Tuesday, May 31, 2011

LiveTweeting From Alameda County Reditsticting Meeting in Dublin

The East Bay Citizen's Nicholas Terry attended Tuesday night's Alameda County Board of Supervisors redistricting meeting in Dublin. Here's a rundown of his LiveTweeting of the meeting, the first of six in the next 10 days across the county. Follow him on Twitter @NicholasTerry and @eastbaycitizen.

I hope more citizens show up at redistricting meetings; I was the only regular Joe in the place. Didn't speak; would have been kicked out. #ALCOredistricting
1 hour ago»

A liar says his lie over and over until someone buys it. @AlamedaCounty @eastbaycitizen Sups will lie to get best political map. Sick.
1 hour ago»

New maps benefit long time incumbents who swear they want practical not political. Fool me once... @AlamedaCounty @eastbaycitizen
1 hour ago»

Sups question residency of map author; so I question residency of county staff. Fair? @eastbaycitizen @AlamedaCounty
1 hour ago»

I'll sum up meeting; "f you (voters)." @eastbaycitizen
1 hour ago»

Haggerty says people benefit from having 2 sups; how? County has no means to help anyone. @eastbaycitizen
1 hour ago»

Haggerty says he's not being political. But he's being political. Cares about what's best for Sups election odds. @eastbaycitizen
1 hour ago»

Miley says they'll be political, practical and legal when selecting map. Aka f you. We are in charge. @eastbaycitizen
1 hour ago»

Miley seemed nervous when he called Dem Chair "gal." it's ok. Better then me.
1 hour ago»

Sup Miley is campaigning. Some guy just burped. Well said.
1 hour ago»

Miley's Loss of Political Capital Hurting Those Connected to Him

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

When Arnold Schwarzenegger ran for re-election in 2006 he declared he was "for the children" of the state. In hindsight, the statement seems to have a whole new meaning, but its certitude is hard to oppose. Who, in fact, is against the children?

The same could be said about the possible loss of county funding for various drug and alcohol non-profits in Alameda County. Similarly, who is against helping those with debilitating addictions? Very few. But those behind non-profits like the Community Prevention of Alcohol-Related Problems (CommPre) are making some leery of its intentions in the wake of ACAP's disastrous fall from grace starting last March and ending with its dissolution this June.

Representatives for CommPre lodged numerous complaints against the Alameda County Behavorial Health Care Services in the Patch, saying the agency yanked its funding of over $300,000 from under them without notice. "There’s this whole lack of transparency," a prevention specialist for CommPre told the site. “There’s no way of showing why they did what they did and we’re just disappointed that BHCS didn’t really follow their own strategic plan.”

A few county workers have told The Citizen in recent weeks, though, there is a cloud of apprehension regarding CommPre, its director, her links to Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and similar intersections with the $1.8 million fiasco with ACAP.

Alameda County Redistricting Group Proposes Splitting Pleasanton

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen at twitter

The state is not the only government body doing more than moving the furniture around its legislative boundaries, local government is also dividing itself into district's at the county-level.

Two redistricting maps released today by an Alameda County Board of Supervisors ad-hoc committee and the Community Development Agency offer two proposals meant to even out the redistribution of population towards the county's eastside.

The proposed reconfiguration maintaining most of the current boundaries is already attracting criticism from officials in Pleasanton where that city would be split between Supervisor Scott Haggerty's District 1 and Nate Miley's District 4. The previous map used the natural boundary of Interstate 580 as the boundary and placing Dublin in Miley's district. The newest proposal would drop the boundary south below the freeway and bisecting Pleasanton. Aside from a movement of the boundaries in the north around Albany, there is very little difference in the map created a decade ago.

Despite the minimum changes for the 2011 map, an influx of residents towards the valley has become one of the top issues concerning the changing population of the East Bay and entire region.

No city in Alameda County came close to the increase in population in Dublin, where it grew by 53.6 percent to 46,036 people. Its Tri-Valley neighbors, Livermore and Pleasanton increased by 10.4 percent over the last 10 years, according to the U.S. Census. Those totals, though,represented average increases within the state, where the population grew by 10 percent. Alameda County, by contrast, grew by a measly 4.6 percent.

Like redistricting maps for the state Legislature and House of Representatives, each region must contain relatively equal numbers of people. In those regards, the largest shift in the county will occur in Supervisor Wilma Chan's District 3, where it is 22,000 people below the target variance of 302,000 people and Haggerty's District 1, which represents the largest positive variance topping over 29,000 new residents.

The second map, also created by the ad-hoc committee composed of Supervisors Haggerty, Miley and Keith Carson, is far more ambitious and vastly less complicated than the current setup, but unlikely to be approved.

Map B would stack Districts 2,3,4,5 along the San Francisco Bay and create one super district encompassing more than half the topography of the county. Carson's District 5 in the north would slide south, while Miley's District 4 would slide to the west to also represent Alameda. San Leandro would remain in Chan's District 3 and Nadia Lockyer's District 2 would gain more of Fremont from District 1.

The likelihood of Map B gaining any foothold does not appear likely. In the PowerPoint presentation for the series of six redistricting meetings in the next 10 days starting today in Dublin, there is no mention of the more radical proposal. The county's new district boundaries could be approved by the Board of Supervisors as early as the July 12 meeting and finalized two weeks later.

May 31, Dublin City Council Chambers, 100 Civic Plaza, Dublin, 6-8p.m.
June 1, Hayward City Hall, 777 B Street, Hayward, 6-8 p.m.
June 2, San Lorenzo Village HOA, 377 Paseo Grande, San Lorenzo, 6-8 p.m.
June 6, Northbrae Community Church, 941 The Alameda, Berkeley, 6-8 p.m.
June 8, Alameda County Admin Building, 1221 Oak Street, Oakland 6-8 p.m.
June 9, Fremont Library, 2400 Stevenson Blvd, Fremont, 6-8 p.m.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Wieckowski Fracking Bill Heads To Assembly Floor

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter
Basked in muted colors and soft lighting is a recent ExxonMobil is a relatively uplifting commericial running on cable television featuring the energy company's interest for tapping what it calls one of the world's largest deposits of oil sands in the world locating right here in the United States.

One problem. What the 30-second spot fails to communicate is a method for extracting those natural resources is one of the most hotly-debated environmental question in recent months and the topic of a bill authored by an East Bay lawmaker.

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski's bill forcing natural gas companies to disclose specifics of the chemicals they use during the practice of hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking passed a significant hurdle last Thursday on its way to discussion before the full assembly in coming weeks.

The legislation is one of the state's first forays into regulating the controversial process of fracking used to extract natural gas and oil trapped beneath rock and soil formations. The Assembly Appropriations Committee Thursday passed AB 591, 12-5.

Water is typically used in the process, but in more difficult extracting situations a wide array of chemicals are deployed without disclosure by the producers to the state or local authorities. "We need to exercise proper oversight into what is being injected into these wells,” Wieckowski said. “In order to protect our drinking water in California from the risk of pollution, disclosure is necessary.

While the use of fracking in California is not yet wide spread, large field of oil sands have been identified in the Central Valley. Other states, though, have had problems with fracking chemicals seeping into the ground water unbeknownst to residents. One instance earlier this year in Pennsylvania included an accident including the hazardous chemicals used in fracking flooding a local town.
"The public should know which chemicals are being used, said Wieckowski. "This is a reasonable step to increasing transparency as this technique increases in use.”

Friday, May 27, 2011

Redistricting Commission Still Relies On Special Interests Input

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

In the not so distant past, California judges, then legislators crafted peculiarly drawn districts maps up and down the state. Some took circuitous routes around areas containing minority groups with the potential to swing control of entire districts to other party. Gerrymandering became the norm rather than the exception. Under the spirit of the state's long history of governance by referendum, voters took control of the process of dividing the state.

Fourteen commissioners are just weeks from releasing the first proposed detailed map of the Citizens' Redistricting Commission, but the group may be in a no-win situation unable to make everyone happy.

In a Utopian world, the presence of the committee is meant to signify a transfer to redistricting power from Sacramento to the people, that is, if you believe the real power actually lies within the arena of ubiquitous special interests. Nearly 90 speakers were scheduled May 21 to lobby the redistricting committee at a hearing in Oakland. While some spoke on behalf of themselves and a few local elected leaders, in an example the law turning the redistricting process on its head, asked for consolidating bisected districts, the vast majority represented unions, a slew of minority groups and business interests looking to cajole the committee in a forming districts line advantageous to their own interests

When Bay Area residents from the spoke through their allotted two minutes, many urged the commission to separate more upscale areas in Eastern Alameda County and Contra Costa County from inland cities in the East Bay. San Leandro, for one, took a beating within the first 60 minutes of the hour afternoon hearing with numerous speakers referencing the Oakland suburb as having few economic and social similarities with cities to the east, such as Dublin, Pleasanton and Livermore. A businessman from Dublin argued the prevalence of farming in some parts of the Tri-Valley bear little resemblance to places like San Leandro. If there was a subtext to the argument from the mostly white speakers, it was made clear by a older woman from Orinda who characterized living in Berkeley and Oakland as "a different kind of living."

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Trio Of House Bills Hope To Legitimize Pot Business In East Bay

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

Although medical marijuana dispensaries are legal in California, good luck in accessing basic financial instruments provided by banks, who fear the businesses are a front for criminal activity.

Rep. Pete Stark
So, if you cannot provide financial documents as a dispensary owner during tax season, how can you deduct business expenses most other companies frequently enjoy? You can't, but three bills offered this week, including one by East Bay Rep. Pete Stark will go far in legitimizing the business activities of the controversial industry.

"Our tax code undercuts legal medical marijuana dispensaries by preventing them from taking all the deductions allowed for other small businesses,” Stark said while introducing H.R. 1985. “While unfair to these small business owners, the tax code also punishes the patients who rely on them for safe and reliable access to medical marijuana prescribed by a doctor.

Critics of the banks treatment of dispensary owners say withholding the ability of these business owners from deducting expenses forces them to conduct business in the sometimes shadowy world of cash-only transactions, which make it far more susceptible to crime.

In February, the Berkeley Patients Group appealed a ruling to pay $6.5 million in taxes on $51 million in receipts earned by the large dispensary. The State of Equalization denied their argument. Oakland's Harborside Health Center is also believed to be audited by the IRS.

Top Candidate For San Leandro City Manager Declines Offer

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

San Leandro's search for a city manager has become far more complicated in the past two weeks, according to a source familiar with the city council's deliberations.

The council met in a special closed session meeting May 21 not to finalize an agreement to offer the position to the preferred candidate culled from over 30 applicants, but to formulate a new direction after first choice of the ad-hoc committee rebuffed its offer.

Although the council approved the candidate by a slim 4-3 margin, the unknown person declined the job in the absence of a unanimous vote. The three-person ad-hoc committee made up of Mayor Stephen Cassidy and Councilwomen Ursula Reed and Diana Souza are believed to have voted with the majority.

On to Plan B.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Social Media Not Liking, Not Following Corbett's Privacy Bill

Facebook and Google are just getting into the lobbyist game in Washington which is surprisingly for two companies worth so much to Wall Street and users on Main Street. The two tech giant's rivalry has reached a fever pitch in recent weeks, but as the Wall Street Journal notes they are banding together to thwart two bills in the State Senate, one authored by Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett.

SB 242 hopes to protect underage
 users of social media like Facebook.
An objection by various social media companies to Corbett's SB 242 on May 16 said the bill "gratuitously singles out social networking sites without demonstration of any harm" while adding "There is no indication that California users of social networking sites are less sophisticated or more vulnerable than those Californians who do not use social networking sites, or that social networking sites are failing to appropriately communicate existing choices to their users."

Corbett's bill would, though, is tailored towards protecting minors who may be inclined to offer more personal information than parents would like. It would allow parents to request information on their underage children and while forcing sites to allow users to make changes to their privacy settings after signing up for the service.

Social media companies like Facebook have stood firm against Corbett in the past. It squashed a similar bill by the San Leandro senator last year. Recently, she charged lobbyists for Facebook for operating in "stealth mode" alleging they passed talking points among members of the judiciary committee. Doing so without registering an objection is against the rules.

The strong opposition by Silicon Valley firms against legislating privacy stems from Web 2.0 adherence to the free flow of personal information from users often for their own benefit. Information on a users preferences for steep discounts for trendy smocks or loyal fanaticism toward the local baseball franchise can help customers. "It may sound paternalistic, but I think people need to understand that sharing information about themselves doesn't necessarily bring them any harm," wrote Larry Magid, a tech writer for the Huffington Post.

As Magid points out, the real problem with legislating the Internet on a state-by-state basis is its not really possible. They don't call it the World Wide Web for nothing.

State Insurance Board Slated For Unemployment Line

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

Some termed-out Sacramento legislators, if there are so lucky, spend the rest of their political life on lucrative state-appointed advisory boards. That is, until a better deal opens up in their former districts.

Gov. Brown wants to cut
up to 37 state boards
Gov. Jerry Brown wants to cull the list of boards, including the notorious home of worn lawmakers known as the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board, to save up to $10 million. Former Newark Assemblyman Alberto Torrico snagged a seat on the board last year after being termed out. Along with the appointment comes a $128,000 salary for what critics call a one-day-a-month job.

Torrico told the Los Angeles Times this weekend he did not believe the governor's plan to cut his board amounts to any savings. "We are virtually 100% federally funded," he said. It seems it is not where the money is coming from, but the perception of extreme political patronage is the unifying critics calling for its abolition.

After her time in the State Senate ended earlier this decade, Liz Figueroa also found a landing place at the unemployment board. Despite the sporadic meeting schedule, the amount of work reading letters from denied applicants for unemployment benefits and issuing rulings was significant and sometimes tedious, she told me during her run for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Record unemployment along with high demand for benefits also made the past few years more difficult than ever.

Because of the nature of the work processing large amounts of paperwork, the attraction of the post seems peculiar to some who cannot imagine a politician going from arguing legislation on the senate floor to sitting in a cafe reading the complaints of unemployed workers.

This is not the first time critics have taken aim at the board. Earlier this year, state Sen. Tony Strickland offered a bill to cut the board's pay to $100-per-meeting. Aside from Torrico, the latest class of insurance appeals board members include former Sen. Roy Ashburn, who was charged with a DUI last year after leaving a Sacramento gay nightclub, although he had been a staunch critic of gay rights in the past. It proved no matter what you do, lawmakers are always welcome in the state capitol.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Cassidy's Call For Sacrifice Does Not Jibe With His Reality

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

As far as ruses go, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s ploy to bolster his sacrifice to the city’s budget perceived woes is one for the record books.

Cassidy famously vowed to not draw a salary as mayor until the budget was balanced. This was honorable until critics pointed out the budget, despite shortfall, has always been balanced. Every cities budget is balanced by law, they said. But Cassidy trudged along raising the spin of sacrifice based upon a lie.

What is galling about Cassidy’s ruse is it is based of downright righteous indignation. There is very little sacrificed involved in foregoing a paltry $3,500 monthly salary when you draw the paycheck of partner in a San Francisco law firm. It’s an affront to working people, the very employees he intends to cripple on the false assumption the city’s finance’s are shot thereby in need of a fix zeroing on pensions and benefits.

San Leandro’s announcement last week of a balanced budget, more precisely posed as a fiscal proposal with very few further cuts to services will lead to the wealthy mayor to again draw a salary. Ironically, Cassidy’s pocket money comes not by any fiscal solution on his part, but ironically from his rival, former mayor Tony Santos.

City Manager Stephen Hollister said without $2.5 million in additional sales tax revenue from Measure Z, the city faced a potential hole of $3.5 to fill. The sales tax measure overwhelmingly passed last November by voters, was vehemently opposed by Cassidy on the basis the tax was regressive. He now prospers on the back of a budget-saving proposal he did not support. His political sideshow duping financially struggling residents into believing the high-priced lawyer was acting as one of the people is shown nowhere in reality. In the months since becoming mayor, Cassidy has not personally struggled with his mayor’s salary, in fact, he plans to move to San Leandro’s most expensive addresses in the Bay-O-Vista neighborhood.

Friday, May 20, 2011

San Leandro Cop Nicknamed 'Big Dirty' Caught Selling Pot

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

The recent Bay Area scourge of mixing illegal narcotics and law enforcement has hit the San Leandro Police Department. Officer Jason Fredriksson, 38, was charged Friday by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office for attempting to sell over a pound of marijuana.

Fredriksson and his wife, who is a dispatcher for the department, were both placed on administrative leave. County prosecutors appeared to have alleged the officer was involved in a romantic relationship with the informant.

Rumors of multiple officers or department personnel being placed on leave or possibly dismissed surfaced last week. Two sourced told The Citizen three employees were suspended and another dismissed. One of the employees, possibly Fredriksson, had to be forcibly removed from the department by other police officers, the sources said. Inquiries into the allegations at the time were either denied or not answered on the basis of the employees privacy. Fredriksson's Danville home was searched March 23, said police.

This latest police corruption charge in the East Bay follows a growing scandal in Costa Costa County involving a former commander of the anti-drug task force and a former cop turned private investigator alleged to have sold confiscated drugs. Allegations of the men running a brothel and subsequently robbing its prostitutes have also recently surfaced. Last year, yet another charge in San Francisco against the police department’s crime lab forced the city’s district attorney to overturn dozen of drug charges because of the scandal.

The charges against Fredriksson offer an inauspicious start for San Leandro’s new police chief Sandra Spagnoli, who took over in late January. Residents were hopeful for an end to a discouraging era in the department’s history that featured seven former female police officers charging a male officer of sexual harassment and allegations of complicity by its former chief Dale Attarian. The city ultimately settled six of the cases for over $600,000 last year. The seventh case was dismissed.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, unnamed police officers told the paper Fredriksson was one of the first on the scene for the tragic killing of Dan Niemi, the officer murdered after a traffic stop on Doolittle Drive in 2005. The paper also reported Fredriksson is an avid motorcyclist who goes by the nickname, “Big Dirty.”

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Mahoney Says He Hopes To Be Leader Of Proposed Healthcare District

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

The Hayward City Council unanimously backed a resolution Tuesday night in favor of the plan to consolidate its own St. Rose Hospital with San Leandro Hospital under the umbrella of the Eden Township with the CEO of the facility saying he would hope to be the reconfigured healthcare district’s administrative leader.

While fielding questions from councilmembers, Michael Mahoney, the CEO of St. Rose, said the possibility of being named to the post in the future is “not a condition of the deal.” Dev Mahadevan is the current CEO of the Eden Township Healthcare District. He was hired over two years ago replacing the current executive officer of Sutter Health’s Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. Members of the nurses union have quietly grumbled in the past about allegations Mahadevan was too cozy with Sutter’s demands in the months preceding the firing of the township’s general counsel in late December 2009.

Mahoney spent a busy Tuesday night in his effort to rally support for the plan ostensibly to avert San Leandro Hosptial from closing. His appearance before the Hayward City Council followed a 90-minute town hall in San Leandro, but many of his comments further elaborated on details of the proposal. If Sutter could be urged to support the plan, Mahoney said a deal could be hammered out in the next six months. It is the first time any official has detailed a loose time frame for the plans implementation. The District’s major public relations push this week also intended to feature a similar resolution by the San Leandro City Council last Monday, but Mayor Stephen Cassidy scuttled the discussion for another meeting saying certain fact-based portions of the resolution could not be verified by staff.

One Former District Member Returns To The Scene Of The Crime

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

Former Eden Township
Director Suzanne Barba
Two years ago, Dr. Miles Adler infamously called out some members of the San Leandro City Council for failing to attend a similar meeting to Tuesday’s town hall on the the future of San Leandro. “It is very disappointing when one thinks there are five city council people who don't think it's important enough to come to a forum of this nature with their own constituents sitting in the audience," an annoyed Adler said.

Tuesday night Adler was seen glancing at photographs of the current mayor and city council at the new Senior Community Center. Did you see all of these people at the meeting tonight, I asked? He said not all of them, but those not there made sure they sent to their support. “It’s a lot better with this mayor,” he added. Possibly mindful of the political embarrassment of skipping a meeting of such importance to the community, the much-anticipated town hall on St. Rose CEO Michael Mahoney’s ambitious plan to save San Leandro Hospital attracted a large number of local politicians to a jam-packed Senior Community Center.

The meeting organized by the Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy and the Eden Township Healthcare District saw elected leaders from across Alameda County. Some even had little to do with the issue. What does EBMUD have to do with healthcare? Who knows? At least one of its directors, Frank Mellon cares. Many leaders though did not attend, although most sent representatives to report the night’s events. One member of the audience, though, sat silently and somewhat anonymous among the consistent support for the saving San Leandro Hospital despite being one of the people most culpable for the healthcare district being so thoroughly hamstrung by heft of Sutter Health’s dominance over the issue.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Coming to San Leandro, A Balanced Budget With Few Cuts

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

San Leandro is slated to pass its first fiscal budget in four years featuring very few cuts to staff and services, said city officials.

Although the city’s budget is bound to be balanced every year according its charter, the lingering recession led to excruciating cuts to staff and city programs along shortfalls as large as $7 million just two years go. The $72 million operating budget for 2011-12 is buoyed by nearly $2.5 in additional revenue derived from the passing last November of Measure Z, which raised San Leandro’s sales tax by a quarter cent to 10 percent.

City Manager Stephen Hollister and others reported a multi-year budget forecast that also envisions a balanced budget in 2012-13 until rising cost catch up with the city in subsequent years.

“It’s a work in progress,” said Tracy Vesely, the city’s finance director. Some changes could be made to the final budget scheduled to be submitted at a June 6 public hearing and she said the proposal is predicated on conservative numbers. Despite the increased sales tax revenue, the fiscal budget for next year still includes $1.1 million in cuts spread across all departments, Vesely said.

Large Crowd Gets Behind Latest Plan To Save San Leandro Hospital

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

A gathering in excess of 300 residents registered overwhelming support for the latest plan to save San Leandro Hospital. Not since a string of heavily-attended rallies nearly two years ago have hospital employees and residents met to voice concern over Sutter Health’s plan to shutter the facilities emergency room and services and lease it for acute rehabilitation.

Similar to those meetings, Tuesday night’s speakers set a near-unanimous tone of support for St. Rose CEO Michael Mahoney’s proposal to consolidate his hospital with San Leandro Hospital under the auspices of the Eden Township Healthcare District. Personal stories of emergencies quelled by their proximity to the hospital were sprinkled with defiant calls to stop Sutter along with congratulatory remarks lauding the community for keeping the hospital in full operation at least two years longer than expected.

“This hospital is open because of you,” Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett told the crowd. On separate occasions starting in the fall of 2009, Sutter had publicly called for the closing of the hospital before a change of direction at the Eden Township Healthcare District led to dueling lawsuits between it and Sutter. Many contend the deep opposition to Sutter’s proposal from residents gave the District’s Board of Directors a shot in the arm.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

San Leandro Pot Ban Narrowly Voted Down; Moratorium Remains

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

The likilihood of medical marijuana returning in the future to San Leandro received another reprieve Monday night as the city council narrowly voted down, 4-3, an ordinance prohibiting the trade within city limits.

Over the past 18 months, council, law enforcement and city staff have followed a rigidly conservative and often times hands-off approach to similar pushes to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to set up shopin San Leandro. A moratorium was placed on future related business applications last November running until the end of this September, but a ordinance superceding the moratorium indefinitely was placed before the council.

Councilmembers Jim Prola, Ursula Reed, Pauline Cutter and Vice Mayor Michael Gregory voted in opposition of the ordinance. While Reed and Cutter’s comments suggested approval of the ban both voted against. Prola and Gregory urged for more information along with a cautious approach while neighboring Oakland sorts out its legal strategy in their more medical marijuana-friendly business environment. Both dissenting councilmen also pointed to a lack factual balance in the staff report solely featuring a nearly 400-page white paper compiled by the California Police Chiefs Association.

“I think there should have been a balance other than the police chief’s white paper,” said Gregory. “To ignore it or prohibit it is not honest and don’t think mature.” Gregory said the city is not approaching the unrelegated pot problem in a “rational way.”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Stark, Lee Snub Amendment Recognizing Capture of Bin Laden

Three members of the California House delegation from the Bay Area, including Reps. Pete Stark and Barbara Lee voted present last week on a tag-along amendment recognizing the work of the intelligence community in finding and killing Osama Bin Laden.

Reps Lynn Woolsey and Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) also voted present.

While the others did not explain their votes, Lee told the congressional newspaper, The Hill, she commended the president and the soldiers for their work, but voted present on the grounds of the entire intelligence authorization bill. Lee is one of the most liberal voices in congress and a staunch opponent of the nation's military excursions in Iraq and Afghanistan.

“I voted present on this amendment, which contains overly broad language I believe to be inconsistent with the simple and important message of acclamation for the work of the intelligence community leading to the death of Osama Bin Laden," Lee said.

Contained in the amendment was language honoring the intelligence community for "disrupting, dismantling, and defeating al Qaeda and affiliated organizations around the world that threaten the national security of the United States." It also recognizes eliminating "safe havens for terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan; and bringing terrorists to justice."

San Leandro Set To Ban Medical Marijuana

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

City leaders in San Leandro are set Monday night to add to the 10-month moratorium it placed on medical marijuana facilities last November by passing an ordinance banning the business within city limits. The City Council instructed city staff to draft a proposed ordinance Feb. 28 that would begin after the moratorium expires in September.

San Leandro officials never had the political will to bring any form of the medical marijuana industry to the city and local special interests groups never trained their focus here either. A more vocal and detailed opposition by the U.S. Department of Justice in recent months also significantly cooled expanded cultivation facilities in Oakland and Berkeley leading to dampened enthusiasm for the burgeoning pot trade gaining traction.

In a staff report by Senior Planner Kathleen Livermore, the case against medical marijuana is detailed as a public safety issues leading to increased arrests for marijuana-related crime and unintended consequences such as a rise in DUI cases, money laundering and assault against customers of the medical marijuana facilities. Although the report notes "substantial" evidence against medical marijuana, it notes 11 documents for reference--all from the California Police Chiefs Association.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Corbett May Have Averted Potential Land Mine Set By Team Hayashi

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

Within most every controversy lies a common thread sometimes lead to wholly unexpected views of the same issue. The East Bay is steeped in layers and a slight provocation last week by Chabot College toward the proposed Russell City power plant brought a new angle to long-running feuds between Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett.

May 5 was a busy day at Chabot College. Not only was the community college celebrating Cinco de Mayo, but a noon rally and walking demonstration was planned from the campus to the site of the nearby natural gas-fired power plant proposed by Calpine. Later that afternoon, Corbett was scheduled to discuss local and state issues at the college by invitation of the political science department. Corbett is a former Chabot College professor.

The San Leandro state senator, though, cancelled the engagement at the last minute because of a conflicting state budget hearing, but some believe Corbett was reticent over flyers promoting the Calpine demonstration along with a belief the speaking engagement would become a discussion on the power plant over other matters. The event was described beforehand as a two-hour event beginning with roughly 20 minutes of remarks by Corbett.

Corbett said Friday she called to confirm the speaking engagement one day before, but was later advised by a Chabot professor to reconsider because of a belief the appearance would veer into unrelated subjects other than the state budget and higher education. The senator did not disclose any specifics of the possible disruption, but said she nonetheless intended to keep the appointment before the professor pushed further to cancel. Corbett said she instead stayed in Sacramento until the evening to work on the forthcoming May revise of the state budget.

Cities Looking For Answers Linked to Alleged Wrongdoing At ACAP

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

While East Bay cities await the findings of long overdue financial audit of soon-to-be defunct Associated Community Action Program, nearly all municipalities have approved over $122,000 to a pot of nearly $2 million to dissolve the program later this month. Many cities, though, are beginning to question the reasons leading up to the outlay of scare resources, amid calls of impropriety at ACAP.

Fremont’s City Council unanimously approved their portion of the costs associated with dissolution of ACAP and its programs designed to help the disadvantage and combat poverty in Alameda County. San Leandro and Hayward recently signed off with discussion on the payment schedule detailed in the joint powers agreement brokered years ago by 12 county cities. “We’re hoping this is the outside limit,” said Fremont City Manager Fred Diaz. “It could be less, it could be more.”

ACAP’s executive director was sacked in March and allegations of criminal activity continue to run rampant. An investigation of the former director Nanette Dillard is ongoing by the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. Diaz said no charges have been alleged and believes any investigation into Dillard’s actions leading to the bankruptcy of ACAP is awaiting the findings of an independent audit, but it “more than appears there was mismanagement,” he said.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

SoCal House Election Could Jumble East Bay Political Scenery

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

The will of the voters in Southern California could set the stage for a surprisingly sharp jolt to the local political pecking order in the East Bay come 2012 if Secretary of State Debra Bowen can position herself as the favorite after next Tuesday’s special congressional primary in District 36.

The inaugural run of California’s Open Primary system will pit Bowen against fellow Democrat and Los Angeles Councilwoman Janice Hahn and the Republican Mayor of Redondo Beach Mike Gin. Regardless of party affiliation the top two finishers, in the absensce of one candidate winning 50 percent of the vote in the primary phase, will advance to the general election. The seat became open with the retirement of Rep. Jane Harman last year.

Most believe Bowen and Hahn, who reported a large cash advantage will face off later in the year, but the secretary of state’s potential victory not only leaves her statewide office up for grabs, but also opens an opportunity for state legislators in the East Bay to make an easier political climb than once believed available.

There is little doubt Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett covets the secretary of state job. Most notably, though, the soft-spoken San Leandro liberal has offered tougher-than-usual criticisms in recent speeches and interviews. Corbett’s performance at the State Democratic Convention featured some of the best and most pointed invective toward state Republicans, while landing hard punches on the entire GOP. At one point, she called national Republicans the “Party of Trump.”

If Bowen can snag CD 36, which many believe she will, but not without a tough campaign fight, the repercussions would offer an East Bay political landscape that is in many different ways on the verge reacting to the Big One—Rep. Pete Stark’s declining health and future retirement. Corbett’s possible ascension, though, would send a different shakeup to the area; one likely to maintain the status quo.

The biggest beneficiary would be Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, who then have leg up of replacing Corbett in the State Senate—something already likely to happen in coming years—but, it could be a convenient solution to the bedeviling two-year hole between the end of her assembly term in 2012 and the remainder of Corbett’s senate term in 2014.

Since Hayashi’s seat is already up-for-grabs next year very little would change in the Bowen/Corbett scenario. Already, there is a small group of candidates just beginning to jockey for position. Jennifer Ong is the only announced candidate thus far, but most expect Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk to announce his run this summer. Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti may also be a potential candidate.

In the event Bowen becomes a congresswoman, the possible promoting of Corbett to statewide office, either by government appointment or special election, would the gain the 84,000-strong city of San Leandro quite an image of renown with, along with State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, two of the nine elected statewide leaders cutting their teeth in the the small East Bay suburb.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Whew! The Mess Brought On By Prime Nearly Came To San Leandro

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

In June 2009, a slight, dark-skinned Indian man with a bright smile and the words of fast-talking carnival barker thoroughly aroused the hopes and dreams of hundreds of San Leandro when he proclaimed he, not the reviled Sutter Health, would save their hospital.
You Almost Fooled Us: Prime CEO Dr. Prem Reddy.

His words were confident. His intentions appeared pure. His invective against Sutter was heard first-hand by the company brass sitting quietly among supporters of San Leandro Hospital. The self-proclaimed small town cardiologist who became a pulled-up-by-the-bootstraps multi-millionaire by gobbling up bankrupt hospitals and bringing them back to life--sometimes within a year--was offering to do the same favor for San Leandro.

Residents hungry for a savior rose to their feet with thundering applause and renewed confidence. Sutter could no longer say it didn't have a buyer, their knight in shining armor was glowing before their eyes with the warm, yellow light of God shining upon him.

His name is Dr. Prem Reddy. His company Prime Healthcare made romantic overtures for San Leandro Hospital, but was subsequently scared away by Sutter. Many in this area, detest Sutter and its heavy-handed market share and the ridiculous notion it functions as a non-profit business, but say this about them: they did us a favor. After yet another report this weekend of impropriety by the Southern California-based Prime, it is clear San Leandro dodged a major bullet.

If A Tree Falls In San Leandro, Someone In The County Will Hear It

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

From the outset, Alameda County officials seemed genuinely surprised by the level of anger exhibited by some San Leandro residents over a plan last year to eliminate 46 eucalyptus trees at San Leandro Creek. It appeared the proposal was in response to reports some of the trees and their branches posed a threat to hikers and nearby homes, but some homeowners perceived it as some sort of breach of life and liberty.

Map of San Leandro Creek which cuts
through the city. Tree removal is slated
to begin in areas on the east side.
Nobody was more critical of the plan than San Leandro resident Gary Molitor. On many occasions the tall, white goateed San Leandro resident became part expert on local natural history and part union-thug. At one meeting last year, he whipped himself into a frenzy while criticizing county officials and hogging much of the allotted time for public comment. Resident in favor of the county’s plan began to shout him down. Molitor apparently mistook the ruckus for support of his cause and confidently dared the officials he would not sit down until the “people” asked him to quit talking. Hilariously, before he could finish the sentence, a few residents yelled, “sit down!”

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan announced last week, the proposal to cut 46 trees down would be limited to just 17. A previous reduction lowered the number to 25. Why? Because the level of anger and time spent on the issue may have not been worth the time.

Much of the angry response to the county plan, though, rests with the county. Tree-hugging San Leandrans already predisposed to conspiracy were rudely stoked early last year when the initial plan had the hallmarks of local government pushing through policy by cover of night. Critics howled at a proposal nearly fully-formed without public input. Reports of county workers jumping unannounced into home owners backyards did not help, nor did testimony from a woman who said the shock of men jumping over fences frightened her mother, who suffers from Alzheimer's.

Bob, Beware The Lobbyists!

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

Former State Sen. Liz Figueroa once said a freshman lawmaker needs to be wary of Sacramento’s unavoidable group of marauding lobbyists who search for a rookie legislator willing to carry stale legislation on their behalf--sometimes not even knowing they have been duped. After all, it happened to her, she said.

Under this fact of life in the Capitol, it begs the question whether Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski was lulled by the Sirens of J Street into carrying legislation calling for state mediation before a municipality can file for bankruptcy.

AB 506 is the third attempt at turning the bill into law in as many years leading some to believe Wieckowski is making an attempt to further secure union support. Editorials in the Sacramento Bee and San Jose Mercury News both accused Wieckowski of doing the bidding of city employees.

The League of California Cities believes the bill could make it extremely difficult for local cities to file for Federal bankruptcy by stacking the deck in favor of city employee unions. The mediation process, for instance, would be instigated by political appointments who may have a case to rule on the side of patronage and city employees. It also could play out as another attempt by Sacramento to control the fate of local cities.

The best case against the bill, though, comes from those who say the legislation is aiming to fix something that is hardly broken and nearly non-existent in California—municipal and county insolvency. It has happened just once at the county-level and twice at the city-level in the past 60 years. The notorious exception being neighboring Vallejo. The bewildering collapse of that city government has become a boogie man for local pols, including San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who has use it a cautionary example in the past, while waving the flag of fear for “Vallejo-style” bankruptcy in his city.

Lobbyists are paid big money to cajole laws in their favor from willing lawmakers. In this case, it isn’t the merits of the bill that should worry detractors; it’s the prevalence of special interests drafting the latest unsuspecting freshman lawmaker to seal the deal.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Lee: Bring The Troops Home

No matter your opinion of Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee, there is no denying the political decision she made in the days after 9/11 was a courageous bit of leadership. She will forever be tagged with the moniker of being the only member of Congress to vote against the resolution to invade Afghanistan. The clips below from Democracy Now! contain video of her speech Sept. 14, 2001 and an interview last week with Lee in the aftermath of Osama bin Laden's death. Lee also penned this op-ed in Friday's USA Today.


Thursday, May 5, 2011

Lockyer's Role In Bay Trail Is Signficant

By Ezra Rapport

In response to the April 26 piece in the East Bay Citizen ("Lockyer Tries To Get Trail Naming With A Little Help From His Friends") about the Bay Trail renaming proposal, I offer some background and facts that give a more accurate picture of State Treasurer Bill Lockyer’s role as a champion for the Bay Trail.

In 1987, during his tenure as a state senator, Lockyer authored Senate Bill 100, the enabling legislation for the San Francisco Bay Trail, with unanimous support from the Bay Area delegation. Lockyer’s vision was a unifying environmental resource for all communities in the Bay Area. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he helped secure initial seed funds to move the project forward. These funds launched the Bay Trail Project’s competitive grant program that provides financial assistance to local jurisdictions to complete Bay Trail segments, a program that continues today.

At Alamda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty’s suggestion on April 18, the Bay Trail Board of Directors voted without objection to support retaining the Bay Trail name and working to install a monument in a significant location along the trail in Alameda County that recognizes the contributions of Treasurer Lockyer and others throughout the history of the Bay Trail.

Today, the public enjoys over 300 miles of shoreline trail in all nine Bay Area counties, and will some day have access to 500 miles of continuous trail for hiking and bicycling along the edge of the bay. A monument along the Bay Trail is a fitting tribute to Treasurer Lockyer recognizing his leadership in initiating and supporting one of the most popular public projects in the Bay Area. Supervisor Haggerty should be commended for bringing attention to Mr. Lockyer’s accomplishments and fashioning a proposal that has achieved a wide degree of support.

Ezra Rapport is executive director for the Association of Bay Area Government (ABAG).

A Grocery Store Flip-Flop In Hayward

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

Hayward’s City Council backed off from a growing controversy over an attempt to push through an urgent moratorium on grocery store over 20,000 sq. ft. in size, that a owner says was intended only for his property.

After Hayward City Manager Fran David asked for approval April 26 to place the moratorium on large grocery stores, the developer of the former Circuit City property on Whipple Avenue protested the moratorium as unlawful and indiscriminately targeted his location. The address is the only property mentioned in a city staff report.

Community Development Director David Rizk said last month, the developers recent negotiation with an unnamed grocer to move into the location, forced the city to re-evaluate the location as a full-service store along with various traffic concerns and questions for other areas in the chronically-underserved city.

During discussion of the proposal April 26 some residents exhibited a peculiar schizophrenic approach to the moratorium. Numerous speakers who spoke in favor f the moratorium also gave strong support for more full-service grocers in the city. There was also concern the Whipple Avenue location being so close to Union City would actually be a boon for the neighboring city more than Hayward.

You Call It National Day Of Prayer, Stark Calls It Something Different

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

The first Thursday of May was designated as a National Day of Prayer by Congress nearly 50 years ago, but hold on, said Rep. Pete Stark, the only Atheist legislator in Washington. Instead, he stood on the floor of the House of Representatives today and proclaimed it a National Day of Reason.

The irascible East Bay lawmaker said frank and thoughtful debate through reason led to the drafting of the Constitution and has been used to further enhance American ideals over time, “Reason and rational discourse have the power to improve living conditions around the world and cultivate intelligent, moral, and ethical interactions among people,” said Stark, who also noted the Constitution’s framers, through the separation of church and state, intended to rely on reason as a guide.

Earlier this week, Stark also applied a slight tweak to the religious right reintroducing a bill to cut federal funding to states that continue to employ discriminatory laws against gay, lesbian and single people in the adoption and foster care process.

Stark describes himself as a Unitarian, although his disbelief in an all-knowing deity has not affected his chances of re-election. The 38-year House veteran beat his Republican opponent last November with 70 percent of the vote.

Although turning to a higher power may be a popular way of coping with many of the problems facing Americans these day, Stark says there is also salvation in reason. “Our nation faces many problems—ending two wars, creating jobs, educating our children, tackling our budget, and protecting our safety net,” he said. “Although the gravity of these issues may drive many to prayer, the way we will solve them is through the application of reason.”

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mahoney Takes Proposal To Save San Leandro Hospital To The Community

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

In his first public appearance on the newest proposal to save San Leandro Hospital, the CEO of Hayward’s St. Rose added details to the plan San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy called a “win-win situation” for the community.

Michael Mahoney began what likely will be a months-long public appeal to the residents of the Eden Township Healthcare District Tuesday night in San Leandro, asking them to support his plan whereby he would relinquish assets in St. Rose to the District, combine operations of both it and San Leandro Hospital while maintaining all the current services of both facilities, including a full-time emergency room.

Mahoney said it is time for the District, created in 1948, to return to its original charge as a hospital owner and operator. “If you’re making decisions on a regional basis, you don’t understand what happens from neighborhood to neighborhood,” said Mahoney. “We believe it is in the best interests of the residents of the Eden Township Healthcare District to support a proposal where the District will assume its rightful role as the owner and operator and really look at a transparent and public process to ensure that health care services are provided to all of the residents of the district and we do that building on the spirit of community.”

The inevitability of the “Big One” striking the East Bay at some point is always on the minds of local hospitals. Mahoney said the region must maintain operation of the facilities, since both are already seismically-retrofitted for such a calamity. “I think we all know there is this little thing called the Hayward Fault not far from us and its very important that we look for a way to keep a resource like San Leandro and St. Rose available for that day when we will have those kind of earth-shattering days.”

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Stark Reintroduces Bill To End Discrimination In Adoption

By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

Rep. Pete Stark thinks the reintroduction of legislation withholding federal funding to states with laws discriminating against adoption and foster care by gay, lesbian and single people has congressional support despite the presence of social conservatives in the House of Representatives.

A similar version to H.R. 1681 languished in the House last year. In the meantime, numerous bills forwarded in various state houses across the country have raised the awareness of the issue. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer recently signed a bill positioning the adoption of children by opposite-sex couples above those of same-sex partners. An Arkansas law was struck down April 7 by the state’s Supreme Court. Conservative lawmakers in Illinois and Virginia have also made overtures to limiting the rights of gays and lesbians to adopt.

“There is no information out there saying [children with gay and lesbian parents] are any more or less troubled than any other children,” Stark said Tuesday during introduction of the bill, sponsored by 33 congressmen.

Gregory Elected New Vice Mayor Of San Leandro

By Steven Tavares

Vice Mayor
 Michael Gregory
Apparently the main job of vice mayor in San Leandro is not periodically filling in for the mayor, but keeping the candy dishes of council members sufficiently stocked.

The job of maintaining chocolate bliss is now under the purview of Councilman Michael Gregory. The two-term District 1 representative was unanimously elected Monday night to become the next vice mayor of San Leandro.

Gregory is passed the honorific of city number two from Councilwoman Ursula Reed. San Leandro typically rotates the position on a yearly basis. Before Reed, Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak held the position.

Starosciak jokingly ribbed Gregory about the unofficial job among council members to fill each candy dish. “Your first job,” said Starosciak, “is to ask everybody their candy preferences.” For the record, Councilman Jim Prola prefers Rolo and Councilwoman Diana Souza is partial to jelly beans. She also thanked the outgoing vice mayor for her service. “Thank you Councilwoman Reed, you did a great job of keeping the candy dishes full.”

Reed called her appointment during a contentious mayoral election last year featuring two candidates within the council as “quite an experience.” After her remarks, Reed offered the motion for Gregory’s appointment.

“I want to thank the council for their confidence in me,” said the understated Gregory, who said the increased role in the city and his current job with the American Red Cross will be difficult, but doable with a good dose of time-management.

The role of vice mayor under Mayor Stephen Cassidy may be more time-consuming than any under recent mayors. Cassidy also work full-time as an attorney in San Francisco and has already drawn criticism for the limited amount of time he spends at City Hall.

INCENTIVE TO LIVE IN SAN LEANDRO Esoteric or not, the issue of hiring a new city manager in San Leandro has drawn one absolute: residents want that person to live in the city. The problem is, it is not exactly legal to make residency a prerequisite for employment, but a city can offer financial incentives. According to Cassidy, San Leandro’s offer is anything but enticing and may need to be bolstered for it to become a viable benefit to prospective candidates.