Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Alameda County Prescription Drug Disposal Ordinance Clears First Reading

Feb. 29, 2012 | A proposed Alameda County ordinance forcing drug companies to offer disposal of unwanted prescription medication passed its initial hurdle Tuesday before the county board of supervisors.

The ordinance backed by Board of Supervisors President Nate Miley would make the county the first in the nation to offer safe disposal of prescription drugs. "This already takes place. It is common practice in other countries," said Miley, "but the pharmaceutical companies are not adhering to such a practice here in the United States, so here in Alameda County, we want to pass an ordinance that sets national precedent."

The ordinance would call for pharmaceutical companies doing business in Alameda County to establish and implement a drug disposal program, including outreach to the community. It has enforces a $1,000-per-day penalty on drug companies who fail to comply. A second reading of the proposed ordinance is scheduled for March 13 before becoming law.

As the use of legal prescription medication is skyrocketing, there continues to be vast confusion over how to properly dispose of unused drugs or simply those past their expiration date. For decades, consumers were told to flush unwanted medication down the toilet. However, numerous studies have found the practice leads to an increasing amount of drugs seeping into our water supply.

The existence of medication in your bathrooms, some classified as controlled-substances, area a potentially lethal option for young people, according to testimony Tuesday in Oakland. "They were being hoarded in households and people didn't know what to do with them," said Miley.

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley says investigations often find teenagers become hooked on prescription drugs found in the home. "When we started investigating these cases, one the things we realized, is that a lot of our youth will take medicine out of the medicine cabinet and put them in bowls and they will have parties and just take whatever is in the bowl," O'Malley said. "They have no idea what medicine they are taking and some of it has killed our kids."

She says parents often ask what to do with the medicine in their cabinets. "They say, 'where can I dispose of it' and we have to tell them, 'we don't have a solution for you.' That is a road fraught with disaster," she said. "We say the child's drug dealer is not the person in a dark alley with drugs inside their overcoat. If you open your medicine cabinets, that's your children's drug dealers of today."

Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern says publicized one-time drop-off areas in Dublin and Ashland have recovered over 50 pounds of prescription drugs and controlled-substance with no questions asked. A permanent drop-off station in unincorporated San Leandro regularly brings in between 20-35 pounds in drugs per week, he said. Ninety-five percent of them of prescription medications, he added, which are then shipped to Utah for disposal.

Gun Shop Owners With Backing Of Former County Sheriff Come Up Short

Feb. 29, 2012 | Residents in Ashland were just 54 feet from having a gun and ammunition shop approved for their area. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors Tuesday overturned a ruling last December by a local zoning board that would have allowed Valley Guns & Ammo to move into the unincorporeated area.

The board cited county surveyors who measured the distance between the proposed gun shop was within the the 500 feet accepted boundary from a residential zoning district. Despite the measurement, the West County Board of Zoning and Adjustments approved the plan late last year. The nearby San Lorenzo Village Homeowners Association quickly appealed the decision.

Three Central Valley businessmen had planned to open the shop at 488 Lewelling Boulevard near Hesperian Boulevard. They came to the board Tuesday afternoon armed with the support of local law enforcement, including testimony from former Alameda County Sheriff Charlie Plummer.

Steve Nobriga, one of the prospective owners, told the board his business has the support of over 200 active and retire police officers. "I'm frustrated," he said. "I think it's good thing for us and the community."

William Burns, an attorney for Valley Guns & Ammo, said without the shop, "people will resort to transferring firearms at garage sells and flea markets."

Art Wydler, the president of the San Lorenzo Village Homeowners Association, said the group had no intention of blocking the gun business from the area if it met all zoning requirements, but that wasn't the case, he said. "It does not meet the 500 feet rule," Wydler said. "Our objection is the county granting a variance based on a decision we don't believe are legitimate reasons."

Wydler also charged the zoning board with focusing too narrowly on glowing testimony, by Plummer and others, for the character of the prospective owners over the county's own measurements. "Its up to the the board of supervisors to listen to your own staff or someone with outside influences," said Wydler.

Aside from bureaucratic talk of zoning and measurements, the issue also elicited pointed concern by local residents who fear more guns in their neighborhoods. "Why a gun shop? Why not something else?" asked Roy Terry, a youth advocate working in the area.

"I don't like the idea of people buying guns and driving around my community," added a San Lorenzo resident.

Lamont Thompson, another youth advocate, questioned the local roots of the prospective owners and wonders what message it conveys to young people when a gun shop and medical marijuana dispensary could be located between two high schools.

"Most of the people that came up in favor of the gun store don't even live in this community," said Thompson. "If we're complaining about our society and we have a gun store and a weed shop down the street, what does that say? Take that business somewhere else because we've got out own problems and we don't need no gun store adding to the problem."

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Young Offers Menu Of Contradictions; Takes Swipe At Swanson

OAKLAND | Feb. 28, 2012 | As the race for the 18th assembly district heads for the final stretch to the June 5 primary, Joel Young's ability to focus on both sides of any question is becoming more common.

At a forum last week sponsored by the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, Young showed an uncanny predilection for saying everything while actually saying very little. He threaded the needle on an all-cuts budgets, alienating Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, supporting high-speed rail along with the positives of charter schools.

Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen also attended the event. Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, another candidate, had a representative participate in the forum. Bonta spoke to the club earlier before leaving to a scheduled council meeting in Alameda.

Going into the 45-minute forum, Young indicated on a questionnaire he was favorable to making further cuts to the state budget. Both Guillen and Bonta checked "no" on the same questionnaire. At the Humanist Hall on 27th Street in Oakland, Young appeared to contradict that answer. A club member asked whether he would follow a past pledge by Swanson against approving an all-cuts budget even though it risks losing power within the Democratic caucus. "Sandre has been a mentor to me. I have no problems doing that," answered Young.

Whether or not Swanson accepts Young as a "protege" any longer is up for some question among Oakland insiders. Young has still been heard trumpeting the support of Swanson's for his candidacy. After initial support from the termed-out Swanson, his backing for Young significantly dropped after allegations surfaced last year concerning Young and an ex-girlfriend who charged he hit her in the face last March. At the time, Swanson was readying his own run for State Senate against Sen. Loni Hancock. He dropped out last month.

Later in the program, Young openly challenged Swanson's ability on one of his own Oakland-specific pieces of legislation. When asked how he would recoup millions for the struggling Oakland Unified School District lost to the state following a takeover a few years ago, he appeared to offer how he could do better.

"I think the bill was very convoluted because it had such an elimination of debt it went straight to the suspense file in the assembly," said Young. "I would look at what Sandre Swanson did with AB 609. I would propose it a little differently. I would probably segregate the relief of debt versus the issue of fines associated with county irregularities with state takeovers."

Young's love for Swanson immediately followed by an apparent passive aggressiveness towards the man he hopes to the replace in the assembly also filtered through to other subjects.

On the issue of high-speed rail in the state, Young took both sides. "We need high-speed rail," he said. "I certainly think it could be transformative, however, as a transit operator, the thing that really concerns me about it is the fact of where are the operation dollars going to support that? We could have a great high-speed rail that doesn't go anywhere because we can't afford to operate it."

When Guillen answered a question regarding the usefulness of charter schools in Oakland--also taking both sides of the issue--Young followed suit. "Like Abel said, there are a lot of problems with some charter schools in our community, but there are some charter schools that are doing well and we should try and replicate that in our school districts."

Even when Young attempted to make a joke about working with Republicans in Sacramento punctuated with his own loud guffaw, it appeared to fall flat. "I think I work with several Republicans on my AC Transit board quite well," he said before pausing, "that was a joke."

Nadia's Boy Toy Dangles Titillating Comment Heard 'Round The County

Feb. 28, 2012 | You have got to hand it to Stephen Chikhani, the reputed on-again/off again love interest of Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer, he sure knows how to moved a good story along.

"There's a way bigger story than sex tapes," Chikhani said to a reporter today at his hearing in a San Jose courtroom for drug possession.

The deliciously delivered line now sits on the tongues and vibrant imaginations of many Alameda County residents and local officials. Many contacted today noted the sensational nature of the Nadia Lockyer Affair by parsing the eight word quote. "Did you notice he said tapes--as in plural," said one county employee.

Are they more salacious videos out there? A YouTube video posted Monday morning claiming to contain the raw performance of Lockyer and Chikhani was quickly pulled from the site. One person who viewed it described it as tame, nor looking anything like Lockyer. It is believed to be hoax. To further the intense gossip and speculation over the video, some posit if Chikhani seeks to hold something over Bill and Nadia Lockyer, it would make no sense to reveal the video without any gain. Therefore, there is something more.

The rapidly increasing county and state embarrassment surrounding the Lockyer's even gained the attention of one of Washington's most bawdy bloggers. The Wonkette posted this tongue-in-cheek story today titled, "Nation's Sexiest Supervisor in Meth-Fueled Sex-Tape Sexytime." The posting imagines Bill Lockyer's carnal excitement while watching the video and wondering if "Nadia is back in rehab again, where hopefully she will meet a nicer boyfriend."

Stephen Chikhani
Now, back to the juicy gossip. One long-time East Bay political observer thinks the best way to predict what comes next is to note the destructive behavior of drug addicts. "They do stupid things," they said. "They have unprotected sex, steal from each other and friends and ruin every relationship they ever had until they feed that hunger to get high." In that vein (sorry, no pun intended), such a scenario could pale in comparison to anything Jerry Springer could conjure.

Although some local media outlets and columnists are now calling for Lockyer to resign (the Contra Costa Times used the opportunity to add Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi to the list, for good measure), not one elected or county official will publicly go on the record calling for her to relinquish her seat on the board of supervisors. That soon may change.

If I were a betting man, I would say Lockyer resigns before this Friday. Some believe Chikhani's comment today was merely a bluff, but if it isn't, it may be a clear signal to the Lockyers that he intends to drop the biggest bomb of them all on them and the county, whatever it may be. And if it has anything to do with the cryptic text message written by Nadia Lockyer, we could be on the eve of destruction for the legacy of her husband and the reputation of Alameda County.

Alameda County politics is a symbiotic environment. When one large piece is suddenly extinct, the whole organism is changed. In a time of continued large-scale budget deficits at the county and city-level, we have no idea how this mess will affect the region, but it will surely benefit no one.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Resignation Talk Rises With News of Lockyer Sex Video; Who Would Replace Her?

Stephen Chikhani: Nadia Lockyer's
leading man?
Feb. 26, 2012 | And the Oscar for Best Attempt at Ruining You and Your Husband’s Political Future goes to…

Obviously, Nadia Lockyer cannot accept this award because she is in rehab, but this picture is far from its final act.

The story arc contained in the “The Nadia Lockyer Affair” reached a new plateau, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. News came Saturday that Lockyer and her boyfriend/ex participated in a sex video. The scene, along with other salacious photos, were uploaded to Stephen Chikhani’s computer, according to Matier & Ross.

Chikhani also reportedly told investigators that it was Lockyer who initiated the now infamous Feb. 3 altercation at a hotel in Newark. The statement may be a reason why Chikhani has never been charged with a crime.

Whether it be bizarre ethical and moral missteps by Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, Alameda County Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad, Assembly candidate Joel Young or Lockyer’s recent escapades, there is a growing distaste and disenchantment growing in the county and it could get very ugly from here to November.

If Lockyer was the aggressor Feb. 3—that’s one thing in the mind of voters who believe the whole story is far past a local embarrasement—but, the pure titillation of the 40-year-old Lockyer live on video with another man other than Bill Lockyer is probably too much for her district, supporters and Alameda County Democrats to stomach. If this is, indeed, the end of Lockyer’s one-year reign, who’s next in line?

A seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisor is a plum job. It pays more than any other locally attainable position, but more importantly, its offers job security somewhere between dictator and Supreme Court justice. If Lockyer were to resign, the immediate list of possible candidates is short and mostly comprised of politicians already in races for office this year or already serving.

One of the first names consistently bandied about is Union City Mayor Mark Green. Most cite his extensive experience working with many of the same groups and commissions that a county supervisor would immediately interact with. Green also ran in 2010 for the same seat eventually won by Lockyer and narrowly losing out on advancing to the general election that year.

As Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty said last week in speech in Dublin, the perfect candidate for county supervisor is someone who can start at full-speed on day one. Green would foot the bill, but he is also running for the Assembly’s 20th District centered in Hayward. If he were interesting in changing horse midstream, he would need to answer a few questions for himself.

Over the past three months, Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk has quietly begun constructing the foundations of inevitability in the 20th District race over Jenniefer Ong, Sarabjit Cheema and Green. With doubt beginning to be raised over Ong’s ability to win, which is more likely for Green? Finishing in the top two during the June 5 primary or replacing Lockyer on Oak Street?

Lockyer’s general election challenger, former State Senator Liz Figueroa, Saturday evening said via Twitter, “No way Jose,” when asked about her interest in running for supervisor again. Figueroa now works for Planned Parenthood and appears content in fighting the resumption of the old culture wars reigniting in presidential politics.

Former Hayward Councilman Kevin Dowling is another name being thrown out there. He also ran last time around and appeared to be the most knowledgeable when it came to understanding exactly what the board of supervisors attempts to accomplish on a daily basis.

Of course, speculation is only that until its reality, but there’s another very intriguing possible suitor for the seat. What about Ellen Corbett?

First, she would have to move from her home in San Leandro to District 2 in the southern portion of the county. There are numerous reasons why this would make perfect sense for the person former San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos calls, “the luckiest politician alive.”

Corbett was seriously contemplating a run for Alice Lai-Bitker’s supervisorial seat in early 2010. She relented and easily won re-election to the State Senate and subsequently named majority leader. Her interest in extending her political career is well known, but events in recent months have surprisingly put the possibility of replacing Rep. Pete Stark on life support.

Here’s the calculation should would have to make: If she does not make a surprise run this year for congress, joining Eric Swalwell and Stark, she will be risking the possibility of facing an opponent in Ro Khanna with millions in funding along with the appearance of support from heavyweights in the Democratic Party. Beating Khanna is nowhere near a certainty in 2014 and neither is beating Stark in 2012.

Corbett is definitely in a sticky quandary and that’s where the potential for Lockyer’s seat re-opening becomes manna from Heaven; an escape hatch to political safety apparently only afforded to the East Bay’s luckiest leader.

UPDATE: Although his political resume is even shorter than Nadia Lockyer's, Hayward Councilman Mark Salinas has been mentioned by more than few local insiders as a possible supervisor. It's an interesting suggestion. In just one year on the city council, Salinas has definitely raised his profile in a positive light. Many believe Salinas could also be the future mayor of Hayward.

Knocking An Entrenched Lawmaker Over Residency Is Not Unique

Feb. 26, 2012 | An insurgent candidate tries to unseat a three decades-old political institution within in their own party by charging the incumbent lives in Washington, D.C., instead of their own state.

Sound familiar?

Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell’s run against Rep. Pete Stark is predicated on the assertion the 80-year-old does not live in his East Bay congressional district and out of touch from the realities of his constituents. “If he’s not here and he’s not there,” said Swalwell last week, “Where is he?”

Swalwell’s argument, it now appears is not wholly unique to attempts at unseating entrenched Beltway insiders.

Sen. Richard Lugar
Indiana’s Republican Sen. Richard Lugar is facing the same onslaught from within his party by State Treasurer Richard Mourdock. Lugar, one of the most notable members of the U.S. Senate, recently acknowledged selling his home in Indianapolis just after winning election in 1976.

To make matters worse, he recently told reporters he had no idea what address on his Indiana driver’s license. Last week, the Indiana attorney general and a state election commission said Lugar’s residency was valid because his work in Washington constituted “official duties.”

“Sadly, Sen. Lugar went to Washington, D.C., and left Indiana behind,” said Mourdock. Lugar says upon election in 1976, he bought a home in Washington and couldn’t afford owning two homes to keep his family together, so he packed up and moved from the Hoosier State.

Similar to Lugar, Stark was first elected to Congress in 1973 and has rarely faced legitimate challengers over the next 38 years. He lists the home address of his in-laws in San Lorenzo, but said last week that he has rented a home in Fremont for the past 20 years.

"It would just about impossible until we have some type of rocket, which we don't have, to represent you in Congress and not live in the Washington, D.C. area,” said Stark, who also said family issues necessitate stability in one place. Stark has a 16-year-old son and 10-year-old twins.

There are some important differences between these two similar situations. Knowledge of Stark’s residency on the Chesapeake is common knowledge in the East Bay. For Swalwell, his charge over Stark's residency comes in tandem with pointed criticism of Stark’s poor voting record over the past few years.

The second part is risky since Stark’s excuse for missing so many votes, particularly in 2010, was due to a severe case of Pneumonia that sapped him of his energy and, along with medication, physically transformed facial features from narrow and chiseled to doughy and puffy.

As one observer of Stark and Swalwell’s first meeting Feb. 20 in Dublin told me, “Swalwell has to be careful not to look like he’s beating up on an old man.”

Friday, February 24, 2012

Is Hayashi's Brain Tumor Also Stopping Her From Creating Legislation?

Feb. 24, 2012 | Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's infamous brain tumor defense may now be applied to her extremely thin amount of legislative activity in the week's after pleading guilty to misdemeanor shoplifting charges last month.

Today is the last day for state legislators to submit bills for consideration during this session. On Thursday alone, an avalanche of 386 bills were introduced in both houses. But, just one was offered by Hayashi--a specious piece of legislation regarding guide dogs.

The bill adds the word "ailing" to existing law requiring guide dog trainers to take back canines from blind users who no longer wish to use their services if the the dogs are not too old to be retrained for another person.

During the current session, Hayashi has authored 23 bills and resolutions, but just 5, not including 2 ceremonially resolutions, since she plead guilty to shoplifting $2,450 in clothing from a San Francisco Neiman Marcus store. Hayashi, who is termed-out this year, later claimed a benign brain tumor--previously undisclosed to the public--may have caused her to walked out of the Union Square department with a pair of black leather pants and two tops.

Although not all bills are created equally, the quality and public usefulness of Hayashi's output since the new year borders on frivolousness, and in other cases, slight clerical changes.

When the assembly reconvened after the holiday break, Hayashi presented two bills pertaining to high schools sports and head injuries--a common tread among her recent legislation. Both are riffs on a similar bill signed by the governor last year meant to aid coaches and parent better monitor concussions caused during high school sports. AB 1449 would merely require the school district's superintendent to format an information sheet compiled from authorization forms signed by parents and athletes before the first practice commences.

AB 1451 would require high school sports coaches to attain additional training for understanding symptoms relating to neck injuries, concussions, asthma attacks and heat stroke.

Hayashi's flimsy legislative record this session continues with another bill requiring county and city clerks to place a link on their respective Web sites for users to find candidate and elected officials statements of economic interests. The information is already provided by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Another bill presented by Hayashi with great fanfare last month would create vanity license plates supporting the LGBT community.

The limited breadth of Hayashi's work over the last two months also include a resolution making Jan. 13 Korean American Day and proclaiming February as "Children's Dental Health Month."

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Young Says He Would Support Further Cuts To The State Budget

Feb. 23, 2012 | AC Transit board member Joel Young says he would support further cuts to the state budget, if elected to the Assembly's 18th District.

Young’s response came in a questionnaire from the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club. The Progressive group is holding a debate/forum tonight featuring all three candidates in Oakland. It also plans to offer an endorsement afterwards.

Young’s response differs with those of his opponents. Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta and Peralta Community College Truste Abel Guillen also filled out the identical questionnaire.

When asked “Do you support cuts in the next state budget?”, Young checked yes. Both Bonta and Guillen check no.

“Like just about everyone in the state,” wrote Young, “I’d like to cut the budget for the [Department of Corrections]. I’m cautiously optimistic about the prospects of realignment for reducing recidivism among non‐violent offenders. I also believe that every dollar we invest in early childhood education will save us money down the road. I had a conversation with a lieutenant at Santa Rita jail who told me that they use 3rd grade reading levels to predict the future prison population. That’s shocking and perverse.”

In another section, Young said he believes the state’s sales tax is too high. “I think it’s regressive,” he wrote. “I support a 5% tax on services.” Later, he said the threshold for approving local tax measures should be lowered from a two-thirds majority to 55 percent. Doing so, though, often removes the biggest obstacle allowing measures like increases in sales tax from gaining passage.

Bonta said he would not support further cuts to the state budget, but instead focus solely on increasing revenues. Bonta wrote of three possibilities, two of which, he says, appear unlikely, including working with Republicans who have exhibited a hard “no tax” stance, hope Democrats achieve a two-thirds majority, or more likely increase revenues. Bonta said he would continue approving state budget matters by a simple majority from a two-thirds supermajority, explore the use of an oil excise tax, a split-roll property tax, close corporate tax loopholes and increase sales taxes on sugary beverages. Bonta would also raise tax on the “very wealthy,” according to the questionnaire.

Guillen’s stance almost splits the difference between Bonta and Young. “I think there should be a third option--a combination of revenue enhancements and cuts where we can achieve greater efficiencies,” wrote Guillen.

He says $1 billion in state revenues could be redirected from closing prisons and youth correctional facilities. Like Bonta, he would also close tax loopholes, but also increase funding to schools, parks and hospitals. Guillen also supports increasing taxes on the rich. “If we were to take tax rates on the richest 1% of the population back from 9.3% to 10% for people who make over $300,000 and increase and increase rates to 11% for individuals that make over $600,000 a year, we would be able to raise at least $1.5 billion in revenue to fund our shared infrastructure including public hospitals, health clinics and schools.”

Thursday's Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club forum starts at 6:45 p.m. at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th Ave., Oakland.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

ACAP Director Charged With Felonies; Questions Persist

Feb. 22, 2012 | Now that the Alameda County District Attorney has charged Nanette Dillard and Paul Daniels, the husband and wife duo alleged to have bilked the county agency they ultimately ran into the ground, there are far more broader question involvings their wrong doing and the knowledge of it by a handful of officials from numerous cities and the president of the Board of Supervisors.

Alameda County District Nancy O'Malley Tuesday charged Dillard and Daniels with felony counts of grand theft and conspiracy to commit a crime. Dillard faces an additional felony charge of crime by a public officer. "When public officials misappropriate and mismanage funds, not only do they break the law, but they also violate the public’s trust in our agencies," said O'Malley.

Dillard was the executive director of the Associated Community Action Program from 2004 to 2011. Her husband, Daniels, held the position of the agency's grant manager. The program headquartered in Hayward was created in 1972 under a joint powers agreement among every city in the county, excluding Oakland and Berkeley. Its primary function was to eradicate poverty in the county and help the poor and recently incarcerated amass savings and equity once they got back on their feet. It also groomed the underprivileged for one day owning their businesses.

In the aftermath of complaints last February by ACAP's 30 employees over bounced paychecks, the county was alerted to alleged mismanagement of the agency by Dillard. Shortly later, she was terminated and the 13-member governing board made up of elected council members and mayors from each city council, including the Board of Supervisors voted to dismantle the agency and begin the process of winding down its operations.

The complaint charges Dillard and Daniels falsified ACAP's financial statements when applying for federal grants. The additional funds were then allegedly used for their own personal benefit. The D.A. accuses the couple of spending ACAP funds on spa treatments and using ACAP personnel for work at their home, in addition, to work at the residence of Dillard's brother.

All of the complaints listed in D.A.'s complaint were public knowledge, including the use of illegitimate bank transfers at a Citibank in the East Bay. Salacious accounts by former ACAP employees alleging the use of staff at the home of Dillard and Daniels were also lodged during numerous ACAP Governing Board meetings last February. So why did it take so long to charge them with a crime?

Dillard sued the same Governing Board last summer alleging, among other things, she was wrongfully terminated. Court filings show Dillard says the governing board violated the Brown Act when it moved to terminate her employment in a closed session meeting last Feb. 2. She also claims the board has not responded to numerous public records requests, even though one report appears to have been written by Dillard herself.

The span of allegations against Dillard and Daniels possibly leading to the downfall of an important county program reserved for the poorest among us is obviously deplorable, but clearly there is more going on than meets the eye.

Because of the unique genesis of ACAP's formation 30 years ago under a joint powers agreement, this potential scandal is wide-ranging and could affect elected officials in nearly every city in Alameda County. Nearly every single member of the ACAP Governing Board has been able to sidestep their role in possibly turning a blind eye to Dillard's alleged criminal enterprise. For two years, the governing board failed to consistent have enough members show up to achieve a quorum of seven.

Even when serious trouble over ACAP's finances began to surface in early 2011, there seemed to be little impetus for some members to pay closer attention. As reported in The Citizen last year, attendance records showed only 4 of the 13 members had perfect attendance records. Others continued a shocking pattern of nonattendance even as meetings occurred with far greater frequency to handle the program's violently shaking foundation.

A representative from the City of Alameda listed by the governing board's records as Mayor Marie Gilmore missed all four meetings in February 2011. The late Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman missed three of four during the same fateful month that ultimately ended ACAP as a resource for county residents.

While the Dillard's may have been plundering a county agency for their personal benefit, 13 elected officials appear to have been negligent for, at minimum, actually showing up to meetings. Some county officials now claim their poor attendance records were actually the doing of Dillard. They allege she conspired to falsely notify certain members not to attend scheduled meetings due to a lack of a quorum when one would have otherwise been attained.

A report compiled by the Alameda County Auditor covering the situation at ACAP originally due in the spring of 2011 did not arrive until much later in the fall. Although the audit found little wrongdoing on the county's side, it did find a mandated yearly audit of ACAP had not been performed by the county.

As ACAP employees railed against Dillard over missing and bounced paychecks last February, the governing board inexplicably approved giving the Dillards $20,000 in pay following their termination. San Leandro Councilwoman Diana Souza, who to her misfortune, only became the chair of the ACAP governing board a few weeks earlier, asked the Board of Supervisors for a loan to cover payroll. Initially, they balked at the request before agreeing to a lower amount.

The road to ACAP's downfall was set, but not before several governing members including Souza, Albany Councilman Robert Lieber and then-Emeryville Mayor Nora Davis exhibited oddly dismissive comments during their subsequent meetings. Some of the early meetings in Hayward took the tone of 13 members doing their best to absolve themselves of responsibilities with ACAP. Albany, Emeryville and Union City openly talked of rebellion.

One member, though, took the lead during two of these emergency meeting. It was likely because it appeared his own board would ultimately be the agency charged with cleaning up the mess at ACAP.

What did Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley know about ACAP and Dillard's dealings in its demise? As the ACAP Governing Board jettisoned Dillard and Daniels at the same time claiming they had no inkling the program of which they were overseeing was nearing implosion, Miley was saying otherwise. At an ACAP meeting on Feb. 24, 2011, Miley told the board he was aware of the agencies financial problems for months. Before the newly-appointed counsel suggested Miley was offering "too much attention" during the meeting, he told the group he attempted to help Dillard with the agencies problems. Miley never elaborated on how or what kind of assistance he offered Dillard.

During a board of supervisors meeting a week later, Miley took blame for the ACAP Governing Board's dissonance. “I accept responsibility for the lack of sufficient oversight. It could have kept ACAP alive.” Of course, ACAP is nearly dissolved. Its functions now spread all over the county's social service apparatus. That is clear. What is not is why did Miley know about the impending doom at ACAP before everyone else did and why didn't he stop it, especially if the alleged wrongdoing is now the subject of a criminal complaint?

Hospital Ad-Hoc Committee Approved WIth Less Than Full Council Support

Feb. 22, 2012 | The San Leandro City Council is preparing to take a more pro-active approach in finding alternatives for saving its community hospital. The Council approved the formation of the three-person Ad-Hoc committee to explore San Leandro Hospital's near and long-term future, but not before two council members registered strong objection to the potential costs to city staff.

With the potential of a settlement up in the air and uncertainty over whether the State Supreme Court will accept a petition by the Eden Township Healthcare District to render final say on its legal fight with Sutter Health over title of the hospital, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy told the council it needs to begin a dialogue over what could potentially happen next.

"We could be in a situation in a matter of a month or less where the California State Supreme Court denies the petition and Sutter potentially closes the hospital," Cassidy said Tuesday night. "I just want us not to be caught flat-footed if something should unfold."

He later added, "If this hospital closes it's going to be a disaster for this city."

Councilmembers Joyce Starosciak and Diana Souza, though, did not see the view the hospital's imminent demise with the same urgency. Neither member registered an aye vote for the creation of the committee later approved and to consist of Councilmembers Michael Gregory, Ursula Reed and Cassidy. Starosciak opposed the motion, while Souza abstained.

"The need to have San Leandro Hospital open is huge," said Starosciak, but she later forcefully quizzed Cassidy on what exactly the committee would accomplish. "We don't have a problem yet that we can clearly define," she said.

Like Starosciak, Souza questioned whether using staff time on the issue of San Leandro Hospital was a worthwhile expenditure for the budget-conscious council. "I just wanted us allll to understand what they're going to be taking off to do this," said Souza. "We talk about how tight things are. This is going to cost us."

Souza later asked the council to consider capping the amount of time and money used by staff on the committee. She also raised doubt over San Leandro residents, one-third of whom are members of Kaiser Permanente by some estimates, are willing to approve a parcel tax, if one is ever proposed. Assuming such a tax needed a two-thirds majority, Souza said, "you would need every single Kaiser member to support that."

Gregory, whose district the hospital is located said, "things could not be worse" for the city's health care future and those employed at the facility representing one of San Leandro's largest employer. "It impacts this town like no other thing."

Councilman Jim Prola added: "If you ask the members of our community if we should do this, I think you would come back with a resounding yes," Prola said limited access to the new emergency rooms at Kaiser on Merced Avenue is still over two years away.

Cassidy said he intends for the Ad-Hoc committee to meet sometime near the end of March.

Hayward Approves Potential County Transportation Measure For November Ballot

HAYWARD | Feb. 22, 2012 | Hayward became the latest city to bless a plan that ultimately will ask voters this November to reinstate the popular Measure B sales tax used to fund some of the Bay Area's largest and most visible transportation projects.

The Hayward City Council praised the plan put forth by the Alameda County Transportation Commission (Alameda CTC) that would extend and augment the existing Measure B2, approved in 2000, with an addition half-cent increase to the local sales tax, itself a rollover from the original 1986 referendum. The council approved the proposal, 6-0, with Councilman Bill Quirk absent.

Voters in 2000 easily approved the extension, which runs through 2022, but the efficiency of approving and constructing its menu of projects proved a bit too successful. Only a few unfinished projects remain, according to the Alameda CTC, facilitating a new plan and direction along with additional tax revenue.

A potential Measure B3 would constitute the region's largest source of transportation funding, but before it can be offered for voter approval in November, a majority of Alameda County cities, along with Board of Supervisors must individually approve the plan. Some details of the proposal have come under fire by conservative groups in Eastern Alameda County who oppose the inclusion of $400 million for the initial phase of extending BART to Livermore.

The Alameda CTC says the downturn in the economy over the past four years as dried up federal and state funding and severely limits public improvement and maintenance projects for East Bay roads and bridges.

Hayward Councilman Olden Henson, a member of the Alameda CTC steering committee on the issue said, "There's nothing but positives for Hayward." Henson said some of Hayward's unsuitable roads and freeway interchanges are in dire need of repair or replacement. Being located at the center of the East Bay and a notable hub for several large trucking firms also makes sense for the city to back the proposal, he said.

Most Alameda County cities currently pay a 8.75 percent sales tax, except for San Leandro and Union City, which approved sales tax increases to 10 percent in 2010. The transportation commission's plan would increase the sales tax by a half-cent in perpetuity to 9.25 percent for most county residents.

Arthur Dao, executive director of the Alameda CTC said Tuesday night the agencies plan will mainly create needed jobs for the area. He told the council he does not have figures to back the claim and said a poll of 800 residents last year said 79 percent of respondents indicated they could support a half-cent sales tax increase for transportation projects. Dao said the plan also has local union support.

Part of Hayward's wish list includes improvements at the Whipple Road/Industrial Parkway interchange at Interstate 880 ($60 million) and Interstate 880 at Winton Avenue ($25 million), along with construction of a northbound off-ramp at Interstate 880 at the Industrial Parkway interchange ($14 million) and grade separation at Tennyson Road ($25 million).

The plan also includes the second phase of streetscape improvements to Dixon Road ($6 million) and a pedestrian bike bridge to the South Hayward BART station ($2 million).

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Swalwell Wins Dublin Straw Poll; Stark Looks Reinvigorated

DUBLIN | Feb 21, 2012 | Even with Rep. Pete Stark exuding more energy than locals have seen in years, the Tri Valley Democratic Club handed Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell--one of its own--a symbolic, but important victory Monday night for his quixotic attempt to unseat the 40-year veteran of Congress.

Over 200 people packed the IBEW Local 595 hall in Dublin for a race loaded with interesting historical parallels and dichotomies between the candidates. A third candidate, Tea Party Independent Chris Pareja, was also in the audience and challenged his Democratic opponents to a series of debates.

The surprise of the night was not Swalwell's 32-19 win from his hometown Democratic club, but the return of a far more energetic Stark who refrained from his customary trash talk and condescension. Instead, it was Swalwell who threw punches against an opponent more interested in bobbing and weaving.

"Congressman Pete Stark has been in Congress nearly 40 years," said Swalwell in his opening remarks. "I respect that, however, 40 years is a long time and if you do not stay sharp, if you do not stay engage, you can become out of step, out of touch and out of sight. I believe Congressman Stark has become disconnected from our area and ineffective in representing our people. Disconnected because he does not live here and rarely visits."

Swalwell also referenced Stark's embarrassing one-day's service as chair of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee two years ago. "Despite being a member of Congress, he has squandered the value of his seniority with his behavior and antics," said Swalwell, while also skewering Stark for asking a cameraman from KTVU to leave his Feb. 11 town hall meeting in Hayward. "Ladies and gentlemen, we are Democrats and Democrats believe in open and transparent government and we never, ever hold meetings in secret or ask the media to leave."

The 30-year-old Swalwell is a first-term Dublin Councilman and a deputy Alameda County prosecutor for the past 6 years. At times, his stump speech appeared overly-rehearsed with robotic hand gestures and mismatching inflections in his voice. The early performance may have been a mere case of the nerves. After slipped out of his sport coat and rolling up his sleeves halfway through his allotted 15 minutes, he appeared more relaxed.

Being rambunctious and biting is usually the role of Stark, but not Monday night. The only zinger being a swipe at Swalwell's experience. "My son is more senior and experienced assistant district attorney than the previous speaker," Stark said. He did, though, attempt to isolate a potential hole in Swalwell's resume--his inexperience.

"It's interesting, often times, that people say, 'We'll, I've not had any experience in Washington. I'm new. I'm going back without all that Washington experience,'" said Stark. "I say, 'Well, I wonder what you'd do with a surgeon when you're going to have a heart transplant.' Would you look for a surgeon just out of medical school whose never done a heart transplant before or would you like to find a surgeon who's done a 100 heart transplants and he could tell you how many of his patients lived? I think you know the answer to that. Only in politics have I heard having no experience is better than having some experience."

Stark also rebuffed Swalwell's assertion that he is absent from the area and neglecting his voting duties in Congress. "It would just about impossible until we have some type of rocket, which we don't have," he said, "to represent you in Congress and not live in the Washington, D.C. area." Stark said he generally works four days a week and spends every other weekend at his Fremont home. He pinned his absence from Congress on a bout of pneumonia last year. "I was fine until I went to the hospital and that's when it all ended up and I spent a good part of last year in the hospital--not missing many votes, I would say, but a few--because they wouldn't let me out," Stark said. "When I got out, I got much better. So that's my excuse. I'll use it, but that's where I was."

It is not clear if Stark misspoke on the year he suffered a long bout with pneumonia, which is believed to have been mostly in 2010. "He was talking about last year," said Swalwell afterwards. "I was talking about 2009-2010. I don't know what the explanation for that is. If you're not there and you're not here? Where are you?"

Stark's cordial behavior towards Pareja was also surprising. Over the past two years, Stark has been largely dismissive of Pareja during numerous attempts by the Tea Party candidate to join him in debates. Pareja ran as a write-in candidate in 2010. Before Monday night's straw poll, Pareja told The Citizen, Stark was uncommonly gracious towards him at town hall meetings on Feb. 11. When asked to organized a series of spring forums, Stark sounded amendable to the suggestion as was Swalwell. "We're up for debates--the sooner the better." Swalwell told Pareja after Monday's event.

"He wants more candidates in the race,"Swalwell said of Stark while dismissing Pareja's chances past the June 5 primary "In the general, he's gone," Swalwell said, referring to Pareja. "We only need to finish second. We're not expecting to win this thing in the primary."

Monday, February 20, 2012

Lockyer's Entrance Unto The East Bay Scene Was Hopeful, But Overshadowed By Husband

Feb. 20, 2012 | Back in early 2010, as a new political reporter working my first real election cycle, I was moved by the sudden rise of Nadia Lockyer as a candidate with the money, contacts and potential to be a name people in a vastly larger realms of political discourse would immediately know like the back of their hand. For that reason, I paid an inordinate amount of time covering her run for Alameda County supervisor. Honestly, I wanted in on the ground floor of Nadia Lockyer Inc. before it went public.

The article below came from the early days of the campaign, but while the signs of drug use were not yet clearly evident (although I recall her leaving the grand opening of her campaign headquarters for over an hour before returning later and looking a bit disheveled), the control of her campaign by Bill Lockyer and his Sacramento cronies were clearly on hand and now further fueling the assumption Naida Lockyer just wasn't into running for supervisor as much as her husband desired building a larger, more diverse political dynasty. [Note: it was at this campaign event that Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi bragged, now ironically, she was the person responsible for "discovering" Nadia Lockyer.]

In front of a crowd, Nadia Lockyer appears uncomfortable. She shifts. Her eyes dart with some unknown worry. The further she steps to the right of center stage, the more her anxiety seems to subside. That was the observation as she opened her campaign headquarters Thursday night in Hayward. But that's only half of the story.

The well-funded candidate hoping to replace the retiring Gail Steele on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors spares no expense. Boxes of slick black and red lawn signs sit at the front of the rather large A Street office. The real estate is honestly more befitting of a campaign for U.S. Senate than the board of supervisors. The spread laid out for supporters is a typical selection of party platters along local pols gulping down glasses of white wine. Lockyer's campaign has vastly outraised and outspent her three rivals for the seat so much that one of her opponents, Hayward Councilman Kevin Dowling said in jest, she's singlehandedly boosting the local economy by hiring so many high-priced consultants.

Yet, on the surface, there is very little known about Lockyer's opinions on the issues confronting the county. Her website only offers a quick bio, while other candidates in both open races for the board list reviving the local economy with jobs and health care, in addition, to boosting funding for education as part of their vision. Frankly, the political answer is she doesn't have to talk about the issues when she has the Lockyer name, powerful financial and political contacts and a pretty face. Here, though, is the intriguing part of Nadia Lockyer, when the spotlight is not blaring like klieglights in her eyes a different candidate shows up. The dynamic is not if we're looking at an empty pants suit, but possibly a candidate some will wistfully look back and remember the first time Nadia Lockyer ran for office and what she later became.

Lockyer is hard to peg. She has a quite charisma. She's thin yet strong. Has focused, but kind round eyes and flashes a sometimes uncertain toothy half-grin. As opposed to her opponent, former state Sen. Liz Figueroa, who tends to flash a coy smile that make men gush, Lockyer pulls an uncanny ability to connect with women. Standing in the crowded campaign office, it's clear women of every age and color simply adore Lockyer. It's really no different than the generation-busting cadre of female supporters of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign, who while shouting encouragement at rally's in Oakland two years ago, were really shouting for the advancement of women in general. Older women view her as their successful younger sister and young women look at her as the person they want to be. Lockyer's female supporters were, for the most part, uninterested in snacking on the policy details, they just wanted to shake her hand, embrace her or, as one person did, merely said goodbye and blew a kiss. The exuberant group at one point had Lockyer holed up in the doorway of a storage area for nearly 30 minutes.

On the whole, Lockyer's nervousness in the spotlight could point to a disenchantment with the standard operating procedures of politics. Her luster shines far less when she is asked to play the role of politician than performing the duties of being a politician. When Bill's "friends" show up the party changes from a hipsters paradise to old dudes breaking out card tables, sipping on Highballs and telling old war stories from their days in Sacramento.

When the former chairman of the California Democratic Party Art Torres stood in front of the throng, he along with Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi sucked the genuine air out of the room. The slicked silver-haired Torres performed a standard cocktail hour schtick replete with references to his once-black pate while explaining why Lockyer was the candidate for the job. The scene bore more in common with the opening remarks at a meeting of the Loyal Order of the Moose than the introduction of a possibly tranformative local politician. Hayashi made note of the dignitaries in attendance and said she was the person who urged the former Assembly Speaker Karen Bass to run along the current Speaker John Perez. Of course, the implication was we should thank her for her personnel decision as if she was the plucky baseball scout in wool overcoat and fedora who discovered a young Willie Mays playing stick ball in rural Alabama. I think Bill found her first.

So, maybe Lockyer doesn't need the name or the backing in the Democratic Party that is attached to her famous surname. It sure doesn't hurt, but once she plays by her own rules, there's no tempering the enthusiasm she generates. She says her campaign is about families. It's for the mom's. As the event wound down, volunteers gathered up the leftovers and straightened up the kids room in the center office. Nadia was gone, but Bill stayed around to help clean up. If that isn't a sign of the times-they-are-a-changin', I don't know what is.

Reposted from the April 2, 2010 edition of the East Bay Citizen.

All The Pieces Of Nadia Lockyer's Future Demise On Display As Election Day Neared

Feb. 20, 2012 | In hindsight, the title of this Oct. 29, 2010 pre-election day preview should have told Hayward voters enough about the candidate they would later choose as their county representative: "LOCKYER'S OBSCENELY-FUNDED CAMPAIGN FOR SUPERVISOR HAS COVERED UP MANY DISTURBING FLAWS." I can't say that I suspected drug use leading into this period, but clearly there was something seriously amiss with Nadia Lockyer's behavior at this point in time. My Feb. 13 article breaking news of her drug use during and after her campaign for supervisor can now be easily pieced together with what we now know following her stunning fall this month. 

Oct. 29, 2010 | "What nationality are you," Nadia Lockyer asked me as she attempted to make small talk last April at her Hayward campaign headquarters. "I'm Portuguese," I said to the candidate for Alameda County supervisor. "Do you remember the movie with Robert DeNiro where he helped the indigenous people in South America?" she said. "I think it was called 'The Mission'," I answered and noted I had not seen the film from the early 1980s. I began sensing Lockyer was stalling me while oddly relating my ancestry with that of an obscure character in a nearly 30-year-old film. Shortly before we started the hour-long interview one of Lockyer's political consultants dropped-in unannounced and asked to sit-in on the interview. "Sure," I said while the consultant sat on an office chair to my left while Lockyer sat on the couch to my right.

Lockyer never seems comfortable speaking publicly. She becomes aloof and unfocused by interviews and during candidates forums throughout this election season. It is a stark contrast to the persona she gives off in one-on-one contact. I have seen countless occasions where young woman absolutely gush at her presence, often asking to snap pictures with her. That all crashes, though, when Lockyer puts on her campaign hat. Instead, what nearly every observer of this race has witnessed is a candidate shockingly unprepared for the rigors of county supervisor and a campaign constantly befuddled by entitlement and secrecy.

A few question into the interview it became clear Lockyer was stalling me until her consultant Katie Merrill arrived at the B Street office in Hayward. A pattern began to emerge where Merrill would finish and slightly recalibrate Lockyer's answers. After one question about what made her different from her then-primary opponents Lockyer gave me her stock answer about being the only candidate with county experience. It was a longer than expected answer, but when I turned to ask Merrill a related question my attention was brought back to Lockyer who was slightly nodding her head as if to seek approval of the answer she had just given. I noticed this stealth exchange for affirmation on two other moments that afternoon. A few days later, Lockyer met with a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle, but has never agreed to sit down with another reporter since.

It is the hallmark of well-heeled politicians to keep the door close on access. We have seen it in full bloom as Meg Whitman has spent over $150 million of her personal fortune in her quest for governor of California. Whitman has had many high-profile clashes with the media and has largely ducked their probing questions at every turn. In many ways, Lockyer and her war chest derived nearly entirely from her husband, Bill Lockyer's campaign, has kept a tight lid on the candidate's statements and access to her. The campaign learned earlier not to let Lockyer stray from the script.

During our interview I asked about a mailer sent to voters that initially received more attention by its cost than its content. In it contained a glossy photos of her family, a letter and an actual campaign banner folded to fit inside the large packet. Shortly afterwards, some in the community began voicing displeasure with the inclusion of a photo showing Lockyer's elementary age child and their family dog. Included was his name, the puppy's name (which he is holding in the photo) and the name of their street. Critics of Lockyer who pointed out she had made the welfare of children one of her platform points were disturbed she had revealed so much information about her child in a campaign mailer. Merrill said the campaign was proud of the particular mailer, but when asked whether Lockyer knew three convicted child sex offenders lived within two miles of their home, she said she was aware. In fact, she had complained to police the year before when one of the offenders, in her opinion, overly decorated their front yard for Christmas, under the guise, she believed, of luring children to his property. "I actually think it makes him more safe," Lockyer said of the information in the mailer." The more information that is out there, the more people there are to keep him safe." It was not the answer the campaign wanted to be put out there. Similar mailers displaying family photos did not include information about their son and the street he lived on, but the entire episode also showed how Lockyer's political connections and money quashed any criticism of her from several county social service providers. None would dare speak on the record about the situation for fear of sabotaging already shrinking county dollars to their programs. To many, it was a good bet to cooperate with Lockyer under the notion keeping silent would keep them in her good graces once she becomes supervisor.

Her perceived entitlement to the seat is clear, but many find additional discomfort by her lack of experience for the job. This angle led directly to Gail Steele, who his retiring from the seat in District 2, to declare her support for Lockyer's opponent, Liz Figueroa. Never has Steele immersed himself in the endorsement process, but her religiously frugal ways and concern over Lockyer's complete lack of local roots and considerable cash swayed her to make the surprise announcement earlier this month. The torrent of campaign money from Bill Lockyer's resources continues to flow even up to the last week before the election. According to the Chronicle, Lockyer's spending is on par with average expenditures usually seen for in a race for Congress. The money issue leads many to wonder why he Lockyers believe the seat is worth up to $2 million to win.

Lockyer's experience rests solely on one term on the Santa Ana School Board and three years at the Alameda County Family Justice Center. The thin resume has been the source of derision by many opponents of her campaign who openly ask what exactly the center does? Lockyer has never answered the question. Others call it a successful operation, but admit its importance ranks low on the list of important services made available by the county. Others contend the center was specifically created for Lockyer to launch her nascent political career, but her debut on the local political scene has proven to be gaffe-ridden.

No other mistake raised more eyebrows than when Lockyer told a group of seniors in Fremont she had just received the endorsement of state Sen. Ellen Corbett. Figueroa and then-candidate Kevin Dowling looked peculiarly at Lockyer as she relayed this information. Actually, Lockyer had not received Corbett's blessing, at all. Merrill blamed it on miscommunication between staffs, but the mistake caused a rift, according to sources. It also fit a pattern, observers noted, of Lockyer's unfocused demeanor that often appeared scatter-brained. Some described a young and vivacious professional lawyer up until a serious accident a decade ago left her infirmed. Many of her answers to me and queries during public forums feature bland answers amounting to little meaning, but without standard evasion featured by most politicians.

There is some question whether Lockyer will be able to withstand the tension of the Board of Supervisors that is populated by some of the most hard-nosed politicos in the county. Supervisors Scott Haggerty, Nate Miley and Keith Carson tend to aggressively throw their weight around. It was one of the reasons the more laid back Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker soured on the constant confrontation from the trio. Supervisor-elect Wilma despite her small appearance is also no pushover. Conventional wisdom is split on whether Lockyer will be able to have a puncher's chance on this board. Some says the group, in the absence of damage to their political futures without term limits, will eat her alive. Others say, the group will use kid glove so as not to attract the ire of Bill Lockyer. Conversely, many believe her time in Oakland will only be long enough until the next open seat in the Legislature becomes available. You don't spend $2 million to settle on a supervisorial seat, goes the thinking. In politics money can't buy love, but it sure can buy votes.

This article was first posted Oct. 29, 2010 in the East Bay Citizen.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Stark Goes For The Early Knockout With Great Risks

CONGRESS 15Feb. 21, 2012 | It's still less than seven months from the November elections, but Rep. Pete Stark is going in for the early knockout.

Stark and his lone opponent for the June 5 primary, Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell, are set to cross paths Monday night in Dublin with a chance to set the tone for much of the campaign season.

The risks for Stark seem clear on many fronts. Being seen in public face-to-face with the much-younger Swalwell poses the danger of giving voters a chance to view contrasts in each candidate's physical differences. Stark now walks with a cane while Swalwell takes every chance he can get to show he can easily tackle the rigor of a 5k run.

The meeting of the Tri-Valley Democratic Club in at the IBEW Local 595 union hall in Dublin is also Swalwell's backyard. Will he have a hometown advantage? The event features an opportunity for voters to pose questions to the candidates and is followed by a straw poll.

The vote is non-binding, but if Stark cannot attract enough of his supporters to the meeting, it immediately hands Swalwell an opportunity to trumpet a big victory. Swalwell could then begin the process of weaving an exciting narrative of a legitimate insurgent candidacy along with all the political romanticism such a storyline entails.

These are big risks, so why is Stark heading to Dublin to state his case after nearly 40 years in Congress?

It's instructive when thinking about Stark, his demeanor and his beliefs to remember there is a reason why he has remained in Washington longer than only a handful of lawmakers in the Beltway--he's a savvy risk taker.

Stark is aiming to snuff Swalwell's candidacy while its sleeping in its crib. Even though Stark isn't as ambulatory as years past, he can still deliver stinging comebacks while stating his case forcefully. Just a year ago, he stood resolute during a town hall meeting in Hayward as hundreds of Tea Party supporters loudly shouted him down. He was fearless and while his blistering comebacks often made the mob angrier, it showed he could still lob salient points while under significant duress.

While Swalwell will likely restate the obvious about Stark: he's out of touch with the district, too old, lives in Maryland and behaves badly in public (cue Stark's YouTube classics), he can't win a debate based upon experience and accomplishments.

Look for Stark to skewer Swalwell on this point. As an Alameda County district attorney and first-time councilman, Swalwell's lone accomplishment includes creating a wine commission for Dublin and nearby Livermore. His appeal is realistically built solely on potential. Nobody knows if Swalwell can actually hit a Major League fastball or if his knees will buckle if Stark snaps a breaking ball at the knees?

Stark is clearly looking for the early round knockout. A beat down in February over Swalwell would save Stark significant money. A good or surprising victory by Swalwell would do the opposite and likely open new access to campaign fundraising dollars for the upstart. Democratic donors out there don't want to waste money on an insurgent candidate without any chance of winning in November. They also don't want to alienate the existing local power structure if Stark, indeed, is re-elected.

Either way, its a rare early campaign season tilt likely to be referenced from here to June and all the way to November. Ding. Ding.

Friday, February 17, 2012

AG Issues Support With State High Court For Healthcare District, San Leandro Hospital

Feb. 17, 2012 | California State Attorney General Kamala Harris' office filed an amicus brief Thursday with the State Supreme Court urging the high court to accept the Eden Township Healthcare District’s petition to continue its legal challenge involving Sutter Health over San Leandro Hospital.

The filing is the second time her office has offered support for the District and its lawsuit against Sutter over title to the community facility. The first being the District’s unsuccessful attempt at the State Court of Appeals level to overturn an earlier decision in Alameda County Superior Court over a government code used to bar public officials from negotiating deals while maintaining a conflict of interest.

“In the present matter, the parties’ relationship spans several years and involves a number of complicated transactions, but the facts pertinent to the section-1090 issues are straightforward," said the brief. "The District is a public agency whose contracts are governed by section 1090. Sutter Health and Eden Medical Center, two private entities, executed a group of related contracts for the operation of certain healthcare functions. Two District officials who derived income from Eden Medical Center actively participated in negotiating those contracts.”

At issue is the District’s charge that a memorandum of understanding signed in 2008 by two officials alleged to have financial interests in the rebuilding of Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley and the demise and possible closure of San Leandro Hospital. Attorneys for the District contend the participation of a former District board member and an executive who concurrently served as CEO of both the District and Eden Medical Center were violations of section 1090.

Dr. Francisco Rico, who maintained a partnership in an anesthesiology group possessing exclusive contracts with both San Leandro Hospital and Eden Medical Center at the time of the 2008 deal was cited in the District’s suit along with Sutter-run Eden CEO George Bischalaney, who maintain the same position concurrently as the District’s top administrator.

Sutter has long maintained the right to the title of San Leandro Hospital as described in the 2008 agreement. Two courts have also agreed.

But, the attorney general’s brief asserts the Court of Appeals decision focused too narrowly on the “financial interest” element of the section 1090.  Instead, it posits a financial benefit under the code is not required to prove a violation. The two lower courts found neither Rico nor Bischalaney received monetary gain from the agreements. Previous decisions also found Bischalaney did not directly participate in the negotiations between the two sides in 2008.

“A grant of review in this matter will help ensure that judicial decisions regarding section 1090 remain consistent and minimize the potential for confusion,” according to the current amicus brief. After the appellate court’s decision was handed down last November, city attorneys in both San Leandro and Hayward issued public and private concerns over whether or not it had set a new precedent for public officials in potential conflict of interest cases. Typically, state courts have used a broad standard of interpretation when deciding cases using section 1090.

In the meantime, the State Supreme Court has not decided to accept the District’s petition filed Jan. 30. The high court has between 60-90 days to issue a decision. In either case, as the court of last resort, the nearly three-year legal battle over San Leandro Hospital will end here.

On the agenda for the city's Feb. 21 council meeting is a proposal to create an Ad-Hoc committee charged with discussing the future of San Leandro Hospital and the overall outlook for health care in the city.

County Cities Stock Redevelopment Oversight Boards While Ceding More Local Control

Feb. 17, 2012 | Alameda County cities are preparing for the next step in what officials complain is a stripping of local control of government. As redevelopment agencies go by the wayside, a spate of successor groups are beginning the process of appointing representatives to their respective oversight boards.

Next Tuesday, San Leandro will be one of the first local cities to begin stocking the seven-person committees eventually charged with overseeing existing redevelopment projects and winding down past obligations over the next two years.

Last month, the California State Supreme Court affirmed Gov. Jerry Brown's plan to end the six-decade old government bodies once created to turn blighted areas into prosperous ones. Critics of redevelopment agencies have long held the belief they had become magnets for rich developers to enrich themselves on the public dime.

The San Leandro City Council is poised to name former city manager John Jermanis and current Community Development Director Luke Sims to its successor oversight board. The existence, though, of just two of the seven slots afforded to the city to control the fate of its redevelopment future only reaffirmed already vociferous language coming from cities who say the end of redevelopment was not part of a plan by the governor to realign state tax revenue, but a brazen attempt to force localities to cede even more local control to lawmakers in Sacramento.

This stage of the winding down process has the potential of becoming an enormous bureaucratic mess in Alameda County. During an Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting, Board President Nate Miley called the new law "stupid" and feared the burden of 12 separate oversight boards in the county, alone.

According to the law, the seven member board is to be made up of (2) appointments from the County Board of Supervisors, one of whom must be a public person; (2) appointed by the successor agency, which is now the city; (1) appointment by the largest special district board within the successor agencies boundary; (1) appointment by the county superintendent of schools and (1) appointment by the chancellor of the community college district.

The post is unpaid and with no stated qualifications for each position. Each meeting of the board is also subject to the Brown Act, according to the law.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Two Candidates In 18th Assembly District Rush To Bolster Their Bases

Feb. 16, 2012 | If you're looking for a good seat at the Assembly commissary next year, it's becoming increasingly smart for candidates to cozy up with current members who share a similar ethnic background.

The role of identity politics in the race for the Assembly 18th District is becoming a competition in who can amass the biggest collection of lawmakers to bolster your own slice of the demographic pie.

Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen this week unveiled a group of five members of the Assembly's Latino Caucus offering support to his primary run this June 5.

Assemblymembers Luis Alejo, Susan Bonilla, Nora Campos, Ricardo Lara and Henry Perea all tossed their support to Guillen's campaign. Although, aside from Bonilla in Concord and Campos in San Jose, the others hail from Southern California. “I am honored to have their support, and look forward to working with them in the Legislature to find solutions to the challenges our state faces,” Guillen said Wednesday.

Latinos legislators in Sacramento are not the only racial group looking to expand their own caucus. Alameda Vice Mayor has led the way in winning the support of Asian American assemblymembers. Bonta, who is Filipino American, has racked up the endorsements of Assembly Speaker Fiona Ma, Assemblymembers Paul Fong, Mariko Yamada, and Warren Furutani. Assemblyman Mike Eng, along with his wife, Rep. Judy Chu, also endorsed Bonta, as did State Sen. Ted Lieu.

Like Guillen, Bonta's support from legislators representing minorities groups also has a distinct SoCal flavor. Only Ma from San Francisco and Fong from the South Bay reside in the Bay Area.

The lack of any sort of name-recognition in the East Bay for these endorsers likely downgrades their potentcy to do anything but strengthen already certain bases of support. In a race featuring three minority candidates, ironically, it will still be the historical white majority who will likely decide this race come November.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Oakland Tribune Hearts Swalwell

Feb. 15, 2012 | Sorry for missing the opportunity for a Valentines-themed posting yesterday.

What is going on with the burgeoning bromance between Josh Richman of the Oakland Tribune and East Bay congressional candidate Eric Swalwell? Hubba hubba.

Is Richman merely promoting a potentially staid re-election campaign between Swalwell and Rep. Pete Stark or are other dynamics at work? Kissy kissy.

The elements of a good storyline are definitely here. At age 30, Swalwell is attempting a long-shot run as a Dublin Democrat against the nearly 40-year veteran of Congress. The roles they could play are shockingly similar to Stark’s own successful insurrection against Democrat Rep. George P. Miller, who like Stark today was aging not so gracefully.

Many, many things would need to occur from here to November for Stark to lose re-election. Almost all of them involve other candidates entering the field. You would almost have to cue Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles?” call from the 1980 Olympics in an unironic manner to see this happening.

Then why so much love from the “Mighty Cravat” Richman?

Yesterday he detailed Stark’s eviction of KTVU cameras from his town hall last weekend in Hayward. In the article, Richman quoted Swalwell as say the incident was "another example of how Congressman Pete Stark is inaccessible to his constituents – and doesn’t seem to care.”
For a reporter, this is the political equivalent of Bill Belichick gifting a touchdown to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl. Add to that, Swalwell's assertion is nowhere near accurate.

Among members of Congress in the East Bay, I'm not aware of another who maintains a more consistent schedule of monthly town hall meetings, and in multiple venues. Last weekend's meetings were held in Union City and Hayward. A month ago, he took questions in Fremont and San Lorenzo.

Aside from Stark's odd behavior with a cameraman from KTVU, which may be show his fear of having his physical condition shown in HD more than anything, his town halls have always been an open forum for many who dislike his politcs over the years.

Then there's this peculiar bit of circular logic from Richman in a Dec. 29 article on Swalwell:
Gotta say this for Eric Swalwell, the Dublin councilman taking on fellow Democrat and longtime incumbent Rep. Pete Stark, D-Fremont, in 2012: He’s managing to get his message out.
Well, of course, because Richman is handing it out.

There would be no discussion if reporters like Richman truly followed what is going on in the East Bay. The Bay Area News Group, of course, is the outfit that laughably played catch-up on the two biggest political stories of the year--Mary Hayashi copping a plea to shoplifting and Nadia Lockyer entering rehab.

While others were on the beat watching it unfold, Richman and the Tribune were covering Swalwell handing out warm coffee to shoppers in line for Black Friday.

Here’s a little bill signed Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown that could have lasting effects on the state’s inaugural use this June 5 of the open primary system:

AB 1413 will force independent candidates to reveal their true political colors.

Timm Herdt in the Ventura County Star writes:
‘If a candidate is registered to vote as a Republican, he or she must list on the ballot “prefers Republican Party’.” The only way a candidate can be listed as “no party preference” is if he or she declines to state a party affiliation as a voter.
The original bill was authored by former state Sen. Abel Maldonado, who is planning a run for Congress.
The change, [Maldonado] noted, does protect against candidates attempting to fool voters by using an insincere party preference on the ballot. The integrity of the top-two system he led the charge to create, Maldonado said, remains intact. “It’s still an open primary where all people get to vote for the best candidate, so I’m OK with the change,” he said. “It still allows 3.5 million Californians (those registered as decline-to-state voters) a role in the primary. They don’t have to ask permission to get a ballot.
(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, February 14, 2012

Alameda County Chief Probation Officer Placed On Paid Leave

Feb. 14, 2012 | The person in charge of keeping repeat offenders from returning to the county jail system is himself now in the hot seat. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors placed Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad on paid administrative leave at the conclusion of today’s special meeting.
The announcement, following a nearly hour-long closed session, is effective immediately, according to county counsel. No reason has been given for the move...


Nadia Lockyer Enters Rehab For Drug And Alcohol Dependency

Feb. 14, 2012 | Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer announced today that she has entered a rehabilitation facility for treatment of a chemical and alcohol dependency addiction. The news follows a bizarre incident at a Newark motel February 3, reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, in which Lockyer was allegedly assaulted by an ex-boyfriend. “The facts of the story are generally true,” said Lockyer, who is married to state Treasurer Bill Lockyer. In the article, published last weekend, Bill Lockyer insinuated that his wife had a drinking problem...

Monday, February 13, 2012

County Sources Allege Nadia Lockyer Is Fighting Substance Abuse

Feb. 13, 2012 | The health of Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer has long been a private concern to her staff and inner-circle for much of her campaign for the seat in 2010 and first year in office.

Although her husband, the powerful State Treasurer Bill Lockyer insinuated in an interview last weekend with the San Francisco Chronicle his wife may have a problem with alcohol, the problem is more wide-spread than a few cocktails, according to numerous county sources.

Lockyer also confirmed with the Phil Matier and Andrew Ross that Nadia was the victim of assault Feb. 3 by an ex-boyfriend at a Newark motel.

Amid the spin and damage control lies a worsening condition for the 40-year-old supervisor, who sources portray as caught in a classic whirlwind of substance abuse among a coterie of enablers more interested in cashing in politically than serving her best interests.

Even as Lockyer breezed to an easy victory in 2010, she did so on the back of an avalanche of glossy campaign mailers paid with an unprecedented infusion of nearly $2 million in campaign contributions from Bill Lockyer's own re-election coffers. One notably expensive mailer included an actual yard sign folded in thirds. Bill's money bought Nadia anonymity that easily masked a peculiarly shy and erratic young woman unable to speak extemporaneously in private and rarely addressed an audience without the aid of a written statement.

During the supervisorial campaign, a few surrogates had a reason for her behavior. They floated the meme of a nearly catastrophic car accident a decade ago had robbed her of some of her faculties. While the accident is fact--she once recalled to me living in an assisted-living home while she convalesced--nobody could be found to ascribe to any changes in her demeanor before and after.

In hindsight, numerous sources involved in the 2010 supervisorial campaign, now say they witnessed the seeds of Nadia's alleged use of controlled substances. One opponent said last week their campaign suspected substace abuse during the stretch run as Nadia inexplicably took a 30-day leave of absence from the campaign trail and her job at the Alameda County Family Justice Center, which she headed. More specifically, another opponent's campaign was aware of a DUI issued to Nadia a year earlier in Union City. No record of the alleged stop was ever found leaving the campaign to wonder if Bill's tenure as attorney general and vast contacts in law enforcement had made the DUI vanish.

Many unequivocally point to Bill's power and prestige as the sole reason for Nadia's quick rise to the county's most prized and comfortable seat--the Board of Supervisors. In 2009, Bill said "I'll do everything I can to get Nadia elected." The quote, oozing with pride and ego, hovered menacingly over the then-upcoming election a year later. The statement was just about the most honest thing Bill has ever said in his 40-year career in politics. The couple married in 2003 and have a young son. The East Bay rumor mill has long churned out a belief that Bill, nearly three decades her senior, ordered a paternity test to confirm the child was indeed his and allege their nuptial were of the shotgun variety. Not only did Bill personally fund her campaign, he called in favors from all levels of California government. Jerry Brown, then running for his own powerplay of vanity and pride, even vouched for the young Nadia.

Once Nadia took a seat at the dais of the county's supervisors, she found a vastly more rough and tumble atmosphere than she could have ever imagined. The Alameda County supervisors are known for their aggressive and rough-hewn tactics. Supervisors Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley are bullies and while Wilma Chan and Keith Carson are more cordial, their behind-the-scenes demeanor tends to be gruff and cold. The tone among existing staff members in preparation of Nadia's arrival in January 2011 predicted an ugly scene of four vicious Dobermans awaiting dinner in the form of a defenseless kitty cat.

In Nadia's first year, there have been instances of her colleagues rolling their eyes at her public comments and overt, but brief flashes of exacerbation at her line of questioning when addressing county staff. At the minimum, Lockyer has been treated like a rookie with a million dollar bonus trying to crack the Big League roster of veterans who had clearly paid their dues.

By the summer of last year and after her first six months in office, county staff began noticing stark changes in Nadia's physical condition. While she never weighed more than 120 pounds, according to staff, she appeared thinner than ever. At the dais during public meetings, her eyes became round and buggy. Almost stuck in a perpetual state of surprise. Her face appeared noticeable gaunt, which only made her cheekbones gain more prominence than before. There had been whispers that her visage suggested an eating disorder, but recently, they say, the telltale signs of something more ominous was occurring to Nadia.

Whether it's Nadia's inability to serve the residents of District 2 on her own merits or something more sinister is going on, there is overwhelming conjecture her staff is laudably keeping things together despite her inaction. The situation, though, features an upside for the community, but serious problems for Nadia personally, leading some observers to charge those around her with enabling her alleged habit by systematically providing her cover instead of seeking the help she desperately needs.

A source told The Citizen last week they had witnessed markings on Nadia's arm within the past two months. Nadia had characterized the numerous dots as bug bites, the source said. When Bill told the Chronicle he and Nadia had recently separated, it provided truth to a rumor passing around locally. Word of the split only heightened when the couple cancelled a fundraiser at their Hayward home in December. The Lockyers are scheduled to host another fundraiser this month for Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk's campaign for the 20th assembly district.

While numerous people familiar with Nadia describe a woman showing the signs of substance abuse, others point to the still mysterious dismissal of her noted chief of staff as a possible harbinger to the news surrounding the supervisor today.

Christine Gasparac, who came with a sterling reputation and credential, was fired last fall by Lockyer. She came to position by way of Bill through Jerry Brown. Community leaders in the Hayward area still praise Gasparac's ability, yet the reason for her firing has been as close to a state secret  as possible in the gossipy East Bay political class. Gasparac issued a complaint over her dismissal. The Board of Supervisors discussed the complaint in closed session last October, followed by a settlement the next month. Gasparac is believed to have received nine months severance pay. While there a no details of the settlement, county staff indicated before news of the Feb. 3 assault that the issue surrounding Gasparac's firing included a general, but cryptic concern over Nadia's health.

Once bits of information were pieced together with news of Nadia's presence at a seedy Newark motel with a man known to local authorities as a low-level drug dealer, a picture of a sick woman began to emerge.

One of Lockyer's opponents for supervisor, when alerted of the incident in Newark by The Citizen last week quickly charged those around Nadia with enabling a woman clearly crying out for help and does not buy the story peddle by Bill to the Chronicle. Many others have also made the eery connection between the death last Saturday of Whitney Houston from alleged abuse of prescription drugs occuring on the same day news of Nadia being assaulted by an ex-boyfriend was made public.

"This is a beautiful, young woman with a problem," said the source, "and she needs help. Nobody is giving it to her. Nobody cares about Nadia!"