Jan. 3, 2012 | Two thousand twelve is only three days old, but the seeds of an exciting year can already be read in the political tea leaves. Here are 10 stories likely to shape the new year:
LOCAL LEGISLATIVE RACES TO WATCH
Three East Bay races are sure to excite voters. The biggest fight on the card will likely be for state Sen. Loni Hancock's seat. Most expect a nasty fight between Hancock and Assemblyman Sandre Swanson. Interesting local assembly races carved out of last year's redistricting and the first use of open primary elections in June could also provide some shockers. Both are highlighted by open seats with four relatively equal candidates in each race. Bill Quirk, Jennifer Ong, Mark Green and Adnan Shahab in the 20th; Rob Bonta, Joel Young, Kathy Neal and Abel Guillen in the 18th.
AC Transit Board member Joel Young and his tawdry past will surely draw attention among of a field of candidates all friendly to labor in the 18th. Republican assembly candidate in the 20th, Adnan Shahab will also pushed the bounds of political theater. He has already entertained potential voters with highly off-color, but candid array of statements on his Facebook page. They include knocking Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg for being rich and having a less-than-attractive girlfriend, a seemingly voracious appetite for fast food and nightmares of being attacked by "idiots" jealous of his intelligence. Oh yeah, Shahab is also a open carry gun advocate who recently posed in a bank with a rifle and bandolier.
RISE, FALL, DEEPER FALL AND RISE OF JEAN QUAN?
Jean Quan cannot fall deeper into the abyss that his her leadership of Oakland, can she? We'll see, but the consistent narrative of politics in America says we love a good comeback story. Will she or won't she receive the ignominy of being recalled? With three competing recall petitions, conventional wisdom says the lack of coordination will do in her opponents. But, we must also remember talk of recalling Quan did not start with the Occupy Oakland debacle. Another high-profile misstep in dealing with Occupy's undaunted supporters could force her out before the ballots are even counted.
CAN SAN LEANDRO GET ITS ACT TOGETHER?
It was a very forgettable first year in office for San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, but with a new city manager likely to take the reins in the next month or so, there is no doubt the former industrial city is more prepared to shoot out of the Great Recession running more than any other city in the East Bay. Two years ago while other cities were just contemplating the coming scourge of multi-year deficits and cuts to staff and services, San Leandro was making tough early cuts that left the city's coffers bare, but ready to spring to life once the economy shows signs of humming again. Those same excruciating cuts are now being discussed in other cities, leaving San Leandro an opportunity to gain ground on neighbors in Alameda, Hayward and Oakland. It was a gamble that paid off handsomely for San Leandro, now we will see it seizes the opportunity for growth starting this year.
THE BATTLE FOR STARK'S SEAT IN CONGRESS
At the moment there are a myriad of scenarios involving Rep. Pete Stark's re-election campaign in 2012 and who will ultimately oppose him. Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell is in. Will Sen. Ellen Corbett and newcomer Ro Khanna also join the fray this year rather than 2014? Increasingly, it appears the answer is yes. The story not posed is Stark, after nearly 40 years in that seat, may still be battle-worthy. Stark is 80 and not particularly ambulatory, but his willigness to fight for his seat is very apparent. If his opponent's argument is to frame Stark as part of the do-nothing Congress and portray him as out-of-touch with his constituents, it may be a difficult task to make stick. If you discount the considerable rage of East Bay Tea Partiers, Stark's brand of liberalism is still very popular in his district and although poll respondents say they are sick of Congress, in general, they tend to think their own representative is not the problem in Washington.
FURTHER EROSION OF THE MEDIA IN THE EAST BAY
If Occupy Oakland did anything in the East Bay it showed the mainstream media could not be counted on to provide sufficient coverage of the major political movement setting up camp in their backyard. And when they did, its was so slanted toward the "one percent" that the appearance of television crews triggered anger and derision toward the reporters. Through Twitter and numerous local and freelance citizen journalists, many discovered complaining about the lack of TV and newspaper coverage was superfluous. There were simple more and better options on the Web. In the meantime, journalists for the Bay Area News Group continue to hold onto journalistic privilege when it no longer exists. They didn't seem to get the memo that their jobs are equivalent to one-trick ponies and refuse to believe they are being outworked by people with similar skills, but vastly different backgrounds. The BANG may still exists by years end, but the magnitude of its demise is already written in stone.
Hayashi: Retooling her image?
To Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's significant cadre of political enemies: she is not going to spend jail time if she is found guilty of shoplifting last October at a San Francisco NeimanHayashi's image could be a major story in 2012 and force critics to reevaluate her political future, which may not be as dire as once believed.
THE STATE OF HEALTHCARE IN ALAMEDA COUNTY
The fight to keep San Leandro Hospital open will likely reach the final stretch. Will there be a resolution keeping the hospital's ER open? Will the District appeal to the State Supreme Court? Last year marked the entrance of equally beleaguered St. Rose Hospital into the equation. Will any resolution also include the Hayward facility. Whatever the conclusion of this long-running saga, the fact remains health care delivery in Alameda County is at a severe crossroads.
THE WRATH OF THE PLASTIC BAG BAN
Some ordinances in the East Bay are like newfangled NFL offenses. When one works, everybody else goes into copy cat mode. San Jose's plastic bag ban is one of those such ordinances. Like its cousin, the polystyrene container ban, local government's were just waiting for someone to take the lead before joining en masse. Expect testimony and astonishingly soft opposition to the ban despite studies showing the threat of plastic bags, while legitimate, are somewhat overstated. Nevertheless, council members in many East Bay cities likely to consider the ban will find passing the ordinances as the biggest no-brainer on their legislative calendar. Bye,bye baggies.
POTPOURRI: EXPECT SOMEONE TO UNEXPECTEDLY QUIT, FADE AWAY
Every year has a wildcard. At the start of 2011, most observers believed Mary Hayashi's future for the next three years was set in stone. They also believed Stark's run for re-election was pre-ordained in 2012. Expect the deck of cards in the East Bay to be further shuffled. The nature of redistricting might be the trigger that breeds animosity among similar Democrats who will now become heated rivals. Maybe a county supervisors takes a leap of faith and joins the fray or just fades away? I have no insight into such an possible occurrence, but, who knows? Anything could happen and that's what makes 2012, in addition to being a presidential election season, a very exciting year. Also, don't forget, the end of the world is slated for December.