Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sutter Health Feels Like It Was Attacked, Says County Official

Mar. 29, 2012 | San Leandro Vice Mayor Michael Gregory says Sutter Health is willing to come back to the negotiating table in the dispute over San Leandro Hospital "if they can come out of this honorably."

Gregory made the comment last Tuesday during a special ad hoc committee formed to analyze the situation with the hospital along with the general state of health care in the city.

"Is there a chance we can get Sutter to talk?" Gregory asked Alex Briscoe, the director of Alameda County Healthcare Services.

“Because of the litigation," answered Briscoe, "it is impossible to gauge Sutter’s willingness to engage in the community process because they are understandably defending their own interests and because of the lawsuit it is impossible to determine what their willingness will be."

The recent detachment of San Leandro Hospital from the solution to also save St. Rose Hospital in Hayward suggests the issue of the facility's murky future again rests within the bounds of long discussed, but unpopular proposal to lease it through Sutter to the Alameda County Medical Center for acute rehabilitation services without an emergency room.

For this scenario to rise to the forefront, Sutter would need to fully prevail in their lawsuit with the Eden Township Healthcare District over title to San Leandro Hospital. Sounding a bit apprehensive, Briscoe said, "I still have to believe that once the lawsuit is negotiated, there will be an opportunity for us to sit down with Sutter and negotiate something in the best interests of San Leandro and Sutter—I have to be believe that.”

The catch, though, is Sutter has shown no inclination to enter meaningful talks with the county since the District's board of directors filed suit against the health care provider in 2009, Briscoe said. Sutter's business with the county is much larger and successful than just San Leandro Hospital, Briscoe added.

But, those ties have been frayed by constant legal wrangling on the periphery with a few of the more aggressive opponents of Sutter on the Eden Township board, notably Chair Carole Rogers. Members of that board were invited by the city to address the ad hoc committe last Tuesday, but citing advice from legal counsel, declined to attend.

“In many ways they are a responsible partner," Briscoe said of Sutter. "I think it’s too easy to vilify individuals here and say these are bad people. I actually don’t believe that. I believe this is a corporation protecting its interests. It feels it has been attacked and it’s difficult to have authentic negotiation while under the threat of litigation."

In the meatime, the District and the community awaits a decision by the California State Supreme Court over a petition to hear the case alleging the pivotal 2008 memorandum of understanding between it and Sutter is invalid over conflict of interests by two former members of the District's board.

The District has been unsuccessful in two lower courts in the past year. Even if the case is accepted by the high court and ruled in the District's favor, county official say, the big question of who runs San Leandro Hospital going forward will still need to be determined.

Stark: Obamacare Is Not The Democrats' Law, It's America's Law

Mar. 29, 2012 | Rep. Pete Stark lashed out at Republican colleagues on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Health Tuesday for the late timing of the hearing on the Affordable Care Act and characterizations of the law as now a "Democratic bill."

"It is fine to label a bill in Congress as a “Democratic” bill or a “Republican” bill. But, once those bills become law, they don’t belong to one party," said Stark. "Whether folks like it or not, health reform is America’s law, not the “Democrats’ Law.” Stark was responding to a press advisory sent by the GOP-controlled committee that did not reference the act as established law.

Stark, one of the major authors of the House's portion of the landmark health care reform bill last year, attended last Tuesday the beginning of oral arguments at the U.S. Supreme Court over the constitutionality of the law's mandate for every American to purchase health insurance. "I must also admit that I’m not sure how anxious I am to hear it all again," he said Thursday. "But, here we are."

Typically a thorn in the side of conservatives, Stark charged Repubicans with backing away from their own ideology on the health insurance mandate. "I’d also note that Democrats don’t hold the patent on an individual mandate," said Stark. "Many leading Republican elected officials and policy experts--ranging from Newt Gingrich to Mitt Romney to the Heritage Foundation’s Stuart Butler--have all advocated an individual responsibility requirement for the purchase of health insurance."

In fact, it is rooted in Republican ideology of 'personal responsibility.' Why is it fair to have free-riders in the system who impose costs on all of the rest of us? New found Republican opposition to this concept at times makes it seem as though we have all fallen down the rabbit hole. The simple reality is that you can’t guarantee affordable, quality health insurance in the private health care marketplace without an individual responsibility requirement."

A portion of Thursday's subcommittee hearing also dealt with the impacts of so-called Obamacare on employers. Stark said the hearing was superfluous since the portion of the law in not yet in effect. "The committee already had a hearing on the economic effects of the employer mandate in January 2011," he said. "Nothing has changed on that front since the provisions in question are still not in effect."

St. Rose Gaining Recapitalization Money

Mar. 29, 2012 | The fundraising drive to save St. Rose Hospital from financial ruin has already brokered most of estimated $18 million the facility needs to stay in operation for the next six months, said the director of Alameda County Healthcare Services.

Alex Briscoe, who heads the county's health care mechanism, said between $10-$14 million of funding has already been promised by a host of entities for the "recapitalization of St. Rose," as he put it Tuesday during an special San Leandro ad hoc committee discussing the future of neighboring San Leandro Hospital. “That's a fancy way of saying, 'let’s keep them afloat until we can turn them around,'" he added.

He reiterated negotiations are continuing over a potential joint powers agreement that would allow for short-term stability at the hospital. St. Rose officials told the Alameda County Board of Supervisors earlier this month that the facility is hemorrhaging nearly $1 million per month as it struggles to meet payroll and pay vendors.

The Washington Township Health Care District in Fremont along with the Eden Township District and the Alameda County Medical Center are in talks to form, what Briscoe characterized, as a "transitional government" that would eventually ease St. Rose into a close partnership with the more economical stable Washington Hospital.

“What we hope for long-term is not that the joint powers authority operates the hospital," said Briscoe. "We actually believe the long-term solutions is to annex into a two-hospital system."

He said an arrangement for a JPA situation would likely afford Washington Township with the right to maintain a majority of the seats on a the new board of directors.

A huge stumbling block to the formation of a JPA operating St. Rose, regardless of who enters into the agreement, rests with a state-backed creditor on the hook for much of St. Rose's debt, said Briscoe. Cal Mortgage owns $50 million of secured debt tied to St. Rose. Another $10 million in unsecured debt also exists, said Briscoe, mostly in the form of delinquent payments to vendors for services and supplies.

Earlier in the meeting, Briscoe characterized both San Leandro Hospital and St. Rose as "well-run institutions." Although, he said later part of St. Rose's perennial struggle with staying in the black was due to their inability to negotiate equitable insurance rates, at least, not as well as neighboring Washington Hospital. Earlier this month, St. Rose's CEO Michael Mahoney abruptly resigned.

As negotiations over St. Rose's future continue, Briscoe believes his agency will bring back the issue to the county board of supervisors, most likely April 17.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Assemblyman's Jump From GOP Highlights Pitfalls For Green In 20th District

Mar. 28, 2012 | Welcome to the Dark Side, Assemblyman Fletcher.

"From the moment Assemblymember Fletcher took office, he has consistently put the people of San Diego, and the people of California above partisan politics," said Assembly Speaker John Perez in welcoming the now-former member of the Republican Party. Fletcher is currently running for mayor of San Diego.

Although, Fletcher jumped ship he told the Sacramento press he will not caucus with either party and hopes to maintain his various committee seats.

If the San Diego lawmaker is able to be an island in the Capitol's turbulent sea, will he be able to make it a hospitable place for another potential independent next year?
Asm. Nathan Fletcher
Flethcher's independent streak will sound very familiar to voters in the new 20th Assembly District, especially those whose doorways have been darkened by Union City Mayor Mark Green. The candidate is actually Fletcher in reverse and a full-blown Scott Haggerty.

Green recently left the Democratic Party and will appear on the June primary ballot as "no party preference." When asked recently, despite his new non-partisan moniker, which party he would caucus with, Green said neither.

“Democrats won’t like me because I might want to be more austere when it comes to the budget," he said. "Republicans might not like me because I don’t have nightmares about taxes. I’ve raised taxes before in Union City when it was warranted.”

If elected, Green might not find a Democratic leadership so thrilled to see him. If the Republican Party's response today to Fletcher's decision is any indication, Green won't be met with open arms. In a one-sentence statement, Republican Senate Leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare) said, "Nathan has made this decision and we accept it."

Five-word translation: "You're dead to us, Nathan!"

Labor Calls Out Hayward For Strong Arm Bargaining Tactics

Mar. 28, 2012 | Representatives for city employee unions in Hayward took the unusual stance of publicly shedding light on what they charge is the city's attempts to force them under threat of layoffs to accept steep cuts in wages.

Employees speaking at Tuesday's City Council meeting say they have offered concession over the past five years and are willing to help solve the deficit, but the city's latest hard line stance, union leaders say, has alienated workers. The city expects a $14 million budget deficit in the next fiscal year and was followed by a $20 million shortfall last year.

Josie Camacho, the executive secretary for the Alameda County Labor Council, says unions have readily approved reductions in benefits and wages in the past, "yet that is not good enough." Camacho says city leaders are not willing to guarantee no layoffs in exchange for concessions. "The approach of my way or the highway isn't going to get us anywhere," she said.

Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney maintained "our door continues to be open," but also reiterated the council's stance in balancing its budget with additional help from city workers. "Without assistance from employees the city may be hampered in its ability to provide the high level of services that the citizens of Hayward expect and deserve," said Sweeney. "The council understands that SEIU has stated they are not interested in making any changes to employee compensation packages in the next year."

"We have responded by taking zeroes," said one union member who works for the Hayward Police Department. "We have gone without raises, without COLAs. How have we given back?" she asked while citing nearly four years of furloughs amounting to five percent of wages, among other reductions in compensation.

Union leaders Tuesday night opened a window into negotiations that paints the city as unwilling to faithfully bargain. Bob Britton, a representative of the Service Employees International Union Local 1021, said employees have already given much to help the city's continuing fiscal problems. He cited a previous offer of nearly 10 percent in wage reductions as not sufficient to city negotiators who did not bend from 15 percent. Britton said the city's offer includes no guarantees they will not issue layoff notices even if concessions are approved by its members.

He also called the city's attempt to negotiate "disingenuous" and detailed a city proposal "that had nothing to do with fiscal problems," Britton said. "They just viewed it as a chance to attack the unions." He said City Manager Fran David, a frequent critic of the unions, took the proposal off the table and offered to not reopen the current contracts or aim to extend it another two years. He contends, though, that the city nonetheless maintained its demand for a 15 percent cut. "It don't think our members are willing to go that far," said Britton. "What is the inducement?"

County Official Says San Leandro Hospital Can Be Saved, But In What Form?

Mar. 27, 2012 | Just as arrangements are being made to prop the struggling St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, the director of county health care services says San Leandro Hospital can be rescued in some form regardless of the outcome of the Eden Township District’s lawsuit against Sutter Health.

“We need to ensure we have a path to sustain San Leandro Hospital regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit.” said Alex Briscoe, the director of Healthcare Services for Alameda County. “I think there are strategies that work, no matter who wins the litigation, to sustain the hospital.”

Just what those plans might entail are less clear, though. Briscoe spoke Tuesday afternoon before an ad hoc committee formed last month by the San Leandro City Council to open a dialogue over the future of San Leandro Hospital and health care in general. Although, the facility rests in San Leandro, city officials have long held of curious outsider’s vantage point in saving their own hospital’s emergency room and other services. With time running out on a petition for the State Supreme Court to hear the District’s lawsuit against Sutter, the city is taking a more proactive stance in compiling new information, however scant they may be at this point.

“My concern is how we as a city can actually make some ground with this situation and what can we do as a community to have any say,” said Councilwoman Ursula Reed, who along with Mayor Stephen Cassidy and Councilman Michael Gregory, sit on the special ad hoc committee. “We have not really been let in just because we’re not in that group, but it affects us directly.”

“We can’t lose San Leandro Hospital," added Briscoe. "It doesn’t make sense from a 911 perspective or an access to care prospective. It’s hard to lose a hospital period and we can’t afford to lose another one.”

While plans to keep St. Rose functioning by way of Fremont’s Washington Township Healthcare District, a future path for San Leandro Hospital is far more murky. Briscoe said a potential way in the near term may lie within a partnership with the Alameda County Medical Center (ACMC) and a vision of consolidating the bulk of the East Bay’s roster of debilitated private stand-alone hospitals.

The possible reintroduction of the medical center to the San Leandro Hospital equation is likely to be met with skepticism. It was ACMC that rankled the community in 2009 when it entered into a controversial lease with Sutter Health to operate the potentially reconfigured facility featuring acute rehabilitation services, but no emergency room. From the perspective of the community, Sutter did not yet own title to the hospital before attempting to lease it to another entity. The dispute over title is the subject of the long-running lawsuit between the District and Sutter.

Briscoe admits ACMC erred in their handling of the situation, but said the community would do well to again vet what the medical center may have to offer. “I think it would be fascinating for [ACMC CEO] Wright Lassiter to come here,” said Briscoe. “Hear what their plans might be and not have it be perceived as them being the hand maiden of Sutter. I believe the medical center made some significant mistakes strategically in aligning themselves with Sutter and doing some things that made it appear they were going to stand up for Sutter.”

Briscoe also said previously statements made by hospital supporters about the medical center’s business practices charging it does not accept private insurance and shuts out private physicians from its facilities are “patently false and should debunked every time it is brought up.” Regardless, somewhere down the line the future of health care in Alameda County may feature consolidation on a broad scale, Briscoe said.

“What we are doing with St. Rose and Washington Hospital, that’s just the beginning," Briscoe said. "We have to create a public network. Unless those health care systems converge, create an internal economy and benefit from each others operating efficiencies, they will not survive in a post-reform economy.”

The state supreme court’s decision over whether to accept the District’s petition to rule over the issue of San Leandro Hospital could come at any time in the next two months. Cassidy also said board members from the Eden Township Healthcare District were invited to attend Tuesday's meeting, but were advised by counsel not to attend.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hayward Council Balks At Cost, Time Frame Of Update To General Plan

Mar. 26, 2012 | A semi-prerequisite and onerous update of Hayward’s general plan could cost up to $2.8 million to create and take nearly four years to complete, but city leaders say the costs is too high and while take too long to complete.

Although there are no law against how long a city can proceed without updating its general plan, it can affect the city’s ability to procure and maximize state and federal grants. As the defining document for any cities blueprint, it includes a bevy of areas including land-use, transportation, development and social issues. Hayward’s general plan was last updated in 2002.

Erik Pearson, a senior planner for the city said most municipalities update their general plans every 10-15 years. Based upon the projected timetable, the comprehensive general plan would be completed in 2016—14 years after its last update.

There is also urgency for updating the plan, said Pearson, since numerous environmental laws have come to the forefront in the decade since, including the city’s own climate action plan. The entire city council, though, objected to the price tag and the length of the process.

Of the $2.8 million fee, $1.2 million is derived from staff time, said David Rizk, Hayward's development services director. Inflating the figure with the expenditure, he said, excludes the need for the council to pay for the update using precious general fund dollars, but would ultimately take 11 years to pay off.

Mayor Michael Sweeney said the three-and-ahalf year process could suffer from fits and starts as well-meaning residents “burn out” during the laborious and stretched time frame. “Hopefully you believe us when we say this is a difficult task, but let’s see if we can find some other ways of doing this,” he told Pearson.

Pearson said the city’s general plan could also be web-based. Other California cities have used this method, but Sweeney, flying in the face of conventional wisdom when it comes to the positives of social media, told Pearson, he also wanted more residents who are not “connected” to the Internet to participate in the process.

Councilman Marvin Peixoto agreed that costs need to be cut. “I think in a post-redevelopment era we’re going to really have to get outside the box to find it out what having a guiding document really means,” he said. “We’re going to have to reevaluate the approach to this and I’m not sure the old way is going to work.”

Some of the potential changes to the general plan include policy updates on the city’s air quality, successes with historic preservation and sustainability, said Pearson. According to a staff report, one possibility would include lessening a reliance on delineating neighborhoods and changing city boundaries. One potential change would be to detach property east of the Pleasanton ridge from the city’s sphere of influence, said Pearson. Exploring Hayward’s northern boundary for long-range annexation is also a possibility.

As the discussion deepened last week with some council members already adding to their wish lists for the general plan, Councilman Bill Quirk said they should be wary of created an unwieldy process. “I think we have to be careful about adding too much to this,” he said. “What we should have in the general plan are things that will really change city policy. In terms of economic health, the city and its budget is something that ought to fit in there because we do want businesses to grow, stay here, come here. I think a lot of it is determined by our permit process and our housing process,” said Quirk, whose response sounded vaguely similar to his campaign platform for the 20th Assembly District, which also include streamlining business regulations.

The city council may hear a revised payment fee for the general plan update next month. If approved, work on the project may not start until early 2013.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fundraising Reports In 18th Assembly Show Unions, Special Interests Flexing Muscles

Mar. 26, 2012 | For months, the only news coming from the three major candidates for the 18th Assembly District was a raging torrent of emails, tweets and proclamations trumpeting the latest round of endorsements, mostly from local labor unions. With two months until the June 5 primary, the candidates are starting to cash those special interests checks in greater frequency.

In the latest campaign fundraising report spanning from Jan. 1 to Mar. 17, a vast majority of the $180,000 in new campaign cash come from labor unions and special interest groups.

The percentage of fundraising, though, is virtually unchanged from the end-of-the-year filing last Dec. 31 highlighted by a surge by Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta and Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen. But, as before, despite dwindling fundraising, AC Transit board member Joel Young still leads with cash in hand with nearly $162,000. In contrast to Young, both Bonta and Guillen have already spent a good portion of what they raised recently on consultants and campaign materials.

Bonta led the group in total fundraising ending Mar. 17 with just over $76,000, while spending over $79,000, according to reports filed with the secretary of state's office. The bulk of the total came from personal donations from him and his wife totalling $9,500 and $15,000 from Jerome and Roslyn Meyer. Among Bonta's late filings include large donations from union and special interests including, California Professional Firefighters PAC ($3,088); International Union of Painters and Allied Trades ($2,500); Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda PAC ($1,500); Farmers Employees & Agents PAC ($1,000); California Refuse Recycling Council ($1,000); California Association of Professional Scientists ($1,000) and Steamfitters Local 342 PAC ($1,000). All were received within the final week of the reporting period this month.

Guillen continued a strong stretch of fundraising finishing second during the same period with nearly $65,000 in fundraising and nearly $44,000 in expenditures, according to campaign finance reports. He used his significant advantage in education circles to bring in over $20,000 alone in fundraising in the last period. The California Teachers Association contributed $7,800 in January, followed by the same amount in February from the California Federation of Teachers. The Peralta Federation of Teachers pitched in another $3,900 this month. In addition, the powerful California Nurses Association donated $5,800 along with $3,900 from Electric Workers Local 595 this month.

Young, who after surging to the top in fundraising in early 2011 before personal troubles came to light, again finished a distant third over the past three and a half months. Young raised over $32,000 while spending in excess of $42,000, according to campaing finance reports. Like his two major opponents, much of Young's haul this year involved contributions from labor unions and special interest groups. All of Young's support, though, flowed into his campaign coffers just under the mid-March reporting deadline.

Among large donors include: California Conference Board Amalgamated  Transit Union PAC ($3,900); International Union of Painters and Allied Trades PAC ($1,000); Farmers Employees & Agents PAC ($1,000); Personal Insurance Federation of California Agents & Employees PAC ($1,000) and California New Car Dealers Association PAC ($1,000). Piedmont residents Eddie & Amy Orton of  Orton Development contributed a combined $5,800 in the past few weeks. Attorney Guy Saperstein donated $1,000.

In addition, to drawing upon contacts in the legal field, Young is also tapping donors from his football playing days at Cal. Former Golden Bears head coach Tom Holmoe donated $250 to his campaign along with former San Francisco 49ers president Carmen Policy adding $750 in February.

The spending race for the 18th Assembly District is already one of the more robust campaigns in the entire state. With coffers still loaded with cash, expect a flurry of mailers, lawn signs in the next two months in addition to other ways at applying their funds to drawing attention to their respective campaigns.

AD18 FUNDRAISING (Jan. 1-Mar. 17)
Source: Calif. Secy. of State

Stark Addresses Non-Believers At Atheist Rally In D.C.

Mar. 26, 2012 | Rep. Pete Stark is none too shy to back up his beliefs, even when they run counter to a very touchy subject--religion. In this case, the lack of Stark's belief in a supreme being.

"When I disclosed this fact about five years ago, people said it was political suicide--hardly," Stark said last Saturday at the Reason Rally, an assemblage of atheists, humanists and non-believers in Washington, D.C.

The rally also featured Richard Hawkins, author of the "The God Delusion" and a video by comedian Bill Maher.

In an election year, where Stark's seat in Congress could be in more jeopardy than it has in over three decades, the reminder of his unique moniker as the highest-ranking atheist in government might be unpleasant news for many new voters in the more conservative Tri Valley area. Stark, tough, thinks voters are worried about other things.

"My constituents are more concerned about jobs, about the environment, about educating our children. These are the important things that troubling them, not whether they go to the temple, the mosque or the church. That isn't on their mind," he said.

Stark also took aim at the large contingent of religious right wing members of Congress who have taken their message to include the role of God in the public discussion of governance. "I've noticed ironically that the more a member of Congress talks about religion, the less they do to help people.

Edited video of Stark's remarks at the Reason Rally are below:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

On Shaky Journalistic Grounds, Alameda Bloggers Gain The Scalp Of Pesky Rival

Mar. 22, 2012 | When a well-known Alameda blogger and critic of city government, including its public safety agencies, was charged Monday with misdemeanor battery of his wife, knives long sharpened by members of the community and bloggers swiftly came out for his scalp. The blogger long known for being a thorn in the side of many who crossed his opinions came into unfortunate public view, but the problem lays not with the alleged horrifying act on a loved one, but whether it was actually newsworthy.

Upon reading the account last Friday in the Alameda Patch, I tweeted on The Citizen, "I don't think the allegations against the author of @ActionAlameda is news. I'm sure the police do since he's been tough on them." The blogger in question had previously written sharp criticisms of the Alameda Police Department and had been at the forefront of needling both police and fire over the tragic bungling of the Memorial Day drowning death last year of Raymond Zack.

There are questions to be asked whether the Alameda Police department, cognizant of the tenor of the blogger's past critiques made it easier for the allegations against him to come to light. Domestic violence charges are not normally readily available, yet this one was contained in mundane daily police logs were somehow highlighted. Such a finding without outside guidance is as rare as finding a needle in a haystack.

The question to be asked is whether the offending blogger's brush with the law constitutes newsworthiness. Absolutely not, I say, as would most newspaper people. In no sphere is his alleged problems with domestic violence fodder for news. While there is no legal basis against publication, editorially though , nothing about the blogger's public status rises to the level of newsworthiness.

It was my initial suspicion that the description of the man's title from mere "blogger" to "publisher" in the Alameda Patch article was meant to artificially enhance his newsworthiness. It is the reason I sent this additional tweet last Friday: "@AlamedaPatch Does one have to allegedly get rough with loved ones to get promoted from blogger to publisher?"

If the mentioned blogger had once run for public office, established a base line within the public realm where he had forcefully fought against domestic violence or had risen to public notoriety in some other form, then the question of newsworthiness might barely drift into the positive.

I can appreciate the sense of payback involved in the coverage of this blogger's personal problems. Apparently the blogger is known to have no problem with slapping a lawsuit or two on his enemies--even reportedly on Christmas. Instead, those participating gleefully in the blogger's demise should call up their friend with the news and high-five each other while stomping on his proverbial grave, but don't report it as news story, because it isn't.

The fear I would have in publishing an article like this one is what might  occur if the charges turn out to be bogus, not for fear of litigation, but because the source material provided on the police logs are so sparse. Another question is why Alameda Patch also provided a .pdf of the police logs also containing information of all other actions made by law enforcement that same day.

The criticism today of my tweets regarding the issue of the story's prominence by Lauren Do, another Alameda blogger, is totally misguided and wrongfully deflects criticism away from Alameda Patch. Although I appreciate the mention, this has nothing to do with supporting or opposing domestic violence, whatsoever, and everything to do with good journalism.

Quirk's Good Fortune With County Healthcare's Revolving Door Of Solutions

Mar. 22, 2012 | In an interview earlier ths month, Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, a candidate for the 20th Assembly District, playfully questioned an article last year in The Citizen stating his brief foray into the waters of San Leandro Hospital and Sutter Health may have turned out to be a political waste of time when it came to his candidacy. Statewide redistricting moved San Leandro outside of the new district and shifted further into Fremont. At the time, the possibility of Hayward's St. Rose implosion was not readily known. If the past few weeks are any indication, Quirk’s political acumen or ability to rub his lucky rabbit’s foot is paying off.

As the county searches for a way to save St. Rose from the auctioneer's yodel, Quirk’s early involvement with San Leandro Hospital is paying off with residents who can now actually vote for him this June and, perhaps, next November. Quirk's involvement in attending board of director's meetings and keeping abreast of the diplomatic minutiae between San Leandro Hospital and Sutter Health when it was typically viewed as solely a San Leandro issue now gives him street cred as some of the same issues spread like a contagion to St. Rose.
Bill Quirk
The road to financial stability at St. Rose will apparently no longer run through the Eden Township Healthcare District and San Leandro Hospital. The newest plan is to draft the Washington Township Health Care District as its newest saviors using the same rough draft. That body rests in Fremont, of which, a portion now rests in the new 20th district.

Being the guy who saves hospitals is never a bad thing when it comes to asking for votes. Now, because of the inherent interconnectivity of the Alameda County health care system, everywhere this story winds through only helps Quirk, whether it be his hometown Hayward, Union City or even Fremont.

It may also push the issue of health care for the poor and uninsured in Alameda County to the forefront where it belongs. The odd  movement of the possible closures or reinstituting of private stand-alone hospitals in the East Bay is only revealing leadership on the county level is starkly rudderless and featuring far too many moving parts. This could be an opening for potential legislators in both the 20th and 18th assembly districts to address what is quickly devolving into a potential large scale health care disaster at its tipping point.

Bill was right. I was wrong.

Cassidy's Pension Stance Serves Business Interests; Revels In Attacks Against Workers

Mar. 22, 2012 | Like Mayor Jean Quan in Oakland sitting stoically during council meetings against a torrent of angry residents, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy took repeated body blows from a union activist in silence, but the punches undoubtedly hurt just the same. The tactic is not usually utilized for a quick knockout, but a consistent barrage of hits meant to fell its opponent over time. With negotiations to public employees and the police officers association set to ramp up in coming months, Cassidy may be forced to take a very defensive stance that could ultimately spell disaster for his signature policy issue.

Spoken with a Liverpudlian lilt, former union activist and San Leandro resident Richard Mellor charged Cassidy with driving down the living standards of workers and eliminating social services. “This is a vicious attack on the public sector, on wages, on benefits and on social services,” he said. “Your attempts to correct are really attempts to soften the dictates of the One Percent.”

Cassidy’s proclivity for siding with business has become more pronounced since becoming mayor last year. Numerous members of his campaign team, also aligned with the city’s school board have gone on to foster close ties with the local chamber of commerce. That group also maintains a political action committee with past funding by way of the city’s coffers. The concern over the city using public money to aid a private political entity like the chamber of commerce has been criticized in the past by Councilwoman Diana Souza.

There is no doubt that San Leandro’s mechanism for serving its residents—its public employees—are mentally and physically overtaxed. The immense brain drain of qualified employees and drop in efficiency, in turn, satisfies critics who say their city employees are impotent and filled with overpaid workers.

While San Leandro’s much-talked about fiber-optic loop facilitated in most part by OSIsoft is viewed as a beacon of future success. It is still a relationship led by a private for-profit firm under the guise of the public good. “There is a price for attracting business,” Mellor said. “You cannot make business happy and maintain decent public services and wages and pensions.” In a age of globalization and and yearning for low wage job markets, what is to stop a tech firm from jumping town and leaving a costly expenditure behind for the city to operate. The basic concept of "cloud" computing works both ways and could apply to information technology and its location anywhere else on the planet other than San Leandro.

If the private sector takes cues from the public sector, then working people in San Leandro have much to fear from Cassidy’s call for austerity during a period of relative stability in comparison to cities around them. Mellor took a swipe at the growing perception that the city council is standing idle while it workers suffer. “I believe that your strategies will lead to lower wages and increased cuts and there’s a reason for it; working people don’t have a representative on this council. If there was a representative for working people on this council, there would be a revolt over these cuts…but there is not,” he said and he is correct.

Councilman Jim Prola is the only member who typically stands with labor. Aside from the ubiquitous wearing of union lapel pins, Prola though, has done nothing to stand against Cassidy’s diatribes, which normally paint city employees as the leeches on the city’s economic past, present and future. His colleagues, fearful of reprisals from the chamber of commerce and other business interests, have never spoken a single word in public regarding public pensions.

In fact, five years without increases in wages in tandem with taking on more health care costs has done more to correct the city’s economy than anything else. When workers begin charging Cassidy and Councilwoman Pauline Cutter last Monday with disrespecting them, how else should they react? There is no doubt that San Leandro’s mechanism for serving its residents—its public employees—are mentally and physically overtaxed. The immense brain drain of qualified employees and drop in efficiency, in turn, satisfies critics who say their city employee are impotent and filled with overpaid workers. The lament over San Leandro’s bare employee cupboard is often discussed in neighboring Alameda and Hayward. Employees are literally running on fumes. So city employees are the problem?

What would Cassidy’s world look like? He voted against a successful agenda item Monday offering four former redevelopment employees an early retirement packages. The increasing conservative San Leandro Patch called it a “sweetheart deal.” (Neither Patch or the Bay Area News Group mentioned Mellor's diatribe.) What should government offer its employees? Layoffs at a time when San Leandro’s reputation as a place for talented government employees to work is sullied by a mayor known to be ambivalent toward their talents? Should we just fire them all or remember the deals given to many of these long-time employees were actually attempts a decade ago to save the city money. Instead of wages increases, the city at the time believed more generous pensions would be more prudent for the bottom line.

Cassidy’s world is also a realm devoid of hypocrisy. What sort of pension does he earn as a lawyer for a prestigious San Francisco law firm? When he famously chose to work the first six months as mayor last year without pay, why didn’t he ask to be exempt from receiving health benefits? How is it possible that the lone person riding the horse of pension reform in San Leandro purchased one of the city’s most expensive homes last year from Stephen Meyers, the founding partner of Meyers Nave, the attorney group that employs City Attorney Jayne Williams? How is this not preaching austerity to the masses while living it up himself?

Of course, like those who criticize the aims of Occupy Oakland without contemplating the group is working solely in their best interests, the same can be said of Cassidy supporters. Workers in San Leandro will suffer the trickle down effect of attacks on their public employee brethren. Less money in the hands of San Leandrans means less money for the mom and pop coffee shop downtown. The city needs to ask itself whose interest is served by rough-housing public employees in the name of projected unsustainability sometime in the next 5, 10, 20 or 40 years.

"I’m very skeptical when I hear fiscal stability," Mellor said, "because I know whose fiscal stability you’re talking about and it’s not mine.”

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Lee Calls GOP Budget "A Roadmap To Ruin"; Stark Says Plan Will Gut Medicare

Mar. 20, 2012 | Two of the East Bay's most prominent lawmakers in Congress harshly criticized today a Republican budget proposal aiming to significantly cut spending over the next decade. The plan issued by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, would reduce spending by over $5 trillion over the next 10 years--a good chunk targeted by cuts to social services for the poor and elderly. Rep. Barbara Lee called the proposal "an attack on low- and middle-income people."

“This budget proposal confirms that House Republican leaders intend to cut the deficit that they helped create by draining support from vital programs and services," said Lee. "Republicans want to pay for their reckless tax giveaways to millionaires on the backs of our nation’s most vulnerable: working families, seniors, children, and our middle class – and that’s wrong."  

This plan is a ‘Roadmap to Ruin’ for our neediest communities and our country, and I will work to ensure that we protect our nation’s most vulnerable populations, who are already bearing the brunt of these difficult economic times.”

The Ryan plan would also make sharp reductions in education and infrastructure, along with cuts to Medicare. Both Lee and Rep. Pete Stark, a long-time member of the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee, had terse words for an attempt at slashing health care for poor and older Americans.

Stark said the plan would ultimately shift more costs to seniors and allow health care providers to choose to insure the healthiest among them. "This year's Republican Budget, once again, is a plan to dismantle the Medicare guarantee that Americans overwhelmingly support and that seniors and people with disabilities rely on," said Stark.

"The Republican claim that their budget would preserve Medicare is both irresponsible and disingenuous. Beneficiaries would be given a voucher--crafted to decrease in value over time--to buy private insurance or try to stay in traditional Medicare," he said.

The Ryan plan would reduce funding from the nation's safety net by 30 percent, according to an analysis today in the Washington Post. Programs such food stamps, housing assistance and earned-income tax credit would be affected, according to the Post.

In reality, the GOP proposal is likely more of a election year political tool for Republicans to use as a stick against the president's own budget proposal and backloaded with deficit-reduction savings ramping up in coming years. The plan also reduces the tax rate to essentially two brackets--10 and 25 percent. Similarly, the House plan reduces the corporate tax to 25 percent.

The current deficit sits at around $1.8 trillion. Obama's plan would reduce the deficit to $977 billion in the next fiscal year, while the Ryan plan would only lower the deficit to $797 billion, according to The New York Times. Neither proposal brings immediate fiscal health. Obama's plan, according to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office, found it would still post a $529 billion deficit in 2016, while the House bill still projects a shortfall of $241 billion the same year.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Cassidy Takes Swing At Employee Pensions; Highlights City's Growing Tech Sector

Mar. 19, 2012 | San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy drew a line in the sand Monday night during the annual State of the City address as negotiations begin in earnest with the city’s public employee unions. After just a year in office, Cassidy reported the city’s economic well-being is improving, but optimism fell short of reversing his pledge to overhaul its public employee pension system.

While Cassidy said projected improvements in the city’s fortunes have begun to show signs of coming to fruition, “Too many San Leandro do not have jobs,” he said. Cassidy lauded the city council for approving last June the first budget in four years reconciled without the use of one-time transfers or reserves. He pledged to do the same this June when the city council offers a budget for the next fiscal year.

The first year take derived from Measure Z, the sales tax increase passed in November 2010, brought in $3.5 million in new revenue, he said. The council also moved $1.5 million from the general fund to its reserves last year. The transfer obliges the council’s wish to set aside 20 percent of the fund to reserves.

But, despite a modicum of good economic reports that Cassidy called “wonderful news,” he also said projected expenditures of $4.6 million will still outstrip modest gains. He later said, “our spending projections may be too low.” He cited no inclusion of salary and benefit increases over the next five years along with the expiration of the city’s $3 million COPS grant in 2014 and sunset of Measure Z in 2018.

“We have to make our pension system sustainable,” said Cassidy. “However, San Leandro can no longer afford to pay 100 percent of public employee benefits.”

Richard Mellor, a San Leandro resident and union activist gave a blistering rebuttal to the mayor’s remarks during public comment. “This is a vicious attack on the public sector,” said Mellor, who charged Cassidy with doing the bidding of businesses and the One Percent.

In a rookie year, routinely punctuated with Cassidy’s handling of the bungled search for a new city manager and personality clashes, he referenced his biggest first-year achievement with Lit San Leandro, the ill-named fiber-optic loop surrounding its downtown businesses. Cassidy said the project, recently covered in the Wall Street Journal, could be leveraged for additional state and federal funds. He singled out burgeoning local high tech firms such as wind turbine producer Halus Power Systems, outsourcing firm TriNet and Energy Recovery Inc.

Cassidy also urged residents to back Measure B3, the half-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects in Alameda County this November.

Assembly Race Begins Battle For Oakland; City's Hegemony Shows Down Ballot, Too

Mar. 19, 2012 | In the 18th Assembly District, the road to Sacramento and party preeminence runs exclusively through Oakland.

"As the largest city in the 18th Assembly District and home to over 64% of registered voters in the district, Oakland will play a pivotal role in the outcome of the election," says a press release issued today by the assembly campaign of Abel Guillen. Quoting political p.r. material is a precarious endeavor, but the sentiment is absolutely correct.

Oakland Councilwoman Libby Schaaf followed her colleagues Ignacio De La Fuente and Nancy Nadel last week in endorsing Guillen's bid for the assembly. Although another candidate, Joel Young, also resides in Oakland, it has been Guillen who has been able to stoke support among the city's liberal and progressive voters. The inclination of Oakland voters to register support based solely on the perception the candidate is one of their own should not be easily discounted.

One Oakland activist, who declined to be identified because they plan to run for a local central committee seat, succintly grasped the emerging sentiment in the city by calling themselves an "Oakland nationalist." 

"I like Rob Bonta. I think he's excellent, but he should stay on his island," they said referencing assembly candidate Bonta's residency in Alameda.

Of course, your name, where you're from and your party affiliation is just the first step in the candidate/voter courtship just now starting in earnest and sure to intensfiy in the next few months. Each candidate's beliefs and positions will surely be repeatedly poked and prodded by reporters and voters, but down ballot races will also show Oakland's predominance as local kingmaker.
For instance, ever since redistricting maps were released last year, public officials and residents in San Leandro, who were sloughed away from Hayward and placed with Alameda and Oakland, have registered palpable fear over losing significant representation within their new borders.

The loss of power may be notable when it comes to typically overlooked elections for the district's Democratic Party Central Committee. Twenty candidates are vying for 10 seats this June. Whereas, candidates from San Leandro, once had to merely cross their fingers and hope for being placed in the first six slots on the ballot, as happened in 2010, now find their prospects for election nearing extinction. A slate of ten candidates headed by Oakland Councilman De La Fuente is said to be looking to take over the party's central committee.

Despite an historic exodus of Oakland population over the past decade, it appears the city still has the power to dwarf its neighboring locales. To what extent over the next generation may have less to do with its diminished strength, though, but a lack of growth and candidate development in its orbiting cities.

St. Rose CEO Resigns As Hospital Searches For A Medical Miracle

Mar. 19, 2012 | The fight to keep St. Rose Hospital afloat will go on without Michael Mahoney. The Hayward hospital's long-time chief executive offered his resignation last Friday, according to a hospital source.

Despite repeated efforts over the past nine months by Mahoney and the hospital's board of directors to secure funding and support for keeping the struggling facility open, his ability had been severely questioned as of late by numerous county officials.

As Mahoney's myriad number of plans had drifted aimlessly of late. Mahoney had asked the Eden Township Healthcare District for a $3 million loan last year before proposing a merger of both entities. Just weeks later, he proposed nearly the same plan to the nearby Washington Township Health Care District in Fremont.

His departure may have also been hastened by disclosure last week that it was Mahoney who first personally reached out to the villifed Prime Healthcare. Many in the county, including Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, have publicly abhorred the inclusion of Prime as a potential suitor for St. Rose, if it were to descend into bankruptcy.

The writing may have also been on the wall last week when Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson pointedly charged Mahoney with lying to the board of supervisors last year regarding the true health of St. Rose. During the board meeting, the county's health care services agency had proposed adding county support to the Washington Township plan to rescue St. Rose.

The county approved $2 million in short-term funding Mar. 13 for the hospital. But, the chief turnaround officer appointed by the county to help St. Rose regain stability told the board of supervisors the facility would need nearly $18 million to sustain itself over the next 6 months. Even then, according to the officer, St. Rose would need a monthly subsidy of between $800,000 and $1 million in addition to the initial chunk of funding.

With the county coffers and patience, already stretched thin, it apparently became clear this weekend that the board of supervisors would only begin dealing with the growing St. Rose problem on their terms and starting without Mahoney at the helm of the sinking ship.

Quirk, Green Taking It To The Streets In The 20th Assembly District

Mar. 19, 2012 | The best way to discern who the next representative for the 20th Assembly District may not come by way of the candidate who receives the most votes, but which one has worn the most rubber from the soles of their shoes.

Inclement weather of late may be stymieing the candidate's ability to participate in effective retail campaigning, but voters in Hayward, Fremont and Union City, get ready! Here come the candidates!

Two-term Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk said he began walking precincts in late February. Union City Mayor Mark Green said he began a slow rollout a week later. Expect newcomers Jennifer Ong, Sarabjit Cheema and Luis Reynoso, the lone Republican in the field, to also come knocking--doorknob hangers in hand.

Green's focus on walking door-to-door, handing out campaign literature and generally schmoozing with the electorate, is a huge wildcard in this race. During his 2010 run for Alameda County supervisor, Green, without much fanfare, came within a few hundred votes of advancing to the general election against Nadia Lockyer.

“I don’t have the money they have,” says Green, who will run as independent this year. Green says he can think of more efficient ways to be spending time and money on the campaign trail, but this method has done him well in the past. "I don’t think it’s the best way to use time, but it works.”

Green knocked on over 6,200 doors, he says, during his near-second place primary finish in 2010. Quirk has the same game plan in mind for introducing himself to as many voters as possible.

“The plan is to contact voters and get as many volunteers as we can to help knock on doors and not worry about anything else,” said Quirk. "There are over 400,000 households in the district. It’s impossible to visit them all. You can only do 2,000 homes in a year."

When told that Quirk, in his clinical and scientific estimation, claimed a individual could only possibly visit around 2,000 homes in any given year, Green said with a chuckle, “I think Bill needs to do more walking.”

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Casual Observers See Stark's Health Declining; Others See It Improving

Mar. 15, 2012 | As Rep. Pete Stark stood before the Tri Valley Democratic Club in Dublin last month he looked as healthy as he has at anytime in the past two years. The timbre in his voice was strong and his exuberance in gaining the club’s endorsement over challenger Eric Swalwell recalled an earlier time in his congressional career.

A long bout with Pneumonia in 2010 sapped his energy to such an extent that only until recently has he, at least, looks like the Pete of old. But, that’s not what many less connected observers are noticing.

“He looked like shit,” recounted an audience member at the Feb. 20 endorsement meeting which Swalwell, in his hometown, won. It seems Stark has a major perception problem and has nothing to do with his politics, but the various and natural stages of his health.

A similar consensus regarding his health first appeared around the November 2010 election. At a Democratic Party election night party in San Leandro, Stark arrived, looking severely bloated. Many attribute the condition stemming from medications for pneumonia. Upon shuffling out of the party, numerous party faithful remarked negatively about Stark’s appearance. In truth, the congressman’s health at the time was a cause for concern. It had also affected his ability to participate in a large number of votes on Capitol Hill. It's a fact Swalwell is attempting to use to show Stark’s worthiness for continuing to hold the seat he has possessed since Reggie Jackson and Catfish Hunter were winning the second of three World Series titles in Oakland circa 1973.

For the casual observer, Stark’s transformation over the past two years has been, well, stark, but for those who have consistently attended monthly town hall meetings around the district over the same period, his health has greatly improved. The perception of Stark’s overall health declining versus the relative improvement over the past few months could be a significant problem as voters mentally place the 80-year-old walking with a cane opposite his two youthful challengers, Swalwell and Chris Pareja.

However, the power brokers in the East Bay so far unwilling to shift their bets on the race to Swalwell belong to the camp kept well abreast of Stark’s return to health and, for now, that’s all that matters. And although Stark couldn’t beat Swalwell in any known Track and Field event, he still has a sense of humor when it comes to his age. When I remarked to Stark that his performance Feb. 20 showed a renewed vigor and passion not seen in a few years, he replied, “We’ll, you haven’t been looking in the right places.” He should hope his constituents have also been looking in those same places.

Major Labor Union Pulls Endorsement of Joel Young

Mar. 15, 2012 | On February 6, the powerful Service Employees International Union endorsed all three candidates for the 18th Assembly District in the East Bay. However, a month later the union took the unusual step of withdrawing its backing for one of the candidates, AC Transit board member Joel Young, for using the union's confidential questionnaire against his two opponents, according to a source with direct knowledge of the union's deliberations.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Supervisors Decry St. Rose CEO's Lack Of Transparency Over Financial Status

Mar. 14, 2012 | Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said the head of struggling St. Rose Hospital lied to the board last year about the financial status of the Hayward facility.

During a marathon five-hour board of supervisors meeting Tuesday afternoon in Oakland, it was also revealed St. Rose CEO Michael Mahoney was the person who first initiated contact with controversial Southern California health care provider, Prime Healthcare, to purchase the hospital if it were to fall into bankruptcy.

The board, though, unanimously approved allocating $2 million in funding to keep the doors open at St. Rose. Officials from the hospital said Tuesday without the infusion of cash, the facility had only weeks to live, but urged for a vastly larger pool of funding in the future just to break even.

Included was also approval for seeking a joint powers agreement between the county, St. Rose and the Washington Township Healthcare District in Fremont, despite continued frustration, the board said, with a lack of transparency emanating from St. Rose over the past nine months.

"Mike lied to us. He sat here and lied to us," Carson pointedly said of St. Rose's CEO Michael Mahoney. At a county health committee hearing last year, Carson recounted a specific exchange with Mahoney. "We asked him what the financial status was in the morning. It's perfect. We've got money. We're good," said Carson. "That afternoon we got a letter saying we need money. We can't make payroll."

Supervisor Wilma Chan was less blunt, but agreed with the sentiment. "The leadership had said everything was going fine, the efficiencies had been realized," said Chan. "Things were getting better. Things were going to be fine and yet after that we heard several times in private conservations--not in the public--that there were still huge operating deficits and there was a danger of bankruptcy or failure."

"It has been frustrating to our board because of the lack of transparency and conflicting information that we have received about the financials," added Chan. During a county health committee hearing on Monday, Chan asked for details on whom had reached out to Prime Healthcare. On Tuesday morning, Alex Briscoe, the director of Alameda County Healthcare Services, revealed it was Mahoney who had called officials at Prime on his own. Later, the chief turnaround officer hired by the county to fix St. Rose, testified the contact was made at the urging of a restructuring law firm affiliated with St. Rose. "I don't think it was necessary to invite Prime to the table on that," said Chan. "There are other ways of dealing with [potential bankruptcy]"

Despite a belief the inclusion of Prime Healthcare, an organization currently battling allegations it overcharged Medicare, is nothing more than an attempt by St. Rose to up the ante for procuring additional financing, the interim officials charged with quickly turning around the hospital's fortune said Tuesday the facility is running on empty.

Mac Nakayama, a consultant tapped by the board of supervisors last January, said "My assessment is with its poor cash position with an inability to pay vendors just to operate normally, it would be very difficult for this hospital to continue beyond the next few weeks." Tracy Teller, the interim chief financial officer at St. Rose said it would need between $17-$18 million over the next six months for payables, payroll and to make scheduled bond payments. Teller later said the facility is losing between $800,000 and $1 million per month.

"This partnership that we're going to be putting together, of course, is very dedicated to keeping the hospital open," said Chan, "but it doesn't have limitless resources." She later said the county nor any other known entity can afford to pay nearly $1 million-a-month to maintain St. Rose.

Even then, Nakayama said St. Rose's future would still be clouded with a annual infusion of cash. "I believe operationally, even if we had everything running perfectly, this hospital would have a tough time breaking even. It will always need an infusion of cash from somewhere."

Hayashi Rents Castro Valley Home To Employee, Chancellor Of Chabot College

Mar. 14, 2012 | Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's home, high in the Castro Valley hills, offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the entire East Bay. Except it's not Hayashi enjoying the view, but two close colleagues who both earn lucrative state-funded salaries. According to recently released public finance records, Hayashi rents the four-bedroom, three-bath townhouse, assessed at around $500,000, to the chancellor of Chabot College, Joel Kinnamon, and his longtime partner, Christopher Parman, who also is Hayashi's district coordinator. While the deal may be legal, it raises ethical questions surrounding a member of the Assembly also acting as a landlord to her subordinate and a prominent academic administrator within her district. Between them, Kinnamon and Parman, who are legally married, take home nearly $400,000 annually in taxpayer money — a portion of which then goes to Hayashi in the form of rent...


Bay Citizen Report On Uninsured Mischaracterizes Situation At Eden Township

Mar. 14, 2012 | Health care districts in San Mateo and Contra Costa County are part of roughly 30 such agencies with large amounts of assets without an actual hospital to oversee, according to a report last weekend in The Bay Citizen and Bay Area editions of The New York Times. The article includes the situation at the local Eden Township Healthcare District where once plentiful grants were freely given until about two years ago when the program was suspended by the District's board of directors.

The report makes a fine point on whether these health care district's should be stockpiling assets without a facility to operate at a time when the state's health cares system is on the brink of disaster, but the situation in the East Bay does not warrant inclusion in this debate.

In fact, if the Eden Township had not allocated the over $2 million in legal fees over the past three years and adopted a far more conservative approach to its grants process, the district could well be the 31st such entity in existence without a hospital to its name.

On at least two occasions in the past year, the board of directors have narrowly declined to reinstate the application process for community grants. A surprising minority coalition of directors on polar opposite sides of the debate over San Leandro Hospital and Sutter Health has been unsuccessful in bringing back the program.

District board chair Carole Rogers, who has been vociferous in support of the hospital, and Dr. Rajendra Ratnesar, a man so disliked that the board and union brass urged him to resign in 2010, have both voiced support in resuming the grant process. On both occasions, the board sided with its suspension in lieu of continuing uncertainty over their legal battle with Sutter Health over title to San Leandro Hospital.

The Bay Citizen's inclusion of the Eden Township in this article is not an accurate depiction of the situation in the East Bay. Understandably, the healthcare district is in the center of extreme flux. It is understandable that they would suspend their grants process during these times. And to remove any remote sense of impropriety over the subject is to recall statement's from various county officials who call the District's legal fees a bargain over the past two years. Instead, of spending between $6-$10 million on annual subsidies for San Leandro Hospital, the District has spent over $2 million over two years to keep the facilities doors open through the courts.

When it comes to the Eden Township Healthcare District, it's best to follow The EAST Bay Citizen and not the younger, unrelated Bay Citizen.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Lockyer's Absence From Board Of Supervisors May Affect The Fate Of Hospital

Mar. 12, 2012 | Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer's recent bout with addiction has obvious personal ramifications after she reportedly entered rehabilitation for drug and alcohol dependency in February. While the shorthanded Board of Supervisors has done its best to move forward in her absence, some of the most vulnerable county residents may now face the consequences of Lockyer's recent behavior.

As the county continues to find ways to prop up the beleaguered St. Rose Hospital in Lockyer's district in  Hayward, a plan to infuse $2 million in short-term financing may be in jeopardy if she cannot attend Tuesday's scheduled board meeting.

The plan put forth by the Alameda County Health Care Services agency secured the funding for St. Rose through a proposal to enter into a joint powers agreement with the Washington Health Care District in Fremont, St. Rose and the county. The health care district fronted St. Rose the financing, pending approval by the board of supervisors, albeit by a four-fifths vote.
Nadia Lockyer

Ruben Briones, Lockyer's interim chief of staff, declined to comment on whether Lockyer will appear at Tuesday's meeting or how her absence might relate to the fate of St. Rose.

Without Lockyer's participation, according to county sources, there is a very real possibility the proposal fails to garner the unanimous decision, now potentially required. Sources say, keep an eye on Supervisor Keith Carson's comments on the county's potential participation. In addition, Supervisor Wilma Chan may register some concerns over how San Leandro Hospital--another county hospital in flux and located in Chan's district--plays out in this newest scenario to shore up a worsening health care situation in Alameda County.

Although there have been rumors of Lockyer returning to Oak Street on Tuesday, sources also say she is not expected in the supervisor's chambers.

One way to sidestep Lockyer's attendance problem would be to simply postpone the item for later in the month. However, in this case, the financial situation at St. Rose may be so dire that inattention from the board of supervisors could inadvertently push it toward insolvency. Alameda County Health Care Services Director Alex Briscoe, in a staff report last week, intimated that Prime Healthcare, a controversial Southern California health care provider known for preying on struggling facilities like St. Rose, may be lying in the weeds ready to purchase the hospital.

Over roughly the past six months, Lockyer's office has been tireless in attempting to find a solution to help St. Rose, in tandem with earlier proposals to save San Leandro Hospital. A week before news of her bizarre encounter at a Newark hotel in early February, Lockyer had penned an Op-Ed in the Hayward Daily Review in support of St. Rose. One of her last public appearances before entering rehab occurred before the Hayward City Council were she lobbied for their support in saving the local facility.

With Lockyer's potentially crucial vote absent from tomorrow's board of supervisor's meeting, there is no consensus on what may happen next for a critical piece of the county's health care apparatus covering over 35,000 emergency room patients a year--most of whom lack access sufficient access to health care.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Controversial Health Care Provider May Be An Option For St. Rose

Prem Reddy, founder of Prime
Mar. 9, 2012 | Several Alameda County and Hayward officials say Prime Healthcare, the controversial Southern California care provider under state investigation for its business practices, has shown interest in purchasing the struggling St. Rose Hospital.

Nearby Washington Hospital agreed Feb. 22 to allocate St. Rose $2 million for short-term operations. The Washington Township Health Care District hopes to enter into a joint powers agreement with St. Rose and Alameda County. If a deal is not made, though, the director of Alameda County Health Care Services Alex Briscoe said it may be necessary for St. Rose to entertain overtures from Prime in order to stave off bankruptcy.

"While the St. Rose CEO and board chair have openly stated that they would prefer a public affiliation via a joint powers authority," wrote Briscoe, "if credit protection becomes necessary, St. Rose may seek an agreement with Prime in lieu of bankruptcy."

Briscoe, though, appears less than enthused by the possibility of Prime making a second attempt at purchasing an underperforming facility in the East Bay. In a staff report, he described Prime as "a hospital chain weathering allegations of patient confidentiality breaches and Medicare billing fraud."

Prime previously attempted to buy San Leandro Hospital in 2009 before Sutter Health showed vehemently opposition to the 16-hospital chain entering its discussions with the Eden Township Healthcare District and Alameda County.

A spokesman for Prime declined to comment Thursday on the health provider's interest in St. Rose.

Briscoe will ask the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to allocate the $2 million fund for use by St. Rose, whose financial viability has come into question over the past eight months. It twice received loans from the Eden Township Healthcare District; once nearly defaulting on loan payments last December. St. Rose had also made similar plans to merge with the Eden Township Healthcare District as late as last month to help achieve greater economies of scale for state and federal financing in tandem with San Leandro Hospital.

The inclusion of Prime may not be anything more than a viable, but highly unattractive option for St. Rose, sources tell The Citizen. Prime's interest in St. Rose, regardless of the facility's poor financial outlook, has historically been a common prerequisite for Prime's large number of acquisitions in Southern California since its founding in 2001.

The company is infamous for purchasing health care out of bankruptcy and quickly turning them into cash cows. Critics though, say their methods, including an affinity for immediately voiding labor contracts and eliminating existing health insurance providers may be a profitable business plan, but ultimately ruinous for the local health care safety net. Prime is also known for funneling a high number of patients through its emergency rooms, thereby, garnering larger insurance premiums.

Briscoe will present a presentation on the proposed partnership with Washington Hospital during next Tuesday's Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting.

Corbett Not Running For Congress; Strongly Hints At Future Run

Mar. 9, 2012 | With just hours remaining before the deadline to run for office, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett says she will not challenge Rep. Pete Stark this June, while strongly hinting at a future run for congress.

“I thank all my wonderful supporters for their encouragement to run for Congress, but before I do that, I want to finish the job I started in the state Legislature," said Corbett.

Potential rival in 2014, Ro Khanna, recent said he would also not challenge Stark, at least, this election cycle. The suddenly contestable race for Stark's nearly 40 year stranglehold on the congressional seat will involve fellow Dublin Democrat Eric Swalwell and Chris Pareja, a conservative-leaning independent. Michael Harris and Mark Gonzales also pulled papers last February, but have not officially declared their candidacies.

Corbett said she plans on continuing support for education and consumer protection as senate majority leader. She will likely take a high profile in the coming months as the Legislature again grapples with a looming battle over the state budget.

Corbett's latest flirtation with higher office peaked late last year as several East Bay elected official began quietly posturing for Stark's seat following Swalwell's break with local Democratic orthodoxy and rumors of the congressman's possible retirement. Stark, though, made it clear that he was interested in re-election. The move appeared to quell the insurrection. Both Corbett and Khanna appear poised to mount a run for the seat in 2014, with or without Stark in the race.

The announcement today by Corbett, though, comes as a surprise to some local insiders who believe the time is now to challenge Stark absent Khanna and his incredible campaign war chest. Insiders who have spoken to Corbett say she believes Stark will easily defeat Swalwell this November. Similarly, sources told The Citizen that Khanna shares the same opinion over Swalwell's chances. Khanna also believes he could beat Stark in a general election this year, while Corbett could not. This begs the question as to why neither Corbett or Khanna are not challenging an incumbent they believe is beatable, but not vulnerable enough to be threatened by Stark's likely chief rival in 2012?

It appears all are betting heavily against a Swalwell upset even as the upstart continues to get good reviews among voters in the Tri Valley area.

Remember this, East Bay voters with short memories of the recent misadventures of Mary Hayashi and Nadia Lockyer may not be so kind to the local Democratic status quo. Of all the race in the East Bay, the campaign for the 15th congressional district is the only race pitting a newcomer versus the old guard.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A Week After Skewering Santorum, Zermeno Sets Sights On Wall Street Banksters

HAYWARD | Mar. 7, 2012 | A week after mocking Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum for calling college students snobs, Hayward Councilman Francisco Zermeno again vented populist anger Tuesday night, this time on Wall Street bankers.

Zermeno, who is one of 10 possible candidates vying for four at-large seats on the Hayward City Council this June, told the council he sent an email to President Obama asking him to bail out suffering cities.

"Let me tell you what I did--something crazy last Friday," said Zermeno. "I really got pissed off at all these crooks on Wall Street that caused all these problems and the federal government decided to bail out. Perhaps they should be talking about bailing out some of the cities."

Zermeno said he received "no response, but I want to start a movement. It's just not right. We're suffering because some crooks decided to make some money. That's just not right. Our employees are suffering. Our residents are suffering and it's just not completely right."

He admitted the email was "pie-in-the-sky" but also said, "I'm an eternal optimist."

A week ago, Zermeno used the same venue to skewer Santorum for comments levied at college students and graduate. Santorum intimated those people are "snobs."

Zermeno, who is a long-time Spanish professor at Chabot College, wryly mocked the comment Feb. 28 during public comment.

"My name is Francisco Zermeno and I am a snob, as defined by a presidential candidate who shall not receive my vote," he said. "I truly believe that every person in the United States needs to at least attempt to have a university education."
"Please encourage all of our youngsters to go to university and be a snob just like me," he later added.

Zermeno's latest attempt to stoke populist anger fell flat for one Hayward city official who remarked after Tuesday night's council meeting, "What is he going to talk about next week? Rush Limbaugh?"

Among the three council members up for re-election this June, most Hayward observers view Zermeno re-election as less than a sure thing. Councilmembers Barbara Halliday and Olden Henson are also running for re-election. The political calculation became more jumbled last week when former city manager Greg Jones announced he would run for one of the four open seats. Jones, along with Planning Commissioner Al Mendall are also viewed as strong contenders.

Hayward Looking At $14 Million Budget Shortfall This June

HAYWARD | Mar. 7, 2012 | "Thanks, I guess," Hayward Councilwoman Barbara Halliday drolly said Tuesday night as the city's finance director again forecasted a budget shortfall of nearly $14 million for the next fiscal year.

The grim news follows a steep round of cuts last year to employee wages and benefits used to shore up a $20 million deficit. Several employee unions accepted across-the-board 13 percent payroll cuts that erased over $12 million of the shortfall last year.

Earlier in the meeting, the city's non-union managers agreed to a new contracts estimated to shave just over $1 million in savings during the next fiscal year, which begins at the end of June. In addition, Hayward City Manager Fran David warned of "staff shrinkage" stemming from the dissolution of its redevelopment agency earlier this year.

Finance Director Tracy Vesely told the council Tuesday night that the current projected budget for 2012 is nearly on target. She reported a budget just over $750,000 off her projections last year. "It makes our job a little bit easier when you're that accurate," said Councilman Marvin Peixoto.

The hard part, though, may come in the next few months as the council searches for solutions likely to include additional cuts to wages and benefits and city services. Mayor Michael Sweeney indicated the solution may again rest on city employees.

"These numbers are real and their impacts are real and everybody has worked very hard in the community, the council and at the staff level to hold things together for several years now," said Sweeney.

"We need employees to continue to step up and make concessions. Unfortunately, we've had to engage in concession bargain for the last four or five years and that's hard. It's hard on the employees. It's hard on everybody, but it needs to be done.

"We're all in this at the end of day. It's all about protecting services and protecting jobs. We need everybody to step up and do their part even though its hard."

Much like every other East Bay city facing a longer than usual stagnant local economy, Hayward is no different. Vesely expects similar property tax receipts at around $36 million; down over $4 million from three years ago and sales tax revenue to increase by a tick to $26.3 million in 2013.

Property transfer taxes are also expected to remain flat at $3.6 million next fiscal year. The amount represents half the amount in revenue the city took in property tax revenue in 2007--the year before the bottom dropped out on the local housing market. David said the city's newest big box retailers like Costco and Target helped stabilized the city's sales tax numbers.

Peixoto said he believes people are eshewing big ticket purcashes from neighboring Costcos in cities with higher sales tax percentages in the double figures in favor of Hayward. Nearby San Leandro has a 10 percent sales tax and a Costco on Davis Street. David said she believes there is some credence to that belief.

The city council continues to register tough talk towards Sacramento lawmakers they believe are making their jobs at the local level increasingly more difficult by repeated takebacks to solve the state's annual budget woes. Councilman Olden Henson lamented, "We can manage our problems if we're left alone."

Henson, who is up for re-election this June, then asked David if any new revenue-shifting plans from Sacramento were on the horizon. "I don't speak for the state of California," said David, "but I always assume they're looking for something else."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

San Leandro's Undercover Conservative Mayor Fights To Raise Taxes, Lower Wages

Mar. 6, 2012 | San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy is battling schizophrenia when it comes to taxes. He supports them sometimes, protests them other times. That's the easy assessment. His uneven record on sales and parcel taxes are also exacerbated by a special knack for placing his chips on loser measures and a weird schadenfreude when it comes to pressuring the public to do their share while they continue to struggle economically.

Cassidy took the podium during last week's uncharacteristically raucous school board meeting to state the district's case for a new parcel tax. Addressing elected leaders from the public lectern has been a successful gambit for Cassidy from the beginning of his political career where he's far better at giving it then receiving it.

Despite sobering news from an election consultant indicating the school board's proposed parcel tax measure for the November ballot is likely a wounded duck going forward, Cassidy urged them to trudge on. He called the state's two-third majority needed for passing tax referendums "the tyranny of the minority." Toiling from within the minority is something Cassidy has done exclusively since election to the school board in 2004. He lasted just one term after constantly rubbing his colleagues the wrong way, but there was one occasion where he and fellow trustee Mike Katz cajoled the board to follow their lead and the result was not beneficial to the fortunes of school children. The board unanimously approved placing parcel tax on this fall's ballot.

A few years earlier a scene similar to what played out last week also occurred. Another consultant told the board the likelihood of a similar parcel tax passing appeared dead in the water, according to their polling. No matter, said trustees Cassidy, Katz and the rest of the board. The parcel tax failed that year leaving the district in the hole with over $150,000 in costs related to the ill-fated measure. In the aftermath, the seeds for the mysterious ousting of the school superintendent were laid (she did not support the measure) and a school district surviving on dwindling state funding struggled on with a net loss from Cassidy and Katz's gamble.

Four years later, in another instance where Cassidy's expertise in the realm of tax measures should be questioned, he campaigned for mayor vehemently against Measure Z, the half-cent sales tax increase that eventually passed. No other decision has done more to lead the city's to a modicum of economic health than Measure Z. It's a fact that constantly bedevils Cassidy as he tries to conjure an atmosphere of despair deep enough to prescribe the local equivalent of a shock doctrine where fiscally conservative values can be installed under the guise of a last-ditch savior.

Despite inattentive local reports, Cassidy's recent  comments illustrating the need for drastic moves on employee benefits and pension show just how important Measure Z has been to the city's fortunes. He noted a widening deficit six years from now. Also the same year Measure Z sunsets. Despite Cassidy's rhetoric, San Leandro is nowhere near the mess worsening in Stockton. In fact, San Leandro's present economic state is much closer the local powerhouse of Dublin than any other East Bay city.

Fast forward to today and Cassidy is on record supporting to extension of Measure B, the regional half-cent sales tax for transportation project likely headed to the November ballot. So how much in taxes can San Leandrans bear to handle? Cassidy is most liberal only when he's standing next to Sen. Ellen Corbett. Outside of this photo opportunity, he is showing himself to be a moderate conservative in sheep's clothing. Raising taxes on the middle and lower class and suppressing public employee wages and benefits isn't how a Democrat acts, especially when the city is sitting on a potentially whopping $14 million reserve.

Those funds are intended for rainy days. If you haven't noticed the state of the economy, the forecast is still gray and drizzly, but nowhere near the days of torrential rainfall. Despite Cassidy's constant assertion, the people have already done their part in saving the city, it's time for government to do theirs.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Former Hayward City Manager To Run For City Council

Mar. 1, 2012 | Former Hayward City Manager Greg Jones said Thursday he will plans to run for the city council this June, although it wasn't him who made the announcement, but his wife, former council member Anna May.

Jones made the announcement Thursday afternoon on Twitter saying, "All right, I'll do it!" In an attachment to the tweet, May wrote to followers, "I'm reaching out to you before this goes public later today. NO! I'm NOT running for City Council! What I'm asking is that you support an even better (and certainly more patient!) candidate for Hayward City Council."

Jones's decision could spell problems for a slew of candidates that include three incumbents, vying for four open seats. Jones joins a short list of six potential candidates, including current members Francisco Zermeno, Olden Henson and Barbara Halliday. Councilman Bill Quirk, who currently holds the fourth open seat, is running for the assembly this year. Hayward elects its council members in an at-large election this June 5. The nomination period ends Mar. 9.

Former council candidate Ralph Farias and a newcomer Fahim Ajaz Khan have also expressed a desire to run this fall along with Planning Commissioner Al Mendall. Jones's candidacy may affect Mendall most of all in snagging the fourth seat, assuming voters re-elect the three incumbents. Mendall had already locked up many of the city's most important endorsements, including Quirk.

Jones left the city manager's office in 2010 amid concerns of a conflict of interest between his budding romance with May while she was a member of the council. Jones resigned while May choose to not run for re-election that year. They both flirted with running for the city's school board, but decided against it with rumors of a state takeover looming over the school district. They later married and joined forces in the real estate business.

His two-year stint as city manager was largely viewed as a success. Among his accomplishments was his success in procuring federal funds for the implemention of a gang injunction program in Hayward. The council's growing reluctance, though, and noticeable split over whether to move forward with gang injunctions may become a major campaign issue.