Thursday, June 30, 2011

More Federal Dollars On The Way For Former Nummi Autoworkers

By Steven Tavares
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The Fremont Nummi plant was reborn as Tesla Motors'
headquarters, but thousands of former employees still feel
the bite of the poor economy.
A second installment of unemployment benefits is on the way for over 4,500 former Nummi employees.

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and Rep. Pete Stark announced $7.9 million in assistance to help workers retrain and educate for re-entry into the workforce. The first installment of $11 million released last year helped tack an additional year of unemployment benefits for workers at the former joint partnership of Toyota and General Motors.

"It has been more than a year since the Nummu plant’s closing and unemployment is still unacceptably high,” said Stark. “In this difficult economy, I am committed to creating jobs and providing the assistance that laid off workers need to hone their skills and remain competitive."

The Emergency Grant by the U.S. Labor Department will be used to continue training of the highly-trained former auto workers along with work guidance, resume training and job search skills.

The closure of Nummi not only gave thousands of South Bay workers a jolt from the poor economy but also stifled dozens of local subcontractors who did business with the auto plant. Similar to the Fremont plant's closure by GM in 1982, the property did not sit unoccupied for long. Last year, the upstart Tesla Motors bought the part of the plant to ramp up production of two electric vehicle and bringing back roughly a quarter of the workforce.

Hayward Names Its First Female Police Chief

By Steven Tavares
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Diane Urban, Hayward's first
female police chief
Hayward is joining other Bay Area cities by taking the initiative in opening its traditionally male-dominate police force by adding diversity to its ranks.  The hiring Thursday of San Jose Assistant Police Chief Diane Urban will make her the first female police chief in the city's long history.

Urban, 47, replaces Police Chief Ron Ace, who announced his retirement in April. Neighboring San Leandro named its first female top cop in January with the hiring of former Benicia chief Sandra Spagnoli. Six other Bay Area cities have also tabbed women to lead their police departments.
Urban's rise through the ranks of law enforcement covers over 25 years, according to the San Jose Police Department. In January, she was named assistant police chief. Her first day in Hayward will be Aug. 8.

Her appointment also brings her career in law enforcement full circle. Urban is a graduate of Cal State East Bay with a degree in criminal justice, in addition, to a degree from Boston University.
"While I applaud Chief Urban's appointment, I am saddened that SJPD is losing a trailblazing leader," said Judge LaDoris Cordell, San Jose's independent police auditor. "Diane broke the glass ceiling at SJPD by virtue of her hard work and determination. I have no doubt that she will bring that same work ethic and determination to her new job as the chief of police in Hayward."

Keeping Hayward's streets safe has become a rising issue among residents who feel crime and murder is rising along with more visible signs of unrest such as the growing problem of gangs and graffiti. One of Urban's first major tasks at the helm of the police department will be overseeing the city's ambitious plan to mimic Oakland's controversial "gang injunction" program. Hayward's city attorney has said the office may be ready to furnish injunctions to a Superior Court judge sometime this fall against over 400 suspected gang members.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Alameda County Supervisors Move Forward Consensus Redistricting Map

By Steven Tavares
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Click to enlarge
OAKLAND - The Alameda County Board of Supervisors moved forward a consensus redistricting map Tuesday with hopes of placating a few communities angered by the possibility of a split among different supervisors.

Under the favored redistricting proposal, known as Map E, residents in Hayward, Pleasanton and Dublin would remain intact under a single supervisorial representative. The biggest change in map is a city-wide trade of supervisors for Dublin and Pleasanton.

The board is scheduled to formally approve the new district lines during its July 12 meeting. A four-fifths majority is needed for passage.

The role of the voter approved proposition to more fairly redraw the legistlative boundaries of the state sought to clean up the so-called "squiggly lines" peculiarly rendered by lawmakers gerrymandering district for their own political advantage. The mechanism of citizen drawing the lines in Alameda County, though, is still in the hands of those in power.

The proposal, created by county staff, would move District 1 Supervisor Scott Haggerty's Pleasanton headquarters to Supervisor Nate Miley in District 4. The rapidly-growing Dublin would move from Miley to Haggerty.

Board President Miley's district would snake from a third of Oakland through Castro Valley and large swaths of the county unincorporated areas to Pleasanton.

Haggerty said he laments the possibility of losing one of the Tri-Valley cities. "It's going to be really tough to give up Pleasanton," adding former county supervisor Ed Campbell, who Haggerty replaced, would "roll over in his grave" knowing Pleasanton would no longer be part of District 1. Haggerty's may also lose his district office located at the Alameda County Fairgrounds if the map is approved.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chan Says Sutter's San Leandro Hospital Lease With ACMC Not Valid

By Steven Tavares
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OAKLAND - The controversial lease many supporters of saving San Leandro Hospital believe was negotiated in secret between Sutter Health and the Alameda County in 2009 may no longer be valid.

Sutter's agreement to lease San Leandro Hospital to ACMC in late July 2009 came a day after the Eden Township Healthcare District denied Sutter's option to purchase the facility. The subsequent dispute between Sutter and the District has played out in the courts, but Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan said Tuesday county attorneys believe the lease no longer a factor in blocking efforts by the Board of Supervisors to extricate itself from the support of past boards to support the ACMC option in the absence of no other options.

"In my opinion," said Chan, "the lease is no longer valid. Our attorneys looked at it and they say none of the target dates were met."

A spokesperson for Sutter Health declined to speak on the validity of the lease, but maintains, "Sutter Health has a legal agreement that gives us title to San Leandro Hospital," said Stacey Wells. "We are engaged in litigation to obtain this title."

The county and health care district believe language ccontained in the lease agreement leaves ACMC a way out.  Notably, the appearance of  "commencement dates" given with 90 days notice that have never been determined. According to the lease agreement, Sutter set Sept. 1, 2009 or earlier as the closing date of the proposed purchase of San Leandro Hospital. That date easily passed as Sutter sued the District for the deed of the hospital. A superior court judge ruled in Sutter's favor last year, but the District has appealed the decision.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hayward's Russell City Energy Center Moves Closer To Construction

By Steven Tavares
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The student and leadership at Chabot College may not think much about Calpine's planned 619-megawatt power plant emerging out of the Hayward marshland and just a mile away from its campus, but the financiers of big business see great promise in the proposed natural gas-fired Russell Center Energy Center.

Hayward's Russell City Energy
Center could be ready by 2013.
Calpine, the Houston-based power provider, and General Electric announced Monday a $845 million loan facility that moves the project one large step closer to full-scale construction over the next year or two. Calpine hopes to have the power plant in operation by 2013.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Calpine will hold 75 percent of the loan with GE Energy Financial Services handling the remaining balance. Financing for the project was arranged by MUFG Power & Utilities Group, ING Capital LLC, Lloyds Bank Corporate Markets, BMO Capital Markets and CoBank ACB, according to the Houston Business Journal.

Controversy over most of the past decade regarding the power plant has embroiled some current and past Hayward officials. Some residents believe the city acted without public transparency and community outreach during early discussions over placing the project in an ecologically sensitive area like the San Francisco Bay marshlands. A report placing the location of the Russell City Energy Center in an area of the coastline estimated to be flooded by 2050 from rising sea level, also added to the outrage.

Was Fremont's Solyndra Qualified For $535 Million Federal Loan Guarantee?

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

How did a Fremont green tech solar panel company get a
half-million dollar federal loan guarantee only to begin a
plant closing and layoffs a short time later?
The more we learn about the $535 million loan guarantee given by the federal government last year to the Fremont solar tech firm Solyndra, the more it sounds like just about every other cautionary tale of toxic mortgage loans drawn up by banks and facilitating the Great Recession.

House Republicans want to know the details of Solyndra's fortunate half-million loan in 2009. The announcement was heralded by Vice President Joe Biden and lead to a visit by President Obama. But, like the five-bedroom mini-mansion bought with a bank loan based upon incorrect or non-existent information you or your neighbors may have purchased earlier this decade, reality set in soon enough.

Just a month after receiving the loan guarantee, Solyndra cancelled a scheduled IPO, quickly announced it was closing one of its plant and began laying off workers. According to the solar panel company, the economy and fierce competition from China scuttled their ambitious plan. What Obama once called "a testament to American ingenuity and the best workers in the world" quickly turned out to taxpayers potentially shouldering nearly $400 million of the initial loan.

State Senator Calls Calif. Death Penalty Law 'An Expensive Failure'

By Steven Tavares
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East Bay State Senator Loni Hancock is offering legislation today calling for the replacement of the state death penalty with life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.

State Sen. Loni Hancock
Hancock is no stranger to the issues surrounding the California prison system and the state's three decades-old death penalty law. She chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee and the Senate Budget Subcommittee on Corrections, which oversees funding for the state's hemorrhaging prison system.

Many of those committing violent and horrific crimes are mentally ill and cannot rationalize the death penalty as a deterrent, Hancock said Monday morning on Sacramento's Capital Public Radio. LISTEN HERE.

Hancock, instead, said the savings derived from ending the death penalty along with endless rounds of appeals sometimes stretching decades, should be shifted to public safety with immediate cost-savings.

"We have to say this is an expensive failure," she said.

More death row inmates have died in prison from natural causes and suicide since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978 than have been executed, according to Hancock. Current death row inmates make up a small portion of California's 171,000-person prison system. Just over 700 condemned prisoners are guaranteed rights to numerous rounds of appeals costing the state $184 million-a-year according to a report on the state's prisons.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Cassidy is Putting the Squeeze on Councilwoman Reed

By Steven Tavares
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"Here's my thinking," San Leandro Councilwoman Ursula Reed said last week on the subject of lowering the number of representatives from seven to five.

Councilwoman Ursula
Reed is in a bind.
The thing is, the idea to consolidate power in the the city among fewer councilmembers while raising the term limit to three terms is not Reed's idea. Instead, former vice mayor is holding water for Mayor Stephen Cassidy, according to numerous sources who chose not to be identified.

Reed said last Monday night changing the charter to include her suggestions would save the city money. Councilmembers would not have to think about cutting pay and benefits, she said, although she added San Leandro would save with fewer elections with the increase in term limits from two to three. Incumbents would still stand for re-election no matter the number of terms.

"It could and should function with five [councilmembers]," she said while urging it be presented to the city rules committee for vetting. But observers say Cassidy and supporters in the community have zeroed in on Reed as a malleable and weak incumbent next year.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lee, Stark Vote to End Bombing in Libya

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen.com

Many see the bombing in Libya with no end in sight, while
fearing a third bogged down war in the region.
The Bay Area's congressional delegation, typically a staunch opponent of the current wars abroad, were flummoxed Friday by two separate bills--one calling for authorizing continued bombings in Libya--and another to cut funding for the operation to aid rebels hoping to deposed Col. Moammar Khadafy.

Both measures ultimately failed in the Republican-controlled House.

Long-time peaceniks Rep. Pete Stark and Barbara Lee voted in favor of both bills. In a rare sight, many conservatives joined forces with the left's most liberal lions, speciifically to rebuke the president's handling of Libya.

On the vote to close the account on funding the daily bombing runs in Libya, Stark and Lee were joined by Reps. Sam Farr (D-Santa Cruz) and Lynn Woolsey (D-Petaluma). Woolsey is rumored to announce her retirement on Monday.

Alameda County Approves $2.5 Billion Fiscal Budget

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors ended a gargantuan task Friday afternoon by unanimously approving a $2.5 billion fiscal budget for 2012.

The excruciating budget amounted to over $137 million in cuts to services and staff amounting to 111 job losses.

It is the third straight year the county has endured triple-digit shortfalls during a period of stagnant growth and higher demands for county's collection of social services.

"This is a prudent and responsible budget without gimmicks," declared Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi. Over the past three budgets, the county has slashed 500 jobs and attempted to fill-in over a half-billion dollars worth of cuts, she said.

Muranishi said during Friday's special meeting she was reticent of the amount of one-time solutions to the budget based on revenues carried over from previous years, but it was also "savings already in the bank," she said.

Because of the struggling economy, the 2012 budget might be viewed as the county merely stemming the tide of growing demand for services with fewer revenue streams. "Maintaining services actually means going backwards as people get poorer," said Supervisor Wilma Chan. "It's not good enough." She also lamented the county is spending less on prevention of all kinds, including ebbing the flow of high unemployment in the county.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Hayward Balances Budget With $8 Million in Labor Concessions

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen.com

HAYWARD - In the end 13 turned out to be not so unlucky a number for Hayward's 2012 fiscal budget unanimously approved Tuesday night. With the self-proclaimed "Heart of the Bay" in need of a coronary bypass in the face of a $20 million deficit looming, the City Council was able to approve the budget the backs of employee unions, some of which agreed to givebacks of 13 percent or more.

"All bargaining groups made concessions--some more than others--and it's greatly appreciated," said Councilman Bill Quirk.

In total, nine labor along with non-union managers, the mayor and city council and members of the city attorney's office agreed to cost-saving concessions. Hayward City Manager Fran David thanked the union groups and city council for their cooperation while noting the gloomy economy caused a certain amount of apprehension among employees.

"Some were scared, some confused, but most have stepped up," David said. The Hayward Fire Department Local 1909 was lauded by David for agreeing to a 15 percent reduction over the next two years. David warned others unions, some of which agreed to the minimum five percent reduction run the risk of facing larger concession next year with the possibility of yet another poor economic outlook in 2012.

Despite taming this year's $20.6 million shortfall, the city expects deficits running between $20-$30 million over the next decade without structurally change to the budget. David says employee costs encompass 89 percent of the general fund.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Miley Becomes Unhinged at County Budget Hearing

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen.com

One of the very first articles in the East Bay Citizen featured Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley going off on a huffy rant. During that May 2009 day Miley told onlookers who didn't like him to vote him out of office. "I'm 58-year-old man who isn't intimidated by anyone," he said two years ago.

Alameda County Supervisor
Nate Miley: tough guy
The bloviating Miley came up with a similarly bizarre barrage of taunts and curious non-sequiturs Wednesday. The only difference is it wasn't quite clear what or whom set him off. During a Board of Supervisors special budget meeting covering a short list of addendums to the soon-to-be approved budget, Miley suddenly turned gruff over a seemingly unprovoked discussion over in-home care service, in part, mentioning Alameda County's unincorporated areas.

"I'm no shrinking violet," said Miley. "If you want to tussle, let's bring it on." The other supervisors looked somewhat puzzled at the tone of Miley's voice as he continued. "Anything that affects the unincorporated areas affects Nate Miley," he righteously intoned.

After Supervisor Nadia Lockyer made brief remarks, Miley then admonished his colleague by telling her not to "diminish" his roughly 100,000 resident-strong unincorporated areas. Both Supervisor Wilma Chan and Lockyer noted they too had a percentage of the unincorporated regions in their districts.

Earlier in the roughly hour-long meeting, Miley made a peculiar analogy to the unknowns of the county's future budget situations and the use of reserves to the the barrage of natural and man-made disasters resulting from the Japan earthquake earlier this year. That true disaster was followed by a tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. "The worst still could be coming," Miley said of the future budget cuts.

Miley also became agitated two weeks ago when making public comments regarding the county's resolution calling for a federal apology to slavery along with reparations to African-Americans.

Poor, Young, Elderly to Feel the Brunt of Alameda County Budget Cuts

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

The disconnect between what Alameda County desires to protect from budget cuts necessitated by a $137 million funding shortfall and what it will slash is nowhere more evident than when you place its list of values next to a dollar breakdown of the proposed cuts likely to be approved Friday.

Listed as a top priority is a mandate protect "vulnerable populations like infants, children, young moms, the elderly, the disabled and those who require food and shelter." Number two is public safety, but when it comes to county funding to those programs, both amount to the two of the largest cuts in the 2012 fiscal budget. Of the $137.9 million in cuts, public assistance accounts for $33.2 million along with $35.9 million for public protection.

In reality, a glance down to number seven on the list of values reveals the main objective of this year's budget: to merely maintain acceptable levels of service. Keeping the status quo has been a bedeviling exercise for the county through these intense economic times and may continue for a few more years.

The total $2.5 billion county budget is actually $25 million larger than last year, while its deficit is actually falling for the first time in three years from a high of $177.6 million in 2009-10. Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi says the economic recovery theoretically beginning last summer is "accelerating its pace," but she added only modestly.

Lee Criticizes Obama's 'Modest' Troop Reductions in Afghanistan

...And when the bulk of the remaining troops return they may have the opportunity to grow marijuana without fear of prosecution. A bill co-sponsored by Rep. Barbara Lee is forthcoming. Although it's probably not a better way to medicate returning soldiers broken by the burdens of warfare, its sure beats having them dwell on the cuts the V.A.that will eventually follow making them vulnerable, bitter men. Think of Tom Cruise in the "Born on the Fourth of July."

Stark Tries to Sidestep Report Calling Medicare Insolvent by 2024

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

Republican rushed to paint a report from two Medicare trustees estimating the program to be insolvent by 2024 as proof the health care reform bill passed by Democrats has not sufficiently stemmed the cost of the subsidized care.

Medicare expert Dr.
Robert Reischauer says
the program is sensitive
to the overall economy
During a hearing today of the House Ways and Means Committee of Health, Rep. Pete Stark said without the health care reform bill, Medicare would be in the red in just five years from now, instead of the longer projection.

Stark faulted putting too much credence in Medicare's long-term prognostications. Estimates in the early 1970s called for insolvency in two years, according to Stark, and nearly 25 years in the future in 2000.

"In fact, during the past 45 years, whether solvency projections have been two years or 25, we have never allowed Medicare to become insolvent," said Stark. "Why? Because Congress has always acted to make changes to the program to avoid that outcome. That’s our job and I think we’ve done it pretty well."

Medicare's trustees had previously projected insolvency by 2029--a juicy counterpoint easily grabbed by many Republicans who favor converting its funds to subsidies for private insurance companies. Stark attributed the drop to the sluggish economy. "You’re right on the money," testified Medicare Trustee Dr. Robert Reischauer. "[Medicare] is a program that is sensitive to the strength of the economy."

Stark also took an opportunity to criticize the GOP's previous stances on Medicare led by the controversial plan put forth by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan.

"I’m not sure why our Majority is focused on the issue of Medicare solvency at all," said Stark. "They’ve already voted to end Medicare. Their position is clear.

"Republicans don’t believe it is the role of the federal government to guarantee health benefits to senior citizens and people with disabilities. They prefer to repeal the health reform law and end the delivery system reforms -- reforms that this Trustee’s Report highlights as showing real promise for controlling Medicare spending growth even more in the future.

"Republicans instead want to provide Medicare beneficiaries with a voucher to purchase more expensive private insurance that may or may not be affordable, or cover the benefits they need. There’s no doubt that an underfunded voucher would save the government money. Medicare becomes a lot cheaper when you decimate the program."

Undaunted by the details of the report, Rep. Dave Reichert, a Republican committee member from Washington state, predicted Medicare's eventual demise while denigrating viewers of C-Span. "I think there are some major themes you are expressing this morning to all of us, to all Americans and some who may be watching on C-Span and don't have a life," he said. "Medicare is going bankrupt."

Fremont Mayor Calls State Budget Bill Illegal

Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman is an old hat when it comes to local government. That's to say nothing seems to faze him, but he has become increasingly critical of the lawmakers in Sacramento for their perceived ineffectiveness and consistent grab of millions annually from local cities to duct-tape the state budget.

Fremont Mayor
Bob Wasserman
Wasserman released a statement Wednesday morning calling the ill-fated package of budget bills vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown "illegal" since it runs afoul of Proposition 22 passed last year by voters. State Controller John Chiang agreed with Wasserman's assessment yesterday when he put a hold on lawmaker's $400-per-day salary along with various allowances. Here's Wasserman's statement:

“I am extremely disappointed that California legislators last week passed an illegal State budget that essentially steals redevelopment funds in direct violation of the passing of Proposition 22 in November by California voters. This puts at risk the majority of Fremont’s future projects, most notably the Irvington BART Station as well as Fremont Boulevard improvements and streetscape enhancements, the Grimmer Boulevard greenbelt and creek restoration, quiet zone safety improvements to railroad crossings in various locations, and pedestrian sidewalk streetscape and sidewalk improvements in the historic districts.

Fremont is understandably worried over the axe hanging over the head of redevelopment agencies. Two expensive BART stations and a host of public improvement projects may be kept hostage by the continuing uncertainty of redevelopemnt. You may remember, Fremont was one of the first California cities to aggresively confront the state last January when it approved issuing $140 million in bonds to help secure funding for its projects--some shovel-ready, some not.

Much of the impetus over the quick move to issue bonds centered around Brown's initial call in January to dissolve the agencies by July 1. That deadline was subsequently downplayed leading to Fremont to temper its plan for the taxable bonds along with a tepid bond market showing signs of a glut stemming from numerous cities instituting the same plan to create a fall back plan for its projects.

Wasserman also charged leaders in Sacramento for being tone deaf to the worries of their constituents who continue to fret over the loss of jobs and stagnant incomes.
This budget eliminates local government’s best economic development tool at the precise moment when local governments can least afford to lose it and squanders more resources than it provides. By taking away a mechanism that creates valuable jobs and increases tax revenues—something Fremont desperately needs—the State Legislature has not listened to its constituents. Gov. Jerry Brown has the ability to do the right thing and veto AB 1X26 and AB 1X27. This action would help put California back on the road to economic recovery.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Fiscal Budget Nearly Complete in Hayward While Sparing the Arts

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

Hayward is slated to balance a budget gap of $20.6
million, but not before reinstating $68,000 for arts,
including the Hayward Municipal Band, pictured above.
 HAYWARD - The band will play on. News of funding for arts and the Hayward Municipal Band struck a chord with a large outpouring of support this week at the Hayward City Council to reinstate $68,000 for the old-time outdoor orchestra to begin Sunday performances throughout the summer at Memorial Park.

A few amendments and tinkering to Hayward's fiscal budget for 2012 were also made in advance of expected council approval June 21.

"The band has been practicing without knowing if there would be a season," Hayward Councilman Olden Henson said Tuesday of the brass band founded in 1957 by two Portuguese maintenance workers.

Dozen of supporters for the arts and the nearby Sun Gallery held pale orange placards throughout the lengthy session that including an hour of testimony from residents over cuts to the arts in response to a $20.6 million funding shortfall.

Councilman Bill Quirk noted the small amount--roughly one-half of one percent of the general fund was hardly a budget-busting sum. "I think the arts are worth it," he said.

But, with budget uncertainty in the state capitol surrounding local redevelopment funds, funding for the art and an additional $50,000 slated Tuesday night for the informational system known as 211, comes at a risk to the general fund.

Dems, Stark Look To Create $100 Billion In Medicare Part D Savings

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

Big Pharma is extracting huge
profits from Medicare Part D by
effectively charging the federal
government more for drugs.
House Democrats, including Rep. Pete Stark believe cost-savings can be wrung out of Medicare instead of taking a flame-throwing to the venerable health contract.

A bill authored by Reps. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), George Miller (D-Calif.), and Rob Andrews (D-NJ) and Stark contends over $100 billion in savings can be created by eliminating what they call a "sweetheart deal for brand-name drug manufacturers" derived from the Medicare Part D drug plan pushed by Republicans in 2006.

“Instead of making devastating cuts to programs that help low-income and middle-income Americans, as Republicans keep putting on the table, we should do what every other industrialized country does and ask the pharmaceutical industry, one of the wealthiest in the world, to chip in," said Stark.

Part D currently allows drug manufacturers to reap larger profits from Medicare by bypassing the payment of large rebates for patients eligible for prescription from both Medicare and Medicaid. According to the legislation, known as "The Medicare Drug Savings Act of 2011" (HR 2190), those rebates would be reinstating along with those for enrollees eligible for low-income benefits.

"This bill shows there are ways to substantially reduce Medicare costs without hurting beneficiaries,” said Levin, the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The proposed bill can be seen as a response to the plan put forth by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan that would substantially raise payments over the next decade for those now 55 years of age.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Quirk Gets A Leg Up With Assembly Redistricting Maps

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen.com

Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, looking dapper in a crisp light gray suit, pink shirt and tie of varying pastel hues, stood on the dais last Tuesday night after a marathon four hour council meeting to discuss the recent release of state redistricting lines. More than just about anyone in the East Bay, the proposed boundaries may be more of a factor in whether the long-time councilman can win a seat in the California Assembly next year.

"The maps are alright," Quirk said with mischievous smirk. From his perspective, though, the Citizens' Redistricting Commission maps for Hayward are more than alright, they actually eliminate a large swath of Quirk's potential rivals for the seat along with a stubborn composition of voters in the Tri-Valley who may not know what to make of the brusque and candid Quirk.

The first draft of maps release last week ended all question of whether Quirk will be a candidate next to replace the termed-out Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi when the 18th District eastern borders did not include the Tri-Valley.

"I'm happy that I won't have to campaign against good friends in Dublin and Pleasanton," said Quirk. A small stable of candidates from Pleasanton and Dublin were rumored to have interest in running. Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti was one name bandied about constantly as a particularly formidable candidate, although he is virtually unknown on this side of 580 corridor.

While Quirk's understated choice of muted colors in his attire this week is pleasant, its the analogy to his garish green blazers more befitting of a Masters' champion and dark selections of deep purple colored shirt typically worn by Vegas pit bosses that may cause voters some concern.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

East Bay Cities Lining Up In Favor Of Splitting Pleasanton in Redistricting

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

Mayors from Dublin, Livermore and Fremont have sent letters of support for a proposed Alameda County redistricting map dividing Pleasanton among two districts, while maintaining the status quo in the rest of the county.

Pleasanton Mayor Jennifer
Hosterman is against dividing
her city through redistricting.
 Hayward's City Council also approved Tuesday night support for the plan labelled Map A. Hayward Councilman Mark Salinas placed the item on the agenda last week after competing maps called for Hayward to be separated in place of Pleasanton.

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who sits on the two-person ad-hoc redistricting committee, motioned Wednesday afternoon for a version of Map A to be removed for consideration, along with another county-prepared proposal known as Map F.

Haggerty said the second map was created to show the current lines of his District 1 would contain too many residents if the hyper-growing city of Dublin were still included in his region.

In some ways, the dilemma facing Pleasanton is due to the rapid growth of nearby Dublin. The U.S. Census figures showed the city grew by 53 percent, vastly outstripping the state average of 10 percent.

Dems Pass Budget Bills As Corbett Asks For Bipartisan Support

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett said Wednesday afternoon after the California State Senate passed a flurry of bills to duck a constitutional deadline for passage a fiscal budget, "We will make history, but our job is not done."

Senate Majority Leader
Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro)
Corbett addressed the senate floor today in the midst of the likelihood Democrats would push through passage of a package of bills without support of Republicans. It is the first time since 1986 a budget package will be approved by the constitutional deadline of June 15.

"I want to thank Republicans who have struggled with this," she said, but lamented opposition from the entire caucus, "I'm very sad this did not come to pass." Corbett, though, attempted a final time to attract bipartisan support. "Consider the consequences happening today," she said. "It's not too late to look at a different way."

"We all know that deadline was coming," added Corbett. "We have no other options without revenues. We have to make cuts."

The Senate approved nine bills Wednesday to wrap up their work on the fiscal budget for 2012. Included is $1.7 billion from redevelopment to facilitate a balanced budget, although a first round of votes fell short of passage. The senate returned to approved the two bills, 21-16. The assembly followed through later in the day approving 20 bills almost entirely along party lines, including the so-called "Amazon Tax" bill tacking on sales tax to online purchases.

News of radically changing the way local cities move towards redeveloping blight and underused areas and the fate of already shovel-ready projects is likely to become a firestorm of criticism among local leaders state-wide.

In the East Bay, cities like Hayward and Fremont have led the way in taking a  highly vocal stand in favor of the perception the Legislature is attempting to strip its local authority. Fremont, for one, was one of the first municipalities to formulate possible end-arounds of Gov. Jerry Brown's initial proposal to end redevelopment agencies as they operate today.

Sweeney Takes More Swipes At State Legislators Over Redevelopment

By Steven Tavares
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HAYWARD - City leaders in Hayward struck quickly Tuesday night at a duo of Democratic-backed bills in the Legislature to curtail redevelopment agencies in the state.

With a budget deadline looming in Sacramento, Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney again criticized fellow Democrats, including the city's own legislative representatives for not looking out for the welfare of local governments.

Democrats unveiled two bills effectively shuttering redevelopment agencies similar to Gov. Jerry Brown's controversial plan last February. The introduction of SB 14x and SB 15x particularly rankled Sweeney for its stealth components. "They kept this bill secret and held the bill number until this afternoon," an annoyed Sweeney said Tuesday night. "You can't do that in the City of Hayward, but I guess you can in the Legislature."

City Manager Fran David, who has also lead a charge on numerous fronts against Sacramento's reliance on fixing legislative problems on the back of local cities, called one potential piece of legislation a "blackmail bill." The reference follows a quick-read of SB 15x calling for the state to balance the budget using $1.7 billion in redevelopment funds under the threat of elimination.

"It's outrageous and it needs to stop," Sweeney said of Sacramento's latest usurp of Hayward's ability to provide services. "We need to stop this charade."

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

San Leandro Cop's Blog Showed Depictions of Neo-Nazi Materials

By Steven Tavares
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This photo included on San Leandro Det. Jason
Fredriksson's personal blog shows numerous Nazi-related
flags and paraphernalia.
As embattled San Leandro Narcotics Det. Jason Fredriksson ambled into Hayward Superior Court this morning, sources with decades of law enforcement experience tell The Citizen, numerous photographs on the officer's personal blog raise serious questions of impropriety.

The blog, unfortunately named, "F--k the Factory" and written under Fredriksson's handle as "Big Dirty" features photos featuring numerous Nazi-related flags and banners, San Leandro police officers imbibing alcohol and images of bikers with tattoos, sources say, are common in prison culture, namely a spider-web design typically centered around elbows.

Just the photos posted on the web of police officers posing with cups of beer, in most jurisdictions, said a former cop, would illicit a suspension in any other department other than San Leandro.

One person seen in a photo drinking beer jokingly off the back of another person apparently acting as a table, is believed to be the nephew of San Leandro Police Capt. Steven Pricco.

There is also a belief the arrest of John Fredriksson, the father of Jason Fredriksson and also a former police officer, on eight counts of child molestation in Walnut Creek just a week after news broke of his sons arrest for allegedly selling a pound of marijuana to an undercover cop is no coincidence.

Cassidy's Plan B for Cooperating With Colleagues: Replace Them

By Steven Tavares
President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to pack the U.S. Supreme Court. San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy may eventually attempt to pack the city council with like-minded patsies.

San Leandro School Board
President Morgan Mack-Rose
A rumor propagated by a talkative acolyte of Cassidy may set in motion a similar tactic utilized during his time on the school board. Alameda County Democratic Central Committee member Margarita Lacabe says San Leandro School Board President Morgan Mack-Rose is interested in opposing District 2 Councilwoman Ursula Reed in 2012.

It's not the first time Mack-Rose has been summoned to shift the direction of a local government body. In 2008, she won Cassidy's school board seat after he decided to not run for re-election. During the past mayoral campaign, Cassidy said he choose not to run for four more years at the urging of his wife. It is a well-held belief among city observers, his demeanor and subsequent impotence is attracting a majority led him to step down after one term.

Cassidy's pet cause, though--firing former superintendent Christine Lim--was unfulfilled leading to Mack-Rose and Hermy Almonte delivering on campaign promises to unseat Lim last year along with Mike Katz-Lacabe's vote.

With Cassidy again failing to inspire the confidence and support of his colleagues on the City Council, rumors of the ginger-haired Mack-Rose attempting to unseat Reed may be history repeating itself.

Mack-Rose's abrupt move to District 2 could be a campaign fodder for its salaciousness in any potential match up next year. Her comments sounding skeptical of the most recent city employees union contract last December, will also force her to become more clear on her labor stances, if she were to run.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Ethnic Groups in Hayward, Fremont Use New Power in Differing Ways

By Steven Tavares
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Fremont's South Asian community now accounts for
the cities majority. While Indians have pushed for power,
Latinos in Hayward have been quiet as they too amass
greater numbers following the latest U.S. Census.
The vibrant South Asian communities of Fremont and Union City are fighting for political power after the most recent U.S. Census showed the demographic group gained a majority of the population. Latinos in Hayward, though, who, themselves reached just over 40 percent of the city's 144,000 population have been far more reserve in converting their new found political muscle on the county and state stages.

Fremont residents, primarily of Indian descent, converged last week for a hearing of the Citizens' Redistricting Commission in what became a raucous and riveting call against diffusing its burgeoning power by splitting Fremont among two legislative districts. Observers, in hindsight of last Friday's release of the proposed maps, say groups like the aggressive South Asian contingent appeared to have held sway among the body's 14 commissioners. In the first draft Fremont was spared of any split.

Although, the setting and ramification are somewhat different, the scene in Hayward at the county level may prove the city's Latino core could be suppressed and without much dissent from the community.

At a county hearing June 1 in Hayward, the number of residents in attendance could be counted on one hand along with two city councilmembers and a school board trustee.

Hayward's power as the county's second largest city could be stymied by numerous proposals, three of which, call for it to be bisected among two supervisorial districts. The likelihood of such a split becoming a detriment to Hayward's position at the Board of Supervisors pushed Councilman Mark Salinas last week to instruct city staff to place the issue on the June 14 council agenda.

To underscore, the importance of maintaining political power at the county seat in Oakland, a city staff report by City Manager Fran David lays out the stakes in stark terms. "The policy question of concern to out community is assuring the strongest possible representation at the county level with the best chance of having the city's position on issues prevail in a vote on the Board of Supervisors," said David.

Stark Says He Plans To Run For Re-Election in 2012

By Steven Tavares
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Rep. Pete Stark says he is healthy and planning for a run at re-election in 2012.

"What would make me reconsider," Stark told the Oakland Tribune, "I don't know--Secretary of the Treasury? No, I plan to run. My health is good."

The 19-time congressman from the East Bay is joking about an appointment to replace Timothy Geithner, but he again, despite his age (he'll turn 80 in November) is showing no signs of slowing down after health  issues plagued him two years ago while fueling speculation his time in House was nearing an end.

The release last week by the Citizens' Redistricting Commission to merge the districts of Stark and nearby Rep. Jerry McNerney, though, again raises questions of whether the potential of a hard-fought campaign next year is in the cards.

McNerney told the Contra Costa Times he is also running in 2012, but did not say where.

Voters McNerney's 11th congressional district have made forced the Democrat to run three grueling campaigns after defeating Richard Pombo. In light of the Central Valley's growing political clout and more moderate voters than Stark's East Bay conclave, an easy campaign is doubtful. In the last month, Republican groups already placed robocall among constituents in McNerney's district, as well as Rep. John Garamendi's neighboring district.
Nevertheless, Stark told the Tribune he does not believe the proposed maps will change the make up of his district.

"For the rest of us, you just wait and see," he said. "The commission is going to come up with a plan, and if it's really bad I guess somebody will file a lawsuit. I don't think there's any of us among the nine who care. Barbara Lee and I have represented Alameda County for I don't know how long, I don't know why they would move us out of there. They might, but I don't think it would make much sense."

Stark did say, though, Rep. Anna Eshoo's moderately conservative 14th District could flip if she chooses to retire.

With a throng of politicians state-wide throwing themselves into future races in the aftermath of Friday's release of the first draft maps, there are very few positives for a long-time incumbent like Stark to make a decision on re-election at this point. The maps are not final and almost every politician in the East Bay, is just champing at the bit to grab his House seat, if and only, Stark were to retire. In the meantime, the 13th remains a hotbed of tantalizing speculation and rumor.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

First Draft of Citizen Redistricting Group Strikes Fear Into Incumbents

By Steven Tavares
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When voters approved handing the reins for redistricting California in 2008 without regard for incumbents or political favors they may have imagined the congressional draft map produced Friday by the Citizens' Redistricting Commission.

Eleven proposed congressional districts will contain two incumbents along with three composed of three incumbents.

The sheer enormity of juggling nearly 20 percent of the state's congressional delegation may be without precedent. "It will have a chilling effect," said Commissioner Gabino Aguirre of Ventura County, "In some ways the fix is in no matter what you do and that has a chilling effect on the incumbent."

When asked by a reporter if Aguirre had heard from lawmakers, he said the commissioner are not allowed to speak with them, but said, "I think if you call them, they are quite concerned of how these districts came out."

Alameda County's significant drop in new residents over the past decade coinciding with an exodus towards the Central Valley may force 19-time Democrat Rep. Pete Stark to face-off with fellow caucus member Rep. Jerry McNerney. The draft map presented Friday by the commission reconfigures most Alameda County to Stark and McNerney's former districts.

The CRC will hold a series of 11 hearings this month to accept further suggestions and testimony before presenting a revision on July 7. A final draft must be presented by Aug. 15.

The commissioner, some looking haggard, after months of testimony from over 1,500 citizens, appeared content with their initial stab at restructuring how politics is played in California. "These maps are our best first effort," said Commissioner Stan Forbes of Yolo County.

Yet, grumblings are sure to arise in the next few months, especially with a handful of cities and areas of interests still split in the first draft maps. "There are problems with some things we can work out given more time," admitted Aguirre.

The commission will continue to alleviate problems within the maps where "squiggly lines" still exists, something proponents of Propositions 11 and 20 aimed to eradicate with the CRC, but because of several auxiliary issues, said Aguirre, primarily the Voters Rights Act protecting the political strength of minority groups, the maps are not perfectly drawn boundaries or as he recounted a resident saying, "Life ain't fair, just draw squares."

Local hearings will be heard this month in San Jose, June 25 at San Jose City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., 2-5 p.m., and in San Francisco, June 27 at Fort Mason Center's Cowell Theater, 6-9 p.m.

Commission Places Stark, McNerney in Proposed Congressional District

By Steven Tavares
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Proposed congressional districts proposed Friday.
Long-time Rep. Pete Stark could face a fellow incumbent Democrat for congress next year, if a proposed first draft of the Citizens' Redistriciting Commission hold true to form.

Stark's 13th District may be cobbled together with Rep. Jerry McNerney's 18th District, according to the maps released Friday afternoon.

The district would stay true to Alameda County's east boundaries and swallow the Tri-Valley area, Hayward, San Leandro and parts of Fremont.

The proposed district lines is one of 14 congressional districts including two or more incumbents. Alameda County's potential race could feature enormously complex and riveting questions over the next year.

Stark, the 19-time incumbent from the East Bay is nearing 80. His health has deteriorated over the past few years starting with a long bout with pneumonia in 2009 that sapped him of much of his energy, so much so that only a few lawmakers missed more votes on Capitol Hill than Stark. Nevertheless, the liberal lion's seat has been nearly a lock for three decades. An opponent has not garnered more than 30 percent of the vote since 1980, but a string of angry town halls two years ago featuring raving Tea Party members might serve as a reminder that somewhat more conservative voters inland might direct huge amounts of vitriol against Stark.

If Stark's seat has never been contested since President Jimmy Carter was in the White House, McNerney's district has consistently been up-for-grabs since he narrowly beat Republican Richard Pombo in 2007. In fact, many pundits zeroed in on McNerney's seat as the one Bay Area district likely to be rejiggered.

Another angle to be explored during the next election cycle is another state ballot initiative allowing for open primaries, which can allow members of the same party to face-off in the general election. In such a match up, Stark would appear to be a cinch for win re-election. Unfortunately, it's not that simple, since there is an unofficial line of local politicians unabashedly coveting Stark's seat. Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett is one, as is Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi. Some may make the calculation that "the more, the merrier" might make this super race a toss-up.

To make things simple, Stark may just decide to hang them up after 38 years in Washington. After a recent town hall, Stark, sounding contrite, said he is awaiting the results of the commission's maps to make a decision. Some believe with his legacy secure with the passing of health care reform last year, there is little Stark has to prove and may not be up for the dogfight likely to ensue.

Corbett, Hayashi Drawn Out of San Leandro

By Steven Tavares
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California State Senate districts as proposed
 Friday by the Citizens'Redistricting Commission.
Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett has been  San Leandro politics for the better part of two decades. Her mayoral victory in 1994 was in some cases the beginning of a strong, but politically fortunate rise to the state Senate, but if first drafts of the Citizens' Redistricting Commission stand, her strong base in San Leandro could be lost.

The commission announced Friday, San Leandro would be cut out of Corbett's district and moved to include Sen. Loni Hancock's area encompassing Alameda, Oakland and Berkeley. Corbett, who is termed out in 2014, would take on more of the South Bay. In addition to Hayward and Fremont, Corbett's district would run clear down to Downtown San Jose.

The potential loss of Corbett, who is very popular in San Leandro, is likely to face stiff opposition. Following her stint as mayor, she also represented the city in the state assembly for eight years and easily won re-election to the state senate last November.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi could also be drawn out of San Leandro. The commission appears intent on coupling the city along with Alameda and nearby neighborhoods in Oakland.

California Assembly districts proposed Friday.
Hayashi's district, one of the many drawn with peculiar boundaries due to excessive gerrymandering would still include Hayward, Castro Valley and Union City along with a sliver of Fremont, but also jut eastward.

The new senate maps were not the only potential problem for Corbett's political future and possibly Hayashi. The congressional district held by Rep. Pete Stark may become vastly more moderate if draft maps include Alameda County's more agricultural constituents in the east. Corbett, along with Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and a host of potential candidates have kept a keen eye on Stark's seat, if he were to retire. Both Corbett and Hayashi are two of the most liberal members of the State Legislature.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Instability in San Leandro Grows as Finance Director Resigns

By Steven Tavares
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San Leandro Finance Director Tracy Vesely is resigning from her position for a similar job opportunity with the City of Hayward, The Citizen has learned.

Vesely tendered her resignation Thursday before notifying members of her department of her intentions. Her last day is July 8.

After spending just seven months in charge of San Leandro's budget, Vesely's departure leaves the city's leadership in further turmoil.

Just this week Vesely's first fiscal budget returned was unanimously approved by the City Council and featured a balanced budget without the use of reserves since 2006, but she gave no indication any change in employment was imminent.

Vesely replaced interim finance director Perry Carter last October. Her move to Hayward will be third East Bay city she has been employed in the past year. She came to San Leandro after a short time as Berkeley's budget director.

Despite Call For Inquiry, Alamedans Still Angry Over Crown Beach Death

By Steven Tavares
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Alameda is finding the death of Raymond Zack very difficult to fathom as firefighters and police officers watched and did nothing to prevent it is because their inaction runs stunningly contrary to type.

After 9/11, those involved in public safety were the heroes, risking their lives without a handbook to guide their actions for a catastrophe never before fathomed. The perception of foot-dragging is not typical for this group in popular culture.

"This is a defining moment in Alameda," said resident Rosemary McNally, who again Tuesday night registered her disappointment to the Alameda City Council and called for a halt in labor negotiations with the two public safety unions.

"Like many in this town, I was pissed," said James Lester of the inaction surrounding the Memorial Day drowning death of Zack at Crown Beach, Lester, an Alameda resident and Vietnam veteran, recalled his own anguish when leaving fellow soldiers to die on the battlefield.

Patty Rose with arms raised to mimic the actions of Zack standing in the bay waters said, "We killed him." Others called it "state-assisted suicide."

Numerous speakers disagreed with Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore's announcement Tuesday night for an independent review of the circumstances leading to Zack's death. Among them, resident Liz Williams called for an investigation by outside law enforcement.

"I have no trust in you," Williams said three times as she pointed to Gilmore and Councilmembers Rob Bonta and Lena Tam. "You are ethically compromised," she said, while holding a campaign night photograph from last November showing members from the fire department draped on the three in celebration of their victories.

Colbert Teases Garamendi About Not Living in 10th District

As part of the Colbert Report's 435-part series "Better Know A District," Stephen Colbert interviewed East Bay Rep. John Garamendi Wednesday night.

The talk show host repeatedly ribbed Garamendi for not living in his own 10th District. Garamendi has long maintained his front yard resides in the district, but not his home, which is situated in the 3rd District.

"The tenth is a nice place, but you wouldn't want to live there," Colbert said. "That's what you're telling your constituents." Colbert then mocked Garamendi with either a high-falutin New England Brahmin voice or a British Lord.

Colbert also proposed marriage, but Garamendi declined. "You're not my type," he said.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Cassidy Moving To Home of City Attorney's Boss

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

Steven Meyer's law firm
represents San Leandro
San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy is moving--not out of town--but into the ranch-style home of the founding partner of the law firm contracted by the city to provide legal services.

According to county records, a deed of trust was filed May 26 transferring the half-acre property in San Leandro's tony Bay-O-Vista neighborhood from Steven Meyers of Meyers-Nave to Cassidy.

The four bedroom-three bath, 3,111 sq. ft home on Lakeside Court is listed at $838,000, more than double the median home price for San Leandro.

Cassidy's financial dealings with Meyers raises a few questions about the separation of personal business and transparency between the mayor and the city attorney.

Meyers is former San Leandro city attorney during the 1980s. His firm Meyers-Nave is well-known across the state for its familiarity in representing local governments. Current City Attorney Jayne Williams is a part of Meyers-Nave.

Even in Defeat, Corbett's Internet Privacy Bill Makes a Point

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter (ironic, huh?)

Either the California State Senate isn't ready for Sen. Ellen Corbett's Internet privacy bill or it is sitting quietly as an industry like social media begins to wraps its arms around legislatures across the country like no other lobby since the robber barons a century ago.

Sites like Facebook are just getting
starting when it comes to lobbying
As Corbett's SB 242 failed in the state Senate last week, only a few of her colleagues strongly supported the measure in either party, but few strongly opposed it, too. The middle ground, it seemed, was for some starving senators to offer culinary references by calling the bill "not fully-cooked."

This is the second time in two years Corbett has taken on social media and lost, but her fight is doing one thing: bringing notice to state houses and constituents that web sites like Google, Facebook and Twitter have beaten back regulation without a consistent or sizable lobby.

Since its reach into the lives of its millions of users is already ubiquitous, spending big dollars for lobbyists to twist the arms of lawmakers is almost a waste of money until now. The slow rise of lobbyists for social media companies on Capitol Hill and Sacramento should cause many of us to worry about what soon will be an albatross hovering over almost everything we do.

Corbett's privacy bill merely sought to give control to new users as a default setting, not as it currently sits as exposing your private information and tastes until you opt-out later. Of course, almost nobody thinks to protect themselves or question sites like Facebook before linking up with friends. The legislation would also give parents a right to delete information from the pages of their children.

Facebook, for one, took dead aim at Corbett's bill since the 800-pound gorilla in the room says social media companies make boatloads of money from selling your private information and preferences to third-party vendors. Giving people an opportunity to be a customer of these sites without offering lucrative information to the company is like someone using the Wi-Fi at Starbucks without buying a $4 latte.

If Corbett's fight for privacy on the net does anything, it gives many a new view of social media barons as something far less than the altruistic, fresh faced young Internet entrepreneur saying he wants to save the world or "Don't be evil" when maybe the lure of greed and unmatched power is something government needs to be wary and possibly regulate more readily in the name of its people. The warning is this: social media has gained this power without cajoling government, imagine what they can do with an army of lobbying marching on Washington and Sacramento.

Rep. Anthony Weiner
with the ladies
SENATOR TRIES TO JOKE WITH CORBETT Sen. Tony Strickland's (R-Santa Barbara) sense of humor might be good, but his timing was a little off last week when in the middle of a serious discussion of Sen. Corbett's Internet privacy bill, he rose to pose her a question.

"Has Congressman Anthony Weiner endorsed this bill?" joked Strickland on the senate floor. Corbett, clearly flustered, grimly shot back, "If I knew that was going to be your question, I would not have agreed to have you ask it."

"I know you ask in jest," continued Corbett, who said she has not heard from Weiner and is not a friend of the representative who was caught in a web of lies after posting a lewd photo of himself to a female follower.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Two Members of San Leandro City Council Say They're Not Being Heard

By Steven Tavares
Follow @eastbaycitizen on twitter

San Leandro Councilwoman Pauline Cutter has seemed like a fish out of water since winning a seat on the council last November despite spending the last decade on the city's school board. On numerous occasions she has voiced confusion during certain points of discussion while claiming she felt her knowledge of the subject was deficient or maintaining unfamiliarity with some sections of issues about to be voted upon.

San Leandro Mayor
Stephen Cassidy
Some have chalked it up to inexperience that comes with being a rookie on the city council. Council members say it takes at least a year to get into the swing of things, but Cutter is not neophyte to local government. So what gives? Where does this feeling of being kept in the dark come from?

In the past month, Councilwoman Diana Souza has also begun to voice a similar complaint regarding the perception of certain voices and information being swept under the rug by the new mayor.

During Monday night's approval of the fiscal budget for next year, Souza asked a question regarding an amendment to the budget referring to the hiring of a city liaison to the Alameda Fire Department with costs defrayed by the participation of neighboring cities. Mayor Stephen Cassidy interrupted and ask her to ask the question at a later time, which lead Souza to this objection:

"The problem I have," said Souza, "if we don't talk about it now, as Councilwoman Cutter says, when is the appropriate time then is it already done and we really feel like we don't have a say and then when we get to the these meetings it's like, well, our hour-and-a-half is gone, ask your question at the next meeting. When we keep pushing off these important questions to deal with, it's frustrating."

The general confusion among some council members over input and the process of decisions at the committee level is growing and points yet again to Cassidy's constant inability to, as Councilman Michael Gregory is want to say, count to a majority of four votes on the council.

This isn't the first time Souza has voiced this complaint in council hearings. Last month she uttered nearly the same comment even making allusions to the finance committee's switch to work around Cassidy's work schedule to an early morning session starting at 8:15 a.m. and ending promptly 90 minutes later.

Along with the Cassidy's failure to hire a new city manager through the less transparent ad-hoc committee process, quite a few decisions are being made outside the view of the full city council, if the repeated comments by Cutter and Souza are true.

This is how Cassidy's uneventful four years on the school board ended with nary an agreement save for fellow trustee Mike Katz and appears to be growing into the common thread running through his first six months on the job at City Hall.