Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Khanna Leads Fundraising Race Over Stark Despite 89% Of Donors From Outside District

Feb. 1, 2012 | It's a matter of debate whether the quick $1.2 million haul of Ro Khanna, the former commerce department official from Fremont, is will matter much during the race this year to challenge long-time Rep. Pete Stark in the 15th District.

Khanna, who amassed an astonishingly large war chest, he says, for a future run at the seat in two years, did so with the help of a large number of donors from outside of the current congressional district.

A tally of his campaign fundraising report show 89 percent of the record $1.2 million came from donors outside of the district limits roughly between Hayward, Fremont and Pleasanton. The list is predominately made up of Indo-American donor with ties primarily to Silicon Valley interests. Although many donors originated from more upscale locales in Northern California, a large number also came from the Northeast and Washington, D.C.

Stark, already sitting on a perpetual pile of around a half million in cash, recorded over $88,000 during the past four months giving him nearly $580,000 in cash on hand. Most of the donation came from groups affiliated with health care and pharmaceuticals. Stark sits on the House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee.

One notable entry stands out, though. Khanna, himself, wrote Stark a $1,000 donation last October.

With the end of the nomination period near, the primary race for Stark's seat still appears unsettled. Currently only Stark, Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell and Chris Pareja, an independent with ties to the Tea Party have announced intentions to run. The possible entry of state Sen. Ellen Corbett, according to observers, would significantly jumble the make up of the race.

Swalwell raised over $65,000 in last quarter of 2011, according to campaign finance reports due Tuesday. His year-end tally came in at just over $89,000 cash on hand. The total is impressive for the freshman councilman and Alameda County prosecutor who hopes to parlay distinct advantages surrounding the redistricting of the seat that includes more moderate voters in Dublin and Pleasanton.

Although Corbett says she is only exploring the chance of running for congress this year, nonetheless, she still raised over $161,000 last quarter with nearly $148,000 cash on hand not including debts of over $22,000. Corbett's early fundraising totals are also impressive as compared to her past fundraising exploits. She is not known to be one of Sacramento's most prodigious fundraisers.

Primary voters will go to the polls June 5 to choose, regardless of party affiliation, the top two candidates to face off in the November general election. It will be the state's first use of the open primary system since being approved by voters in 2010.

THE HAUL (thru 1/31/12)
Swalwell......$ 89,072

Healthcare District Takes San Leandro Hospital Case To State Supreme Court

Jan. 31, 2012 | The Eden Township Healthcare District waited until the last moment before formally petitioning the State Supreme Court Monday to settle its on-going legal fight with Sutter Health over ownership of San Leandro Hospital. At odds is whether two officials maintained conflicts of interest when negotiating the agreement at the center of the fight to save the community hospital

The supreme court is mandated to notify the parties of their interest in the case within the next 60-90 days. Either way, as the court of last resort, the state supreme court is the end of the legal line for the District and San Leandro Hospital.

Counsel for the District petitioned the state's high court on the legal question of whether Dr. Francisco Rico, a former District board member, and Eden Medical Center CEO George Bischalany maintained a conflict of interest under Government Code 1090 when they helped negotiate the 2008 memorandum of understanding. The agreement ultimately led to the $300 million reconstruction of Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and the potential for San Leandro Hospital to be closed after two years.

Bischalaney, the petition notes held the position of CEO concurrently for both the District and the Sutter Health-run Eden Medical Center during the time of the negotiations.

"Although he had recused himself from participating on behalf of the District and acknowledged he was prohibited from attending closed-session meetings of the District board and other internal meetings where the negotiations were discussed and considered," notes the petition. "Mr. Bischalaney nonetheless was a significant participant in the District's negotiating effort."

The petition also states Bischalaney participated in internal, District-only strategy discussions and closed session meetings.

An anesthesiology practice including Rico as a shareholder held exclusive contracts for services at both San Leandro Hospital and Eden Medical Center, according to the petition. It states Rico had a financial interest in continuing acute care services at San Leandro Hospital or risk losing a quarter of its revenue and potentially the financial viability of the practice.

The District's allegation is a similar assertion that has failed in two lower courts. An Alameda County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of Sutter's claim of title to San Leandro Hospital in late 2010. The case was also denied late last year by the state court of appeals.

Despite the petition, sources with knowledge of Sutter's position tell The Citizen it has offered the District a settlement. Without knowledge of the details, it is likely to be less than palatable to the board or residents, many of whom, expect nothing less than the hospital continuing as a full-service hospital with 24-hour emergency room services.

Stark Skewers Gingrich With Medicare Loophole Bill

Jan. 31, 2012 | On the day of the Florida Republican primary, East Bay Rep. Pete Stark entered the fray with a bill intending to eliminate a tax loophole targeting Medicare payroll taxes and used by presidential candidate Newt Gingrich two years ago.

The bill titled "Narrow Exceptions for Withholding Taxes," or more conveniently named the "NEWT Act," would close an existing tax loophole used by self-employed taxpayers to lower Medicare payroll taxes by listing earnings as profits or dividends instead of wages.

Stark charged Gingrich with using this accounting maneuver to save an estimated $69,000 in Medicare taxes in 2010. He used the opportunity to level opposition against a long-time House rival from across the aisle.

"It seems Gingrich is continuing to do his part--in his own infamous words--to let Medicare 'wither on the vine,'" said Stark. "By taking full advantage of a tax loophole often used by wealthy self-employed lawyers and lobbyists to slash their tax liability, Gingrich is happy to undermine Medicare. This tax dodge throws cold water on his feigned concern for the future of Medicare."

Payroll taxes for Medicare are typically taxed at 2.9 percent of all wage income. When small businesses elect to be taxed as an "S Corporation" they avoid so-called "double taxation." Under subchapter "S" of the tax code income and losses are passed on to shareholders.

Stark's bill, a version of which passed the House in 2009, expands the number of income category subject to Medicare payroll taxes. Some of the most egregious users of the tax loophole are small businesses in the fields of health, law, consulting, brokerage services, investment advice and engineering.

According to Stark, Gingrich's array of businesses classified $2.4 million in profits and dividends in 2010. By using the existing loophole, he was able to save $69,000 in Medicare payroll taxes.

Democrats are not immune from taking advantage of the loophole. Former presidential candidate John Edwards as a trial lawyer saved himself nearly $600,000 in Medicare payroll taxes from 1995 to 1998.

Guillen Stokes Interests Of Young East Bay Democrats

Jan. 31, 2012 | One thing is sure: Abel Guillen has quite an exuberant base backing him for his run at the 18th assembly district. The problem, though, is it may be the one demographic that forces campaign consultants to pull out their hair—young voters.

Will they or won’t they bother to vote?

As a trustee on the Peralta Community College board, Guillen gained a hearty round of praise from Progressives late last year when he led an effort to transfer the district’s assets from large banks to credit unions.

Hard core Occupy Oakland protesters talked up Guillen as one of the few public officials standing up directly to the demonized One Percent. Well-connected young Democrats began talking up Guillen as a candidate they could trust to fight their cause of social and economic equality in Sacramento.

The growing support for Guillen among this group turns the rude, well-worn stereotype that young voters would rather hole themselves up playing video games rather than vote, on its head.

“This group will turn out for Guillen,” said an Oakland official, who plans to support him. But, short of a drum line of Occupy Oakland supporters rhythmically stepping to the polls, is it enough to make a difference, even in a tough four-person race?

Fremont City Council Unanimously Appoints Morrison Interim Mayor

Gus Morrison
Jan. 31, 2012 | After eight years in exile, Gus Morrison is back in the mayor's office in Fremont. The City Council, short one member after Mayor Bob Wasserman's death last December, unanimously approved the appointment of Morrison as interim mayor Monday evening.

Morrison was, by a distance, the most qualified candidate among the six remaining applicants for the job. The 25-year Fremont council veteran spent 14 years as the city's mayor ending in 2004. He will serve out Wasserman's final term through this November's election and has publicly stated no interest in running for the job.

This fact was certainly the prevailing job description among the initial pool of 12 applicants. Current councilmembers Anu Natarajan, Bill Harrison and Dominic Dutra are all likely mayoral candidates and the addition of an appointee running with the added edge of incumbent was major sticking point in their deliberations.

After a round of six interviews Monday night, the council ranked candidates and tallied up the votes. Morrison received the highest total followed by Dirk Lorenz and David Bonaccorsi, both planning commissioners. Dan Wilkowsky, Beth Hoffman were next and former city manager Don Driggs placed sixth.

Morrison's previous stint as Fremont mayor featured a large-than-life character whose confidence was sometimes misconstrued for cockiness. In both his application and Monday's interviews, he cast himself as the most qualified person in the room.

"I know how to do the job," said Morrison Monday night. "I banged the gavel twice as mayor and once got in between to break up a fight."

Morrison also offered job development as one of Fremont's greatest challenges this year. On projects surrounding the future Warm Springs BART station, he disagrees with developers who believe high density housing surrounding the station is the answer.

To the rest of the East Bay, Morrison may be best known as the man who set a road block for the potential move of the Oakland Athletics to Fremont. Despite Wasserman's desire to bring the team to the South County, it was Morrison's rhetoric and past contacts that created holes in the development's efficacy across the freeway from Nummi and near Pacific Commons.

Morrison's knack for bold, at times, radical ideas came in 2010 when he proposed ended Fremont as we know it. His plan to merge Fremont with Newark and Union City as a cost-saving measure was branded by some as Draconian and unworkable and creative and out-of-box politics to others.

The City Council will swear-in Morrison during the Feb. 14 meeting.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Plastic bag ordinance leaves room for Alameda County cities to tighten ban

Jan. 26, 2012 | The Alameda County Waste Management Authority, or their more hipper name, StopWaste.org, approved Wednesday a potentially groundbreaking plastic bag ordinance banning the toxic totes at grocery stores and pharmacies, but it’s likely not the last you will hear about it this year.

Surprisingly, the body didn’t get greedy eating the entire politically-fulfilling pie. Instead, it left a portion for elected officials in a few East Bay cities hoping for a notable and guilty-free portion of a ban wildly popular among residents and environmentalists.

Since San Jose passed a similar ordinance last year, officials in the East Bay could see the tidal wave of plastic bag ordinances careening their way.

Officials in Berkeley are already formulating their own more comprehensive plastic bag ordinance including a ban on bags from retailers, which was notably absent from the County’s ordinance.

Expect at various times this year, for several East Bay cities to take on similar, wider-ranging ordinances, not only for the benefit of shrinking swelling landfills and saving the environment, but for the prime opportunity for local pols to puff their chests and pop their collars.

(This article is featured in today's Fifty+One blog.)

Supplement stories in the EastBayCitizen by reading my new heavily updated blog "Fifty+One" (fiftyplusone.tumblr.com) covering the East Bay political scene featuring behind-the-scenes observations and pertinent rants and ravings. "Fifty plus one," by the way is the winning electoral equation for all politicians.

Neal Opens Attack Season On Assembly Opponent

Jan. 26, 2012 | The missive issued by 18th assembly district candidate Kathy Neal Wednesday faulting Joel Young for his latest alleged indiscretion was like a sizzling red flare lighting up the night sky. Her opponents all saw it in the distance and now like former San Francisco supervisor Chris Daly once said, “It’s on like Donkey Kong!”

Not only did Neal, a former Port of Oakland commissioner who was once married to Elihu Harris, package together Young’s past domestic violence allegations with charges he spat in the face of an aide to Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan earlier this month, but she also revealed she, too, was a victim of domestic violence as a young adult.

The move is a nice one-two punch (excuse the pun) for Neal, who until now, had not made much headway in differentiating herself from her three opponents—all of whom are remarkably similar in their politics. That fact makes this race, more than any other, about demographics.

Most observers view Vice Mayor Rob Bonta carrying the Alameda and Asian vote, Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen holding the flag for Latinos and younger voters and Young and Neal vying for blacks and voters in Oakland.

All of this is simple arithmetic, but there’s one other aspect that nearly every politico mentions when they talk about Neal--her gender.

“She’s the only woman in the race,” Robin Torello of the Alameda County Central Committee last week. In fact, she said it twice for forceful effect.

With that in mind, it’s no wonder she took the sheath off her sword and started stabbing the air in front of Young’s campaign.

Corbett Goes All Bollywood On Senate Floor

Jan. 26, 2012 | State Sen. Ellen Corbett donned traditional Indian garb this morning to celebrate the establishment of India's Constitution, at the same time giving one of the clearest indications yet she will attempt a run for congress later this year.

Corbett appearing on the Senate floor with a long red dress and traditional scarf around her neck (video below) introduced Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, members of the her district's Indian community, including Interim Fremont Mayor Anu Natarajan during the short ceremony. Notably beaming in the background was Ro Khanna, who was also introduced by Corbett.

Khanna is viewed as a potentially huge road block for Corbett's congressional aspirations either this year or 2014.

The 35-year-old Khanna jumped to the front of the pack recently with an amazing $1.2 million in fundraising within a relatively short time. A vast majority of Khanna's haul, though, came from Indian Americans situated in Silicon Valley and many outside of the district.

Several East Bay insiders have recently raised the pros and cons of Corbett running against Stark this year as opposed to waiting for her senate term to run out in 2014. One consultant described Corbett as being caught in a quandary by Khanna's impressive fundraising ability, which may already be three times larger than her campaign bank account.

"That money is only going to get bigger if she waits," said a consultant, who asked not be identified. Corbett's name-recognition in the area is also an advantage that could blunt Khanna's ability to raise big bucks, they said.

Of course, you cannot count out Stark, who despite declining health, is still very popular among his long-time constituents and has shown no indication he will decide to leave behind his 40 years in Washington behind.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tauscher Steps Down From State Department Post; Hayashi's LGBT License Plate Bill

Jan. 25, 2012 | For those of you wondering if there is any connection between this and the group Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi is rumored to have posed as a lesbian to gain campaign fundraising support, it is not.
LGBT plate in South Carolina.
Nevertheless, Hayashi introduced AB 1539 Wednesday which would create the state’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender specialty license plate.

“This will be an important opportunity for Californians to show their support for the LGBT community and address a major problem that is affecting all youth,” said Hayashi in a statement.

“LGBT youth are at an increased risk for bullying, which can have devastating effects on their health, even leading to suicide. By purchasing this plate, the public can put a stop to bullying and help make a difference for our kids.”

If passed, it would join South Carolina, Maryland and Indiana with similar LGBT plates.

Ironically, if bullying is the problem, wouldn’t displaying it on your bumper make it worse?


Ellen Tauscher will resign her post as undersecretary of state for arms control next month, according to Foreign Policy.

The former seven-term congresswoman from the East Bay had previously suffered from esophageal cancer.

Although her health has been improving, she plans to take time off from her duties as the state department’s top arms control official for the newly-created part-time position of “special envoy for strategic stability and missile defense.”

In her new special envoy role, Tauscher will report directly up to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and will maintain control of several specific projects she has been working on. She will remain the lead official on the president’s bilateral commission on strategic stability with Russia, and will keep her role as lead negotiator for amissile defense cooperation agreement with Russia.

Tauscher resigned from Congress in 2009 to join the State Department. She says she plans to continue advocacy work in the fight against cancer.

(This article is featured in today's Fifty+One blog.)

Supplement stories in the EastBayCitizen by reading my new heavily updated blog "Fifty+One" (fiftyplusone.tumblr.com) covering the East Bay political scene featuring behind-the-scenes observations and pertinent rants and ravings. "Fifty plus one," by the way is the winning electoral equation for all politicians.

Assembly Opponent Neal Responds To Newest Young Allegations

Jan. 25, 2012 | Assembly candidate Kathy Neal broke the curious silence noticeably cast over the race by Joel Young's second encounter with allegations of violence in the past year.
Kathy Neal
Former Oakland port commssioner and current Alameda County Central Commitee member called allegations this week Young threatened and spat at a Oakland City Council aide, a "serious issue."

“I cannot speak to the truth of these allegations, but I can say that violence of any kind is unacceptable, especially from our elected leaders," said Neal. "Domestic violence, as has also been alleged, is even more disturbing and grave."

Young, 34, was accused in March 2011 of striking his then-girlfriend in the face after she found him in bed with another woman. An Alameda County judge dismissed restraining orders against both Young and the accuser, but not before saying he suspected Young harmed the woman, according to court transcripts.

Neal says the issue of domestic violence is not new to her. She was abused in an intimate relationship as a young adult, she said. "I know first hand the psychological scars domestic violence creates. We must hold all perpetrators accountable for their acts of violence against women, even when they are our own elected officials," she added.

Her campaign Web site also lists the support of Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, who formerly headed the county's Family Justice Center. Lockyer ran extensive in 2010 on her accomplishments working with victims of domestic violence and crimes against women and children.

Wednesday's statement from Neal is likely just the beginning of a barrage of attacks on Young's character in the next few months. While the other challengers for the 18th assembly district have been publicly silent, there is speculation surrogates from the campaigns of Alameda Councilman Rob Bonta and Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen are readying their own responses in coming weeks.

One indication from online campaign sources show Bonta's campaign will highlight the candidate's family life featuring glossy images of his wife and two young children in contrast to the far more tawdry and violent images coalescing around Young. That is, if Young's fundraising ability hasn't already been impugned by his alleged antics over the past 10 months. Campaign fundraising reports due next week should give the campaigns a more accurate opportunity to reset for the stretch run to the June 5 primary.

BANG Is Trying To Smother South Alameda County Newspaper, Local Blogger

Jan. 25, 2012 | Times are tough for the newspaper business. So dire, in fact, that the East Bay behemoth--the Bay Area News Group--is ferociously grasping for every shred of revenue in the hope it can keep its array of bankrupt titles on the news rack.

With advertising severely cannibalized by free outlets like Craigslist, the fuel that once powered the local dailies (can you still call BANG papers dailies since they dropped Monday delivery services?) are now grappling for one of the few consistent revenues streams remaining--legal notices.

The Tri-City Voice, a small biweekly newspaper covering Fremont, Hayward, Union City and Newark, says BANG is trying to put them out of business over the right to publish the small legal advertisements.

"This is about corporate greed and maintaining a monopoly. What they do not own and control they want to crush," wrote the publisher of the Tri-City Voice Sharon Marshak. The paper has set up an online petition to show the public support to a judge adjudicating the case. The petition has gathered over 1,000 signatures.

One Tri-City reporter said the loss of revenue derived from legal notices, estimated at around 40 percent of its income, could put the paper out of business.

Attorneys for BANG have argued the Tri-City Voice is a free publication without subscribers and does not satisfy requirements needed to publish the notices. It's an issue the Tri-City Voice rejects noting while it is a free paper, it maintains a small list of subscribers. In the past, BANG has also used a similar gambit to make an end run at advertising dollars at the venerable East Bay Express.

BANG's hegemony also presented this somewhat poignant conundrum for the Tri-City Voice's case against it. The paper was instructed to post its own legal notice regarding the case. In order to do so, it would have been forced to place the ad in The Argus--a BANG newspaper in Fremont--at a cost of thousands of dollars, said a reporter for the Tri-City Voice. Instead, it chose to open an online petition at change.org.

In spite of a new directive by BANG's new boss John Paton to move toward a more digital-centric operation based upon local bloggers and citizens providing it free content, it has shown a curious antipathy toward the potential community of freelancers.

Earlier this month, it sent a cease and desist letter to an Occupy Oakland blogger who created a Web site titled, Occupied Oakland Tribune. The site also uses a rendering of the famous Oakland Tribune Tower as part of its logo.  The paper argued the name of the site and the use of the image may lead readers to confuse the effort with its newspaper operations, even though the paper no longer resides in the tower. Last year it was sold to a telemarketing firm.

“There is no way we are going to be intimidated by the Bay Area News Group,” said Scott Johnson, the creator of the site. “This is just another effort by the 1% to push around the 99%. While Oakland City Hall continues arresting people on Oscar Grant Plaza for no reason, the Bay Area News Group is now attempting to quash our First Amendment rights. This has got to stop.”

The use of the title is inspired by the newspaper circulated by Occupy Wall Street demonstrators last year named the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Johnson believes BANG will be cited for sanctions if the paper chooses to sue him.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Swanson Exits State Senate Race; Endorses Hancock

Jan. 24,2012 | Alameda Assemblyman Sandre Swanson will ends his nascent campaign to challenge fellow Democrat Loni Hancock for her seat in the state senate.

Swanson will also endorse Hancock for the senate seat in the June primary and work towards replacing her at the end of her potential term in 2016, he said Tuesday.

“As Democrats, we must come together to work for the good of all Californians,” said Swanson. “Two thousand twelve provides an incredible opportunity for us to achieve a super majority in the State Senate and that must be every Democrat’s top priority. That is why I have decided to endorse Loni Hancock for election to the 9th State Senate district, and I will continue my campaign for election to succeed her in 2016."

Hancock's new district emcompasses a swath of the East Bay from Albany through Oakland and Berkeley to San Leandro. For two years, residents in San Leandro will be represented by both Hancock and their current state Sen. Ellen Corbett who has two years remaining on her second term.

The race had the potential for extreme hard ball politics, according to many in the East Bay.

The race was also highlighted by many in the state as to watch under the new open primary system where the likelihood of members of the same party facing each other in the general election might prove to be an exercise in party divisiveness.

The wrtiing may have been on the wall last Saturday when Democratic leaders in Alameda County overwhelming chose to endorse Hancock with over 80 percent of the vote.

Swanson is termed out of his assembly seat in the 16th district. Now the 18th district through redistricting, the seat is being hotly contested by four labor friendly challengers.

How Joel Young Will Respond To His Latest Bout With Incivility

Jan. 24,2012 | Does Assembly candidate Joel Young need anger management? His latest alleged brush with violence was reported Tuesday by the Oakland Tribune.

In the article, Young threatened an aide for Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan at a bar Jan. 14 in Oakland’s Uptown district. Young later allegedly spat in the aide’s eye before leaving.

The paper says a discussion between Jason Overman, Kaplan’s communication director, and Young’s girlfriend about the assembly candidate’s previous domestic violence allegations last March was the impetus for the argument.

I wrote the definitive article in the East Bay Express on the allegations made against Young by a former girlfriend and I’ve had numerous conversations with both.

Here’s what I think will happen next:
  • His candidacy, despite another highly distasteful public relations disaster, will continue.
  • Like with his domestic violence accuser, he will retaliate against Overman’s filing of a temporary restraining order with his own.
  • Young will tell his legion of Oakland supporters the allegations are politically motivated and point to the fact Overman waited one week to file the police report.
But give Young this: he has gumption. Last year, with the existence of a photograph detailing the swollen right eye of his former girlfriend alleged to have been caused by Young, the 34-year-old bachelor offered me a picture showing a scratch on his torso purportedly caused by the woman. Nevermind that an emergency room doctor initially believed the woman had suffered a broken orbital bone stemming from the blow.

In a tight four-person race for the Oakland assembly seat, Young’s opponents have not capitalized on Young’s mounting problems. To supporters, he is Teflon, but watch for tiny cracks in his support to show. How many times can he use the same excuses before people sense the Young is the boy crying wolf?

I will say this, Joel Young could land a haymaker on Mother Theresa and his supporters, typically black women of a certain age who think he’s the most charming thing since Billy Dee Williams, will not waver in their support for him.

(This article is featured in today's Fifty+One blog.)

Supplement stories in the EastBayCitizen by reading my new heavily updated blog "Fifty+One" (fiftyplusone.tumblr.com) covering the East Bay political scene featuring behind-the-scenes observations and pertinent rants and ravings. "Fifty plus one," by the way is the winning electoral equation for all politicians.

Corbett Bill Extending Foreclosure Assistance Law Passes State Senate

Jan. 24, 2012 | A bill authored by state Sen. Ellen Corbett allowing struggling mortgage borrowers additional time to explore alternatives for avoiding a notice of default passed the State Senate Monday.

Corbett's bill will extend the sunset period on a bill she co-authored with then state senator Don Perata in 2008. The clause is due to end in January 2013. The urgency measure was passed at the beginning of the current recession. Corbett said lawmakers then had hoped the housing crisis would subside by 2013.

"Sadly we have not come out of the foreclosure crisis as of yet," Corbett said while addressing the senate floor.

SB 708 would extend the sunset period to January 2018 and was passed with nearly unanimous bipartisan support. It heads for discussion in the assembly.

The legislation calls for lenders to assess and offer alternative ways for borrowers to avoid foreclosure proceedings and forbid them from filing notice of default letters on borrowers for 30 days after the initial contact.

While it is often in the best interest of banks to avoid foreclosure proceedings with borrowers, the avalanche of toxic loans that became the hallmark of the current housing crash and economic futility of the past few years has more families into foreclosure than ever before.

“The housing downturn and its fallout have wreaked havoc on thousands of Californians and their communities,” Corbett said. “Unfortunately, foreclosures remain a major problem throughout the state. This legislation continues important protections for homeowners and renters that have proved tremendously helpful in this trying time.”

The bill would also fine lenders $1,000-a-day for failing to perform maintenance on homes now unoccupied by foreclosure and at risk for becoming a haven for crime and neighborhood blight.

Young Accused Of Spitting In The Eye Of An Oakland City Council Aide

Jan. 24, 2012 | Assembly candidate Joel Young is in trouble with the law for a second time in the last 10 months after an aide for Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan filed a police report charging him with threatening him at an Oakland bar and spitting in his eye.

The Jan. 14 incident reported Tuesday by the Oakland Tribune says Kaplan's communication director Jason Overman told police  Young threatened him at the Make Westing in downtown Oakland and spat in Overman's eye.

"You just wait until my campaign is over. I'm going to find you and beat your (expletive) (expletive), you (expletive)," Overman said recounting Young's comments to him that night.

The embattled Oakland assembly candidate insinuated Overman is jealous of his relationship with his girlfriend.

Young told the Trib, "None of that is true. If I wasn't a candidate for the Assembly, I doubt Jason would be doing this."

According to the Tribune, the argument stemmed from a conversation Overman had with Young's girlfriend, a local politico named Keesa Ocampo, detailing Young's episode with domestic violence last March. Young was accused of striking Jennifer Juarez, a then-girlfriend in the face after she found him in bed with another woman.

In numerous conversation with Juarez last year, she told The Citizen, Ocampo was aware of the details surrounding Young and the domestic violence case. According, to Young, Ocampo was his girlfriend before meeting Juarez in late 2010 and after the criminal allegations surfaced in the spring of 2011.

Ocampo is mentioned in court papers as the woman who repeatedly calls Juarez's cell phone to talk her out of pursuing with domestic violence charges against Young. Ocampo also is mentioned in filings as attempting to dissuade another former girlfriend of Young's from supporting Juarez's case.

Those who know both Young and Ocampo, have in the past described her as a political opportunist looking to gain power from a potential win by Young in his assembly race this June against Rob Bonta, Abel Guillen and Kathy Neal.

Ocampo's background includes working for women's advocacy groups in the East Bay and San Mateo. She was listed as a member of the "Women for Joel Young" committee that was hastily formed last year by Oakland Councilwoman Desley Brooks and Oakland School Trustee Alice Spearman to defend against critics of the domestic violence charges lodged against Young.

In an interview last year, Juarez told The Citizen, the end of Young's previous relationship with Ocampo overlapped with the beginning of her own which started sometime in October 2010.

Oveman was a former district staff member for state Sen. Ellen Corbett before hooking on with Kaplan last year. Insiders say despite his slight build and Bob's Big Boy haircut, Overman can be temperamental, at times.

After the Jan. 14 confrontation with Young, Overman says he will file a restraining order against Young. It would be the second such request against Young since May. Juarez was initially granted a temporary restraining order against Young last spring. Young followed nearly a month later with a similar request against Juarez. Both were ultimately dismissed to allow Juarez to pursue a civil suit against Young of which has never been filed.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Hancock, Quirk, Stark Among Those Receiving Democratic Pre-Endorsements

Sen. Loni Hancock
OAKLAND | Jan. 21, 2012 | With the state's new open primary season likely to pit Democrats against Democrat, the dog and pony show that is county endorsement selection process now looks a lot like an episode of "Family Feud."

One big question in this brave new world of local party politics was partially answered Saturday afternoon with the party faithful easily endorsing state Sen. Loni Hancock over Assemblyman Sandre Swanson.

The party blessing of Hancock is a tough blow to Swanson's nascent bid for the Berkeley-centric senate seat, some believe in play because of its redrawn district lines. The upcoming June primary will be the state's first-use of the open primary system allowing candidates from all parties to compete against each other.

The top two finisher advance to a November runoff, but with the ubiquity of the Democratic Party in the Bay Area, it is likely two candidates from the same party will battle in the fall.

To receive the moniker of the party's endorsement, candidates need 70 percent of ballots cast by local party officials, central committee members and representatives of chartered clubs and organizations. Endorsements offered Saturday need to be formally recognized at the Democratic Party convention Feb. 11 in San Diego.

Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk received a big boost for his campaign in the 20th Assembly district including his city, Union City and parts of Fremont. Quirk received a near unanimous stake of the vote, with challenger Jennifer Ong receiving a single seat. The endorsement may signal Quirk's biggest challenge in the primary may come from outside his party from Union City Mayor Mark Green, who is now an independent.

In the East Bay's other assembly race, Democrats could not come to a consensus on the Oakland-based 18th district. No endorsement was given, although Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta's 18 votes barely beat out AC Transit Boardmember Joel Young's 16. Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen and Kathy Neal each received 9 votes.

The outcome of the votes does little to separate four candidates all drawing their strength from traditional East Bay constituents and labor groups. Young's attempt Saturday to snag the title of top voter despite allegations last year he hit his then girlfriend in the face may show he is still a contender in a race likely to be very competitive all the way to November.

Despite what one voter called an impressive speech before county party leaders by Eric Swalwell bidding for Rep. Pete Stark's seat in Congress, the party easily gave the endorsement to Stark despite the fact the 39-year veteran of Congress neglected to grace their presence Saturday afternoon. Stark held town hall meeting earlier in Fremont and San Lorenzo ending at 12:30 p.m., but did not make an appearance at the endorsement meeting that started at 1 p.m. Swalwell received just five votes.

Stark Looks Listless At Town Hall; Ditches Party's Endorsement Caucus

SAN LORENZO | Jan. 21, 2012 | A sedan drove up to the front of San Lorenzo's tiny library Saturday morning containing one of the most senior members of Congress. Rep. Pete Stark opened the passenger door, slung his right foot out, propped himself on his walking cane and ambled by his lonesome to an awaiting group of constituents at his mostly monthly town hall meeting.

"Good morning, congressman," I said to the 80-year-old Stark as we walked. "Who says Pete Stark is part of the one percent?" I joked. "One percenters don't enter through the front door like the rest of us."

"Yeah," he simply said with a grin and like octogenarians typically do, made a beeline to the restroom.

After reigning over the Democratic Party in the East Bay for nearly 40 years, Congress' most liberal lion is now the hunted. With a scrappy, young challenger in Dublin as the only Democrat with the guts to show his/her cards and, at least, two others unsure of how to delicately maneuver around obvious desires for Stark's seat while paying homage to one of the region's truly immense political figures of the last 50 years.

During is 90-minute town hall Saturday, Stark sounded listless. His reknown sense of timing a tad off. There was very little of the rascally edge most expect from a Stark town hall. Some of his greatest hits in the past had been off riffs skewering Republicans, Tea Party adherents, military spending or quick comebacks to confrontational opponents of his political ideology.

Instead, he passed on the sort of saber rattling we come to expect from Stark. What resulted was an odd, almost defeatist ambivalence to most every subject. For a representative armed with a carbon tax bill, he didn't sound very confident over its efficacy or whether it had any chance of becoming law. A constituent asked if Republicans would pass such a bill. Stark's answer was effectively, no.

In fact, subjects like those dastardly Republicans almost always become biting soundbites. Not last Saturday when his comeback to slow job growth at the hands of conservatives was barely tame.

"They tell me we had great job growth," he said. "I don't see it." He went on to blame Toyota for ditching Nummi as part of a plan to brake unions in America. "It's part of the Republican strategy to have unions fail," Stark added. The Stark of just six months ago use the same story line to rail against Republican obstructionists at another town hall in Fremont. This time around it was just, blah.

At other times, his response to numerous questions about Citizens United and the SOPA/PIPA Act, amounted to honest, yet debilitating admissions that things in Washington will never change. It's the type of answer that while sobering, also comes from infinite experiences of disillusionment in the Beltway. While brutal honesty has long been a hallmark of Stark's years in Congress, the tone, during a more depressing moment in our history, sounds more defeatist than honorable.

Last weekend's performance is bit of what his June primary challenger, Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell, is telling groups about their potential new Rep. Stark. He's old and past his prime. In the new eastern sections of the 15th congressional district, Swalwell is trying to paint the race as youth and vigor versus decay and entitlement.

While a growing number of Democrats in the East Bay are wondering whether Stark has the energy and desire to put more effort into his re-election, they may not be sold Swalwell's early bid for Stark's seat in 2012. Some charge him with attempting to jump out of the party's stated pecking order.

Those same people see Swalwell's effort as a definite opening act for 2014 where the choice will likely be (Stark runs in 2014) between a candidate experienced enough to know the impossible is sometimes impossible in Washington and vastly younger candidates who believe blindly, sometimes naively, in the glorious possibilities of everything.

Swalwell took his argument for replacing Stark to the Alameda County Democratic Party poobahs Saturday afternoon at an pre-endorsement speech in Oakland. One attendee said they were impressed by Swalwell's remarks charging Stark no longer serves the region as he once did, does not live in the district and most tellingly, did not even bother to personally bid for their recommendation.

Stark's town hall in nearby San Lorenzo ended at 12:30 p.m. He was seen leaving at 12:45 p.m.--15 minutes before party leaders commenced their meeting in Oakland. Nevertheless, Stark's endorsement was overwhelmingly approved with Swalwell receiving just five votes.

Whether Stark has firmly entered the sunset of his long career in Washington is ripe for conversation, but he also may have ominously pointed out the mood of the country near the end of today's event in San Lorenzo.

"We have a lot of unhappy people," Stark said about the public dislike of Congress without referencing his own re-election chances. "They want to throw the bums out. We'll see."

Friday, January 20, 2012

A One-In-Fourteen Chance To Be Mayor Of Fremont

FREMONTJan. 20, 2012 | The remaining members of the Fremont City Council now possess a list of fourteen prospective candidates seeking to fill the remaining 10 months on recently deceased Mayor Bob Wasserman's term in office.

The list of candidates to be interviewed by the council Jan. 23 include a former mayor, city manager and four former and current members of the city's planning commission. Here's the skinny:

DAVID BONACCORSI | Attorney and current planning commissioner since 2007. Says: "I would bring a collegial, collaborative style of leadership--a style to which I naturally aspire to in any event...My goal would be to facilitate rather than to direct Council discussion and deliberation." Past Nov 2012? Pledges not to run.

DON DRIGGS | Former Fremont city manager. Says: "It would not be my intent to lead a crusade, but I would provide strong executive leadership when the situation demands." Past Nov. 2012? "The 'Ed Lee' maneuver would be totally avoided."

P. MICHAEL DUBINSKY | Independent pharmaceutical consultant Says: "All citizen have a responsibility to pick up the civic 'baton' from time to time and many so. I have found that the civic undertakings I have become involved in draw on: skills learned and used while working in the public and private sectors..." Past Nov. 2012? References being a "temporary mayor."

DEAN HANSON | Business consultant, long-time Fremont resident. Says: "I doubt if any of you know me. I am truly outside of the political process and have absolutely no interest in running for political office in the City of Fremont."

BETH HOFFMAN | Businesswoman Says: Provided a list of 10 points important to Fremont's future, including "reverse revenue leakage of Fremont consumers" and completion of Whole Foods and expansion of Tesla at the former Nummi plant. Past Nov. 2012? Makes no reference to future plans.

CHARLES LIN | Retired engineer Says: "To increase revenue, the best ways is probably to attract good companies to Fremont with high paying job and the accompanied local consumption taxation. It requires a city leader with a global understanding of the industry, adequate incentives for the target company and the cooperation of the city to help solve the logistic problems." Past Nov. 2012? Calls job "just a 10 month assignment."

DIRK LORENZ | Current planning commissioner, businessman. Says: "...I do know the issues as well as the community. I have an existing relationship with staff. My past experiences in leadership roles proves that I can facilitate council meetings and work with my fellow council members." Past Nov. 2012: Calls role as mayor will be as a "placeholder."

DANIEL LYDON | Former Fremont fire chief and planning commissioner. Says: [Handwritten] "With my background I believe I can contribute in a manner that would be beneficial to the City of Fremont, its business community and most importantly its residents." Past Nov. 2012? No mention.

TERRY MAHURON | CEO, Serra Corporation. Says: "My financial and business experience would ensure that these nine months will help establish a productive momentum for our next mayor." Past Nov. 2012: Will not seek further terms as mayor or councilmember.

LALIT MATHUR | Civil engineer, former council candidate. Says: "I want to lay some foundations for the future mayors and council members to move on, to build on, to make this city a vibrant place for people of all ages and class." Past Nov. 2012? No clear reference of future intent.

GUS MORRISON | Former Fremont mayor, council member. Says: "In all humility, there is no one else with the proven experience and demonstrated service, with the unique sill set the job requires, r with the positive track record of helping Fremont grow and prosper." Past Nov. 2012? Does not intend to be a candidate for "anything in November."

AISHA WAHAB | Alameda County commissioner. Says: "As a recent graduate and a strong advocate for community responsibility I believe that I can the voice that has been ignored." Past Nov. 2012? No clear intention.

PAULINE WEAVER | Former Fremont planning commissioner. Says: "I am no stranger to presiding over meetings and I have a reputation for fairness and impartiality in my treatment of other participants and in the moving of an agenda." Past Nov. 2012? Calls herself a "place-holder."

DAN WILIKOWSKY | Former Union Sanitary District director. Says: "I feel my 22 years of elected experience as a Fremont director for the Union Sanitary District provides an understanding of the issues facing the community and my willingness to serve." Past Nov. 2012: No intention to run for either mayor or council.

Republican Assembly Candidate Ends Bid For 20th District

Adnan Shahab
Jan. 20, 2012 | Adnan Shahab's second bid for the state assembly ended before it even started. The second amendment crusader and lone Republican in the race for the 20th assembly district  issued a statement Friday on his Web site announcing his intention to not pursue a run at Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's termed-out seat.

"There is still no doubt in my mind that I am the best person to represent Assembly District 20 in Sacramento," said Shahab. "But at the same time, I believe the voters in the district are not ready to comprehend the fact that I am exactly the kind of person who they should be electing into office. For now, the majority of the voters in the area seem to be content electing unremarkable people into office."

Shahab also said lukewarm media attention and fundraising for his campaign also entered into to his decision to drop out. He also had pointed words for the amount of voter apathy he has experienced recently among the constituents of the 18th and 20th districts. Most of whom, he says, do not know the name of their representative or have very little knowledge of their views or accomplishments.

"I condemn the ignorance and apathy on the part of these people, as well as their acceptance of mediocrity in their elected officials. Clearly, I am not the right person to represent these people at this time," Shahab said.

He also alluded to the great difficulty among Bay Area Republicans of any conservative stripe to compete in one of the bluest areas in the country. In many cases, the Republican Party hardly offers any support to local candidates. Most times, the most angriest, least qualified Republican is often the only candidate for consideration.

"The stark reality in such a voting area as Assembly District 20 is that the Democrat candidate, no matter how bad of a person he or she may be, will always win over a Republican candidate. The deck is stacked so far in the favor of the Democrats that a Republican has no chance." 

An East Bay political consultant said Shahab's exit from the race is likely a positive for whichever of the remaining four candidates emerges as front runners, but doubts any voters interested in voting for Shahab will gravitate to any of the other remaining more liberal candidates. "Those people probably won't even vote," they said.

Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk, Union City Mayor Mark Green, New Haven school board member Sarabjit Cheema and Jennifer Ong are the remaining candidates for the seat representing Hayward, Union City and a chunk of Fremont.

In recent weeks, Shahab's Facebook page, which he used as both a personal and political forum had become filled comments exuding a bizarre combination of vanity and chauvinism. During one string of status updates he railed against the choices in girlfriends of rich and successful people like Michael Jordan and Mark Zuckerberg, who he believes had earned the right to procure only the most beautiful of woman.

He also routinely uploaded photos of scantily-clad women in bikinis in addition to periodic lamentations on his love life. His inability to separate his personal life from his political life, at times, undermined a thoughtfully-crafted conservative political mind in the making.

Shahab's experience in the game of politics was likely clouded by his 2010 defeat to Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski. Shahab espoused a knowledgeable grasp of the conservative ideology of small government and personal rights. His advocacy of open carry gun laws, though, placed him even further away from liberal moderates in the Fremont area, but his confrontational style also seemed to unnerve Wieckowski during the campaign two years ago.

In the lone debate with Wieckowski in 2010, Shahab appeared to be the better candidate, or, at least, finer debater. He often had the more experienced former Fremont councilman on the run throughout the 30-minute forum. Unfortunately, the type of voter disinterest Shahab mentioned for droppin out the race this year was on display that night with only a few dozen spectators in attendance.

"Without an honest effort on the part of the electorate to get to know the candidates, they simply wind up voting for the person with all of the fancy glossy ads touting that they are a Democrat and that they will give you things for voting for them," he said. "It really is disgusting."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

New City Manager: 'San Leandro Is At A Tipping Point'

SAN LEANDRO | Jan. 18, 2012 | Resplendent in a three-piece suit, Chris Zapata was approved as the new city manager of San Leandro. Minutes later, though, he absorbed the first volley in what may be the beginning of a contentious period of labor negotiations with the city's employee groups and public safety unions.

Before a brief exchange between Zapata and Councilman Jim Prola, the City Council unanimously approved a three-year, $223,000 salary for the former city manager of National City, Calif. Notably, the package includes a $16,500 stipend for moving costs and calls for Zapata to pay a 10 percent share of his pension. The latter is cause for concern for Prola, the council's most fervent backer of unions and his own city's public employees.

"I want to express some concerns about the contract," said Prola Tuesday night while addressing Zapata. "I'm extremely concerned about the example we are setting and fairness we are showing our current employees."

While we are giving you a nice raise, we have asked our lower waged earners and most of our workers to sacrifice in the last few contracts."

San Leandro's two public employee unions have not received a pay raise for nearly five years while absorbing increasing cuts to their medical benefits, in addition to the city instituting eight non-paid furlough days last year.

"I'm sure, barring an economic miracle, we'll be asking them for further sacrifices later this year when we negotiate their contracts," added Prola, who also urged the council and mayor to implement cuts to their own pay commensurate with any decrease in wages city employees may eventually face later this fall.

"I understand the sacrifices that have been made and I also understand the economic circumstances we find ourselves in and not just San Leandro, but all parts of the world," Zapata said. He, himself, is no stranger to working without wage increases. As city manager of National City in San Diego County, he maintained a salary of $165,000 without a raise since 2004.

Zapata is sured to earn his substantial uptick in earnings in San Leandro where the once-thriving factory town has struggled to reform itself to the realities of the new economy.

"I believe San Leandro is at a tipping point," said Zapata. "I do believe the things you have set in motion--things you have set in motion by past administrations and councils are wonderful, but you can get more done."

Many locals are hopeful Zapata's significant background in moving ambitious business ventures forward will translate in San Leandro. Some have recently pointed to the most obvious opportunity for Zapata to flourish is the city's perennial diamond-in-the-rough--its Marina--as a development in need of refocus.

Some recent suggestions for the area include, somewhat quirky ideas like closing the harbor and recasting it as a water park, adding a museum and building a library. Other more conservative plans include commercial development and office complexes.

Zapata's credentials on development are substantial. As a deputy city manager in Glendale, Ariz., he was part of the team that brought the up-and-coming suburb to national attention with construction of the state-of-the-art University of Phoenix Stadium. A few years later it led the NFL to award the city the 2008 Super Bowl.

Wieckowski on Brown's State Of The State: 'He Was Sober'

Jan. 18, 2012 | Republicans in Sacramento might disagree with Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, despite his obvious malaprop speaking to an assembly video crew.

"I think the governor was optimistic, but he was sober," said Wieckowski after Gov. Jerry Brown's State of the State address Wednesday morning.

Wieckowski goes on to refer to the assembly and its attention to another round of excruciating cuts in the coming year as the "house of pain."

Another South Bay politician is looking to replace Wieckowski as assembly Breathalyzer this fall, according to the Milpitas Patch. Democrat Pete McHugh, the current vice mayor of Milpitas and former Santa Clara County supervisor is launching a bid this June.

(This article is featured in today's Fifty+One blog.)
Supplement stories in the EastBayCitizen by reading my new heavily updated blog "Fifty+One" (fiftyplusone.tumblr.com) covering the East Bay political scene featuring behind-the-scenes observations and pertinent rants and ravings. "Fifty plus one," by the way, is the winning electoral equation for all politicians.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

St. Rose Asks Eden Township To Lower Interest Rate On $3 Million Loan

Jan. 17, 2012 | St. Rose Hospital's financial woes are continuing. The crippled Hayward hospital is asking this week for more favorable terms on its recent $3 million loan from the Eden Township Healthcare District. Without it, it may not be able to continue making payments, according to a District report.

The loan was given last August to alleve cash flow problems it encountered last summer and exacerbated by a new computer system glitch. Its interest rate was initially set at 8.25 percent, according to the District, but St. Rose is asking to cut it in half.

In a staff report posted this week, St. Rose CEO Michael Mahoney wants to reduce the interest rate to 3.25 percent to better help the struggling facility get through the winter months. Under the current agreement, St. Rose pays a weekly payment of $200,000 through February and $167,000 through the end of March.

The request adds additional question about the sustainability of the facility and whether the District's recent interest in acquiring it makes economic sense. The District lost $2.3 million last year, according to its financial statements.

In many ways, the proposed merger of the District and St. Rose appears to be the impetus for reducing the terms of the loan. District CEO Dev Mahadevan, in a letter to board members recommending the adjustment, said the change would allow St. Rose "to reduce its expenses and in light of the proposed acquisition that is currently being investigated and the potential future relationship."

In early December, it was revealed that St. Rose was in default for $2.3 million in unpaid loan payments. The board approved a payment schedule proposed by Mahoney affording the hospital time to fix its persistent cash flow problems.

Despite the spate of financial problems at St. Rose, Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer and other county health officials have urged the District to move quickly to merge with the hospital.

Part of the long-range plan for both St. Rose and neighboring San Leandro Hospital is to utilize a larger economy of scale for procuring a larger portion of federal and state funds to offset continuing losses and services at each facility.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Hayward's Call to Arms Fails To Be Heard By Apathetic Public

Jan. 16, 2012 | On most nights, plenty of seat are available for those curious enough to witness the gears of government at Hayward's plush City Council chambers. Aside from a few instances of pomp and circumstance over the last few years, rarely have the residents of Hayward been rallied to speak up.

Apathy is rampant at the worse possible time as the city searches for ways to duck rising gentrification, a palpable sense of unsafe streets and the ignominy of having one of the worst performing school districts in the entire state.

It's not like those issuing persistent gripes are cornering the market on making their view known, it that nobody seems to be registering any comments at all, according to some council members. The dearth of community activism is so low it led two officials to bluntly call out residents willing to speak up during this Tuesday's meeting on sorting out the council's priorities for this year.

"Everybody has an opinion about the city--good, bad and, or, otherwise," said Councilman Mark Salinas last week, "and my response is what City Council meeting have you come to speak up? Tell us what we're doing right, what we're doing wrong, what needs to be improved."

"This is the time for everybody to step up and come to City Council meetings and tell us what you think the priorities are," added Salinas, who has been successful in engaging younger Hayward residents through consistent updates on Facebook and Twitter.

Councilman Francisco Zermeno is another who has taken to Facebook for raising community issues, while urging followers to shop locally. Most updates are punctuated by his familiar catchphrase, "Hayward on!" In the past, others like former councilman Kevin Dowling and current member Bill Quirk have pointed the finger at Hayward's notably dry news desert for the lack of public enthusiasm. More often than not, the Hayward Daily Review fails to send a reporter to cover government meetings.

The sharp tenor of the challenge to the community had a root in the state's controversial dissolution of redevelopment agencies. No city raised the bar of rhetoric against the governor's plan higher than leaders in Hayward.  Often loaded words like "blackmail" were thrown around in describing Sacramento's meddling in local affairs.

Even though the loss of redevelopment could potential blow a hole in the city's push in remaking its downtown and South Hayward neighborhoods, elected officials have struggled to raise the ire of the locals.

“This is torturous," said Mayor Michael Sweeney, who urged residents watching on television to call their lawmakers to the carpet during a city council meeting last year. "And those of you watching this torture at home, thank Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and their colleagues in the state Legislature for imposing this on us all.”

The call to arms seemed to fall on deaf ears. Councilwoman Barbara Halliday lamented over the absence of single public speaker during the agenda item last week considering the city become the successor to its shuttered redevelopment agency.

"I don't think the residents of Hayward quite realize what has happened here," said a grim-faced Halliday."I hope the citizens wake up, pay attention and contact their state legislators about this impending calamity that is about to hit cities."

So far, the phones in the capitol are not lighting up with calls from the 510 area code.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Legislative Weekly File: Jan. 17-20

Jan. 15, 2012 | What is your representative in Sacramento doing this week? Here's the weekly comings-and-goings for the East Bay's contingent of lawmakers in Sacramento featuring committee schedules and links to current bills from Sens. Ellen Corbett and Loni Hancock; Assemblymembers Mary Hayashi, Sandre Swanson, Bob Wieckowski and Nancy Skinner.

TUESDAY, Jan. 17, 2012
Judiciary Committee

CORBETT SB 880 Common interest developments: electric vehicle charging stations; pass H&CD Jan. 11 (6-0).

Appropriations Committee

SKINNER AB 318 Franchise Tax Board: administration: legal holiday.
WIECKOWSKI AB 819 Bikeways; pass TRANS Jan. 10 (10-3).
SKINNER AB 904 Energy efficiency
SKINNER AB 1054 Public lands: oil and gas leases; pass NAT RES Jan. 9 (6-3)
WIECKOWSKI AB 1321 Money judgments: earnings withholdings; pass JUD Jan. 10 (7-3).
SKINNER AB 1359 Solid waste: beverage containers: fiberglass; pass NAT RES Jan. 9 (9-0)

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 18, 2012
State of the State Address, 10 a.m., Assembly Chamber

FRIDAY, Jan. 20, 2012
Last day for committees to hear and report to Floor bills introduced in 2011.

TUESDAY, Jan. 17, 2012
Appropriations Committee

HANCOCK SB 210 Prisoners, community treatment program; pass APPR Jan. 10 (6-0).
CORBETT SB 708 Residential mortgage loans: foreclosure procedures; pass APPR Jan. 11 (5-0).

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 18, 2012
State of the State Address, 10 a.m., Assembly Chamber

FRIDAY, Jan. 20, 2012
Last day for committees to hear and report to Floor bills introduced in 2011.

Second Reading File

CORBETT SB 825 An act relating to state parks and recreation; pass APPR Jan 10. (6-0).

Third Reading File
CORBETT SB 12 An act relating to bulk sales; pass JUD Jan. 10 (5-0)
HANCOCK SB 874 An act relating to taxation; pass GOV. & F Jan. 11 (8-0)
CORBETT SB 804 An act relating to health care districts; pass Gov.& F Jan . 11 (6-3), Jan. 12 Health (5-1)

Friday, January 13, 2012

Political Maneuvering in Fremont Portends For Ruthless Campaign For Mayor

Jan. 13, 2012 | Just minutes after a musician performed the last bars of "Knockin' On Heaven's Door" last Tuesday, a touching two-hour tribute for the recently deceased Fremont mayor Bob Wasserman devolved into the makings of what may be an epic battle to become his replacement.

Three of the four remaining councilmembers have unofficial designs on running this fall, while a fourth is up for re-election to the council.

"I worry about the politics getting bad over the next 10 months," said Councilman Bill Harrison, who may have been the closest to the departed Wasserman and is a likely mayoral candidate. Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan and Dominic Dutra are the other potential candidates who have not been shy in articulating their own interest in the mayor's office.

All three eventually took themselves out of the running during Tuesday's meeting sorting out the mayoral situation in the interim. One prominent factor included what the possibility of naming a current council member would do to the remaining make up of the body. "Business needs to go on with five minds," added Harrison.

Harvey Levine, the city attorney of Fremont, said appointing a sitting member would leave the council with just four officials since an additional appointee could not named under state law. Dutra was appointed last year to replace Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski. Appointing a mayor followed by a replacement on the council would give Fremont a majority of unelected appointees on its council.

The inadequate size of Fremont's city council has put city leaders in a bind and potentially formulates a combustible election season this year.

In the past, there has been some discussion of whether Fremont's five-member council is far too small for a city of its size and potential growth. Fremont's population is just over 214,000. For perspective, San Leandro, which has 85,000 people incorporates a seven-person council, while the city of Alameda at nearly 60,000 employs a five-person council.

The dilemma led the council to approve opening the position up to all-comers. An application for perspective candidates is found on the city's Web site and ends Jan. 17. Potential interviews could start Jan. 30. A legal deadline for naming a new mayor is Feb. 27, said Levine.

A short list possible candidates include some of the same applicants for Wieckowski's seat last year, which was eventually filled by Dutra. "It's not like you can take a break and come on in," said Dutra, who added the city needs to convey a sense to the public that someone is in charge.

The search will likely lead to scrum among Natarajan, Dutra and Harrison to find the perfect candidate unlikely to add an additional roadblock to their own individual paths to the mayor's office.

"We need to take politics out of it," said Harrison. "We need someone who would be a placeholder that would not run and has experience."

Natarajan disagreed with Harrison's notion to eliminate politics from the discussion and urged them to be wary of a situation similar to San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee's flip-flop that led to a victory last November.

"We've seen time and again as recently as [last] year in San Francisco that people with no intention of running turn around and run," said Natarajan. "The whole notion that we take politics out of it and appoint someone who commits not to run is politically naive."

To further illustrate the great potential for palace intrigue in Fremont this year, Dutra nominated Councilwoman Suzanne Lee Chan for mayor despite comments earlier in the meeting announcing she had no intention of running for mayor. When asked if she would accept the request she switched course and allowed the council to vote on her appointment.

The nomination lost, 2-1, but not before cameras in chambers captured a visibly bewildered Natarajan in disbelief as Chan allowed the remaining council members to deliberate without her in attendance and setting the stage for a deliciously ruthless campaign season in the south county.

Will 2012 be the year of the South Asian in the East Bay?

Jan. 13, 2012 | Two thousand twelve is barely two weeks old and I’m embarrassed to say my predictions for the top 10 story lines of the year may have excluded one major development.
Will this be the year where Indian American candidates in the East Bay grab political power in one dramatic and possibly unprecedented manner?
Check out the short list:
  • Ro Khanna, a former Obama commerce department official, returns to Fremont and quickly amasses $1 million in no time for a run at some point for Rep. Pete Stark’s seat.
  • Underage Ricky Gill is also nearing $1 million with help from the RNC to unseat an alway vulnerable Rep. Jerry McNerney in San Joaquin County.
  • Fremont Vice Mayor Anu Natarajan is popular among East Bay pols and is possible a frontrunner to replace the recently passed Bob Wasserman as mayor this year.

The free flowing spigot of campaign fundraising dollars coming from Indian American interests in Silicon Valley even has an unknown like Sarabjit Cheema thinking she can compete in an assembly race in the 20th District.

Luring previously unrepresented ethnic groups into the local political process is a very good thing, but the immense amount of fundraising dollars from outside, sometimes very outside interest, is something to keep an eye on.

(This article is featured in today's Fifty+One blog.)
Supplement stories in the EastBayCitizen by reading my new heavily updated blog "Fifty+One" (fiftyplusone.tumblr.com) covering the East Bay political scene featuring behind-the-scenes observations and pertinent rants and ravings. "Fifty plus one," by the way is the winning electoral equation for all politicians.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Corbett's Health Care District Bill Heads To Health Committee

Sen. Ellen Corbett
Jan. 12, 2012 | A potential legislative road block to Sutter Health's bid to take control over San Leandro Hospital passed a state Senate committee and raising the possibility of district voters deciding the fate of the facility.

"I'm here to talking about one of my most favorite subjects--keeping hospitals open," Sen. Ellen Corbett told members of the Senate Governance and Finance Committee in Sacramento Wednesday morning.

Corbett's bill calls for an independent auditor to appraise the fair market value of a health care district asset when the total accounts for over 50 percent of the transfer to a non-profit entity. The appraisal must be performed within 180 days of the transfer and offered for public discussion.

In such an occurrence state law says the matter must be decided by the voters of the health care district, Corbett said.

Calling it a "straight forward" bill, Corbett said the legislation is needed to allow taxpayers a better understanding of the district's assets. "The information is crucial because health care district assets are owned by the residents of the district," she said.

SB 804 passed, 6-2, and heads to the Senate Health Committee for further deliberation.

The bill is a reaction to the fight among residents of the Eden Township Healthcare District to save San Leandro Hospital, which Sutter Health moved to purchase in 2010. The non-profit hopes to convert the hospital into an acute rehabilitation facility leased to the Alameda County Medical Center.

Sutter's purchase price for San Leandro Hospital, through credit for maintenance and capital improvements to the facility, would amount to a transfer of ownership without any money changing hands, according to Alex Briscoe, the director of Alameda County Health Services. Some believe the fair market value of the hospital runs closer to $30-35 million.

Corbett's bill is supported by the California Nurses Association and received no official opposition during Wednesday's hearing.

"I see this being a bill about transparency in government," added Sen. Loni Hancock and committee member, who asked to be recorded as the co-author of the bill. "I think it is a very good bill and a needed bill." Pending re-election to the state senate, Hancock stands to absorb the San Leandro constituency next year through redistricting.

Reed Removes Planning Commissioner Likely To Be Her Council Opponent

Jan. 12, 2012 | San Leandro Planning Commissioner Chris Crow awoke Wednesday morning to the nasty reality of political skulduggery when he learned the councilmember who appointed him to the seat hopes to inexplicably remove him without notice.

The release of next Tuesday's City Council agenda contains a motion calling for Crow's removal. First-term Councilwoman Ursula Reed named Crow to the commission in 2010. A separate motion Tuesday recommends appointing Ed Hernandez to replace Crow. Commissioners serve at the pleasure of the council.

Crow, who has been contemplating a run for Reed's District 2 since the fall, says he was never notified of the change before learning about it in the council agenda. He has also entertained the possibility of running for Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak's termed-out District 4 seat located in Washington Manor.

The move by Reed appears politically motivated. Last year, observers in San Leandro say Reed was repeatedly on the receiving end of political pressure applied by Mayor Stephen Cassidy and the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce--a byproduct of the mayor's inability to gain a consistent majority of votes on council items, they say.

Crow says he received an email Wednesday from Reed alluding to her intention to relieve him of his duties. She also claims her intention to replace him was communicated in a conversation last September after he mentioned the possibility of running against her next fall, said Crow.

Although some have questioned Reed's performance in the past, primarily a perception that she is often absent from community functions, Crow's removal may have more to do with his vocal support for embattled Bal Theatre owner Dan Dillman and his fight against the city community development department over liquor and event licenses. It's a reality Crow says may have rankled some feathers at City Hall.

Recently, Crow has, at times, appeared to represent Dillman in community meetings and public hearings while portraying a sharp contrast to the cities position on the multi-purpose theater located in Reed's district along East 14th Street.

Aside from Crow there are no expected challengers for District 2, as of yet, and no known candidates for District 4.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

East Bay Cities Begin Task Of Taking Over Redevelopment Agencies

HAYWARD | Jan. 11, 2012 | While councilmembers in San Leandro and Hayward moved swiftly, but quite reluctantly to take responsibility for the winding down of their respective redevelopment agencies this week, officials in Oakland took extra time to approve the governor's controversial no-win plan for cities.
Tax municipalities have until this Friday to opt-out from becoming successor agencies to their soon-to-be dissolved redevelopment agencies. The new state law affirmed last month by the state Supreme Court ends the public works and development body as we know it. It also dovetails with Gov. Jerry Brown's attempt to realign tax revenue through Sacramento.

While cities have vehemently balked at the end of redevelopment, the law is seen a boon for local school districts who stand to receive higher portions of tax increment dollars in coming years.

"I don't think the residents of Hayward quite realize what has happened here," said Hayward Coucilwoman Barbara Halliday. "The extra bureaucracy that has been created by the law that was passed by the Legislature, that alone, is going to have mounting costs in added bureaucracy and will accomplish nothing."

Halliday like most of the Hayward City Council, including staff, has consistently been the loudest and most angry group on the issue in the entire East Bay. Mayor Michael Sweeney and City Manager Fran David have gone to great lengths to paint the redevelopment issue as a brazen attempt by Sacramento, including by their own lawmakers, to stifle their ability to govern at the local level and borne of blackmail and divisiveness.

"It appears to be a deliberate action to pit us against our school district and that's really sad," Councilman Olden Henson added Tuesday night.

In San Leandro Monday night, that city's City Council found less contempt for the state, but concern nonetheless over its role going forward. Although, San Leandro transferred control of $9 million worth of assets from their redevelopment agency last year, there is still doubt over whether the transfer will stand the legal test of a yet-unnamed oversight committee. Other cities including Hayward and Fremont used a similar move last year in an attempt to secure some right to on-going projects.

San Leandro Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak asked city staff what could occur if those transfers are voided. According to a staff member, the assets could be ordered by an auditor to be returned to the wind down of the redevelopment agency and absorbed by the state. They could also be transferred to a third-party, said staff, but the legality of such a move is not known. "It's a gray area," said Luke Sims, the city's community development director.

"I think it is conceptually possible that could be a way of transferring property to our downtown shopping center developer," said Sims. "We are still evaluating that, to be honest with you. it's a strategy we are exploring."

Twenty-one properties in the downtown area were transferred to the city last year, said Jeff Kay, an assistant under Sims. For some cities, the gambit of transferring assets in advanced of the court decision last month comes with some interesting disadvantages. "What some agencies did is that they transferred land, but also projects in partial construction because they had a default on the developer," said Sims. "Those agency are in an interesting predicament. We are not anywhere close to that type of situation."

The common refrain at all local cities is the approval of successorships is just the first step of many in the next six months or longer. What is known is sparse, though. According to numerous city attorneys, there is a belief municipalities will not be liable for the work approved in the past by their redevelopment agencies, instead, only on the future allowances of tax increment allotted for the wind down process. For instance, said San Leandro City Attorney Jayne Williams, if a developer chooses to sue the city as successor agency for a project approved, say, last year, the smaller amount contained in the tax increment would likely be the only liability.

Tax increment dollars will also slowly flow to successor agencies to pay administrative costs. Depending on the size of the agency, a minimum of $250,000 could be allotted to cities. San Leandro, for instance, expects around $400,000 for the first year. A larger city like Oakland could expect far more in addition to money already coming to them to close out the agency's operations.

Officials in Oakland Tuesday night, during a special meeting, appeared far more confused on many of the issues that other East Bay council readily grasped. Although, the council ultimately approved successorship of their redevelopment and housing agencies after an additional 90 minute closed session, it was not without significant confusion beforehand bordering on mistrust of city administration along with a dearth of details at the councilmember's disposal.

“We could end up voluntarily spending general fund money for the purposes of winding down redevelopment when we didn’t have to," said Oakland Councilwoman Libby Schaaf. “We need to be mindful that we may be making that decision tonight.”

Some members pushed for the item to be pushed back to Thursday citing a lack of information. Councilwoman Desley Brooks went so far as pledge opposition to successorship for both arms of redevelopment despite acknowledging she had been of the country recently and out of the loop since the Dec. 29 Supreme Court decision.

Most experts and opponents of the redevelopment dissolution plan admit cities are caught snugly between a rock and a hard place when it comes to becoming successor for its wind down, precisely, the risk of losing the small portion of local control still allowed to them under the new law.

Others such as Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan pointed out the inherent pitfalls of giving up total control of the agency at the expense of another willing taxing authority taking over. “As painful and horrible as this situation already is," said Kaplan, "the idea of giving these powers to a group that knows nothing about redevelopment would be a complete disaster.”

Not A Bargain, But A Market-Rate New City Manager

Fifty+One BLOG
Jan. 11, 2012 | Some in San Leandro will issue protest over Chris Zapata’s pending contract to become their next city manager. A staff report released today reveals the former National City city manager will receive a three-year, $223,000 contract. Also included is a lump sum payment of $16,500 for relocating to the East Bay city, while contributed 10 percent of his salary to CalPERS.

People may scoff at spending such an amount to a public employee in a time of fiscal uncertainty. Did he expect to work in San Leandro and not live in the Bay Area? This may be a excellent point, but city leaders virtually gave Zapata or any other candidate a leg up when they publicly stated having its next leader live within city limits, especially one who previously resided in San Diego County. Curiously, former city manager Stephen Hollister only lives in nearby Castro Valley.

The issue San Leandrans should have no issue with is Zapata’s yearly salary. The San Leandro Times did the city a major disservice two years ago when it published the city’s top employee salaries. Former City Manager Stephen Hollister topped the list at $202,000. Residents cried foul over such an expenditure, but The Times is beffudingly inept and gave no context.

Hollister’s salary as compared to other neighboring cities was an amazing bargain. Zapata, at $223,000 with no exceptions for a pay raise within the contract, is still a good deal for the city and for him. Zapata made $165,000 in National City without a pay increase since taking over the job in 2004.

(This article is featured in today's Fifty+One blog.)
Supplement stories in the EastBayCitizen by reading my new heavily updated blog "Fifty+One" (fiftyplusone.tumblr.com) covering the East Bay political scene featuring behind-the-scenes observations and pertinent rants and ravings. "Fifty plus one," by the way is the winning electoral equation for all politicians.