here's his picks:

Best Picture - The Social Network
Best Director - Tom Hooper (The King's Speech)
Best Actor - Colin Firth (The King's Speech)
Best Actress - Natalie Portman (Black Swan)
Best Supporting Actor - Christian Bale (The Fighter)
Best Supporting Actres - Melissa Leo (The Fighter)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Small Cities Balk At Paying Equal Share Of ACAP Loan

By Steven Tavares

A day after receiving a loan from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to pay employees of a struggling anti-poverty organization, city officials from some of the smaller, more affluent East Bay cities are balking at paying an equal share for the bailout.

Earlier this month, the Associated Community Action Program (ACAP), an organization backed by 12 county cities, excluding Oakland and Berkeley, terminated its executive director and her husband and learned it could not meet it Feb. 18 payroll for 28 employees. The dire financial situation led the board of supervisors to approve Tuesday a $75,000 loan to APAC to pay its workers.

During a special meeting of the APAC Governing Board, 12 elected mayors and councilmembers from the member cities challenged the reading of the organization’s joint powers agreement stating every jurisdiction pay an equal share. Delegates from Albany, Emeryville and Union City warned smaller cities who do not receive benefits from ACAP’s services to help fight poverty in the county, will balk at paying an equal portion of roughly $6,000 to pay the county's loan.

“The cities are different,” said Albany Councilman Robert Lieber. “Fremont is not the same as Albany. Over time, I don’t think the city of Albany has ever benefited from ACAP.” Lieber, who spoke by teleconference, was chair of the ACAP board until this month when he was replaced by San Leandro Councilwoman Diana Souza.

Emeryville Mayor Nora Davis agreed and added the allegation of mismanagement at ACAP poses a different situation for member cities. “We have received no services from ACAP over the 20 years I have served on the board,” said Davis. “We never faulted that because we wanted to contribute to the overall well-being of Alameda County. When it comes to what appears to be some serious deficiencies in the management of ACAP, I don’t think you can expect the cities to lay down and say, ’yeah, we’ll reach into our pockets to pay for what may or may not be mismanagement.’” Davis also believes the joint powers agreement lays out a different criteria on equality of members for funds misspent.

Union City Vice Mayor Jim Navarro said he has already spoken with his council on the potential impact of bailing out ACAP saying they have raised the possibility of pulling out of the organization in the future.

Supervisor Nate Miley, who represents the county on the governing body, voiced concern over some member’s reluctance to bear their full share of the $75,000 loan. At one point, he directly challenged the dissenters. “It took everything I could bear to get the votes to get them to approve it,” said Miley.

“If cities pushback on this, I don’t know where this is going to end up," he said, “but it’s not going to look pretty. Either we could go cooperatively or collegially or we can try to do it as sporadically and antagonistically as possible.”

Workers could receive their paycheck as early as today, but the future continues to look dim. Interim Director Sam Tuttelman said the organization was directed by the board to downsize to meet its current financial situation. He declined to elaborate on how many of the 28 remaining employees might be let go out of respect for their individual situations. “I’m very concerned for the employees,” Tuttelman said. “They are bearing most of the brunt of this.”

Pleasanton Vice Mayor Cheryl Cook-Kallio made an effort to dispel the notion members did not foresee impending difficulties for ACAP over the past two years. She said she wanted it to be clear what happened was not a surprise. “While this is shocking, there were a number of people who were concerned how this was working and what should be done.” A favorable audit of the organization in 2009 helped alleviate some concern for ACAP’s future, she said, but concerns still persisted.

Pending an audit of ACAP’s books due in the next two weeks and reports from individual delegates on their cities response to the possible impact of the county’s loan, the governing board may meet before its next session, which is schedulef for March 9.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Who's Watching Over ACAP? Not Everyone

By Steven Tavares

Alameda Mayor
Marie Gilmore
You never hear about inter-governmental agencies outside of councilmember's brief descriptions of their duties at the end of council meetings. ACAP is no different in its relative anonymity in local governmet. Some appointments can be a lucrative endeavor, but some like the organization at the heart of burgeoning scandal of mismanagement has been plagued by chronic inattention by its members. In the recent past, quarterly sessions of the ACAP governing board have failed to reach a quorum of 7 of 13 members. Earlier this month, the board approved allowing members the option to attend via teleconferencing.

A request for an attendance log of meetings over the past two years is pending, but a review of the four special sessions held this month finds less than perfect attendance as the viability of the anti-poverty social program comes into serious doubt.

Only 4 of the 13 members have been present for all four meetings this month (Feb. 2, 10, 18, 23) scheduled since the termination of APAC’s executive director and discovery of its inability to meet payroll. The four include San Leandro Councilwoman Diana Souza, Hayward Councilman Francisco Zermeno and Livermore Councilman Jeff Williams and Newark Vice Mayor Ana Apodaca (once via phone).

A representative from Alameda listed as Mayor Marie Gilmore did not attend all four sessions, while Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman was not present for the last three, but was represented Wednesday by Vice Mayor Suzanne Lee Chan. Another three have attended just half of the meetings this month, including Emeryville Mayor Nora Davis, Union City Vice Mayor Jim Navarro and a representative from Dublin.

Below is a list of current ACAP representatives, including 12 Alameda County cities and the board of supervisors:

Supervisor Nate Miley, Alameda County
Mayor Marie Gilmore, Alameda
Councilman Robert Lieber, Albany
Vice Mayor Kevin Hart, Dublin
Mayor Nora Davis, Emeryville
Mayor Bob Wasserman, Fremont
Vice Chair, Councilmember Francisco Zermeno, Hayward
Councilmember Jeff Williams, Livermore
Councilmember Ana Apodaca, Newark
Councilmember Jeff Wieler, Piedmont
Vice Mayor Cheryl Cook-Kallio, Pleasanton
Chair, Councilwoman Diana Souza, San Leandro
Vice Mayor Jim Navarro, Union City

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Supes: Who's Your Daddy?

By Steven Tavares

Keith Carson to ACAP: "We're not
the grandparents."
There was a lot of talk about mommies, daddies, and grandparents Tuesday at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting.

No fewer than three references were made invoking parental metaphors involving the growing flap with the Associated Community Action Program (ACAP), its terminated executive and the loan the supervisors gave the anti-poverty program yesterday to pay its employees. The image was so worn out that you expected Board President Nate Miley to stand and scream, “Yo mama!”

“We’re not the grandparents,” said Supervisor Keith Carson when explaining 12 other cities shared in the burden of funding ACAP. “We’re not even the mommy and the daddy. We’re just on the side.”

Later, Carson alluded to his modest roots when he criticized the ACAP Board of Directors, made up of elected officials from all over the county, who approved paying the former executive director of the program after her termination along with that of her husband before paying its 30 employees. “My mom and dad always said, when we’re running out of food, the kids are going to eat first,” he said. “I’m going to starve.”

Later, Supervisor Scott Haggerty threw his own personal experience into the discussion by likening the plight of the unpaid workers to that of children caught innocently between warring divorced parents. Haggerty, who was divorced and recently remarried often makes allusions to his ex-wife during board meetings. During a verbal spat with an older man in public comment last December, Haggerty laid into the man for failing to back his criticism of the supervisor with examples. After berating him, Haggerty said, “As my ex-wife says to me, ‘shame on you!’”

NOTES: The board announced David Mohammed was named Alameda County probation officer. He will lead a staff of over 800…When Carson individually called out the agenda numbers for a mass motion Tuesday the sheer amount of items was too much for Haggerty and Nadia Lockyer to handle. Four separate readings were needed to get everyone on the same page, then Lockyer said, “You didn’t say number 30.”…Carson read a proclamation for Black History Month. Miley noted Alameda County Tax Collector Donald White is the only African American in the position in California…Union members watching the protests in Wisconsin: don’t fret. Miley has your back. He said, “The activity that is going down in Madison—we would never go down that road trying to end collective bargaining and some of the egregious things that governor is proposing.”

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Supervisors Lock Up Redevelopment For Unincorporated Areas

By Steven Tavares

The Lorenzo in its heyday. $9 million
in RDA money approved by the BOS
will help with its restoration.
Although late to redevelopment grab bag in full-effect statewide, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Tuesday unanimously approved securing over $128 million in public improvement projects for its unincorporated areas.
A vast majority of the projects are centered in the districts of Supervisors Nate Miley and Wilma Chan in the areas of Castro Valley, San Lorenzo and unincorporated San Leandro. Of the $67.3 million in projects, which were formally recommending by citizen advisory committees and dubbed tier I, nearly one-third is dedicated to the proposed $22 million Cherryland Community Center. Another $20 million is allotted for continuing phases of two patches of streetscape improvements on East 14th Street/Mission Boulevard.

Other projects securing funding include improvements to the intersection at 163rd Avenue, acquisition of land at San Lorenzo Village, shared parking lots on Castro Valley Boulevard, funding for 20 acres of land for open public space at Fairmont Park and construction of the Cherryland fire station and clinic.

The package does not include funding for commercial development or affordable housing and less than half of the projects have yet to have been significantly vetted by a public process.

The board of supervisors showed support for funding the various proposals in tier I, but Supervisor Nadia Lockyer was hesitant to support the less sketched out projects in tier II encompassing over $60.8 million in projects. “It think it’s prudent that we wait until we see what happens at the state level because we are obligating ourselves right now,” said Lockyer.

At one point, Lockyer assumed Tuesday’s agenda item for approving the redevelopment agreement also including issuing tax allocation bonds to back the projects. Many local governments across the state, including Fremont locally, have recently entered the bond market. “Is it wise?” asked Lockyer until she was corrected by Eileen Dalton, the county’s redevelopment director, that the agreement only obligated the county to fund the list of projects. Dalton said discussing tax bonds may be an issue brought later to the board.

Most of the proposals included in tier II are extensions of projects in the first tier excluding $19.8 million for streetscape improvements on Castro Valley Boulevard and $13.2 for Hesperian Boulevard. Chan noted the vacant Lorenzo Theater, which the county purchased and recently allocated $1 million for weatherization of the historic building on Hesperian, is an example of funding that will eventually save the county money. “If we don’t do anything,” Chan said, “it becomes worthless.”

Similar to other local governments there is significant uncertainty whether any of the various funding mechanisms will be accepted by the Legislature. Gov. Jerry Brown’s Jan. 10 budget proposal caught the state off guard calling by for the end of redevelopment agencies and reorganizing how taxes are distributed to municipalities. “We don’t even know if this agreement will hold up,” admitted Dalton. “Whether or not this public agreement will remain in force, should the board act today, we brought it to you to give you the option,” said Richard Winnie, counsel for the county.

The supervisors were quick to defend the use redevelopment money to spur economic development and job creation in the unincorporated areas. Miley said successful projects like the new Castro Valley Library and improvements to Castro Valley Boulevard along with undergrounding of utilities would have otherwise never been funded. In many cases, said Chan, redevelopment is the only avenue for the unincorporated areas to secure money for projects “This is not to say others have misused the money,” said Chan, “but I think the money in our county has gone to good use.”

In possibly a knock to Santa Clara County, which is attempting to secure redevelopment funding for a sprawling football stadium to house the San Francisco 49ers, Miley said. “We haven’t use it for sports teams and other things. It’s all been very appropriate and it has provided jobs and brought about elimination of blight.”

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Intergovernment Agency Paid Disgraced Directors Before Paying Employees

By Steven Tavares

The husband and wife team at the center of allegations they raided the funds of an Alameda County anti-poverty program were compensated after being pushed out earlier his month, while their former employees continue to go without a paycheck.

The board of the Association Community Action Program (ACAP) approved last Friday, in an emergency session, to pay its former executive director Nanette Dillard and her husband, Paul Daniels up to $20,000 in compensation. The action by the 13-member board made up of elected officials from 12 East Bay cities and Alameda County Board of Supervisors came one day after San Leandro Councilwoman Diana Souza asked supervisors to increase the cap on the program’s trust fund account by an additional $321,000. The county lent ACAP $250,000 in February 2009, which was immediately exhausted and has yet to be paid back. The board of supervisors failed last Thursday evening to approve the request.

“Some quorum of the [ACAP] board allowed direction for the individuals at the center of the storm to jump ship and get compensated for it while we are sitting here trying to address this issue angers me by the second,” said Supervisor Keith Carson.

In recent months, the ACAP board has failed to consistently attract enough members to its own meetings, often without gaining a quorum to proceed with its agenda. ACAP is not run by the county, but mirrors many of the services provided by it. Elected officials from Alameda, Albany, Dublin, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward, Livermore, Newark, Piedmont, Pleasanton, San Leandro and Union City sit on the board, along with a representative from the board of supervisors. The ACAP board is scheduled to meet again Wednesday in another emergency session.

In an item added late to the agenda by Board President Nate Miley, the supervisors approved a $75,000 loan to ACAP to pay the remaining 30 employees left without a paycheck last week. The board approved raising the cap on the trust fund with Supervisor Nadia Lockyer voting no and Wilma Chan abstaining. Supervisor Scott Haggerty voted in favor of the loan, but called it a “short-term fix.”

What exactly happened at the little-known program and inter-governmental agency is not yet known. While some are pleading ignorance, Miley says a consultant told him months ago that ACAP could be “heading off the cliff.” Miley says he does not believe the consultant shared the information with other ACAP members, but possibly the chair was made aware of the situation. “Things have spiraled out of control,” said Miley. “I think the ACAP board did not recognized it and I know the staff didn’t know that things as bad as they were.”

Miley also addressed a rising chorus of detractors who point to his conflict in this burgeoning story of graft and governmental ineptitude. Miley’s daughter is employed by ACAP. “I just want to be clear on this--not because my daughter works for ACAP--but because the over 30 employees deserve to be paid,” he said. “It’s not their fault funding has come up short to meet last week’s payroll.”

Near the end of Tuesday’s meeting, Miley become combative saying the issue lies only with employees being paid in good faith for work they have already done. “People can disagree with me on the board. People can disagree with me in the public. People can disagree with me wherever. I don’t care,” said Miley. “Bottom line, in terms of my values, it’s important to me to provide justice to people who are mainly minority employees, who are doing a good job and need to get paid.

Miley also said the mismanagement at ACAP is currently being addressed. Sam Tutelman, the interim director for ACAP thrown into the firestorm after the dismissal of the former executive director, says an investigation into the employee’s allegations against Dillard and Daniels will begin soon. The San Francisco Chronicle reported a closed-circuit camera caught the couple cleaning out their offices Feb. 2, the night the ACAP board handed down a vote on no-confidence. Employees claim a host of financial documents are now missing.

A deputy director for ACAP says many employees are angry and worried about their jobs and the future. “Morale is in the trash,” she said. Nearly one-third of ACAP’s employees have not reported to work since Friday. “I totally understand,” said Haggerty. “The first thing I would be doing is looking for a job.”

In the next few weeks, councils from the 12-member cities may be asked to foot their portion of ACAP’s bill. Under the joint powers agreement between the cities, the county—although much larger—is an equal partner with interest primarily in its unincorporated areas.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Monday, February 21, 2011

Souza Asks County, 'Can You Spare A Dime?'

Diana Souza
By Steven Tavares

This is not the best time for San Leandro Councilwoman Diana Souza to become the head of the struggling Associated Community Action Program (ACAP). Nevertheless, just days after becoming chair of the inter-governmental East Bay agency, Souza was standing before a hastily assembled Alameda County Board of Supervisors last Thursday, hat in hand, asking for an increased loan of $321,000 to meet payroll for its 30 employees.

It is not yet known exactly how the agency created over 35 years ago by 12 East Bay cities to combat poverty suddenly cannot pay its employees. "I can't understand how it got to a place where you can't make payroll," the Oakland Tribune reported Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson saying. "Where were the checks and balances?"

According to county staff reports, the board of supervisors approved a $250,000 revolving trust fund in February 2009. The entire amount was distributed to ACAP the next month and has not been repaid, according to the Alameda County Social Services Agency. The request during Thursday’s special session asked for an additional loan of $321,000; roughly enough to cover the next three bi-weekly pay periods.

Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Wilma Chan did not attend the evening special meeting, leaving the items passage to a unanimous decision of the board. Supervisor Nate Miley and Carson reluctantly approved the loan with the argument ACAP’s current financial situation is not the fault of its workers. Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, though, voted against it; thereby blocking approval of the loan. Lockyer said she did not believe ACAP had shown it can be self-sufficient in the near-term.

Is Corbett’s Future In State-Wide Office?

By Steven Tavares

The chatter among the political class in the East Bay is vibrating with speculation state Sen. Ellen Corbett’s future past 2014 lies in state-wide office. The discussion was again lit last week when many in Sacramento and locally began to do the political calculations on the assumption Secretary of State Debra Bowen wins the special election for congress down south in the 36th District.

In the recent past, Corbett has not been shy about a desire to move up the political ranks. Many have noted recently a coy wink-and-a-nod from Corbett when asked about the potential opening at the secretary of state’s office after Rep. Jane Harman announced her retirement this month from congress. If Bowen were to defeat a raft of challengers including Janice Hahn, in a possible June special election, Gov. Jerry Brown could appoint a successor to fill out Bowen’s last 3½ years or call for his own special election.

Road maps for candidates seeking different offices often are predicated on timing and luck. Insiders say if Corbett is indeed eyeing the state of secretary job she needs to make her move now. Still, being an appointed incumbent in any election, whenever it occurs, is a huge leg up on the competition and likely would dissuade any potentially strong candidates from challenging her. California’s new open primary system has yet to make its debut, but it might change the political calculus, some say, where the top two vote-getters regardless of party will face-off in the general election. Most also say, though, despite the electoral uncertainty of the new system, the power of the incumbency will still rule the day.

This is not the first time Corbett’s name has been mentioned for another seat other than her state senate position. Last spring, she seriously contemplated leaving the Legislature for what would have been a surefire win at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in District 3. While the seat may seem like a demotion from the state senate, it includes a higher salary in addition to no term limits. Corbett easily won re-election last November to the senate and was named Senate Majority Leader by her party.

Robin Torello of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, told The Citizen she believes Brown would entertain a replacement for secretary of state from a pool of candidates hailing from Southern California since nearly all of the state-wide officers are from the Bay Area or Sacramento.

Regardless of this particular situation, politicians angling for new offices will be a major story in the East Bay over the next year. Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi is termed-out in 2012 and her likely destination would be replacing Corbett in 2014 and leaving her current seat open to a raft of willing prospects. Then, there is always the potentially bloody battle nearly all will wage to replace Rep. Pete Stark, if and when he chooses to retire in 2012 or 2014.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Donaire Lands A Stunner On Montiel For Titles

Students stretching before P.E. at San Lorenzo High School in the late 90s watched with awe and a tinge of jealousy as a young Nonito Donaire worked out to his own training regiment away from the rest of the class. After Donaire’s stunning second round knockout of Fernando Montiel Saturday night in Las Vegas, the San Leandro native is nearing a class of his own.

Donaire, who was born in General Santos City in the Philiipines, the same city as world champion Manny Pacquiao and grew up in San Leandro while attending San Lorenzo High. The explosive Donaire won both the WBO and WBC bantamweight titles from the future hall of famer Montiel (44-3-2) with a quick, explosive left hook that fell the Mexican with such force that he appeared to be convulsing on the mat. Montiel was rushed to a nearby hospital for observation, but the night may have been a national coming-out party for boxing's next rising star.

The second round knockout was Donaire’s 18th in 27 career fights (26-1). Donaire told HBO during his post-fight interview he would like to stay in the bantamweight division, but some at Top Rank Boxing may be urging him to move up in weight from 118 pounds to 122, or possibly 126. The Filipino’s career trajectory mimics that of Pacquiao and it may be by design. Most boxing analyst see Donaire as possibly the heir apparent to arguably the sport’s biggest name.

The knockout at 2:25 of the second round came after a brief flurry from Montiel resulting in a blinding left hook by Donaire to the head. Montiel’s legs shuddered while on the ground, yet he was able to barely beat the count before the referee stopped the fight after another combination from Donaire.
POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Friday, February 18, 2011

Episode 21 of the East Bay Citizen Podcast is Available


Alameda County says the worst of the poor economy is yet to come and we’re doing bad, but folks, we’re also doing just fine. Huh? We talk about it. Leaders in the East Bay and statewide recycle themselves over political positions all the time. What impact will a possible vacancy at the secretary of state’s office do to the area’s roster of politicos? It might shock you. Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan is sporting a mustache and goatee now, we talk to her bushy upper lip only on the East Bay’s only political podcast--The EastBayCitizen Radio Program.


Thursday, February 17, 2011

Fremont Hits Pause On Affordable Housing Bonds

By Steven Tavares

City officials in Fremont moved quickly to secure millions by issuing tax-exempt bonds last month for a menu of public improvement projects in the days after Gov. Jerry Brown’s controversial proposal to end redevelopment agencies across the state, but when it comes to affordable housing, the city said Tuesday it will “pause” before doing the same for affordable housing.

While the city council agreed the assessment of the city’s finance director and head of the redevelopment agency to take a step back before issuing taxable allocation bonds to continue development of affordable housing, they urged for a quick turnaround.

“I think we need to keep the pause really short and come back and see what our options are,” said Councilwoman Anu Natarajan. Councilman Bill Harrison and Dominic Dutra both agreed with the sentiment as did Mayor Bob Wasserman.

Harriet Commons, the city’s finance director, said a huge influx of bonds have flooded the market pushing up interest rates thereby making the issuance of bonds by the city to be too costly, calling it “expensive money.” A dearth of affordable housing proposal ready to begin even the permit process, said Commons, also poses a problem for moving forward. Dutra, whose professional background is real estate, said the city needs to put a call out for affordable housing projects, although he noted money for projects has “almost dried up.”

The governor’s Jan. 10 budget proposal has caused tremendously uncertainty in every city in the state because of its abruptness and lack of specific. The plan calls for redevelopment agencies to be shuttered this year and their remaining debts to be paid off in the next year. According to Commons, there is now a belief in Sacramento the governor will ease back on that threat. “It does not seem disestablishment is quite as imminent as it appeared back in the time of the governor’s proposal,” said Commons.

Nevertheless, Wasserman urged the city to proceed cautiously to avoid falling into legal uncertainty due to its recent actions. “Taking a risk is a great thing and I love to do that," he said, "but in this circumstance we’ve never been in before, we have to be careful we don’t over-shoot anything.”

The mayor also took a broadside to what he called “deplorable” actions by the governor for ignoring the recently approved Proposition 22, which forbids the taking of tax revenue from local governments by the Legislature for the expressed use of balancing the state’s chronic budget difficulties. “It doesn’t sit well with me,” said Wasserman. “The notion that we would be willing to give away the only battle we’ve ever won in the last 10 years is not the way to do it.”

The council plans to revisit the affordable housing component of redevelopment during their next meeting, Feb. 22.

NOTES: Councilman Dominic Dutra will not vote on any matter on redevelopment next week, if there is one. He’s going on a “pre-planned” vacation…Fremont’s credit rating was recently boosted to “A+” by Standard and Poor...It may not be significant, but interesting: the main underwriter of Fremont’s $140 million tax allocation bonds approved last month is Goldman Sachs.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

St. Rose To The Rescue

By Steven Tavares

A lawyer for Hayward’s St. Rose Hospital gave the first public acknowledgement Wednesday it is seeking to operate San Leandro Hospital.

“If this progresses it will provide a way for the District to benefit and protect the health care needs of the district,” said Bob Heath, an attorney for St. Rose Hospital. He cautioned discussions are “ very much in a preliminary stage.”

While the statement made Wednesday night to the Eden Township Healthcare District Board of Directors was brief, it confirmed interest by St. Rose to enter the two-year battle to keep San Leandro Hospital open.

Scant details were offered by Heath other than St. Rose's offer to operate San Leandro Hospital and join the Eden Township Healthcare District. Later in the meeting, the District board unanimously approved a confidentiality agreement between St. Rose and the District over details of their negotiations.

Support for St. Rose’s involvement moved many local leaders to attend the monthly meeting, including State Sen. Ellen Corbett who told the board, “I support your efforts,” in additon to encouragement from San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy and Councilman Jim Prola. The inclusion of St.Rose, located off Tennyson Road, has also brought Hayward city leaders into the fray, including Councilmen Bill Quirk and Marvin Peixoto.

Quirk assured the board of the city council’s support for the St. Rose proposal in the future, while urging for the need to maintain the already dwindling capacity of hospital beds in the area. “All of the surrounding community will be hurt tremendously if we don’t keep these 90 beds open,” said Quirk. “There’s a real shortage of beds for acute care beds right now.”

For any plan to succeed, the District will need the blessing of Sutter Health, who plans to purchase San Leandro Hospital and lease it to the Alameda County Medical Center for acute rehabilitation . Such a move would mean shutting down the facility's surgery and emergency room services, something the public has vehemently opposed. Sutter’s execution of its right to purchase the hospital under the controversial agreement made with the District in 2008 is the subject of a continuing legal skirmish in the courts.

“Sutter Health is the missing piece of this puzzle and the most difficult part of this campaign,” said Mike Brannan, a labor representative for the California Nurses Association. “I’m convinced with all of us working together with a real viable alternative with St. Rose that we be able to convince, cajole or pressure Sutter Health into doing the right thing for our community.”

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chan Has Support of Supes To Stop County Deal

By Steven Tavares

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan says she believes progress has been made convincing the county to rescind its offer two years ago to convert San Leandro Hospital to an acute rehabilitation facility.

Chan reported fruitful recent discussions with the Alameda County Medical Center, the entity in line to operate San Leandro Hospital. “We have made progress in getting all the parties involved to understand that the decision made in 2009 is not something the community wants,” said Chan.

She also believes she has the support of fellow board members for rescinding the plan to close acute rehabilitation services at nearby Fairmont Hospital and moving them to a reconfigured San Leandro Hospital without general services and an emergency room, the last being a serious point of contention among members of the community.

Chan says she did not support the previous board’s proposal in 2009, although she admits the issue of locating more beds for rehab will be a challenge going forward. “I had a problem with the county making a decision without the input of the community,” she said. “I don’t think you can put that kind of burden on one community.”

A recent proposal by Michael Mahoney, the CEO of St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, to operate the facility is one possible solution for maintaining services at San Leandro Hospital, she says. “Mike came forward with that idea and that may be great, but I haven’t had hearings yet and I’m sure the community would probably like that,” said Chan.

For Mahoney’s plan to work, the independently-operated St. Rose may need to eventually become part of the Eden Township Healthcare District, said Chan, and involve becoming public to leverage federal matching funds to function. “I think St. Rose is looking at scale and becoming a public facility and with the possibility of being part of the district,” she said, adding such a union would entail voter approval. The idea of the District applying for matching public funds run the hospital was briefly discussed about a year ago at the urging of Rep. Pete Stark's office.

No matter the proposal, Sutter is still in the position to nix any deal. Chan says she realizes because of the current lawsuits bad blood exists between Sutter and the District. “My sense is the main goal is to keep the hospital open. If Sutter changed their mind, I don’t think the community would say go away,” Chan said. “I think the goal is someone has to keep it open and be committed to running it.”

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

County Says Budget Woes May Get Worse

By Steven Tavares

Alameda County officials attempted to shine a light on the region’s difficult budget process by illustrating the interconnectedness between it and the state and federal budgets, but it shifted between the degrees of damage the Great Recession has wrought upon the county.

The county’s economic forum Tuesday afternoon in Fremont ominously titled, “The Worst is Yet to Come,” owned up to the statement by painting a continuing dire budgetary landscape in the county. “We say this is the worst. I don’t know,” said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. “It’s pretty bad. I still don’t believe this is the worst.” Even though the county has been successful in balancing its own budget despite perceived ineptness in Sacramento, he worries 2012 may be the worst after another round of adjustable-rate mortgages are set to increase and potential put even more troubled assets on the housing market.

At the same time, Haggerty also said the county has played a leading role in lessening the blow for its residents as opposed to other municipalities he believes have been far more profligate in their spending. “This county is not in bad shape. It’s bad because we’re reacting to the state and federal budget,” said Haggerty. “We were not reacting like some other counties who were spending like drunken sailors.”

Blaming the leaders in Sacramento for the trickled down of budget uncertainty has become common at all levels of local government. Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi says a majority of the county’s $2.2 billion budget is subject to the whims of state and federal government. Just over $502 million (26 percent) of the budget is left to discretionary spending at the county level, says Muranishi. Since 58 percent of that total is derived from property tax revenue, it is no mystery why the county and local cities are struggling to pay its bills.

Kai Mander, an analyst for the county administrator’s office, presented a succession of charts all detailing sharp declines in nearly sector of the budget. Median home values in Alameda County ending in December 2010 now stand at $347,000 after a high of $617,000 in July 2007. Over 6,000 homes last year were foreclosed and property tax assessment rolls have decreased for the past two years, says Mander, marking the only times the county tax roll has shown a decline in last 50 years. Specifically, assessed value of the Nummi/Tesla Motors property in Fremont may drop by $1 billion, according to Mander. That, in itself, encompasses 0.5 percent of the entire roll, he says.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget will likely cut county services to the bone, said Haggerty and county administrators. Proposed cuts to social services such as CalWorks, food stamps, in-home medical support services and general assistance will affect a rising swath of county residents, said Mander, where over 15 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. President Obama’s proposed $3.7 trillion budget released this week along with a competing Republican-backed resolution to cut $100 billion from the federal budget outside of defense spending will also affect state and local budget decisions, say county officials.

The supervisors in attendance, including Haggerty, Chan and Keith Carson, though, were mum on the controversial issue of cutting local redevelopment agencies as lightly detailed in Brown’s budget plan. When asked by a resident for the board’s stance on the subject, Haggerty said the Board of Supervisors do not have an official position. Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan stepped in and noted the county realizes the value of redevelopment dollars in providing help for affordable housing and public improvement projects, especially in its disparate unincorporated areas.

If a proposed state ballot initiative to extend current tax increases helping to combat the $26 billion state deficit fails, Mander said the county could face additional drastic cuts including cuts to K-3 class size reductions and public safety, which have not been subject to cuts in the proposal. In addition, a 90-unit cap on subsidized tuition for community college and university students could be in jeopardy along reduced funding for in-home services, stripping of aid to non-citizens, stricter income eligibility for welfare recipients and possibly requiring changes to the Three Strikes law allowing second and third violations for only offenders of serious crimes.

The county is aiming to begin budget work sessions starting April 5 with a proposed budget ready for discussion in early June. A budget for 2011-12, according to a county timeline, could be adopted as early as late June.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Monday, February 14, 2011

Cassidy To Council: Learn My Facts

By Steven Tavares

After a little more than a month on the job, it is becoming clear observers need to examine San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s words for nuance.

Cassidy described a conversation last month at the recent U.S. Mayors’ Conference in Washington, D.C. The remarks led Cassidy into a brief discussion Feb. 7 on pension reform that both hinted at his perceived superior knowledge of the issue and a warning to keep the issue private among the council.

“There’s a continuity to this [problem] and we need to address it here,” Cassidy told the council. ”It is something that we’re looking down the road in terms of a presentation on the city’s pension responsibilities-- retirement, health care. We’ll have a presentations so we can all be on the same page factually and take it from there on what types of decisions we’ll be making and conversations internally.”

It’s a couple of sentences unlikely to cause political indigestion among the council, at first hearing, but illustrates Cassidy’s well-known surliness towards divergent opinions. By alluding to a certain set of facts (presumably incorrect in his eyes) regarding pension reform among some councilmembers, he again is showing a predictable reliance on attacking his opponent's competence rather than currying favor towards his aims and beliefs.

Cassidy, who ran on a platform of having city employees pay more for their pensions to close the city’s $3 million deficit, appears to have little support among the council, at this point. His statement of “internal” conversations also flies in the face of constant references to government transparency made during the campaign and in his first month in office.

Ostensibly, keeping discourse unflattering to the mayor’s plan for pension reform under wraps is a good way to save face, but when sly comments disparaging your colleagues' understanding of an issue are made publicly by Cassidy, it really is not difficult to find one of them willing to detail the inner-workings of city government especially when it comes to detailing his impetus in procuring a majority of opinion.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Make Law, Get Lunch

Have you ever wanted to be a lawmaker, but couldn’t get past that pesky notion of actually winning an election? Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski has a contest for you.

The freshman lawmaker, who replaced Alberto Torrico last December to represent the 20th District, is asking constituents to participate in his “There Ought to be a Law” contest seeking ideas for potential bills improving their own neighborhoods and those across the state. The deadline for submissions is Feb. 25 and winners get a tour of the state capitol and lunch with Wieckowski, along with a chance to testify on behalf of the bill.

If you’re wondering if Wieckowski is asking his residents to do his work for him, you would be right, but it’s a novel way to get people involved in the legislative process. My advice, though, would be to parlay your ideas into a far more lucrative package than a tour and a BLT sandwich by becoming a lobbyist and translating your creativity into millions. Cynicism!
POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Friday, February 11, 2011

Episode 20 of the East Bay Citizen Podcast is Available


San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy has been missing from the seat of government during his first six weeks in office, can the city survive without his political presence? Rep. Pete Stark plays the Devil in his latest bombshell, the rest of us will choose Fantasy League style among Mohammad, Vishnu, Thor and, of course, Jesus. One of the world’s best pound-for-pound boxer resides in San Leandro and nobody knows about it--the city, at least, hasn’t. Meet our Senior Filipino Boxing Analysts as he tell us about Nonito Donaire’s big fight, Feb. 19. And we can’t forget to goof on the infamous YouTube video of Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi lip-syncing “Tiny Dancer”--a great made in heaven! It’s all here on the best EastBayCitizen Podcast yet!


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hayashi Sings!

Feb. 9, 2011 | California is drowning in a $26 billion budget deficit, but assembly Democrats are awash in cheeky dorkiness. In this video, shot during the last campaign season and tweeted today by the Sacramento Bee, several assemblymembers go all “We Are The World” as they lip-sync Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer”. This may explain the assembly's peculiar choice of John as the greatest singer ever!

The YouTube clip begins with East Bay Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and also features Speaker John Perez and Assemblyman Jerry Hill from across the bay, Nancy Skinner, Fiona Ma, Jose Solorio, Steve Bradford and Bob Blumenfield

The lawmakers traveled like rockstars, although sans bowls of coke and randy strippers. It is not known whether Hayashi’s local aide Chris Parman is accompanying the band on piano, but it sounds like his keystrokes.

UPDATE - 2/9/11 7:00 p.m.: The YouTube video was removed by user earlier this evening. I wonder which assemblymember found the clip undignified? The video was clearly produced with the consent of the assembly members. Filmed inside a campaign tour bus last year, the video is professionally edited and precisely syncs the lawmakers singing with the lyrics of the Elton John classic. Each member appears relaxed and willing to participate, some wearing sunglasses and drumming along with the tune. A few scenes show the notably vain Hayashi belting out sections of the song. But, one of the funniest moments occurs when Speaker Perez croons, "Ballerina, you must have seen her dancing." In the end, it is truly a piece of hysterical political bumbling, but hardly worth more than a good ribbing around the state capitol.

UPDATE - 2/10/11 2:00 p.m.: The clip is back online. The Internet always wins.
POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

McNerney Dodges And Weaves Over Patriot Act

By Steven Tavares

Rep. Jerry McNerney
Rep. Jerry McNerney’s 11th District is one of the Bay Area’s most confusing for political navigation. His western border contains moderate to liberal Democrats in Dublin and Pleasanton and a growing contingent of conservatives in Tracy and the Central Valley. Just travel on Interstate 580 to the I-5 interchange and see the transformation where signs proclaiming Jesus’ love along with testosterone-infused slogans of American hegemony litter the roadside.

It is the reason McNerney wholeheartedly straddled the fence Tuesday becoming the only Bay Area lawmaker to approve extension of controversial elements of the Patriot Act. His spokesperson joined the political kabuki dance telling the Oakland Tribune, “[the congressman] has serious concerns with this legislation and believes that we must make substantial changes to the law in order to better preserve our country's most fundamental civil liberties," she said. "However, in the meantime, allowing the policy to expire without warning and a comprehensive debate on our security policies would not be advisable."

McNerney beat down a strong conservative challenge last November by David Harmer and, despite his assorted constituency, sported a quite liberal record since upsetting Richard Pombo in 2006. With congressional redistricting on the horizon and the likelihood more moderate voters will be cobbled together with more liberal voters in the East Bay, some of the future officeholders at the state and federal level may come across similarly tough positions to navigate like McNerney weaved through this week.

Rep. Pete Stark in a floor statement Tuesday reminded Republicans of their reading of the Constitution on the first day of the new last month. “Perhaps we skipped over the Bill of Rights,” said Stark, “because the provisions we’re extending today are a direct infringement on American’s constitutional rights.”

“Many of my colleagues were elected based on their rhetoric opposing more power to the federal government,” said Stark. “Today’s vote gives them a chance to put their money where their mouths are, and say no to giving government the power to violate Americans’ civil liberties.”

Stark’s call to libertarian-leaning Tea Party freshman may have worked. Although the vote re-authorizing key provisions of the Patriot Act tallied a 277-148 margin of approval, it fell 7 votes short of the need two-thirds majority under House fast-track rules. Eight of the 26 Republicans who voted against were elected last November behind a fervor unleashed by the Tea Party.

The Washington Post reports the House will vote Thursday under “closed rule,” this time only needing only a simple majority. The Senate still needs to approve the extension. One of the three timetables in the Senate is backed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein. The law is due to expire Feb. 28.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Lee Calls On Leadership To Vote On Jobless Benefits

Video from press conference of Reps. Barbara Lee and Bobby Scott Wednesday unveiling their bill extending unemployment benefits for first tier filers. (Note: the footage is wobbly, but eventually stabilizes.)

As reported last week, Rep. Barbara Lee reintroduced her bill Wednesday hoping to add 14 weeks of unemployment insurance for the long-term out-of-work.

Rep. Barbara Lee introduced the bill
during Congress' lame-duck session
last December.
 "Millions of workers across the nation, many of whom live in my district, are experiencing a true state of emergency,” said Lee. “Our bill would ensure these long-term unemployed workers get the long overdue assistance they need to support their families, make ends meet and contribute to our economy,"

The main obstacle to passage is likely reticence from the new Republican majority in Congress. Lee called on Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) to put the bill up for a floor vote sooner than later. "The Republican leadership has given a lot of lip service to creating jobs for our working class, but they have yet to even produce a plan,” she said. “Now they have a chance to support emergency relief to millions of working class people who can contribute to our economy as they fight to support their families.”

Support for reinstituting benefits to first tier recipients, who may have been jobless for nearly two years, is not expected from the new House leadership. Last August, Boehner called unemployment insurance “not a jobs plan” and a proposal by the Obama administration Wednesday to defer interest on state funding for unemployment aid is also being met with opposition. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) told the Los Angeles Times, “There will be no bailout of the states.”
POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

San Leandro Goes For Broke In Washington

By Steven Tavares

San Leandro's portion of the $32
million East Bay Greenway
project is $11 million.
There may not be any earmarks to speak of in Washington, but that doesn't mean a city can't dream.

In years past, the San Leandro City Council narrowed its wish list for federal funding to just a few areas. In the absence of funding, the council decided Monday night to target seemingly every possible avenue and see what sticks.

Members of the council will travel to Washington this week to meet with lawmaker along with the city's lobbyist, Len Simon. Many of the potential projects contain request barely attainable during better economic times, including $11 million for San Leandro's portion of the East Bay Greenway project proposed to run beneath the elevated BART tracks through four local jurisdictions. Included is requests for $3 million for improvements to medians and sidewalks running along East 14th Street and public safety building expansion. Other programs include $1.5 million for an extension of the BayTrail from Marina Boulevard to Fairway Drive and $500,000 for the purchase of compatible radios able to link to other public safety departments in neighboring counties.

The list of project is fairly mundane in contrast to other years when partial funding for work on the Davis Street/880 interchange and Senior Community Center was secured. "We need to think bigger for the future," said San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy. "This is fine for 2011, but we need to think ahead for 2012."

Several councilmembers voiced support for lobbying for every single item, including an additional third round of grants from the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS). No funding exists for the grant, but City Manager Stephen Hollister, nevertheless, urged the council to pursue it after discussions with San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli. During her tenure in Benicia, Spagnoli was noted for her Safe Schools Program with that city's continuation school. San Leandro was infamously denied funding in the first round of COPS funding two years ago when the feds deemed the city's level of crime to be too low. Late last year, though, San Leandro obtained $2.5 million to hire/retain five police officers in the second round of funding.

Vice Mayor Ursula Reed also added dredging for the San Leandro Marina to the list of targeted projects. The issue has been a perennial problem for the city to secure full funding to clear sands and silt from the marina harbor basin. Much of the effort by local governments is to link its needs with other areas of concern in addition to focusing on regional projects. Reed wondered if the city could couple the need for dredging with public safety by arguing the possibility of an aircraft crashing in the bay near the Marina presumably on the way to the nearby Oakland Airport could trigger such a want.

GOOD NEWS FOR AFFORDABLE HOUSING The council approved Monday night a $50,000 loan to affordable housing provider Eden Housing to purchase the Las Palmas Apartments on Tropic Court near the Greenhouse Marketplace shopping center. The loan will help create an additional five units set aside for "very low-income" households. The 50-unit complex will eventually contain 16 units restricted to very low-income families and 34 for "low-income households. Funding for the 55-year loan set at 3 percent will come from the redevelopment agency's set aside fund.

The two-story building was once beset with crime nearly 10 years ago, according to Redevelopment Director Luke Sims, before city along with the previous operator was able to rehabilitate the property. In 2009, the city turned to Eden Housing to operate Las Palmas leading to Monday's approval of a loan agreement with the city.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Monday, February 7, 2011

Eden District In Talks With St. Rose Over Operating San Leandro Hospital

By Steven Tavares

St. Rose Hospital is an independent
163-bed community facility in Hayward. 
The president of Hayward’s St. Rose Hospital is in preliminary talks with the Eden Township Healthcare District and Sutter Health over operation of San Leandro Hospital, according to District Chair Carole Rogers.

Michael Mahoney, the president and CEO of St. Rose discussed the proposal during a closed session meeting at the conclusion of the District’s last board meeting, Jan. 19. Those familiar with the situation say Mahoney’s offer came after nearly two years of urging by the District and community members to get involved in the campaign to save San Leandro Hospital from closure. St. Rose is an independent community hospital located within the District’s jurisdiction.

Rogers specified the proposal is only part of the District’s “wish list” and the possibility of it occurring rests on Sutter’s willingness to allow San Leandro Hosptial to be operated by another entity. After two small legal victories in the past month, the District likely possesses little leverage against Sutter’s wishes to close the hospital and lease it to the county for an acute rehabilitation facility replacing Fairmont Hospital.

The courtroom skirmishes between the two revolve around the District’s decision to block Sutter option to purchase San Leandro Hospital in 2009 with no money changing hands. Sutter quickly turned around and agreed to lease the facility to the Alameda County Medical Center (ACMC), which critics derided as Sutter negotiating contracts for the hospital without the right to do so. Most observers agree the District is up against the wall because of the 2008 agreements it made with Sutter effectively choosing to rebuild Eden over the possibility of losing San Leandro Hospital.

Nevertheless, they say, District still possesses two important cards over Sutter's dominance: an extreme aversion to poor public opinion against Sutter and overwhelming support from the community against the health care behemoth. Large gatherings of rabid support in the 2009 by San Leandro residents widely attributed to the District’s subsequent courage to fight Sutter in the courts and extend the life of the hospital, at minimum, for the next few years.

Sources familiar with the discussion at the county-level tell The Citizen there may be a reason for Mahoney’s outreach to the District. It is believed Mahoney has already met with Sutter officials over the proposal with Alameda County Health Services Director Alex Briscoe in tow. Sutter’s reaction to the plan is not yet known, but the inclusion of Briscoe, who is highly-respected among local officials and a point man in the county’s negotiations with Sutter, is regarded as a sign the county may take a fresh look at its original offer to convert San Leandro Hospital to acute rehab with Sutter and ACMC.

In June 2009, then-Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker said she would urge the board of supervisors to rescind the county’s offer after a possible suitor was identified to operate the hospital. Lai-Bitker said the county’s main concern for making the deal was in the absence of any viable operators coming forward. When Southern Caifornia’s Prime Healthcare came forward willing to run the facility, Lai-Bitker vowed to urge her fellow board members to rescind the offer. Ultimately, a vote never occurred at the board of supervisors when a third vote could not be had. Sutter vehemently argued against Prime Healthcare’s foray into San Leandro with a $300 million Eden Medical Center being constructed just miles away in Castro Valley.

In the meantime, the composition of the board has changed name plates, by the elusive third vote is not believed to exist, just yet. Supervisor Wilma Chan, who replaced Lai-Bitker, is viewed as a strong advocate of San Leandro Hospital. Not much is known about Supervisor Nadia Lockyer’s view on the situation, but members of the District and community leaders have been busy lobbying Lockyer’s support for rescinding the county’s offer, according to Rogers. Board President Nate Miley is the other supervisor who pledged support in the past.

Rogers says the District has turned to Mahoney in the past over the possibility of operating San Leandro Hospital, but he voiced concern the board at St. Rose was not ready to make such an offer. That all changed recently when the board gave the go-ahead to Mahoney to begin talks with the District during a recent board retreat. Mahoney was seen in attendance at the District’s monthly meeting last month and told an audience last week at the Hayward Rotary Club of the possibility of St. Rose operating San Leandro Hospital.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Local Pols Back The Pack

East Bay politicians all back the Packers to win Super Bowl XLV, but the folks at EA Sports predict a Steelers victory. Through gameplay on Madden '11, the video game has correctly predicted six of the last seven Super Bowls

By Steven Tavares

What can you expect when you ask a bunch of Democrats to predict the outcome of Super Bowl XLV--agreement on the core issues. In an informal survey of East Bay politicians every response featured a victory for the Green Bay Packers.

Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers
during his time in Berkeley.
Most likely the unifying theme appears to surround the game’s local angle with former Cal quarterback Aaron Rodgers leading the Pack Sunday against Pittsburgh. “I predict Green Bay will win because they have a smarter quarterback,” said Old Blue and San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola. “He did graduate from Cal--Go Bears!” In addition to Rodgers, the Packers’ roster also includes former Cal linebacker Desmond Bishop and former San Jose State star wide receiver James Jones. Absent from Pittsburgh’s Black and Yellow is anybody from the Bay Area on the active roster, but former San Leandro High School alum and Steelers back-up quarterback Dennis Dixon damaged cartilage in his knee last September and has been on injured reserve ever since.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett is also favoring the Pack by way of her son, who advised his mom the origins of the Lombardi Trophy rests in the land of the frozen tundra. “Although I very much enjoy the game, I thought it would be to fun turn to my son for his thoughts because he is a huge Packers fan,” said Corbett. “His response: “Packers all the way!” Incidentally, both Corbett and Prola both predicted a 24-17 victory for Green Bay.

For me, after watching nine hours of Super Bowl highlights on the NFL Network I have come up with this prediction: Pittsburgh, 27-20, but I’ll be rooting along with the Cheeseheads.

Here is the predictions of other East Bay pols:

Former San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos
>>Green Bay, 27-21

Hayward Councilman Marvin Peixoto
>>Green Bay, 20-17

Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk
>>Green Bay, 24-20

San Leandro Councilwoman Pauline Cutter
>>Green Bay, 24-10

Former Hayward Councilman Kevin Dowling
>>Green Bay, 31-28

State Sen. Ellen Corbett
>>Green Bay, 24-17

San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola
>>Green Bay, 24-17

UPDATE - 2/6/11, 2:30 p.m.
Former San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young
>>Pittsburgh, 27-24

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Friday, February 4, 2011

Episode 19 of the East Bay Citizen Podcast is Available


The Day of Rage is not limited to the Middle East. Racism is rearing its head again in San Leandro with entertainers of a certain color performing at the Historic Bal Theatre. Union workers at Pleasanton’s Castlewood Country Club near the one-year mark in their lockout by management and we talk to the Eden Township Healthcare Chair Carole Rogers and their dispute with Sutter Health over San Leandro Hospital.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wieckowski Hopes To Save Spinal Cord Research Fund

By Steven Tavares

Roman Reed (55) injured his spinal cord during
 a game at Chabot College in 1994.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski (D-Fremont) thinks a small portion of your automobile ticket for bad driving should go towards a good cause. The freshman lawmaker introduced a bill last week that would add $3 to all traffic tickets to help spinal cord injury research.

Forty percent of spinal cord trauma results from automobile accidents, says Wieckowski. “It makes sense to levy this small fine on violators,” he said. “These research funds could lead to pioneering breakthroughs in biotechnology that not only help patients but our state-wide biotech economy too.”

The proceeds of AB 190 would go directly to the Roman Reed Spinal Cord Injury Research Fund. Reed was a former Chabot College football player who suffered a spinal cord injury during a game in 1994. Reed was appointed to the Fremont Planning Commission last September.

There is an obvious Fremont nexus to the bill. The original legislation forming the fund was authored in 1999 by then-assemblyman John Dutra and co-sponsored by former state Sen. Liz Figueroa. There is also a sense of urgency of behind Wieckowski’s bill. In 2006, another Dutra-backed bill extended the research fund’s sunset date another five years to 2011. Then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger renewed the law last year, but, supporters of the fund say without the potential windfall of $3 per traffic violation, the fund could be in doubt due to the state's dire budget situation.

As written in 1999, the law formed the research fund to collect grants from both public and private donors and be administered by the U.C. system. The Roman Reed research facility is located at U.C. Irvine and any remaining dollars cannot be reverted to the state’s general fund. The fund, according to Wieckowski, has attracted $14 million in donations along with $60 million in federal dollars and grants. According to an essay in the Huffington Post, the research facility funded the first use of the President Bush-approved line of stem cells.
NOTE: I was covering the football game at Chabot College for the Chabot Spectator when Roman Reed was paralyzed on the field. I remember interviewing him and was amazed then by his courage only a year into his recovery.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Lee To Reintroduce Bill Helping 99ers

Lee's HR 6556 was first introduced
last December.
Financial assistance for the much-maligned group of long-time unemployed Americans known as 99ers could soon be a topic of discussion on Capitol Hill because of an East Bay congresswoman.

Rep. Barbara Lee plans to reintroduce her bill adding 14 weeks of unemployment benefits to those who have been out of work for as long as two years. Lee is expected to announce the legislation next Wednesday. H.R. 6556 was first introduced last December during the House’s lame-duck session as was co-sponsored by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA).

Lee’s legislation, known as the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Expansion Act, would amend the federal Tier 1 extension of unemployment insurance passed in 2008 under President Bush. That extension featured an extra 20 weeks of benefits to the standard 26 weeks. By adding an addition 14 weeks to that package, an estimated 7 million out-of-work Americans would again receive unemployment checks.

The term “99ers” come from the total numbers of weeks long-term unemployed American received benefits through five extensions of insurance over the past two years. The previous round of additional benefits last November included fierce opposition from Republican lawmakers who demanded federal dollars for unemployment insurance not add to the deficit. A deal was hammered out by Republicans for the latest round of additional aid in exchange for White House agreeing to extend the Bush tax cuts.

That being said, the prospects of Lee’s bill becoming law are remote with the Republican majority in the House, but 99ers are certainly appreciative of the help.
POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Fremont, Hayward Move To Shore Up Housing Dollars

By Steven Tavares

When it comes to wading through the massive uncertainty surrounding Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to put the kibosh on the state’s redevelopment agencies, Fremont continues to be one of the most creative and proactive of the bunch.

Within two weeks of the governor’s surprise announcement Fremont had read the tea leaves and set in motion a $140 million bond to shore up various redevelopment projects, highlighted by the construction of two BART stations at Irvington and Warm Springs. Fremont’s move caught the attention of observers in Sacramento who worried local municipalities would use the occasion to push through a myriad of projects before the plan comes in effect July 1. Some in Fremont believe its decision to move quickly on redevelopment caught the attention of the state’s controller who included the city in his list of agencies to be audited. “Every action has its consequences,” said Fremont Vice Mayor Suzanne Lee Chan last week as she speculated on the controller’s motive for auditing the city’s redevelopment agency. Brown’s proposal must still be approved by the Legislature.

Critics of the grab for redevelopment dollars before the “disestablishment” of redevelopment have openly worried the move has passed over an important aspect of the agency’s main function—affordable housing. By law, 20 percent of redevelopment funds must be allocated to building and maintaining affordable housing. Fremont began discussions Jan. 25 on ways to secure up to $50 million in funding for various housing proposals. Hayward’s City Council last week, also quietly approved a cooperation with its redevelopment agency to protect $40 million in affordable housing dollars along with $30 million in redevelopment dollars with over a quarter of the amount going towards sprucing up the area around the South Hayward BART station.

Nearly every city is approaching the Brown proposal without many clear answers. Some in the East Bay like San Leandro have laid low, while others like Fremont have been highly proactive. “We’re shooting in the dark so maybe we should be bold” is how Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman characterized his city’s reaction to the governor’s actions.

The trick among city councils and agencies is to secure funding while maintaining a legal leg to stand on without knowing exactly what the eventual proposal will entail. Under the plan, the state would reconcile the agency’s debt for the coming fiscal year before redistributing its tax increment back to the local level in the future.

Elise Tierney, the head of Fremont’s redevelopment agency offered its city council five possible strategies to legally secure funding for affordable housing. Included is proposals described as limited in scope such as entering loan agreements with selected developers, swapping housing funds for other funding sources to larger plans such as buying private and city properties and issuing taxable housing bonds—a deal similar to the $140 million bonds approved earlier in the year. Option agreements were also briefly discussed, but Jack Nagle, the special counsel for the city, said such deals would not likely be recognized by the state, since the city could ultimately walk away without incurring penalties.

Going forward is the potential for local cities to take control of its own housing authority. Brown’s plan contains a briefly mention of affordable housing dollars being funneled to the county housing authority. Tierney has not met with the county but says she believes they are exploring ways to lock assets to local areas in the future. “I think we know our needs better than anyone,” said Fremont Councilman Bill Harrison. Worries that dollars for affordable housing generated in Fremont would not return to the city under the plan, but instead, be routed to other parts of the county, primarily in Oakland, were discussed earlier in January.

While Fremont’s leader have had much to say about their plan of action going forward, Hayward approved loan agreements with its redevelopment agency and housing authority to secure a total of $70 million of projects without much fanfare. The council was silent on the two plans which they approved Jan. 25, but were highly critical of the governor’s timing. Hayward City Manager Fran David said the plan “balances the budget on the back of local municipal government” and shows Brown “does not value the decision-making process at the local level.” Hayward Councilwoman Barbara Halliday said the proposal was done “capriciously and without proper planning."

The bulk of the city’s $40 million in affordable housing is allotted to the construction of 237 units surrounding Highway 238, costing $15.6 million, South Hayward BART senior and family housing costing $7.7 million and $5.5 million in funding for its first-time homebuyer program. A majority of the approved $30 million in redevelopment funding follows the city’s priority to breathe life into South Hayward.

Capital improvements for the Mission Boulevard/South Hayward BART site call for $12.7 million in funding along with $5.5 million for property acquisition on Mission. Redevelopment dollars for the City Center Campus total $4.5 million.

Despite the quick reaction from local governments and without any specificity of Brown’s plan, some of the work done could be upended in the coming weeks and months while furthering stoking the already palpable anger towards Sacramento from across the state.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

A Safe Landing For Termed-Out Politicians

Former Democratic Assembly Leader Alberto Torrico was termed out of his District 20 seat centered in Fremont this past year. He, like others who have run out of time in Sacramento, were appointed to what critics describe as a plush retirement home for politically-connected pols—the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board. With the job comes a salary of $128,000. State Sen. Tony Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) has a bill that would limit the salary of board members to $100-per-day. The video above shows just how tough limiting a prime landing spot for free-agent lawmakers will be for Strickland’s bill.

UPDATE: Strickland's bill is SB 685 and includes other state boards, not just the CUIAB. Former Alameda County supervisor candidate Liz Figueroa served on the board until last December.

UPDATE II: The board also includes former state Sen. Roy Ashburn, who was appointed o the CUIAB last December by Arnold Schwarzenegger. Ashburn, a frequent critic of gay rights, was arrested last March for DUI after leaving a popular Sacramento gay club. He later admitted, “I’m gay.”
POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com