Monday, January 31, 2011

Hayward Renews City Manager's Contract

By Steven Tavares

Fran David replaced
Greg Jones in May 2010.
Hayward will extend the contract of current City Manager Fran David until 2012, pending approval by the City Councl Tuesday night. The renewal of David’s contract for another year is similar to the deal she signed in May 2010 after replacing Greg Jones as city manager and illustrates Hayward’s continuing economic difficulties.

David, who makes $200,500 annually will lose some perks, according to staff reports. Gone is a $500 monthly automobile allowance in addition to a $100 cellphone stipend. Notably, she also agrees to contribute up to the eight percent of her salary towards her pension. The previous contract called for the city to pay seven percent annually with David paying one percent to the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS).

The compromise may be viewed as a signal to city employees the pension situation is, according to some, untenable in this current economy featuring decreasing revenues and higher expenditures. David’s contract now runs until June 2012.

Neighboring San Leandro may be looking at the contract situation in Hayward as a template for its own search for a new city manager this spring. The City Council voted in December to not extend City Manager Stephen Hollister’s contract past June 2011. Hollister told the council Dec. 21 he would resign, but stay on for the duration of his contract.

Like many cities, San Leandro, led by its new mayor Stephen Cassidy, has championed pension reform to help balance rising deficits. Some are wondering whether San Leandro will be able to find suitable and qualified prospects for its city manager opening amid calls, among other things, for a candidate earn less and possibly pay more for their retirement.

Some observers also question whether the salary and benefits package will be sufficient to attract a qualified applicant willing to spend more than a few years at the helm of San Leandro’s city government. If David’s new contract is any indication, it may prove a similar package is enough to, at least, retain personnel for the job. David’s salary is roughly identical to that of Hollister in San Leandro and both were hired from within on an interim basis.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Friday, January 28, 2011

Episode 18 of the East Bay Citizen Podcast is Available


It’s National No Name Calling Week in San Leandro. Didn’t get the memo in time. Redevelopment Agencies are taking a severe hit in California. The East Bay’s reaction runs bold in some places, ho-hum in others. San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy is going casual. Is it disrespect to the office? Rep. Pete Stark offers conciliatory comments towards Tea Party demands that health care reform in government intrusion.


House Bill Aims To Cut Defense Spending

By Steven Tavares

Defense Secy. Robert Gates says
Pentagon may need to cut over
$23 billion from its budget.
Despite his 79 years, Stark has been far more vocal since the Republicans took over the House last November than in the past. He has warred with health insurers with sharp words over their steep rise in revenues coinciding with sky-high premiums for customers. Now, he appears to be making an end-run with other local Democrats at conservatives touting deficit reduction.

This week, he offered a House bill in response to a Republican-led resolution freezing non-defense related expenditures to 2008 levels. Stark has long spoke out against the large amount of funding the government allocates towards defense over domestic programs. The Defense and Debt Reduction Act would lower defense spending to the same 2008 outlay. He says the bill would save $182 billion.

We can't be serious about reducing the deficit if we're going to wall off 60 percent of our discretionary spending from cuts," said Stark. "This legislation would save $182 billion, from a sector riddled with extra planes and engines that the Pentagon doesn't want. At a time when we are spending seven times the next closest nation on our military, we must look toward defense for waste and potential savings.

In his State of the Union Tuesday President Obama also called for a freeze on non-defense spending similar to the Republicans plan. While he praised the president’s address, Stark singled out the plan for criticism. “I respectfully disagree with this approach--an eyes-closed, unilateral freeze will gut important programs that Americans depend on,” he said. “There is no reason we should exempt 60 percent of federal discretionary spending from budget cuts.”

The East Bay’s other representative, Barbara Lee, also urged the president to look at also making cuts to defense. Lee is arguably the most progressive member of the House and a vociferous opponent of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We can make meaningful and safe cuts to the defense budget, safely end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Lee “and close loopholes for millionaires that will immediately save billions of dollars and allow us to make vital investments for our nation's future.”

The push by Democrats to include cuts to defense spending as Republicans tout deficit reduction in other segments of the budget will likely continue for the next few months and likely allowing the president to tack to the center.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Thursday, January 27, 2011

What! Pete Sides With GOP

Republicans on Capitol Hill vowed to dismantle health care reform one piece at a time since acting to repeal the law is politically impossible with a Democratic Senate and White House, but one segment of the landmark reform highlighted by the GOP for repeal has a surprising local supporter.

Mother Jones today called the Senate plan to enact an Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB) in 2015 to help reign in rising Medicare costs a revival of the GOP’s “death panels.” Republicans Wednesday called the board “Soviet-style” planning and criticized the formulations unelected members with presidential appointees possessing too much power.

Four Democrats opposed the IPAB, including local Reps. Pete Stark and Jerry McNerney. There are not many times when the irascible Stark has sided from conservatives over his 38 years in Congress, Last year he called the IPAB “dangerous” for the power it could wield over Medicare. The IPAB was not part of the health care reform bill authored in the House, which included notable input from Stark.

The American Medical Association, American Hospital Association and various pharmaceutical group also oppose the board. Incidentally, the groups make up a large portion of Stark’s campaign finance dollars over the years. Stark is the ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee on Health, which can also be attributed to his strong connections within the health industry.
POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Cassidy Tried To Dismiss City Manager Early

By Steven Tavares

Mayor Stephen Cassidy tried to
remove Hollister with six months
remaining on his contract.
San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy attempted to remove the city’s lame-duck city manager Jan. 18, according to sources familiar with the closed session meeting that night. The council did not relent to Cassidy’s demand Stephen Hollister be excused before his contract expires June 30. One source described the exchange as far more charged than most meeting conducted in either open or closed session.

There were rumors of Cassidy’s intent to cut Hollister loose earlier than planned when the agenda for the Jan. 18 council meeting listed a closed session item relating to the city manager’s job review, even though the subject appeared resolved nearly a month earlier.

Hollister abruptly announced his intention to let his contract run out Dec. 21 after the council handed down a vote of no-confidence. Hollister, who has not publicly spoken on the issue, chose to stay on the job until his contract runs out in the summer. Cassidy, though, was intent on moving along without Hollister while the city spends up to $25,000 searching for his replacement. The two have not been in the best of friends in the past even though they share similar beliefs on pension reform, which Cassidy has championed. Last October, Cassidy criticized Hollister’s role in the city’s worsening budget situation.

Cassidy and his surrogates on the San Leandro School Board of Trustee have utilized a similar strategy in the past for ousting a city executive. During his four-year term on the school board, Cassidy pushed for the dismissal of former superintendent Christine Lim. The duel of personalities ended two years later when the votes for her dismissal were slowly added to the board and was fired in Dec. 2009. Critics of the move partly on the basis of the cash-strapped school district was on the for six months of Lim's salary with roughly $100,000 remaining on her contract. Hollister earns a salary of just over $200,000.

According to sources, Cassidy’s plan to move along without Hollister was met with stern opposition. Chief among concerns is the city’s rapid recent changeover in leadership and continuing budget uncertainty in San Leandro. Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall, who may have been a candidate on an interim basis, has also only been with the city for just over a year.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Stark: Sutter Marches To Their Own Tune

By Steven Tavares

Supporters of keeping the doors open at San Leandro Hospital, don’t expect help from the federal government. Rep. Pete Stark said during a town hall last weekend he cannot pick and choose which hospitals he helps and described himself powerless against the corporate might of Sutter Health, the operator of the facility.

“There’s nothing much I can do. Sutter marches to their own tune, pretty much,” said Stark. “Under Sutter’s domain, you have to take your chances with them. I have not found them to be very good corporate citizens and they are not very easy to get along with.”

Sutter’s reputation for hardball tactics and its desire to consolidate the Northern California market rivaling Kaiser Permanente is well known among politicos who have crossed their path. Stark voiced concern over targeting funding for San Leandro Hospital over others. It is commonly accepted among those at the Eden Township Healthcare District and the County that the hospital needs between $6-9 million annually to survive on its own.

“It would be difficult. I have a hospital in Alameda that wants extra money. Now we’re going to be faced with $20 billion in retrofit for earthquakes,” he said. “I would hope I could get some funding for across the state, but that’s going to have to be shared with every hospital. Once you start selecting hospitals you create a real political problem. I think it needs to be across the board and I don’t think the San Leandro hospital meets that test, except as a rehab facility, perhaps.”

Stark, though, was incorrect on some important points. He said San Leandro Hospital is not a “district hospital” when, in fact, it is. The facility is also sufficiently retro-fitted for earthquakes, which is one of the main reasons why the county identified the hospital for acute rehabilitation services to replace the unit at nearby Fairmont Hospital, which was deemed too costly to retrofit.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Privately-Funded Monument To Supervisor Coming Soon

By Steven Tavares

The members of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors have always voiced a need for the community to better understand exactly what they do. Some residents are hard-pressed to name their actually representative. Supervisor Scott Haggerty has a plan for to make up for the problem of anonymity—a monument at the County Fairgrounds in Pleasanton.

The board went to great lengths to assure the cost of the flagpole and surrounding monuments estimated at $150,000 would be privately-funded by donations and sponsorships of engraved bricks and bench to be placed around the site. Fair-goers this summer will be able to see the finish product to be located near the race track and across from Haggerty’s supervisorial office.

The plot is described as a flagpole centered around five “monoliths” representing the five districts seats. Each will be inscribed with the names of every supervisor since 1855 along with 3-4 drawings representing the characteristics of each area. Haggerty’s District 1, for instance, may be depicted by thoroughbreds, vineyards and a Ferris Wheel, but not a scene depicting a horde of young mothers pushing high-end designer strollers at Stoneridge Mall.

What images do you think the county should use to highlight Districts two and three? Share your ideas in the comments section below

VIDEO MALFUNCTION The Board of Supervisors today proclaimed Jan. 30 as Fred Korematsu Day of Civil Rights and the Constitution. The icon of the of Japanese American internment during World War II was born in Oakland and lived in San Leandro, which was also the site of his infamous arrest for not abiding by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's executive order detaining Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The presentation was marred for online viewers of the meeting when the soothing plucking of guitars sounding vaguely like Japanese music was inadvertently played over video of Korematsu’s son accepting a framed proclamation from the county. Those in charge of the video feed seen on the county web site appeared to have mistakenly anticipated a coming break in the meeting. A logo of the county used during intermission briefly flashed on screen with the corresponding music before returning to the meeting without audio from the board chambers. A wide-angle shot of the board of supervisors was seen with the Muzak-type soundtrack playing before the shot switched to Korematsu standing at the podium addressing the board and staff.

Aside from the error, the board’s video feed is one of the worst in the area. The wide-angle shot of the supervisors only includes four of the five members (Sorry, Keith Carson, you didn’t make it). In addition, the corresponding head shots come from odd angles and are often blurry. In general, the entire presentation is so cramped that it appears as if the meeting is shot inside a shipping container, albeit, one bathed in the bright rays of the sun and Nadia Lockyer’s radiant smile.

NOTES: Supervisor Keith Carson said he was “pissed off” at someone during the meeting.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Monday, January 24, 2011

With Tea Party Absent, Stark Rings Conciliatory Tone

By Steven Tavares

Civility came easy Saturday morning for Rep. Pete Stark. The sun was shining on the beginning of a beautiful January weekend, but that wasn’t why the tone of his town hall meeting in San Leandro was far more cordial than recent gatherings. The more likely reason: the absence of Tea Party members known to target Stark after the congressman made a slew of provocative statements in the past year, which were also captured on video.

But, in a slight change of direction, Stark, on numerous occasions, conceded the main point of Tea Party members that health care reform amounts to government intrusion in their lives. “Yes, it’s government interference in your life if you care to phrase it that way. But I tend to think it’s a kind of interference that helps us,” said Stark.

“Sure, government is involved in your life. It always has been, always will be. In my opinion it should be,” he added later in the 90 minute meeting. “There is nobody else in many cases that can do the job that government can do.” He also characterized the Republican’s alternative plan to health care as “You’re on your own, baby.”

In response to a gentleman’s question regarding the Republican plan to cut the deficit, Stark said he does not believe they have one, but again pivoted to the issue of government in the lives of Americans. “I don’t have any particular urgency that government has to do everything in your lives. If you want to get us out of your lives in one form or another, I would be happy to accommodate you. The problem is,” he said, “if we get out of your life in San Leandro, maybe we’re not going to help the person in Fremont. So you’re always are going to have that trade-off as one person’s assistance is another person’s problem.”

Stark said Republicans have been successful in running on a platform of cutting taxes, but does not believe the middle class, which he attributes as 80 percent of this district, are being helped. “I see a lot of lowering of taxes for multi-millionaires and if I had to choose, and I will,” he said. “I would rather see the taxes reduced for what I call is the middle class.”

He also faulted Republicans aiming to cut away portions of the government’s welfare safety net. “When my colleagues talk about cutting government services, they don’t talk about cutting back on defense,” he said. “They talk about perhaps cutting back on Medicare and Social Security and education. I say, whoa, that’s what we should be spending it on so we have young people who are able to lead us in the next decade or two.”

Education is also becoming a problem for the future productivity of the country, he said. Stark said college students need to be able to find decent employment after they graduate or risk discouraging others on the same track. “At the end of their training, there has to be a job,” said Stark, who also noted the level of competition in the East Bay means a high school diploma, in most cases, is not enough to succeed. Fortunately, the Bay Area has no lack of good colleges and universities at its disposable, he said.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why Afforbable Housing Is Taking A Hit In Fremont

By Steven Tavares

Irvington Village on Grimmer Rd.
in Fremont would contain
100 affordable rental homes.
Fremont never gets any love from the county. That’s a common refrain from those in the county’s second largest city. It may also be part of the impetus for Fremont’s bold move to protect $140 million in redevelopment projects by selling bonds without the inclusion of affordable housing in the deal.

Fremont’s City Council like its counterpart in Los Angeles moved quickly this week by approving redevelopment projects before the governor’s proposal to scrap the agencies across the state becomes further defined.

The original intent of forming local redevelopment agencies was to remove blighted areas and aid local government efforts to build affordable housing for its residents. Critics, along with Gov. Jerry Brown, have long said the agencies have become the playground of rich developers and politicians keen on bankrolling sprawling vanity projects. In the meantime, the affordable housing component has suffered. While this may be true, in this case, it may be nagging feeling among local governments in south county that the natural power centers in Oakland continually neglect its growing southern front.

Fremont Councilwoman Anu Natarajan and Vice Mayor Suzanne Lee Chan last Monday both raised the question of affordable housing’s place in the $140 million bond proposal. “We need to be as creative with affordable housing, too,” said Natarajan, “and get as much attention as Oakland and San Leandro.”

Harriet Commons, Fremont’s finance director admitted fears affordable housing dollars under Brown’s plan will be transferred to the county housing authority and not spent proportionally on Fremont. “It is not clear if those monies would be spent from where they came,” said Commons.

Fremont also does not know how to proceed with bonding affordable housing projects under Brown’s proposal, said Redevelopment Director Elise Tierney. “From our perspective, the governor’s proposal is clearly unresolved,” she said. “It puts local jurisdictions in a tough spot to go out with bonding and to give it to the county because it’s not in the governor’s proposal.”

Traditionally, there has existed a bias in attention towards Oakland by generations of politicians. Oakland is easily the county’s largest city and arguably the region most in need of services and urban renewal. The epicenter of power in Oakland is no better defined than the boundaries of the Alameda County Board of Supervisor districts. Three of the five seats bisect important regions of Oakland that typically go a long way in determining the person who occupies the seat.

There is also the question of who would be interested in buying such municipal bonds, whether for redevelopment projects or affordable housing. “Until bond investors know what on Earth the state is up to, they won’t buy bonds,” said John Armstrong, a financial adviser for the city. Part of Fremont’s and, to some extent, Los Angeles’ strategy in bonding such projects is a belief the Legislature will view them to be the most secure. Armstrong said Fremont is a better position than most cities since its tax increment levels are one of the highest in the state. “You’re bonds should be well received,” he said.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Mayor Won't Change His Striping

By Steven Tavares

The city’s proposal to add striping to the often bottlenecked area near San Leandro City Hall will transform one lane into two but it also conjures up a metaphorical image of an early case of a city divide brewing after the election of San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy.

It is simply city workers painting yellow and white lines on a portion of East 14th Street. But, it is also the site of Cassidy’s first brush of comity with his city council colleagues and it failed. All indications show Cassidy’s past reputation for coming out on the losing end of board decisions is still evident and his inability to master the rules of collegial conformity could prove crucial to the extent of his success over the next four years.

City staff recommended the cosmetic change to alleviate rush hour traffic which will try negate to the current torpid flow of cars on East 14th. The constant backup on side streets with cars attempting to merge or negotiate a left turn has also been a consequence of the increased traffic. Cassidy and Councilwoman Pauline Cutter, though, showed an unwillingness to accept repeated testimony from the Engineering and Transportation Department last Tuesday where they constituted the minority of the 5-2 vote approving the striping project that had been bandied about for years.

Councilman Jim Prola and others noted the plan to apply lines to the roadway could easily be scrapped without much cost if the staff’s estimates prove incorrect, but Cassidy and Cutter were unmoved. “My concern going to two lanes is that it makes it harder to cross the street,” said Cassidy, although the council was told twice the addition of another lane would shorten the line of cars blocking side streets and allow for gaps in traffic and longer periods of time for pedestrians to cross the road.

The defeat for the two newest members of the council is hardly a concern because of the mundane nature of this particular issue, but it is the first appearance of Cassidy’s lingering aversion towards cooperation many say curtailed his effectiveness as a San Leandro school trustee. Before Monday’s vote, Cassidy asked for the striping plan to be sent back to the facilities committee without giving a reason or suggesting any tweaks other than to put off the vote until a later date. It is still early in Cassidy’s tenure as mayor, but he has attempted to send back proposals to the committee level on other occasions. It may stem from a lack of understanding of unfamiliar issues as a new member or Cassidy has already conceded an inability to play along with his fellow councilmembers and is more confident fighting his position outside of chambers. Either way, it is something to watch.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

District's Legal Fees Mount; Supporters Say Continue

By Steven Tavares

Legal fees for the Eden Township Healthcare District’s lawsuit against Sutter Health has reached $2 million following a minor setback in court last week.

The District’s denial of writ of mandate in appellate court was called “a procedural defeat” by legal counsel Colin Coffey, Wednesday. The filing was intended to “fast-track” the case before the court, said Coffey. “It does not reflect on the substance of the appellate case,” he said. A writ on mandate asks the appellate judge to rule on any errors possibly made by the Superior Court judge. This was denied Jan. 11 by the appellate court.

The District incurred $114,000 in legal fees last December, according to staff, raising the total expenditure to $2,054,000. The rising cost of the District’s legal fees has attracted the attention of a few who have been critical of the District in the past. Dr. Francisco Rico, who is a former District boardmember, has been its most vocal. He is also named in the countersuit against Sutter for allegedly having a conflict of interest between his duty as a member and his anesthesiology practice at Sutter-operated Eden Medical Center. “Now that the writ has been rejected you will be faced with a decision whether to mount an appeal against Sutter,” Rico told the board, but urged, “the damages are expected to increase as time goes by.”

Money spent on lawyers would be better spent on funding the District’s many philanthropic endeavors, said Rico, while noting San Leandro’s Davis Street Family Resource Center has applied for a grant of $500,000 over the next 5 years. “I dare say that just a portion of the money spent on legal fees would easily fund it.” The board also voted Wednesday night to postpone procuring bids for its Community Grants Program for another three months from March to the end of June. Board Director Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar, another who is named in the District’s countersuit against Sutter, advocated spending their remaining dollars on grants before utilizing them on court fees.

Those in favor of scrapping the District’s aggressive legal path still comprise a small minority. A few in attendance, believe the mounting speculation over the cost of the legal challenge by Rico and others is a concerted effort by Sutter to divide public opinion on the issue of closing San Leandro Hospital.

“We talk about $2 million in legal fees, to me, that’s nothing,” said Dr. Chaplin Lui, who practices at San Leandro Hospital. “A lot of money is at stake. It has nothing to do medical care.” Lui reiterated a common complaint made by supporters of San Leandro Hospital saying Sutter’s operation of the hospital along with Eden in Castro Valley allows them to control the flow of revenue to one over the other.

“San Leandro Hospital cannot make money because Sutter controls it,” said Lui. “All our assets, which is elective surgery, is moved over to Eden Medical Center for their profit. So every time a San Leandro Hospital patient gets admitted to Eden, the Eden Township District loses money.”

Roxanne Lewis, a nurse at San Leandro Hospital, said she and her colleagues support the District’s current strategy. “I think it’s worth every penny,” she said. The counter argument to those who believe mounting legal fees are bound to bankrupt the District has always been a rationalization to view it as a cost-saving measure. “The hospital has remained opened for how many months in excess of what we thought last year and has helped a whole lot of people--indigent and otherwise,” said Carol Barazi, also a nurse at San Leandro Hospital.

The closing of the hospital was originally slated to occur in June 2009 before the board moved to block Sutter’s attempt to purchase the hospital and lease it to the county for acute rehabilitation services. Legal maneuvering that followed has lengthened the hospital’s life, but has also put many residents and employees in a state of stressful uncertainty over the facility’s future. There is now renewed concern that highly qualified nurses and doctors will leave the hospital for more stable jobs outside the area and further diminish San Leandro Hospital’s ability to increase revenues.

Sutter recently told employees the facility would remain open until this June, but also strongly hinted they should begin searching for other means of employment. Others have said the June deadline is doubtful and arbitrary. Sutter and the District signed an agreement calling for the hospital to remain open at least until their dispute is resolved. Once an appeal is filed by the District many believe, short of a settlement, the case could languish in the appeals process for up to two years.

NOTES: The District Board of Directors unanimously re-elected Carole Rogers to another year as chair…Lester Friedman made his debut on the board Wednesday after his election last November. He replaces long-time member Dr. Harry Dvorsky…Just to show how much Sutter once had a strong hold on the District’s business. The board voted on a resolution to authorize a new signer for one of its investment accounts. Who was the previous signer? Eden Medical Center CEO George Bischalaney, who is the center of the District’s conflict of interest claim against Sutter. Bischalaney once simultaneously held the position of CEO at both Eden and District...The CEO of Hayward's St. Rose Hospital Michael Mahoney was in attendance for Wednesday's meeting.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Stark Votes Against GOP Repeal Of Health Care Blll

House Republicans voted to repeal President Obama’s health care reform bill, but without the entire California Congressional delegation. Three Democrats voted for the appeal today. The bills heads to the Senate after the 245-189 vote, which is likely to stall in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

In his floor speech this afternoon, Rep. Pete Stark mentioned the plight of a 26-year-old Castro Valley woman who, he says, health insurers deemed her pregnancy as a “pre-existing condition.” The determination forced her scurrying for health insurance. Below is Stark’s full speech:

Stark's next town hall meeting is Sat., Jan. 22 in Fremont and San Leandro.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Balance the Budget By July Or No Allowance, Stephen

By Steven Tavares

San Leandro’s budget will be balanced this June. Nobody knows if that will indeed be true, but Mayor Stephen Cassidy thinks the books will be reconciled without the need of short-term reserve funds. If it happens, it will be the first tme in four years the city did not dip into its savings. But, before any numbers are crunched, Cassidy thinks he can right the ship in just six months.

The San Leandro City Council will decide Tuesday whether Cassidy will be allowed to forego over $15,000 in salary through July 1. Cassidy ran on the pledge he would not take a salary as mayor until “expenditures equal revenues.” He never said how long that would take. According city documents, Cassidy is slated to earn $2,520-per-month in salary. The proposed ordinance, though, gives him the same benefits and reimbursements allowed to all membes of the council, including a small stipend for attending meetings of the redevelopment agency.

The vote on whether to approve the ordinance retroactive to Jan. 1 is contained Tuesday night within the consent calendar. The merits and political implications of the proposal will not be discussed unless a councilmember asks to pull the item for a separate vote.

Cassidy’s intention fits in line with campaign rhetoric asking every resident to bear some burden of the city's sacrifice, but some councilmembers may view the plan as grandstanding. Early last year, Cassidy asked the council and then-mayor Tony Santos to go without a salary. Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak sounded amendable to the pledge, but City Attorney Jayne Williams told the council the charter forbid members from making any changes to their compensation until a new member is installed.

Part of Tuesday’s subtext will be whether the pledge by Cassidy is viewed as the new mayor one-upping his counterparts on the council or will they let the obvious political move pass without a dissenting voice.

Whether the city can balance its budget without using the little reserves left available is a tenuous situation. All indications are the worst has passed, yet Finance Director Tracy Vesely said last December she forecasts another year of flat revenues. To keep his pledge, Cassidy may have to pull a rabbit out of his hat or prepare San Leandro for another round of steep cuts to staff and services, which may have been the plan all along.

A Thin Line Between Council And Candidate

Last week, Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak held at fundraiser in San Leandro to help retire her debt from her unsuccessful campaign for mayor last year. Along with Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, who was one of the co-hosts for the party? None other than Mayor Stephen Cassidy. It is not know whether the man Starosciak said had a bad reputation in labor relations at the school district stiffed the working staff at Mon CafĂ© last Friday, but it gives a strong indication, some say, that Cassidy is having a hard time counting to four—meaning, nothing gets done at City Hall without four votes on the council. So far, he can count on council newbie Pauline Cutter and possibly Vice Mayor Ursula Reed, but the road to an elusive fourth vote on any issue could be treacherous and problematic in its complexity for Mr. 35 Percent.

BACK FROM THE WILDERNESS When Al Gore lost the bitter recount for president in 2000, he retreated from public life, grew a bushy beard, got fat and tidied up his PowerPoint presentation on global warming. Former San Leandro mayoral candidate Sara Mestas has done nothing of the sort since garnering over 5 percent of the vote last November. Instead, she has worked on her real estate business and been heard preaching the Word on Facebook. The rapper turned local activist, though, may be readying an encore performance next year for city council. Mestas lives in Washington Manor, which is represented by Starosiciak, who is termed-out in 2012. Mo Wiley, as Mestas calls her musical alter-ego has been hinting strongly she will join a still unformed group for District 4 that may include resident Benny Lee. In the meantime, get ready for a new campaign song from Mestas. What rhymes with Cassidy? Tragedy? Malady? Catastrophe? We'll leave the composing to Mestas
POLITICS HOMEGROWN eastbaycitizen.com

San Leandro Is Sheepish On Redevelopment Grab

It is always interesting to watch the differences in local governments bodies when they discuss similar issues. The vague and dire future of redevelopment agencies across the state is a prime example and the difference in tone and candor between Fremont and San Leandro is telling (Hayward’s City Council has yet to meet this year).

The discussion in Fremont, although occurring less than two days after Gov. Brown’s announcement on “disestablishing” redevelopment agencies, was truthful, a bit edgy and determined in securing everything it can before July 1 or earlier, if emergency legislation is passed in Sacramento. Questions from the four councilmembers and city manager aimed to poke and prod every conceivable angle to save or complete some notable projects. There was no shame in game, as they say.

If a memo sent to the San Leandro city manager is any indication, the city’s redevelopment agency is far more careful, a bit indignant and somewhat embarrassed about the rush to secure contracts or obligations on four street improvement projects worth nearly $9 million. The San Leandro City Council unanimously approved an agreement on the projects Monday, 4-0. Three members were absent for the quickly arranged special meeting.

The memo sent by Community Development Director Luke Sims detailing the agency’s plan was concise and careful to point out the legality of the move. Nothing wrong with that, but when matched up against the more aggressive tenor in Fremont, it makes you wonder if San Leandro could use a dose of swagger and a pinch of confidence in its legislative business.
POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Same Story, Different Hospital

Marin General will not close,
but similarities in Sutter's
 legal strategy is evident.
The operator of San Leandro Hospital, Sutter Health, last week happily agreed to meet with arbitrators in its lawsuit with Marin General Hospital. Like San Leandro Hospital, the facility is now run by the local healthcare district. Similarly, the community is up in arms over an allegation Sutter siphoned the cream off of Marin General’s profits from 2006-08 to the tune of $120 million before handing over the facility to the district.

For those who may believe in Sutter’s freedom to make money at any cost or whether their business dealings with local municipalities is honorable, check out the words coming from Marin. They sound eerily similar to remarks in the fight to keep San Leandro Hospital from closing. Not only do lawyers for the Marin Healthcare District sound confident of it legal strategy, but a Sutter spokesman uses the same language portraying the healthcare district of being ungrateful of their philanthropy. “We had hoped the agreement that was in place and the fact that we returned a higher quality and more robust hospital last summer would have brought an end to the divisiveness,” Bill Gleeson told the North Bay Business Journal.

Similar comments were made regarding San Leandro Hospital over the past two years by Sutter who constantly noted money on upkeep of the hospital. The Marin Healthcare District also alleges its former composition of boardmembers was infested with Sutter-appointed directors who greased the skids for Sutter’s cash grab starting in 2006. “Sutter was able make the ‘cash sweeps,’ as the suit calls them, by establishing a hospital board ‘with a clear conflict of interest,’ the suit says. The Sutter-appointed board consisted of Sutter-appointed employees who failed to fulfill their legal responsibility of protecting the financial interests of the hospital by knowingly allowing Sutter to make such transfers as the hospital became independent, the suit says,” according to the article. Of course, the implications that three members of the former Eden Township Healthcare District board had a conflict of interest with Sutter is what the entire countersuit filed by the District last March is all about.

The similarity in legal tactics by Sutter not only in Marin and San Leandro, but in San Francisco and Santa Rosa were one of the reasons lawmakers led by Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblyman Jared Huffman urged the state's attorney general to review the corporation's business practices with local healthcare governments. Jerry Brown is now governor and a new attorney general is in office. There is no indication thus far, Kamala Harris’s office will do anymore than Brown’s, which was very little.

Although a California Appellate judge ruled last week against the District’s writ of mandate, the appeals process continues along indefinitely. The upside: the hospital is far from closing, but far from a resolution.
POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Monday, January 17, 2011

San Leandro Moves Quickly For $9 Million In RDA Funds

By Steven Tavares

The San Leandro Redevelopment Agency had a dream this afternoon and it can’t wait until after the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday to make it come true.

Like many cities in the state, San Leandro is rushing to get contracts on shovel-ready redevelopment projects signed and delivered before Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature can eliminate the multi-billion dollar state program as early as this Spring.

The special meeting of the city council quickly planned for Monday and coinciding with the King holiday hopes to make an end run at Brown’s proposal by giving the thumbs up on four projects totaling nearly $9 million in redevelopment expenditures. A few municipalities in Southern California have chose to gain legal approval for a spate of projects along with local cities in Fremont and Lafayette to name a few.

State budget agencies warned the governor this week of the potential blowback from cities hastily signing contracts for pet project in advance of the proposed elimination of the program. Brown’s plan calls from the end of local redevelopment agencies by July 1 and reserves payment of any residual debts to city’s paid off in the 2011-12 fiscal year.

The projects the redevelopment agency hopes to protect is road improvements to Doolittle Drive and MacArthur Boulevard, streetscape improvements to Hays Street as part of the city’s downtown Transit-Oriented Development. The construction of a two-lane street on Eden Road is also part of Monday’s discussion. A presentation regarding Eden Road was given to the council within the past month before news of Brown’s budget proposal and constitutes the majority of the construction costs for the four projects at $5.8 million.

“City staff has explored potential funding sources and has determined that there is no other source of funds reasonably available to the City to contribute toward the projects due to economic and political factors,” said San Leandro Community Development Director Luke Sims in a memo to City Manager Stephen Hollister.

Potentia funding dollars for the four projects, he said, have been allocated to essential city services such as police and fire. The city has already invested time and money into the four project, he also said. “Failure to complete them would negatively impact the value of the previous investment and impede ongoing efforts to eliminate blight,” said Sims.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Cassidy Tells Santos Appointees To Scram

By Steven Tavares

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy has told at-large commissioners appointed by the former mayor not to bother re-applying for their posts. Despite a perennial lack of viable candidate to serve on the city’s eight boards and commissions, Cassidy is looking elsewhere, according to some who were unceremoniously denied.

Sources say Cassidy told some former members whose term ended last December he was aiming at replacing all of Tony Santos’ at-large appointments, but this is not true. OB Badger, a former councilman and member of the Personnel Relations Board will be retained as will Recreation and Parks Commissioner Benny Lee. According to a source, Lee may be switched to another commission, possibly the Library-Historical Commission. The retention of Lee is peculiar since he is not believed to have been a supporter of Cassidy during the campaign and, in fact, spoke recently at a council meeting in opposition of using ranked-choice voting in future elections.Cassidy parlayed 35 percent of the vote into victory last November using ranked-choice voting.

Among Santos supporters on the chopping block include Kent Myers, the chair of the Personnel Relations Board and Charlie Gilcrest, chair of the Board of Zoning Commission. Former city council candidate Corina Lopez was also a Santos appointee to the Human Services Commission. Lopez may be the city’s most viable Latino politician in a local government devoid of participation by such a large demographic. Incidentally, Lopez received far more votes for council than Cassidy received for mayor, further illustrating the slight to the Latino community.

Finding enough interested candidates for the commissions is often a problem. Each post entails a four-year commitment with a varying number of meetings. Some like the Board of Zoning Commission meet twice-a-month while others meet quarterly.
Cassidy is also looking to tilt control of the important Shoreline Citizen Action Committee. According to city staff, Cassidy will ask the council to approve adding three more at-large appointees to the already robust 30-person committee discussing the future of the San Leandro Marina. In addition, he is also asking for a fourth appointee for new Councilwoman Pauline Cutter. The CAC/Shoreline Committee has been meeting inconsistently for the past two years leading some to wonder whether four new members can accomplish much so late in the game. During the campaign, Cassidy had broached the idea to residents of Mulford Gardens he would favor putting various proposals up for a city-wide vote. A detailed proposal for the so-called 40 acre "jewel" of San Leandro is likely to be released this year.

As Poor Get Poorer King's Legacy Needs Rekindling

As America commemorates, or in some states tolerates, the birthday of arguably the greatest American of the 20th century--Dr. Martin Luther King--the past few years has shown that the advancement of African-Americans and the poor, in general, have been merely cosmetic.

First, this national holiday in honor Dr. King should not be characterized as a "black" holiday as it is too often. The vision of Dr. King was, indeed racial harmony and equality for all blacks, but also and specifically for the poorest and indigent of Americans.

This overlooked aspect of Dr. King's beliefs--ideas he died fighting for--have not been realized, but a gap between rich and poor has widened greatly. Often we attempt to guess how historically figures would react to current events. How would the Founding Fathers view the Second Amendment today? How would John Lennon respond to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? What would Martin Luther King think of our society today? He would not be very happy.

The working poor in America has grown exponentially since the late 1960s and President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society. As we stand today, the minimum wage has not increased in nearly 10 years. Corporations are cutting pensions for loyal retirees and health benefits are non-existent. America still functions with inequities in health care even has reform will soon make it somewhat more manageable. People get sick and fall into deeper despair.

For those unfortunate and few, the mounting debt and tension rises with no end. This past year, the Republican Congress made it harder for Americans to file for bankruptcy. There is no second chance in America, especially when it's their money, yet many chances when it comes to the bankers doling out the cash at exorbitant interest rates.

But, should we expect anything different? This is, after all, the same government that spied on and sought to end Dr. King's dream, if they didn't literally, with a bullet. And their dream to rid the country's conscienceness of his noble deeds is still with us today.

An assault on Dr. King's legacy surrounds us everyday. This day, as mentioned before, is dismissed by too many as a black struggle . Popular culture is devoid of anything related to Dr. King. Have you ever noticed there has never been a big-budget Hollywood biopic about Dr. King? Why is that? Hollywood can make one for Malcolm X and Ray Charles, but can't tell the heroic and fascinating story of a Southern preacher changing the way American lived together?

It's just a day now for politicians across the land to make typically reverential, but empty remarks about his legacy. Gov. Jerry Brown today lauded King's legacy in the same week he sought to dramatically cut state programs for the poorest in California along with throwing monkey wrench into the ability for cities to build affordable housing for their residents.

The past decade has weathered an assault to the issues that Dr. King stood for and today. We nee to rekindle the fervor and enlightenment that he stoked in America over 40 years ago. Essentially, this day is about remembering to help weakest among us first and those with all the means to survive second and third.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN www.eastbaycitizen.com

Friday, January 14, 2011

Judge Denies Healthcare District’s Writ Of Mandate

By Steven Tavares

A California Appellate Court judge has denied the Eden Township Healthcare District’s writ of mandate regarding its countersuit against Sutter Health. The suit alleges a conflict of interest over negotiations in 2008 that led to the reconstruction of Eden Medical Center and the unknown fate of San Leandro Hospital.

The ruling by the First Appellate District on Tuesday could mean dire consequences for the fate of San Leandro Hospital. The healthcare district’s appeal came after an Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled against its countersuit versus Sutter last November. The Board of Directors voted to appeal the decision a few days later. The District's filing of a writ of mandate is intending to the ask the appellate court to remedy any errors it alleges are contained in the Superior Court ruling.

Sutter had previously been successful in the courts last when a judge granted the Sacramento-based health provider the deed to San Leandro Hospital. Contained in the controversial 2008 memorandum of understanding was a provision allowing Sutter the right to purchase the property, which they invoked in 2009 and led to a spate of legal showdowns between it and the Eden Township.

The long, vociferous fight waged by local activists, nurses and doctors to save the community option may be running out of viable options after the appellate ruling. There have been reports from various employees of the hospital they were notified the hospital would stay open until at least June. Sutter already has an agreement with the Alameda County Medical Center to repurpose San Leandro Hospital into an acute rehabilitation center, replacing the seismically-deficient Fairmont Hospital.


NOTE: A clarification including writ of mandate and definition was made to this article.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Facebook Did Not 'Like' Corbett Bill

Facebook has enlisted the help of over 500 million people to register their likes and dislikes making it the world’s largest social networking site. Now, it has hired just seven lobbyist to gain the help of lawmakers in Washington to bolster its grasp on the highly lucrative curating of its users information, including stifling the work of one local state legislator.

USA Today reported on Facebook’s growing presence on Capitol Hill and highlights state Sen. Ellen Corbett’s ill-fated attempt last year to protect children from disclosing their home addresses and phone numbers online. Corbett’s SB 1361 passed the State Senate last February, but was squashed in an assembly committee as Facebook played catch up by spending $6,500 in lobbying efforts. The bill would have imposed penalties on social networking sites up to $10,000 for each violation.

"This is a very serious issue that needs to be addressed — the security of young people," Corbett told USA Today. "It is an important goal to stop the posting of their addresses. I can't think of one viable reason to post it."

Opponents of the bills have said children and teenagers would simply lie about their age leading to a host of “unintended consequences.” Advocates for various online companies say there is no evidence such information posted on social networking sites leads to endangering minors.

Corbett says she intends to bring the bill back for discussion this year, according to USA Today.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Redevelopment Races To Make Sense of Guv's Plan

By Steven Tavares

Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate of the state’s 425 redevelopment agencies is leaving local munipicalities scrambling to make sense of the possible ramifications to their city budgets. Cities like Fremont who are in the middle of growing their existing infrastructure are exploring every avenue they can come up with to continue their redevelopment priorities.

“We have umbrellas,” said Fremont City Manager Fred Diaz in anticipation of the possible loss of funding. “It’s not raining, but there is dark clouds forming.” Proposed redevelopment projects at the Irvington BART, Niles Town Plaza, Niles fire station and Washington grade separation could be in jeopardy of losing funding. According to Elisa Tierney, director of the Fremont Redevelopment Agency, Fremont’s most eagerly-awaited development at the Warm Spring BART station and surrounding Tesla facility would not be affected in as far as land use issues, but would also take a hit in funding. “They are pulling the rug out from under us,” said Tierney.

Brown’s budget proposal previewed earlier this week would tear down existing redevelopment agencies by July 1, retiring any debt and fulfilling any remaining obligations in the next fiscal budget. Just what will constitute a legal obligation is the great unknown facing cities and leading one nonpartisan report to urge the state to move quickly before redevelopment agencies move to add more debt.

What can be accounted as a contractual obligation for the city is open for interpretation. Vice Mayor Sue Chan wondered if the inclusion of some projects would be settled in the courts. “The Devil is in the details,” said Fremont City Attorney Harvey Levine. The constitutionality of redirecting funds back to the state through abolishing redevelopment agencies is also a thorny legal question after voters passed Proposition 22 last November banning such a move by Sacramento.

Anger at the local level over takebacks by legislators in Sacramento has been palpable for some years and has allowed for populist angst to be unleashed by nearly every East Bay city council. Councilman Bill Harrison said the taking of redevelopment dollars will be a tough catalyst to drum up support from the public since many residents are unaware of its function and is an issue without a constituency.

“This is the best tool we have to spur the flow of development,” added Councilwoman Anu Natarajan. In what became a short brainstorming on how to protect its redevelopment funding, Natarajan mentioned whether Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski’s current bill in the Legislature concerning dollars for the Warm Spring BART/Nummi project could be a possible hedge against the loss of funding proposed by the governor. “It might be a good idea to use as a shield against these Draconian steps,” agreed Diaz.

In the meantime, Diaz says the city staff will be working quickly to assess its situation after Brown’s surprise announcement. A detailed report is due for the council’s consideration in late March, he said, while warning, “You’re going to have potentially big decisions that night.”

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

East Bay Has Seen Vitriol Evident In Arizona

Opponents of Rep. Pete Stark, like the man standing above, talked down the congressman July 24 in Hayward.
By Steven Tavares

When shots rang out in front of a Tucson Safeway last Saturday, the anger and discontent exemplified by the aftermath following the heinous act by a seemingly deranged shooter has now provided a much-needed pause in the level discourse between Americans. Members of Congress have been spat upon by detractors. Others have had racial epithets hurled upon them along with allusions to Adolph Hitler. In hindsight, what happened in Arizona was a powder keg ready to go boom.

In two waves of Tea Party discontent over as many years in the East Bay, I have covered numerous events and spoken to dozens of Americans who attend these gatherings with genuiune concerns for their country, others though, have shown some of the same flourishes of anger fueled with paranoia, simplistic observations and downright racial and ethnic prejudice.

The hyperbolic spectacle surrounding Rep. Pete Stark over the past two summers is the closest example we have locally to the rancor exhibited against Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. The level of vitriol contain within Stark’s monthly town hall meetings is difficult to fathom if not in the room to hear the full-throated insults and threats cascading from constituents. Stark has long viewed the back and forth with voters as a prime duty of his role as congressman. In the day after the shooting of Giffords, Stark reiterated his belief in Americans having unfettered access to their representatives. “Rep. Giffords was performing the most fundamental duty of a Member of Congress – she was making herself available to her constituents,” Stark said Monday. “It is something we all do – and something I strongly believe we must continue to do.”
They belittled him because of his age, perceived senility or alleged Marxist leanings. They called him stupid to his face. Called him an idiot. One man obliquely threatened to hit Stark over the head.

Opponents of Stark say the anger against the long-time congressman is merely his constituents reflecting his own insults back against him. Tea Party activists and conservative pundits have used his infamous YouTube clips to demonize Stark to which he said yesterday, “We can have differences of opinion on policy and still treat each other with humanity.” While it is true, Stark’s personality lends itself to hurling diatribes back at frothy-mouth questioners, the level of disrespect towards the polite discussion of ideas is nearly non-existent from his detractors. A town hall July 24 in Hayward was a prime example of a town hall reeking of irrational exuberance and bullying. Watch a clip from the event here. During the entire 90 minute meeting, Stark barely spoke. There was hardly a spectator who did not have the urge to stand and shout down Stark. They belittled him because of his age, perceived senility or alleged Marxist leanings. They called him stupid to his face. Called him an idiot. One man obliquely threatened to hit Stark over the head.

Putting Out The Fire With Gasoline

Sarah Palin and rightwing pundits like Glenn Beck have faced renewed scrutiny after the shootings in Arizona.
By Nicholas E. Terry

Soon after the unfortunate attacks in Tucson this weekend, the founder of The Daily Kos posted on twitter, “mission accomplished, Sarah Palin.”

While this is not a surprise to anyone with a sense of right and wrong, let alone common sense, it is completely fact less and typical politics of the left. Attached was a link to an image of her campaign graphic that depicted the targets of individual campaign races targeted by her PAC.

How can you connect this crazy kid who was kicked out of college with no ties to any political party or allegiance to Tea Parties, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck or talk radio?

I would say you’re just as crazy if you do.

Point being, before anyone knew anything about what really was going on, many in the media jumped to conclusions. It’s a trend we should be use to.  Every time something catastrophic like this happens the media quickly, and without facts, says that the gunman (or the bad guy) was a right-wing radical Christian conservative Tea Party member that worships Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. In 2009, when Maj. Nidal Hasan committed jihad on Fort Hood, President Obama urged Americans not to jump to conclusions.

Question: Who was Sarah Palin in 2007? Who was Glenn Beck? What was a Tea Party?
Answers: Governor of Alaska. A slave for CNN. Something that happened in Boston many, many years ago.

If the shooter in Tucson was a 22-year-old Muslim boy, could we blame Muslim talk radio? No. We’ve been told many times before that you can’t jump to conclusions.

Why does the media always forget the main responsibility; report the facts. It’s okay to sit and say that they don’t have all the facts but they’re working on it.

There is no evidence linking this gunman to Palin, or Beck, or Tea Parties or the Republican party. He first began his infatuation with Rep. Gabrielle Gifford in 2007. He met her, asked her a loony question, and she didn’t have an answer that pleased him. Later, she sent him a typical boilerplate letter thanking him for attending an event. He began to dislike the congresswoman.

Question: Who was Sarah Palin in 2007? Who was Glenn Beck? What was a Tea Party?

Answers: Governor of Alaska and not on the national political radar. A slave for CNN. Something that happened in Boston many, many years ago.

And while we’re at it…

Question: Who killed JFK? RFK?
Answer: As far as we know, Oswald was committed to Marxism and Communism. Sirhan Sirhan was an anti-Zionist Palestinian radical.

Neither of these two were right-wing radicals.

Whatcha Talkin' About Willis?

By Steven Tavares

On the rare occasion the San Leandro City Council chambers are jammed to the rafters, Alameda County Fire Chief Sheldon Gilbert is usually there to clear the aisles and escort guests to the back of the room. On Monday, these were not just any residents lining each side of chambers, but police officers in clad in crisply-pressed dark blue uniforms. A color guard on one side and a sampling of Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli’s new force on the other.

Outgoing chief Ian Willis, leading the day’s events, teased Gilbert during the proceedings that the officers were not moving this time. “I know we have enough guns here to take care of that,” said Willis.

Too soon?

Willis was never known to be the most articulate of police chiefs. In fact, his largely successful run in San Leandro was accentuated by his quiet, cool demeanor and working class ethos that made for a nice fit with the city’s demographics . In light of the shootings in Arizona, though, the imagery of guns blazing inside the home of local government was highly inappropriate. The department is also still recovering from the shooting two weeks ago by a San Leandro police officer of a woman accused of stealing an automobile. The unnamed officer killed the woman believing she intended to run over another officer with the car.

At the time of the remark some giggled. While others, including some in law enforcement grimaced at the retort. Audience members were seen briefly murmuring among each other with enough sideways glances to make the moment a bit uncomfortable. A few who witnessed the remark declined to comment afterwards, but their corresponding facial expressions featuring indignation and surprise were enough. In the meantime, Willis is due to become a deputy at the Alameda County Sheriff Department and San Leandro is now in the hands of a new leader.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hayashi Packs Assembly District Delgates Election

Asm. Mary Hayashi aims  fix
the state's problems.
Twelve slots for available for local Democrats hoping to represent the 18th assembly district at the state’s convention later this year. Forty-two aspiring delegates competed for 12 spots last Saturday in Hayward. The 12 winners, though, all share allegiances to a single local politician.

All 12 elected ran on a slate blessed upon by Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi. San Leandro Councilwoman Pauline Cutter, former AC Transit Director Rocky Fernandez and Dublin Councilman Matt Sullivan were among the notables among Hayashi’s slate becoming state delegates. The convention is scheduled for April 29 in Sacramento.

Inclusion to the state convention is based upon assembly districts, but does not preclude the area's other state legislator making input in its composition. State Sen. Ellen Corbett, though, does not typically believe in stacking the deck with delegates from a preferred list of candidates, but Hayashi does.

Members of the delegation bring input from their districts to help shape the party platform, but contain very little political power. In addition, delegates also gain perks including hobnobbing with the state’s cognoscenti and a slew parties and events. They also get the pleasure to rock out to "Start Me Up" with a 69-year-old man.

The full list of delegates from AD 18: Hermy Almonte, Pauline Cutter, Rocky Fernandez, Keith Gibbs, Doug Jones, Jim Kohnen, Pat Kohnen, Julie Lind, Jennifer Ong, Pheleta Santos, Matt Sullivan, Helena Straughter.

The full list of delegates from AD 20: Aref Aziz, Yogi Chugh, Mary Kate Crawford, Dharminder Dewan, Raj Salwan Dvm, Fremont Councilman Bill Harrison, Alex Hilke, Jan Hill, Debbie Pearson, Molina Shaiq, Deepa Sharma, Toni Shellen.
POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Would San Leandro Support Outsourcing Its Police?

By Steven Tavares

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy did not get off to a good start with the city’s police officers. His stance on pensions angered the powerful Police Officers Association, but a plan floated by the new mayor may pale in comparison to having officers pay more for their pension.

City insiders for weeks have noted rumors Cassidy is open to the option of looking at whether the cash-strapped city should outsource its police department services to outside jurisdictions, namely the far more fiscally-challenged Alameda County Sheriff Department.

Such talk is both political explosive and bold. After Monday’s swearing-in of new San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli, the president for the Police Officers Association said he broached the subject to Cassidy during a recent meeting with the mayor. "I asked him, but I don't think he's leaning that way." said Sgt. Mike Sobek. Amid election rhetoric last year, Sobek described Cassidy as “no friend of the POA,” but after meeting Cassidy, he found him bright and articulate.

San Leandro residents consistently rate public safety as their overwhelmingly top priority. This is no different than any other municipality and could difficult reach for Cassidy in attracting support among residents. There is precedent, though, in San Leandro, in addition to across the Bay in San Carlos where the city council last year voted to outsource its 85-year-old police department to the county.

San Leandro’s fire services were outsourced to the county earlier this decade without much disruption in service, but any plan to disband the police department would be difficult to pull off. “The residents of San Leandro would not be in favor of it,” said Sobek. While doubting such a plan would ever get off the ground, he nonetheless lamented the numbers of officer, a majority of whom grew up in the city losing a chance to defend their home.

Last June, San Carlos became one of the first Bay Area cities to disband their police force. The impetus for the move was necessitated, the council said, by a budget deficit in the neighborhood of $3 million, two-thirds of which would be saved by outsourcing the department to the county. San Leandro’s current budget deficit for the next fiscal year in June could be similar without a rise in revenue in the next few months.

Detractors of outsourcing say cities risk losing control of their public safety apparatus in addition to the ethical question of whether the importance of police and fire services are paramount over other sections of city budget.

Monday, January 10, 2011

San Leandro Police Enter A New Day

By Steven Tavares

New San Leandro Police Chief
Sandra Spagnoli
Sandra Spagnoli's first day at the helm of the San Leandro Police Department started at 6:30 a.m. this morning. It was another in a series of bitterly chilly morning that have recently stalked the East Bay. While there she awaited the first of two mundane days of field training, this day, featuring a stint at the shooting range.

"Can I get some bullets?" asked Spagnoli. During her swearing-in as San Leandro's first female police chief today at City Hall, Spagnoli said she failed her shooting test leaving retiring Ian Willis to joke with dismay, "I'm leaving on Tuesday. That's my last day. You need to pass."

With many of the police force ringing the walls of the council chambers along with a full house of local dignitaries and family, Spagnoli was sworn-in by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Roy Hashimoto, who briefly flubbed the oath by asking her twice to pledge allegiance to both the state and U.S. Constitutions. Spagnoli's teenage son and husband, who is also a police officer in San Jose, pinned the honorary badge on her uniform.

Spagnoli, 43, ended four years as chief of the Benicia Police Department last month to become San Leandro's tenth chief of police and third in the last three years. She got her start in law enforcement in San Carlos, volunteering as a junior officer at 16. "I wanted to arrest people," Spagnoli said recalling her first recollections of police work. "I wanted to write tickets."

"I really wanted to part of the public safety family and part of making a community safe," she said. "Early in my career, I really realized this wasn't just a job, it's something I believe is a call to duty."

Many expect the hiring of Spagnoli puts an ends a vicious cloud of department in-fighting and accusations of sexual harassment among San Leandro male officers against female employees. San Leandro City Manager Stephen Hollister, who hired Spagnoli to replace the retiring Willis, called the day "historic."

"She has a career of positive progressive steps in law enforcement," said Hollister. "She is ahead of the curve in technology, in training education, community outreach and a wide variety of police activities."

Sgt. Mike Sobek, the president of the San Leandro Police Officers Association says the force is looking forward to working with Spagnoli and is eagerly awaiting descriptions of her specific goals for the department.

The day also ends the successful two-year run as police chief for Willis, who announced his retirement last October. During his tenure, Willis' leadership led to consecutive drops in crime amidst continuing cuts to the staff and officers. "He came into the job with a lot thrown on his desk," said Sobek. "There were problems with the lawsuits and morale, which was unfortunate, but he got us through that." 

Willis replaced former chief Dale Attarian whose time as police chief was mired by problems with morale and a charged atmosphere of sexual harassment and subsequent lawsuits against the city by seven former female officers. According to court documents, the overall tone of Attarian's police department had more in common with Cops Gone Wild than an institution of law enforcement. Earlier this summer, the city settled all of the suits against them costing $675,000.

Hollister commended Willis for his work and called him a "steadying hand on the tiller." Willis' work after announcing retirement on behalf of passing Measure Z last November was also mentioned by a few officer along with Hollister, which best illustrated his commitment to the city. The passage of Measure Z raised the city's sales tax to 10 percent and will hopefully allow San Leandro to maintain or increase the number of police officers in the city.

Spagnoli says he plans to focus her department on new public safety strategies to reduce crime, maintain excellent service levels, support intervention and prevention. She also specific mention of supporting youth causes, an issue she also focused in during her time in Benicia.

POLITICS HOMEGROWN www.eastbaycitizen.com

Friday, January 7, 2011

Local Anti-Fluoride Activist Gains Some Credibility

HHS and EPA today recommend
lowering amount of fluoride in the
drinking water.
Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk has tussled with anti-flouride activist Wynn Grcich in the past. So has Fremont Councilman Bill Harrison. Anu Natarajan, another Fremont councilmember, blurted out last Tuesday that Grcich's monthly, often times, disjointed rants on the dangers of water fluoridation were a reason for people to not use drugs. But, recent reports, say Grcich and other other water safety activists are on to something.

The Hayward resident is well-known throughout city council chambers from Palo Alto, Millbrae to monthly appearances in both Fremont and Hayward. Her rapid-fire three minutes of public comment (she routinely uses more of her allotted time) is often among the night’s brief moments of levity.

Grcich has long argued with city administrators in Hayward that fluoridation of the city’s water supply is harmful to the health of the community. To illustrate her point, she often carries handouts for anyone who will listen. Undoubtedly, her argument regarding the use of fluoride nearly always ends in the rejoinder, “If it isn’t dangerous, why do they need hazmat suits to handle it?”

According to Grcich, the use of fluoride in our drinking water is poisoning residents, leading to birth defects and causing crippling skeletal deformities. A report published today appears to put a mainstream argument backing Grcich’s tireless complaints. The Department of Health and Human Services said Friday it lower the recommended amount of fluoride in the nation’s water supply to 0.7 milligrams per liter. The Environmental Protection Agency is also looking into lowering its minimum standard.

An Associated Press report Friday detailed that 41 percent of children and young adults have tooth discoloration, known as fluorosis, which is due to a high level of fluoride in their diets. The report also details scientific findings pointing to bone abnormalities and brittleness. An Ohio woman who five years ago fought back plans in Springfield, Ohio to add fluoride to its drinking water would respect the ridiculed beliefs of activists like Grcich. "Anybody who was anti-fluoride was considered crazy at the time," she said. In fact, critics of fluoride has always been derided as kooks of the fringe. People enamored with government conspiracies and mind-control schemes than partaking in rationale conversation.

Councilmembers in both Fremont and Hayward merely sit back, eyes glazed when Grcich ambles to the podium. In Hayward, she often uses the overhead projector provided by the city to display a hastily scribbled web site while she speaks. On occasion, though, Hayward’s Quirk, who has professional scientific background will argue with Grcich to no avail along with city officials who late last year detailed a reported a minuscule appearance of a naturally-occurring bacteria found in the city’s drinking water. The city denied any assertion the bacteria posed any health threats, but it gave Grcich a good reason to rant.

Grcich may have difficulty in collecting adherents to her beliefs because of her style, but with the government’s recent statements, maybe it’s time for local governments to stop portraying citizens like Grcich as the village idiot and instead discuss whether the health of its residents is at stake because of over-fluoridation.
POLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Revenge Best Served in Alameda

In the past six months, Alamedans have watched as a city councilwoman faced possible charges for leaking confidential closed session information about a controversial development at the former Naval Air Station, while the interim city manager and city attorney went rogue, according to some critics. With a new year comes political payback.
A week ago, the new city council chose to not renew the contract of City Manager Anne Marie Gallant.  The purging on Central Avenue continued this week when City Attorney Theresa Highsmith was put on administrative leave by the city council. According to The Island, Gallant is believed to have already snagged a new job in Barstow, but has yet to publicly announce it. Not to be outdone, Horst Breuer, the chair of Alameda’s economic development committee resigned saying he could not work with the new Mayor Mary Gilmore and council.

“This seems to be no more than political payback against the one person who has all the qualities you listed as what you want in a city manager,” said former council candidate Adam Gillitt and reported by The Island.
Life on the island has been anything but relaxing since election year politicking lead to then-mayor Bev Johnson and Councilwoman Lena Tam scrambling for political office after both made poorly planned runs for Alameda County supervisor. Lam announced a run to replace Alice Lai-Bitker, but quickly dropped out. Johnson convincingly lost to eventual winner Wilma Chan in the June primary by 30 points. Now, both sit on the city council with opposing allegiances. Tam gained a modicum of revenge on Gallant and Highsmith’s attempt to remove Tam from office, while Johnson voted last week to keep them on.

The public persona of Gallant has elicited equal parts support and vociferous outrage with many detractors laying blame for pushing developer SunCal from the island to supporters who say she has added significantly to the city’s reserves over the past two years.

The duos dismissal after the November elections may have signaled a slight shift in power in Alameda, but like most political moves colored by revenge, the thirst for retribution is also high. All eyes will be on Gilmore, who in just a few weeks in office, has fostered the seeds of resentment that takes longer to eradicate than the actual deed itself.
-STEVEN TAVARESPOLITICS HOMEGROWN http://www.eastbaycitizen.com/

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Stark Reminds GOP Leader Elvis Is Really Dead

...Or, is he? Ask Eric Cantor
OFFICE SAYS CANTOR IS ARGUING BASIC MATH Republicans took over control of the House of Representatives today, but instead of moping about the capitol, Rep. Pete Stark’s office took a playful jab at comments made by Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) questioning the nonpartisanship of the Congressional Budget Office. Cantor told The New York Times he doubted its estimate that health care reform will save $1 trillion from the deficit.

Stark’s office used the insinuation to take a shot at the new Republican majority leader. “While many Republicans have argued with basic science in the climate change debate,” they wrote, “Eric Cantor has become the first Republican to argue with basic arithmetic.”

To illustrate their point, the press release pointed out other “common misconceptions” for the congressman’s edification. Included were links that refute the myth toilets in the Southern hemisphere swirl in a different direction, illustrating Elvis Presley is, in fact, dead (death certificate of The King included), Shania Twain is not related to Mark Twain and french fries originated in Belgium, not France.

Critics may fault Stark’s office for such shenanigans, but the start of the 112th Congress begins today. It is snowing in Washington. What else is there to do?

UPDATE: Cantor's comments may have been in anticipation of a report Thursday from the CBO estimating the cost of the Republican health care plan would add $230 billion to the deficit over the next decade.