Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 Quote Of The Year- Bow Down To 'The Queen Of Residential Blight'

Dec. 30, 2011 | The quote of the year, most of all, must be poignant. Short and sweet is good, too. In the case of 2011, the juiciest sound bite of the year is more like the first shot from Fort Sumter, starting the Civil War. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, in the first nine months in office, was wobbly, but you could just chalk that up to settling in. That changed when a well-known Oakland firebrand came loaded with incriminating photos of her messy front yard and a quote too perfect to ever ignore--boom--Jean Quan and Oakland, we would later see, would never be the same. The quote of the year:

“I nominate her the queen of residential blight.”
–Oakland resident Ken Pratt wows the audience at a September council meeting in Oakland when he forcefully protests the city’s allegedly fining of residents for blighted homes on an indiscriminate basis. Pratt shows photos of another such home not fined by the city and then dramatically reveals...dum dum da dum... it is the home of Mayor Jean Quan.

2010 - Bill Lockyer. "I'm just a volunteer."
2009 - Pete Stark. "Well, I wouldn't dignify you by peeing on your leg. It wouldn't be worth wasting the urine."

Soundbites: Best Quotes Of 2011

Dec. 30, 2011 | Two thousand eleven was clearly a tumultuous year. Protests in the streets, stagnant unemployment and increasing stress on the county's ability to provide services to its residents and the poor among us. It was also a year of exceptionally candid, thoughtful and hilarious sound bites. The most consistent quote master--Rep. Pete Stark--had no trouble breaking the Top 20 most poignant quotes in East Bay politics, but this year's honors are spread to every level of government and a few civilians, but, San Leandro, where are you? The birthplace of the East Bay Citizen failed to make the list. Have you something to say, will ya? Here is the best quotes of 2011:

“For the most part, most of the police have acted professionally, and most of the demonstrators have been non-violent, but there have been exceptions on both sides.”
 – Oakland Mayor Jean Quan speaking to reporters after the Oct. 25 raid on Occupy Oakland where police fired bean bags and rubber bullets at protesters along with tear gas on numerous occasions.

"She apologizes for any misunderstandings."
 - Sam Singer, the noted San Francisco fixer smoothing things over for his new client, Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, who is charged with felony grand theft at the Neiman Marcus at Union Square.

"We ARE the 99 percent!"
- You. The chant that could only day be the rallying cry for a generation is heard at every single assemblage of Occupy protesters, not only in the Bay Area, but worldwide.

“He is eloquent, well-educated and a thoughtful speaker, but he’s a lousy politician.”
 – Rep. Pete Stark speaking in September during a town hall meeting at Hayward City Hall about President Obama’s inability to broker deals with House Republicans.

“While many Republicans have argued with basic science in the climate change debate, Eric Cantor has become the first Republican to argue with basic arithmetic.”
–Press release from Pete Stark’s office refuting Rep. Eric Cantor’s opposition to a bipartisan report saying health care reform will save $1 trillion over 20 years.

“Mr. Young is saying he didn’t touch, hit, shake, or do anything other than push her on the body until she calmed down. There clearly was a lot more than that, okay.”
– Alameda Superior Court Judge Morris Jacobsen addressing his court over allegations assembly candidate Joel Young hit his former girlfriend in the face.

“Well, you mean they should get screwed just like the private sector got screwed by Wall Street? I disagree. But thank you.” State Treasurer Bill Lockyer in March standing up for public employees in a contentious radio interview conducting by a conservative Sacramento talk show host.

“You’re on your own, baby!”
 –Pete Stark at a town hall in Hayward when asked by a constituent to describe the Republicans’ alternative plan for health care.

“It doesn’t matter if its an African American or not and I’m hit in the head, it still hurts.”
 – Hayward Councilman Olden Henson, who is black, commenting in March on the need for the city to institute its own version of gang injunctions despite fears it focuses narrowly on minorities and youth.

“First of all, anyone who’s waiting for the Daily Review to tell you what’s happening, that was 10 years ago.”
– Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk at a meeting in late March lamenting the lack of coverage in the local newspaper. He later added it was not the fault of the beat writer, but his editors.

“The people that run Sutter Health are good people. They have the same interests that we have—they have it on a different scale.”
 – Michael Mahoney, CEO of St. Rose Hospital in Hayward on describing his counterparts at Sutter at a healthcare district meeting in April.

“The party of Honest Abe has become the part of Donald Trump. In California, we told the GOP, you’re fired."
– State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett during the California Democratic Convention in April mocking the current state of the Republican party nationally and statewide.

“I am distressed the most because Alameda has been in the news lately and it seems every time our city comes on the news, it’s something else to embarrass our city.”
– Alameda resident Adam Gillett on national attention given to the drowning death of Raymond Zack and following a string of stories depicting political treachery and incompetence on the Island.

“You should be offended. I would be offended, too, and was offended.”
– Alameda Councilman Doug de Haan in September after Councilwoman Bev Johnson told him she was offended by his assertion other members of the council were leaking information about potential candidates for city attorney.
“Has Congressman Anthony Weiner endorsed this bill?”
– State Sen. Tony Strickland jokingly asks Sen. Ellen Corbett on the Senate floor during deliberations for her Facebook privacy bill. Corbett finds little humor in the prank.

“I’m no shrinking violet. If you want to tussle, bring it on.”
–Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley during a county budget meeting in June growls towards an unknown and unprovoked questioner over a discussion of in-home services in the unincorporated areas.

“This is torturous. And those of you watching this torture at home, thank Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and their colleagues in the state Legislature for imposing this on us all.”
– Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney in September during a council meeting responding to discussions over approving a payment plan to the state to save its redevelopment agency.

“I just want to be clear on this—not because my daughter works for ACAP—but because the over 30 employees deserve to be paid. It’s not their fault funding come up short to meet last week’s payroll.”
 –Nate Miley in February responds to some critics who fault him for his handling over conflicts onf interests with the disaster at ACAP.

“My mom and dad always said, when we’re running out of food, the kids are going to eat first. I’m going to starve.”
Keith Carson in February chiding the ACAP board’s decision to pay their disgraced administrators accused of fraud before paying its workers.

“I think I’ll beat him handily.”
– Rep. Pete Stark sums up his chances against Eric Swalwell, the Democratic challenger for Congress in 2012.

Year In Review: Occupy Oakland And The Fall Of Mary Hayashi

Dec. 30, 2011 | Part 4 of the East Bay Citizen Political Year in Review: October to December and, oh, what last quarter of the year did the region witness.

Anthony Batts quits as Oakland police chief using the city’s large bureaucracy as the reason. At the time, he didn’t know how much stress he would soon avoid.

The Alameda City Council is presented with an independent report investigating the response to the Memorial Day drowning of Raymond Zack calls for greater coordination between police and fire, while revealing a historic rift between the two island public safety agencies.

The first tents are propped at Frank Ogawa Plaza on Oct. 10 as the makings of an encampment and movement known as Occupy Oakland begins.

A group hoping to salvage Joel Young’s campaign for assembly next year organizes a fundraiser for the embattled AC Transit board member accused of hitting his former girlfriend in March. The group called, “Women for Joel” appears to be AstroTurf in nature and includes Oakland stalwarts Desley Brooks and Alice Spearman.

California Supreme Courts says it will hear arguments for the contentious legal battle over the fate of redevelopment agencies in the state.

Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk is buoyed by a large turnout for his first campaign event for assembly, but Mayor Michael Sweeney uses the platform to both praise Quirk and skewer Sen. Ellen Corbett for her position on redevelopment while she looks on.

On Oct. 25, the Oakland Police, with help from numerous local police agencies, clears the encampment at Frank Ogawa Plaza. Mayor Quan is conveniently away on business in Washington, D.C. The late-night confrontation becomes heated. Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen is shot in the head with a police-fired projectile causing severe trauma. He becomes an earlier symbol of the movement.

Quan allows the evicted Occupy Oakland encampment to return. All sides of the conflict now become critics of Quan’s handling of the issue. Among neighboring cities and law enforcement officials, a conversation begins on whether providing mutual aid to Oakland is worthwhile.

Even before the fallout from Occupy Oakland there are plans to recall Quan. The petition only gains steam and attracts other bids to oust her from City Hall.

One of the most amazing months in recent East Bay political history ends with a shocker: Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi is arrested at a Neiman Marcus in San Francisco for allegedly shoplifting over $2,450 in clothing. She is charged with felony grand theft and pleads not guilty.

Occupy Oakland’s response to the Oct. 25 melee is to shut down the Port of Oakland . Although, the police and mainstream media claim a few thousand protesters marched on the Port, video from above show streams of people flowing over a causeway. Some estimates number it between 15,000-20,000.

San Leandro’s awful racial past catches up with it as a fired officer returns to reveal an infamous string of sexual harassment suits against him in 2008 was a conspiracy by the department’s upper echelon to disgrace him and lead to his dismissal. He is exonerated and walks away with a settlement of $315,000. Oddly, the perpetrators are also rewarded.

The attorney for Mary Hayashi is able to cajole a San Francisco Superior Court judge to allow her to be excused for a preliminary hearing set for December. That hearing is postponed to January as the judge again excuses her from attending.

Oakland Police swoop in on the second Occupy Oakland encampment, arrest 33 and take down 150 tents. Mayor Quan says the move was made for public safety concerns after a man is killed near Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Ro Khanna, a possible House candidate for Stark’s seat in 2014, makes serious waves after two highly-received fundraisers attended by Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Jerry Brown.

Another huge Occupy gathering coalesces; this time at U.C. Berkeley. Public outrage ensues after video shows U.C. police officers brutally jabbing students with clubs.

The Eden Township Healthcare District says their $3 million loan to St. Rose Hospital is delinquent. St. Rose’s CEO makes arrangements to repay the loan on a weekly basis until March, but the ordeal puts in question the Hayward facility’s financial stability.

Alameda County's administrator says the local economy is somewhat improving, but warns to expect another budget year featuring huge shortfalls.

Occupy Oakland again shuts down the Port of Oakland in a smaller demonstration than the first and the longshoremen’s union proves uncooperative with the aims of the shut down by protesters.

Sen. Ellen Corbett says she is exploring a run for Congress in 2012, instead of 2014. It could be “all-in” if Corbett enters the race to challenge Pete Stark next year.

State Supreme Court rules in favor Gov. Brown’s plan to end redevelopment agencies. Although, most East Bay cities made alternative plans to secure funding for current projects, the future is bleak going forward.

Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman passes away at 77. Well-known Oakland city government gadfly Sanjiv Handa also dies at 55.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman Dies

Dec. 29, 2011 | Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman died Thursday after a long illness. He was 77.

Wasserman was the South Bay's mayor since 2004. A former police officer, Wasserman's public service to the residents of Fremont began in 1976 as chief of police.

The pronouncement of his death came from the city Thursday afternoon. Wasserman passed away peacefully in the presence of his family, it reported.

During the past few years, Wasserman had trudged along while ably leading council meetings despite the presence of an oxygen tube to help him breathe.

Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan will assume the duties of mayor until the full council decides on officially naming a replacement. Natarajan planned to run next year to replace Wasserman.

"Mayor Wasserman served the residents of Fremont for 35 years with distinction and dedication. On behalf of the City Council, I offer heartfelt condolences to the Wasserman family,” said Natarajan.

Wasserman is survived by his wife, Linda, and their two children, Dan and Jill.

Early To Bed, Early To Avoid Transparency?

Dec. 29, 2011 | When the wheels of government roll in San Leandro, it is increasingly being fueled by multiple cups of early morning coffee.

Since San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy also holds a full-time job as a consumer lawyer in San Francisco, the city has been forced to schedule committee and public meetings in the early morning hours throughout the year and, recently, on weekends, including Sunday.

The City Council met at 8:30 a.m. on consecutive Sundays this month to discuss the hiring of a new city manager.

Some council members grumbled earlier this year when council committees including Cassidy were scheduled for odd times like 8:15 in the morning to accomodate the mayor.

Cassidy's periodic "Coffee with the Mayor" events, a holdover from the previous mayor's tenure, have also commenced in the early morning hours, mostly during the work week. The discussion are not highly attended and tend to skew sharply to older San Leandro residents.

The mayor's busy personal schedule has also met concern from a growing number of community members who fault Cassidy for not keeping a consistent office schedule. In fact, it is rare to catch Cassidy in the mayor's office anytime during the day, according to a member of the city staff. He is known to pop in from time-to-time, they say, after hours to catch up on work.

Cassidy's absenteeism over the year runs counter to vociferious calls by the then-mayoral candidate to foster greater transparency in city government. Whether call has heeded, it is happening without him and in the hands of a two lame-duck city managers. The instability along with steep staff cuts over the past few years was seen as a factor in its finance director bailing ship for Hayward after just seven months.
The complaints have grown so numerous that Cassidy held a two-hour "Office Hour" from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. earlier this month to hear resident's concerns in a one-on-one setting.

Cassidy's lack of accesibility (some also contend he never responds to email) is a stark change from the way the city did business under the former mayor, who was retired. Tony Santos typically spent four hours a day in his office in the late morning and early afternoon. Residents could routiunely walk in chat with Santos at their leisure.

If anything, Santos spent too much time listening to residents. As a result, he frequently entered into email wars with detractors that often found themselves forwarded to the in-boxes of many around San Leandro.

Another city staff member said Cassidy is doing things different, but added, his few appearances at City Hall is definitely a stark change from previous mayors.

Despite Bleak Future, Redevelopment Ruling Won't Impact Many Current Local Projects

Dec. 29, 2011 | The Legislature giveth redevelopment agencies and the Legislature can taketh, ruled the State Supreme Court Thursday.

The court's ruling to maintain the legality of Gov. Jerry Brown's controversial plan to end redevelopment agencies and divert property tax revenue to the state will lead to a quick $1.7 billion fix to the state's budget problems and deals a death blow to the ability of cities to fund public improvement projects.
Without RDA, Oakland's Coliseum City
 proposal just got harder to fund.
The 6-1 decision ironically found illegal a companion law to the bill abolishing redevelopment meant to soften the blow for local cities.

Created by moderate Democrats in the Legislature to give cities the opportunity to pay for the right to keep their redevelopment agencies was found to be in violation of Proposition 22, the referendum disallowing Sacramento with balancing its budget with local dollars.

Conversely, the court applied Prop. 22 to its majority opinion, in effect, saying redevelopment was initially created by the Legislature and it maintained the right to dissolve it.

Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, in both a concurring and dissenting opinion, said the court applied Prop. 22 too broadly.

With redevelopment agencies the stuff of history, there are some benefits and many takeaways from its demise.

Despite the negative connotations provided by detractors of Brown's plan, the transfer of property taxes from cities to the state will eventually funnel back, albeit at lower amounts, and benefit state programs, while providing increased funding to school districts.

Although the agencies will go by the wayside and necessitate lay offs of personnel, projects currently under construction or shovel-ready will continue, if cities moved earlier this year to secure outside funding. A wind-down of a few years was included in the most recent budget deal taking some initial benefit away from schools.

In addition, a gaping $1.7 billion hole in the state's budget was averted by the ruling. Still, lawmakers will again do battle next year with another multi-billion dollar budget shortfall.

In the East Bay, most municipalities are well-prepared to deal with the new reality of business with redevelopment agencies, if not with extreme objection. Fremont, for instance, approved $140 million bonds in March to maintain proposed projects in its downtown, including construction of a new BART station. The move to secure funding for projects also happened, to a far lesser extent, in Hayward, San Leandro and Alameda.

Local cities were also prepared to make the first installment of payments to the state in January to keep their agencies in operation. Because of the court's ruling striking down the "pay-to-play" function of the law, that scenario no longer exists.

Hayward, an East Bay city particularly vengeful towards the governor's plan, was scheduled to pay the state nearly $1 million in the first year to keep its redevelopment agency. Hayward's mayor and city manager routinely described the state's offer as "blackmail" and applied significant pressure to its representatives in the Legislature.

The future, though, is bleak for cities trying to spruce up their cities look or a move in a different direction through construction and growth. Critics of the plan say it will damage any hint of economic recovery possibly lurking in the near future along with the loss of thousands of jobs residing in the former agencies.

In gentrified cities like Oakland, redevelopment dollars had in the past help rejuvenate portions of its downtown and was thought to be a linchpin in building either one of two stadium complexes at the existing Coliseum or Jack London Square. Those projects will likely have to draw, more than ever, from the private sector to exist.

According to an East Bay Express article from earlier this year, Oakland's problems are further impacted by its use of redevelopment dollars not only fund construction projects, but to balance its general fund and pay some city officials. Half of Mayor Jean Quan's salary is fortified with redevelopment dollars, said the Express.

San Leandro's plan to make its downtown area near the San Leandro BART station also revolved around redevelopment dollars as did Hayward's to spruce up its dying retail area on Foothill Boulevard. In the past, redevelopment helped construct the city's handsome City Hall.

Going forward, there lies the potential for lawmakers to find an alternative to redevelopment agencies through the legislative process. Even if that occurs, it may amount to a last ditch effort to gain something rather than nothing from today's defeat and definitely far less than they would have otherwise gained with a different ruling.

Year In Review: Quan's Downfall Begins; Solyndra Abruptly Files For Bankruptcy

Dec. 29, 2011 | Part 3 of the East Bay Citizen Political Year in Review: July to September.

The Department of Labor announces $8 million in additional aid for over 4,500 unemployed workers at the shuttered Nummi auto plant in Fremont.

State Attorney General Kamala Harris files an amicus brief in support of the Eden Township Healthcare District in its appeal against Sutter Health’s right to San Leandro Hospital.

An internal memo sent by Alameda’s powerful firefighters’ union to its chief in 2009 surfaces warning about the risk associated with eliminating the city’s water rescue program. A probe later found at the time of Raymond Zack’s drowning, firefighters and cops were confused over whether the program actually existed any longer.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan urges Congress to reauthorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration saying the potential lack of resources from the agency will stop the city from finishing construction upgrades at Oakland International Airport. Congress later resumes funding temporarily, but a looming fight in the new year looms over the exact same issue.

St. Rose Hospital asks the Eden Township Healthcare District for a $3 million short-term loan after a computer conversion gone awry prevents them from billing Medicare for nearly a month leading to a shortfall of $2.2 million.

Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk enters the race for the 20th Assembly District. With the new district redrawn to exclude the Tri-Valley, Quirk appears to be the front runner. Jennifer Ong, Mark Green and Adnan Shahab also enter the race.

Three-year-old Carlos Nava is murdered in his stroller on International Boulevard in Oakland. The senseless crime galvanizes, for a moment, a city racked with homicides. One-year-old Hiram Lawrence, Jr., shot in November, would later pass away after two weeks on life support and further sadden the community.

Word breaks that Joel Young, an assembly candidate for the 18th District, is accused of physically abusing his former girlfriend during an alleged confrontation in March. The disclosure does little to convince Young that his once-promising candidacy is toast.

Fremont’s Solyndra abruptly announces it will file for bankruptcy and immediate lays off over 1,100 highly skilled workers at the solar panel company.

As a sideshow to Alameda’s search for a new city attorney, Councilman Doug de Haan accuses his colleagues of leaking candidate information to the press. Later in the meeting, Mayor Marie Gilmore insinuates de Haan may actually be the leaker.

Rep. Pete Stark threatens executives at Solyndra with federal inquiries over the lack of notification they gave former employees if they did not extend salaries and other benefits for 1,100 unemployed workers.

At a town hall meeting in Hayward, the outspoken Pete Stark calls President Obama a “lousy politician.”

Ellen Corbett files for a campaign committee exploring a run for Stark’s congressional seat, although, she says later she’s aiming for 2014. We’re not so sure about that. Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell, though, officially enters the race to challenge fellow Democratic Stark in 2012.

San Leandro passes a ban on polystyrene food containers starting in November 2012. It is estimated over three-fourths of the population in Alameda County live in locales with similar bans. Could a plastic bag ban be on deck?

Oakland resident Ken Pratt begins the downfall of Mayor Jean Quan when photos of her home show overgrown vegetation and broken wooden stairs. He famously pronounces her “the residential queen of blight” and its downhill from there for Quan.

Across the country, protesters angry with the astonishing inequity of the nation's economy system, pitch the first tents at Zuccotti Park in New York City. The occupy movement is born and its seeds of change will soon land in a once forgettable patch of land in front of Oakland City Hall known as Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Year In Review: Seeds Of Protest Grow; Large Budget Cuts Across The East Bay

Dec. 28, 2011 | Part 2 of the East Bay Citizen Year in Review: April to June.

Dr. Jennifer Ong becomes the first official candidate for assembly in the redrawn 20th District hoping to take over for Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, whose term ends next year.

The Year of the Protester in the U.S. gets a preview performance when protesters opposing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s attempt to beat down collective bargaining gather for marches in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and San Jose along with a smattering a smaller protests all over the Bay Area.

Does the city own the pipes under your house or do homeowners? A group a residents in San Leandro are shocked to receive bills in excess of $10,000 to connect to a new sewer line owned by the city. After howls from the public, nine homeowners and the city later come to an equitable solution.

The Eden Township Healthcare District announces it will appeal a decision by a Superior Court judge awarding title to San Leandro Hospital to Sutter Health.

Rep. Barbara Lee has a busy week. She attacks Republicans for stalling budget negotiation, attempts in vain to restore additional weeks of unemployment benefits for 99ers and fasts for the poor.

In one of the weirder pieces of legislation proposed by local politicians, Sen. Ellen Corbett goes all George Clooney and Angelina Jolie on the East Bay with a bill penalizing companies who dabble in “conflict minerals” from the Congo by excluding them from state contracts.

St. Rose CEO Michael Mahoney official unveils his plan to save his hospital and San Leandro Hospital and calls Sutter Health “good people” to the consternation of some.

What’s the damage? Alameda County announces a budget shortfall of a whopping $138 million. On the bright side, the shortage is is less than the $153 million the year before. Either way, another round of steep cuts to staff and services lay on the horizon at time when more residents are in need of services

Tax Day protesters demonstrate in front of Chevron headquarters in San Ramon and the Citibank branch on Broadway in Oakland. The mega-corporations were 2 of 12 who managed to avoid paying taxes in 2010.

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy chooses to find its next city manager by leading a three-person ad hoc committee. Ultimately, the decision blows up in his face. Through the end of the year, there is still no replacement for Stephen Hollister.

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty swears nobody pushed him to propose naming the sprawling Bay Trail after its founder, Bill Lockyer, but the plan meets opposition from some Bay Area cities.

The newest member of the assembly, Fremont’s Bob Wieckowski, makes an early name for himself by proposing a bill to regulate the chemicals used in fracking. Even though, the controversial process is not readily used in California, large deposits are known near the Central Coast.

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan tells the CEO of the Alameda County Medical Center to drop the proposed lease deal with Sutter Health signed in 2009 to run San Leandro Hospital. She later wields the board of supervisor’s power to appoint directors to the ACMC board as a carrot.

A report says the ACAP fiasco will cost the 13 Alameda County cities overseeing the poverty-fighting program $1.9 million. Despite protestations from a few cities, each city council begins writing checks to wind down the agency's costs and outstanding debts.

The Sacramento Bee finds Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi missed the third highest number of votes in 2010. You may recall a report from 2008 accusing Hayashi of “ghost voting,” which is akin to mailing it in legislatively.

Rep. Pete Stark reintroduces a bill seeking to withhold federal funding to states with laws discriminating against gay, lesbians and single people from adopting children.

Sen. Ellen Corbett averts a potential ambush at a Cinco de Mayo event at Chabot College. Corbett’s allies tell her to cancel when word comes opponents of the Russell City power plant planned to disrupt her speech. Her rival, Mary Hayashi is suspected to be behind the proposed sneak attack.

Reps. Barbara Lee and Pete Stark vote present on an amendment in recognition of the intelligence community’s efforts in capturing and killing Osama Bin Laden.

San Leandro narcotics detective Jason “Big Dirty” Fredriksson is charged with selling one pound of marijuana to an informant. He later quits the department. His case is still awaiting trial.

The top candidate to be the next city manager of San Leandro withdraws from consideration after the council approves their employment with less than an unanimous vote. It’s back to the drawing board, again.

Alameda resident Raymond Zack inexplicably drowns at Crown Beach on Memorial Day while police and fire fighters fail to act to horror of many. The story receives national attention and becomes a source of deep civic embarrassment. An investigation later finds widespread confusion in public safety’s response.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors pass a resolution asking the federal government for an official apology for slavery along with reparations.

Facebook is no friend of Ellen Corbett. Her bill installing tougher privacy rules protecting information proffered by children fails in the state Senate when few have the political guts to take on the Silicon Valley powerhouse.

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy purchases the $800,000 home of Steven Meyers, the founder of the law firm Meyers-Nave and employer of the city attorney. The house, in one of San Leandro’s best neighborhoods, begs the question, why should city employees “sacrifice” while the mayor upgrades his living situation.

If there was any uncertainty over whether San Leandro City Hall is in upheaval under Mayor Cassidy, it ends with news that its finance director quits after seven months for the same position in Hayward.

The first draft of the highly anticipated Citizens Redistricting Commission draws Corbett and Hayashi out of San Leandro and places Reps. Jerry McNerney and Pete Stark in the same congressional district. Despite the news, Stark announces a few day later he plans to run in 2012.

Hayward covers a $20 million budget shortfall on the backs of city employee unions, some of which give back up to 13 percent in salary and benefits, in addition, to increases in their pension contributions to 8 percent.

A House Oversight Committee begins looking into the events leading to the disastrous $535 million secured federal loan given to Fremont’s Solyndra.

Berkeley State Sen. Loni Hancock calls the death penalty an “expensive failure” and proposes a bill calling for lifetime imprisonment without parole.

Calpine announces it has secured a $845 million loan facility from General Electric Energy Financial to construct the controversial Russell City Energy Center on the Hayward shoreline.

Hayward names Diane Urban, the city’s first female police chief.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 Year In East Bay Citizen Covers

Nothing fits the egotism of trying to name a 300 mile Bay Area bike trail
after yourself other than "Me! Me! Me!"

The drowning of death of Raymond Zack still haunts Alameda after the
city's pubic safety agencies stood and did nothing while he died in the bay.

Not only was San Leandro cop Jason Fredriksen accused of selling pot,
but he left behind poignant and incriminating photos on the Internet.

Rep. Pete Stark, the liberal darling of the East Bay, could be in for a
tough re-election battle in 2012, but he isn't backing down.

Some commenters said the use of this infamously hilarious photo of
Mayor Stephen Cassidy was a low blow and that was the point.

Oakland isn't the only East Bay city looking at imposing gang injunctions.
Hayward's plan hasn't been implemented as they await guidance from Oakland.

San Leandro's new mayor vowed transparency, but early in the year, some
council members said decisions are being made without their input.

Sure, cleavage on the cover is a tabloid staple, but that wasn't
the only appearance of impropriety on this day.

Let's be honest, the original photo was blurry and the only one available and
Joe Montana's face would never appear on this site. Thanks, PhotoShop.

Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk is in for a tough campaign in 2012.
Although, he is in a good position, will he be smiling this time next year?

One of the few editorial covers in 2011. San Leandro's City
Council has proven to be the East Bay's most uninspired
and weakest council in the area.

Eccentric Oakland City Government Gadfly Sanjiv Handa Passes

Dec. 27, 2011 | You would be hard-pressed to find a true consensus for finding a lone word to describe a person. One word always passed through the lips of Oakland journalists and government officials when they described Sanjiv Handa: gadfly.

Handa was found dead Tuesday by police at his home on Piedmont Avenue. The cause of death is unknown at this time.

The thickly set Handa, who the East Bay Express perfectly described as balding in "Friar Tuck" way, was literally fixture at Oakland City Council meetings for two decades. Some even accused him a few years back of living in the press room at City Hall, but that wasn't true.

Exactly what Handa did was always fodder for ridicule, mythology, admiration and often all three at the same time.

He wrote and published the pricey East Bay News Service, but often failed to have any work to show for the extensive hours he put in cover not only council meetings, but Oakland's extensive battery of committee meetings.

What consistently confounded working journalists' was Handa's propensity for not only covering the meetings, but weighing in with his own personal opinions in public session. Handa was known for deftly gaming public speaker cards for his own benefit and others. Other times city council meetings appeared to exist solely for Handa to hold court. It was not uncommon for Handa to gobble up 20 minutes or more in total speaking time at any given meeting.

I sometimes wondered who gave Handa the right to do some of things he appeared to being doing in chambers. During a particularly raucous and heavily-attended meeting three months ago before the rise of Occupy Oakland at Frank Ogawa Plaza, it seemed to me Handa was currying favor with certain mainstream journalists and television reporters by saving them seats in the front row. Later, from the podium he would berate Mayor Jean Quan for displacing the popular Margaret Gordon from the Port of Oakland Commission. Of course, like others on the dais, Quan dropped her head and starred at the desk until the beating from Handa was over.

Who knows what Handa meant to Oakland, City Hall, and the craft of journalism. He was a blogger before the term entered popular lexicon and he blurred the lines between traditional media and opinionated talk radio-style banter that took hold in recent years on cable television.

Handa, to me, represented the reason I wanted to be a journalist. It's the reason I suspect almost every person went to journalism school in the first place--to shine a light on government and to catch the crooks who undermine the public trust and not to be a defender of big business and the elite. Handa did more than shine a light, he dragged the klieg lights into every single Oakland council meeting for 20 years and we are all better for it.

A gadfly, in general, is not meant to be seen or heard, but lurks out of sight, prodding and poking. Sanjiv's spirit will always be there watching and irritating the crooks. Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, I hope you ain't scared of ghosts.

Why San Leandro Hospital Should Be The Next Occupy Battleground

Dec. 27, 2011 | The fight to keep San Leandro Hospital was about the 99 percent versus the obscenely rich way before the notion became an unbelievably effective and accurate description of the financial unfairness raging in this country.

Sutter Health’s vigorous attempts to shutter the community hospital over the past three years despite strong opposition from a well-organized group of nurses and community leaders mimics the fight of occupiers across the country. They like, those, for instance, in Oakland have been steadfast and largely successful in batting back the enormity of their enemy to a stalemate.

The backbone of the movement is to radically loosen the grip of corporate American and the super rich from prospering at levels incredibly incommensurate with what they provide to society.

The issue at San Leandro Hospital is much more than economics and simple business math, but specifically about racism, elitism and a corporation prospering on the public dime without giving back to the community.

Sutter Health is a non-profit health care provider that reaped over $800 million in 2010. San Leandro Hospital is one of 23 hospitals it operates within a near monopoly in Northern California. Sutter’s tax-exempt status comes theoretically from the idea its benefit comes in exchange for providing care to the region. This fact, though, conveniently drops to the wayside in Sutter’s calculation.

In San Leandro, most heatlh experts believe an annual subsidy ranging between $6-$10 million would keep the hospital running in its present form as a general acute care facility with a 24-hour emergency room. The small subsidy in light of Sutter’s $800 million in profits is main rallying cry for supporters of the hospital. Sutter says it pools the network’s profits and readily applies it among its facilities, but who really cares about accounting procedures when 30,000 people a year will have to travel further for access to emergency care.

The reason for Sutter’s ambivalence is simple, but sickening. It doesn’t want a hospital in San Leandro competing with its $300 million expenditure of a rebuilt Eden Medical Center over the hill in Castro Valley. The yet-to-be-completed Eden, rising like the unfinished Death Star, will offer fewer services and contain less hospital beds at a time when the county is struggling to find more capacity. Sutter made $800 million last year because it runs a good business. Less competition means higher profits. A study this year in the Los Angeles Times found the average price of a hospital stay in Northern California vastly outpaces care in Southern California. The reason: Sutter’s monopoly in the North.

The focus on Castro Valley and the Tri-Valley with its higher income payer mix is a big drawing card for Sutter. It also purposefully excludes demographics who truly need health care more than ever.

Ever travelled to Castro Valley, Dublin and Pleasanton? On a sunny day, be sure to wear shades or risk blindness from the sun rays bouncing off the white skin of its population. Many of the current patients at San Leandro Hospital are poor and without health insurance. A vast majority aren’t even from San Leandro, but from Oakland. Critics have long accused Sutter of medical redlining. In essence, sorting out the poor and indigent from their facilities to other county-run hospitals, while courting more affluent customers. It’s a course of action that is particularly distasteful, but apparently a prerequisite action for any 1 percenter of any consequence.

Occupy Wall Street protesters loudly complain of corporations gaming the system in Washington. They point to the lack of transparency in Congress, where the super rich seemingly write their own legislation into law through lawmaker bought and paid for many times over. This not only happened with Sutter at San Leandro Hospital, but has occurred in similar fashions in San Francisco, Marin and Santa Rosa .

Elected health board district boards are notoriously corrupt partly due to the fact nearly all of them are former hospital administrators, doctors and some nurses. They have an inherent conflict when dealing with entities like Sutter while purportedly acting in the public’s name.

Even though a state appellate court denied the Eden Township Healthcare Distict’s attempt to stop Sutter from gaining title to San Leandro Hospital, the ground work for the complaint was laid years ago by Sutter officials who bore a hole into the previous district board and downloaded a virus that unfortunately may never be eradicated even with the best intentions in mind.

For instance, the same man employed to run Eden Medical Center also headed the Eden Township Healthcare District while it negotiated two contentious agreements in 2004 and 2008. One more time: The same person employed by a health care behemoth also dabbled in the business affair of a government entity.

Legally-speaking, the likelihood of proving this executive wore two hats and willfully corrupted the decision-making process is very low. In reality, we know Sutter executive George Bischalaney was in the room during negotiations and fielded questions from board members crafting the deal who, themselves, were known as member with known allegiances to Sutter. Elected officials like Dr. Frank Rico, Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar and Suzanne Barba represent modern-day Judas’ who acquiesced to Sutter’s threats to build a competing hospital in the Tri-Valley instead of rebuilding Eden, instead of suing them for breach of contract.

If the current, more public-friendly board cannot ultimately save San Leandro Hospital, it is of no fault of theirs, but the predecessor's cowardice that dig the District a hole they could never possibly dig themselves out.

The one percent has stolen the convictions of ordinary Americans for too long and the Occupy movement have succeeded in shining a light on the corruption of the corporations. Occupy Oakland has led the way in taking the fight to the Port of Oakland to extract an ounce of flesh. Occupy Cal has shown how public and higher education is being gutted for those interested in gaining an affordable education.

San Leandro Hospital’s fight against Sutter represents the third rail in our disgust: the shocking lack of health care for a vast majority of Americans. People in this country should not have to decide between paying the rent and buying medication. People in the East Bay shouldn’t lose access to a hospital solely because of the color of their skin or the end ledger in the checking account. It's time to Occupy Health Care.

Year In Review: Census Changes Everything; Redevelopment's Uncertain Future

Dec. 27, 2011 | All this week, we review the news and events that made up 2011. From the hilarious to the mundane to the serious stories with potentially lasting consequences, here is how the first three months of the year went down:

Fremont names former council member Dominic Dutra back to the council to replace Bob Wieckowski, who becomes the assembly’s newest member. Dutra quickly refutes any designs on running for mayor in two years, although his welcome speech is loaded with campaign and bureaucratic-speak.

Rep. Pete Stark’s office sends a hilarious press release teasing Rep. Eric Cantor over his disbelief in a bipartisan report saying health care reform would save $1 trillion. Included are links challenging myths including toilets in the Southern hemisphere swirl in a different direction, Elvis Presley is, in fact, dead, Shania Twain is not related to Mark Twain and french fries did not originate in France.

As Alamedans deal with the fallout from the purging of its city manager and attorney, Mayor Marie Gilmore gets a surprise when the chair of the economic development committee resigns saying he cannot work with the new mayor and council.

Sandra Spagnoli is sworn-in as the first female police chief in San Leandro history and the tenth overall. Superior Court Judge Roy Hashimoto briefly flubs the oath and outgoing chief Ian Willis makes a crack about gun violence in the chambers just a week after Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is shot in the head by an angry constituent.

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi forms a 12-person slate to pack the state Democratic convention with her allies in the 18th District. Jennifer Ong is one of them. She later announces her intention to run for Hayashi’s termed out seat in 2012.

Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to eliminate over 400 redevelopment agencies around the state throws every local municalities into a mad scramble to secure ongoing and future projects.

New San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy owns up to his campaign pledge to forego a salary until the city’s balances its budget. Nevermind, every city’s budget is mandated to be reconciled, Cassidy loses $15,000 in salary through June.

Fremont moves quickly on shoring up redevelopment projects by approving $140 million in tax allocation bonds underwritten by Goldman Sachs.

The Eden Township Healthcare District’s legal bills top $2 million. The fate of San Leandro Hospital will hang in the balance for the entire year without resolution.

Hayward retains city manager Fran David at bargain basement prices. An adherent to pension reform, David accepts a reduction in auto and cell phone allowances along with agreeing to increase, up to eight percent, her own contributions to CalPERS.

With the books closed for 2010, it is disclosed Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer spent a whopping $1.53 million on her campaign. Ninety-two percent came from the campaign coffers of her husband, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer

Unfortunately for Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, a YouTube video of her and other members of the assembly lip-synching Elton John’s “Tiny Dancer” is not the most embarrassing development in her now shambolic political career.

Eden Township Healthcare Distirct and St. Rose Hospital in Hayward detail a plan, also blessed by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, to merge the struggling facility with San Leandro Hospital to gain more opportunities to draw federal dollars. There is little movement on the proposal through the end of 2011.

Nonito Donaire, who grew up In San Leandro and attended San Lorenzo High School, wins the WBO and WBA bantamweight titles after knocking out Fernando Montiel. The blistering left hook flooring Montiel is named the “Knockout of the Year” in December by Sports Illustrated.

Word comes that state Sen. Ellen Corbett is interested in the state secretary of state's office after the current office holder Debra Bowen runs for Rep. Jane Harman’s open seat. Bowen will lose the race ending all speculation.

The finances of the Association Community Action Program (ACAP) blows up in the county’s face after news breaks the institution formed to combat poverty failed to meet payroll. A week later the 13-member ACAP board approves paying $20,000 to the husband and wife team believed to be behind the suspected problems before paying over 30 employees.

Alameda County Board of Supervisors approve securing over $128 million in redevelopment projects in its unincorporated areas. The funding only cover various public improvement projects in development or shovel-ready.

San Leandro again tests the waters of medical marijuana, but again falls far short of moving forward with any plan while neighboring Oakland moves ahead. “It has to grow somewhere,” urged Councilman Jim Prola to no avail.

“Point of order!” It’s the first of numerous objection during council meetings in 2011 by San Leandro Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak regarding Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s chronic inability to follow Robert’s Rules of Order. The subtext: Starosciak and other says Cassidy is cutting them out of the decision-making process.

In a story that will reverberate across the region for years (at least, the next 10), the official results of the U.S. Census is revealed. The findings show the beginnings of an exodus from the Bay Area to surrounding counties, primarily towards the Central Valley and to the South. The Census will lead to a plethora of new political realites for local and potential political candidates.

Joe Montana, the developer for the South Hayward BART development makes “minor revisions” to the plan counted on to breathe life to the downtrodden area, but some council members think the large reductions in housing unita and elimination of a retail component is anything but minor. It’s the first indication the city is leading a concerted effort to bend over backwards for rich developers.

Supervisor Nate Miley takes responsibility for lack of oversight at ACAP. A former employee tells the board of supervisor a culture of retribution existed at the program for anyone who questioned the allegedly fraudulent activity by its former director.

A Hayward woman with ties to Bill Lockyer who filed a complaint with the registrar of voters against Liz Figueroa in the 2010 board of supervisor race is appointed to the Alameda County Consumer Affairs Commission.

Increased sales tax from a 2010 voter-approved referendum and modest gains in CalPERS lowers San Leandro projected budget shortfall to a measely $1.26 million for the next fiscal year. The strong general financial health of the city in relation to neighboring locales leaves Mayor Cassidy scrambling for a narrative to bring along his more Draconian bugdget-tightening measures—namely, pension reform--to the forefront.

Fullerton Assemblyman Chris Norby slams his colleague, Mary Hayashi, for wasting time by proposing a resolution honoring Earl Warren.

Monday, December 26, 2011

If Corbett Goes 'All-In' For Congress in 2012, Everybody Else Will Follow

Dec. 26, 2011 | In the past 20 months, Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett has "explored" running for Alameda County supervisor, had designs on Secretary of State Debra Bowen's office and visions of Rep. Pete Stark's seat in Congress in 2014.

Each time she was merely succumbing to pressure from her legion of community supporters, now she says those same people are asking for a new strategy.

San Leandro Patch reported Monday, Corbett is now "exploring" a challenge to Stark next year--two years earlier than expected.

The only other current challenger to Stark's nearly four decade reign in Washington is Democrat Eric Swalwell, a freshman councilman from Dublin.

With just over six months before the June 5 primary, Corbett's interest may be more of a reaction than bold political move. The rising fundraising prowess of Fremont's Ro Khanna over the past few months is cause for alarm for anyone interested in facing Stark anytime in the near future.

Khanna, a former deputy in the Obama Commerce Department, has also shown interest in running for Stark's seat in 2014, assuming Stark wins in 2012.

Corbett's comments will likely become the impetus for what some East Bay political observers guessed would be a scenario where one high-profile potential candidate goes "all-in" for 2012 and forces all others to follow suit.

Khanna's prodigious fundraising haul derived from Silicon Valley by way of Democratic operatives in the Indian-American community has changed the political calculus greatly, said an East Bay consultant, who chose not to be identified for fear of alienating a potential client.

Any candidate for Stark's seat is banking record low approve ratings for Congress will create a "throw the bums out" atmosphere at the ballot box. Swalwell, for one, has repeatedly used the tactic, along with Stark's age, to poke holes in his challenger's resume. Such a gambit is tricky.

Although a vast majority now loathe Congress in general, they conversely believe their own representative is not the problem.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Alameda County's Economy Showing Glimmer Of Hope, But Don't Get Too Excited

Dec. 22, 2011 | Is the sluggish economy in Alameda County finally on the rebound? Over the past few years, county officials have detailed bedeviling fits and starts (mostly fits) for the local economy only to see the bottom drop further.

As the county gears up for another year of locating budget cuts to reconcile another year of diminished revenues, the initial outlook is showing signs of tangible, although muted recovery.

In past budget cycles, the presence of negative growth within the county's tax assessment rolls has been a harbinger of bad news. As far as records of its tax rolls had been kept, the county had never seen it drop below zero as it has over the past two years ago.

A tax assessment roll is a database compiled by the county assessor to identify and evaluate market rate for every taxable piece of real estate in the county. Since property tax revenue in the county has dropped precipitously over the last few years followed by an explosive housing bubble, it is not surprising its tax rolls have suffered so greatly.

This week, Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi reported a slight rise in the tax rolls, if not a symbolic cause for optimism. While the tax rolls inched above water at 0.37 percent, it still represents the third worst figure in county history, said Muranishi. The modest gains in property tax will not offset rising costs and demand for county services, although Muranishi noted recent growth in sales tax that may also indicate an economy ready to hum in the coming year.

For perspective, the county's tax rolls peaked in 1971 at over 16 percent and have stayed relatively consistent at around 8 percent annually.

In what may be an indicator of trouble for President Obama's campaign for re-election next year, the last time the county's tax rolls were this low was 1979 when it hovered around 1 percent amid President Jimmy Carter's era of economic "malaise." The governor of California, at the time? Jerry Brown.

In another sign of a burgeoning robust local economy, the county's unemployment figures fell to nearly a three year low at 9.6 percent in November. The rate has fallen from 11 percent just four months ago. It's still a far cry from December 2007 when unemployment was only 4.9 percent.

How long the good news lasts may be shorted lived, though. Gov. Jerry Brown is scheduled to release new state budget findings in early January. This month, Brown announced "trigger cuts" amounting to over $2 billion in additional cuts. Brown's previous tax realignment plan, in particular, the decision to move some inmates to county jails, will also add uncertainty to the budget, said Muranishi.

The plan will add on average 267 more inmates per day under the auspices of the county along with 848 inmates discharged to post-release community supervisor over the next three years, said Muranishi. Since October, 162 prisoners have already been released with 2 returning to the system after committing new criminal offenses.

The county is scheduled to announce a budget shortfall sometime in April, according to its timetable. Last year, the board of supervisors balanced the budget after cutting $137 million in programs and services.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Appellate Court Sides With Sutter Over Ownership Of San Leandro Hospital

Dec. 21, 2011 | The end of San Leandro Hospital as a general acute care hospital with emergency room services may be near.

A state appellate court ruled Wednesday in favor of Sutter Health's right to secure title to the San Leandro community hospital. The opinion affirmed a similar decision issued bt an Alameda County Superior Court judge in November 2010.

The unfavorable ruling for the Eden Township Healthcare District represents a third legal defeat in its bid to maintain services at San Leandro Hospital. An arbitrator handed down a similar decision also in 2010.

The three-judge appellate court found former members of the District in 2008 did not possess a financial interest in the controversial agreement that paved the way for the current legal entanglement.

The court agreed the current adminsitrator at Sutter's Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley did not possess a financial conflict of interest under state law. Bischalaney concurrently held the same position at the District from 1998 to 2008.

"The District has not shown that the contracts at issue here have any direct or indirect nexus to Bischalaney's compensation," said the appellate opinion.

Similarly, former District board member Dr. Francisco Rico, the court found, did not stand to benefit from the agreement. The District had asserted Rico's stake in a doctor's group that provides exclusive anesthesiology services to both Eden and San Leandro Hospital also did not violate the same government code.

The District had hoped a violation of Government Code 1098 would invalidate the 2008 agreement that, in hindsight, chose a rebuilt Eden Medical Center over a tenuous future at San Leandro Hospital.

The ruling also disputed the District's contention the ongoing dispute with Sutter centered around the alleged conflicts of Bischalaney and Rico. Instead, they found it actually revolves around community fears of losing access to emergency services in San Leandro.

"Sutter was not seeking to render services to the District, nor to secure any public money or benefit," it reads. "The District does not claim it will be adversely affected, from a financial standpoint, if the SLH sale is completed. Indeed, as best as we can discern,, the District's main issue with the transaction is based on public policy concerns regarding the loss of emergency room, and not public finances."

An amicus brief filed by Attorney General Kamala Harris's office supporting the District's argument also did not sway the judges. They faulted the attorney general's broad view of the government conflict of interest code, while referring to their argument as "not persuasive."

The court also found an addition amicus brief filed by the City of San Leandro supporting the District did not contain materials decided by the earlier superior court case and "irrelevant to the specific issues on appeal."

What happens next in the over three year fight to keep San Leandro Hospital is unclear. Once Sutter gains title to San Leandro Hospital it could enter talks with the District and county on how to proceed or, more likely, maintain its initial plan to convert the facility to an acute rehabilitation center without an emergency room and other services currently provided at San Leandro Hospital. Sutter would then allow the Alameda County Medical Center to run the reconfigured facility.

Although, the appellate court referenced Sutter's acceptance for paying for the hospital, the exact price tag, according to the county, would be zero. Through capital improvements made to building along with equipment upgrades, Sutter was able to deduct the sale price down to where technically the county would owe Sutter for taking the hospital off its hands.

As the county continues to lose an alarming number of hospital beds along with higher numbers of residents demanding more social services amid a stubbornly stagnant economy, the loss of San Leandro Hospital would put further strain to the system, according to health officials.

Although a vocal group of community activists in San Leandro have long fought hard to keep the facility open despite Sutter's stated plans, the dilemma is actually a regional problem likely to hurt the indigent and uninsured in surrounding cities. According to the hospital's census, a majority of patients come not from San Leandro, but poorer sections of neighboring Oakland.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hayashi's Attorney May Be Pushing For Probation, Misdemeanor

Mary, Mary, why you buggin'?
Dec. 20, 2011 | The attorney for disgraced Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi is angling for probation and a downgrade of her charges from grand theft felony to a misdemeanor.

Hayashi's attorney Douglas Rappaport was heard in court discussing his plan with an unidentified member of Judge Gerardo Sandoval's court where he indicated he would ask for probation.

Such a move is common. The stigma and lasting ramifications of life as a convicted felon is harsh. In addition to losing certain rights going forward, the mark of a felony can make finding suitable employment a nightmare.

Hayashi pleaded not guilty to shoplifiting over $2,450 in clothing last October from a Neiman Marcus in San Francisco.

The gentleman in court last week humorously chided the prosecutor to accept Rappaport's proposal to which they both sheepishly grinned.

Rappaport was also overheard citing Penal Code 17b in the conversation. The section refers to downgrading a felony to a misdemeanor.

Despite the large price-tag involved in the alleged theft the judge may not throw the book at Hayashi. Taking into account her personal history and lack of a criminal record, the liklihood of probation is high.

There is also speculation over how conclusive the surveillance footage of Hayashi purportedly shoplifting the items at Neiman Marcus may appear. Curiously, a follow-up item by the San Francisco Chronicle's Matier & Ross detailing a Neiman Marcus employee reportedly recognizing Hayashi as a customer suspected of stealing clothing a week before her arrest has more than a whiff of a strategic leak by the San Francisco D.A.
According to the ethics rules in the assembly, a felony conviction would not necessarily be cause for Hayashi to resign her seat, although it could be reason for her to lose her seat on various assembly committees.

Hayashi's termed-out seat in the assembly ends in the fall of 2012. Before her arrest, most observers believed she would sit out the next two years and run for Sen. Ellen Corbett's termed-out seat in 2014. There were also speculation she had alternative plans to run for Rep. Pete Stark's congressional seat that same year. Most, though, believe her political career is finished regardless of the outcome of the charges against her.

Hayashi's next preliminary hearing is scheduled for Jan. 6. Judge Sandoval will again allow her to skip the hearing despite opposition from the San Francisco District Attorney's Office.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Hayward Latinos Voice Concern Over Federal Anti-Illegal Immigration Program

Dec. 19, 2011 | The Department of Homeland Security cracked down on Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio last week for his often times overzealous use of a controversial federal program that tends to target Latinos--regardless of their immigration status.
Half of those deported had no record
of criminal offenses.
The possibility of local law enforcement undermining the public trust among Latinos in ways Arpaio has achieved in Arizona has ignited hysteria among minorities and has some Hayward council members worried a similar sense of fear exists in their city.

At issue is the use of a federal program that forces local police to forward finger prints to a county hub, which in turn is added to a federal repository of biometric information.

The program, called Secure Communities, is an offshoot of the Patriot Act and is currently used in 44 states, including California. The deadline for the remaining states to comply is 2013 and its immediacy has raised questions over its usefulness among members of both political parties and law enforcement.

Hayward Councilman Francisco Zermeno asked for a report on the city's compliance and policies in regards to the program after some voices in the Latino community raised questions over whether members of their community risk being ensnared.

"We do not enforce immigration law," said Hayward Police Chief Diane Urban to allay concerns illegal immigrants could be targeted by Hayward police officers. "We really recognize and truly value our relationships in the community. It is the last thing we want people to do is to be reluctant to speak with us."

According the U.S. Census, just over 40 percent of Hayward's population is Latino making it one of the largest Hispanic communities in the entire Bay Area.

Numerous police chief around the country have questioned whether the program may inadvertently do harm to the evidence gathering function of policing. To further the point, Zermeno feared Latinos could be targeted by the manner of their dress and speak or skin color by the law.

"Someone in the city of Hayward would never be arrested solely because they were undocumented," Hayward City Manager Fran David quickly answered. "There would have to be another reason that brought them to the attention of the police in order for them to be in jail."

The Department of Homeland Security's decision last week to revoke access to the fingerprinting database contained within Secure Communities by Arpaio is an admonition by the government that racial-profiling of minorities is occurring, at least in Arizona.

A federal task force found half of the 141,000 illegal immigrants deported using Secure Communities had no criminal convictions. Another sore point among some municipalities is the government reneging on a promise to eventually allow them to opt-out of the program, if they wish.

Zermeno asked about the police department's own ability to not cooperate with what has become a de facto federal mandate.

"To not forward someones fingerprints really puts us in an untenable position, quite frankly," said Urban. Otherwise, she added, there would not be any way for the department to know whether a detained individual had a violent history or not, especially if they committed the crime in another region or state.

Eden Township Healthcare District Failed To Renew Non-Profit Tax Exemption

HAYWARD | Dec. 19, 2011 | Add this to the list of problems at the Eden Township Healthcare District. The governing body which oversees San Leandro Hospital lost a portion of its non-profit tax exempt status in November 2010, according to its CEO.

Dev Mahadevan, who oversees the day-to-day functions of the District, said last Wednesday its 501(c)3 tax exempt status was revoked over a year ago. The District has asked the Internal Revenue Service to retroactively reinstate the status, but Mahedevan admits there may be a gap in the District's non-profit status going forward.

The mistake could potentially be a problem for those who gave charitable donations to the District in the past year. Without the tax exempt status they could be on the hook for additional taxes. Mahadevan says that possibility is remote since he reported the District has not received a single cash donation during the period in question.

The District's compatible 501a tax-exempt status as a health care district, added Mahadevan, gives the District some cover as a non-profit.

The mistake, though, raising questions over the management of the District's affairs amidst turmoil over the future of the body and messy two-year legal battle with Sutter Health over the title of San Leandro Hospital.

Carole Rogers, the chair of the District's Board of Directors, questioned whether the suspension earlier this year of membership in a local health care association hastened such a lapse of attention in the District's non-profit status despite its $15,000-a-year dues. "Perhaps might have been aware of this technicality," said Rogers.

MERGE NOW, SAYS COUNTY It was a bit of head scratcher last month, when the director of Alameda County Healthcare Services and Supervisor Nadia Lockyer urged the District to trudge ahead with a merger with St. Rose despite a sense the District may lose its appellate appeal over title to San Leandro Hospital.

The instruction, in actuality, has very little to do with San Leandro Hospital and everything to do with St. Rose Hospital in Hayward. It also begs the question of what good is a health care district without a hospital to oversee?

"Even if we lose, the District will still be around," said Rogers. "We'll still be a governmental entity, no matter what and that's what St. Rose needs: access to be a district hospital that gives them access to inter-governmental transfers and maybe down the line a parcel tax."

The model for delivering health care in the county is definitely broken, as it is all over the country. The loss of a single hospital facility in the East bay would be catastrophic, especially in the South County. For instance, if you live in Hayward, do not possess health insurance or are under-insured, it is almost a certainty you will transferred to a hospital bed in another city or even county.

"I have a lot of confidence in them," said of St. Rose CEO Michael Mahoney and his employees. "The doctors are engaged and really supportive. I give them credit for working in a hospital environment where 25 percent of your customers can't afford to pay you."

ST. ROSE REPAYMENT PLAN ACCEPTED Despite somewhat stern language in a letter earlier this month from the District to the CEO of St. Rose Hospital that notified them of a delinquent loan payment, there appears to be little enmity between the two groups.

"Especially as were trying to broker a relationship, the simplest thing is to accept what is workable for them," Mahadevan told the District Board of Directors last Wednesday.

In fact, St. Rose has already made its first weekly payment of $200,000, reported Mahadevan.

The resumption of a modicum of cash-flow comes at a good time for the District, which is encountering a slow market for tenants at its new medical building in Castro Valley.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Lee, Stark Issue Stern Opposition to Defense Spending Bill

Dec. 14, 2011 | Two of the East Bay's most liberal congress members registered a pair of stinging rebukes Wednesday morning for a massive $662 billion omnibus defense bill, which also includes controversial provisions allowing for the indefinite detaining of American citizens with suspected ties to terrorist organizations.

"This bill is fundamentally un-American and it threatens all of our liberties," Rep. Barbara Lee said Wednesday on the House floor. "This legislation undermines our national security and our democracy."

The defense package would fund military personnel, weapons systems, various national security programs and pay for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from the beginning of the current fiscal year, which began last October.

The bill offered Monday also indicates a willingness by Washington to reduce spending. H.R. 1540 is $43 billion less than Congress approved last year and $27 billion less than the Obama administration had requested for this fiscal year.

The House of Representatives could vote on the bill as early as Thursday. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill in its current state.

Rep. Pete Stark called the bill "wasteful and dangerous legislation" in a speech Wednesday morning before the House.

"Every dollar we spend on war and weapons is a dollar we cannot spend on education, health care, infrastructure, or even deficit reduction," Stark said. "This bill does nothing to seriously rein in our defense budget."

Like Lee and other Democrats in the House, Stark took umbrage at language in the bill, they say, puts ordinary Americans at risk of detention.


Our Constitution does not permit the federal government to detain American citizens without charge or trial, nor does it give the military the authority to act in place of our justice system," said Stark. "And yet this legislation would codify into law the authority of the military to indefinitely detain suspected terrorists--- something never even seriously considered during the McCarthy-Cold War era. I could never support a measure that, in the name of security, violates Americans’ constitutional rights."

The defense bill before the House has not been without controversy. An earlier version of the legislation called for a ban on military chaplains performing gay marriages. Advocates of same-sex marriages called the attempt by Republican members to deny marriage "anti-gay." The passage was removed Tuesday.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Swanson Entering Race To Unseat Hancock in State Senate

Asm. Sandre Swanson
Dec. 13, 2011 | Termed-out Alameda assemblyman Sandre Swanson made official what many have expected--a primary challenge against fellow Democrat Loni Hancock for her seat in the state Senate.

The Tribune Tuesday reported Swanson's intention to file nomination papers at the end of this month. "I intend to be the first in line," Swanson told the newspaper.

A consultant for Hancock asserted Swanson had previously indicated an intent to go "shopping for a district."

It's a curious gambit for Swanson, who by many accounts served his assembly district well, if not without distinction over the past five years. Hancock's redrawn senate seat may well be the impetus for Swanson's belief he could pull off an upset next year.

In the past, Hancock's district started in Albany to the north and followed a path through Berkeley (her power center), Oakland, Alameda and including parts of Dublin and Pleasanton. The region's new set of vote next year will be somewhat less liberal and stretch from parts of Western Contra Costa County through Albany, Oakland, Emeryville, Berkeley and San Leandro.

Another reason for Swanson's run surrounds the state's first-ever use of an open primary system which does away with voters participating solely in elections of their own political party. Under this system, it is likely two candidates from the same party could face each other in the general election and regardless of one candidate gaining a majority in the primary. The California primary is scheduled for June 5.

NOTE: a correction was made in explaining the new open primary process. The top two vote-getters in the June primary advance to the November general election and regardless of party affiliation.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Eden Healthcare District Says St. Rose Loan Is In Default; Hospital Set To Repay

Dec. 12, 2011 | The Eden Township Healthcare District notified financially-strapped St. Rose Hospital last week it was in default of a $2.35 million loan the elected body provided the Hayward private hospital last fall.

The Dec. 6 letter to St. Rose from the District was followed a day later with an offer by its CEO Michael Mahoney for a repayment schedule calling for weekly payments ranging from $167,000 to $200,000 through the beginning of next March. The District is expected to approve the plan at its monthly meeting on Wednesday.

The District loaned the struggling hospital $3 million last August after a botched computer system conversion prevented St. Rose from billing Medicare for services rendered.

Speaking before the Eden Township Board of Directors last month, Mahoney said the hospital's billing procedures had been fixed and regular cash flow and been re-established.

Terms of the initial $3 million loan called for a quick remittance of the balance once the hospital's billing situations was abated, along with 8.25 percent simple interest.

According to correspondence between the District and Mahoney, the hospital had partially paid down some of their debt with a single $650,000 payment on Oct. 31, but had not made another payment or agreed to a re-payment schedule for the remaining $2.35 million until Dec. 7.

The burgeoning alliance between the District and St. Rose comes with mutual benefits, both sides agree. Earlier this year, Mahoney approached the District with a proposal that would allow them to absorb St. Rose into the health care district as a means to secure the viability of both San Leandro Hospital and St. Rose. By combining the two facilities, Mahoney says, the district will benefit from larger economies of scale that can be converted into more generous federal grants and subsidies.

The future of St. Rose and the tenability of providing health care at the county level is currently at a tipping point, according to Mahoney and other county health care officials.

"We've stopped digging the hole deeper," Mahoney said to the board last month. "Now its a matter of making sure we fill it in and hit our targets." In addition, the hospital is monitoring its cash flow on a daily basis, Mahoney said, and does not foresee any dire financial straits, at least, for the next few months.

An outside consultant hired by the county was brought in last summer to review the financial situation at St. Rose. Mahoney says many of the recommendations have been put into place and have led to immediate savings. Within a month, he says, a case management consulting firm reduced the average length of stay at the facility from 5.8 days to 4.3.

"This is a risky time in health care," said Mahoney, who along with a county health care administrator urged the District to quickly move forward with discussions to merge with St. Rose. "We remain concerned about how St. Rose and the District could come together," he said. "We are optimistic, but if we move forward on this, we realize this will be a risk venture."

Alameda County Health Care Services Director Alex Briscoe said regardless of the District's pending lawsuit over the fate of San Leandro Hospital, it needs to go forward with merger talks. "Mov[ing] with great haste to execute the merger between the District and St. Rose," said Briscoe, "makes sense on multiple levels regardless of the lawsuit's outcome."

A staff member representing Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer also asked for a quick and positive resolution to merger talks between the two sides.

One of the main benefits of adding St. Rose to the Eden Healthcare District involves a greater opportunity to increase tax revenue through the ballot box. Theoretically, the District would have greater leverage in passing potential bond measures to shore up funding for operation at facilities in Hayward and San Leandro.

The outcome of the District's appeal of a prior ruling by a Alameda County Superior Court judge earlier this year granting title of San Leandro Hospital to Sutter Health could be handed down as early as January.

Sutter sued the District in 2009 for control of the facility after the District blocked the transfer of title to the Sacramento-based non-profit chain. The District counter sued saying the a conflict of interest existed within its previous board of directors and CEO at the time of a 2008 agreement meant to rebuild Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and allow two more years for San Leandro Hospital to become financially viable.

At the time, the CEO of Eden Medical Center held the same position at the health care district. Attorney's for the District also contend one member of the previous board maintained dual loyalties to Sutter and the District as a practicing anesthesiologist with ties to Eden Medical Center.