Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sanders Tells Democrats Ryan Plan Will Result In Death Panels

By Steven Tavares
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders lobbed progressive invective to the delight of California Democrats Saturday afternoon in Sacramento while charging the Republican plan to cut Medicare is the real “death panels” feared by some Americans.

“They are planning, if they get their way, to cut Medicare by hundreds of billions of dollars,” said Sanders at the California  Democratic State Convention. “If you get sick, what happens to you? Forty-five million Americans are going to die if they can’t get to the doctor.”

“Lucky you,” said Sanders of the plan put forth by Wisconsin Sen. Paul Ryan, “you get $8,000 to give to an insurance company. If you have cancer, how many days will that give you?” he said adding, “What we are talking about is death panels.”

Sanders railed against the widening gap between rich and poor saying, “This is not democracy, this is an oligarchy.”

“We are engaged right now in unprecedented warfare and the wrong class is winning,” he said. “And the challenge we have from California to Vermont is to rally Americans to fight back and to make sure that we end what is going on right now-- that is, the disappearance of the middle class.”

Corbett’s Performance Gives Way To Talk Of Higher Office

By Steven Tavares

Three of the biggest names in East Bay politics addressed the state Democratic Convention Saturday afternoon with one possibly delivering the day’s best line.

“The party of Honest Abe has become the party of Donald Trump,” Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett said of the Republican Party. “In California, we told the GOP, you’re fired!”

Corbett along with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and State Treasurer Bill Lockyer acted as the lead-in to keynote speaker Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, but not until the usually reserve San Leandro state senator delivered a string of rough cuts directed at Republicans.

“California Republicans have sought to put politics ahead of people every step of the way,” she charged. Later she stood firm with public employees, choosing to focus on firefighters and saying most people do not see them in political terms when danger arises. “We don’t think of them as Democrat hero or a Republican hero,” said Corbett, “but in return for them going through a burning door, they deserve our respect.”

Corbett’s address to the Democratic Convention in Sacramento tellingly led into a speech by Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who is running to replace the retiring Rep. Jane Harman. Some believe a Bowen victory in House District 36 could elevate Corbett to statewide office. Interest in the job by Corbett has long been held, according to numerous local sources who also tell The Citizen she has recently voiced interest in possibly replacing Bowen.

Oakland’s Quan reiterated her stunning victory over prohibitive favorite Don Perata last November showed the influence of political power and money can be beaten by grassroots efforts. The use of ranked-choice voting in Oakland became a major factor in Quan amassing significant second-place support from every candidate other than the clear first round leader Perata.

Quan detailed her city's slow rise to vibrancy by touting its lead in green tech, racial diversity and, notably, Oakland’s burgeoning status among Bay Area gourmands. Although crime continues to be the city’s chronic eyesore she said, "There's no peace without justice, no victory without equality."

Lockyer’s turn before conventioneers may have been cut short by a raucous clamoring for keynote speaker Sanders  who immediately followed him. The second-term treasurer spoke of the fight for suffrage and stumped for Gov. Jerry Brown’s tax extension. Lockyer facetiously called former governor Ronald Reagan the “great spender,” saying Brown’s current plan would spend just over $5 per $100 in income while Reagan spent a dollar more in the late 1960s. If Democrats have that extra dollar to spend on services, said Lockyer, Californians would be better off.

Newsom, Harris Set Their Course As Future of Calif. Democrats

By Steven Tavares

California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris are the future of the state Democratic Party. Both brought their aura of their rockstar followings to the state convention. On several occasions Saturday bringing the hall to its feet in admiration.

While Harris hyped herself as a tough-talking Democrat on crime, Newsom positioned himself as a job creator. Two issues each Democrat will likely need to gain higher office in the near future.

“I am a proud pro-job Democrat,” said the gravely-voiced and excitable Newsom. The state has not had a discernible job plan for 15 years, said Newsom, including no delivery system and over 30 disparate state departments disconnected from creating jobs. Despite the inefficiency, he said the state’s ability to innovate is unrivaled.

"I’m confident we’ll get our mojo back,” he said. “There is simply not a state in this county that can out-compete our us.” The state, though, needs to return to its manufacturing roots to gain ground lost to surging economies in China, Brazil and India, he said.

“Democrats cannot give up on manufacturing,” he said, noting of the billions of cell phones created in the world, not one is made in the state or even the United States. “Look at the back of your iPhone,” said Newsom, “it says designed in California, manufactured in China. We have go to turn this around and focus on manufacturing.“

Harris’ address was less specific, but her oratory style and remarks brought some of the loudest cheers from convention-goers during the morning session. “You don’t have to run from your convictions to run for elected office,” said Harris. “We showed it’s time to be smart on crime.”

The former San Francisco district attorney was the last of nine Democrats to win state office when she narrowly defeated Steve Cooley. “It’s time to stop making apologies and start making progress. It’s time to stand up for our principles,” she roared. “As California Democrats we win when we stand up for what we believe in.”

Assembly Speaker on GOP: ‘They Can’t Be All Nihilists’

By Steven Tavares

Speaker John Perez
Just two weeks ago, California Republicans populated the very same convention hall that Democratic delegated sit this weekend in Sacramento. But, sounding like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez when he once asked members of the United Nations’ general assembly whether they smelled the devilish smell of sulfur after President George W. Bush spoke the day before, Assembly Speaker John Perez said the building had been eradicated of conservatives.

“I know it’s tough to know they were here,” Perez joked of the state GOP. “We did some ceremonial sage-burning before they left.”

As state Democrats continue to battle Republicans over the bloated budget situation and a push to extend tax rates at the ballot box, Perez took numerous shots at his colleagues in the Legislature who he said were making a “proud march towards irrelevance.”

Perez said Democrats in Sacramento will not support for an all-cuts budget as Republicans have threatened. “We’re not going to do the Republicans dirty work,” he said.

The Speaker urged Democratic lawmakers to make their case to red counties throughout the state reasoning, “They can’t all be nihilists.” The comment comes close to controversial remarks made this week by State Treasurer Bill Lockyer charging Democrats should begin implementing Republicans plans for an all-cuts budget strategy to their conservative districts. Senate Leader Darrell Steinberg followed the comment in the affirmative a day later.

He pushed for delegates to work towards making any concessions towards to Republicans to become moot by electing two-third majorities in both the assembly and state Senate. A special election in Assembly District 4 featuring Democrat Dennis Campanelli is next Tuesday, said Perez, although many did not believe the candidates will prevail, but hope for a strong showing.

Labor Leaders Warn Wisconsin Is Coming To California

By Steven Tavares

Leaders of the California labor movement rang the bell Saturday morning calling attention to a growing assault on workers’ rights in Orange County, they say brings the fight for collective bargaining in Wisconsin to the state.

Labor-friendly Democrats who rule the state houses and major elected offices are too strong for Republicans looking to roll back decades of labor gains, said Art Pulaski, chief officer of the California Labor Federation. Instead, they are aiming for local governments with the advice from Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers. “We see them taking rights away from the bottom up in Costa Mesa like they are doing in Wisconsin from the top down,” said Pulaski.

The situation in Costa Mesa gained statewide attention in February when a city employee committed suicide after receiving a layoff notice. The entire city’s workforce other than public safety received the notices. The death drew remarks from the mayor that some found insensitive and emblematic of a ideology at odds with serving residents.

A group of four conservatives on the Costa Mesa City Council has proposed outsourcing city services to private companies to the consternation of labor unions and readied an attack on eliminating collective bargaining.

“The enemy of all Americans are at our gates,” Nick Berardino of the Orange County Employees Association. He told conventioneers Saturday in Sacramento, the Republican plan against organized labor is “an attack on democracy.”

Burton Urges Democrats To Fight Back Against Republican Agenda

By Steven Tavares
John Burton

Saturday is a time for the often profane chair of the California Democratic Party John Burton to gloat. After sweeping all nine state offices last November, it’s good to be a liberal in the Golden State, but in many ways California was a anomaly in an election featuring historic gains by Republicans across the country.

Burton opened the state Democratic Convention in Sacramento Saturday morning with a spate of shots at conservative ideology. “The voters may have wanted change, but they didn’t want a disaster,” said Burton.

He also urged delegates to fight back against Republican rollbacks of gains in women’s rights, labor issues and the environment. “They want to put poison back in the water,” Burton bluntly said of perceived attacks on environmental protections. “I don’t know if they can find anyone else to attack,” said Burton, “but they’ll do it.”

The San Francisco Democrat also called the open primary system “stupid” and vowed to elect “ real Democrats—liberal and progressive Democrats.”

Late Friday Burton told reporters he believes President Obama can garner at least 53 percent of the vote in California without doing a thing, but vowed he would deliver the state to Democrats in 2012. In a lighter moment, the gruff Burton jokingly chided the singing protesters who paid $78,000 to regale Obama last week in San Francisco. “They pay $78-grand, they can come back and insult me,” reported the Sacramento Bee. “They can take a dump in my salad for $78-grand."

Hayashi Votes Often, But Who's Pushing The Button?

A pensive Mary Hayashi sits in the assembly in a
well-known photo from the San Francisco Chronicle
A look by the Sacramento Bee this week into the voting records of members of the State Legislature brought with it news of a surprisingly punctual and engaged local lawmaker when it comes to registering votes in the assembly.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi missed or abstained on only 49 votes during last year’s session, according to the Bee, amounting to just one percent. Only two other legislators were better—Democrats Mike Feuer, Mike Gatto and Jim Beall. But, wait! We’re talking about Mary Hayashi here. Is there more to this profilic rate of voting?

You might remember back in 2008 the odd circumstances of “ghost voting” by Hayashi. The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Diaz described alternating green and red yea or no votes flashing on the assembly board under Hayashi’s name. Nobody knew who was pressing the button from her desk.

Might this be the reason for her near-perfect attendance when it comes to registering her vote? It could also account for routine absence around her district. I have been on the beat here for nearly two years and I have only seen her three times. Now we know where she is.

Leaders In Fremont Don't Have Anything To Do


You would think a large East Bay city staring at a huge budget deficit would have more to do, but not Fremont’s City Council.

The Fremont Bulletin reported this week Vice Mayor Suzanne Lee Chan asked city staff to look into reducing the number of meetings due to a lack pertinent issues recently for the group to deliberate. The trek out to Fremont for Tuesday night meetings has indeed been fruitless in recent weeks.

Aside from the city’s quite aggressive move against Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to eliminate redevelopement agencies, the action from Fremont has been relatively dull along with some meetings ending briskly; some times in less than an hour.

Is Fremont that well run despite the prospects of significant budget shortfalls or the sign of a apathetic population? Who knows? Cobbling together a work session with a regular meeting sounds like an efficient way to save time and money, but maybe Fremont needs something to talk about, too.

They could start by beginning to sort out how Union Pacific sullied their plans for a tech hub of tomorrow surrounding the Nummi/Tesla plant with the railroad's purchase of adjacent land proposed for a railway depot. Nothing says the future than a rumbling choo-choo train.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Could Prola Be Snubbed Again For Vice Mayor?

By Steven Tavares

Once upon a time the appointment of a new vice mayor was often about who’s turn is it next? A year ago, the election of Ursula Reed was steeped in campaign backstabbing.

Former mayor Tony Santos vowed to block the re-appointment of his then-mayoral opponent—Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak. He succeeded, but ultimately failed in getting a trusted supporter the job.

Although Councilman Jim Prola appeared likely to gain the city’s equivalent to vice president, a motion put forth by Councilman Michael Gregory was thwarted by Starosciak supporters, namely Councilwoman Diana Souza and Reed.

In a strange turn of events, Reed came away with the title. Monday night, the San Leandro City Council could name a new vice mayor, but could Prola’s appointment be stymied again by politics held over from last November’s election?

The District 6 representative again appears likely the favorite to become the next vice mayor, but his convergent views with Mayor Stephen Cassidy might again shuffle support on the council. Cassidy, though, has tepid support among council members, but appears to have gained less pushback recently from his former colleague on the school board, Councilwoman Pauline Cutter and the current vice mayor, Reed.

What could be the alternatives? One could be re-upping Reed for another year, choosing Gregory or to a lesser extent, Souza. Starosciak has held the position and Cutter has been on the job only four months. The extra work of vice mayor (if there is any?) shouldn't faze Prola. He already goes to all the meetings and honestly how can you deny a guy who truly loves attending mosquito abatement hearings?

Dissolution of ACAP Could Cost County Cities $1.9 Million

By Steven Tavares

The San Leandro City Council will need to do something nearly every city in Alameda County is grappling with—how to pay for the rapid and controversial fall of a three-decades-old program designed to help those in poverty, but now nears dissolution because of gross mismanagement by its director and governing board.

The cost of the plan to square away the finances and debts of the Associated Community Action Program (ACAP) could run as high as $1.9 million, according to a report before the San Leandro City Council for discussion Monday night. The figure is similar to estimates brought before other cities in Alameda County, who according the Joint Powers Authority agreement are liable for an equal share of ACAP’s finances amounting to a one-thirteenth share. The ACAP governing board is made up of 12 county cities not including Oakland and Berkeley, in addition to a representative from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

Stephen Hollister, San Leandro’s city manager, will ask the city council Monday to approve an additional $121,539 for the city share of ACAP’s costs. The management company hired by the ACAP governing board in late March estimates the cost of winding down the program’s debt, liabilities, insurance and outstanding wages will run as high as $1.28 million. It also communicated to a group of city managers from member cities an additional $600,000 may be needed to close out ACAP’s outstanding debts, some of which the firm says will not be known until close out of its books are complete. Each city previously contributed $25,000 to ACAP earlier this month, much of which went to pay back wages to its roughly 30 employees.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Thirty-One East Bay Schools Uncertified For Quakes Over Decade

By Steven Tavares

McKinley Elementary in San Leandro has been
uncertified by state earthquake standards
 for over a decade.
A large number of East Bay public schools have languished for over a decade on a lengthy list of building project that lack earthquake certification, according to a recent investigative series by the web site California Watch.

Thirty-one public schools located in Fremont, Hayward, San Leandro, San Lorenzo and Castro Valley appear in the site's database of institutions containing at least one building project that lacks certification to withstand the effects of an earthquake according to the state’s Field Act standards. Washington High School in Fremont alone contains five uncertified building projects on its campus alone. In addition, four other elementary schools in Fremont contain more than one outstanding certification. Nearly all of the insufficiently certified projects in the East Bay have been known for over a decade, according to the reports.

In San Leandro, John Muir Middle School and Woodrow Wilson Elementary on Williams Street, William McKinley Elementary and James Madison Elementary contain at least one uncertified earthquake-proof project. San Lorenzo High School and Bay Elementary in San Lorenzo also were listed on the AB 300 listing.

Hayward Approves Resolution Against Assembly Bill On Ideological Grounds

By Steven Tavares

There was hardly any debate Tuesday night as the Hayward City Council unanimously approved giving Mayor Michael Sweeney the go-ahead to compose letters of opposition against an assembly bill that the city admits has no relation to anything it plans to do here in the future. The impetus instead is ideological, they say.

Michael Sweeney
 City Manager Fran David said there is no plan whatsoever to outsource operation of any of its libraries. In fact, the thought never even crossed her mind, she said, until learning the details of Santa Barbara Assemblyman Das Williams’ bill calling for a vote of the people if a city chooses to outsource to a for-profit library vendor.

David again said the bill would “usurp” the power of local government. She believes the bill is just another power play by lawmakers in Sacramento to dictate to cities without giving local municipalities the support and tax dollars to achieve those goals. David said any decision to outsource services based on the current economy is the call of elected council members and no different than the process the community goes through to change any other type of city contract.

Sacramento’s chronic habit of financial takebacks from local communities is a quite prevalent criticism in nearly all city council chambers, but the amount of discontent in Hayward has been slowly simmering for months and Sweeney again took a shot Tuesday at the capitol’s perceived hypocrisy. “Given that the state like to take our money, it’s particularly outrageous for them to start telling us what we can and cannot do,” said Sweeney.

Not a public meeting has gone by in Hayward without a similar comment from Sweeney, who easily won re-election last November despite rising crime and apathy along with a school district teetering on the verge of a state takeover. It is also both ironic and telling that Sweeney would become the East Bay’s most vocal mayor against tyranny from Sacramento. Maybe he knows best? Afterall, Sweeney did serve in the assembly over a decade ago before becoming mayor.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Chan Asks ACMC To Drop Proposed Lease With Sutter For Hospital

By Steven Tavares

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan has notified the CEO of the Alameda County Medical Center the Board of Supervisors will not support a potential lease it signed in 2009 with Sutter Health for San Leandro Hospital.

In a letter sent April 19, Chan, writing on behalf of the Board of Supervisors, told Alameda County Medical Center CEO Wright Lassiter the proposal cannot go forward and offered to begin discussions for an alternative plan to replace the acute rehabilitation beds due to be lost by the closing of Fairmont Hospital in San Leandro.

Chan said recent reports have shown the need to maintain emergency services and acute beds at San Leandro Hospital trumps an also critical dearth of acute rehabilitation beds in the county, making the 2009 deal “no longer feasible.” She also made reference to considerable opposition in the community to closing San Leandro Hospital’s emergency room.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Wieckowski’s Bill Regulating Use Of Fracking Fluids Passes First Test

By Steven Tavares

Natural gas fracking drills like this could become more
common in California. The largest oil sands opportunity
 in the U.S. is located in Central California.
A bill offered by Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski hopes to regulate gas and oil companies utilizing fracking in California before they endanger the environment similar to recent reports in Texas and Pennsylvania where contaminants polluted surrounding well waters and topography.

The use of hydraulic fracturing to release gas and oil deposits trapped in sand and shale formations has increased in use as the drilling technique becomes cheaper with breakthroughs in technology. Energy companies typically blast water at high pressures to crack the formation freeing natural gas and oil deposits, but on some occasions, highly toxic chemicals are used, in addition to some radioactive compounds, which are not readily communicated with locals. Recently, ground water surrounding operations in Pennsylvania and Texas contaminated the areas.

Wieckowski’s bill would force energy companies to notify state regulators of specific chemicals used in fracking along with notifying residents within a mile radius of the drilling. An legislative analysis of the bill said, although California is the nation’s fourth largest producer of oil, the use of fracking in the state is low, but is expected to increase in future years because of advances in techniques.

Lockyer Tries To Get Trail Naming With A Little Help From His Friends

By Steven Tavares

Bill Lockyer is a powerful man. Most likely the most influential politician San Leandro has ever produced, but when does the good deeds of public service and accolades of a storied career in Sacramento bleed into overheated egotism and vision of grandeur?

It is well-known, California’s treasurer told friends and political allies last year he would do everything possible to get his wife, Nadia Lockyer, elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Through funding her campaign with a whopping $2 million in donations from his own campaign for re-election, she won 66 percent of the vote last November. Lockyer used his vast financial connections to efficient use in that race, but he was reminded last week his political power and hubris can only go so far.

The proposal to name the BayTrail after Lockyer struck many as overstepping the limits of their ability to feed into the treasurer’s gravy train. When completed, the BayTrail will encircle the Bay Area with over 300 miles in bike and walking trails. The concept and much of the heavy lifting was done by Lockyer during his time in the Legislature. The nature trail is surely one of the most popular and visionary pieces of legislation emanating from Sacramento, arguably, in the past 25 years. San Leandro honored its native son last year by naming its piece of the BayTrail after Lockyer, but a peculiar ally last month brought the proposal forward to name the entire trail after Lockyer.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hayward Objects To Assembly Bill It Says Takes Away Local Control

By Steven Tavares

Asm. Das Willams' bill
is coming under fire
in Hayward.
Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney has been quite upset over the past few months by Sacramento’s wanton grabs for control of local government as an antidote to its own woeful fiscal situation and he is not close to cooling off anytime soon.

Sweeney, a former state assemblyman himself, plainly asserted recently both Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi be roundly admonished if they supported Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to dissolve redevelopment agencies. Lately, he has routinely inserted pointed jabs during council comments criticizing lawmakers for not acting in their constituent’s best interests.

It is obvious Hayward is hunkering down on its position against state control and is scheduled to take another stand Tuesday night when it discusses raising objections to an assembly bill regarding county free libraries and outsourcing. The city believes it is just another attempt to wrest control from its local authority even though it is supported by some unions and liberal groups.

The proposed bill (AB 438) authored by Assemblyman Das Williams (D-Santa Barbara) would call for public hearings and approval by referendum if a city council or similar body chooses to outsource operations of local libraries to a private, for-profit contractor. Current law gives discretion to local governments to make the decision. And as more cities look for ways to trim local budgets while maintaining a full slate of city services, the option to outsource library functions to private entities has been on the rise.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Cassidy’s Inner Circle Asks To See City Employee Emails To The Citizen

By Steven Tavares

A member of the San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s inner circle has made two requests in the past three weeks to retrieve emails sent by city employees to and from the East Bay Citizen, according to numerous sources at City Hall.

Magarita Lacabe, the wife of San Leandro School Trustee Mike Katz-Lacabe and member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, made Freedom of Information Act requests to the city on March 28 and again April 15 asking for electronic correspondence made by the city council and city employees to this reporter between September 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010.

Lacabe and her husband have long been vocal critics on a range of city issues and have published their opinions in the blogosphere and local newspapers. Both currently maintain blogs pertaining to San Leandro. The couple also have a tight relationship with Cassidy. Katz-Lacabe sat on Cassidy’s campaign committee along with having a voice on the mayor’s transition team. Lacabe is also known to have frequent access to the mayor’s audience.

Through the emails request, it is believed Lacabe is attempting to locate information on discussions this reporter and former San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos may have had during the last mayoral election. The East Bay Citizen published numerous article detailing Cassidy in a negative light leading up to the election and since he become mayor earlier this year. Just last month, it was reported Katz also requested information through the same public information act on the San Leandro Police Department’s SWAT unit.

Why Team Cassidy Is Keeping Tabs On City Employee Emails

By Steven Tavares

About a year ago, I was having a conversation about Margarita Lacabe, the wife of San Leandro School Board Trustee Mike Katz-Lacabe and propagator of an inquiry into my emails with city councilmembers and city employees. The well-known political consultant I was chatting with and known for his sometimes salty language said she has bigger balls than Mike, if the oftentimes meek school board members had any at all.

Without doing due diligence, her latest escapade adds to her reputation as the Doyenne of Discontent as she attempts to portray herself as the city’s newest investigative blogger under the guise of quelling the most independent voice against Mayor Stephen Cassidy, seems to prove him correct.

Whatever Lacabe’s reasons for requesting emails to and from me to city employees, the former mayor and members of City Council, the intent is clearly to intimidate a rapidly burgeoning amount of discord among city employees against Cassidy’s actions and foster fear of retribution in the event any of them should ponder blowing the whistle against his administration.
Cassidy may deny any role in Lacabe’s actions to dig for information given to me by city officials and employees, but make no mistake, Cassidy’s inner circle worked diligently to get him elected and have increasingly shown a fervor to remake San Leandro in the eyes of a sometimes competing band of liberals in the San Leandro Hills.

Very few in San Leandro have been able to dodge a conflict with the notoriously unstable Margarita Lacabe who has brought her brand of hubristic opinions to her own San Leandro blog. Apparently, she is also a self-made media expert who frequently uses the phrase, "I think" to punctuate her points. Incidentally, does the Katz Family have a bustling newsroom in their basement, or what? What’s the progeny of two hard-working bloggers to do but create their own kid blog and rail against the blatant use of imitation mac and cheese by the cafeteria lady at Roosevelt Elemenetary?

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Sustainable City Strategy Finds Many Detractors In Hayward

By Steven Tavares

The Metropolitan Transportation Commission thinks job growth in Hayward over the next quarter century will greatly outstrip the city’s ability to build additional housing. With more resources flowing towards Sacramento to alleviate the state’s budget situation, the city is feeling the pinch from both sides.

In a effort to create a regional Sustainable Communities Strategy mandated by legislation three years ago, that would, among other things, reduce the per capita creation of greenhouse gases 15 percent by 2035 and promote affordable housing in tandem with walkable cities, an initial report forecasts job growth in Hayward to increase over 28 percent over the next 25 years and housing creation topping an additional 32 percent.

Many at the joint meeting of the Hayward City Council and planning commission said the projection, believed to have been put forward by the Association of Bay Area Governments, would be impossible to attain.

Hayward’s job growth figures since 1980, according to Development Services Director David Rizk, increased by just 2.8 percent. Rizk said he believes ABAG is expecting robust job creation from burgeoning high tech and green tech companies in the region. “It’s universal that nobody believes these numbers are realistic,” said Mayor Michael Sweeney.

Santos Seeks Hawaiian Punchout Of Ranked Choice Voting

By Steven Tavares

For whatever it means, there is a common refrain among opponents of ranked-choice voting across the country. Most like former San Leandro mayor Tony Santos were for it before they were against it and paid the price.

Santos lost last November’s mayoral election despite winning more first-place votes than the eventually winner Stephen Cassidy, who earned just over 35 percent of the vote. It was the former mayor, though, who was the unique voting system’s top proponent and the sting of his defeat at the hands of it has transformed Santos into an active member of the revolt springing up in various locales across the nation.

After claiming victory for his efforts to stop the Colorado city of Fort Collins earlier this month from approving RCV, Santos has turned attention to his birthplace—Hawaii—to aid the Honolulu City Council in stopping the state House of Representatives from approving a bill to bring RCV to county elections.

The Honolulu City Council Thursday unanimously approved a resolution against the legislation which will be heard in committee hearings Friday morning.

Santos has become involved in stopping RCV in his home state since January. He sent the city council an open letter then saying, "I was born and raised on the Island and still have many relatives on the Island. As someone from Honolulu, I would not want to subject them to instant runoff voting.” He has plans to visit Hawaii in the near future to step up efforts against RCV.

Many of the same criticisms voiced by detractors in the Bay Area cities which employ variations of ranked-choice voting---San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro—namely, the potential confusing of voters, infringement of voting rights and initial start-up costs exist among some in Honolulu.

“It’s a huge infringement on the long established concept of home rule and an assault on our democratic form of government in clear violation of the Constitutional principle of one man-one vote,” said Tom Berg, a newly-elected Honolulu city councilman. “It’s also an unfunded, discriminatory mandate on just two of our four counties during a time of scarce resources."

The story is also tinged with rumors the bill hoping to adopt ranked-choice voting is part of a political vendetta against Berg and a Hawaiian congressmen, both recently elected in special elections.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Is Cassidy Attempting To Hand-Pick The New City Manager?

By Steven Tavares

Government transparency for San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy usually means recording city hearings for broadcast on the web. Increasingly, though, it is not what is occurring at these meetings that is worrying some city officials and employees, it’s what they are not privy to know, primarily, the details of the city's crucial search for a new city manager.

At issue is the mayor’s push to relegate the canvassing for candidates to replace San Leandro City Manager Stephen Hollister—arguably the city’s most powerful post--to a select few. Instead, Cassidy, Vice Mayor Ursula Reed and Councilwoman Diana Souza will whittle down perspective candidates through a less visible form of a meeting known as an ad hoc committee where members and their discussion are not hindered by public disclosure of their deliberations like typical standing committees and council meetings.

Some worry Cassidy, who has grown a reputation for resisting comity and conciliation when confronted with opposing opinions, has made a power grab in steering a candidate of his own choosing.

“It’s not the process I would have went with,” said San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola, who was tersely shot down by Cassidy during discussion Monday night of the ad hoc committee’s process regarding screening prospective hires. “That’s not the way we’re going to do it,” Cassidy told him. Prola, instead, said he supported hiring a professional recruiting firm to perform the search.

County Policy Makers Need To Follow St. Rose's Lead

By Jeanine Chatman and Carol Barazi

The future of San Leandro Hospital has been in doubt for over two years, but at long last, there is now hope to save the hospital—and to save the lives of untold numbers of its patients. Seeing this hope to fruition must become an urgent priority for all Alameda County policy makers.

In recent weeks, St. Rose Hospital, a well-respected nearby facility, has stepped forward with an offer to assume control of San Leandro Hospital and secure its future. St. Rose has committed to keeping the facility open as a full-service, acute-care hospital, as it has been for generations.

We didn’t always have hope that this facility could be saved. Sutter Health currently runs San Leandro Hospital, and is a chain that has generated controversy around the Bay Area for its cutbacks and closures of services at many of its facilities. It has long tried to close this hospital, claiming losses it is unable to fully prove.

Sutter has been in negotiations with Alameda County Medical Center in an attempt to transfer the hospital to them, convert the facility to a rehabilitation center, and eliminate all inpatient services including the emergency room. In recent months, a “hybrid model” has been proposed which would keep some acute-care services but downgrade much of the facility to rehabilitation, urgent care, and medical offices.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Tax Day Protesters In Oakland Tell Corporate America To Pay Their Share

Protesters rally Monday afternoon in Downtown Oakland in front of the Citibank branch on Broadway calling for America's largest companies to pay corporate income tax. Rallies were also held at the Chevron headquarters in San Ramon and later in San Francisco in front of the Wells Fargo Bank corporate offices.
By Steven Tavares

OAKLAND - On a day when millions of Americans dread writing out large checks to the federal government, protesters across the Bay Area trained their focus on some of the richest corporations in the world failing to pay taxes through exemptions and corporate loopholes.

Over 100 people gathered Monday afternoon in Oakland in front of the Citibank branch at Broadway and 13th Street chanting “Make them pay!” and carrying placards reading “Jail the Banksters.” The rally organized by Moveon.org attracted a large number of onlookers milling about for an late afternoon break and elicited shouts of encouragement and honking horns from cars passing through downtown Oakland.

Marv Tripp of Oakland says he's been around a long time, but has never seen wealthy interests run amok like this in his lifetime. He railed against 30 years of conservatism starting with President Reagan slowly stripping Americans of their economic well-being. “They said cutting taxes for the rich would bring prosperity and all kinds of growth,” said Tripp, who said afterwards he had never spoken in public before today. “Did that happen? No! All the spending is by the wealthy to buy our Congress.”

The statement urged one man to yell the Supreme Court has also been bought by corporate interests, while another offered trillion dollars wars in Iraq and Afghanistan backed by the wealthy against the economic interests of Americans as part of the dilemma facing the country.

Another speaker used the rising strength of the Tea Party for progressives to use as a blueprint for their causes saying it needs to be even stronger than the nascent group purported to believe in stemming the flow of taxes to fund big government in Washington. Despite the somewhat similar aims of both ideologically opposed groups, some protesters said they find adherents of the Tea Party to be easily manipulated by corporate and wealthy interests. “I call them information lite,” Tripp said of the Tea Party.
There were no visible groups or individuals offering an opposing view to the protesters who labeled 12 of the largest U.S. corporations who did not pay taxes last year the “Deadbeat Dozen.” Those include General Electric, Bank of America, Google, BP, Amazon, Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Boeing, ExxonMobil, FedEx Goldman Sachs and Chase.

Similar protests against corporate “tax dodgers” occurred Monday across the country. In the Bay Area, protesters chanted similar anti-business slogan in front of the Chevron corporate headquarters in San Ramon before heading to the downtown Oakland. Many of the protesters from Oakland packed up after 3 p.m. and headed towards another rally to be held at the headquarters of Wells Fargo at Montgomery Street in San Francisco.

“Our country is not broke,” said Charles Davidson, the East Bay coordinator for Moveon.org, “but we are giving it away to corporation and letting them get away Scot-free." He singled out General Electric for reporting over $14 billion in earnings last year without paying a single dollar in taxes. “This is the corporation that is the worst in shipping jobs overseas,” said Davidson. It was the publicizing of General Electric’s failure to pay taxes two weeks ago by Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders that led to outrage across the country along with a focus on other American multi-national corporations who have carved out their tax loopholes through legislation and tucking away earnings in more tax-friendly countries around the globe.

Berkeley residents Simi Litvak and Pnina Tobin attended the protest but didn’t expect becoming the afternoon’s most poignant moment when they volunteered to deliver a petition from the group to the Citibank branch manager. Litvak, wheelchair-bound, entered the bank and confronted the manager who refused to accept the documents. When she reported the manager had told them he was expecting the protesters at his door, those outside rose in hearty cheers. “

“I said to the manager, ‘You won’t even take this? You won’t even read this?’” Litvak said she attempted to engage the manager by saying “we need to take care of our children.” The manager, according to Litvak, responded by saying “I take care of my children.”

She says the manager communicated with her corporate had told him the protesters were allowed on the sidewalk, but once they entered the building, “that was my territory.” She added he said he was not interested in anything they had to say, but with a large man standing next to him, she said he was polite, nonetheless.

Stark, Lee and Others Urge IRS To Reform Innocent Spouse Relief

By Steven Tavares

Members of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, including ranking member Rep. Pete Stark want the Internal Revenue Services to revisit a little-used tax code allowing spouses to apply for relief from liability of fraudulent joint tax returns filed by their partners.

Stark along with 48 members of the House, including Rep. Barbara Lee and three members of the U.S. Senate sent a letter to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman asking him to take another look at what is known as “innocent spouse relief.”

Every years over 50,000 spouses apply for the designation after learning their counterpart had claimed false income on their tax forms. The problem, according to Stark and others, is the 1998 rewriting of IRS code calls for an arbitrary two-year window to report such claims, but allows the IRS 10 years to investigate tax forms. The 8-year disparity, many believe, disproportionately affects women, including those who are the victims of domestic violence.

“In many cases, either because of intimidation or deception on the part of the joint filer, an innocent spouse is left holding the bag,” said Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin. “Allowing the truly innocent spouse the right to file for protection without an arbitrary deadline is crucial since, in many cases, they simply do not know what was done until the IRS informs them.”

According to the letter sent today, lawmakers believe the tax-collecting body improperly transferred the two-year limit over a decade ago from another section of the tax code. “When Congress created the “innocent spouse” protection in the Internal Revenue Code, we did not mandate a statute of limitation for equitable relief claims raised under IRC 6015(f) and 66(c). However, the IRS enacted regulations limiting this protection to two years.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Alameda County Swimming In The Red To Tune of $138 million

By Steven Tavares

The slow pace of economic recovery in Alameda County and a steep uptick in demand for social services has the county administrator forecasting a budget deficit of nearly $138 million for the next fiscal year.

Despite another round of potentially brutal cuts to staff and services, the budget shortfall has decreased for the second straight year from a record of $177.6 million in 2009-10 to $152.4 million last year. There is little solace, though, in the fact more residents hurting from the Great Recession continue to demand additional services from the county.

Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi said Thursday there has been a 29 percent increase in demand for public assistance, from $75 million last year to a projected $97 million next year.

Muranishi reminded the Alameda County Board of Supervisors earlier this month, over two-thirds of last year’s funding gap was closed with one-time-only funds. She detailed some of those revenues left bare this time around, including a loss of over $19 million in federal stimulus dollars and a 2.6 percent decrease in county revenues.

Among the factors leading to a third consecutive shortfall in the six-digits, according to Muranishi, is a slow recovery, high unemployment remaining stagnant at 11 percent and home values significantly down over $300,000 from just three years ago.

The Board of Supervisors will begin identifying areas of the county’s $2.5 billion budget to target for reduction starting this week. A proposed budget is slated for presentation in early June with approval likely at the June 24 board meeting.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The War In Hayward Will Be Televised

By Steven Tavares

Students at Hayward High School have taken to YouTube’s catchphrase, “Broadcast Yourself” in a string of shocking and well-viewed videos showing chaotic and violent melees on its campus.

The footage, in most cases shot shakily, feature students throwing blows, wrestling upon the ground and hurling racial epitaphs. The tenor of the brawls featured on YouTube are surreal in their intensity and breadth. All include not just one isolated fight, but, at times, numerous conflicts at once with dozens of spectators following the free-for-all as it randomly flows across the campus.

The Daily Review today detailed one such fight April 8 including a suspected adult gang member tussling with a student. The clip shot by a student of the brawl is featured above and labeled "Nortenos vs. Blacks." It shows multiple conflicts between blacks and Latinos, a female fighting a young man, a teenager with his shirt torn off and a car rolling up on the fight acting as getaway before police sirens are heard in the distance.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Plan For San Leandro Hospital You've Been Waiting For

By Steven Tavares

The dedicated folks who have successfully kept San Leandro Hospital open for over two years despite pressure from Sutter Health and others to close the facility have never been particularly interested in compromise.

Whether feasible or not the mission of this group of doctors, nurses and concerned residents has been to rebuff Sutter and maintain the hospital’s services just the way they stand today as a full-service facility with an emergency room. Despite their firm beliefs, the notion has really only been pie-in-the-sky until Wednesday.

Enter the well-groomed and charismatic president and CEO of St. Rose Hospital Michael Mahoney. His plan to consolidate his facility with San Leandro Hospital under the stewardship of the Eden Township Healthcare District is the proposal the community has been waiting. Not only would it make both hospitals self-sufficient, it would reorganize the manner in which the local healthcare district provides care to its residents. Make no mistake, the amount of political juggling needed by Mahoney and District Chair Carole Rogers is going to be enormous. Not only will they somehow need to convince Sutter Health this “two-hospital system” will not interfere with its bottom line with a gleaming new Castro Valley Medical Center sprouting up nearby, but it will need to convince the Alameda County Board of Supervisors of the plans merits.

Lee: GOP 'War On Women' Is 'Shameful'

Rep. Barbara Lee speaking on the floor of the House Thursday in opposition to cuts for social programs that uniquely affect women.

St. Rose CEO Unveils Details Of Plan To Save San Leandro Hospital

By Steven Tavares

The president and CEO of St. Rose Hospital thinks he may have the silver bullet needed to save San Leandro Hospital while remaking how health care is dispersed in the Eden Township Healthcare District. Before that happens he’ll need to convince the county board of supervisors and then cajole Sutter Health to drops its claim on the hospital. Not an easy task.

Michael Mahoney gave the public its first glimpse of his proposal to form a “two-hospital system” within the current Eden Township Healthcare District and composed of St. Rose Hospital and San Leandro Hospital without losing any of the services each facility provides to local residents. Mahoney told the District Board of Directors, the conceptual plan could be employed in a sustainable fashion with the use of federal matching funds.

“It is possible to run the organization in a profitable, sustainable manner,” said Mahoney. “It is not without its challenges. A lot of hard work, a lot of commitment needs to be shown from the medical staff and everyone down the line. But, I think we have shown we can do that.”

Much of concept is centered around creating a larger economy of scale in the District by St. Rose joining the District along with San Leandro Hospital. Both would be under the auspices of the current District board, while the facilities would combine their front offices and management. Each hospital would continue to perform their current functions highlighted by two round-the-clock emergency rooms. The issue of functioning ERs has been the main sticking point for supporters of San Leandro Hospital who feared many lives would be lost by Sutter and the county’s decision to potentially shut down the ER and convert the hospital to an acute rehabilitation facility.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Two East Bay Leaders Attempt To Saves Lives At Any Cost

By Steven Tavares

At first glance, there is little commonality between San Leandro Hospital and Hayward’s proposed gas-fired, 600-megawatt Russell City Energy Center other than the causal effect of pollution from one eventually landing you in the other.

What the neighboring conflicts share are the political courage of two people to do what is right rather than basing their decisions on the monetary costs. Critics of the Eden Township Healthcare District Boardmember Carole Rogers and Chabot College Chancellor Joel Kinnamon charge both with spending exorbitant public funds on seemingly hopeless causes—one, saving a community hospital and the other, ensuring the health of 20,000 students located just miles from a power plant.

Both stories are difficult to report and span the better part of the last decade. It is one of the reasons why both have suffered from local coverage sorely lacking anything but the insipid slant of big business. In the Russell City’s case, two recent articles seemingly derided Chabot College for spending its dwindling public dollars on a case deemed a lost cause. Why? Apparently because they are the sole entity attempting to thwart the power plant from gaining a license. In reality, Chabot College is the only participant unwilling to accept enticements from the operator of the future power plant, Calpine.

Corbett Takes On The Congo

Rep. Barbara Lee and George Clooney have Darfur. Madonna has Malawi. Angelina Jolie has half of the third world countries and Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett has the Congo.

Corbett appeared Tuesday with groups supporting her bill to deem companies that procure raw minerals from the rebel-led Eastern Congo to be ineligible to bid for state contracts.

Raw “conflict minerals” such as tin ore, tantalum, tungsten and gold are easily procured in the Congo and come relatively cheap by the rebel use of slave labor. Those minerals help power many of the smart phones in use today while fueling one of the most diabolical and ruthless wars in the past century. The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristoff wrote of the African conflict and its funding with raw minerals.

The issue for Corbett is basic humanity, but it also shows a willingness seen in the past to take on the state’s tech-heavy establishment. You might remember she went after Facebook last year unsuccessfully to force them to scrub the home addresses and phone numbers of minors from the pages.

While companies making iPhones and Android smartphones whittled down their bottom lines by trading with Eastern Congo rebels, the ability to chat seamlessly via text messages could come at the cost of thousands of mutilated and raped women and children a continent away. Most times in the state Legislature all politics is local, in this case, Corbett thinks it’s ringing in your pocket.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

EBMUD Director To Former Opponent: You Ain’t A Ute!

By Steven Tavares

The recently re-elected board member for the East Bay Municipal Utility District is protesting the appointment of his election opponent to Castro Valley’s quasi-governmental advisory committee.

Questions over Matt Turner's
resume holds up pick for
Castro Valley MAC.
Frank Mellon easily beat Matt Turner last November with nearly two-thirds supports, but Tuesday he furnished the Alameda County Board of Supervisors with a memo urging them to reconsider appointing his one-time rival to the Castro Valley Municipal Action Committee.

Mellon says Turner lied about the breadth of his experience at the University of Utah and questioned his resume as a “wilderness EMT” saying there is no designation in California. "This is a question of ethics and responsibility," Mellon told the Board of Supervisors Tuesday morning,adding, "This is not a vendetta."

On Turner’s campaign web site for the EBMUD board, he does not explicitly say he graduated from Utah, but obliquely references time at unidentified schools. “Matt received a broad-based higher education at colleges and universities across the country and internationally while working in the construction trades to support himself, eventually becoming a Wilderness EMT teaching state-of-the-art patient recovery, care and transport,” Turner says in his biography.

Turner defended himself before the board with numerous EMT certificates in tow along with transcripts from Utah. He refuted ever referring to himself as a wilderness EMT, although he stated years of similar experience in Mexico.

The appointment of Turner was included on Tuesday’s agenda until Mellon raised concerns about the candidate's character. The board of supervisors announced during its regular session today it would postpone approval of Turner until a later date while it investigated Mellon’s claims. Miley said he had been alerted to Mellon's claims over a week ago, but had yet to make inquiries with Turner.

Mellon also said Turner had failed to file a campaign finance report with Fair Political Practice Commission earlier this year. Turner told the board, the FPPC had advise him the filing was held up because of a missing signatures, which he said would be ammended this week.

Appointment to the Castro Valley MAC is practically the most important political position in the unincorporated town. It acts similar to a city council, but without tangible power and reports directly to Supervisor Nate Miley, who represents Castro Valley at the county level.

UPDATE: Reporting from Tuesday's meeting was added to this article. 4/14/11, 2:30 p.m.

Expert Tells San Leandro To Lower Its Debt Burden To CalPERS

By Steven Tavares

An actuarial expert told the San Leandro City Council the best way to handle its rising obligations to employee pensions is to pay now or roll the dice in hopes of continued recovery by equity funds largely tied to the performance of its yearly financial returns.

John Bartel, a noted consultant on the sometimes arcane accounting rules used by CalPERS, advised the council Monday night during a special budget work session, its funding for a segment of public safety pensions, known as a side fund, run the possibility of costing the city in the long run and should be dealt with in the short-term.

He said since the city’s side fund sits in a decidedly volatile risk pool it is best to lower its exposure. “It would be the most cost-effective thing to do,” he said. San Leandro is expected to pay $2.48 million into the public safety side fund in the next fiscal year. That figure is projected to steadily rise over the next decade to over $3.6 million in 2023. “To the extent that you have a fixed debt, do what you should to get that debt down,” said Bartel, who encouraged, “Pay that off as soon as possible.”

Monday, April 11, 2011

Lee Unhappy About Budget Deal; Can't Help 99ers, But Fasts For Poor

By Steven Tavares

Many Democrats are unhappy about the deal struck with House Republicans late Friday night which averted a shut down of government services. The most liberal member of congress, Rep. Barbara Lee was most critical of the deal amounting to the largest single spending cut in U.S. history, saying it was forged on the backs of the poor and women.

”Republicans want to finance their unpaid-for tax breaks for the wealthy on the backs of our most vulnerable populations and under served communities,” Lee said, adding she would not support the resolution because it would greatly impact low-income families and the poor.

The $38.5 billion budget cut keeps the federal government running until September. But many like Lee felt the president gave too little in exchange and doubting funding for Planned Parenthood—a favorite target of Republicans—should have ever been on the chopping block in the first place. Reinstatement of the program is part of the deal made at 11 p.m. eastern time Friday, and hour before the deadline.

"It is also extremely disappointing that Republicans took our government to the brink of a costly shutdown all for the sake of preventing women from accessing critical health services like breast exams, prenatal care and birth control,” said Lee. “Republicans should stop trying to block women from getting the health care that they need and work with Democrats to craft a common-sense bill to fund our government.

Lee said she will work in coming months to reverse some of the cuts to social programs for the needy. A bill put forth by Lee to give long-term unemployed Americans a shot at receiving benefits appears to be foundering with stingy House Republican leadership. A meeting with Lee and GOP leaders discussing the bill to help so-called 99ers was scheduled for Thursday, but cancelled as budget negotiations continued through Friday night.

The East Bay's other congressional representative, Rep. Pete Stark, was also affected by the turbulence in Washington. He cancelled a town hall meeting this week in Fremont and Alameda due to the on-going negotiations. And in the meantime, Lee fasted for 24 hours to protest budget cuts for the poor. Watch the video:

Hayashi, Corbett Raked In $2,700 Last Year In Corporate Gifts

By Steven Tavares

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi spent an all-expense weekend in Beverly Hills on the tab of the California Dental Association, while Sen. Ellen Corbett went to Game 3 of last year’s National League Championship Series on the dime of State Farm Insurance. Both East Bay legislators together received over $2,700 in gifts last year from corporations, according to a database released by the Sacramento Bee.

Hayashi has always forged a tight bond with health providers. Most of the contributions to her past campaigns have been funded largely by hospital trade unions and physicians’ associations. In 2010, Hayashi received $1,601.57 in reported gifts, according to state campaign finance reports.

Last November, Hayashi received airfare, lodging, car service and dinner totaling $960.63. She spent the night at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills.

The assemblywoman, who is termed-out after 2012, is known to have expensive tastes, if not an eclectic palette. Like last year’s disclosure, Hayashi expenses and dinners with lobbyists tend to gravitate towards more haute cuisine than the local Olive Garden. She had dinner at San Francisco’s noted dining establishment, Boulevard, on Sept. 2  and paid for by Intuit. Less than a month later, the tech firm deposited $1,500 into Hayashi’s campaign for a largely unopposed race for assembly last fall.

Hayashi also dined earlier in the year at the Waterboy Restaurant in Sacramento with her consultant Ross Warren at GTech’s expense and again one month later at Ella’s Dining Room & Bar. GTech paid $466.02 for both get-togethers involving Hayashi and Warren, her frequent companion.

Corbett received in $1,145.18 in gifts last year. Her most lavish gift was worth $230 from State Farm Insurance for tickets to the Giants’ home playoff game Nov. 19.

Most of the gifts received by the legislators consists of dinners, cocktails and oddly, gift boxes filled with rice from a group representing rice producers.

The haul, though, represents a significant drop from past years when both Hayashi and Corbett received trips to Spain totaling over $10,000 to study water policy, high speed rail and infrastructure. The junket was funded by California Foundation for the Environment and the Economy. While our lawmakers were learning about Europe environmental policy, they apparently were teaching the Spaniards about California-style budget strategies. Along with Portugal, Ireland, and Greece, Spain (PIGS) is one of the continent's economic laggards.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Human Costs of Ending ACAP

By Steven Tavares

Despite the monetary costs of shutting down the Associated Community Action Program (ACAP) in Alameda County, some of the human costs are beginning to surface.

In Fremont, families struggling to survive, but with dreams of owning their own home one day could be left behind by the sudden loss of funding from the long-time anti-poverty program that up until this year procured and distributed over $3.5 million across the county.

Vital programs at the Fremont Family Resource Center will likely not survive ACAP’s impending dissolution in the next few months. The organization helped 50 families with financial counseling in addition to matching funds for savings to those interested in home ownership or starting small businesses. The city says those participating in the program have not been able to access their accounts since ACAP began laying off employees last month after payroll was not met for two months. Funding from ACAP also provided help for victims of violent crime. That program is also in jeopardy.

In many instances across the county, ACAP provided unique help and counseling for a wide range of clients, many of whom are down-and-out in addition to making the extremely difficult transition from incarceration to searching for employment and housing. During a meeting of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors last month, a former employee of ACAP lamented that without some of its programs, many client will turn to committing crimes to make ends meet.

The social costs are great to the 12 cities that encompass ACAP (12 East Bay cities, excluding Oakland and Berkeley, and a representative from the county Board of Supervisors). According to the Joint Powers Agreement among the cities, each is liable for an equal share of the program. In March, each city agreed to front ACAP $25,000 each to cover payroll and some of its obligations. Some cities, such as Albany and Emeryville balked , but eventually agreed, if not on the theory, it would be less costly to split legal costs among the 13, rather than potentially going it alone.

Part of the reluctance stemmed from the fact most ACAP’s endeavors were centered in San Leandro, Hayward and Fremont. Numerous organizations in San Leandro stands to be left in the lurch by the closing of ACAP, most notably, the Davis Street Family Resource Center.

One end around to the end of ACAP may entail regionalizing the services the program sought to fund around the county. Councilmembers in Fremont expressed interest this week in forming an organization with its Tri-City neighbors--Union City and Newark--to perform some of the same services backed by ACAP. Councilmembers Anu Natarajan and Bill Harrison both backed such an idea. Fred Diaz, Fremont’s city manager, said he also already spoken with officials in both cities, but believes any program must not include dollars from the general fund or further extend existing staff.

An audit by the county over ACAP's financial dealings has yet to be released despite being due over two weeks ago. The Alameda County District Attorney's Office has also not disclosed any criminal findings against the former ACAP executive director, who was fired in February after the governing board was first notified of the program's inability to pay outside vendors or meet payroll.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Do Gang Injunctions Curb Crime Or Allow Police Greater Focus?

Oakland city attorney again
mocks plaintiff snagged
by gang injunction
City officials in Hayward are watching Oakland’s experience with gang injunction intently for clues on how it can use the legal technique to curb its own problems with gang activity.

The San Francisco Chroncle’s Demian Bulwa reports today in the paper’s Crime Scene blog that two more of the 40 plaintiffs named in Oakland’s injunction were arrested this week. The number of arrests is now 15, according to the blog, but it also poses some interesting questions on how law enforcement and city officials can look at the effectiveness of gang injunctions.
That's either a strong argument for the injunction, which would bar the men from hanging out together in a 2-square-mile "safety zone" and impose a 10 p.m. curfew there, or it's an indicator that the criminal justice system is already well-equipped to handle these kinds of allegations without a costly civil suit. Or, in the view of defense attorneys, it's a sign that police have decided to put a laser focus on the 40 men.
Bulwa writes one of the latest arrestees is alleged to have been packing a rifle across his chest when apprehended leading to this hilarious quote from Oakland City Attorney John Russo who mocked the alleged gang member by comparing him to a character on the HBO crime drama, “The Wire.”

"If it wasn't so dangerous,” Russo told the Chronicle, “it would be almost laughable for someone to show up in court and proclaim his innocence, and then get caught running around Oakland with a rifle strapped to his chest like Omar from 'The Wire.'"

Russo openly teasing suspected gang members in the media and on Twitter has become common. He chastised another suspect in a tweet after police arrested the man while preparing to testify in court. "Gang injunction 'star' defndnt found last nite in car w drugs & gang symbols. Last wk he testified under oath that he knew nothing re. gangs," tweeted Russo.

Hayward’s foray into the legal world of gang injunctions is poised to begin sometime in the fall. There is no word yet on where the city intends to lay the borders of such injunction, but the city attorney said last month a 400-strong gang is being targeted for its first injunction.

Healthcare District Files Intent To Appeal Court Decision With Sutter

By Steven Tavares

The Eden Township Healthcare District could be on the hook for an additional $700,000 in legal fees if it does not win its appeal of a Superior Court decision last November.

The District has already spent over $2 million in fees to its legal council since Sutter Health filed suit against it in October 2009 over the title of San Leandro Hospital. Lawyers for Sutter filed a memorandum of costs Mar. 28 enumerating $700,117 in bills including attorney, filing and deposition fees. Over $679,000 of the total is attorney fees alone. A hearing to discuss awarding Sutter’s potential spoils is scheduled for Aug. 19, but in the meantime, the District hopes the legal process fails to get that far.

Lawyers for the District filed a notice to appeal the November decision on Monday. The move had been expected for months after the District Board of Directors approving the action in December.

Santos Claims Victory As Colorado City Turns Away RCV

By Steven Tavares

Tony Santos is finally victorious. No, a bundle of ballots were not found at the Marina. But the former San Leandro mayor who was upset by Stephen Cassidy last November during the city’s first-ever use of ranked-choice voting and now waging a campaign to discredit the system gained his first scalp Tuesday night as voters in Fort Collins, Colo. overwhelmingly voted against approval of the multiple-choice system.

Santos claimed victory after results of the April election in Colorado returned 61 percent of over 27,000 votes against enacting ranked-choice voting. The former mayor fought critics in San Leandro who called his reversal of opinion on the system after losing to Cassidy to be sour grapes. Santos said back in December that outside groups who pushed San Leandro, Oakland and Berkeley to approve RCV misrepresented its attributes. He now calls RCV “undemocratic.”

Over the past few months, Santos has made numerous phone calls to opponents of RCV in Minnesota, Hawaii and Fort Collins, including newspaper interviews and letters to various city councils. In a letter to The Coloradoan, Santos said RCV allows some voters more than one shot at determining a winner. “It gives some voters another bite of the apple,” he wrote.

It’s not known whether Santos’ personal experience with RCV in San Leandro swayed voters in Colorado to reject the voting system, but he knows one thing for sure: “The voters of Fort Collins know Cassidy didn’t receive 50 percent of the vote.”

So, it’s on to Honolulu for Santos, who returns to his native state to defend the island later this year against ranked-choice voting and an invasion of foreign ballot machines.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Alameda County Administrator Expects Triple Digit Deficit

By Steven Tavares

OAKLAND - County department heads spent hours Tuesday explaining the sorry shape of their respective budget forecasts while a dazed Alameda County Board of Supervisors guzzled coffee to stay alert. When it is all added up, the county’s deficit will likely hit “triple digits,” the county administrator said.

While a detailed budget forecast will not be available until April 14, County Administrator Susan Muranishi constructed a less-than-rosy budget scenario seemingly plagued with deepening deficits from the federal level on down.

Last year the Board of Supervisor balanced a record $152.4 million budget shortfall featuring stinging cuts to staff and much-needed social programs. To make matter worse, Muranishi said last year’s deficit was cured with 69 percent of one-time-only funding sources.

Much of the fear for this next fiscal years surrounds a torpid housing market in the Bay Area. Ninety percent of the county’s revenues come from property taxes. With home prices plummeting by a median average of nearly $300,000 over the past three years, there is much to be worried about.

Just a quarter of the county’s revenue, though, is discretionary, said Muranishi. Most of it comes from the state and federal government, but they will not do much to help the situation.

California is struggling to balance a $26 billion shortfall with the possibility rising for an “all cuts” budget after Gov. Jerry Brown ended negotiations with state Republicans last week. News from Washington Tuesday suggests Republicans may also allow a shut down of the federal government this Friday if they don’t secure additional cuts to the deficit from the president.

Tuesday’s early work session is the first of many discussion the board of supervisors will hold over the next two months. They hope to approve a budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year by the end of June.

Residents Say City Changed Rules, Footed Them With $10,000 Bill For Sewer Connection

By Steven Tavares

An aging century-old sewer line in San Leandro's north side is unrepairable and the city wants an angry group of nine homeowners to foot the bill in excess of $10,000 to connect to a city-owned adjacent line.

Residents crowded the San Leandro City Council chambers Monday night howling in protest to a change in the city’s administrative code last December made relatively under the radar. A clutch of nine homes located at a stretch on Dowling/Dutton/Beverly known as the Dutton Triangle were recently told a crumbling sewer line running underneath their homes would not be repaired. The issue was tabled during Monday's session for reconsideration, likely because of the vociferous blow back from residents.

The city, though, says the sewer line believed to have been constructed around 1900, is private property. As the area was reconfigured for homes in the 1920s, ownership of the sewer line was never accepted by the city, said Uche Udemezue, the engineering and transportation director for the city.

The city says because of the unique layout of the sewer line in the Dutton Triangle, much of the pipe passes through the backyards of homes and underneath existing structures. One two-story home at 325 Dowling was built directly above the sewer line making reconstruction unfeasible, the city says.

Residents, including the nine homeowners affected, say they were only notified earlier this year of the potential costs associated with connecting their homes to the city’s sewer main. Depending on the situation, the cost of linking their existing upper lateral to the a lower lateral could cost between $6-$10,000 with the city offering residents low-interest loans for the work. A lower lateral is defined as the section of the line connecting the home to the main under the public right of way, typically beginning at the sidewalk. A litany of residents Monday night showed uncommon anger for city officials and claimed the city surreptitiously sneaked the city code past an unsuspecting public.