Wednesday, November 30, 2011

House Passes Anti-Union Law Stark Calls 'Attack' On Workers, Middle Class

Rep. Pete Stark
Nov. 30, 2011 | The House of Representatives voted along partisan lines to roll back new union organizing rules proposed by the National Labor Relations Board last summer. East Bay Rep. Pete Stark labeled an "attack" on workers and the middle class.

The Workforce Democracy and Fairness Act (H.R. 3094) passed Wednesday afternoon by a vote of 235-188.

The bill would provide employer 14 days to file complaints with the NLRB before a union representative can raise objections and ensures union elections did not occur before a minimum of 35 days. It would also allow supervisors to participate in union votes.

Republicans and business interests raised questions over the NLRB's new rules. They contend the changes were pursued by labor unions to make it more difficult for employers to file repeated appeals. Labor unions contend management abuses the appeal process practice by purposely extending the election period. The longer workers wait to vote, the unions say, typically reduces the chances of potential union members will approve entering or forming bargaining units.

Nevertheless, the NLRB also today approved by a 2-1 vote to move forward with its new rules.

On the floor of the House Wednesday morning, Stark spoke in opposition of the legislation. "This bill is just one more Republican attack on workers and middle class Americans under the guise of protecting the 'job creators' we hear so much about from the other side of the aisle," Stark said.

"Every aspect of this legislation would make it more difficult for workers to form a union," he added. "It would allow companies to obstruct any attempt by workers to unionize and create infinite avenues for employers to delay elections, including litigation. These delays empower those employers who want to intimidate and harass workers and bring in union-busters. It would also allow employers to gerrymander bargaining units to skew election results in their favor."

House Republicans point to H.R. 3094 as part of their jobs plan for this year. Opponents, including Stark claim, it has no role in putting people back to work.

The bill heads to the U.S. Senate where its passage is unlikely with the current makeup of the upper house of Congress.

Police Chief Says Diverse Applicant Pool For New Cops Can't Pass Background Checks

SAN LEANDRO | Nov. 30, 2011 | Change at the San Leandro Police Department comes at a torpid pace, it seems, especially when it comes to transforming the makeup of the police force to more closely match the faces of one of the most diverse cities in the country.

Just how the police department and its chief, Sandra Spagnoli, would accomplish this became less clear Monday night.

Spagnoli told the council racial and gender considerations are not used in the promotion process. Of the department's 91 officers, only 7 are black and a mere 4 are women.

In a response to a query from San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy over efforts to encourage blacks and women to apply for positons on the force, Spagnoli said there were none and questioned the exact definition of what "diversity" actually means.

Cassidy claimed five of the last seven recent new hires were white males.

"That doesn't sound correct," said Spagnoli. "You have to remember diversity comes from a variety of different experiences that people bring to the table." She referenced a recent new hire who was born and raised in the city's Washington Manor neighborhood near the Highway 238 interchange.

"He happens to be a white male with a four-year education and he has experience as a police officer. So when you talk about diversity whether it is ethnic diversity or gender diversity, it's really great when you think someone in this community wants to serve this community after growing up in this community."

Cassidy responded by saying, "We do have a desire to have a police force that is reflective in gender and race of our community and not be dramatically different." He suggested funneling a more diverse pool of possible candidates through the police academy, but she disagreed.

"I think you're making the assumption that your diversity pool is going to increase if you have a pool of people who don't have experience versus having experience," Spagnoli said.

"We had a lot diversity in the applicant process, unfortunately, the most diverse candidates failed the background process and wouldn't be working here."

Changes to the way officers are chosen for promotion were also discussed during Monday's work session. Spagnoli said outside consultants would aid in choosing applicants along with a battery of other tests, including a written and oral exam. "The reason why you use a variety of different test method is so one person can't have a great test day."

The last comment runs close to matching statements made by numerous officers in recently disclosed confidential reports detailing the Dewayne Stancill scandal. Disgruntled officers claimed the previous promotion board unfairly favored some candidates, which led to low morale within its ranks.

Others voiced a sense that Stancill who was called "stupid" by some in the department, somehow had a lucky day in testing so high on the controversial promotional test for sergeant in 2007.

CORRECTION & NOTE: A correction was made to a caption posted earlier this morning that read despite more than a quarter of the population in San Leandro is Asian, the group is unrepresented on the force. That is clearly an error. There are nine, according to a memo by city staff last August. This article is about comments made during last Monday's work session that featured most of the SLPD's top brass and should have referred to the lack of Asians among that group.

The fact remains the racial and gender makeup of the PD is severely out of whack. Here is the department's demographics in contrast to the latest 2010 Census:

Source: SLPD, U.S. Census

Despite Nudges From Mayor, SLPD Chief Voices Resistance To Change

SAN LEANDRO | Nov. 30, 2011 | Keep an eye on the growing professional discord between San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli and Mayor Stephen Cassidy.

Monday's work session was dedicated completely to an update on the police department's doings this year, which included some embarrassing lowlights. The often complacent and unprepared council failed to ask a single question of any substance during the three hour meeting. At times, they almost sounded profoundly reverential.

In fact, if not for Cassidy's excellently pointed questions to Spagnoli, there might not be anything to write about.

Move along folks! Nothing here to see!

In addition to questioning the department's actions in encouraging more diversity within its ranks, he again indicated he is reticent about allowing the police chief to make decisions in joining other agencies in providing mutual aid for pre-planned raids.

Before Cassidy could fully articulate his question, Spagnoli quickly stopped him.

"I would request that one of things for reconsideration for this discussion is that these phone calls come at 1:30 in the morning and you respond by 4 a.m.," she said. "So, it makes it very difficult to go beyond the police chief to figure out if you're going to use your resources."

However, there is already a chain of command in place, she said. A hypothetical call from a neighboring agency already flows through the watch commander to captain to the police chief, she added.

But, Cassidy was not speaking of a quickly planned event such as Spagnoli laid out, but similar to the second raid on Occupy Oakland protesters that was planned days in advance.

One thing is clear, Spagnoli will fight hard for total control of her department no matter if it means publicly sparring with a mayor calling for more than incremental change than appears planned by the PD.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

McNerney, Garamendi Looking For Scraps At Giffords Fundraiser

Nov. 29, 2011 | Two Bay Area congressman are looking for a jolt of campaign cash as the undercard to an expensive Democratic fundraiser for Rep. Gabrielle Giffords held this Tuesday morning in the Capitol.

Politico reported the invitation for the breakfast, coming with a $250 minimum price tag, featured "some of the most exciting candidates of the 2012 election cycle."

Those "exciting" candidates include the moribund Reps Jerry McNerney and John Garamendi, both running for re-election next year.

McNerney's perpetually in-play seat in San Joaquin County has again attracted the attention of the Republican National Committee. Ricky Gill, a 24-year-old go-getter with over $750,000 in fundraising already in the bank, is the latest threat to Democrats losing another seat in the House, of which they are in the minority.

It is likely Giffords will run for re-election for her seat in Arizona. Less than a year ago she was shot in the head by a lone gunman outside a Tucson grocery store while meeting with constituents.

San Leandro Police Chief Rejects Citizen Review Board Idea, Offers Her Own Version

SAN LEANDRO | Nov. 29, 2011 | The San Leandro Police Department inherited this year by Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli has found itself in anything but fluid change. Sparked by reports of racial discrimination and sexual harassment from the past along with lurid tales of a former cop nicknamed "Big Dirty" last May, many in the community have raised questions about the department's ability to police itself.

Monday night, Spagnoli appeared to quell such talk telling the City Council one of her priorities includes forming a quasi-oversight group, she called a "Chiefs Advisory Board." Spagnoli said afterwards she contemplating using a similar committee of local businesses and civic leaders during her recent tenure in Benicia. They would meet regularly with the police to voice their concerns and wants, she said.

Earlier in the three hours work session dealing solely with the city's public safety, Spagnoli also said she would welcome community members to participate in hiring and promotional panels for officers.  "It's important for them to be involved in the making those important decisions of who is going to lead the department," she said.

The department's willingness to accept outside interaction, though, may only go so far.

Spagnoli disagreed with an assertion her version of an advisory board was an end around more stringent calls for a more independent review board. "I think there's a lot of discussion about a citizens' review board," she said. "I think you have to do your research on the purpose. What would you get out of it that you're not getting now? Quite frankly, we provide public information. It's the same information a police review board would get."

Sam Leandro's relatively small size also does not warrant such oversight, she added. "In a city like this, your police chief serves as the police oversight. That's why you hire someone from the outside that's not connected to the police department."

Spagnoli labeled herself independent, accountable and given the authority to reform the department and said, "You can't give that authority away, right?"

Law enforcement agencies typically reject the use of outside review boards. In most cases, the approval of these types of committees only succeeds in the aftermath of extreme police misconduct such as the infamous East Bay Riders case nearly a decade ago in Oakland.

Anthony Batts, Oakland's former police chief who resigned from his post three months ago, said the added federal oversight from the case along with his department's inability to adequately respond to reforms was a main reason for his abrupt departure.

"Look at the bureaucracy in Oakland and how long it takes to get things done," said Spagnoli. "The more layers you enter into policing, the more challenging it becomes and you just bog down the system."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Guillen First To Incorporate Ideals Of 99 Percent Into Government

Nov 28, 2011 | Assembly candidate Abel Guillen made the political calculation many lawmakers will soon need to make: make changes to the system or risk being trampled by the 99 percent.
Protesters Nov. 2 at Citibank on 
Broadway in Oakland.
The second term Peralta Community College Board Trustee led the way earlier this month by setting the district representing over 45,000 East Bay students on the path to ridding themselves of financial engtanglements with Big Banks. The resolution put forth by Guillen is really a version of National Bank Transfer Day featured a few weeks ago, but only on larger scale.

Of course, the move by Guillen, who is vying the 18th district's seat in the assembly representing Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro, is political, but it borders on political genius. Community college students are the epitome of the 99 percent. They are hardworking, dedicated, minorities, young and filled with extreme anxiety over the state of their future.

In doing so, Guillen is also correctly anticipating the raging tenor of next year's election cycle and the country as a whole. The country is on the cusp of unbridled anger over the inequities of the past decades and beyond. I don't know much about Guillen yet, but his loyalties to the union cause, in addition, to last night's action, shows a thoughful populist candidate who is reading the political tea leaves with astonishing ease.

With every day that we see another insitution or city being occupied by protesters, more identify with the movement. Still, many are firmly on the other side of the fence while others are stiitng on the proverbial fence. What do they want? What good is this going to do? Well, here's the first glimpse of what will happen.

Once elected bodies start proposing legislation and policies spurred on by the movement, the incremental gains will become noticeable. The Peralta Community College Board of Directors is very small beans when its comes to the whole state and federal landscape, but it is the first case around here of the protesters pushing for and successfully gaining major tenets of their cause. Maybe, because of the limited functions of small banks and credit unions, the community college district cannot fulfill its mandate to shed the evils of Bank of America and Citibank, among others, but so what?

The lawmakers in Sacramento, including some popular ones, like Sen. Ellen Corbettt, should take heed of the upheaval especially in light of more cuts to education. Corbett is a very capable and beloved leader in the East Bay, but she is a large part of power structure in Sacramento. The 99 percent is growing in anger and those entrenched like Corbett, although well-meaning, could inadvertently get run over by this populist rage. The Occupy movement needs not become a wing of the Democratic Party like its Tea Party foes in the Republican Party, but liberals like Guillen are right to meld its wishes into real action.

For Smokers, Alameda May Be An Island Of Snitches

ALAMEDA | Nov. 28, 2011 | Nearly everyone in Alameda agrees smoking is bad for you. It is also bad for others who inhale your secondhand smoke, but some other things may ultimately be worse for the city's overall civic health, critics say.
The recently approved smoking ordinance passed Nov. 15 by the City Council will considerably beef up its current smoking ban to include rental properties. Alameda, cash-strapped like most other cities, is relying on residents to enforce the onerous ordinance.

Weeks earlier during the first reading of the ordinance, Alameda Police Chief Mike Noonan said enforcement of the proposed ban would not be a top priority. “We are not going to be the smoking police,” he said.

With shrinking city staff numbers and limited resources to put teeth into the ordinance, the city is instead relying on its greatest resource—people—to in effect snitch on scofflaws of the smoking ban.

Donna Mooney, the acting city attorney says the crowd-sourcing element of governance featured in the ordinance is rare. There is no other ordinance in the city’s municipal code that allows private enforcement of the law, she said. It’s the so-called “private attorney general” component of the ordinance, not the smoking ban, that has brought a flurry of concern to the table.

Alan Teague is an Alameda resident who backs the bans, but as a rental property owner in the city, he is concerned with how the ban will be prosecuted."Vigilante enforcement is a little strange and a little disturbing,” he said.

“Smoking is not an illegal act in this country,” added resident Jake Thompson, who urged council to protest tenants’ rights. The rental units portion of the ordinance will begin in January 2013 and protect non-smoking tenants from being subjected to secondhand smoke that unpredictably travels from unit-to-unit.

Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, who is also a deputy district attorney in San Francisco, questioned the legal efficacy of allowing residents not harmed by an act to ask for damages. “That struck me as a little bit peculiar,” said Bonta."Typically under the law, someone who is damaged is someone who brings the claim forward."

Alameda City Manager John Russo said the provision is typical within environmental-related laws.
“There are many, many examples of federal statutes that provide for statutory damages because it's difficult to show how the damage applied to that particular individual.

“The concept of the private attorney general is often included in consumer and other environmental-type statutes and regulations when there is an acknowledgement that the governmental agency may not have the resources at its disposal to do the enforcement at the level the legislature would like to see it done,” said Russo.

That has not stopped other equally contentious features of the original smoking ordinance from falling to the wayside. Bar and restaurant operators were able to excise a portion of the ban that would have prohibited smoking in outside patio areas near public space. Numerous bar owners said the restriction on their smoking clientele would force imminent closure of their businesses.

The ridiculously under-regulated e-cigarette lobby also seems to have dodged inclusion of their nicotine-based product from banishment on Alameda streets. The Council appeared hamstrung over whether the device which constitutes a cigarette-like delivery unit with flavored smokeless nicotine cartridges posed the same dangers as its tobacco cousins. Because the e-cigarettes come in an array of fruity flavors, many opponents say the product is being illegally marketed to children and teenagers.

The more sedate portions of the smoking ban will go in effect Dec. 15. Matters concerning the rental units aspect of the ban will go in effect in Jan. 2013 to allow time for property owners to rework leases with their tenants.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

San Leandro Needs A Police Citizen Review Board Right Now

"Like the Roman Catholic Church, Penn State is an arrogant institution hiding behind its mystique."

Nov. 27, 2011 | Maureen Dowd of The New York Times wrote this line two weeks ago, but could it be applied to any vaunted sphere of influence in our society? A political dynasty in any American city.? A small city's fortunes revolving around the whims of a single company? Heroes who act like heroes until they don't? What is going on in San Leandro with its police department is really small potatoes until you realize this sort of arrogance is all around us. At seats of government, inside university ivory towers and boardrooms across the country.

The San Leandro Police Department got caught with this pants down. Now everybody knows the leadership in this city has been deviously burying its long list of transgressions for decades. Unfortunately, the tea leaves tell us a change of leadership, or even, a change in the gender of the department's leadership changes very little from the modus operandi of the past regimes.

San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli came from Benicia with high praise. Although there were whispers her past leadership fostered a propensity for trampling of civil rights, hopes were high in San Leandro where its department makeup typically reflects the TV show "Reno 911" than "CSI."

Looking back, how Spagnoli would proceed with moving the department from the pre-Civil Rights era to the 21st Century, was clear within her first few months early this year. As I began looking into the Dewayne Stancill scandal in April, I began to hear whispers from more than a few who said Spagnoli was taking a laissez faire approach to rousting the bad chickens from their comfortable roosts. Spagnoli's attempt to cleanse the San Leandro PD was not to find the bad apples, but to construct a plea of reasonable deniability. The phrase "clean slate" was uttered often to me during my investigation, but not in the usually context, but as in "what ever happen in the past will stay in the past," according to sources.

What this means is attempts by police officers in the past to defraud the city with unscrupulous lawsuits are given a clean slate. It means denying former and current employees consort with skinhead biker gangs. Captains who perpetuate the peculiar hatred against Stancill from four years ago are given a pat on the back when they continue the same behavior just a few months ago. Killer cops receive awards and officers with family members in high places get away scot-free while other cops are charged with selling marijuana. Except for one instance, the above  transgressions have all occured since Spagnoli's hiring in January.

Instead of fixing this God-awful mess, we get self-congratulatory pat on the backs from upper management bordering on a department-wide contagion of tone-deafness. When four San Leandro police officers fatally tased a man in front Nation's Hamburgers two months, a sergeant told a group of resident the officers were "some of the nicest guys you'll ever know." He was probably right, but is that an appropriate comment in response to the death of man, some believe was mentally ill in the first place?

Two days after the East Bay Express story detailing the Stancill story and attempts by married San Leandro cops Mike Sobek and Anne O'Callaghan to construct a conspiracy of many against the former black cop, Spagnoli did her best George W. Bush impression by mimicking the infamous "Heckuva job, Bronwnie" statement to San Leandro Patch. "Both are good and respected employees of this department," said Spagnoli, who also said most of those involved in the scandal are gone. Of course, this statement is a complete falsehood and it gets worse.

Spagnoli's total subservience to Sobek is the main reason to expect nothing will ever change at the San Leandro PD. Sobek is a large part of what is wrong. Spagnoli did not admonish him, nor has she done him the favor of gracefully putting him out to pasture. No, what she did is make him the face of the department. For the past month, Sobek has been the officer giving the department's story to the press. The face of the your police force is the man who defrauded the city of treasury and morality. The same spokesman telling colleagues he will sue the city if he doesn't get his valued promotion and spiked pension. The same gambit former chief Ian Willis pulled on San Leandro.

Folks, nothing will change unless citizens get involved. This arrogant institution will never change itself without outside involvement. It is insular for a reason; to protect and self-serve its own micro-culture. This is why only seven blacks and four women patrol your streets. It's why Sobek can get away with unscrupulous actions from the seat of the police union without sanction.

A wholly independent citizen review board of this department is needed right now. Residents must tell their council members and mayor to clean up this mess before the city's reputation takes on more water. It is also imperative that this group be separate from the City Council. All six council members have proven to be enablers of this department. Rarely will they speak ill of the tarnished institution and their current strength as a unit is woefully despondent. Councilman Jim Prola still thinks Stancill was the root problem of the scandal and as of two weeks ago still had not read the offending reports detailed in the Express story. Yes, the report the group approved spending $1 million in settlement costs to go away without ever seeing.

Spagnoli likes to hide behind this impregnable wall of support among community members, but its only stagecraft. Among agencies in the county and specifically outside of Alameda County, the prevailing wisdom is San Leandro's Police Department is composed of hot heads patrolling blindly within a distinct cowboy culture.

People need to know that the Stancill scandal was not a revenge-motivated tale sponsored by the former cop. Instead, it was led by people in law enforcement who value the vaunted role of the police officers in our society who passionately loathe how the San Leandro Police Department does business. It is with this in mind, that they proved their own inherent heroism and spoke up against this rotting, soon to be crumbling institution.

Put it this way, the typical law enforcement officer are the cops standing stoically near the protesters two weeks ago at UC Davis. The medieval pepper-spraying officer is the San Leandro PD.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Lockyer Endorses Quirk For Assembly

ELECTION '12 | ASSEMBLY 20Nov. 22, 2011 | Bill Lockyer's blessing was probably a foregone conclusion for Bill Quirk's run for the assembly. Nonetheless, Quirk announced state treasurer's endorsement Tuesday night in an email to supporters.

"I've worked with many local and state leaders and Bill Quirk stands out amongst them," said Lockyer. "I proudly endorse him and will work hard to make sure he is elected."

With the sudden demise of Assembywoman Mary Hayashi, the endorsement of Lockyer became the big get among candidates hoping to win her redrawn district.

Quirk, though, had a leg up on his opponents. The two-time Hayward councilman served as the campaign treasurer for Nadia Lockyer's campaign during her successful run last year for county supervisor.

The addition of Lockyer's support adds to an already impressive collection of influential endorsements from the Hayward area. They include former Senate Pro Tem Don Perata, Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski and former assembly members Alberto Torrico, John Dutra, Johan Klehs and Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney.

Quirk is competing for the new 20th District, which includes Hayward, Union City, northern Fremont and surrounding unincorporated areas of Alameda County, along with Jennifer Ong, Union City Mayor Mark Green and Adnan Shahab.

County Funds Renovation Of Alameda's Islander Motel For Persons With AIDS

BOS ROUNDUPNov. 22, 2011 | The dank, often seedy rooms of the Islander Motel in Alameda will soon become a 61-studio housing project aimed at low-income occupants with a portion of the units set aside for people with HIV/AIDS. The project was approved Tuesday by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

The renovation of the unadorned and drab apartment building just blocks off Alameda's Park Street commercial and recreation district is part of the city's continuing effort to attract patrons and residents to the popular area. A new facade will be constructed along with a community room, laundry facility and open space, according to the plan.

Green building features will also be incorporated into the new design, said the county, including solar thermal heating for hot water and radiant hydronic heating.

The board allocated funding of over $1.2 million to begin the project. The bulk coming from federal dollars, including $685,000 from the Housing and Urban Development's HOME Investment Partnership Act and over $556,000 from Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA).

The county procured low-income tax credits last July. According to a staff report, the county is awaiting the closing of a construction loan for the project in December before beginning construction.

As part of the federal grant agreement, the refurbished Islander Motel will be occupied by households at or below 50 percent of the Area Median Income level. Half of the current AMI in Alameda County is just under $48,000 in household income, according to Fannie Mae.

Fifteen of the 61 units will be regulated by HOME and HOPWA, according to the county. Nine of those set aside for persons with HIV/AIDS and six for very low-income, according to the agreement.

Supervisor Haggerty Says Feds Cost Alameda County $860k In Regulatory Flap

Nov. 22, 2011 | A difference of opinion between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Alameda County Public Works Department cost the county $860,000, Supervisor Scott Haggerty said Tuesday.

In June 2010, the Board of Supervisors approved a $2.6 million desilting project that would transfer soil from two separate flood control locations in Fremont to the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve in Hayward.

Instead of working concurrently with two contractors for work due to be completed within a short time frame, the county decided to consolidate the contracts. The Army Corps of Engineers, however, stopped the county from proceeding with filling the 13.4 acre borrow ditch in Hayward until one of two the desilting projects in Fremont was completed.

In a staff report, Public Works Director Daniel Woldesenbet said, "By not being allowed to work at both project sites simulataneously, the District was not able to fulfill its environmental mitigation requirements of using sediments from Zone 6 desilting activities."

The county was forced to purchase clean fill material from an outside source at $860,000 to complete the project in Hayward, said Woldesenbet. In effect, the county was forced to purchase additional soil which it already possessed in Fremont. Public Works says it has no destination yet for the excess soil.

"The bottom line is the fed cost us $860,000 because they refused to work with us. Is that what I'm hearing?" said Haggerty, who represents Fremont. "That's correct," said Woldesenbet.

Holding off on the projects would not have helped save money, either, said Woldesenbet. "In order to get the credit we have to give up the clean fill," he said.

Haggerty urged county staff to communicate the apparent disconnect between federal regulators and the county to its congressional representaves.

Woldesenbet said other statewide jurisdiction have also complained about the regulatory process and would expect strong support for the county's position.

Vineyards in eastern Alameda County may have fewer inspectors looking for evidence of the deadly Pierce's Disease in grapevines. The Board of Supervisor cut funding for the regulatory inspections to over $672,000; down almost $62,000.

The disease is transmitted by an insect called the Glassy-Winged Shaprshooter. The reduction through June 2012 was necessitated by decreased funding in the California Department of Food and Agriculture's current fiscal budget.

Chan Calls On 'Super Committee' To Spare Health Care Entitlements

Nov. 22, 2011 | The Alameda County Board of Supervisors proclaimed Tuesday its opposition to the growing likelihood the failed agreements on deficit reduction by senators and house representatives this week in Washington will impose sharp cuts to Medicare and Medi-Cal.

Much of the board's authority and everyday importance to over 1.5 million county residents revolves around administering funding for health care benefits. The number of residents needing county health care benefits has risen sharply commensurate with the steep downturn in the local economy while applying increased pressure on the county to provide vital social services.

The so-called "Super Committee of six Democrats and Republicans of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate announced Monday they could not reach an agreement on how to cut $1.5 trillion over a span of 10 years from the federal deficit. Their inaction, means $1.2 trillion in mandatory cuts to the military, health care and social services will be triggered. The arrangement was laid out in the creation of the super committee this fall which was crafted in the contentious budget agreement hashed out last August.

Supervisor Wilma Chan first mentioned the proclamation during a committee meeting Nov. 7. In a staff report, Chan said the triggered cuts could cause further pain for those already struggling to survive.

"Our county cannot afford cuts Medicare and Medi-Cal," Chan said Tuesday. "We've already sustained cuts these programs."
Fourteen acute care hospitals in Alameda County provide care for 230,000 Medi-Cal recipients along with over 500 service providers and 50 clinics, the county said. "Cuts to Medicare and Medi-Cal would have a devastating impact to the recipients and providers of these services."

The proclamation asserts 1 in 10 jobs in the state are in the health care field and 17 jobs would be lost for every million dollars cut in Medicaid. Chan said the health care field is one of the few sectors of the economy actually amid stagnant unemployment numbers.

"So many in our county are struggling to find work and have been affected by the worst economic downturn in our lifetimes including the loss of jobs related to health care benefits, and the cost of healthcare for California residents continues to rise, putting further strain on our state, counties and cities, and we believe the health of our community is vitally important," said the text of the proclamation.

San Leandro resident Doug Jones, who accepted the proclamation on behalf of the Service Employees International Union said, "The future is in the balance and you all made an important statement today."

The proclamation will be passed on to the Bay Area's Congressional delegation, the county said. How much the mostly liberal contingent is able to accomplish within the Republican-controlled majority in the House is unknown, but unlikely.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Laid Off Solyndra Employees Get A Temporary Boost

Nov. 21, 2011 | Roughly 1,000 out-of-work former Solyndra employees in Fremont are now eligible for additional health care and unemployment benefits awarded Monday by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Labor Secretary Hilda Solis approved triggering the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) for Solyndra employees after the solar tech firm went belly up Aug. 31. The bankruptcy of the high-profile local company has been the target of considerable criticism by Republicans who say the government's $535 million loan guarantee was flawed from the outset and pursued by the Obama administration to burnish a sterling green tech image while assisting some large-scale campaign donors.

Aid from TAA is usually given to support workers in trades where jobs are lost due to foreign trade. Democrats maintain the failure of Solyndra was hastened by similar lower costs solar tubes made in China.

Days after the surprise layoff of 1,000 highly-skilled workers in Rep. Pete Stark's Fremont district, the long-time congressman in a letter to Solyndra's president, warned the company it was violating federal law by abruptly cutting off workers from health insurance benefits and wages without notice.

In addition, a New York Times article last week detailed a memo trumpeted by Republicans, which instructed Solyndra to hold off announcing layoffs until after the November mid-term elections last year. The grim announcement came nearly nine months later.

"The people who lost their paychecks and their health insurance in Solyndra's poorly managed plant closure deserve some assurance that all is not lost," said Stark. "TAA benefits will help more than 1,000 workers in my district who were blindsided by the Solyndra closure to get back on their feet and lessen the blow to the community."

According to a press release from Stark's office, the TAA benefits afforded to former Solyndra employees would temporarily reinstate a majority of their previous benefits, including nearly three-fourths of health care premiums, cash allowances for relocation if  employment cannot be found in the area and up to 130 weeks of unemployment.

San Leandro Mayor's Unholy Alliance With Business Interests

Nov. 21, 2011 | Oh, what happened to the Stephen Cassidy who horded up all the Scrabble letters for “leadership” and “transparency” during last year’s mayoral campaign?

The truth is, he never existed and if not for the inherently wacky twists and turns of ranked-choice voting, San Leandrans would have never known his rhetoric turned empty the very second he aligned himself with the city’s unseemly underworld—the city’s corrupt police department and equally power-hungry chamber of commerce.

In a span of a weeks, Cassidy has decline to comment on the persistent problem of gender and racism discrimination at the police department. The lack of leadership is appalling but expected when you take into account the vast amount of disrespect he has earned among the city’s valued employees. Cassidy’s silence is odd since it was him who forcefully shined a harsh light on public servants like former chief Ian Willis eating high off the city’s hog.

News that two powerful police officers conspired to ultimately set themselves up for a handsome $225,000 payday at the expense of another’s life and career did nothing to entice Cassidy to speak up. When I saw Cassidy at the San Leandro Farmers' Market two weeks before my story on Dewayne Stancill was published in the East Bay Express, I merely said, "thank you" to him. To which he sheepishly grinned. The day the story came out, he said the city attorney and police chief's comment would suffice.

Two Monday's ago, Cassidy appeared to be pushing the current police chief to declining future excursions to help Oakland PD with Occupy Oakland, but she told him to buzz off. In effect, telling Cassidy the respect of peers in the Bay Area meant more than his. A week later, Spagnoli provided officers to a second raid on Occupy Oakland. In fact, there is no respect for Cassidy anywhere in the city and it is not hyperbole. Not among the chief, not among his colleagues on the council, some of whom consistently huff and puff about his shocking inability to run a simple meeting. He does, though, have the support of one important group and that is the city’s chamber of commerce.

San Leandro lobbyist Gordon Galvan was once a great ally of Mayor Tony Santos. When Santos was upset last fall, Tony Santos the San Leandro resident was of little importance to Galvan, one of the city’s most garish opportunists. In a few short months, Galvan in cahoots with the chamber, masterfully blended Cassidy’s menagerie of oddball liberals into a full-fledged pro-business whacks. Cassidy acolytes moved in and out of the chamber’s payroll, current members of the council had their arms twisted in various degrees of pain and a political action committee is slated to pump campaign dollars to pro-business candidates.

Those who accept the chamber’s tainted cash should beware because the groups reach into City Hall is not for the good of the city, but for monied interests outside of San Leandro. For instance, the Village Marketplace project slated to replace the old Albertson's on East 14th Street would be more honestly named the "Global Marketplace" since outside corporate interests slated for the project include AT&T, Chipotle, Peet's and British grocer Fresh & Easy. That group hardly screams local when the downtown area to truly be special needs only a butcher, baker and maybe a candlemaker to prosper.

Those who get in the way have tendency to be ousted without official reason. Former city manager Stephen Hollister was let go last December by Cassidy at the behest of this group. Why? Residents don’t need to the details, they say. Instead, just trust us, folks. It turns out Hollister’s ability to keep the city solvent was one the East Bay’s major feats in a era of austerity and flat revenues. On Nov. 7, the city approved moving $3.5 million to reserves. If Hollister was such a paid public servant, then how do you account for this transfer during a time when every other neighboring city is scrounging for any scrap of extra revenue? Nobody gives Hollister or any other city employee credit for this seemingly monumental turn of events. It’s just one of those inconvenient facts for Cassidy’s outside interest to avoid mentioning.

From dirty cops draining the public treasury to manipulative businessmen, undoubtedly, San Leandro is entering an era of exploitation and graft while the police chief forcefully backs the perpetrators and the mayor turns a blind eye. It’s not the bill of goods you sold, Stephen, and it’s far too late to disentangle yourself now or until another cockamamie round of ranked-choice  voting brings the city another illegitimate and meandering mayor.

Hayashi's Mugshot Is A Portrait Of Her Elusive Humanity

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi
Nov. 21, 2011 | I have never seen Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi looks so human. Granted, in nearly three years hopping around the East Bay political scene, I have only seen the woman derisively called "Scary Mary" on only four occasions, not counting a video taped address for supporters of San Leandro Hospital. It is not that I am lax in covering the beat, but because she is nearly invisible to her constituents.

I think Tom Abate's depiction in the San Leandro Patch today of Hayashi's mugshot was crass and vaguely sexist. Abate tries to contrast Hayashi's typically well-coiffed and styled look with her mug shot taken last month after she was charged with felony grand theft in San Francisco. "It portrays quite a different look for the legislator, whose official pictures show her with perfectly styled hair and makeup, finished with a slash of red lipstick."

For one, the Hayashi of high couture is not the real person, but like much of her career--a portrait of political stagecraft. Second, Patch is a content farm, with editors on the hook to produce a prerequisite number of "articles" and this was an easy one to produce just like the growing prevalence of city council minutes disguised as news articles. Three-hundred words about a photograph gussied up with sexist references to hair and makeup. It makes running a photo of Hayashi with the words "thief" plastered over her face almost humane.

The real story is the uncommon humanity portrayed in the photo. Hayashi's eyes are haunting. There is real pain in her eyes. Not the kind that emanate from one colossally stupid mistake, but the very bottom of despair. At the same time, she is unable to masked that combativeness and steely resolve Hayashi is known to unleash on allies and enemies alike. The left eye seems to be pleading for help, while the other in tandem with a slightly raised eyebrow is saying, "just wait until I destroy you."

Many of her constituents are diagnosing her tragic fall as a symptom of a deeper pain. Of course, it is amateur psychiatry at its height, but I agree. Hayashi is screaming for help and it has much less to do with the act she got caught perpetuating and more so with the sloppiness of her unreported personal choices and conduct around Sacramento.

When the shocking shoplifting story broke last month I understand why many readers immediately think of me and my reporting on Hayashi over the years . But, I don't hate Hayashi, I'm merely critical of her propensity for ushering inane, self-promoting legislation into the assembly with no correlation to the needs of her constituents. In fact, I admire Hayashi's rough and tough manner.

I clearly remember the first time I met her in 2009. She was dismissive of me, at first, and acted like she didn't know me. As we talked she slowly peppered in references and denigrating side comments that illustrated she knew exactly what I had been writing about her. Then she seemed to be accusing me of racism because of the impression she had that my articles favored support for her rival, Sen. Ellen Corbett. Hayashi was a bitch to me, like she is a bitch to everyone. But, I use that word with respect because Hayashi merely exhibits the raw personality traits many people ascribe to successful and effective male politicians and businessmen. And I don't think that is fair.

So, Mary, be strong and get well. Just don't run for state senate.

Ro Khanna Is Making Ellen Corbett Very Nervous

Ro Khanna
Nov. 21, 2011 | Many in the East Bay see Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett as the rightful extension of Rep. Pete Stark's over three decades in Washington. Powerful forces in the Democratic Party and free-wheeling Silicon Valley types are increasingly choosing former Obama commerce department official Ro Khanna with boatloads of cash.

Insiders believe Khanna pulled down close to $250,000 at a homecoming of sorts hosted by former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norm Mineta last weekend in Hayward.

The fundraising windfall would follow $440,000 in donations last month at an event at the home of venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, according to the San Jose Mercury News. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi attended that event and Gov. Jerry Brown also attended an event last week featuring Khanna.

All of this is becoming a great concern for Corbett, according to sources who have spoken privately with the long-time San Leandro legislator. Corbett and Khanna were seen Oct. 20 chatting at the kick-off fundraiser for Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk's assembly campaign. Corbett appeared to be buoyed by the conversation with Khanna, according to a source, but it only underscored Corbett's continued cautiousness in navigating a likely congressional run in 2014 against a burgeoning and apparently well-healed candidate like Khanna with contacts from D.C. to the South Bay.

Her worries are not unwarranted. Pelosi's unstated, but suggested support for Khanna, an Indian American, would be a perfect ally for House Democrats who will need Silicon Valley's continued reliance on tip-top business relations with government officials and tech companies in India.

If Khanna officially announces his intention to run for Stark's seat in 2014, it would not be his first run for Congress. He unsuccessfully ran against Tom Lantos in 2004 Democratic primary for the 12th District in San Mateo.

Friday, November 18, 2011

A Socialist Ghost From The 1930s Speaks To The Revolutionaries Of Today.

Nov. 18, 2011 | Nate Thornton must love what's going down in Oakland.

I was reminded today of the former member of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade who passed away earlier this year. He was one of thousands who trekked through Spain in the mid-1930s romancing the thought of rescuing Spain from the rise of fascism.
Nate Thornton
I wrote a feature article on Thornton in 2008 and regard the hours I spent at his Hayward home as one of the most satisfying in my short journalism career.

Thornton's story of a young man with a bleak future during the Great Depression dovetails perfectly with the fears of many today who see mega-corporations swallowing up the spoils of the many for the very few.

I believe Nate would be overjoyed by the increasing level of civil obedience erupting in the Bay Area and beyond. In fact, maybe he predicted it. As we chatted with Barack Obama's rise to the presidency as a backdrop, I asked him about the future of what we now label the "99 percent."

“I know that socialism is going to be the '-ism' of the future,” Nate told me, “I don't know when it will happen, not in my time, I'm sure of that. Once this thing is all done, the capitalists are going to have to go to work with a pick and shovel like the rest of us. That's what they don't like. That's what they don't want. The system is breaking down.”

So far, so good, Nate.

Housing Developers Return For More Breaks From Desperate Hayward

Nov. 18, 2011 | Inclusionary housing ordinances are usually a good thing. Progressives laud their existence for harmonizing the mix of affordable housing in urban settings. In Hayward, though, housing developers looking for a reason to bypass such ordinances, are reaping great benefits at the expense of the city's inability to attract development in a poor economy.

Last December, the Hayward City Council unanimously approved a significant dress down of it inclusionary housing laws when it lowered the percentage of affordable housing units from 15 to 10 percent for single family dwellings and 7.5 percent for condominiums and townhouses. The temporary relief ordinance, which run through the end of December 2012, more importantly capped the amount developers are charged by the city "in-lieu" of building affordable housing at $80,000 per development--way below the amount other cities charge.

The transaction removed any incentive for developers to construct affordable housing in Hayward. And projects planned without assistance from the city are exempt from even paying the paltry in-lieu fee. According to a staff report from last December, the city was aware its $80,000 fee was shockingly below what other municipalities charge for bypassing the minimum of building a mere 10 percent of the homes for affordable ownership. Instead, staff indicated the going rate for in-lieu fees were typically between $190,000 and $350,000.

The in-lieu feature built into various inclusionary housing ordinances is meant to give developers a break when their projected developments are not suitable for an affordable housing component. Funds paid by the developers to cities to remedy this fact are meant to be pooled in a trust fund to further incentivize housing in other areas, but in Hayward's case, the ordinance is being subverted for the developer's bottom line. The previous iteration of the interim ordinance also allowed developers to further pass their costs down the line by allowing them to defer payment of in-lieu fees until the close of escrow or up to a year after the city granted a certificate of occupancy. The city, though, rethought the last perk. Assistant City Manager Kelly Morariu said the arrangement was "untenable" and feared the city risked losing track of some in-lieu payments owed to them.

Hayward has been particularly stymied by the last recession's death grip on local economies. The self-proclaimed "Heart of the Bay" was already into economic decline well before the housing market took a catastrophic nosedive four years ago. Hayward's inability to attract development to its downtown and its scaled back projects around the South Hayward BART station may have led city leaders to bend over backward for developers, who themselves are struggling with high inventory and few buyers.

Not surprisingly, housing developers swooned over Hayward's amended inclusionary housing ordinance. Last December, one council member referenced the support of former state assemblyman John Dutra, who is also a multi-millionaire developer in the area. The breaks lavished among developers willing to do business in Hayward has created an insatiable hunger for more.

This week, city staff asked the council to further amend the inclusionary housing ordinance to further ingratiate developers who want in on the gravy train. Several unnamed projects who signed deals under the previous ordinance, but who have not begun construction, complained to the city. The amendment, unanimously approved last Tuesday, grants those projects the benefits bestowed by the council's approval of interim relief last December. Whether the city's desperate attempt to procure any type of construction projects at any costs ever comes close to being a net gain is unknown, but hard to conceive. The city is willing to take the gamble. If and when Hayward sees the fruits of its incentives to developers, though, might be as speculative as the housing market its putting its faith in to pick up the local economy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Corbett Calls On Governor, Lawmakers To Prevent Mid-Year Cuts to Education

Nov. 16, 2011 | On the heels of announcements last week of worsening receipts by the state's controller, the state's legislative analyst today said the prospects of triggering $2 billion in pre-approved budget cuts at the beginning of the year is likely.

The budget approved last summer projected $4 billion in increased revenues. Instead, it appears the state will be in the hole for nearly the same amount. According to the analyst, the state's budget situation will worsen in the years to come.

"Unfortunately, there are few easy options left for balancing California's budget," said the report. "Difficult program reductions already have been passed, and significant one-time budget actions may be more elusive than in prior years."

The cuts will likely be centered on education and social services--two areas of the budget already heavily gutted by years of budget uncertainty. East Bay lawmaker and Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett is likely to take some heat for additional cuts to services. She laments the looming cuts, but offered no concrete solutions.

“I am deeply troubled by this forecast and the prospect of making another round of deep cuts to public schools and higher education,” said Corbett. “The Legislature and governor should explore all of our available options, and do everything we can, to prevent mid-year cuts.”

The bottom line is our public schools and institutions of higher education are woefully underfunded, and we must find a way to reverse this trend of cutting their support if we are serious about providing Californians and their children with a bright future.”

News of the triggered budget cuts comes at a particularly vexing time for lawmakers in Sacramento. Another $2 billion could be lost if the state loses a legal battle in the state Supreme Court. Numerous Californai cities question the constitutionality of the state's budget plan to shutter local redevelopment agencies as a mechanism to balance its budget.

To make matters worse, California State University regents also approved today a nine percent increase in tuition that will likely rankle students who are already in a frenzy over exorbitant fee increases over the past five years. Their anger also appears to be melding with the growing occupy movement sweeping cities and universities across the country.



Posted @4:45 p.m.
-KCBS' Doug Sovern says up to 17 protesters have been arrest at FiDI BofA--most are women.

-Bush's Brain Karl Rove told protesters in Baltimore who interrupted his appearance at Johns Hopkins to "stop acting like fascists." VIDEO

-Tweet from @rationalists: "Karl Rove shouted at OWS protesters, "Who gave you the right to Occupy America?" I had no idea he was Cherokee."

Posted @ 3:45 p.m.
-OccupySF protester take over Bank of America branch in the Financial District. Reports says protesters have pitched tents inside the bank. One protester may have urinated inside bank.

-Occupy Oakland media says noted FBI informant and provacteur Brandon Darby has been spotted at OccupySF.

Posted @ 2:30 a.m.
-Daily Californian reports OccupyCal protester at general assembly decide to link arms to defend nascent tent encampment. The tactic gained notice after last week's raid by campus police. Robert Birgeneau, the school's chancellor deemed it a violent action.

Posted @ 1:45 a.m.
-Reports indicate OccupySF is currently being raided by law enforcement. SF Chronicle's Vivian Ho reports 30 cops in riot gear emerged in a surprise action against the encampment.

-Meanwhile, across the bay at OccupyCal, the UC Police have notified about 20 occupiers with tents to disperse. Reports of up to 10,000 protesters crowded into Sproul Plaza in Berkeley last night in support of a campus strike.

-Casual observers of the Occupy protests might not realize the global impact of what is occurring in the Bay Area and Wall Street. The New York Times' London correspondent has a nice, flowery angle to that cities occupied lads.

-Mayor Sam Adams of Portland, Ore. confirms to The New York Times the existence of a conference call attended by 18 mayors dealing with occupy groups in their cities. Adams says there were, in fact, two calls set up by the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Peralta Community College Board Approves Moving Money Out Of Big Banks

Board Trustee Abel Guillen
Nov. 16, 2011 | Members of the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees charged with overseeing over 45,000 students in the East Bay voted Tuesday night to acquiesce to the growing power of the Occupy movement by beginning the process of pulling its assets from large banking institutions.

The resolution, first introduced by Trustee Abel Guillen, asks the community college chancellor to provide the board a list of recommendations for beginning the move to smaller community-based banks and credit unions no later than the end of January.

In essence, the move is similar to the recent push two weeks ago highlighted by the occupy movements across the nation to transfer accounts from large institutions such as Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo and Chase, among others, to smaller banks. The movement has identified the financial misconduct of big banks as a main culprit for the nation's growing economic inequality.

Guillen, who is one of four candidates for assembly's newly formed 18th district, said the resolution is influenced by the ideals of the protesters growing rapidly in Oakland and Berkeley.

"At every level of government, our elected representatives must foster policies and programs that support the larger economic and social goals of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, so that the people's energy and outrage on the streets can be channeled into constructive economic actions instead of toward violence and vandalism that drain our already limited public resources," said Guillen.

"This practical action is a clear expression of our community values and can make a real difference."

The Peralta Community College District is made up of Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, Laney College and Merritt College.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011



Posted @ 11:45 p.m.
Daniel Ellsberg tells Tribune reporter he will stay the night at Sproul Plaza in a tent and risk arrest.

UC Police cannot confirm whether man shot at Haas had a loaded gun, is a student or whether he is alive. Unconfirmed tweets previously said he was dead.

The Daily Clog reports over 20 tents pitched on the steps of Sproul Hall.

Posted @ 9:00 p.m.
Former labor secretary Robert Reich delivers a rousing speech at Sproul Plaza. "The days of apathy are over, folks," said Reich in a phrase likely to be repeated by many watching this movement.

Posted @ 5:30 p.m.
-KTVU's @KenWayne tweets police estimate crowd at Sproul Plaza is 1,500. According to this basic equation: police estimate x 2=actual number. So, 3,000 is about right.

Posted @ 5:15 p.m.
-Reporters at Sproul Plaza say with addition of Occupy Oakland protesters who walked over five miles up Telegraph Avenue, the crowd numbers close to 3,000 as nightfall rolls in.

Posted @ 4:30 p.m.
-Not to get all conspiracy theory on ya, but the Alameda County Board of Supervisors met today at the office of the Department of Homeland Security in Dublin. The retreat was scheduled weeks ago, but is meant as a training primer for county officials in the event of a terrorist threat.

-Some are beginning to make connections between the recent confluence of police raids on occupy movements around the country being more than coincidence. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is being cited in numerous articles today after saying she sat in on a conference call with 18 other mayor saddled with occupiers in their cities. Here is Quan's comment (slip of the tongue) to the BBC.

Posted @ 4:15 p.m.
-Tweet from @bayreporta on the scene in Berkeley: "It's strangely interesting that there were two shootings at two different occupies at key moments in the mvm "

Posted @ 3:30 p.m.
-It is not confirmed whether the man shot by police has anything to do with the large OccupyCal protests currently assembling at Sproul Plaza at UC Berkeley. The Tribune reports Haas School is far removed from the area of protests.

Posted @ 2:30 p.m.
-Reports of a shooting at the Haas School of Business. Police say an officer shot a man in the school's computer lab as he was brandishing a gun from his backpack. The gunshot wound is believed to be not fatal.

Posted @ 1:00 p.m.
-There is an interesting post by Slate's Dave Weigel on the so-called "Frozen Zone" last night at the raids on Occupy Wall Street. Are law enforcement agencies trying to legally portray protesters in the same light as "terrorists"? And you thought the loss of your civil rights' during the Bush administration would not come to haunt you.

Hayashi A No-Show At Preliminary Hearing For Felony Theft Charge; Excused For Next

Nov. 15, 2011 | Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi did not appear in court this morning for a preliminary hearing stemming from allegations she stole $2,450 worth of merchandise from a San Francisco Neiman Marcus.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Hayashi is also excused from appearing at her next scheduled hearing on Dec. 7.

The judge appeared ready to compel Hayashi to show up for her next court date, but according to the account, he mysteriously relented. "The judge appeared poised to do so, but after speaking privately with [San Francisco Deputy District Attorney Paul] Brennan and defense attorney Douglas Rappaport, he said Hayashi's appearance next month would be waived as well."

News of Hayashi skipping today's hearing was met with derision. Known for being notoriously intolerable toward her Sacramento colleagues and own staff, the entire incident has been a delicious plate of humble pie enthusiastically used by opponents for comedy. Jon Fleischman, author of the well-read California conservative blog, Flash Report, poked fun at Hayashi in a series of tweets today:
  • "Word is that Asm. Hayashi is going to skip appearing at her felony prelim hearing, and let the lawyers handle." 
  • "Which of course begs the question: what is the more important item on her calendar? (We assume she is not shopping...)"
  • "While it isn't unusual for a charged suspect to skip their prelim hearing, you'd think the "innocent" Hayashi would go the extra mile..."
  • "The plan for "Hot Pants" Hayashi is clear - delay delay delay - until filing closes for State Senate"
Hayashi posted $15,000 bail last month and plead not guilty to felony grand theft charges. A surveillance camera at the Neiman Marcus store reportedly filmed Hayashi stashing away a pair of leather pants and two shirts into a bag. The two-term assemblywoman and possible state senate candidate in 2014 walked out of the store before being stopped by store security and was arrested. She has no priors.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Hayashi Shoplifiting Hearing Set For Tuesday

Nov. 14, 2011 | Alleged shoplifter Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi is scheduled to appear Tuesday before a judge in San Francisco. The two-term lawmaker was charged last month for attempting to steal three articles of clothing worth $2,450 from the Neiman Marcus at Union Square.

The district attorney is scheduled to offer the court its evidence regarding the surprising arrest Oct. 28 of the East Bay assemblywoman, who is termed out of office next year.

Reports show Hayashi was captured on surveillance video tape placing a pair of black leather pants and two shirts in a bag before walking out of the upscale department store just after midday. The SF Appeal reported employees noted Hayashi suspicious behavior before she entered a changing room with the suspeted stolen items.

Sam Singer, Hayashi's recently hired spinmeister said the ordeal is a "misunderstanding." But, many in her district are skeptical of how Hayashi's team has explained the allegations. Hayashi has not made a public announcement. Singer says Hayashi will not resign.

Last week, the Sacramento trade paper, Capitol Weekly, reported the irony of Hayashi receiving $2,400 from the California Retailers Association Good Government Council. Hayashi also backed legislation last year that increased the minimum monetary amount for felony grand theft.

Stark On Supremes Hearing Health Care Law: 'The Court Will Uphold The Law'

Nov. 14, 2011 | In a nod to the purely political aspects of the Republican push to repeal Obamacare, news of the U.S. Supreme Court deliberating the constitutionality of the bill today in the Wall Street Journal was placed under the heading, "Election 2012."

A decision by the high court could come in late June--just as the two parties prepare for the final stretch in the 2012 presidential campaign. Opening argument will begin in March.

East Bay Rep. Pete Stark issued a statement Monday morning saying news of the court's intention to hear the controversial law is "welcome news" and predicted victory next summer.

"I believe the Court will uphold the law," said Stark, "which is already helping millions of uninsured young Americans get coverage, ensuring all Americans get more for their health care dollar, and reducing out-of-pocket prescription costs for seniors while increasing their preventive services at no charge."

Stark, who turned 80 this weekend, also added a requisite swipe at conservatives. "Republicans' repeal efforts have been harmful to Americans' health and their pocketbooks. I'm looking forward to a Supreme Court ruling that will force Republicans to join Democrats in governing instead of continuing their political grandstanding.

Although numerous objections have been lodged in federal courts across the nation, the Supreme Court will focus on the case in the 11th District court of Appeals, which said the mandate for every American to purchase health insurance exceeded Congress' authority.

The "Affordable Care Act," as the landmark 2010 health insurance bill is officially called, might mean more to Stark than other lawmakers. The long-time congressman, who sits on the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, was one of the bill's notable authors.

Stark announced earlier this year he would seek another term for Congress. It remains to be seen whehter Stark's Democratic challenger from the Tri-Valley will attempt to exploit the health care issue among his more moderate constituents in Dublin against Stark's heavy involvement in the law's creation.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Occupy Oakland's Ironic $20k Account at Wells Fargo Shows Banks Control Everything

Nov. 10, 2011 | The Fox News crowd was gifted an ironic piece of news yesterday, or, they like to think they did. Occupy Oakland's fervent opposition to the big banks that hastened the greatest contraction in the U.S. economy since the Great Depression became fodder for the "one percent" when news filtered the group would place a $20,000 transfer from an account held by Occupy Wall Street to a trust fund at Wells Fargo.

When it comes to the image of banksters, Wells Fargo is pretty much one of the ugliest faces of financial indecency around.

The group scrambled to give an accurate account of the transfer saying Thursday the donation to be used for legal defense would only sit in the Wells Fargo account for a few weeks. Occupy Oakland is already in the process of becoming an unincorporated entity, they said, and the money would be transferred once the conversion is complete. The $20,000 will sit temporarily, the group said today, in the trust account of attorney Timothy Fong.

In truth, the Occupy Oakland protester have shown particular weariness in how to handle the finances of their movement. The group-think nature of the movement lends itself to distributing decision-making power among many. It works in furthering the movement's planning, but, in the financial realm, this goal is a bit more elusive.

Other encampments across the country have had controversies within their ranks over who controls the group's purse strings. Having the treasurer lounging in a lavish big top tent at Frank Ogawa Plaza while watching a 50-inch plasma TV and sipping organic mojitos on his Barcalounger is something organizers want to avoid.

Conservatives latched onto the news with glee and charged the rag-tag group of protesters with hypocrisy, but the incident only highlights one of their chief concerns: the financial system has everybody by the balls.

National Bank Transfer Day last weekend was a rousing success, but the truth is: local banks and credit unions do not have the financial fire power and assets to invest in the broad range of banking instruments the larger banks offer. You simply cannot function in this economy without doing business in some form with the large banks.

It's a monopoly that stifles competition and innovation at the expense of consumers. This is what the Occupy movement has been saying all along and the perceived capitulation of this fact clearly illustrates Wells Fargo's omnipotence.

Another Uphill Climb For Stark, Dems To Extend Unemployment Benefits

Nov. 10, 2011 | The annual showdown over extending unemployment insurance for millions of Americans is part of life on Capitol Hill since Republicans took back control of the House of Representatives. It's that time again.

Democratic members of the House Ways and Means Committee, along with Rep. Pete Stark, called for Congress to extend benefits slated to run out at the end of the year. The loss of an average weekly check of around $300 could eventually effect 6 million out-of-work Americans and over 300,000 Californians.

It was only a year ago that Republicans similarly opposed extending unemployment benefits. A they intend to do so again this winter. The issue undoubtedly will lead to another fight with Democrats. Republicans will likely use it for political posturing leading into a presidential election year.
“Congressional Republicans have done nothing to create jobs," Stark charged last week. "If they fail to work with us and extend unemployment insurance benefits now, 305,000 Californians will lose their benefits in January. For these workers, their families and millions more around the country, failure to act is not an option,”

Republicans eventually compromised on extending benefits last year, but only as a concession to Democrats for extending the Bush tax cuts. Liberal howled over the deal and may be afforded the same level of consternation again this year.

Some believe the issue will eventually be resolved in part by recommendations made the so-called "supercommittee" of a dozen House and Senate Republicans and Democrats currently meeting in Washington. The group is charged with proposing a plan to reduce the deficit by $1.5 trillion within an unspecified time frame. Unemployment benefits will likely compose some portion of the committees recommendations.

Redevelopment Fight Begins In State Supreme Court

Nov. 10, 2011 | Attorneys for the state argued Thursday before the California State Supreme Court morning that the fate of local redevelopment agencies lays within their control. Lawyers representing numerous statewide municipalities claimed the will of the voters who approved Proposition 22 last year were being impugned by the action.

The hearing in San Francisco provided few new details. Reports today, relying solely on the parsing of every morsel of queries and comments by justices, appear to be predicting a victory for the state.

The Los Angeles Times used the tea leaves afforded by the justice's comments today to construe the court would side with the state's argument, but it was less clear whether the funding mechanism of allowing local redevelopment agencies to control if cities paid for the right would survive.

The state budget is predicated on receiving up to $1.7 billion in revenue from the arrangement. If struck down by the court, the state's lawyers said, its budget would be in dire straits. On Wednesday, Controller John Chiang said receipts are already below estimates in tandem with higher expenditure than previously predicted.

Lawyers for the state offered instances were redevelopment agencies misused funds in the past on luxury items and benefits for local officials.

The attorney representing the cities argued against the constitutionality of the state's redevelopment plan in the wake of voter approval last year for Proposition 22. The initiative prohibits the Legislature to use local funds to balance the state's chronic budget woes.
Justice Carol Corrigan, though, latched on to the frequently-used analogy used by cities comparing the state's take of local funds in return for maintaining redevelopment agencies as "ransom."

"It's hard to argue it's a voluntary payment," Corrigan said.

Over 400 city and county redevelopment agencies would be effected. Cities hope the high court will rule on the issue before the first installment of payments to the state begin in mid-January.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Are The Political Costs Of Mutual Aid Too Much For East Bay Cities To Stomach?

Nov. 9, 2011 | The images of injured war veterans and peaceful protesters being fired upon with tear gas and rubber bullets is becoming personally and politically distasteful to a growing number of local cities who previously offered mutual aid to Oakland on two occasions to disperse Occupy Oakland protests.

Tuesday night, Berkeley's City Council made the boldest call thus far against offering police support for the occupation by refusing mutual aid they believe runs contrary to the city's noted history of protests and civil disobedience. "Some of my constituents believe the right to demonstrate is something we should respect," said Berkeley Councilman Jesse Arreguin.

"Most people are out there proudly carrying signs and doing nothing more than exercising their rights," added Berkeley Councilman Max Anderson. "If we turn on people like this, this country is in huge trouble."

The issue of providing mutual aid for events not born of a natural disaster, such as an earthquake or fire, is proving to be a thorny point for politicians concerned over their city's reputation and destiny controlled by leaders in Oakland along with police chiefs who also must answer to colleagues in surrounding locales.

The mutual aid agreement often cited in the two incidents of mutual aid in the past three weeks is voluntary. Officers are paid by their respective agencies with cities liable for their actions. Theoretically, each agency employs its own department's standards and practices. Sometimes, though, it is not clear who is in charge on the ground.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates quizzed the city's police chief Michael Meehan on whether Berkeley cops could be extricated from the operation if the department's own rules ran the risk of being compromised. "If it's a violation of our policy, we can say no," Meehan said.

Officials in San Leandro on Monday night, voiced similar questions over their city's use of 38 officers during both calls for mutual aid on Oct. 25 and Nov. 2, but unlike Berkeley, took no action.

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy appeared to gingerly walk around the question of whether its police chief should decline mutual aid to Oakland. San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli said it was her call, but would likely support participating in mutual aid since the agreement also calls for neighboring agency to help San Leandro if it were ever in need of help.

The image of Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen laying prone on the street after being hit point blank in the face by a tear gas canister fired by law enforcement Oct. 25 has made an indelible mark on many local officials.

"Someone who aims a tear-gas canister at someone's head, shoots and fades back into the crowd, I have a problem with that," said Anderson.

There is also growing reticence among local officials to help Oakland with the occupy movement in the future because of  a perception its leaders threw allied agencies under the bus in the days after Olsen's life-threatening injuries became fodder for national news.

San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola, a product of Oakland and also a veteran, said he was angered and embarrassed by the assault on Olsen last month and was highly critical of the rationale for the police action that night. Prola asked Spagnoli for an explanation for the early morning raid "Help me understand how that could be an emergency when you have people sleeping and they're going in."

Tuesday, November 8, 2011



4 of 4 Precinct Reporting
Jacqueline Asher.......735 27.03%
Nora Davis.............688 25.30%
Ruth Atkin.............679 24.97%
Ken Bukowski...........358 12.87%
William Webber.........259  9.53%

16 of 16 Precincts Reporting
John Marchand.........6023 47.79%
Barbara Hickman.......5798 46.01%
Minuete McKernan.......781  6.20%

16 of 16 Precincts Reporting
Laureen Turner........6642 28.02%
Stewart Gary..........6284 26.51%
Bobby Burger..........5510 23.24%
Marshall Kamena.......5272 22.24%

6 of 6 Precincts Reporting
Alan Nagy.............2274 46.20%
Ana Apodaca...........1597 32.45%
Ray Rodriguez.........1051 21.35%

6 of 6 Precincts Reporting
Maria "Sucy" Collazo..2780 32.94%
Luis Freitas..........2728 32.32%
Mike Bucci............1299 15.39%
Jack Dane..............897 10.63%
Richard Bensco.........736  8.72%

San Leandro Police Chief Says Oakland Knew 'Civil Unrest' Would Follow Occupy Raid

SAN LEANDRO |Nov. 8, 2011| San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli indicated Monday night that Oakland officials expected civil unrest after the Oct. 25 raid on Occupy Oakland protesters and it would necessitate mutual aid from neighboring public safety agencies.

"They also knew by doing such it would cause civil unrest and that is why they asked for the resources to help them with what they hoped would be a peaceful engagement," said Spagnoli. "However, they anticipated that would not be the case."

The comment came after San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola questioned whether an early morning raid last month on Frank Ogawa Plaza was needed. "Help me understand how that could be an emergency when you have people sleeping and they're going in," asked Prola.

Spagnoli told the City Council she understood the decision by Oakland officials was centered on health and safety issues at the plaza.

San Leandro police officers were used on both occasions mutual aid was requested by the Oakland Police Department. Spagnoli said the city's tab for the nighttime deployments was just over $20,000. The sum is paltry next to the expected millions paid out by Oakland, yet in lean economic times, cities like San Leandro are beginning to balk at extra expenditures such as those requested in Oakland over the past few weeks.

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy said Oakland officials did not have a plan going forward. "I'm not here to second-guess an agency, but it is a question of what was the plan to sustain this?" said Cassidy. "I'm just concerned in part that perhaps inadequate decision-making by another agency then impacts us."

Spagnoli also appeared to take a pointed swipe at Oakland's response to the clearing of Frank Ogawa Plaza. "From a public safety and law enforcement side there was planning in place and I think the higher powers-that-be changed it around and I think that creates challenges to public safety," she said.

Although Cassidy said he was not advocating against mutual aid to neighboring cities, he took umbrage with the perception Oakland officials moved too easily toward blaming an outside agencies after a Marine veteran was seriously injured with a tear gas canister in the face. "I would hate to see the city exposed to major liability without any indemnification in such a situation," said Cassidy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Did Swalwell Swallow Stark's Bait To The Right Of Voters?

Nov. 7, 2011 | Rep. Pete Stark has represented the East Bay in Congress for nearly 40 years not just because of political entrenchment or voter apathy, as his opponents often assert. It's because he's one hell of a shrewd campaigner.

You would think a congressmen virtually unopposed for decades (he has not inched below garnering 70 percent of the electorate since 1980) would have a modicum of rust on his weary 79-year-old bones. Apparently, old Pete is still spry and ready for a re-election campaign next year.

Case in point: last week Stark outsmarted his vastly younger Democrat challenger, Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell, by baiting him way to the right of the district's liberal constituency.

Swalwell swallowed the bait.

Stark was one of only nine members of Congress who voted against the ridiculous reaffirmation of "In God We Trust" as the national motto. (Shall we reaffirm baseball as the "national pastime, too?) Stark's vote is not surprise. He's the only proud Atheist in Washington.

To Swalwell, the vote seemed like an gaping hole to run through, but it was not. Unless his campaign is gambling everything to sweep the more moderate East County, then it was good move towards a likely unfulfilled campaign. "The 15th Congressional District deserves a member of Congress who is in touch with its people, can work well with others, and can honor our national motto," Swalwell told the Contra Costa Times last week.

Stark must have been gleefully rubbing his arthritic hands after hearing Swalwell's more conservative message that nods slightly to the Tri-Valley's undercurrent of Tea Party adherents.

If this were 2020, Swalwell's move would return the kind of positive traction that does not yet exist in this district, despite early movements by the last Census into the Tri-Valley. The rest of 15th District has never been inclined to mix politics and religion. It's why Stark can speak his mind on the lack of religion in his own personal life and remain unscathed.

Swalwell took a needless right turn on his own volition when instead, the road to Congress in the 15th is a left turn.

Police Agencies Used Agreement Based On Disaster Response To Quell Occupy Oakland

Nov. 7, 2011 | How did the Oakland Police Department attract and mount such a large multi-city force against Occupy Oakland protesters over the past two weeks?

The legal backbone for the assault, at least, among Alameda County cities, comes from a 2005 agreement crafted primarily to quickly amass law enforcement power in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, not to disperse largely peaceful assembly.

The Alameda County Operational Area Emergency Management Organization knits together various law enforcement entities and local government agencies, including the County Board of Supervisors.

Police officers from nearly every Alameda County city and neighboring counties participated in nighttime conflicts with Occupy Oakland protesters Oct. 25 and Nov. 2. The police action featured numerous rounds of tear gas, flashbang grenades and discharge of rubber bullets and bean bags at protesters. Two Iraq War veterans were seriously injured in the raids.

Nowhere in the document does it reference using the agreement for maintaining public peace in the event of a spirited protest.

"The potential for a major catastrophe due to natural and manmade disaster requires all government entities within Alameda County to be prepared to share resources and information among themselves...in order to protect public welfare..." reads the document.

The agreement also holds individual cities liable for the salary, employment and benefits of each of its members participating in any coordinated action.

For its part, Oakland city leaders said a partial tally of the cost of combating Occupy Oakland protesters is just over $1 million. Other participating cities, including San Leandro, will begin monetizing the cost of mutual aid in coming days.

Friday, November 4, 2011

San Leandro Officer Proposed Issuing More Citations To Protest Stancill Promotion

Nov. 4, 2011 | In 2007, a group of, at least, 10 San Leandro police officers, led by a cop currently in the crime prevention unit, broached a highly problematic and unethical idea of gaming the city’s ticket-writing procedures and arrest criteria to protest the promotion of former officer, Dewayne Stancill.

The scheme called for officers to flood the system with frivolous ticket infractions one month while neglecting to write any the next. By doing so, they hoped to attract the attention of police brass by causing the system to crash. The scheme is laid out in a confidential investigation paid for by the city in November 2008.

Institutional angst was high towards Dale Attarian, the police department’s former chief. The better-than-expected third-place finish by Stancill in the sergeant’s test earlier in the year was just the final straw among some officers who told investigators the morale of the police force was dangerously low.

Earlier, Attarian had ruffled feathers by enacting a new policy for promotion. Attarian wanted to raise the level of education at the department. To reach that goal, he made it clear that those with additional schooling would be looked at favorably for future promotion. This didn’t sit well with many in the force, who possessed little more than a high school diploma and some college credits.

Tim DeGrano was an officer who took exception to this new edict. He has been a police officer in San Leandro for over two decades. The mustachioed, DeGrano is well-liked and often jettisoned by the department for outreach to community groups. Like other disgruntled cops at the department, DeGrano lacked the level of education Attarian was looking for. Instead, DeGrano thought promotion should be based upon seniority, according to the report.

DeGrano may have also been upset over what may have been. In 2006, he placed high on the sergeant’s test and was on the verge of promotion until a former sergeant decided to delay his retirement. When the position was finally open, unfortunately for DeGrano, the prior list had expired. According to the report, DeGrano told others he would not participate in the 2007 testing, but changed his mind at the last minute. He would finish a dismal eighth out of twelve. Stancill said he believed DeGrano didn't bother studying for the test, according to the report. In an interview with this reporter, Stancill mocked DeGrano for coming down with "mysterious illnesses" on the day of testing on four separate occasions.

References to a flawed system for promotion is constant in the city's investigation into Stancill's claim of racial discrimination. Several current officers told Stancill their complaint was not over his surprise promotion to sergeant, but, instead, attributed to the "process." “We’re not upset about you,” another officer assured Stancill. “We’re upset at the administration.” Sandra Spagnoli, San Leandro's current chief of police, said the city now uses an outside consultant to conduct testing. In the past, a three-person panel would interview and compile scoring for each candidate. Officers felt the process was too arbitrary and tended to favor certain candidates. In response, they vowed to mount a protest.

One weekend in the summer of 2007, the entire patrol division of the San Leandro Police Department was invited to a barbecue at DeGrano's home. The reason for the occasion was anything but hospitable. Instead of grilled meats and summer sides, the main dish would feature a laundry list of gripes directed at the administration and, specifically, Stancill, according to the report.

Annie O’Callaghan was there. She was one of the officers found later to have conspired with five other female cops along with her husband, another San Leandro cop, to lodge frivolous sexual harassment claims against Stancill. What occurred at DeGrano's home was one big bitchfest featuring numerous officers commenting “to the effect Mr. Stancill is a dumb, stupid idiot and could not have possibly been ranked as high as he ranked on the promotional list,” the report said.

DeGrano’s testimony to the investigator was inconsistent. In the report, DeGrano said he did not know the reason for the department’s low morale and merely organized the barbecue to root out its causes. DeGrano said two young officers, current still on the force, called for the meeting. One of the officers he mentions denied asking for the gathering. Instead, he recalls asking DeGrano about the subject of the meeting, the report said, and not the other way around.

The plan was to prepare a list of issues and concerns for presentation to the chief, but before their grievances were aired, one officer proposed a unique act of workplace disobedience. “According to O’Callaghan, during the meeting, because some police officers were so disgruntled, someone proposed a work action wherein one month they would flood the system with citations and arrests and the next month would hold back on those actions,” said the report.

A current sergeant told the investigator, the person who initially suggested the work action was DeGrano. "Write every possible citation and make every possible arrest they can to gum up and overwhelm the system," the sergeant said of DeGrano's plan. "The next month, they would do the opposite and decline to write citations or make arrests unless absolutely necessary.”

That same officer, who is black, told investigators he sent an email to the other black officer in the department urging them to stand up for Stancill against the allegations lodged against him and to openly discuss similar acts of perceived racism perpetrated against the group. The officer told investigators he was not aware the purpose of the barbecue was to discuss work-related business or complaints over Stancill's promotion.

In an interview last month, Stancill described DeGrano's suggestion to manipulate the trust of San Leandrans in the police force to exact revenge on him as “conduct unbecoming of an officer.”

In the end, DeGrano’s plan to flood the system with tickets and arrests was quickly shot down by others in the group, the report said, but whether the proposed work action ever occurred before or after in San Leandro might never be known for certain.

Oct. 31, 2011 - Prologue: Amid Budget Cuts, San Leandro Official Spent Money On Other Things
Wed. - Part 1: Former San Leandro Police Officer Went From Shining Star To Pariah
Thurs. - Part 2: How the City Attorney Bungled the Settlement, Allowed Story To Become Public
TODAY - Part 3: Jealousy Pushed One Officer To Abuse The Public Trust To Protest Promotion
Nov. 8 - Part 4: If Police Officer Can't Write Reports, How Can Alleged Crimes Be Prosecuted?
Nov. 9 - Part 5: Now What?