Thursday, June 28, 2012

Why Sutter Health Is So Quiet About San Leandro Hospital's Future

SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | When news Sutter Health had purchased a full-page color advertisement in various newspapers just a day before Alameda County Supervisor Wilma was set to discuss the fairness of the health care provider's non-profit tax exemption, it struck more than a few as no coincidence. It also gave yet another indication the public relations-conscious Sacramento-based corporation has a higher than normal aversion to bad news.

When asked whether Chan's scheduled 90-minute presentation with Board of Equalization member Betty Yee June 22 had scared Sutter into buying the ad, Chan smiled and said, “I hope so.”

Chan's candid nature when it comes to Sutter is not surprising. She says Sutter will not talk to her about the impending siutation at San Leandro Hospital. Of course, being persona non grata with Sutter is something of a badge of honor for supporters of keeping the hospital open. “After the lawsuit, no one really knows what’s going on," Chan said. "I don’t know what’s going on and they’re not allowed to talk about it." During last Friday's information-only meeting in San Leandro, Chan said Sutter officials were also invited, but a Sutter spokesman denied the assertion earlier this week.

While Alameda County officials, Eden Township Healthcare District members and Sutter have been noticeably quiet on the future of San Leandro Hospital over the past few months, one union official tells The Citizen Sutter's ambivalence is tied to its proposed construction of a 550-bed facility at Cathedral Hill in San Francisco. A plan blessed by San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee lashed the Cathredral Hill project together with Sutter continuing operations at St. Luke's Hospital, a facility much like San Leandro Hospital that caters to uninsured and low-income patients. "Sutter cannot have a hospital closing in the East Bay at the same time its in negotiation for Cathedral Hill," said the representative. In addition, Sutter may not have enough votes on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors to move the plan forward anyway.

To demonstrate the interconnectivity of Sutter's strategies not only in San Francisco, but in similarly controversial battles in Marin, Santa Rosa and San Leandro, the San Francisco Examiner reported the San Francisco Board of Supervisors registered concern over fine points in Sutter's proposal to continue operating St. Luke's. Supervisors were surprised to learn Sutter subsidiary, California Pacific Medical Center, could close St. Luke's if it were to fall below one percent of its operating margin for two consecutive years, the paper reported.

A similar gambit was employed by Sutter in San Leandro following the pivotal signing of a memorandum of understanding in 2008 that ultimately leading to the reconstruction of Eden Hospital in Castro Valley, but put San Leandro Hospital's future on tenuous footing. Critics say Sutter did not even wait two years to begin plans to close the hospital under the clause. The move later fomented consternation in the community and set the stage for a reconfigured health care district to stymie Sutter's intentions through the court system. A correction today on the Examiner's Web site states Sutter does not plan to close St. Luke's, but the parallels, nontheless, between the two situations are ominous.

As reported last week, doctors and nurses continue to charge the dire financial straits at San Leandro Hospital were created by Sutter through creative accounting. Sutter's state hospital license covers both San Leandro and Eden leading many critics to say Sutter is cooking the books as precursor to closing the facility and its emergency room.

Sutter also received a stinging blow in Marin County where an arbitrator last week ordered them to pay the Marin Healthcare District over $21 million. Critics had charged Sutter with siphoning $180 million in profits away from Marin General Hospital in anticipation of turning over the facility to the District. More bad news is also expected for Sutter in August when a state legislative audit of its business practices, recommended last year by Sen. Ellen Corbett, is due to be released.

Stark, Lee Laud Supreme Court Decision Upholding Obamacare, Skewer GOP

CONGRESS//HEALTHCARE | The East Bay's two progressive congressional Democrats applauded the U.S. Supreme Court's decision Thursday mostly affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare. Reps. Pete Stark and Barbara Lee called the narrow 5-4 decision a "victory" for all Americans.

"Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the health reform law is a victory for the health of all Americans. Our nation has joined the rest of the modernized world by guaranteeing quality, affordable health care to all our citizens," said Stark, who had a hand in drafting the historic bill two years ago. "The Supreme Court's decision prevents our country from returning control of Americans' health to big insurance--an industry more concerned with profits than their enrollees’ health."

Added Lee: “The Affordable Care Act will now take its rightful place with Social Security and Medicare as powerful examples of what this country can do to improve the lives of every American."

In the early aftermath of the supreme court ruling today, rhetoric from Republicans often repeating the catchy refrain of "repeal and replace" has already set the stage for heated campaign and legislative battles this fall. Both Stark and Lee reserved pointed jabs for their conservative colleagues. “Now we can and must stand prepared to fight back any Republican efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act and deny health care and patient protections to millions of Americans," said Lee. "We cannot turn back now but build upon this victory and continue our march toward affordable, quality health care for all.”

In Stark's classic brusque style, he urged Congress to refocus on putting people back to work. "Today's ruling marks another step forward: an end to Republicans' call to repeal the health reform law. Americans don't have time for their partisan charade--they never did," said Stark. "Congress needs to focus on Americans' top priorities of job creation and strengthening the economy."

Internal Poll Shows Bonta Building Upon His Primary Victory

ELECTION '12//ASSEMBLY 18 | Creating an air of inevitability in the weeks after a clear primary win is pretty standard. But, as dozens of campaigns for the California Legislature re-gather for the fall general election, few are trying to add momentum to their primary victory quite like Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta in the 18th Assembly District.
Bonta, who sprinted to an eight point victory in the June primary over Abel Guillen, took the unusual step of releasing the results of a post-election poll. As you might guess, the numbers were quite favorable to Bonta and included the pollster's generous conclusion: "This is a race that Bonta should win."

According to the poll paid for by Bonta's campaign, his lead has swelled to 16 points. An unaided initial question gave Bonta a 43-27 lead over Guillen with 29 percent undecided.

The telephone survey of 404 voters administered by the firm, Goodwin Simon Strategic Research, from June 23-25, included people who listed both a landline and cellphone number on their voter registration form and includes a margin of error of +/-5 percent.

More tellingly, the breakdown of the results are even more decisive and potentially dire for Guillen. Voters in Oakland and Latinos overall are believed to be Guillen's strongest voting bloc. According to the poll, Bonta has an 18-point lead in Oakland and an 16-point advantage among Latinos. The lop-sided results may have been the impetus for Bonta quickly making the results public.

Bonta also has a 13-point advantage with people who voted for Rhonda Weber, the sole Republican in the primary race and a 24-point lead among supporters of Joel Young, who finished a distant third. The interest in Bonta from voters of Young is not at all surprising since a flood of highly negative mailers trashed the embattled AC Transit board memeber in the final weeks of the campaign. Although, the mailers did not come directly from Guillen's campaign, the large push against Young came from a special interest group partly funded by labor groups who previously endorsed his campaign.

A second question where voters were read a relatively fair description of both candidates showed Bonta's lead increased even further. In a head-to-head matchup, Bonta leads 50-28 with 22 percent undecided.

The numbers come with a grain of salt. The survey was paid for by the candidate and would have been kept under wraps if it were any less favorable to Bonta. Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk used a similar gambit in the weeks leading to the primary in the 20th Assembly District by making an internal poll public. That poll also showed him with a comfortable lead, although the final vote detailed a much tighter race.

Nonetheless, political campaigns are all about perception and it's much easier to build earlier momentum when voters think you're the candidate on top rather the one on the bottom. This poll shows a steep, uphill climb for Guillen and it doesn't look good for his chances. That's why it was commissioned and it's why it was released.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Why The Supreme Court Overturning Obamacare Would Be Good For Stark, Dems

CONGRESS 15 NOTES | Nevermind, Robert Reich is predicting the U.S. Supreme will uphold President Obama's Affordable Care Act Thursday morning. The diminutive sage of most everything political wrote on his blog Wednesday he believes Chief Justice John Roberts will join Justice Anthony Kennedy and the rest of the liberal wing of the court for a 6-3 decision in favor of Obamacare. Reich's opinion is based on the rationale Roberts needs to build greater faith in the court's impartiallity along with a judicially illuminating appellate decision handed down by a conservative jurist last year that upheld the constitutionality of Obamacare.

Nerves across the country will definitely be frayed Thursday, but for endangered Democrats like Rep. Pete Stark, the dispiriting news might actually help their re-election in the fall. As ironic as it would seem for one of the authors of the landmark health care reform bill to prosper politically from a negative outcome, a candidate like Stark would greatly benefit from anger that will surely emanate from liberals, especially his progressive constituents in the East Bay who consistently desire the even more expansive public-option .

Aside from a bizarre string of public antics by Stark in April, a good portion of his slim seven-point primary advantage over Dublin Democrat Eric Swalwell was the fault of almost historically low turnout in Alameda County. If anything, it was conservatives who were slightly more enthused than staid liberals and independents. Most already believe Democrats like Stark will benefit from the residual effect of a November presidential election, so a little more encouragement can only help.

However, the connection between Stark's background in health care legislation and his hand in Obamacare in 2010 has not been effectively fused in the minds of voters. That should change regardless of the high court's decison Thursday. Really, its a win-win politically for Stark. If Obamacare is upheld, he continues trumpeting his involvement. If all or part of it is struck down, he and the Obama administration ride the enormous wave of discontent all the way to November. The issue is so full of positives that it really doesn't matter what Stark's opponent has to say on the subject. The potential for sour grapes tomorrow from Mitt Romney's camp will likely not be part of the narrative for the race in the 15th Congressional District. Why? Swalwell is also a Democrat.

MAYBE THE TEA PARTY ISN'T COMING The Campaign for Primary Accountability, a national super PAC previously making overtures about helping Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell in his race to unseat incumbent Rep. Pete Stark, may not have enough money to make much of a dent in the East Bay or anywhere this fall.

The Washington Post reported last Friday the non-partisan super PAC is running out of money despite counting on some of the richest conservative donors in the country. Texas businessmen Leo Linbeck III and Joe Ricketts are now pleading poverty, says the Post. “It’s a real opportunity; I just don’t know if we’re going to be able to afford it,” said Linbeck.

Although the group had a modicum of success in defeating incumbents across the country, it recently failed in turning away Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.). Rangel, Stark's colleague on the House Ways and Means Committee, was believed to be a valuable target for the super PAC, but the Post reported it spent only $4,000 as of last week in hopes of defeating the long-time Harlem House member.

With a dearth of fundraising dollars, the Campaign for Primary Accountability appears to be downgrading its mode of attack to merely churning out increased voter turnout. In the East Bay, presumably that would entail appealing to conservative and independent voters. The same ones possibly angered by Obamacare and other effusive talk radio rhetoric, including, you know, references to birth certificates.

PAREJA (R) Last week, former 15th Congressional District candidate, Chris Pareja finally got around to what he should have done a year ago--he officially became a Republican. Pareja tweeted about his unsurprising move to the Grand Ole Party at a meeting of the Alameda County Republican Party last week. In the months leading to the June primary, some political consultants called his decision to appear on the ballot with the moniker, "no party preference" was a mistake. In hindsight, they may have been right, although not anywhere close enough to change the outcome of the race. Turnout was not only low last June 5, but the group Pareja was, in part, attempting to court--independents--stayed home. One consultant this week said just having an "R" next to Pareja's name would have goosed his final tally a couple of points. Nevertheless, Pareja still finished with a tad under 22 percent of the vote.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Intriguing Council Races Shaping Up In San Leandro; Harrison For Mayor In Fremont

ELECTION '12//SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | The appeal of running for political office in San Leandro has not exactly been robust over the past few years. Two current council members, Diana Souza and Michael Gregory, both in their second terms, have nary had viable challengers, let alone warm bodies.

With three separate seats for the City Council on the November ballot, the interests of some residents is showing encouraging signs. Councilwoman Ursula Reed will likely face a business owner from her own District 2 located on the city's eastern border. Dan Dillman, owner of the Bal Theatre, says he will run against the incumbent, some view as the weakest member of the current council and, possibly, in the entire East Bay. However, the candidacy of the charismatic Dillman poses two significant roadblocks. In late April, an Alameda County Superior Court judge sentenced Dillman to four months in jail for battery against two undercover sheriffs deputies in front of his East 14th Street theater. Dillman is appealing the decision.

Despite what some believe, the possibility of jail time hanging over his candidacy may not be such an albatross as long as he runs a campaign critical of law enforcement. In fact, it is Dillman's long-running feud with the city and its community development department that runs the risk of derailing any possibility of unseating Reed, who, in the past, he has called a personal friend. Nevertheless, the story of a potential councilman heading to jail even before being sworn into office will surely make local headlines.

Along the city's western border in District 4 runs a very different situation. With Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak termed out of office, three candidates have already officially entered the race. The city's nomination period begins July 16 and ends Aug. 10. Benny Lee, president of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association, entered the race Tuesday, according to San Leandro Patch. Darlene Daevu and former planning commissioner Chris Crow are also in the race. This race could hinge on the burgeoning hot-button issue of a single wind turbine proposed in the district on the edge of Heron Bay and near San Lorenzo Creek.

Months ago, Crow, a gregarious and opinionated 27-year-old up-and-comer in city politics, made waves when he initially showed interest in opposing Reed in District 2, where he was raised. As Reed's appointment to the planning commission, Crow's stated intention to run against her was found to be contemptuous by Reed and grounds for his dismissal. A raft of negative press against Reed for her action seemed to be a feather in Crow's cap, yet he may have squandered the incident by moving to District 2 for a run at Starosciak's open seat. Crow is also connected to Dillman's fight with the city over the Bal Theatre and often times appeared to be his consigliere on the issue. It is expected Crow and Dillman will share time and resources this fall.

The inclusion of Daevu, also a first-time, but little known candidate in the race, also poses some interesting possibilities. For now, Daevu is the only woman in any race for council. Depending on the outcomes in District 2 and 4, the council risks losing two of its four female members. Daevu is also an appointee of two city boards by Mayor Stephen Cassidy. If the past is any indication, Cassidy's well-known boorish behavior towards colleagues normally calls for the recruitment of board and council allies. Cassidy did it at the tail end of his short stint at the San Leandro school board leading to the recruitment of current school trustees Hermy Almonte and Morgan Mack-Rose. Many expect a few pro-Cassidy supporters to throw their hat in to the ring, including the latter mentioned.

Bill Harrison
In District 6, located around the San Leandro Marina, Councilman Jim Prola is currently unopposed. As the most liberal member of the council, even a viable opponent is unlikely. One news article recently reported Prola had yet to raise funds for the fall campaign. However, Prola is well known among political consultants to be one of the cheapest and whiniest politicians to work for. The absence of a challenger for Prola's seat, while it defies the tenets of democracy, may also conserve time and money for a run at mayor. Prola has long denied interest in the mayor's office, but the political calculations in 2014 will undoubtedly favor a credible pro-labor candidate to run against the public employee pension-hating Cassidy. On a council that often pays mere lip service to the labor movement, Prola is, by far, the only person routinely speaking up for working people, and remember, San Leandro is still a union town.

FREMONT MAYORAL RACE Last week, the Chris Christie of Fremont, Councilman Bill Harrison announced his intention to run for mayor. The race against fellow council member Anu Natarajan should be a heavyweight clash between two respected local officials. A third intriguing potential candidate, Councilman Dominic Dutra, decided not to run last November. His announcement replete with the requisite pledge to spend more time with his family, denied the voters of Fremont the chance to witness a three-way lovefest of alms-giving to the recently deceased and beloved Mayor Bob Wasserman.

Psst! How The Alameda County Supervisors Assumed The Position With No Prompting

ALAMEDA COUNTY//BUDGET | With Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern at the lectern before the Board of Supervisors last week like a pastor preaching to a chorus of adherents more than willing to fill his collection basket, the slender county top cop briefly paused. In the corner of his eye he noticed Supervisor Scott Haggerty lurch to one side and motion for one of his aides. Ahern continued. The sheriff’s department was woefully understaffed, he told the board. The loss of 21 sheriffs deputies over the years had put the department at risk of been in violation of Title 15 of the state’s prison regulations for the staffing of prisons, he announced--seemingly in passing.

Haggerty queried Ahern over what exactly that meant. A fine? A slap on the wrist? State intervention? Ahern didn’t answer and Haggerty, along with Supervisors Nate Miley and Keith Carson didn’t seem to care much for the details. While Ahern continued to detail the highlights and lowlights of the sheriff’s department’s contribution to the county, Haggerty called over yet another aide and wholesale whispering commenced. Haggerty turned to Miley and whispered, wrote a note and continued listening to Ahern’s presentation. Miley rose from his seat and walked to the adjacent seating to his left to whisper in the ear of County Administrator Susan Muranishi. Miley then leaned against the wall and paused for yet even more whispering across the room between Haggerty and his aides. When one of the aides left to the back with written instructions, Miley joined that whisperfest.

Sheriff Greg Ahern
Viewers watching the scene at home never saw the extracurriculars happening outside the rectangle of their web browsers, but what was not seen was far more instructive as the majority of the board suddenly came up with a pledge to restore 21 sheriff deputies in the next fiscal year. The development more than anything shows the muscle and manipulations public safety has in coercing county agencies to acquiesce to their demands brawny law and order. The sheriff’s department’s haul is quite impressive when you think of it this way: Sheriff Ahern never asked them for a damn thing.

The $2.6 billion county budget approved June 22 was balanced with over $88 million in staff cuts and program reductions. With worrisome state and federal cuts still looming, the board cut 37 full-time equivalent positions and reduced funding to social services by $82 million. The cuts, while still excruciating for many of the neediest of county residents, were the lowest shortfall in three years. Yet, Haggerty curiously called it an “extremely painless budget.”

However, when it came to the board’s surprisingly loose purse strings when it came to law enforcement, Supervisor Wilma Chan said she was surprised by the board’s swift action. “My position is that I’m willing to help them out, but the sheriff didn’t even ask to restore 21 positions,” Chan said last Friday. Like nearly everybody on hand June 19 for Ahern’s budget presentation, Chan said the risk of the sheriff’s department violating Title 15 was news to her. “I just felt everyone tries to be team players when we come to these hearings and we didn’t restore anyone else’s cuts,” said Chan. “Everyone took the cuts that they were suppose to take, so I was a little bit surprised that we were going to do that.” Once some county staff had finished scrambling to make amends to the sheriff with increased funding for additional deputies, a side letter was written and offered to the board by Haggerty and Miley urging not only for $4 million to fund 21 more deputies, but also 10 adult probation officers, costing $1.7 million.

When Chan later questioned whether Ahern had even asked for such a large expenditure (she remembered hearing Ahern say he only needed six officers to comply with Title 15), the rest of the board wanted none of it. “I don’t want to second guess the sheriff,” Miley said. Haggerty said once promised realignment money arrives from Sacramento, the question will be moot and the sheriff’s department will receive the $4 million, anyway. “Maybe they do an Occupy Alameda County and we need an additional 100?” wondered Haggerty, even though the reference to Occupy Oakland and alleged abuses by Alameda County deputies against protesters last year at Santa Rita Jail carry a certain negative stigma among supporters of the movement.

In reality, Chan was outnumbered on the board when it came to bending over backward for law enforcement. In a rare and brief flare-up just minutes before adoption of the county budget last Friday, Chan snapped at Haggerty after discussion of a “revised” side letter was poised to be included in the new budget. “I think we have to be collegial,” said Chan. “That issue come up very last minute, so the point I was trying to make to him—because he said, why did I do a revised letter—the point I was trying to make to him was the decision we made about the sheriff wasn’t even in writing, it was just read into the record.”

As Ahern wrapped up his remarks, he thanked the board for their time and walked away from the lectern, probably not even knowing the hornet’s nest he may or may have not have intended to disrupt among the five sitting supervisors.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Grand Jury Finds Alameda County Suffering From Lack Of Government Accountability

ALAMEDA COUNTY | An Alameda County grand jury's final report faults a general "lack of accountability" from county officials to the public on a range of issues including, the demise of the Associated Community Action Program, which was dissolved last year amid scandal and controversy.

The 148-page report released Monday also faulted government oversight of county contracting procedures, the role of special districts and joint powers authorities in Alameda County, along with the increasing backlog of evidence at county crime labs and outdated conditions at Camp Sweeney in San Leandro.

"This lack of accountability manifested itself at every level from the oversight by various boards (including the Board of Supervisors) to the lack of management oversight at the executive level, and to the management of multi-million dollar contracts," said the report.

The grand jury which is comprised of 19 county residents met continuously throughout the year investigating over 70 citizen complaints. The grand jury, though, singled out, on two separate occasions, the quick demise of ACAP as the poster child of the county's antipathy toward oversight. "The most notable example reviewed by this grand jury was the now closed ACAP, which failed to provide effective financial accountability," they concluded.

Based on a complaint regarding insufficient oversight of the county's community-based organizations, the grand jury found deficiencies in the programs were not identified until complaints were filed or news emanated from the pages of the newspaper. In a section titled, "ACAP: Case Study in Lax Oversight," the grand jury singled out the host of local city officials in charge of overseeing ACAP.

"The public information we reviewed suggested that this was another example of lax oversight by the county, [Social Services Agency], and the ACAP board. This is made more egregious because the board was composed of elected officials who should have known better. Their punishment came when their jurisdictions had to pay ACAP’s unpaid bills," said the report.

Although the report acknowledges ACAP was not a CBO, but formed through a joint powers agreement, it nonetheless singled it out for inefficiencies by the county Social Services Agency and its evaluation of contract performance. Later in the report, the grand jury also criticized the lack of evidence-based evaluations used by the Board of Supervisors to approve a controversial security contract awarded last year.

The grand jury also singled out ACAP in another investigation over the lack of accountability of various county JPAs, including StopWaste.Org and the potential for a merging of the Oro Lomo Sanitary District with the Castro Valley Sanitary District.

"As a result of its investigation, the Grand Jury found that there are many reasons for the public to be concerned not only about duplication of services but, more importantly, about a general lack of accountability in special districts and joint powers authorities--resulting in missed opportunities for cost savings and, sometimes, in serious mismanagement or blatant empire-building," the report said.

The grand jury also wrote they were "appalled" at the physical deterioration of Camp Wilmot Sweeney in San Leandro. While not a jail, the facility houses delinquent county youths and is run by the Alameda County Sheriffs Department. The grand jury encouraged the Board of Supervisors to find funding sources to improve the camp "as soon as possible" before its infrastructure falls further in disrepair. "The library appeared more like a ransacked storage room, smelling of mold and mildew; and outside one door was a dead mouse,” said the report.

The report also recommended the county consolidate its crime labs to improve the speed of investigations and savings to local cities and county. The report found the Oakland PD's crime lab seriously backlogged with investigations. At the end of 2011, the grand jury found over 3,500 requests for forensics testing waiting to be investigated by the Oakland PD crime lab. "The public should be concerned about the unacceptable backlog of forensics testing requests that currently exist in Alameda County and, more specifically, within the city of Oakland," they found. They further reiterated a 2001 grand jury recommendation calling for the county chiefs of police and sheriff devise a plan for consolidation of a single crime lab in Alameda County.

They also reserved judgment for the Alameda County Probation Department for failing to promptly act on a previous grand jury's recommendation to complete a new procedures manual and the fallout from the void of leadership at the department after its chief probation officer was placed on adminsitrative leave for sexual assault allegations last February and quit last week. "The Grand Jury is extremely disappointed by the disruption of leadership at the Alameda County Probation Department. We encourage the Board of Supervisors to resolve the long-term leadership issue as quickly as possible."

Questions Persist After Chief Probation Officer Quits Despite Unsubstantiated Claim

ALAMEDA COUNTY//ANALYSIS | On Feb. 14, just as then-Alameda County Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad was placed on administrative leave for allegations of sexual harassment and assault, I asked a source, what's going on with him? "He likes to fuck," said the source.

An investigator for the county last week, though, found the charges alleged against the 39-year-old Muhammad were unsubstantiated. The San Jose Mercury News and other local outlets trumpeted the news and buried the item incongruent with the appearance of innocence on Muhammad's part--the once up-and-coming chief probation officer up and quit.

This outcome should come as no surprise and was expected by most I spoke to when news of Muhammad being placed on administrative leave was quickly announced at the end of a lightly-attended Board of Supervisors meeting in February. If you recall, a few hours later Nadia Lockyer announced she was heading to rehab, launching a brief-two hour scramble to discern whether the two shockers were related. They were not. In short, Muhammad's departure was very much expected regardless of the results from the county's investigation. However, the county's ambivalence and odd laudatory comments heaped on Muhammad since are very troubling.

Like other recent scandals, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors have a habit of hiding in closed session conversations and later feigning ignorance. They did it with knowledge of Lockyer's drug habit and they recently employed the maneuver with backdoor deal making and skulduggery leading to the appointment of her replacement, Richard Valle.

"I am glad that the false allegations made against me were proven to be unfounded by an independent investigation," Muhammad said in a statement last week, even though a criminal investigation by the state attorney general is still underway, as is a civil suit brought on by a former county employee. That suit alleges, among other things, Muhammad sexually assaulted the woman at the San Leandro Marina.

While Muhammad's advances may or may not have been accepted by the plaintiff, according to numerous county sources, other women working for the county were far more amendable to his amorous desires, including a staff member for one of the county supervisors. Court documents filed in the sexual assault case also alleged Muhammad has also been accused of harassment by female employees when he worked in Washington, D.C. Although, no suggestions of addition impropriety have been alleged by any other female county employees against Muhammad, nonetheless, it paints a far different picture of his tenure at the county probation department than some on the Board of Supervisors are willing to portray.

Beginning from his appointment over two years ago, Muhammad has always had a few supervisors under his spell, similar to how the youngest of many children seemingly dodges discipline from adoring parents despite a long rap sheet of disobedience. Muhammad came to the county with the reputation as an innovator. Much excitement was attached to his hiring and there was also a romantic meme attached to him. The prodigal son returns to Oakland a better man than when he left and gives back to the community. It sounded like a good story, but like most stories too good to be true, this one ultimately began to unravel.

Supervisors Nate Miley and Keith Carson had always been big fans of Muhammad. His story as a troubled Oakland youth ultimately shaking off the shackles of poverty to become a respected community member and savior for urban youths resonated with both supervisors. However, there still remains persistent questions over whether the county, in its zeal to hire Muhammad, fully vetted his background. Last April, an article in Patch reported Muhammad once penned an opinion piece in 1997 for the San Francisco Examiner where he described, as a 15-year-old, he attempted to murder a man.  "The case never came to trial due to lack of evidence, but the truth is I was guilty," wrote Muhammad under the byline David Gaither.

Regardless, Miley heaped goodwill on Muhammad as late as this May during a candidates forum for his re-election campaign and had no qualms with the county's vetting process. "He is a good example of someone who we thought could be a role model," said Miley, and "a change agent."

"Mr. Muhammad was thoroughly vetted," Miley added. "We did with him what we do with all of our county hires. Unfortunately things happen."

Some current employees of the county probation department also say they are upset over comments made by Carson that appeared last week in various iterations of Patch that they construed as the supervisor placing blame on the department rather than Muhammad's raging libido.
"He inherited a pretty volatile situation to begin with because there have been a series of chiefs in recent years and it's always a very challenging environment in which to operate," Carson said.

Muhammad "had a lot that he wanted to accomplish there and he wanted to make major changes" but he ran into resistance from employees who wanted to do things their own way, Carson said.

He said Muhammad "will be sorely missed because he was trying to put a lot of good practices and programs in place." 
Carson's comments are more than a bit self-serving. Muhammad's performance as chief probation officer have never been questioned during this scandal--neither, positively or negatively--and appear to be the more of the same from public officials in Alameda County whose default setting for moral decency is set on covering their own asses.

These sort of comments from public officials are deeply troubling within a situation as complicated and horrific as sexual assault. One thing is sure: both Miley and Carson better be damn sure Muhammad is innocent of the allegations against him. If not, they should remember there is a woman currently working for the county who had the courage to stand up and say enough. Nothing good can be gained, but justice. From her view, the entire world is against her--questioning her, doubting her story, whispering gossip about her around the water cooler--and now the all-powerful apparatus of political power in Alameda County has nothing but good to say for a man who may have ruined her entire world. How's that for your government standing by you in times of need?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Chan Makes A Run At Sutter's Tax-Exempt Status; Hospital Responds With Full-Page Ad

SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan's latest attempt to turn the legislative screws on Sutter Health and its likely attempt to shutter San Leandro Hospital may result in further scrutiny over the health care provider's lucrative non-profit tax exemptions.

At a well-attended forum featuring Board of Equalization member Betty Yee, Chan and others questioned whether Sutter Health and other large health care providers are indeed, providing relevant charitable work that is legally required in return for tax breaks that totalled over $30 million statewide for all hospitals in 2011. In Alameda County, where chains like Sutter and Kaiser Permanente rule the roost, the exemptions equalled $1.2 million.

While the 90-minute public meeting again verged into a rallying cry for the community to continue opposition to the potential closure of San Leandro Hospital, a few notable employees of the hospital spoke out against some of Sutter's practices and raising troubling questions over the trustworthiness of its general accounting. Sutter has long stated San Leandro Hospital is hemorrhaging money and unsustainable.

Eden Township Healthcare District Chair Carole Rogers told the group Sutter's touting of charity work is woefully inflated. Many were angered Friday over a full-page color advertisement placed by Sutter in newspapers, including the San Leandro Times. In an obvious attempt to blunt criticism from Friday's scheduled meeting, the ad boasts of donating $756 million in charity work over the years. Rogers, as a former Sutter employee, said she and others were periodically asked to document volunteer work performed on personal time. Rogers presumes the cards were used to artificially inflate Sutter's charitable requirements for state tax breaks.

Procuring independent reports on Sutter's books is nearly impossible since it is not only a private hospital, but because San Leandro Hospital's license is shared with nearby Eden Medical Center in Castro Valley. Rogers also repeated a notorious story often mentioned by supporters of San Leandro Hospital who scoff at Sutter's accounting of the facility when Eden donated a CT scan to San Leandro Hospital, but later charged it over $1 million for installation. Critics say the accounting arrangement was common and allowed Sutter to positively and falsely enhance the financial situation at Eden, while showing a loss at San Leandro Hospital. On the District's legal front, Rogers said she was limited in what she can say publicly, but added, "San Leandro Hospital is still open and we're in negotiations."

Even though the tax exemptions are reserved for non-profit hospitals, the law allows for them to maintain a 10 percent margin on top of operating expenses, said Yee. In those cases, the surplus must be used for large-scale construction projects or expansion. Yee added there are a myriad number of ways a hospital provider like Sutter can find loopholes around their charitable requirements outside of quantifiable donations to actually charities--some as simple as publishing a small booklet, say, for children.

"These tax breaks come with responsibilities," said Chan, who has long been a thorn in Sutter's side going back to her stint in the State Assembly. Chan said Sutter was asked attend Friday's hearing, but they did not respond to her invitation. Chan suggested legislation or changes in how the Board of Equalization deals with these types of tax exemptions. "When a non-profit closes a hospital, it needs a higher standard," she said.

"They don't get a pass on paying their taxes," said Mike Brannan, a labor representative for the facilities California Nurses Association. "Their decisions are based on profits and not based on what's good for the community."

At the conclusion of the hearing, Yee, who is contemplating a run for state controller in 2014, was so unnerved by the potential for hospitals skirting their end of the tax break bargain, that she will write a letter to Sutter questioning their exemption.

In the meantime, the community continues to hope it can save its hospital. "What are we going to do if that hospital closes?" said Dr. Robert Gingery, a 30-year veteran of the hospital. "This is a health crisis. Some people will die." Gingery said his physicians' group performed over 1,000 surgeries at the hospital last year and he was scheduled for 3 that night. "It's a busy place, but they tell us it's not making money."

One of San Leandro Hospital's most ardent supporters again served as a cheerleader Friday. "Papa John" Kalafatich, who is also an employee at the facility, tearfully recounted for the audience news that his wife was rushed to the emergency room at San Leandro Hospital a few weeks ago. "If we didn't have that ER, she might not be here today," he said. "We have to stick together. You're sticking up for me, my wife and yourself."

Friday, June 22, 2012

One Wind Turbine, Four Notices And One Day To Respond Has Residents Irate

SAN LEANDRO | The city’s zeal to attract green technology firms to San Leandro may be alienated a growing group of residents at the shoreline’s Heron Bay development upset over a proposed wind turbine rising in their backyards and the lack of notice given to them by city staff.

Halus Power Systems, a firm specializing in refurbishing wind turbines and outdated replacement parts, is seeking a height variance for the single 100-foot monopole at the industrial area of 2539 Grant Avenue. City zoning allows for installation of the wind turbine, but limits the height of buildings to 60 feet. The wind turbine would produce over 50 kilowatts of power for the fledgling San Leandro company, according to the application.

Louis Rigaud, the owner of Halus, said he first broached the idea to city planners in January and applied for the variance in March. In the meantime, city staff determined the project to be of a negative mitigating impact. The designation found no significant environmental dangers and in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act guidelines. A 30-day public comment began May 23 and was slated to expire on Thursday, but homeowners in Heron Bay say they only learned of the project a day earlier.

In fact, many of the over 80 homeowners in attendance at Wednesday’s meeting appeared deeply unaware of specifics of Rigaud’s plan. One homeowner understood the plan entailed a sprawling wind farm, while another misinterpreted the proposal as discussion of wind energy versus solar. Rigaud said he merely intends to use the singe wind turbines to lower growing energy costs for his decade-old business which currently employs 10 workers. “I hate sending a big check to PG&E every month,” he said. However, in city documents, the issue of using the turbine for energy costs is never mentioned. Instead, there are numerous references to employing the wind turbine for research and development purposes, even though the company does not currently design turbines, but merely creates makeshift and discontinued parts.

Many angry homeowners at Wednesday meeting repeatedly lauded Rigaud’s overall ambitions for creating clean energy solutions, but laid into city staff for the impression they were rushing through plans for the wind turbine without noticing homeowners, some of which would sit about 500 feet from the proposed turbine. City planner Elmer Penaranda said staff sent just four notices to adjacent houses within the legal 300-foot radius of the property on May 23, along with six neighboring industrial businesses. In comparison, the relatively new San Leandro housing development on the shoreline encompasses over 650 households.

Nonetheless, even the small number of homeowners say they did not receive the city notices detailing the project and the 30-day public comment period. “If you are green, why do you have to hide? Show us your research and let us decide,” said an irate homeowner on Riverside Street, who refused to give her name for fear of reprisals.

Heron Bay Homeowners Association President Benny Lee said it is the group’s intention to work with the city and Halus to get project off the ground, but voiced concerns over the city’s lack of an environmental review. A limited 18-page environmental report paid for by Rigaud made some of the same assumptions as the city’s equally flimsy report. One board member asked for a review of the wind turbine’s effect on humans, the potential failure of the turbine and the effects of shadow flicker on neighboring homes along with the wind turbines visual aesthetics on the shoreline's landscape. Several homeowner asked Rigaud if he would reimburse residents if their property value were lowered by the presence of the wind turbine. "Sure," Rigaud said. Give me a fair deal. Pay me if the price goes up."

Rigaud said turbine malfunction can occur, but turbines breaking off and traveling much farther than 50 feet from the monopole is nearly impossible, including the entire device tipping over in the case of a earthquake and striking homes in Heron Bay. The project is slated to be constructed at the center of his five-acre property to mitigate any potential damage to his neighbor’s property. “We were reluctant at first,” said Liao. “We had initial reservations, too.” But, through further examinations and research, he said, city staff felt more comfortable with the project going forward down the regulatory process.

The appearance of the city, its chamber of commerce and one of its brightest green tech small businesses being in cahoots was clearly evident Wednesday night. The San Leandro Patch reported this week the three groups involved in pursuing the wind turbines met before Wednesday’s homeowner’s meeting to celebrate the impending success in gaining approval of the project. The city, on the heels of loads of positive press over OSISoft’s downtown fiber-optics loop, is widely known to be repositioning the city as a hub for green tech. Halus is seen as another opportunity to raise a positive banner for San Leandro. “Halus is one of the greenest of the green technologies that the city is trying to attract,” said Gayle Quinn, president of the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce.

Members of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association on Monday asked the city council to extend the public comment period from this Thursday for an undetermined length to give the vast majority of its residents an opportunity to learn more about the proposal. On Wednesday, one Heron Bay board member pointedly asked Rigaud if he would join the board in backing an extension. “I’m sure you understand our angst. Some of us just received this information yesterday,” said Stephanie L’Archuleta. Rigaud, though, was initially non-committal.

When again pressed by another homeowner, Rigaud asked, “How much time do you need? A few days?” but he did not agree to an extension. On three occasions, Liao and Penaranda, along with Quinn, also a consultant to Halus, interrupted the group’s desire to pin an extension of the public comment period on Rigaud. However, city staff were seen discussing the matter and later Liao informed homeowners he would consult with the city attorney to extend the period to an undetermined date in the future. A postponement of the agenda item regarding the variance scheduled for June 27 Board of Zoning and Adjustments is also likely.

Although the situation appears to ultimately become an issue of NIMBYism, at this point, most homeowners are more upset with the city's lack of noticing the community and the repercussions of a whirring wind turbine potentially becoming an eye-shore for not only them, but large numbers of dog-walkers and cyclists who use the adjacent trails surrounding San Lorenzo Creek. “I’m not here as a temporary person. I’m in your neighborhood here every day,” said Rigaud. “We started this business to help the environment, not to hurt it.”

However, when asked what he would do if the variance fails, he said, “We would probably move the business.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hayashi Is Asking Local Officials To Endorse Her Likely Run For County Supervisor


ELECTION ‘12//ALCO SUPERVISOR | Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi is not only testing the waters for a run for Alameda County supervisor, but the licentious legislator is already calling local public officials around Hayward asking for their endorsements.

According to two well-connected Hayward politicos who have spoken with the unknown officials on Hayashi’s phone list, her interest in supervisor far more along than previously known. Another source, confirmed Hayashi have been making the rounds in search of support from multiple well-known officials. Her desire to be District 2 supervisor is “serious,” they said.

Hayashi’s accelerated interest, at this time, in running for the last two years of former Supervisor Nadia Lockyer’s first term is no surprise. Even though, Lockyer’s replacement, Richard Valle, was only appointed to the board last week, most observers believe the time is now for potential candidates to show their cards in this unusual and truncated special election season.

“I guess I can let the cat out of the bag," Valle said last Tuesday, “Mary is running for supervisor.” He later said his information came from “a very good source that I trust.” Valle, who is also running for re-election in the fall says, if Hayashi were to defeat him, it is his understanding she will serve only two years and then run for state Sen. Ellen Corbett’s termed out seat in 2014.

Hayashi’s office did not respond for comment and has not spoken to the press or constituents since her Oct. 25, 2011 felony arrest for shoplifting $2,450 in clothing from Neiman Marcus in San Francisco. She eventually plead no contest to misdemeanor grand theft.

Outside of Valle and Hayashi, there is very little speculation over any other potential candidates in the Hayward, Union City, Newark area. One name that repeatedly comes up is Union City Mayor Mark Green, who has not yet made a determination about his political future. You might remember, Green suffered a double whammy on June 5 when he lost out for the appointment to the Board of Supervisor in the afternoon and suffered an electoral loss in his race for the 20th Assembly District seat later the same night. Green finished third to Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk and Jennifer Ong.

It is not known whether Green's appetite for losing is still strong, however, most believe his entrance into a race for supervisor featuring Valle and Hayashi would be a death knell for Valle’s chances. Both hail from Union City and regardless of Green’s recent futility, he has shown a consistent ability to draw around 20 percent of the vote in each race. Said one East Bay insider: “If Mark gets in the race, Mary wins.”

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Lockyer's Restraining Order Hearing Against Ex-Lover Passes Without Resolution

NADIA LOCKYER | Former Alameda County Supervisor Nadia Lockyer's court date seeking a restraining order against her former lover Steve Chikhani came and went a second time last week. No future court date has been scheduled.

Chikhani told The Citizen this week he has yet to be served with court papers concerning Lockyer's allegations that he repeatedly contacted her home and her young son. Lockyer also alleged associates of Chikhani, one named "Tiny," had previously threatened her. The past hearing was scheduled for June 14 after being rescheduled last month.

In an email, Chikhani said he is in the dark pertaining to the Lockyer's latest legal moves. However, he received an unidentified phone call from a person he later discerned was an investigator for the Lockyers. "He said Nadia was suppose to give him ideas of where I hang out, where I shop, what stores I like, friends, locations and bars I go to, but she couldn't give clear answers and seemed to be hesitant or not helpful," Chikhani said of the phone conversation.

In the meantime, Chikhani says he wants to be left alone and endeavors to have nothing to do with the Lockyers.

Wieckowski’s Wage Garnishment Bill Moves Through Senate Committee

ASSEMBLY | A bill that would alleviate some of the financial pain for those with wage garnishments passed the State Senate Judiciary Committee Tuesday. The legislation authored by Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski was approved by the Assembly in late April.

Wieckowski’s bill would make $320 exempt from garnishment on a weekly basis. Current law only sets aside $217.50 per week in disposable earnings. “For the working poor, who live paycheck-to-paycheck, this minuscule amount is not enough to make ends meet,” said Wieckowski. “ In nearly every county in California, $217.50 a week is not even considered a living wage for a single adult with no spouse or children.”

Republicans in the Legislature argue those with judgments against them should first pay back their debt. Bankruptcy protection is also available to debtors, they say.

Thirty states have more lenient wage garnishment minimums than California, according the Senate Judiciary Committee’s analysis, while the state rank as the fifth most expensive state to live. Four of the 10 most expensive cities to live are also located in California, it added.

WIECKOWSKI HEARING ON TOXIC FURNITURE After Gov. Jerry Brown called for state regulators to look into the use of toxic flame retardants in furniture, Wieckowski, as chair of the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee, quickly called for a hearing on the matter for next week . The state mandate regulating the amount of chemicals in furniture was written in the 1970s.

It should be noted how well Wieckowski has used his chairmanship on this often-overlooked Assembly committee over the course of his first term to raise his personal profile in Sacramento. When it comes to the highly controversial issue of hydraulic fracking, Wieckowski has positioned himself as, well, the top fracker in the Legislature.

His relatively quick mastering of Sacramento politics through the issue of fracking has made himself its leading opponent. But, keep in mind, fracking is an issue which hardly occurs in the state. It’s a classic leveraging of a national domestic issue on a statewide scale. Now, Wieckowski is potentially the guy who is going to make your cleverly-designed new couch from IKEA safe from combusting underneath your ass.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

San Leandro Again Takes A Pass On Pot Dispensaries; Pushes Issue To July

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | After two failed motions, the council approved, 6-1, to push a one-year ban on medical marijuana dispensaries and grow-sites within its city limits to their last meeting in July. The council again kicked the can down the road, except, this proverbial container is one where you might hide your weed. Over the past two years, previous council votes have failed to gain a specific action going forward leading to moratorium on dispensaries last year and in some ways, highlighting the growing gridlock and dysfunction on the current council.

“There appears to be a majority opposed to an outright ban, but not a majority as to what they want to see in place,” said Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who urged the wavering majority to formulate a specific course of action. Cassidy said he is amendable to small, boutique dispensaries, but not large-scale cooperatives that provide services for thousands of customers. “There’s a legitimate need for medical marijuana,” but also rife with abuse, he said.

Aside from Councilman Jim Prola, from the outset a vigorous defender of medical marijuana, the fence-sitters on the council in various degree ranging, from council members Michael Gregory to Ursula Reed and Pauline Cutter, communicated little movement in the tepid opinions from as late as September.

A concern for some members is the maze of pending legislation and lawsuits regarding medical marijuana along with a preponderance of issues stemming from the city’s past maneuvers. With AB 2312, a bill authored by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano that could ease some of the confusion at the local level with medical marijuana, sitting in the State Legislature without a definitive path into law and the likelihood of the State Supreme Court hearing the issue early next year, San Leandro finds itself caught in a veritable no-mans land. In addition, the city’s current moratorium which expires Sept. 30 cannot be re-upped, said Assistant City Attorney Richard Pio Roda.

The motion approved by the council Monday night would put before the council in late July an ordinance banning the medical marijuana dispensaries, but allow for a one-year sunset clause ending June 30, 2013. Any delay, said, Pio Roda, could result in uncertainty surrounding the city’s exposure to a lawsuit should a dispensary seek to do business in San Leandro. However, without an ordinance, the city’s finance director could still forbade granting a business license to a dispensary based upon the fact medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law, said Pio Roda. Despite the hoopla, there have been no recent inquiries into bringing a dispensary to San Leandro, although Councilwoman Diana Souza said Monday, one owner has more than once contacted her.

In contrast to previous hearings on medical marijuana in San Leandro, a large group of speakers were on hand, mostly in opposition of the proposed ban, including some of the city’s political leaders along with some with aspirations for public office.

School board member Diana Prola followed her husband’s lead in urging the council to forego with the ban. Prola said she admitted to mixed-feelings over the efficacy of the medical marijuana until a recent trip to visit a friend suffering from an aggressive form of cancer. The friend, she said, was unable to sleep for two weeks due to pain, yet appeared rested and lucid after using medical marijuana.

Three potential council candidates for this November weighed-in raising the likelihood medical marijuana could become an election issue in San Leandro. Chris Crow, a likely candidate for Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak’s open seat, urged the council to put the issue up for a city referendum this fall and charged staff and the police chief of offering “information of fear” and “items meant to scare us.” Benny Lee, another likely candidate in Starosciak’s District 4, took the opposite stance. While recounting a story about the demise of childhood friend who suffered from multiple addictions, Lee said, “I understand it is there to help people, but we need to protect our children.”

Bal Theatre owner Dan Dillman, who has been making overtures recently about running against Councilwoman Ursula Reed in District 2, said adding more restrictions on medical marijuana will engender more crime and violence in San Leandro. He added, the reported $24 million in seized marijuana by the San Leandro Police over the past two years, would have amounted to roughly $2.5 million in tax receipts. “We have power to make regulations to protect our community and monetized it,” Dillman said.

Similar to other hearing on medical marijuana, the loudest voice belonged to Jim Prola, who again gave an impassioned plea on behalf of dispensaries. “How do you criminalize old people?” asked Prola. “They can’t grow their own pot, are you kidding me? They have to be able to get their medicine. It’s absolutely critical they get their medicine.”

Monday, June 18, 2012

With New Directive, San Leandro Police To Report Directly To Assistant City Manager

[UPDATE] SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | San Leandro's new City Manager Chris Zapata came to the city with a pedigree in grand development projects. With just six months on job, he wants to spend more time of raising the profile of the moribund business community, for now, over other segments of the city.

Zapata plans to drastically remake the city manager office's chain of command, according to a memo for Monday's scheduled City Council meeting. Under the new reporting rules, which do not need to be approved by the council, the city's public safety departments will no longer report to the city manager, but instead, to Assistant City Manager Lianne Marshall.

The change in procedures which will begin July 1, is designed for him to focus on a scope of city projects currently in development, wrote Zapata. In the past, all city departments reported to the city manager, who then reports to the council, mayor and city attorney.

"These changes will provide operational efficiency and allow me to direct my greatest attention to some of our highest priorities at this time," Zapata wrote in the memo to the council and hastened by the loss of its redevelopment agency last year.

Among the city departments continuing to directly report to Zapata are: community development, engineering and transportation, finance and public works. Under the new directive, police and fire will report to Marshall, along with recreation and human services and library services.

Zapata's desire to train the bulk of his time on business development is not surprising. His background as an administrator in Glendale, Ariz. and later in National City, Calif. suggested a strong expertise in the field.

NOTES Monday night, the City Council will also discuss directing staff to draw up an ordinance effectively banning medical marijuana dispensaries and grow-sites from San Leandro. A proposed $1.5 million loan from the city to the school district to purchase the soon-to-be-vacant Girls, Inc. building on East 14th Street will also be heard, along with further details on the merging of OSIsoft's expansion as it includes the nearby remaking of the San Leandro Crossings housing project at the San Leandro BART station.

UPDATE During Monday's night's meeting, Zapata said the change in reporting is a city manager's prerogative and was influenced by the community's concerns. "We are listening for what your goals are," said Zapata. There is no time line for how long the new reporting arrangement will last, he added.

Rise Of The Philosopher King Or Democratic Foot Soldier?

CONGRESS | Within a few days of each other, two ideologically opposed Indian American politicos weighed in on the importance of philosophy versus business acumen in the race for president.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal is the darling of the right. Not just for his conservative chops but the color of his skin and unique heritage in a sea of old, white faces. Jindal is one of the most powerful Indian Americans in the United States. Fremont's Ro Khanna is nowhere near as known nationally yet as Jindal, but his quick rise to President Obama's Commerce Department to odds-on favorite to become the East Bay's next U.S. representative in 2014 has been impressive and swift.

So, it was a bit telling that Jindal posted an anti-liberal screed on the well-known conservative Web site, RedState last Thursday, taking a spear to Obama's lack of business experience while lauding the eventually Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, for all his success in Corporate America. Interestingly, just a few days later, Khanna wrote a far more eloquent opinion piece in Sunday's San Francisco Chronicle saying the exact opposite. The two pieces don't appear to be a tit-for-tat, but an odd mind-meld of two budding political figures who share similar biographies, but wildly contrasting political beliefs.

"I don't want to disparage private equity as a career choice or Mitt Romney's success," wrote Khanna. "But, the claim that somehow that is the best preparation for statecraft should give pause even to traditional conservatives. Have they forgotten about the intellectual history of the West? Have they forgotten the lessons of Plato's "Republic" and Aristotle's "Nicomachean Ethics"?

"Plato and Aristotle both make the argument that statecraft is one of the highest callings and requires an education, above all, in moral philosophy and history. To understand issues of the common good, of war and peace, of justice requires a lifetime of experience in the art of politics."

Not so, says Jindal.

"A few weeks back, I made the comment that prior to being President, Obama had never run anything, that in fact he had never even run a lemonade stand," Jindal wrote last week. "That’s a fun line, and folks were entertained by it. But, here’s the problem: it’s not a joke, it’s the truth.

"We put a guy in the White House who has no experience running anything. In that sense, the joke’s on us. But again, it’s not a joke. America simply cannot afford another four years of on-the-job training. There may have been times in our country’s history where having an untested leader in the White House would have been fine, but this is certainly not one of those times."

Of course, both Jindal and Khanna are acting as fine foot soldiers for their party's presidential nominees, but forget Jindal for second because most people in the East Bay already have difficulty understanding conservative ideology let alone a brand rising menacingly from the Bayous of Louisiana. Despite Alameda County's recent spate with boorish and unethical behavior, we could never hold a candle to the pervasive business-as-usual corruption in the Pelican State.

In a round about way, Khanna's piece not only leads the cheering section for Obama, but gives potential voters in the East Bay a glimpse of what Khanna, the potential congressional candidate, might look like and it is something people in these parts have never really come to expect from their representatives--part philosopher king, part statesman.

"There is no quick fix," Khanna said in his piece regarding the problems facing the country. "Perhaps our best hope is to take inspiration from great leaders of the past. We can't expect to match their genius. But we can expect our public servants to engage in real deliberation and attempt to restore a politics of ideas."

In the East Bay, tending to problems and searching for solutions to problems normally falls under the precept of following safe precedents, thinking inside of the box and, if all else fails, busting through the problem like the Kool-Aid Man laying waste the kitchen wall. The latter being the most common path. Even Rep. Pete Stark, the man most believe Khanna hopes to replace, arose from the seeds of conflict surrounding the Vietnam War, not from well-honed philosophical queries of morality and immorality. It is possible that rationale of many of our local public officials are derived from a similar bedrock of philosophical ideas, but it has not been my experience in the past.

Instead, Khanna's likely rise in the East Bay is something that could metaphorically rise all boats in our current unacceptably low-tide of political discourse and action, and, if not, he still has over $1 million campaign war chest to help convince you so.

For Political Antics In Alameda County, It's Going To Get Worse Before It Gets Better

ALAMEDA COUNTY | In a region where a state legislator admits to stealing high-end leather pants, a county supervisor successfully runs for her position at the same time secretly smoking crank and a Assembly candidate violently strikes his girlfriend and still thinks he has a chance at the ballot, the news of Alameda County Superior Court Judge Paul Seeman stealing the assets of a 97-year-old woman may illicit shock, but little surprise.

Since Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's arrest Oct. 25, 2011 for felony shoplifting in San Francisco to today, it is arguable, the last eight months in Alameda County politics have never been more tumultuous than today. While I take some credit for shaking up the joint, in reality, it has been no more than scratching the surface. The rot is deep and rising to the surface. I have news for everybody, it's not going to end and the characters like Hayashi, Nadia Lockyer, Joel Young and Judge Seeman will continue to make news for the infamy, but others will unfortunately for them join the fray in the next six months. I guarantee it.

There are many factors for this cancer in Alameda County. Among them, a non-existent media to follow the buffoonery of our local leaders, but, more importantly, a sprawling and uncontainable Democratic Party which condones and systemically recreates clones of its cast of bad characters. The Democratic Central Committees in the East Bay have no gumption when it comes to looking the other way to its members transgressions. Nevermind, elected leaders already in power, but note, members of the Democratic Central Committee in the 18th District, split their endorsement in their local Assembly race to include the already tarnished Joel Young. Nevermind that he was already accused of (1) beating up his girlfriend, but (2) also admitting infidelity that night after being caught in bed with another woman. As we would see later, why would domestic violence and cheating on your significant other matter to the Democratic Party in this county?

We've all seen the growing photo album of party leaders and union officials happily posing with Hayashi starting just weeks after she plead no-contest to misdemeanor grand theft. A member of a law enforcement union is even seen posing happily with Hayashi. The outrage is not limited to Hayashi. Remember the group photo of party leaders, including Bill and Nadia Lockyer, posing with thumbs up at an event in Fremont? That spectacle occurred just days after the crank-addled former supervisor accused her husband of providing her with drugs in the past. She never retracted the statement and the local and state media looked the away and fell under the trance of the Lockyer's media manipulations involving a now-apparent bogus restraining order against Lockyer's ex-boyfriend.

Unfortunately, the trail of infamy following this initial crop of crooks was too fresh for the June primary, I believe the shockingly low turnout exhibited by voters in Alameda County is a direct result of these recent incidents. Until enough time has passed for a new crop of untarnished potential candidates to emerge, possibly as early as November in some cities, voters will not be energized to vote. Instead, they will protest.

Fortunately, times are changing and this three year experiment of brawny independent journalism I purport to represent is gaining steam. As the East Bay Express noted this week, the newspaper stocked with my stories of Joel Young's many pratfalls, changed the direction of the race in the 18th Assembly District. The political head of Young now sits on a pike for all other unseemly politicians to see and wonder if they will be next.

In 2010, I told my then very small group of readers exactly how unstable Nadia Lockyer appeared to me during her campaign for county supervisor. Nobody was paying attention then, but they are now. We all know you cannot count on the power structure in Alameda County to clean itself up. Even when they caught Judge Seeman bilking an elderly neighbor, it still took the district attorney two years to file charges.

I often think about one of the most imporant pieces of advice ever given to me as a reporter. Hit them hard and hit them often. I didn't intend on cleaning up a mess when I started this little media experiment in 2009, instead, I intended to fill a gaping news hole in the East Bay. It seems both aims are one in the same.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Chan To Raise Issue Of Sutter's Tax Exempt Status With San Leandro Hospital

SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan is again raising the question of Sutter Health's non-profit tax exemption, as San Leandro and the county struggle to keep San Leandro Hospital in operation.

Chan and Board of Equalization member Betty Yee will discuss the history and use of tax exemptions set aside for hospital providers like Sutter, which despite its non-profit status reported revenue of over $800 million last year. The forum is scheduled for Friday, June 22 at the San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14th Street, at 3 p.m.

State law allows the exemptions with the understanding hospitals like San Leandro Hospital provide a public trust. Sutter says it donates millions to communities in its vast Northern California network of hospitals, but local officials like Chan and Sen. Ellen Corbett have long charged Sutter with neglecting the duties the tax breaks entail in San Leandro.

Since Chan's return to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, she has waved the threat of revoking Sutter's tax exempt status from time to time. In June 2011, Chan publicly urged Corbett to ask the Legislature to perform an audit of Sutter's exemption. Corbett announced the request of the State Joint Legislative Audit Committee last August. The committee's finding are due some time this late summer.

The likelihood of Sutter losing its tax exemption are slim, but most believe raising the issue allows the county added leverage when, in fact, it is able to negotiate the future of San Leandro Hospital. At this time, there are conflicting reports over whether Sutter has even officially communicated with the county or the Eden Township Healthcare District about their plans for the facility.

Last April, the California State Supreme Court denied the District's petition to hear the long-standing court case with Sutter, thereby, ending the legal front after a four year fight by community members and the nurses union to keep San Leandro Hospital operating in its current configuration with emergency room services.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pareja's Anti-Endorsement Of Swalwell

CONGRESS 15 | For Chris Pareja, it's better the devil you know than the devil you don't. The conservative-leaning former 15th Congressional District candidate, who impressed many with his strong primary performance June 5, says his former opponent, Eric Swalwell, "lacks ethics and maturity to represent the district," and urged his supporters not to vote for Swalwell in November.

"I cannot in good conscience recommend that anyone who voted for me support Eric in his campaign for the House of Representatives,” Pareja said in a statement released Thursday.

Although he did not endorse Rep. Pete Stark, Pareja did not exactly praise the long-time East Bay congressman. "I may not agree with Congressman Stark on most issues--but his service to the community and the country should be respected," said Pareja.

"I believe Eric lacks the life experience and character to effectively represent this district. I also wonder whether he has a firm grasp of the proper role of the federal government or where the money will come from to implement the promises he is already beginning to make."

Pareja, in fact, said in an interview Thursday afternoon that he believes in some ways Stark is more conservative than Swalwell and lamented the new open primary system that produced two like-minded candidates in November. "These are two choice that I don't like," Pareja said, "but I feel Eric has no ethics and lacks maturity. His whole thing is being anti-Pete and that Pete is out of step. Well, I think Eric is out of step with reality."

While admitting some in the media may find his announcement outside the narrative of anti-incumbent fervor often presented, Pareja says his first-hand experience watching Swalwell has raised troubling questions for his group of supporters, some of which tend to enjoy sips from the cup of the Tea Party. Many of his conservative supporters are naturally skeptical of government overreach and especially find Swalwell's stances on property rights disconcerting, he says "He's on the wrong side," said Pareja, who noted Swalwell's past support for land developers during his time on the Dublin planning commission and city council.

Pareja's rise earlier this month is one of the least reported stories of the local primary season. The nearly 22 percent of the vote he received represents an astonishing performance accomplished with little name-recognition and built upon only a few thousand dollars. Pareja now has political cache among East Bay conservatives and appears willing to use it in a race where a larger presidential voter turnout and a disaffected voting bloc--which he represents--will likely be deciding factors.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

San Leandro Takes Another Shot At Enacting Long-Term Pot Dispensary Ordinance

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | If not for lack of political will or systemic willingness to follow Oakland's lead on the legal front regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, the San Leandro City Council next week will again take steps to blot out any chance of the growing business flowering within their city limits. A staff report issued Wednesday recommends the council begin ironing out various land use regulations prohibiting the dispensaries and grow sites from San Leandro.

The city's work on the issue of medical marijuana dispensaries extends nearly two years. After a series of moratoriums and postponements on accepting business applications for dispensaries in San Leandro, the last, of which ends Sept. 30, the question of whether to allow the potentially lucrative tax receipts from regulating medical marijuana has sat on the backburner, yet the perception of a potential public safety problem persists.

The San Leandro Police Department says over 17,000 marijuana plants have been seized since 2011, according to a staff report. The department says the haul represents a street value of over $24 million. Despite law enforcement's abhorrence toward allowing medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, some on the council, in the past, have chided both police and staff for flimsy and poorly sourced evidence against the perceived scourge of pot.

San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola, easily the most amendable to dispensaries on the council, two years ago pointed to the ubiquity of marijuana growing in the city as not a problem, but a chance to tax and regulate the growing trade. The impetus for enacting an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries in 2010, in large part, arose from the fervor around the potential of Proposition 219--the measure that sought to legalize marijuana in California--and interest from a Southern California group seeking to set up a grow-site on Williams Street.

The likelihood of San Leandro passing an ordinance prohibiting dispensaries is high. In the past, only Prola and Councilman Michael Gregory have showed any interest in welcoming dispensaries, while their colleagues have consistently toed a more conservative line against marijuana. Any ordinance, if enacted, will likely be based upon existing nuisance laws. According to the staff report, there is precedent for local municipalities to restrict dispensaries to certain districts and regulating them. In effect, it would ban activities such as legally distributing medical marijuana and related businesses within San Leandro's city limits.

For Bonta And Ong, An Energized Filipino Electorate May Be A Game Changer

ASSEMBLY 18 | Often times local political campaigns are run somewhat blindly without much real-time feedback to gauge whether one move is more beneficial than another. You have to keep your ear to the ground and feel your gut. One way is to get inside the minds of voters to understand what they may or may not be thinking outside of the normal precepts of government--education, taxes, the economy, etc.

On the heels of Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta's victory June 5 primary in the 18th Assembly and ,to a certain extent Jennifer Ong's strong second place in nearby 20th Assembly, an excellent piece in the Philippine News reveals the mind set of this growing and potentially influential demographic this November.

Both Bonta and Ong like to inform voters, especially Asian American groups, their election to the California State Legislature would be historic. Either would represent the first Filipino American representatives in state history. African American don't have to remind you how romantic a notion being the first of anything can be in revving up enthusiasm at the ballot box.

Oscar Quiambao's in today's Philippine News gives an up close and personal look at the mindset of Filipinos in the Bay Area, but across the country. Through the lens of sport and entertainment, the populace has received some sobering and controversial news when it comes to the success of some of their heroes. From boxing great Manny Pacquiao being robbed of a decision last week to Timothy Bradley and "American Idol" finalist Jessica Sanchez losing to a far less talented set of pipes, the Filipino populace sounds tired of losing.

"What we will see in the November runoff is a repeat of a Pacquiao beating a Bradley," said Quiambao. "And to prevent another Mafiosi-styled rubout of one of our own, we have to come out for Bonta to fortify his lead to a landslide."

Bonta beat second place finisher Abel Guillen June 5 by just under 5,000 votes with 36.76 percent of all ballots cast. Guillen garnered 29.59 percent of the vote. The two Democrats will again challenge each other in the Nov. 6 general election.

What makes this opinion piece so valuable to observers of this race is its exhausted tone that seems to speak right from the heart of community that is both large and diverse, but seemingly unable, in their minds, to get over the hump for total acceptance in American society.

"We’ve been fence sitters for so long in American politics that we’ve allowed those who came here after us like the Indians to gain a political clout we can now only dream of. We are so risk-averse to entrepreneurship we’ve allowed the same Mainland Chinese who controls our economy back home to capitalize on our basic needs in America, and then profit some more from the remittances we send to our loved ones, who, it seems, we all turned into mall rats."

When handicapping of this race starts in earnest sometime before Labor Day, remember this article whenever looking for intangibles. If the race appears close on every other factor, the potential for Filipinos to personalize this race along the lines of race and culture and the exuberance it breeds could very well be the deciding factor in favor of Bonta. And the same goes for Ong in the 20th.
Jim Prola
GUILLEN GAINS FORMER YOUNG SUPPORTER Clearly, Oakland is the battleground area in the 18th Assembly, but that doesn't mean the newcomers to the district won't be a factor. Redistricting moved San Leandro from what is now the 20th Assembly District (fiefdom of Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi) and lumped it with neighbors to the north--Alameda and Oakland.

Guillen announced Wednesday the endorsement of the San Leandro City Council's most liberal representative, Jim Prola. The tall, lanky and jovial Prola is also very loyal when it comes to whom he endorses. As a former backer of Joel Young's campaign for the same seat, Prola never wavered when an avalanche of poor press riddled the AC Transit board member's once-promising campaign. Prola repeatedly praised Young's support of unions and called him the best candidate for the job. Prola also said the same thing about Nadia Lockyer in 2010. Yes, these guys are better public servants than prognosticators.

I haven't asked Prola about his latest endorsement, but I willing to guess it might have much to do with him and Guillen sharing an alma mater . Prola is a proud Cal alum who claims to bleed blue and gold. Needless to say, Prola has never been to the Rose Bowl.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Lobbying Group Is Giving Hayashi A Taste Of What Is To Come

June 12, 2012 | A group vehemently opposed to physician-owned therapy referrals along with a senate bill currently sitting in an Assembly committee, registered the first tangible signs that opponents of Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi will be more than willing to use her shoplifting plea against her now and in the future.

People Opposing Referral for Profit Kickbacks offered a political cartoon last May skewering Hayashi and her support by various physical therapists groups. The cartoon panel highlighted the Oct. 25, 2011 shoplifting incident at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco. Hayashi plead no-contest to misdemeanor charges and two years probation involving the theft of $2,450 in clothing.

The group repurposed a new version of the same cartoon for even more biting effect and posted it to its Web site June 7. In addition to the new tagline, "Could Mary Hayashi shoplift SB 924?" the physical therapists depicted in the panel is now taking the senate bill out from Hayashi's Neiman Marcus bag with a thought bubble saying, "This woman can't be trusted." The bill, SB 924, was passed by the State Senate last January and sits in the Hayashi-chaired Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protections Committee. It is not scheduled for debate over the next two weeks, according to the Assembly Daily File, but could be heard as early as June 26.

Nevermind the pros and cons of the bill, but the group's willingness to use Hayashi's Achilles' Heel against her for political gain is a gambit many in the East Bay are preparing to bear witness. Most believe Hayashi will run for Alameda County supervisor in November. The expectations of a vociferous and nasty campaign are high on the potential cringe-inducing reactions. So much so that cartoon above might look mighty tame in comparison to the mud that may be thrown at Hayashi this year.

(h/t SF Bay Area Observer)