Friday, April 27, 2012

Alameda's War On Campaign Fundraising Returns To Potentially Impact Assembly Race

April 27, 2012 | An old hornet's nest may be stirring in Alameda that caused a still-churning debate stemming from the a two-year-old dispute over campaign finance limits and fundraising from outside political interests. This time around it may become an issue for one of the candidate's in this year's assembly race in the 18th district.

Alameda Councilman Doug de Haan wants to resume discussion of a proposed campaign finance ordinance that the City Council shelved in 2010 amidst growing concern outside interests like, SunCal, a company with designs on developing Alameda Point, was meddling in city affairs and attempting to influence the 2010 mayoral and council races.

In a council referral submitted by de Haan, he not only asks to revisit the proposed ordinance, but will ask city staff to perform an analysis of campaign financing during the 2010 election by applying the not yet approved ordinance. Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, who is running for a seat in the Assembly's 18th district, believes the referral is politically motivated.

“I and everyone that I know of totally complied with the campaign finance rules that existed at the time," said Bonta. "So the only thing I can possibly speculate about is that this sort of backwards-looking application of an ordinance--that doesn’t even exist--to some past behavior, is political and I would be very disappointed if it were.”

From a policy standpoint, said Bonta, using staff time to perform an analysis is not a good use of the city's limited resources. "What's the point of it?" he said. Bonta said he supports bringing back the proposed ordinance back for discussion, but only disagrees with performing an analysis of past practices.

There is no hidden political agenda behind his referral to be heard May 1, said de Haan. "I'm not pushing that we look backwards, either." He acknowledged the proposed ordinance ultimately went nowhere in 2010 because the city was in the middle of a election cycle.

Alameda does not currently have a limit on campaign contributions. During three meetings on the subject in June 2010, a few proposals were bandied about, including one with a stringent $250 maximum per donor. De Haan says a $500 limit discussed two years ago is good starting point for discussions. Interestingly, the same hearings in 2010 put no cap on personal spending and sidestepped the legality of limiting campaign fundraising from political action committees, such as the ones SunCal used two years ago.

A group of Alamedans were highly critical of SunCal's political involvement during the 2010 election cycle. They charged Bonta and council members Lena Tam and Marie Gilmore of courting the support of SunCal, as evidenced by a series of hard-hitting political mailers against their opponents. All three were victorious with Gilmore becoming mayor.

The same group also charged the Alameda Fire Department's union of lavishing the three candidates with campaign donations. Opponents of this group maintain nothing illegal occurred in 2010 and their discord is merely a case of sour grapes.

Nonetheless, de Haan added, "I think it would be nice if people acknowledge there was some political maneuvering during the last election."

"[Bonta] has his hands full with running his campaign. This won't hurt him" said de Haan. "If it ends up being political, I'm sorry, I'm a political being, but this is unfinished business."

Assembly Candidate Questions His Opponent's Ties To The Lockyer Scandal

April 27, 2012 | Independent 20th Assembly district candidate Mark Green wants to talk about Nadia Lockyer and he says his opponent, Democrat Bill Quirk, should have known about her problems with substance abuse during the 2010 Alameda County supervisorial race since Quirk was her campaign treasurer.

"How about all the money [Bill Lockyer] forked over after June [2010], knowing his wife, the candidate, was in drug rehabilitation," said Green last Wednesday, referring to the $1.8 million Bill Lockyer used to fund his wife's supervisorial campaign. Green is currently mayor of Union City and was also a candidate for supervisor along with Nadia Lockyer back in 2010.

"Now who thinks Quirk didn’t know that?" said Green. "He was her treasurer. What was his personal judgment on this? Is he (A) blind, or (B) blind to his allegiance to the party and to the Lockyers?”

On Friday, Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk said Green's comments are "clearly campaign rhetoric" and "It is time to leave Nadia alone."

"She is a private citizen in recovery trying to be a good mom," he said.

After Nadia Lockyer's stunning fall from grace last week that resulted in her resignation April 20 from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the Lockyer brand is certainly in need of a reboot. But, Green's attempt to make their recent failings a campaign issue is the first move by a candidate searching for weaknesses within Bill Lockyer's once prodigious support in the East Bay. Quirk's assembly campaign is endorsed by both Bill and Nadia Lockyer.

Green also faulted Bill Lockyer's judgment over his wife's 2010 campaign while she struggled with addiction. In a report last week, Nadia Lockyer admitted she was in rehab some time around the June 2010 primary, which she won. Green said Lockyer should be removed from his position as California state treasurer for urging her along in spite of her illness. “He knew that she was in drug rehabilitation and he still push her down everyone’s throat," said Green. "He kept saying she’s a worthy candidate and vote for her. From a societal point, he should be called on that and shouldn’t be in office.”

The fear of political reprisals from the Lockyers is less likely for Green, a former long-time Democrat who left the party last year to become an independent. Nevertheless, his disdain for the party's power structure is still clearly evident. A certain frostiness also exists between Green and Quirk, who has the full-backing of the Democratic Party going into the June 5 primary. In fact, Green continued his attack by mocking Quirk's more serious, professorial public persona following last Wednesday's candidate's debate at Cal State East Bay in Hayward.

“He’s not exactly David Letterman, is he? He’s not Mr. Charisma. He’s not the type you have a drink with. You’re not going to go on a fishing trip with Bill Quirk," Green said before pausing to grin. "There’s no excitement there.”

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Swalwell's Second Place Strategy

April 26, 2012 | In his last seven congressional races, Rep. Pete Stark has garnered over 70 percent of the vote in every case. His challenger Eric Swalwell is hoping to limit the 40-year congressman to a figure in the low-50s, according to a report on the Washington web site, Talking Points Memo.

“This is a Congressman who has routinely received more than 75 percent of the vote in each election, on autopilot,” said Lisa Tucker, Swalwell's campaign spokesman. “We need to hold him to the low 50’s. And then I think we get that second shot in November. And if we do that, I think we have a great shot at defeating him, because we get a second shot, back to back.”

The strategy of siphoning over nearly 20 points from Stark in a three-person primary featuring two Democrats and a little-known conservative independent is quite an ambitious baseline for a first-term and unknown councilman from Dublin. Nevertheless, it admits defeat without the normal ramifications associated with losing, like losing. With the first use of the state's "top two" open primary system, finishing second is almost as good as winning in June. Instead, the real benchmark will be how close the runner-up finishes in the primary.

“My strategy is also for Eric not to win,” said Chris Pareja with a smirk. Pareja is the conservative-leaning independent also in the race. “I’m not hoping for Pete to get 52 percent because I would like to see him number two.”

In 2010, voters approved Proposition 14, which allows voters the opportunity to support candidates regardless of party affiliation. The top two vote-getter advance to the November general election regardless if, as in this race, both are potentially from the same party. However, if the basis for the referendum was to encourage the election of more moderate state and federal legislators, the phenomenon has been absent in the race for the new 15th congressional district.

Stark has continued to trumpet traditional progressive touchstones such as health care reform, ending U.S. military intervention abroad and support of labor unions. While Swalwell, too, has rolled out liberal orthodoxy, his brand has been hard to define and short on specifics. Similarly, Pareja's brand of independence also eschews the middle and tacks right on most issues that normally provide music to the ears of frequent listeners of  conservative talk radio. So far, it has been Pareja who is attempting to push Swalwell to the far left and clumping him in with Stark's brand of liberalism.

“Democrats want a reason to like Eric because he’s not Pete," said Pareja. "I would modify that and ask where are these fresh, new ideas Eric is always talking about?" Pareja also said Swalwell’s recently added list of platform positions to his campaign web site is the almost identical to Stark’s positions. "Eric needs to stop beating on Pete and start focusing on the issues,” he added.

Although, Stark's recently inflammatory charge of bribery leveled against Swalwell this month and the subsequent mea culpa, made headlines outside of the district, it also overshadowed a very negative campaign by Swalwell focusing on Stark's residence and family life along with criticisms of Stark's visible health. The latter leading some to say it smacks of blatant ageism. To make his point, Swalwell frequently uses the line, "out of step, out of touch and out of sight" to more than hint at his 80-year-old opponent's health.

Before you attach much sympathy to the less ambulatory Stark, recall his non-apology last week for charging Swalwell accepted bribes from a Dublin real estate developer in return for favorable rezoning considerations. The recalibrated hit that followed basically swept the charge to the forefront without the mention of alleged criminal enterprise. “I misspoke the other evening when I made allegations against my opponent for taking bribes, and for that I apologize,” said Stark, before adding.

“Eric Swalwell has been a consistent vote on the Dublin City Council and on the Planning Commission supporting projects by developers who have been raided by the FBI, have pleaded guilty to destroying natural habitats, and has taken numerous contributions to fund his campaign which he consistently utilizes with negative attacks.”

After Stark's recent kerfuffle, you might expect his campaign handlers to keep a muzzle on him until after the June 5 primary. But, it remains to be seen whether Swalwell's campaign, so predicated thus far on painting Stark as crazed and reacting forcefully to his misstep, is enough to put him within striking distance, let alone a very rosy strategy of limiting the damage to a Stark victory in the low-50s.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

County Supervisor Advocates For Gail Steele As Placeholder To Replace Lockyer

Gail Steele
April 24, 2012 | After just 472 days in office, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Tuesday formally accepted Nadia Lockyer's resignation and immediately raised the possibility of a familiar face returning to replace her.

"We would like to wish our colleague the best, in terms of her journey in recovery," said Supervisor Nate Miley. "I don't think there is no person in this room--in this society or this world--who hasn't dealt with issues of one type or another."

We expect public officials to held to a higher standard, but elected officials are human as well and have frailties and weaknesses and challenges and we have unfortunately seen some of that played out with our colleague over the last few months."

Supervisor Scott Haggerty called accepting the resignation one of the hardest thing he has ever done as supervisor, despite her short time in office. "I know that when Nadia got here, her heart was clearly in the right place," he said.

Although a few potential replacements to fill Lockyer's seat are already working the back channels in Hayward and the county, including former Union City councilman Richard Valle, Supervisor Keith Carson raised the possibility of former District 2 supervisor Gail Steele returning on a interim basis until the November election. The Board of Supervisors has 60 days to appoint a successor, but an election will be held in November with the winner serving the remainder of Lockyer's first term until 2014.

Carson said he called Steele last Sunday to gauge her interest in returning to the seat she held from 1992 to 2010. "She said she was willing to do so," said Carson. "As a result of good government, she could step into that position for that short window of about eight months to serve in that capacity."

Steele's relatively short time away from the board and possibility of avoiding an extended period of "political drama" as candidates jockey for position presents "a less intrusive way to bridge the operations of the county," said Carson.

During her nearly two decades representing District 2, Steele was both popular with residents and consistently labelled as one of the best public officials to work for by former staffers. Upon retiring from the board, she surprised many in 2010 when she broke her traditional silence when it came to political endorsements by backing Liz Figueroa to replace her and passing over Lockyer. At the time, she questioned Lockyer's experience and limited knowledge of the district's residents.

The board also announced Carson will have oversight over Lockyer's former staff until a replacement is appointed. Carson said he would not introduce legislation on the district's behalf, only maintain stability for residents to answer questions and continue case work.

The next two months are destined to be a highly chaotic for the board. In addition to finding Lockyer's replacement before June 20, they will also begin grappling with closing a substantial $88 million funding gap before July 1.

Hayashi Inquired About Open County Supervisors Seat

April 24, 2012 | Neither Neiman Marcus security, misdemeanor, nor benign brain tumor can stop the political aspirations of Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi.

The Citizen has learned Hayashi personally contacted three of the four remaining Alameda County supervisors about replacing former supervisor Nadia Lockyer, who resigned last Friday.

Hayashi's name was reported on a short-list of possible candidates for the interim position last weekend in The Citizen, but the extent of her interest was not know until Tuesday.

A county source, though, said, "She would never get it," but the political chutzpah of the infamous assemblywoman is as much bewildering as it is shocking. It was only in late October 2011 that San Francisco Police nabbed Hayashi shoplifting $2,450 in high end clothing from Neiman Marcus in Union Square. She plead guilty to a misdemeanor last January and then dropped a bombshell when her lawyer revealed she was struggling with a benign brain tumor.

There was no answer today at Hayashi's district office.

Hayashi is termed out of the assembly at the end of this year. Because of a two-year open window until she could potentially run for state senate in 2014, her options as public official are dwindling along with public support.

Monday, April 23, 2012

All Quiet On The San Leandro Hospital Front; So They Say

April 23 2012 | Members of the Eden Township Healthcare District say a letter offering title to San Leandro Hospital to Sutter Health is in the mail.

Carole Rogers, the chair of the Eden Township Healthcare District, told a large group of residents and nurses gathered for a San Leandro City Council committee hearing regarding the future of the facility, that title to the hospital was offered to Sutter in a letter sent today.

The CEO of the District, Dev Mahadevan added the correspondence says they are “willing to promptly turn over title” to San Leandro Hospital. An agreement the District made nearly two years ago with an arbitrator called for transfer of title once its lawsuit with Sutter was completed, said Mahadevan. After the recent state supreme court decision to not hear their case, not doing so, he said, would find the District in noncompliance. An agreement over legal fees owed by the District to Sutter have also not been discussed, said Mahadevan.

Beside today’s letter, Rogers says there has been no contact between the District and Sutter. She told the group, though, once title is transferred, Sutter will likely file to close the facility in the next 90 days. Sutter has not made an official announcement on its plans for the hospital, although, Alameda County Health Care Services Director Alex Briscoe cautioned a distinction should be made between closing the facility entirely and merely shuttering its emergency room.

Alameda County Medical Center (ACMC) CEO Wright Lassiter said his organization is also not currently in communication with Sutter, but reiterated that they maintain interest in running San Leandro Hospital as an acute rehabilitation facility or “hybrid model” containing a host of small scale services. The proposal is nearly identical to a controversial lease agreement between Sutter and ACMC—since expired--that in many ways precipitated anger and distrust from the community toward each group.

Lassiter said ACMC's prior deal with Sutter was based on the belief San Leandro Hospital’s financial condition would eventually force it to close and allow for acute rehab services offered at nearby Fairmont Hospital to be moved to San Leandro Hospital. Fairmont’s longevity is limited by state-mandated seismic improvement long ago deemed financially unfeasible. “We are very interested in operating the facility,” said Lassiter, although he was less clear about what type of hospital it would hopefully operate. “We never said we want to close San Leandro Hospital,” he said and noted the closure of its emergency room would be “less than ideal” for its own interests at Highland Hospital in Oakland. Yet, mistrust still endures.

Mike Brannan, a labor representative for the California Nurses Association, and other hospital personnel pressed Lassiter on whether another back door deal is being hammered out between ACMC and Sutter. “There’s no agreement,” said Lassiter. “It’s at Sutter’s discretion, not ours," he told the labor rep. "You’re presuming there’s something I’m not telling you.”

The lack of public transparency has been a hallmark of the nearly three-year-old battle to save San Leandro Hospital. Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan agreed transparency has been an issue. San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy said any potential deal should include community engagement before, not after, a deal is consummated and not a situation where the two parties, in effect, tell the community, “take it if you want it or not.”

Carole Rogers, who has long been a thorn in Sutter’s side, asked county officials to explore their own joint powers agreement, similar to the plan approved by the Board of Supervisors last week, that would align Alameda County, the City of San Leandro and the District in saving San Leandro Hospital. “To lose that hospital would be criminal,” said Lisa LaFave, a registered nurses at the hospital. But, when it comes to the tenuous balance between cost-effectiveness and saving lives, the addition of ACMC for maintaining the current menu of services at San Leandro Hospital could put the entire health care system in danger, said Briscoe. “I cannot take a risk to sustain San Leandro Hospital.”

Interim St. Rose CEO Says He Would Welcome Being Part Of Eden Township

April 23, 2012 | Despite the approval last week of a joint powers agreement by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and nearby Washington Township Health Care Distict hoping to stave off bankruptcy at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward, the struggling facility is still flirting with another local health care district.

During a meeting of the Eden Township Healthcare District Board of Directors, the interim CEO of St. Rose Mac Nakayama told the body the facility would welcome an invitation to their health care district over interest from Washington Township. St. Rose Hospital is a private facility located within the boundaries of the Eden Township District.

"The hospital would certainly welcome becoming part of the Eden Township Healthcare Distict, rather than a district that we are not physically located in," Nakayama told the board April 18. Nakayama replaced Michael Mahoney, who resigned last month.

In February it appeared St. Rose's savior would come in the form of a merger with the Eden Township District and San Leandro Hospital. Mahoney appeared before San Leandro residents Feb. 8 detailing the proposal, but the plan suddenly lost steam. The Eden Township board revealed last Wednesday it had planned to vote on acquire St. Rose in February, but tabled the item at the request of executive staff at Washington Township.

The reason for the change is still unclear, but a plan for a joint powers agreement between St. Rose, Washington Township and the county soon emerged. The Eden Township was initially asked to participate, said District CEO Dev Mahadevan, but declined because it did not possess $1 million in unrestricted funds to add to the pot. Budget uncertainty from the then-pending lawsuit with Sutter Health, also played heavily in their district's thinking, said Mahadevan.

With the intent of the county seemingly on the side of bringing St. Rose back to health by way of the Washington Township District, it brings new questions over the Eden Township's proposal to place a parcel tax on the November ballot to aid St. Rose. Mahadevan the District has already had initial discussions with noted East Bay political consultant Larry Tramutola, whose firm specializes in the ballot measures.

Colin Coffey, the District's general counsel questioned whether a parcel tax is in its best interest any longer. "The narrow focus of that JPA would not accommodate your efforts and expenditures today to see if a parcel tax within this district to support St. Rose is viable because obviously the scenario of acquisition or management through a JPA with Washington precludes the parcel tax supporting St. Rose."

District board member Les Friedman also questioned whether a parcel tax is prudent for the district after the approval of the joint powers agreement. "Somehow we're involved in looking for solutions, but we're not at the table participating in those solutions," said Friedman. He also speculated that the eventually end game to Washington Township's association with St. Rose will entail the redrawing of district lines to separate Hayward from the Eden Township's jurisdiction.

Some in the community are also beginning to question whether Washington Township's relatively low level of financial commitment is commensurate with the amount of power it now wields within the joint powers board. The Washington Township will hold six of the nine seats on the JPA. Its extensive clout comes from just $2 million in funding pledged last month to St. Rose. The Eden Township will hold just one voting member. It nominated Friedman last Wedesday after another instance of potential conflicts of interest reared its head.

Dr. Ronald Hull, who replaced former Dr. Vin Sawhney on the board, said he could not accept appointment to the JPA's board because he owns a financial stake in a doctor's group associated with St. Rose. Sawhney resigned from the post because of a spate of potential conflicts of interest. He plans to run again for the seat this November.

Nadia Lockyer Confirms Former Top Cop Bill Lockyer Supplied Her With Drugs

April 23, 2012 | Former Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer admitted her husband Bill Lockyer, the state's treasurer and former attorney general, supplied her with drugs, according to an interview she gave this weekend to the San Jose Mercury News.

The final unraveling of Nadia Lockyer's public and precipitous fall from grace may have started two weeks ago when she sent an email to the newspaper charging her husband with buying narcotics for earlier in the relationship. The Lockyers were married in 2003 and have an 8-year-old child. She later said the email, which also contained a reference easily construed as a suicide note, was not sent by her, but by her ex-boyfriend, who she claimed hacked into her phone and sent the offending message.

"It did come from me and I made the mistake of regretting sending it," Lockyer admitted to the Mercury News. "I ask the public not to hold anything against my husband for actions that happened a long time ago." The paper said Bill Lockyer's office denies the claim, which could be as explosive as anything his wife has endured over the past two months.

In 1998, Bill Lockyer prodigious power at the state legislative level finally translated to statewide office when he was elected attorney general--the state's top law enforcement official. His two terms as attorney general garnered Lockyer some of the increased political power and law enforcement connections, some have claimed he has abused throughout his wife's affair with 35-year-old Steve Chikhani.

A source who has spoken extensively with Chikhani during his recent time in rehab and counts him as a friend, says the Hayward Police have been summoned to the Lockyer's home many more times than the single official disturbance last fall that was reported in the Mercury News. Up to five visits, they say, have not been documented by police officers in Hayward.

During the 2010 campaign for supervisor, one of Nadia Lockyer's opponents repeatedly claimed knowledge of a DUI charged to her in Union City, but could never find documentation for the stop and maintains police illegally expunged it from its records at the behest of her husband. Nadia Lockyer admitted in her interview this weekend that she met Chikhani in rehab just after the 2010 June primary for supervisor, which she easily won.

The bizarre half-truths made by Bill Lockyer reported in local newspapers along with his attempts at spinning his wife's growing political scandal away from enveloping his own have only raised questions of whether he has used his power to cover his own demons and place severe recriminations on his wife's former lover. The revelation that the state's former top cop may have purchased illegal narcotics for his wife only raises the perception of a cover-up to higher levels.

In a recording obtained by The Citizen, not fully reported by either the San Francisco Chronicle or San Jose Mercury News, Nadia Lockyer is clearly heard telling her paramour in painfully hushed tones, "Bill wants to nail you."

Join The Fray: Who Should Replace Nadia Lockyer?

April 23, 2012 | Nadia Lockyer's District 2 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors needs to be filled in the next two months. Last Friday, The Citizen reported a short list of candidates already exists, but the seat belongs to you, not the remaining members of the board.

According to a high level county source, the list is led by former Union City councilman Richard Valle, Hayward Councilman Mark Salinas, Newark Councilwoman Ana Apodaca, former assemblyman Richard Torrico, State Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi.

Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors will vote whether to accept her resignation. That's a given, but readers of the East Bay Citizen want a say. Join the fray and add your own name to the list of possible candidates to replace Lockyer and tell the East Bay why.

Readers have already nominated names like former Hayward councilman Kevin Dowling and Union City Mayor Mark Green. Who do you want representing Hayward, Union City, Newark and portions of Fremont?

Friday, April 20, 2012

Union City’s Valle Is Front Runner To Replace Lockyer

April 20, 2012 | Nadia Lockyer’s empty District 2 supervisorial seat was still warm Friday before a growing contingent of opportunistic local officials have already shown interest in being her successor, including another equally embattled East Bay politician whose interest may surprise you.

According to county sources, former Union City councilman Richard Valle is the early front runner to replace Lockyer on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. One source says Valle’s candidacy is backed by labor, which in the union-heavy East Bay, could be a deciding factor. Valle is currently campaigning this year for mayor of Union City. Valle is also believed to be the handpicked choice of both Nadia and Bill Lockyer. His campaign web site features photos of both Lockyers.

Other notable names have also surfaced. Some have made their interest in the job known directly, said the source, while others have inquired through surrogates. Among the growing list include, first-term Hayward Councilman Mark Salinas, Newark councilwoman Ana Apodaca and former East Bay assemblyman Alberto Torrico.

State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett’s name is also being mentioned again for the post. Last month, she told supporters she would not mount a challenge for Rep. Pete Stark’s seat, but more than hinted at running for congress in 2014. A major stumbling block for Corbett’s candidacy is she does not live within the district’s boundaries and would have to move before running for re-election in November.

A sixth possibility for the appointment will defy all human sense of credulity, but Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi’s name is reportedly on the short list to replace Lockyer.

It was Hayashi’s infamous arrest and conviction for misdemeanor grand theft at a Neiman Marcus in San Francisco last October that in many ways touched off the most bizarre and scandalous six months in East Bay political history. She punctuated her fall from grace last January by pleading guilty to the charge and then telling reporters a benign brain tumor, in effect, made her do it.

Before Hayashi’s embarrassing escapade with the law, her political future always featured a problematic two-year window between her termed-out assembly seat ending this year and an opportunity to run for Corbett’s termed out state senate seat in 2014.

East Bay observers outside of the board of supervisors are repeatedly mentioning the name of current Union City Mayor Mark Green as the most qualified person for the job, but Green is currently running for the Assembly in the 20th District. Impracticality aside, some believe Green’s extensive experience as a leader on various Bay Area regional boards, may cause a rift by overlapping with some of the supervisor’s own expertise on some specific issues.

If the board’s desire is to choose a qualified, but less experienced colleague to replace Lockyer, the thinking goes, either Valle, Apodaca or Salinas are the most likely choices. The Board of Supervisors have 60 days to replace Lockyer. The appointee would then run in a special election this November to finish the remainder of Lockyer’s term in 2014.

Note: Apodaca is a current member of the Newark City Council. It was reported previously she was a former council member.

Nadia Lockyer Quits

April 20, 2012 | Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer announced her resignation from the Board of Supervisors in a letter friday to constituents. Her resignation after just over a year in office ends one of the most scandalous periods ever in recent local government history.

Lockyer's departure hopefully ends a spate of bizarre explanations and embarrassing public actions that began in Februrary with a 911 call to Newark Police which broke news of her substance abuse problem and illicit affair with a man she met previous in rehab.

Lockyer’s fate may have been sealed last week when she sent an email to a reporter from the San Jose Mercury News alleging her husband Bill Lockyer supplied her drugs and insinuated a desire to commit suicide. She later denied the assertion and claimed her ex-boyfriend Steve Chikhani, who is currently in rehab, had hacked her phone and sent the message.

The explanation rang on deaf ears. In the past week numerous editorial boards in the Bay Area called for her resignation. Even though, pressure was mounting on Lockyer to quit, county sources told The Citizen as of last Wednesday, none of her colleagues on the board of supervisors had spoken with her in hopes of having her to quit.

In hindsight, there may have been clues to her sudden resignation during last Tuesday’s board of supervisors meeting. Following approval of a joint powers agreement that will give short-term help to keeping St. Rose Hospital in Hayward afloat, Lockyer read a long and heartfelt statement in thanking the board and county staff for their efforts.

Saving St. Rose from bankruptcy had been a pet issue for Lockyer and possibly her only notable effort as a supervisor, but her mood was neither upbeat or congratulatory, but more somber in tone and may have served as her de-facto farewell address.

The role of replacing Lockyer now rests with the remaining four supervisors who have 60 days to appoint a successor. Once chosen, the newest supervisor would then face re-election for the remaining two and a half years of Lockyer’s term this November.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Alameda County's $88 Million Funding Gap Is Lowest In Four Years

April 19, 2012 | Alameda County officials are preparing for another round of excruciating cuts to programs and services after the announcement Wednesday its $2.5 billion budget has a funding gap of $88.1 million for the next fiscal year--the lowest in four years.

Although the hefty figure and the cuts potentially necessitated by the shortfall spell increased difficulties for the county's youth, underprivileged and seniors, the gap represents a significant uptick in the county's overall economic health. Last year's budget was balanced with over $137 million in cuts, followed by over $152 million the year before. In fact, the county's perennial budget woes over the past decade have not been this low since the 2008-09 budget posted a $73 million funding gap.

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson said Wednesday, the $88 million deficit is not set in stone and other uncertainties in the next few months could inflate the number and pain incurred on the county. Carson said in a statement that the county is uncertain how the state plans to reimburse it for public safety realignment, in addition, the fate of Gov. Jerry Brown's tax increase initiative will have a negative effect on the county if not passed by voter this November.

"Our first order of business will be to close what is a very substantial shortfall," said Carson. "This will require some very difficult decisions that no doubt will further hamper our ability to deliver services that are very important to people in our community. And we must do so knowing that another round of bad news may be heading our way."

Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi delivered the bad economic news Wednesday during a budget work group chaired by Carson. In a similar refrain from previously grim budget announcements over the past few years, Muranishi blamed the current shortfall on the chronically stagnant local and national economy and rising health and pension benefits.

“After a prolonged recession that ate significantly into our resources," said Muranishi, "Alameda County continues to be squeezed by rapidly rising employee health and retirement costs, continued high demand for services and a lackluster economy that undermines our chances for significant revenue growth."

It is not clear which county departments and programs will be hit hardest by another round of sharp cuts, but the Board of Supervisors plan to hold a series of hearings from now to the end of June to identify and finalize next year's budget before the July 1 deadline.

(in millions)
FY 2002-03..............(- 73.9)
FY 2003-04..............(-155.9)
FY 2004-05..............(-116.1)
FY 2005-06..............(- 92.0)
FY 2006-07..............(- 72.2)
FY 2007-08..............(- 52.0)
FY 2008-09..............(- 73.6)
FY 2009-10..............(-177.6)
FY 2010-11..............(-152.4)
FY 2011-12..............(-137.9)
FY 2012-13..............(- 88.1)
Source: Alameda County.

Sutter Health Issues A Statement Regarding San Leandro Hospital

April 19, 2012 | Sutter Health issued a brief statement Thursday afternoon regarding San Leandro Hospital:
We are pleased that the California Supreme Court elected not to hear the District’ s appeal, and that the District’s claim that the 2008 agreements were void due to a supposed conflict of interest is finally resolved. Sutter Health has maintained from the outset that the 2008 agreements were lawfully entered into by the District, and are binding and enforceable agreements. It was terribly costly, and an unfortunate use of assets, for the District to argue otherwise. Sutter Health has honored its obligations under the 2008 agreements, including the construction of a 130 bed state of the art hospital at a cost of $320 million dollars. We expect the District to now honor its obligations under these agreements. To that end, we will be evaluating all options relative to the future use of San Leandro Hospital and the resolution of our claims against the District for monetary damages and attorneys’ fees.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sutter Health Mum About Plans For San Leandro Hospital After High Court's Decision

April 18, 2012 | With the Eden Township Healthcare District's legal options expended, excluding a somewhat quixotic petition to the U.S. Supreme Court, what comes next for patients and employees of San Leandro Hospital is unclear.

Sutter Health, following the State Supreme Court's decision to deny the District's petition to hear allegations of conflict of interest by two signers of the fateful 2008 agreement to rebuild Eden Hospital in Castro Valley, has not made a public announcement in the week since the determination. According to the terms of the upheld agreement, Sutter now holds title to the facility. A Sutter spokesperson did not respond for comment this week.

Among the possible scenarios, Sutter could shutter the facility, which county sources say is unlikely or maintain services for a short period. More likely, though, it may return to its previous intention to lease the facility to the Alameda County Medical Center for acute rehabilitation services. A similar deal was made between Sutter and the county in 2010 and would shift rehab services from the seismically-deficient Fairmont Hospital to San Leandro Hospital.

The proposal angered residents and hospital employees for among other things closing San Leandro Hospital's usually crowded emergency room. Numerous legislative solutions had been offered over the past two years by Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, her predecessor Alice Lai-Bitker and State Sen. Ellen Corbett, who said Tuesday she was disappointed in the high court's decision, but will continue searching for an amicable solution in the best interests of her constituents.

“I feel strongly that it is essential to the health and well-being of East Bay residents to have fully functioning community hospitals with emergency rooms available to visit. We must keep health care services nearby and accessible," said Corbett. "I will continue to explore all available options to keep our community hospitals operating in their present capacity.”

But, in language suggesting a more somber tone for the fate of the hospital, Corbett said, “Let this be a clear lesson to hospitals and communities across the state: No matter what they say, corporate interests who parachute in to take over hospitals are not interested in preserving community services but rather are motivated solely by the bottom line.”

Corbett's use of the past tense regarding San Leandro Hospital was also used by others during a meeting of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors Tuesday afternoon dealing partly with the situation at St. Rose Hospital in Hayward. Two local health care officials called the facility "closed" in their statements to the board.

As fears of the hospital's imminent closure begin to be realized, so has a fair amount of finger-pointing over its demise centered upon the possibility that no matter the great amount of work by local officials to reverse the horrendous 2008 agreement over the past two years, its appears Sutter will get everything it desired and without much effort.

Former San Leandro mayor Tony Santos, who worked on the issue during his term in office, has also been the bane of the Save San Leandro Hospital movement for his comments perceived to be in favor of Sutter closing the facility. He said the blame for the hospital's potential closing should be spread to many local officials.

"The problem was too many people were listening to [Eden Township board member] Carole Rogers, including Ellen Corbett," said Santos. He also said San Leandro Councilman Michael Gregory, whose district the hospital rests, did nothing over the past three years to "move this forward."

Santos also recounted Sutter's unwavering consistency in saying what they would do and sticking with it over the past few years. "They always said they were not going to deal with Carole Rogers and they never did," Santos said. "They said they would not make any comment until the decision is rendered and that's what they did."

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bonta, Guillen Debate Plan For Public Safety As Lackluster Race Enters Final Stretch

April 16, 2012 | Stemming the rise in crime is a perennial hot-bottom issue in the Oakland-centric 18th Assembly District. Alameda Vice Mayor and candidate Rob Bonta says he has solution for helping California cities combat spikes in crime, but one of his opponents in the June primary has concerns over its implications for maintaining civil liberties.

Bonta told a group in Chinatown last Thursday, if elected, he would offer legislation in Sacramento giving cities an option to draw from a pool of state funding and resources in the event crime rises to a certain level. "Oakland may qualify for that, unfortunately, for being the most violent city in the state," Bonta said during the 90-minute debate that included Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen and AC Transit board member Joel Young.

Guillen said it was the first time he heard of the proposal and focused on Bonta's use of the term, "state of emergency." In other U.S. cities, instituting similar powers has usually been associated with cracking down on the youth with short-term curfews.

"I have concerns about what that means," Guillen said. "Certainly there has been instances where police have abused those powers."

Guillen also took umbrage with Bonta's comment that the city had the highest crime rate in the state. "It scares away businesses," Guillen said. "Anyone who is bringing up state of emergency is doing a discredit to our city." Guillen, though, agreed Oakland needs some sort of assistance for maintaining public safety. "I think there's some ideas where you can actually coordinate resources better," he offered, while referencing better cohesion between the California Highway Patrol, Coast Guard and Oakland PD.

After the forum, Bonta conceded the use of "state of emergency" was not the best label for his plan. "If [Guillen] is conceptualizing it that way, I understand why, but it's exactly the opposite," said Bonta. "It's not a free-for-all and bring in the riot gear, it means, you need help and people deserve safe communities."

Bonta said his idea would have a built-in trigger for allocating resources where they are needed most. "Police or fire suppression--it could be anything," he said. "When redevelopment was cut, the City of Oakland funded police and firefighter positions with redevelopment money. So if they should lose those positions and be at staffing ratios that are too low, they would have help from somebody," said Bonta.

Young used the time to comment on Bonta's proposal by reiterating a non-specific call for the state to create more jobs.

The disagreement over the proposal is the first signs of life in a race touted as one of the closest race in the entire state. Instead, it is precariously close to becoming one of the most boring. Last Thursday's forum allowed candidates to rebut their opponent's answers, yet, only on the issue of funding public safety detailed above, did any of the candidates take advantage of the format to begin developing distinctions among each other.

The laid back demeanor of the three candidates (Young sauntered in 20 minutes late and spoke without taking notes) suggests, said one long-time East Bay political observer, that all three may believe they are the front runner for the top-two June 5 primary. A fourth candidate, Republican Rhonda Weber, did not attend last week's forum. In the battle royale for a spot in the November general election, two of the candidates can expect to be pushed over the ropes. With less than two months to go, you might expect some sort of political expediency, but it has yet to be seen.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Three Days After Latest Bizarre Twist, Lockyers Make A Public Appearance

April 15, 2012 | Just three days after sending an email to a local reporter so shocking that the newspapers feared for her safety, embattled Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer appeared in public Saturday night in Fremont with her husband, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer.

The couple attended a Democratic fundraiser at Ohone College in Fremont Saturday in honor of Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski. It is believed to be the Lockyers first public appearance since reports surfaced linking her to drug and alcohol abuse in early February.

Attendees of the event say the Lockyers appeared to be putting on a happy public face in front of some of their long-time supporters just as stories of their private life continue to make headlines. Last Thursday, a reporter from the San Jose Mercury News wrote of receiving an email from Nadia Lockyer suggesting her husband supplied her with drugs long before meeting her now ex-boyfriend, Steve Chikhani. She ominously ended the message by saying, "I simply can't bear this any longer. Goodbye to everyone." The remark sparked a call to Hayward Police, who later found Lockyer safe at home. She later admitted writing a portion of the email, but denied sending it. Lockyer later claimed Chikhani hacked into her phone, added references to Bill and sent it to the reporter.

Photos from the Democratic soiree posted on Wieckowski's Facebook page show one photo of the couple seated in the distance and enjoying the night's program. Another image shows a who's who of East Bay Democratic leaders, including the Lockyers, posing on stage, all raising a thumbs up to camera.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Hayward Council Candidates Focus on Getting Down To Business; Helping Schools

April 14, 2012 | Over the past decade post-industrial Hayward has struggled to rebound economically from the loss of high earning jobs. Crime has remained a struggle and its schools have suffered near cataclysmic declines. Last Tuesday night, eight of the nine candidates for four open seat on the City Council almost exclusively grappled with how to again create a vibrant and safe Hayward in tandem with a renewed focus on education.

While comments from the prospective candidates were light on specific ideas of how to attract business to Hayward in the long-term, discussion of how to prepare the city for positive growth was dominant. The city expects a $14 million deficit this next fiscal year starting in June. That follows a $20 million shortfall a year ago that featured cuts to staff and wages and benefits. Two of the incumbents Councilmembers Barbara Halliday and Olden Henson reiterated the cities plea for some public employee unions to accept concessions of nearly 15 percent.

"City services are pretty much cut to the bone," said Henson, who noted he was part of a previous council that put money aside to offset some of the current deficits the city has endured. Henson also called out the local firefighters union to forego raises along with paying more towards their pensions.

Councilman Francisco Zermeno, the third incumbent up for re-election, was non-committal on the city's hard line. Instead, on the question of what parts of the budget he would cut first, he said none and preferred to search for government grants to minimize cuts.

The most aggressive answer on handling the city's budget woes came surprisingly from one of the expected front runners, Planning Commissioner Al Mendall, who appeared to threaten layoffs for city employees if they do not agree to concessions. "We're asking all our employee bargaining units to step up and negotiate for concessions and the ones that do and agree to concession, we shouldn't be laying them off," said Mendall during the forum. "That has to be the reward in my mind. And the ones who aren't willing to bargain for concessions that are necessary, that's probably where we're going to have to start laying off people. I hate to say it, but it's a tough choice."

After the forum, Mendall denied the statement is a threat to city workers. "Under the contracts we have right now we cannot afford to pay the employees that we have," he said. "Either we need to negotiate concessions with the unions or we need to lay a lot of them off. One of those two or some combination. That's the only choice we have right now."

If any unit hits that 15 percent, to me, that means we shouldn't be laying any of them off in that unit because they have achieved the 15 percent through givebacks and the ones that don't, they'll get hit by the layoffs. It's not about a threat, it's about rewarding the ones who are willing to negotiate."

Last month, some members of the Service Employees International Union spoke out during a council meeting charging the city's negotiating team with driving a hard bargain by refusing to accept a pledge of no-layoffs in exchange for 15 percent cuts in wages.

Greg Jones, a former colleague of the three incumbents two years ago as Hayward's city manager did not touch the subject of the city's current negotiations, but said the "city is not broke." Jones said, historically cities were created for public safety and sanitation, but he also noted, "We can't cut, cut, cut until we have nothing left. We may have to stop doing some things." Jones's performance, in fact, may have been the most impressive of the night as he was able to force candidates to speak about currently unknown, possibly non-existent corruption of Measure A funds while shrewdly touting his direct experience as a city manager to the current job description of city council member.

Eight of the candidates, not including challenger Shahla Azimi, who has not appeared in any forums, all agreed the city's public safety departments should again be spared cuts.

Ralph Farias Jr, running for council for the second time, again proved to be an effective single-issue candidate. He loudly beat the drum of a pro-business conservative and repeatedly focused on Mendall's vote last week on the planning commission that blocked Walmart from setting shop at the old Circuit City building on Whipple Road. "According to the planning commission, I guess we're closed for business," said Farias, who supported the retail giant's plans to bring a down-scaled supermarket version of Walmart to town. Farias also advocated saving money by abolishing the planning commission, making the city's permit process more business-friendly and potentially using eminent domain to take over the empty Mervyns building on Foothill Boulevard.

Farias' commerce-friendly rhetoric, at times, overshadowed Zermeno's pet issue of business development in Hayward's downtown. On one occasion, Farias mocked for the second time in as many forums, Zermeno's signature catchphrase of "Hayward On!" reserved for celebrating Hayward's economic vitality with his own, "Hayward, Stand Up!"

If the city's present economic situation is somewhat stable, yet lackluster, the same cannot be said for its deeply under performing schools. Although, the state of Hayward's schools is under the purview of its school district, there continues to be a long-running conversation within City Hall on how to lend a hand to a segment of its city government that just two years ago flirted with a state takeover of its schools.

In one of the night's most memorable lines, Farias laid out the school district's woes in his typical blunt and succinct manner, "Our school district is 672 out of 700 in the state of California," he said. "That's just 28 from being stupid."

Peter Bufete, the youngest candidate in the group at 22, again showed why he may be one of the most intriguing young prospects in the East Bay. As a product of Hayward schools, he said he has the best insight in how to engage the youth and schools. "An education foundation is important to our communities vitality and ensures that in the future we are secure and we're in good hands," he said. Bufete, who recently graduated from U.C. Santa Barbara, also mentioned the role of gang injunctions in Hayward as a possible impediment to helping the city's youth. The absence of the issue in this race's discussion has been oddly conspicuous. "I would like to be there to make sure the gang injunction that we have doesn't infringe on our civil liberties and target teenagers," Bufete said.

Fahim Khan, 28, another newcomer and Hayward native, also cited the importance of good schools, but denied the city has a problem with crime.

While the school district hopes a $58 parcel tax with help alleviate some of its budget problems, Jones said the city has to do more. "Our plan needs to be broader than a parcel tax," he said. "We need to tell our youth we give a damn about them."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Nadia Lockyer, County Residents Are Hurting; When Will It Stop?

Lockyers in December 2011.
April 13, 2012 | One thing is clear: the Lockyer household is in shambles and its tumult threatens to overwhelm her constituents. Thursday's latest chapter in the very public and meteoric fall from grace of both Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer and her husband, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer appears to have reached critical mass. In an email to a reporter for the San Jose Mercury News, Nadia Lockyer said her husband supplied her drugs in the past and shockingly signed off by saying, "Goodbye to everyone." She later told the paper she had composed part of the email, but claimed her ex-boyfriend Steve Chikhani had somehow hacked into her phone and adding the part about Bill. What to believe?

Even the East Bay Express, in a stunning reversal today, called for her resignation. "The public needs to be able to know that their elected officials are telling the truth. But Lockyer, probably because of her addiction, can’t seem to come clean," wrote Robert Gammon. "And she may not be able to until she resigns her position, and fully concentrates on overcoming her addiction."

The community in Hayward, still recovering from Lockyer's escapades and the circus around Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, not only needs to trust their supervisor, but also needs to know she's doing her job. It is not clear whether Lockyer is actually doing anything since her return to the supervisors chambers two weeks ago, according to sources at the county level. Her appearance continues to be pale and thin. Her is speech halting and at times incoherent as she addressed county staff during the last two board meetings. In addition, there continues to be a sense that her time in rehab, which was actually a wellness center, has not really done anything to begin to cure what ails her.

One former county staffer told The Citizen, "If she can't help herself, how is going to help others?" This point may become crystal clear next week when staff reveals the county's funding gap for the coming fiscal year. Last year's shortfall approached $140 million. This year's round of cuts to services for the poor, children and the elderly could rival that figure. The board of supervisors may be forced to again tackle the immense job of bridging the funding gap with just four members. St. Rose Hospital in Hayward is also teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and its hazy future could literally be a question of life and death for many poor, uninsured and under insured county residents. Lockyer had made the hospital's viability a signature issue before news of her February rendezvous in Newark made national headlines. The nature of the board of supervisors is unique in local government. No other body directly affects more people in real-life situations than at the county level. It is the safety net for hundreds of thousands of Alameda County residents. In some ways, its heartening for a supervisor to directly witness the fruits of their good work, but equally troubling to see the excruciating pain their decisions can mean for those less fortunate. It's no longer clear, Lockyer can make that distinction any longer.

Like so many who enable Nadia's behavior, are we now to believe Bill is the biggest of them all? Did he supply her over the years with drugs, as her email suggests? Who knows? The suggestion made by the Mercury News that Bill had never been linked to drug use was called "hilarious" by one long-time East Bay political observer. The paper reported Bill Lockyer's spokesman said, in effect, the state treasurer was once a young man willing to experiment with drugs, but never abused them. Bill Lockyer's bachelor days in the State Legislature in the 1980s, though, tell a different story. In fact, Bill's wild exploits with women and other stimulants is well-known and recounted wistfully among those who participated in his bacchanalian days.

This current spiral towards personal destruction between both Nadia and Bill seems far from reaching an endpoint and, in fact, evidence show it has been swirling for quite some time. Nevertheless, it is obvious Nadia's constant contact with the Mercury News reporter shows Bill has lost control of her in both the public and private sphere. From his perspective in maintaining his own power and legacy, she has gone rogue and their demise has been a long time coming. Rumors of their separation had percolated around the end of last year and reports of Nadia meeting up with her paramour last June appear to line up with other observations that, in hindsight, paint a difficult past nine months for the Lockyers. Last October, during a speech celebrating the 50th anniversary of Chabot College, Lockyer began whimpering near the end of an address recounting a story about his family and the loss of his mother. At the time, the scene appeared odd, but innocent. Weeks later, though, at an event in San Leandro, a first-person source told The Citizen then that Bill became inconsolate after he repeatedly urged his wife to grab a plate and eat. She resisted and walked away from the group. He somberly confided to the person, "I don't know what to do with her." Yet another report in the Mercury News said last year Nadia called police to their Hayward home claiming Bill had become violent with her. The police told them to go to separate areas of the house for the night and left. Maybe a similar cooling off perioid is now needed.

When Nadia ran for office in 2010 she often said the her candidacy was for the "women and children" of the her district. Maybe her exit from the office should be for herself.

[UPDATE] Swalwell Threatens Legal Action Over Stark's Charge Of Bribery

April 13, 2012 | Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell's campaign said Friday they are mulling legal action after Rep. Pete Stark repeatedly charged him this week with bribery over a controversial rezoning deal last fall approved by the first-term council member.

“This accusation is completely false and without merit, and Congressman Stark knows it,” said Swalwell, in a statement released Friday morning. On Wednesday, the campaign had given Stark 24 hours to apologize, but the long-time congressman did not respond.
"The Swalwell campaign is weighing its legal options to ensure that Congressman Stark stops this malicious act of defamation," said Lisa Tucker, Swalwell's campaign consultant.

“Congressman Stark’s actions Tuesday night are the latest in a string of offensive and obscene comments that have gained in frequency over the last few years,” Tucker said. “Accusing Eric of bribery is over the line.”

Stark's assertion revolves around various land and rezoning deals involving Charter Properties, which is run by one of the Tri Valley's largest land owners, the Lin Family. When it comes to the criminal act of bribery, it may be hard for Stark to prove any transaction is nothing more than politics as usual or something more malicious. On Tuesday, Stark charged Swalwell with accepting "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in exchange for a deal last year that rezoned open space in Dublin purchased on the cheap by the Lin's into far more valuable commercial property.

Just hours after the contentious 90-minute forum Tuesday night in Hayward, Swalwell said Stark's allegations were "so outlandish that I don't think they dignify a response. He's saying these things out of desperation. This is what you do when you're losing grip of the seat you've held for 40 years."

The notion that a Tri Valley public official may be beholden to rich private developers is not necessarily a rarity in places like Dublin and Pleasanton, which are known to be friendly spots for developers to do business.

The Lin's are also known to be prodigious bundlers of campaign contributions for many Tri Valley elected officials, says Johh Zukoski, a long-time blogger at AroundDublinBlog.com, who has followed the rise of developers in that city. "They are there for the developers," he said of many public officials in town. "So it's not a surprise that they are beholden to them."

In addition, said Zukoski, the act of commingling political contributions makes it difficult to ascertain exactly who and where the donations come from. Stark may disagree. Aside from Stark dropping the f-bomb on Swalwell as they shook hands, video of the conclusion of Tuesday's forum also captured Stark telling him, "...because once you file your financial reports, people will know that you're a crook."

UPDATE: After a town hall meeting in Alameda last Saturday, Stark dismissed a potential threat by Swalwell to sue him for defamation. "I don't pay attention to it," said Stark as he walked into a burger joint with his two children.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Sutter Wins: State Supreme Court Denies Healthcare District's Petition

April 12, 2012 | After over two years of legal maneuvering between the Eden Township Healthcare District and Sutter Health, the issue of who owns San Leandro Hospital is fact. The California State Supreme Court Wednesday denied the District's petition to settle its dispute with Sutter over conflict of interests allegations stemming from a three-year-old agreement...

The high court's decision is the end of the line for San Leandro Hospital--at least, in the court room. The District failed to convince two lower courts to unwind the 2008 agreement its then-board of directors signed with Sutter leveraging the $300 million reconstruction of Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley for an opportunity for San Leandro Hospital restore fiscal sustainability.

Two years later, Sutter moved to exercise an option to purchase the facility and lease it to the Alameda County Medical Center as an acute rehabilitation center. The District board of directors blocked the purchase option and the dispute headed to the courts in 2010.

Wednesday's decision by the state supreme court represents the definitive end of the legal situation, but the fate of the hospital is not yet clear. Employees at San Leandro Hospital have reported over the past few months, the presence of county workers at the facility, measuring tape in hand. Management from Sutter two weeks ago urged employees to begin looking for other job opportunities and notifying them the hospital could be closed in the next 90 days. Both instances, whether real or scare tactics, have been used in the past, but with the legal case closed, the threats take on new meaning for hundreds of health care workers.

Carole Rogers, chair of the District board of directors, declined to comment on the denial of petition until issues surrounding legal fees potentially owed to Sutter are resolved. By some estimates, the legal bill could be as high as $25 million. A settlement that large could possibly bankrupt the health care district.

Most observers, including the director of Alameda County Healthcare Services, believe Sutter will return to the negotiating table with the county officials once the lawsuit is resolved. Sutter, Briscoe noted last month, is still a reliable business partner in various areas of the county health care system. The future of the facility may entail returning to the original plan brokered by Sutter and the county in 2010, making their business relationship even stronger.


Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pareja Shines As Stark And Swalwell Trade Shots

April 11, 2012 | The first forum featuring all three candidates in the 15th congressional district presented a load of fireworks and hints at how the race will shape up from here to June and beyond to November. Here's the skinny on the performances of Democrats Rep. Pete Stark, Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell and independent Chris Pareja:

  • "I think it's time in this country for us to believe health care is a right, not a privilege and we see that Republicans and some of my Democratic opponents subscribe to destroying Medicare as we know it."
  • "If you're going to buy here in America, it should be made in America."
  • Charged Swalwell with being anti-union.
  • Pointed out Swalwell has never held a job outside of the public sector.
  • Diminished Swalwell's ability as an Alameda County deputy district attorney by calling him "this pipsqueak."
  • Used question about role of Constitution to sideswipe Swalwell with bribe charge.
  • Stark said he has never accepted bribes, but some may believe campaign fundraising is taking money for political favors is akin to the same goal. He then said, "Generally, physicians will tell you I don't give them as much money as they want."
  • Awkwardly answered Citizens United question by saying, if corporations are citizens, they should pay consequences like any other individual, instead of clearly saying he is against the Supreme Court ruling.
"That's not something you can dismiss. That's nothing some junior leaguer can bring about knowing nothing about what goes on in Washington."-Stark contrasting Swalwell's lack of experience with his own and trumpeting $3 billion in federal funds brought to East Bay by himself and Rep. Barbara Lee.

There were a host of charges levied by Stark against Swalwell's record. It remains to be seen whether the validity of those charges can be sufficiently proven. After the forum, when asked for proof of some of the allegation, Stark appeared hesitant in providing evidence.

Although it remains to be seen whether Stark's string of expletives toward Swalwell directly after the forum will affect any gains made Tuesday night, in the parlance of Stark, he dumped a shitload of potentially damaging charges on a candidate relatively unknown not only in his own Dublin, but in the entire 15th congressional district. Stark went in for the kill that many have been waiting for him to unleash. When confronting an unknown, the political playbook is adamant about composing an unflattering initial sketch of the challenger on your own terms before they have a chance to compose their own much more flattering narrative. If that was Stark's intent Tuesday night, then it was a successful performance. Calling Swalwell a "fucking crook" may also not be a bad thing for Stark in the end. Think of it this way: Stark is hoping to successfully hang words and phrases like "bribery," "crook," Swalwell "going to jail," on Swalwell while portraying him as anti-labor and absent-minded when it comes to voting in state elections. Swalwell said Stark couldn't hit a fastball, but he sure can still throw the high heater under the batter's chin with pinpoint accuracy.

  • He nicely personalized his attack on Stark during his closing statement saying, "Why would a member of congress want to live in Maryland and not in his own district? It couldn't be because of the beautiful weather there or the beaches. It's because he think he can get away with it. It's because he thinks he's held this congressional seat long enough that he doesn't have to work for it anymore. It's why he doesn't live with you. It's why he doesn't listen to you. It's why he doesn't vote for you on the floor of congress."
  • Noted Stark has not authored and passed a piece of legislation since 1994.
  • Said he would defer taxes for businesses in their first year. Cited Hayward's B Street and its list of empty storefronts as a place this policy would help attract and keep businesses.
  • Criticized Stark's resolution praising Dallas Braden's Mother's Day perfect game in 2010 in the shadow of Nummi's closure as if the two events were mutually exclusive. Besides, it's the East Bay, we love the A's!
  • Returned to language some seniors are reading as ageism. Two weeks ago, Stark said until they build a rocket ship to get from the district to Capitol Hill for a quick vote, he would have to live nearby in Maryland. "We have invented those," quipped Swalwell. "Members of congress no longer take horses and buggies. They're called airplanes."
  • Throw the script away! Swalwell's prepared opening and closing statements sounded like he was talking to the jurors instead of voters.
"I would go to a surgeon who has experience, but not one who hasn't performed a surgery since 1994."-Swalwell responding to a comment made by Stark highlighting his experience by equating it to opting for an experienced doctor to operate on a patient over an unexperienced one.

Using the Dublin's rosy financial as a template for the federal level is a very problematic statement. "We have balanced our budget without any cuts or any reductions in services. I don't know why we can't do that at the federal level." Dublin is one of the youngest and most rapidly-growing cities in the entire state, according to the last U.S. Census. Because it was created during a era when the power of labor unions was greatly diminished in the 1980s, it doesn't have the same liabilities as older East Bay cities. For instance, unfunded liabilities like city employee pensions are virtually non-existent in Dublin since much of it is outsourced to private companies. In a nutshell, Dublin's way of doing business is more like China than anything found at the federal government.

During the moments Stark was pounding away at Swalwell, he took the shelling like a champ and didn't pull out his own switch blade and start cutting back. That's important for the narrative of Stark being an undisciplined congressman behaving badly to continue to take hold. The unkind comments made by Stark afterwards may or may not be the gift some expect if he doesn't massage the rhetoric in his favor. Making a joke out of the allegations is good, if in fact, they are found to be mundane or completely untrue. Of course, this is politics and whether something is true or not really doesn't matter, so expect Stark to repeat the crook meme over Swalwell like a drumbeat. The first charge he should quickly attempt to debunk may be the most difficult. Swalwell cannot be elected if labor believes he is anti-union. Repeat: The East Bay will vote for a "fucking crook," but they won't elect a "fucking anti-labor crook."

  • "Two words: absolutely not," he said when asked if he supports requiring people to purchase health care insurance. You may not agree with him, but the belief is baseline red-meat for conservatives.
  • "If we get to the point where the government can force us to buy any product from any private business or from government, that's the door of tyranny being thrown wide open. What's next? Do I have to buy a years supply of berets for myself? I keep my hair relatively short. It's not required."
  • On business issues, Pareja was at his best and his comfortability with the issue was obvious. He told a story of Carl's Jr. complaining about the bureaucratic red tape in California for simply getting a permit for a dumpster. "We can't manufacture hamburgers here cost-effectively, how can establish anything of value in our manufacturing base? 
  • Although, Pareja did well to lay out conservative fears of health care reform, he also advocated for alternative safety net programs to help those without insurance. That's opposites sides of the argument.
  • Language portraying the Constitution as a quasi-religious document makes voters nervous in this district.
  • Similarly Tea Party phrases like "the loss of our liberties on a daily basis," "freedom-loving people" and "tyrant" pull up images and adverse reactions linked to divisive pols like George W. Bush. The East Bay does not like W.
  • Comments like "I'm a pro-legal immigrant. I believe this a country enriched by our immigrant population. That being said, we have a border security problem." and "I'm a brown guy, you can't call racist on me for telling the truth" are still interpreted as racism by liberal voters and being "brown" won't change their minds. 
"Many people have not read the rulebook."-Pareja saying politicians need to read the Constitution. He then proceeded to hand two copies of the U.S. Constitution to both Stark and Swalwell. Classic.

While Swalwell and, to a certain extent, Pareja knock Stark for his residency in Maryland, they both advocate for using technology to connect representatives in their districts with Washington, D.C. Pareja first broached the idea and Swalwell followed. Most D.C. observers, though, say the gridlock in the Beltway is not with elected officials being disconnected from their constituents, but the lack of camaraderie among representatives on both sides of the aisle. Alleviating the divide in Washington isn't going isn't going to happen through Facebook any more than it does in any other interpersonal relationship versus interacting face-to-face.

If you weigh all the factors and base the evaluation on who made the greatest gains regardless of their standing in the race, then Pareja was the winner of Tuesday's forum. Sure, he's an unknown right-leaning independent, but he didn't look or sound like one. That's important to note because its an intangible that leads to other positives later on. Pareja sounded genuine, warm, and personable even when he was saying he wanted to repeal health care reforms and use Tea Party phrasing. He's not the scary or crazy conservative most East Bay voters expect. As Stark and Swalwell beat each other up, he stayed above the fray. Remember, this is a top-two primary. He doesn't have to knock Stark out in June, he just needs Stark to push Swalwell into third place. In addition, Tuesday night was Pareja's first time on the big stage and he was nearly flawless in his performance even for a grizzled veteran. Even if Pareja fails to advance to November, he has the potential to become the face of the Republican Party in the East Bay--whatever that means.

Stark Hurls F-Bomb At Swalwell Following Caustic Debate Featuring Bribery Charges

April 11, 2012 | At the conclusion of Tuesday's night contentious candidates forum for the 15th Congressional District, Rep. Pete Stark and Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell appeared to have shaken hands and exchanged pleasantries, however sources who overheard the conservation say Stark levied a barrage of expletives at his Democratic opponent.

Stark, still seated at the dais at the Hayward City Council chambers, reportedly called Swalwell a "fucking crook" as they shook hands.

When contacted later by phone, Swalwell confirmed the exchange with The Citizen while adding Stark also called him a "slimeball" and told him "you're going to jail." Swalwell called the comments "undignified behavior by a member of Congress." Stark could not be reached for comment at this late hour.

The comments were certainly provoked by a highly caustic hour-long forum where the long-time congressman lobbed a number of bombshells aimed at Swalwell's record. The specific incident involved a charge made by Stark alleging Swalwell accepted "bribes" from the family of a powerful Dublin developer in exchange for preferential zoning considerations. Swalwell was elected to the Dublin City Council in 2010.

Stark said "hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes" were given to Swalwell by the Lin family in Dublin. "If I were a lawyer, I would call that bribery, but I'm not a lawyer," said Stark, "so I'll let Mr. Swalwell define what he thinks taking all this money from people that he gave special zoning privileges to is. Maybe it's how he sees his role in government."

Stark said he has never been accused in 40 years of public service of taking money in return for his vote. "Granted, I've taking money from all sorts of people who want to support my campaign and physicians," he added.

"We'll find out if he can be accused and charged with accepting bribes," said Stark before being stopped by the moderator, former San Leandro mayor Shelia Young. It was the second time Stark was admonished for lodging personal attacks on his opponents during the forum. Stark's line of questioning illicited unfavorable reactions from a few conservative audience members.

"As far as I know, I have not accepted any bribes" said Swalwell in response to Stark's comments. "I don't know what Congressman Stark is talking about. Maybe the F.B.I. is waiting for me outside," he joked.

The bribery charge was not the only allegation hurled by Stark at his 31-year-old Democratic challenger. Stark also charged him with not having voted in the past six California elections. Earlier in the forum, Stark resorted to name-calling when he called Swalwell a "pipsqueak" and a "junior leaguer."

On the voting record allegation, Swalwell said he didn't know what Stark is talking about, but he looks forward to refuting Stark's claim. When asked about Swalwell's response to the voting charge, Stark simply said, "bullshit."

Independent candidate Chris Pareja, who emerged unscathed from the Stark-Swalwell knife fight, said the representative's attacks were "vintage Pete" and questioned Swalwell's showing Tuesday night. "It was the same thing from Eric," Pareja said later. "It's just some more 'Pete's not showing up for work' and more rehashing of Pete's ideas."

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Debate Preview: All Three Candidates For Congress Meet For The First Time

Chris Pareja
April 10, 2012 | While Rep. Pete Stark and his vastly younger Democratic challenger Eric Swalwell prepare to break out butterfly collars and chant "here comes the judge!" like its 1972, there is another candidate hoping to draw upon the addition of moderate to conservative voters drawn into the 15th Congressional District after redistricting last year.

Chris Pareja, a right-leaning independent for congress, said last Thursday that he's ready to finally take on his Democratic opponents. It will be the first time all three candidates have appeared on stage together. Pareja, ran against Stark in 2010 as a write-in candidate after ramping up his campaign too late to get on the ballot. As a frequent attendee of Stark's monthly town hall meetings going back two years, Pareja would routinely challenge Stark to debates only to be quickly and harshly rebuffed by the long-time congressman. "Would we I help you with your campaign," Stark often told Pareja.

This time around, Stark has been noticeably polite to Pareja. Some of Stark's staffers even go out of the way to call Pareja a "nice guy."The change of tune is undoubtedly a political move hoping to use Pareja's right wing ideology to siphon votes away from Swalwell, whose strategy appears predicated on cleaning up new moderate voters in the district centered in his Dublin-Pleasanton stronghold. The more candidates in the pool also limits the incumbents risk, especially in a top-two primary system where finishing second is the minimum for success this June.

Tuesday's candidates' forum in Hayward should reveal whether Pareja is aiming at Stark and hoping to knock Swalwell to third. It would be folly to believe Stark could finish third in a three-person primary, so why not knock the second Democrat out of the race? At a Hayward planning commission hearing last week over the proposed move of Walmart to the city, Pareja gave no indication of how he will attack his opponents Tuesday night, but took time to describe Swalwell's recent public appearance as amateurish. Pareja not only referenced Swalwell's panned performance before the Hayward Demos, but also mocked him for fumbling and dropping his lapel mic during a stump speech last month in Dublin.

If Monday's ingenious retro ad by Swalwell that conjured up the ghosts of Stark's initial victory over 81-year-old George P. Miller in 1972 is any indication, the campaign seem intent on ignoring Pareja and instead going directly at the incumbent.

Swalwell Seeks To Snatch The Spirit of '72 From Stark

Eric Swalwell
April 10, 2012 | Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell is getting major points for recreating a 1972 advertisement for a short five-minute debate between Stark and then-Rep. George P. Miller aired on Channel 2. It's not the crack campaign research find some are making it out to be. The similarities between a young Stark challenging Miller in the Democratic primary and Swalwell, 31, today taking on 80-year-old Stark are too obvious, but a few weeks past the season premiere of "Mad Men" and a recent retro edition of Newsweek, the reconstituted ad hits a timely chord.

A month ago, Stark tackled the issues surrounding his upstart campaign against Miller and their similarities today. Stark said aside from the age difference, the issues are vastly different. Miller favored the Vietnam War, said Stark, who predicated his campaign as the anti-war candidate. He was also out-of-touch, Stark said, with voters in the East Bay who in the shadow of Earth Day's creation, were increasingly more aware of environmental issues.

Echoes of 1972
Fast-forward today and it's difficult to make the connection between Stark's recent voting record being contrary to the beliefs of his constituents, most of whom back a more liberal single-payer health care plan than passed by Congress two years ago. The District has also long matched Stark's naturally pacifist beliefs by vilifying the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on a constant basis--both long-time signature issues for Stark.

It will be interesting to see how Swalwell's co-opting of Stark's own campaign strategy from four-decades ago works among voters. Swalwell appears intent on reformatting the out-of-touch meme now featuring Stark's residency in Maryland and his poor attendance record. Recently, Swalwell has not been shy in sprinkling thinly-veiled rhetoric highlighting Stark's age and physical condition and his propensity for publicly putting his foot in his mouth.

Voters in the Tri Valley may grasp the language as a call for youthful change, but older voters in the East Bay are increasingly hearing the harsh words of a young whippersnapper calling them useless and decrepit.

Citizen Farias Puts Up His Dukes For Hayward City Council

Ralph Farias
April 10, 2012 | When Ralph Farias, Jr. ran for the city council in 2010 he finished a distant fourth among six candidates with nine percent of the vote. Undaunted, the first-time candidate, a Republican, is back for another try. He has already ruffled the feathers of local Hayward leaders, too. At a forum two weeks ago, he personally called out Mayor Mike Sweeney for the sad state of empty storefronts downtown and mocked his challenger Councilman Francisco Zermeno with the incumbent's signature catchphrase, "Hayward On!"

There is also an undercard to the congressional main event held by the League of Women Voters Tuesday night. The at-large June election holds four spots open on the council. Three incumbents are running along with a former city manager and member of the planning commission. Among the challengers Farias is likely the most outspoken and rambunctious candidate for any office in the entire East Bay.

Although brash and entertaining, Farias has shown discipline in continually hammering away at Hayward's growing economic disparities and lack of new businesses coming to the area. His histrionics, though, are also hard to ignore. Along with a host of conservatives last week urging the planning commission to approve Walmart moving to an empty space on Whipple Road, Farias spoke on the retailer giant's behalf.
Instead of standing in line with other speakers, Farias stood at the back of the City Hall chambers. He bounced back and forth on his toes like a prize fighter awaiting introduction to the ring. When the commision's chairperson called his name, he trotted down the aisle until he reached the lectern. Once there he hoped once and vigorously shook his head side to side before speaking--shaking the cobwebs fee while awaiting his trainers to hoist a spit bucket to his head and slather Vaseline on his temples.

"I think this guy watches too much wrestling," a union member there to oppose Walmart turned and said.

You can't fault Farias for his enthusiasm, but nothing personifies his gumption than a campaign flyer he put out recently featuring a large photo of Farias mugging the camera in a pork pie hat along with a shot of himself, hands on his hips, peering steadfast into the future. "You ever seen Citizen Kane?" said Farias. "That's what I'm talking about."