Friday, August 31, 2012

Are You Ready For Your Close-Up, Swalwell?

ELECTION '12//CONGRESS 15 | Former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson was once a regular on Law & Order and former Sen. Patrick Leahy made cameos in three Batman movies. Of course, there's "Gopher" and "Cooter," who made the jump from campy television shows to the House of Representatives.

But how many have launched insurgent campaigns for Congress after appearing in a low-budget horror film?

Dublin Democrat Eric Swalwell is apparently trying to be the first.

Here's the trailer for the film co-created by one of his volunteers, referred to here last week as the "Dreadlocked, bearded information guy," and titled, The Banshee and the Big Man.

In it, Swalwell gets special consideration near the end and partly utters the line "Irish immigration...?"

On the campaign side, Swalwell's use of in-house produced YouTube videos has not been the campaign's most professional look. The creator of the film Swalwell appears in is also credited with producing the oftentimes poorly lit and audio-deficient clips formerly featured on the campaign's Web site.

In a 30-second spot posted on YouTube last week, another campaign volunteer describes why he is supporting Swalwell. However, from the 20-second mark on, it appears the volunteer's exuberance coupled with the gripped, downward motion of his hand hilariously looks less laudatory and more masturbatory.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Unmasked Hayward Chamber Gives Its Backing To Bufete, Lamnin, Walker

ELECTION '12//HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | The Hayward Chamber of Commerce released their endorsements for Hayward Unified School District this past week endorsing former city council candidate Peter Bufete, planning commissioner Sara Lamnin and Cal State East Bay employee, Annette Walker.

The endorsement comes shortly after The Citizen reported last month school board president Jesus Armas’s affair with fellow board member, Maribel Heredia. Since then Armas and Heredia chose not to run for re-election, thus leaving two open seats for candidates to be contested. The third open seat belongs to incumbent Dr. Luis Reynoso, who is running for re-election.

The chamber’s election process is kept confidential from the public and so is its Government Relations Council who interviewed the potential endorsees. Reynoso, who was interviewed by the board, reported Armas is a member of the council.

Reynoso told the Chamber he did not want their endorsement because he believes having Armas on their interviewing board while also being the president of the school board is unethical and a conflict of interest. Hugget was contacted for comment on Armas’s involvement in the endorsement process but has not responded.

Others who partook in the interview process for endorsements allegedly included Christian Zaballos from R. Zaballos & Sons, Inc., Tina Martinez from Bank of the West, Michael Mahoney, former CEO of St. Rose Hospital and George Pacheco Jr., from Pacheco Brothers, according to Reynoso. Also an unidentified pastor from Hayward is also a member of the council.

Both Martinez and Zaballo are part of the Chamber’s Board of Directors as well, according to the Chamber’s Web site. The Pacheco Brothers, a landscaping company, has previously been hired for their services by both the city and HUSD. Reynoso said this was unethical. “Why would you have employees from both the city and the school board part of an endorsement process?” asked Reynoso rhetorically.

Bufete on the other hand had recently disclosed Armas suggested he run for the school board; although he says his main influence to run was from Paul Hodges, board member for the Hayward Area and Recreation Park District. Bufete was also friends with Armas’s son for many years and had attended school together prior to college.

The 22-year old has made a name for himself recently because of his youth and positive demeanor after finishing sixth in last June's primary. Many politicians in the area, such as Hayward Councilwoman Barbara Halliday, have spoken highly of the recent college graduate. The endorsement is likely the biggest one that Bufete has ever received concerning both his prior run for city council and for HUSD.

Both Lamnin and Walker were contacted to comment on their endorsement from the Chamber but have not responded at this time.

Other candidates running for the school board are Heather Reyes, John Taylor and Wandra Williams.

EDIT: Previously said Bufete attended high school with Armas's son. Changed to reflect possible attendance together in either Middle School or High school by referring to the years of attendance as "prior to college."

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.

Gang Injunctions, Curfews, Cops Headline Oakland District 5 Council Discussion

ELECTION '12//OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//DISTRICT 5 | Oakland’s Fruitvale District is one of the city’s most diverse and potentially vibrant areas of the city. However, it is also the epicenter of Oakland’s most vexing problems—violent crime and a generation of youth falling between the cracks of cyclical despair.

Noel Gallo PHOTO/Shane Bond
Four candidates to replace long-time Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente in District 5 spoke often Tuesday night of the area's plight and recent controversial proposals including gang injunctions and youth curfews and how the heavily Latino district can begin to prosper economically.

“I don’t believe in gang injunctions,” said Fruitvale business owner Mario Juarez. “I think they are over broad. What happens if you grow this list to 3,000? What are you enforcing then?” Juarez said it does not solve the problems of violence in Oakland and is much too costly of an expenditure, however, “If people are committing crimes, they should be arrested.”

Noel Gallo, an Oakland school board member who represents the area, supports the injunctions, especially against violent offenders, he said. “Either we’re going to be serious about safety or we’re not,” Gallo said. “If you walk in District 5 you’re going to find retirees behind fences with a dog in the middle, behind bars on their porch, peeking through the window because they can’t come out and enjoy their retirement age because someone within that neighborhood is creating harm.” He later added, “Crime is governing Oakland as opposed to Oakland governing crime.”

Mario Juarez PHOTO/Shane Bond
While Gallo sought throughout the forum to establish himself as the race’s law and order candidate, Shelly Garza, a former city employee who now works with helping small startups, repeatedly struck a collaborative tone. Like Juarez, she viewed injunctions as costly and worried whether its use benefited everyone in the community. “I don’t want it to be, ‘Tell me who you hang around with and I’ll tell you who you are,’” said Garza.

Dawn McMahan, who runs an Oakland arts non-profit, took the hardest stand against injunctions placed upon the district’s youth. “It more of a us against them mentality,” she said. “If we beat them up and put them in jail, they will change. How is the war on drugs working for you?”

Predictably, the question of youth curfews in the Fruitvale elicited similar responses, with Gallo fully supporting its use. “We had curfews,” Gallo said, recalling from his youth, “You had to be in by 10. I had no business being out in the street. I should have been doing my homework, learning how to cook, taking care of my mom and dad, cleaning my room or learning how to read and write. That’s where they should be at 10 p.m. at night, not on the streets.”

Shelly Garza PHOTO/Shane Bond
But, McMahan countered, “What we are overlooking is the children that are out on the streets at night don’t necessarily have the electricity on in their homes, or their water, or have Internet access or someone to help them with their homework. Or maybe their parents are out getting high.”

Juarez said he somewhat agreed with McMahan’s assessment, but added he does not believe curfews should be enforced by the Oakland PD, but by the school district’s special police unit, who already deal with the youth on a daily basis. “I do not want an overstressed, overworked OPD officer going after a kid in the middle of the night,” he said. “We need to open up the can of worms nobody wants to open and find out what is really happening at home and service these kids sooner than later.”

Added Garza: “We have to give our youth the opportunity to explain to them why we are doing this and what is the benefit for them.”

Whether they support gang injunctions and youth curfews or not, there was general consensus that city’s depleted police force needs help, although they differed on how they would fund such an expansion. “We need to work with what we have,” said Garza. “We don’t have the funding.” She urged continuing to find partnerships with law enforcement, possibly through private security firms.

Dawn McMahan PHOTO/Shane Bond
Gallo, though, said “we need more police and we need to pay for it” through business ventures in the short term and possibly through a parcel tax in the future. “If we are serious about safety, we need to stand up and pay for it,” he said.

While McMahan urged for non-profits to step on the periphery, Juarez offered a proposal to generate revenue for hiring more cops through a $7.95 airport user tax, he says, would create $111 million annually for the city. “We don’t need to go to you,” said Juarez, “because the well is dry already.”

Like most of the cities, states and country, voters in District 5 expect solutions for attracting businesses and creating new jobs. “I’m already growing and retaining new businesses in the city of Oakland,” said Garza, who runs a micro-business incubator, she says, has helped over 150 businesses in the Bay Area. “I’m already providing an economic engine for our district.”

Gallo said, “You have growth already, but making it welcoming for business to come here is key,” he said. “Whether you’re a taco truck or a startup.” McMahan again signified the importance of non-profits, noting many in the district are not U.S. citizens or are returning from incarceration. “What kind of jobs are we offering them?” she asked. More interestingly, Juarez said his biodiesel refinery project is an example of bringing new business ideas to Oakland, but added to do so, his group worked with EBMUD instead of dealing with Oakland’s onerous trail of red tape, he said. “We basically avoided the city.”

Kaplan, De La Fuente Focus On Increasing Public Safety At First Public Face-Off

PHOTO/Shane Bond
ELECTION ‘12//OAKLAND COUNCIL//AT-LARGE | Sometimes highly-anticipated prize fights start with both contenders hopping around the ring and no punches thrown. A feeling-out process until the fisticuffs begin. Well, hopefully, that is.

In the first face-to-face meeting on the campaign trail for the at-large seat on the Oakland City Council Wednesday, Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, the current holder of the seat and Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, both stuck repeatedly to well-honed talking points surely to be heard from here to November.

Kaplan, De La Fuente.
PHOTO/Shane Bond
“We’ll succeed when we get the jobs in, and the guns out,” Kaplan told the sparsely-attended forum at the Kaiser Auditorium. Kaplan repeated slightly different riffs on the themes of reinvigorating Oakalnd’s economic engine, in part, by taming its stubbornly high crime rate.

The forum, sponsored by the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce also featured candidates Carol Lee Tolbert, a former Oakland school board member, and business owner Theresa Anderson-Downs. The event, though, lacked any of the increasingly volatile exchanges found recently at city council meetings. Both Kaplan and De La Fuente kept it disarmingly cordial.

De La Fuente, who chose not to run for re-election after 20 years in his District 5 seat including the Fruitvale District in favor of challenging Kaplan, consistently addressed his embrace of public safety. However, some critics charge his support in the past for police layoffs belies a different story when it comes to his stance for safer streets. “All the rhetoric in the world isn’t going to stop people dying in the streets," said De La Fuente. “What we are facing on the streets of Oakland is priority number one.”

On the issue of the city’s professional sports teams, Kaplan and De La Fuente differed, if not, in terms of their priorities for retaining the A’s, Raiders and Warriors in Oakland, with Kaplan being more optimistic. “Let’s face it, the A’s don’t know the way to San Jose,” said Kaplan, and adding the current Coliseum City proposal will bring shop owners, bars and restaurants to the city along with fans and conventioneers to the area, said Kaplan, while also creating jobs.

De La Fuente was less sanguine saying he would only turn his attention to the Coliseum once crime in Oakland is sufficiently quelled. “I learned from my mistakes,” he said, referring to the botched return of the Raiders in 1995. “They are in the business of making money,” De La Fuente said, believing the public sector should no longer have a role in financing stadiums.

For two of the biggest names in Oakland politics, both Kaplan and De La Fuente appeared nervous before Wednesday night’s forum. While the other candidates were speaking, De La Fuente was seen on numerous occasions seemingly entranced in deep thought while rhythmically rubbing and gripping his hands near his face.

There is no doubt the stakes are high in this race. Kaplan, one of the city’s more popular council members and viewed as a rising star in local politics, would certainly diminish her stature by being unseated. Many also speculate De La Fuente will use the at-large seat, if gained this November, as a springboard for the office he most covets—mayor in 2014.

The field's far lesser known candidates, particularly Anderson-Downs, sounded a far more contradictory tone to the more experienced and nuanced platforms of the two sitting council members, who stood firmly for increasing the city’s police force. On numerous occasions, Anderson-Downs advocated the opposite, saying the focus should be on children and schools rather than adding officers and increasing their benefits.

Tolbert said her top priorities included public safety, development and focusing on public schools. When she advocated for attracting big box stores to Oakland, however, one member of the audience unleashed a loud hiss. A fifth candidate for the at-large seat, Mick Storm, did not attend Wednesday’s event.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Residents Sent City 1,000 Emails Protesting Wind Turbine On San Leandro Shoreline

ELECTION ‘12//SAN LEANDRO//ENVIRONMENT | Stephanie L’Archuleta, a member of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association board, went to Rio Vista last month to view one of the wind turbines proposed to be erected on the San Leandro shoreline within sight of the bayside community.

Unfortunately, the sleek, white monopole featuring an audible whirring was exactly what she expected. “It really didn’t change my perspective,” L'Archuleta said of the wind turbine she described located in a rural area of the town and near a temporary trailer park.

In July, Louis Rigaud, the owner of Halus Power Systems, located on five-acres of shoreline near the vast swath of homes at Heron Bay, applied for an height variance with the city of San Leandro to construct a single used wind turbine for his firm’s use. Rigaud, during a heavily-attended community meeting earlier this summer, fought back a host of furious homeowners, many of them upset at the city’s lack of outreach, persistent safety concerns and apprehension over the possibility of the windmill becoming an eyesore that ultimately threatens the value of their homes.

In the months since, after mere six homeowners located within a 300-foot radius of the proposed wind turbine received notice of the variance hearing, the views a vast majority of homeowners at Heron Bay appear entrenched in their opposition to the Halus wind turbine in their backyards.

“This is not green, this is filth,” said L’Archuleta. “It does not benefit the environment, it only benefits Halus.” Last week, Heron Bay residents sent the city over 1,000 emails protesting the windmill. Within hours of sending the correspondences, L’Archuleta said, the city abruptly cancelled the next Board of Zoning Adjustments hearing set for September and rescheduled it for Oct. 4. A previous hearing set for July was also cancelled.

The city’s spotlight on Halus, a 10-year-old green technology firm, specializing in refurbishing parts for older or discontinued wind turbines, came on the heels of trumpeting its own downtown fiber-optics network, which was funded by San Leandro’s OSIsoft. The city is now in the process of attempting to rebrand itself as a future hub for green tech. Halus’ intentions, however, to be anything more than a glorified foundry are unclear. During the June meeting with residents, Rigaud appeared more intent with using the wind turbine to greatly defray high energy costs and said his company had little previous experience in research and development.

Nonetheless, L’Archuleta is not sure Heron Bay residents will be able to thwart the lone wind turbine from one day spinning in the distance near wetlands purposely set aside for preservation. “I’m not confident," said L'Archuleta. "I know Mayor Cassidy is pushing his weight around for it—for whatever reason.”

CROW’S BRIBE? Someone needs to take Chris Crow’s Facebook password away from him. The District 4 city council candidate in San Leandro, who earlier this month continued to show his lack of political acumen when he seemingly questioned the integrity of billions of Chinese with an ill-advised posting on Facebook, is back with another rookie error.

Forget the important fact that Crow purposely moved from District 2 to the neighborhood around Washington Manor and Heron Bay to avoid running against and incumbent and then proceeded to piss off its sizable Asian American population. But, now Crow is taking an opposing position against the wishes of his adopted district and not being very political about it.

Last weekend, Crow made the highly irregular move of publicly thanking Halus Power Systems owner Louis Rigaud for a contribution to his council campaign. The public announcement is uncommon for a candidate and typically uncomfortable for the donor who may not appreciate the unwanted publicity. Nevermind, that it gives off the whiff of a potential councilman appearing to take a bribe to change or form his opinion on a specific issue.

"Thank you to Louis Rigaud and Halus Energy systems for your contribution to my campaign,” wrote Crow. “I support Halus Energy and their endeavor to build wind turbine testing platform on their property that will produce clean energy, and allow them to expand their production base with new products.”

UPDATE: Crow announced Wednesday he is enlisting his Korean grandmother to help his campaign in District 4.

CANDIDATES TO REPLACE STAROSCIAK When the San Leandro City Council returns from its August recess on Sept. 3, it will reconvene for the first time in over seven years without former Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak, who resigned last month before the end of her term to relocate to Roseville.

Eight applicants have expressed interest in filling out the remainder of Starosciak’s term, including three of the four candidates on the November ballot, Benny Lee, Chris Crow and Darlene Daevu. Former San Leandro Mayor John Faria also showed interest in the short appointment, as did Dana Chohlis, Thomas Dlugosh, David Erlich and Charles Kane.

Since the nomination period for running in District 4 has passed and the November ballot is finalized there isn't the worries typically associated with applicants pledging not to run for the seat, if appointed, and then breaking the promise as Faria did in 1993 when he was elevated to mayor following the death of Dave Karp. Faria lost his re-election bid and unwittingly ushered in the rise of Ellen Corbett in San Leandro and to the State Legislature.

However, if previous statements made by the council last July 16 are any indication, the chances Lee, Crow or Daevu are appointed is unlikely.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Furious Over No-Confidence Vote, Hayashi Confronted Colleague On Assembly Floor

ELECTION ‘12//ASSEMBLY | Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi’s reign of terror in Sacramento is nearly its climax, but not without the convicted shoplifter going out in a blaze of glory.

According to sources in the Capitol, Hayashi went ballistic following a blistering rebuke meted out against her two weeks ago by the Tri-Cities Democratic Forum. The group centered in Fremont, Newark and Union City handed down a vote of no-confidence against Hayashi and her candidacy for the District 2 seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors.

Hayashi’s notorious vindictiveness spilled out on the floor of the Assembly Aug. 22 when she confronted Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski and accused him of engineering the stunning condemnation by the Tri-Cities Democrats. According to the witness, Hayashi followed the accusations with a string of disparaging comments directed toward Wieckowski and his staff.

Wieckowski responded by alleging Hayashi has called over a dozen lobbyists and previous donors and ordered them not to contribute to Wieckowski’s senate campaign or risk her wrath, including the striking threat of purposefully killing any legislation that passes through her committee. However, such a threat is quickly losing its potency. Hayashi’s career in the Assembly, because of term limits, will end this Friday when the Legislature closes shop for the year.

Most local observers once believed Wieckowski, who is in his first term in the Assembly, Hayashi were on a similar trajectory towards running in 2014 for the redistricted State Senate seat currently held by state Sen. Ellen Corbett. After Hayashi’s conviction last January for shoplifting at a San Francisco Neiman Marcus those political calculation may reside only in Hayashi’s mind.

Hayashi’s ire apparently was not only reserved for Wieckowski. She reportedly retaliated against Meriam Reynosa, a district aide for Corbett and well-liked Democratic worker bee, who Hayashi reportedly fingered as responsible for a similar vote of no-confidence against her by the Southern Alameda County Young Democrats Club earlier this month.

Hayward School Trustee Absent From Previous Meeting Was Vacationing In SoCal

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD SCANDAL | On Aug. 21, Hayward school board member Maribel Heredia began her day with a morning latte in Newport Beach in Southern California. The brief respite came a day before the Hayward School Board would meet for another contentious meeting surrounding the uproar over allegations she and fellow board member Jesus Armas are having a secret adult liaison.

However, Heredia was absent from last Wednesday’s meeting. Hayward school superintendent Dr. Donald Evans said Heredia was tending to a “family emergency” in Southern California. But, according to sources, Heredia checked in online at a hotel in Newport Beach while trumpeting one last relaxing dip in the pool.

“In the pool, one last time b4 the kids go back to school,” Heredia described Aug. 21 on Facebook.

Since reports of her alleged affair with Armas, Heredia’s attention to her board duties has noticeably diminished. Already known for lax attendance and tardiness, Heredia attended the July 25 meeting, but abruptly left in the middle before returning nearly 30 minutes later.

At the Aug. 8 special meeting, Heredia arrived almost 15 minutes tardy for a hearing that ultimately lasted just 20 minutes after members William McGee and Dr. Luis Reynoso moved to adjourn after district staff arrived unprepared to deal with specific changes to the board’s bylaws that referenced misconduct similar to the allegations against Armas and Heredia.

Coincidentally, one former school district employee last Wednesday during the public comment period broached the idea of sanctioning Heredia for her absence Aug. 22 by withholding her pay for the meeting. An online petition has also been circulating calling for Heredia’s resignation. Neither Heredia nor Armas is seeking re-election this fall.

Monday, August 27, 2012

San Leandro Council Candidate's Online Comments Rile City's Asian Population

ELECTION '12//SAN LEANDRO DIST 4 | A San Leandro city council candidate is running the risk of alienating the city’s largest demographic, after online comments Aug. 14, since removed, riled Asian American community leaders who now question the candidate’s trustworthiness as a potential city leader.

During the final days of the Summer Olympics, District 4 council candidate Chris Crow posted and responded to a published report quoting Chinese officials who questioned the fairness of its athletes competing against American athletes because of their alleged larger head and chest sizes.

“The Chinese have said they should NOT have to compete with Americans at the Olympics because Americans apparently have bigger heads and broader chests,” Crow wrote on Facebook. “So I suppose they really were cheating in 2008 when they took home more Gold medals than the USA or they are the sorest losers in the world.”

The posting quickly came to attention of several Asian American community leaders who say they were outraged by the assertion Chinese lacked integrity and good sportsmanship. They also questioned whether Crow’s candor revealed discriminatory tendencies.

“When someone coughs up something like that, the heart and mind is discriminating,” said San Leandro resident Ed Collaco.

Another San Leandro resident, Derrick Gee, said he found the comments offensive and states the article Crow references in the Facebook posting includes no suggestion of cheating or bad sportsmanship on the part of Chinese athletes. “I can only believe that these ideas come from his racial despisement of Chinese as an ethnicity,” he said. “For one to be so bold to post on Facebook tells me that he has no fear to show his racist heart.”

Chris Crow
In an email last week, Crow claimed the outrage concerning his posting was concocted by Benny Lee, one of his District 4 opponents this fall, and is unclear how they could be interpreted as racist. “I am disappointed that Benny Lee is seemingly trying to bait me. I would like this campaign to be about the issues. If anyone other than Benny and his supporters are bothered by what I said, I hope they'd come to me and share their views--but as I was making light of the ridiculous statements by the Communist Party mouthpiece in the linked news story I am not sure how that could be interpreted to be anti-Chinese or racist,” Crow said.

As far as representing the Chinese Community, my pledge to them is the same pledge I make to /all/ San Leandro residents. I will look at issues carefully, I will reach out and solicit input from all segments of the San Leandro community, I will analyze all proposals in detail and I will always keep in mind our shared goals of making San Leandro a great place to live for all San Leandrans. I cherish that San Leandro is one of the most diverse cities in the country, and I want to see us be a model of a multicultural yet united community.”

Hendy Wijaya, one of the most vocal members of the Asian American community in San Leandro, says Crow should withdraw from the council race because of the original comment and response from Crow, which he found lacking remorse. “He is accusing every Chinese in the world of being cheaters,” said Wijaya. “If you want to be a city councilman, you should be a person who represents everyone, but this guy is discriminating against the people he wants to vote for him.”

The race in District 4 is shaping up as a potentially lively debate between Lee, the president of the Heron Bay Homeowners Association, Crow and newcomers Darlene Daevu and Justin Hutchison. Even before Crow’s comments this month, his opponents were already ramping up attacks questioning his abrupt move to District 4 earlier this year, despite making strong signals he would run in District 2 against Councilwoman Ursula Reed. However, following a very public rebuke by Reed, who dropped him from the city’s planning commission, Crow moved to District 4 where an open seat is for the offering. Hutchison, who is a lifelong resident of District 4, has already raised the campaign issue, alleging his opponent is a political opportunist without "morals."

Nevertheless, Crow’s comments risk alienating nearly one-third of the electorate this November. San Leandro’s Asian American population grew to 29.7 percent, according to the 2010 Census, and the city as a whole, maintains one of the most equally diverse cities in the entire nation. However, San Leandro's City Council has failed to keep up with its changing demographics. Despite a Latino and Asian demographic that encompasses a majority of the population, neither is represented on the current seven-member council.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Parker, Brunner Duke It Out For Oakland City Attorney Seat

ELECTION '12//OAKLAND//CITY ATTORNEY | Oakland Councilwoman Jane Brunner lashed out at City Attorney Barbara Parker at a Tuesday night city attorney debate that climaxed over the recent Goldman Sachs controversy where Brunner alleged the city's counsel pushed policy decisions through law in a legal opinion that allegedly stated council’s inability to terminate the rate swap agreement.

Parker called Brunner’s accusation an “outrageous and erroneous statement." The accusations surmise a hardscrabble competition by Brunner to unseat Parker, who was appointed city attorney a little over a year ago after John Russo left to become Alameda’s city manager.

The Goldman Sachs’s altercation allowed Parker to denounce Brunner’s accusation and calling Brunner’s remark a revelation and a stark “difference between us.” “She just announced to this audience a confidential legal opinion and she stated it erroneously because she believed that I, as city attorney, can not reveal the truth about our opinion,” said Parker. “Let me be very clear, we are very supportive of going after Goldman Sachs but that is not the issue, our job is to provide sound advice and we told the city council the steps it needed to take to stop doing business with Goldman Sachs.” Parker said that she is capable of providing sound, impartial advice and leave policy to the policy makers

Barbara Parker/PHOTO Shane Bond
The audience clapped uproariously in celebration of Parker’s defense. “You can clap but what I said was public information, it was at a city council meeting," said Brunner in response. "I was asked about the opinion by citizens and reporters but I never gave the report.” Brunner said prior to Parker’s defense that only after the vote that ended the city’s relationship with Goldman Sachs did the attorney’s office come out with an opinion that the council could proceed with the termination.

The debate was hosted by the Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce and the League of Women Voters with a two person panel prepped with a multitude of questions. Questions hit upon federal oversight of the police department, gang injunctions and deep cuts to the city attorney’s office. Brunner laid on her heavy criticisms of the attorney’s office calling it bureaucratic and “much too slow in getting contracts done where it can take months, even years.”

Brunner advocated for streamlining the office to save money and criticized the $6 million spent on outside legal counsel last year. The attorney’s office has been reliant on outside legal counsel due to deep financial cuts into the office by 40 percent and a staff reduction by more than one-third. Parker touted reduced settlement payouts by 50 percent, which Brunner admonished prior, calling the cash pay out on settlements too great due to late agreements. The council did make the decisions to the cut the attorney’s office, which Parker says has forced them to rely on expensive outside legal firms for critical advice. Parker said that for years the office has asked for more attorneys which would be cheaper than hiring outside council. Brunner called for the office to streamline but said that instead of them doing so, “they went out and hired outside attorneys, I rather be employing police.” Brunner added that the law office she comes from has one helper for four attorneys while the city attorney's office has one helper per every attorney. Brunner suggested limiting the amount of helpers as an example of streamlining.

Jane Brunner/PHOTO Shane Bond
As for gang injunctions, one in Fruitvale and another in North Oakland, were discussed at length which Parker called a “tool” to deal with crime issues but Brunner said brought “no one to prosecution.” According to Brunner, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) doesn’t want another gang injunction because most gang members are on probation. Brunner said the Fruitvale injunction cost the city a million dollars which Parker contested. “The city spent $100,000 on the injunction, this myth of a million dollars never occurred,” said Parker.

The debate also discussed at some length the outside council of Dan Siegel used by Mayor Quan which Brunner said was fine by her but Siegel’s “attempt at acting like the city attorney and making public comments was out of line, and I told him that,” said Brunner. Siegel resigned as Quan’s legal adviser last year in protest of her handling of Occupy Oakland, calling for support of the movement and its protest against the one percent.

Parker leads Brunner financially with $74,035 raised in the last campaign disclosure period to Brunner’s $69,414. For total cash on hand Parker has $117,638 while Brunner trails with a total of $78,517 as of June 30.

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.

Armas Will Not Resign From Board; "Thank You For The Invitation," He Says

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD SCANDAL | Hayward school board President Jesus Armas resisted calls Wednesday night by some members of the community to resign after reports of an alleged affair with board member Maribel Heredia.

"There are a couple of people in the audience inviting me to resign," said Armas. "Thank you for the invitation, but I will decline that invitation because I see no reason to take that course of action."

Armas said the school district's improvement over the past two years and the passage last June of Measure G with over 71 percent of the city's vote shows the community's support for the direction of the school district. He also brushed aside accusations by board members William McGee and Dr. Luis Reynoso of collusion among Armas and Heredia on unspecified votes in the past. "If we look at the voting record, we mostly vote all the same," he said.

When pressed later by numerous public speakers whether the reports in The Citizen of an affair between Armas and Heredia, both in exclusive relationship, were true, he asserted anyone can post "anything on the Internet without substance."

However, those in the audience Wednesday night were not buying it. Ann Terrazas, a former school district employee called the alleged dalliance between Armas and Heredia, "unbecoming behavior for a school board member." Terrazas also called for Heredia resign. Neither Armas or Heredia are seeking re-election to the school board this November.

"You have Filet Mignon at home and you go out and get hamburger," Hayward resident Jim Drake said, directed at Armas. "It's not right. It's not morally right."

No-Confidence Vote Against Armas Thwarted By Hayward School District Staff

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD SCANDAL | Amid public calls for Hayward school board President Jesus Armas to resign following an alleged affair with fellow board member Maribel Heredia, an agendized discussion over procedures for a vote of no-confidence never occurred Wednesday night after school district staff and legal counsel failed to comply with the request.

Hayward school district superintendent Dr. Donald Evans told school trustees Wednesday night he was unclear about the request from board member Dr. Luis Reynoso sent via email last Aug. 13. Reynoso's request contained just one sentence: "I [would] like to request for the agenda of meeting 8/22/12: Information on how to proceed the vote of no confidence for the for president leadership of the board."

Evans added there was further confusion over the item since the school board's bylaws are silent on the matter of no-confidence of its members. School board staff similarly failed to provide information at a Aug. 8 special meeting requested by board members regarding a second first-reading of its updated bylaws, which ended in adjournment after only 20 minutes.

"I'm really disappointed here about our staff," said Reynoso. "This is a legal issue. Where's staff to guide us for what takes place and doesn't take place on a vote of no-confidence?" Evans added legal counsel was not in attendance to answer any questions about the item.

Earlier in the over five-hour meeting, set on the eve of the first day of school for many Hayward students, McGee registered similar complaints over staff's inability to provide information requested by board members. He also called for an investigation into the allegations levied against Armas and Heredia.

"I do have to implore staff to do their job and work with legal through counsel to have an investigation into possible collusion and the possibility of some votes that may have been inappropriate," said McGee, who later added the potential of Brown Act violations occurring on the board.

Bad blood between Armas and Reynoso again spilled over Wednesday night starting with an attempt by Reynoso to move the discussion of a no-confidence vote to the top of the agenda. "Your motion is out of order," said Armas. After a bit of maneuvering, McGee was able to force a vote on the matter. However, without embattled board member Maribel Heredia, who was absent from the meeting (Evans said she was tending to a family emergency in Southern California), the motion died following a 2-2 vote. Later, Armas refused to address Reynoso with the honorific of "doctor" nearly a dozen times. In each instance, Reynoso took time to correct Armas. Reynoso earned a doctorate in education last year.

Despite the lack of legal guidance from board staff, Reynoso again laid out his argument against Armas' tenure as board president, including the presence of inappropriate text messages between him and Heredia and a renewed focus on the allegations of conflicts of interest surrounding Armas' duties as a noted local consultant, public official and his ties to firms he has previously represented concurrently before the City Council and as a school trustee.

"Those affairs have an affect on the voting process," said Reynoso, referring to speculation Armas and Heredia violated the Brown Act on, at least, one occasion surrounding the firing and rehiring of a principal at Hayward High School. Armas denied any impropriety and challenged his critics to find any voting patterns to bolster their argument. School board member Lisa Brunner, in what some construed as a signal the allegations were, indeed, true, said there are many instances around the country of public officials sitting on boards with personal or familial relationships. "Yes," Reynoso said, "there are board's out there who have members that are related to each other, but the difference is when they got elected the community knew about the relationship." Reynoso also speculated whether Measure G, the school district's parcel tax, would have passed last June if news of the alleged romance was known beforehand.

With children back in school, the school board will return to its twice-monthly schedule with a meeting Wednesday, Sept. 12, 6:30 p.m., Hayward City Hall.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

State Audit: Community Benefits Not Tied To Hospital Provider's Tax-Exempt Status

HEALTH CARE//SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | An eagerly-awaited state audit requested last August by State Sen. Ellen Corbett found the amount in community benefits offered by non-profit hospital providers is not reliably tied to its valued tax-exempt status.

The findings issued Aug. 9 by state's auditor showed non-profit providers could not use community benefits such as free or reduced costs medical care for the poor to justify tax exemptions from the state, estimated in the millions. Although providers are required by law to report the amount of benefits bestowed upon the local community, there is no uniform metric used by all non-profit health care providers, the report said.

Four hospitals were specifically studied in the audit. They include, Sutter Health facilities, San Leandro Hospital and St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco along with El Camino Hospital in Los Gatos and Mission Hospital in Laguna Beach.

"We saw that each hospital had its own method to calculate its costs to provide health care services for which it did not receive compensation (costs of uncompensated care)," said the audit. "Indeed, no statutory standard or methodology for calculating these amounts exists."

The audit revealed all four facilities not only counted its charity care among its community benefits, but also unpaid bills derived from Med-Cal and other county programs for indigent care.

The state auditor also recommended the State Legislature propose a state law or direction to its health care agency for the creation of a standard methodology to calculate community benefits.

“Communities across California are served by nonprofit hospitals, and we need to make sure they are honoring their commitment to serve the public that comes with their special tax-exempt status,” said Corbett. “This audit makes clear that there are no uniform standards or requirements for nonprofit hospitals, when it comes to charity care.”

In many ways, the request for a state audit by Corbett stemmed from the on-going and uncertain fate of San Leandro Hospital, located in her East Bay district. After a long and contentious legal and political battle between the Eden Township Healthcare District with Sutter Health over possession of the facility's title of ownership, little is left in the political bag of tricks.

In addition, last week, Corbett convened the Senate Select Committee on Charity Care and Nonprofit Hospital to discuss the audit and featured testimony from labor union officials and a single representative from the California Hospital Association, who contend other voices from the health care industry were not heard during the hearing.

In the meantime, the fate of San Leandro Hospital remains in the balance. Sources on the union side of the fight to keep the facility open as a general service hospital contend their fate is inextricably tied to that of St. Luke's in San Francisco. Sutter and the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are currently hashing out an arrangement to build a new facility at Cathedral Hill in return for operating St. Luke's, a facility known to serve many of the city's underinsured and poor residents.

School Board To Discuss No-Confidence Vote; The Meeting Will Be Televised

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD SCANDAL | As Hayward students returned the classroom last week to end what was hopefully a joyous summer vacation, it was not so eventful for its five-member school board as it continues to sort through allegations of an affair among its fraternity and persistent internal squabbles.

After a raucous meeting last July 25 where school board member Luis Reynoso repeatedly referenced the burgeoning scandal among trustees Jesus Armas and Maribel Heredia and a shortened special meeting Aug. 8, little has occurred to sort out the issues swirling over the moribund school district.

Wednesday night’s agenda includes two notable items including guidance on proceeding with a vote of no-confidence against Armas and potential deliberations over the use of its current legal representation.

Reynoso requested information Aug. 13 to discuss a potential vote of no-confidence be placed on the agenda. However, if the issue heads to a vote, it is unclear whether a potential motion has enough support to pass. In recent interviews, school board member William McGee had voiced support for such as move, as had Reynoso.

In what is characterized in staff reports as a potential cost-cutting move, the agenda also includes discussion tonight of reevaluating its connection to GCR, LLP, for the school board's legal representation.

MCGEE’S PLEA In a letter to the community last Aug. 10, school board member William McGee welcomed returning students to the classroom and broached the subject of the allegations against Jesus Armas and Maribel Heredia. In the memo, he called for leadership at the school district and board level. “We need to allow for conflict, which is healthy for any organization, and at the same time work through that conflict openly, and constructively,” said McGee.

He also appeared to urge for the board to take a proactive role in investigating the charges and ramifications of the allegations against Armas and Heredia. “We must acknowledge this negativity, seek the truth, learn from the experience, and move forward while remembering this lesson as it becomes history so we can put forth an effort not to make the same mistakes again,” said McGee. “Hopefully this acknowledgement will guide and lead us to a level of increased trust and success of our school district to benefit our students in a positive way.”

McGee also referenced the Aug. 8 special meeting that was adjourned after 20 minutes when notes from the contentious July 25 meeting containing the alleged affair were not presented for a discussion of the board’s reworked bylaws. During that meeting, it was asserted the previous meeting had included staff direction to bring back the reading of the bylaws for an additional first meeting Aug. 8. “In reviewing the video from out meeting July 25, it was never stated to bring these policies back for another reading,” said McGee. “The miscommunication of the reason for this meeting shows the need to work on clear communication strategies to minimize confusion in an effort to not waste money and staff time.”

THE BOARD MEETING WILL BE TELEVISED The growing sense of impropriety at the Hayward School district has certainly fostered skepticism among residents and, in one case, a bout of immense distrust.

An email Tuesday from administrative staff at the school district alerted board members the sound system at Hayward City Council chambers was inoperable and may not be fixed in time for Wednesday’s school board meeting. If not, the meeting proceed as scheduled, but would not be broadcast on the city’s public television channel.

Cries of a media blackout by residents and charges the school district was attempting shield itself from a potentially heated public debate were quelled Wednesday afternoon. “There will be a broadcast tonight,” said Clancy Priest, the city’s technology services director.

In the past, critics of the school district have asserted meetings would periodically move to its district offices were they could only recorded for audio and not video.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Risks Of Kids In Campaign Discourse; Swalwell's Moneyball Run For Congress

ELECTION '12//CONGRESS 15 | Purposefully involving your opponent’s young children into the political debate is always very risky proposition. On the same day the San Francisco Chronicle portrayed Rep. Pete Stark correctly as a congressman of some type of historical importance, in addition, to a propensity for Steve Jobsian outbursts, the same reporter, so to speak, went there. That there is attacking the three youngest of the Stark brood.

Carolyn Lochhead’s posting on SFGate revealing Stark’s 16-year-old son and 10-year-old twins receive Social Security benefits. Nothing illegal was asserted, but an allusion was made to Stark being worth—at least--$27 million. That figure comes from the Web site OpenSecrets.org and is a somewhat imprecise number from 2010 ranging between $19 million and $27 million and including an unspecified $11 million loss in 2009.

Nevertheless, going after kids is a big no-no and either floated to bait the anger of Stark or the beginnings of a campaign to portray him as economically out of touch with regular voters in his district—or both. However, if Stark was to have said such instances were inappropriate, then, of course, the story is legitimate and sadly the children collateral damage, but that isn’t the case here.

It’s a sophisticated and dirty move which has already raised the ire of some local Democratic Party operatives who know Stark’s children with his wife, Deborah Stark, as three polite and adorable kids. Fish Stark, the son who infamously was tabbed as his father’s top campaign researcher, appears to show genuine interests in what his dad does for a living, while the twins can often be seen calmly sitting among the crowd at town hall meetings in the area. At the same gatherings, the 10-year-boy often shouts out numbers used to randomly call on constituents to ask the congressman questions.

One high-profile East Bay Democrats this weekend went so far as to speculate whether this new low from the Chronicle is more than just coincidence coming a few days after Swalwell kissed the ring of “The Don” Perata. The blowback may include renewed efforts to illustrate the differences between between the family man Stark and the youthful bachelor Swalwell and whether one portrait resonates better with voters, many of whom are greatly struggling in this stubbornly poor economy.

STARK INSIGHTS Fortney 'Pete' Stark Jr. sits on a wicker chair next to a sizzling fire, his crossed feet propped up on an ottoman. Clad seriously but casually in loafers, a plaid cotton shirt and corduroy pants, he scans The Washington Post, his trifocals resting up on the bridge of his nose. As he reads the headlines out loud to himself, he accompanies them with 'mm-hmm's and nods or strings of unprintable words, depending on the news. Beside him rests some Sonoma County white wine in a clear plastic glass, his chief vice, excluding Diet Coke," writes Fish Stark, the 16-year-old son of the embattled congressman writing about his famous father. Not bad at all for someone, according to the date on the teen Web site, couldn't have been pushing 15.

The lengthy profile is important nevertheless and gives an intimate portrait of a political figure, who despite 40 years in Congress, very little is known about. I must admit cracking through to the real Stark is extremely difficult. He can be ruthlessly offensive to some and positively self-effacing in public. His beguiling personality might make him a great politician, but it also makes for a positively hopeless endeavor to pinpoint out what exactly makes him tick. However, the budding wordsmith offers these insights into his father, including Stark calling his ancestors "cowards" for dodging military services going all the way back to the late-19th Century and that Stark suffered nerve damage to his leg which now requires the use of his now-ubiquitous walking cane.

SWALWELL’S MONEYBALL CAMPAIGN Nobody it seems, other than The Citizen, seems to want to write about Eric Swalwell. If anybody was paying attention they would find perhaps find an underdog story of Hollywood proportions. In many ways, Swalwell’s rag-tag operation is astonishingly similar to the concepts behind Billy Beane’s Moneyball blueprint for manipulating inefficiencies and making the most with very little money.

Swalwell has always been playing catch-up when it comes to fundraising. It’s a major reason why he was forced to become beholden to rich land developers already crawling around the Tri-Valley. But, that hasn’t been enough to close the gap between his treasury and Stark’s, according to the most recent campaign finance reports showing him almost exactly $300,000 behind.

In the meantime, among local consultants and party loyalists, there has been some chuckling over Swalwell’s virtually running a campaign more dignified for running for city council than for a seat in Congress. If there’s a farmer’s market in the 15th District, Swalwell is there with his band of political misfits. Swalwell’s campaign manager is an unknown named T.J. Daly whose strategy thus far has been to wait for Stark to commit unforced errors while hoping his own walks straight down Vanilla Road. Don't laugh because the plan so far has worked like a charm. The rest of the crew includes a dreadlocked, bearded information man and loads of high school volunteers. The last being of note since most congressional campaigns prefer college-age interns. While the group may be genuinely excited about Swalwell, they may actually be more interested in receiving credit for community service hours required for graduation from high school.

To take the Moneyball analogy further, recall the movie version ends with a dramatic home run that extended the A’s winning streak to 20 games. However, the 2002 season actually ended with a thud after another crushing loss to the unheralded Minnesota Twins in the Division Series. That being said, there’s nothing wrong with rooting for the underdog and Swalwell’s campaign lives and breathes it.

STARK'S ATTACK DOG Sharon Cornu has certainly put some bite in Stark's campaign since taking over two months ago from San Francisco consultant Alex Tourk. Check out her lengthy quote in the San Francisco Chronicle regarding the issue of Social Security payments for Stark's children. Note two references to the "young Swalwell" combined with a double dose of linkage to the Republican Party.

“The very premise of Social Security is that all Americans pay into it and all Americans benefit from it. If young Eric Swalwell wants to join the Ryan-Romney plan to undermine Social Security as we know it, it just shows he is not a true blue Democrat. Congressman Pete Stark has spent a lifetime protecting the rights of seniors and fighting to make Social Security stronger so it is able to deliver on its promise to all Americans.Before young Swalwell opens the door to changes in Social Security that Republicans would love to make, he should have done his homework.”

Hayward's St. Rose Hospital Faces $3M Funding Gap By Sept. 30

Supervisors Wilma Chan and 
Richard Valle, St. Rose interim
CEO Mak Nakayama/Photo Shane Bond
ALAMEDA COUNTY//HEALTH CARE | Hayward's perennially cash-strapped St. Rose Hospital faces a projected $3 million hole by Sept. 30, according to county officials. In addition, another $3 million in cash flow issues by next January will require the hospital to seek $6 million in funds to help keep St. Roses's doors open.

St. Rose's interim CEO Mak Nakayama and Alameda County Health Care Services Director Alex Briscoe noted short-term funding will begin in January to help handle the cash flow issue. A long-term plan being discussed includes one of two options, one with a private provider and another is Alameda County Health Center as a public provider. Kaiser, who has a hospital located across the street from St. Rose, has pledged their support to help maintain St. Rose. Former St. Rose CEO Michael Mahoney resigned earlier this year in the aftermath of disclosures the facility was facing the possibility of imminent cash shortages.

News of uncertainty at St. Rose came to light last Friday at Hayward City Hall during a town hall to discuss the onset of the Affordable Care Act’s affect on the struggling Hayward hospital and hosted by Alameda County Supervisors Richard Valle and Wilma Chan. “The reason we are here today is to talk about healthcare insurance and the dramatic changes that we see in the field concerning the Affordable Health Care Act and how these changes will affect not only St. Rose but healthcare throughout the county,” said Valle, in his opening statement.

Chan spelled out a dramatic desperation for health services and rising costs that have weighed heavily on the shoulders of Americans for years; especially in the post-Great Recession era. Emergency room care is an extremely expensive financial burden compared to someone seeing a primary care physician, according to Chan. St. Rose has played an important role in general and acute care but most patients are either under or uninsured and rely on St. Rose as their general and primary care provider.

Since the economic downturn hit in 2008 the county has seen a climax in uninsured residents rising from 166,000 to 199,000. Hayward has a higher rate of uninsured residents than Oakland, according to Briscoe, who added to the potency of primary care’s role in rising health care costs and St. Rose’s financial situation. “There is not now nor will there be in the foreseeable future enough primary care,” said Briscoe, “Costs are rising because not enough people are seeing their regular primary care doctor due to the lack thereof; therefore the health care industry sends citizens to the highest level of care.”

This kind of financial upheaval is an additional weight to St. Rose, whose financial struggle was heightened after the Sisters of St. Joseph left the hospital to incorporation, becoming a non-profit stand-alone hospital who has the lowest per-patient income of any hospital in the East Bay. The hospital only earns $2,494 per patient per day and is reliant on a fractional reimbursement from Medicare or Medi-Cal. In 2007, the hospital saw both Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health support a $7 million short-term emergency fund and Alameda County has provided a straight cash subsidy of $40 million in the last five years to help keep the hospital afloat. County and local hospitals have partnered in issuing a stabilization fund of $12.25 million this past spring.

When the hospital comes into the post-medical reform era St. Roses’s role for uninsured folks will only be enhanced, according to Briscoe. “This is the most sweeping reform since Medi-Care and Medi-Caid were created and it really closes one of the great ethical and moral gaps in our society’s approach to the safety net…Now 56,000 new folks will get free health care and another 107,000 who get some help to buy healthcare on the private insurance market,” said Briscoe. Briscoe says these newly insured citizens will be entering the safety net system and handled by hospitals that have the capacity to deal with the newly insured. “Alameda County is dependent on certain hospitals on playing a certain role, handling the uninsured or underinsured,” said Briscoe, emphasizing St. Rose’s importance for that role. Meanwhile, the short-term prognosis for St. Rose may also include help from labor.

Matthew Mullany, a representative of the Teamsters Union Local 856, spoke about pension money givebacks by union members to help keep the hospital open. “What has not been mentioned is that they’ve [union members] have taken wage freezes for two years now,” said Mullany, “We have all worked in good faith for the past few years to keep the hospital open. I am here to tell you that the union is still willing to do that.”

The union representative noted a potential sub-contracting issue that may take place at St. Rose. Mullany spoke against having a sub-contractor becoming the new employer for specific departments in the hospital, “There may be two departments there now that may be sub-contracted out,” said Mullany, “It is not definite yet…I don’t believe it is the right time to do such a thing.” Mullany said that he doesn’t believe that Nakayama, an interim president, should be making long-term decisions for the hospital, which includes sub-contracting, “I say that respectfully,” added Mullany. The union representative said that at the current time it doesn’t make sense to have two different employers in the hospital at the same time because of potential labor unrest. “I don’t say that as a threat or as a challenge,” noted Mullany, “We don’t want any unrest.”    

Monday, August 20, 2012

Quirk Touts Internal Poll Showing Distance Between Him and Ong In AD20

Bill Quirk, Jennifer Ong
ELECTION '12//ASSEMBLY 20 | Bill Quirk’s campaign for Assembly District 20 released internal polling results revealing a double-digit lead over fellow Democratic competitor, optometrist Jennifer Ong.

The poll’s results showed Quirk with 43 percent and Ong with 30 percent. The poll, initiated by Godbe Research and paid for by the Quirk campaign, evaluated 602 likely voters and both of the candidate’s ballot designation and excerpts from the candidate statements were read to participants. Further details on the poll, including questions, are considered confidential according to Quirk. Quirk says the large margin is likely due to the Democratic Party’s endorsement officially bestowed upon him in February.

Ong’s confidence hasn’t dwindled though as she cites Union City Mayor, Mark Green’s, quid pro quo support to be essential to pulling in Union City support by Election Day in November. Green isn’t likely to make a full endorsement during his run for the District 2 Supervisor seat against appointed Supervisor Richard Valle and current AD20 Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, according to Ong.

This is the second research study by Godbe Research, whose results were made public by Quirk’s campaign and like the first; both show Quirk to have been consistently in the lead for AD20. The first study showed Quirk leading with 25 percent, an 11 percent lead on Green, who was slightly leading the pack for second place during primaries, according to the research poll.

Quirk took the June primary with a 4.6 percent lead on Ong; winning with a total percentage of 30.3 percent and Ong with 25.7 percent, a 5.7 percent lead on Green who finished with 20.3 percent.

Quirk has been leading the race with major endorsements and finances with a current cash on hand of $33,358 according to the last reporting period. Ong is documented to have $14,824 which less than half of Quirk’s campaign finances. Although Ong has been one of the heavy spenders for an Assembly seat this year with large independent expenditures from PACs such as the California Optometric Fund PAC and the Union of American Physicians and Dentists Medical Defense Fund, averaging around $200,000 in spending.

Despite that Quirk’s union support has been a valued asset in financial contributions and drawing community support to the wings of his campaign. Ong has maintained the second place spot, nabbed in June, with such large support from the medical field and financial spending fervor to maintain revelance in a race that has thus far favored Quirk.

Its been known that Ong hired noted poltical strategist Richie Ross as her campaign manager to mold her campaign at the onset of her run for Assembly. Ross was called a “warlord” for Willie Brown, former San Francisco mayor and former Assembly State Majority Speaker, when he was his campaign manager and is infamous for his sometimes harsh and inconvential tactics. Both candidates are vying for Hayashi’s seat whose terms ends at the end of the year.

Pleasanton Country Club May Have To Pay Dearly For Illegally Locking Out Union Staff

LABOR | An administrative judge for the National Labor Relations Board has ordered Pleasanton’s swank Castlewood Country Club to reimburse union staff locked out for over 2 years up to $3.4 million in back wages and benefits stemming from what the judge ruled an unfair bargaining practices by the Tri-Valley resort.

The ruling handed down Aug. 17 is a major victory for the small cadre of locked out worker many of whom earn a paltry $12 in hourly wages while bussing tables and serving club members lunch and drinks.

Judge Clifford Anderson also found Castlewood management engaged in unfair bargaining with union members of UNITE HERE Local 2850. Anderson’s ruling contains a spate of blistering findings against Castlewood’s general manager Jerry Olson and a lawyer for the club who surreptitiously attempted to alter notes taken during a bargaining session with union representatives and a string of comments by club members asserting union membership would never be allowed at the high-priced country club.

In December 2009, the judge found Olson told employees “they could quit their jobs if they did not like [management’s] bargaining proposals.” Three months later, according to the ruling, a Castlewood manager threatened an employee with discipline for distributing union literature. It also found management engaged in bad faith bargaining in August 2010 while it employed replacement workers and no longer sought an agreement to end the lockout with union employees.

“I shall recommend that [the] respondent be ordered to make whole all locked-out employees for any loss of pay or benefits suffered from the lockout maintained from Aug. 10, 2010 onward,” wrote Anderson. Castlewood can appeal the decision to the NLRB in Washington, D.C within 28 days.

A lead representative for the union, Wei-Ling Huber testified Olson said, "I don't know what the legal definition of impasse is, but I think, you know, we're there. And we're just wasting time over these issues, maybe it's time for employees to strike or quit." The response, according to many over the many months was not uncommon for Olson, only at Castlwood since 2009 and known for spells of anti-union and conservative zealotry. The union asserts the lockout is solely based upon health care reform.

Meanwhile, the over two-year lockout encompassed roughly 60 low-wage earners including cooks, bartenders, housekeepers, food servers, busboys and dishwashers, most of whom could be seen picketing on the side of the road most every weekend banging a drum and chanting union slogans. According to Friday’s findings, Olson’s comments may have been the prevailing wisdom among dues-paying country club members. “As far as I am concerned I would like to NOT see any of the picketing former employees returned to Castlewood. I would not trust any of them to serve my food or drink. The few who are not in this fight would be welcomed back,” said one member to management.

Another, noting Castlewood was the only unionized club in Northern California, said, “This is unacceptable and a great detriment to further membership in our club.” While, yet another member said, “I am really hoping there is some way that Castlewood can rid themselves of the union staff permanently,” according to the judge’s findings.

The judge also found an attorney for Castlewood, Robert Hulteng, altered personal notes that significantly minimized his comments during a bargaining session in August 2010. “I also find his testimony lacks credibility as a result of the circumstances presented. Counsel Hulteng, as he testified, refreshed his recollection with these notes and yet his memory of altering them was not also refreshed. I find this fact is persuasive evidence that his memory of the events of this session were dim indeed and may not be relied on.”

Saturday, August 18, 2012

South County Dems Issue Hayashi A Vote Of No-Confidence

ELECTION ‘12//ALCO DIST 2 | Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi received one of her most stunning rebukes yet last Wednesday from members of a local Democratic club that lies within the supervisorial district seem hopes to represent this fall.

The chair of the Tri-Cities Democratic Forum, Dr. Raj Salwan, also a planning commissioner in Fremont, said its members voted “overwhelmingly” to issue a vote of no-confidence against the controversial assemblywoman who is aiming to resuscitate her political career as at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. Hayashi is termed out of the Assembly at the end of the year and was convicted of misdemeanor shoplifting last January after she purloined $2,450 in apparel from Neiman Marcus in San Francisco.

In a statement, Salwan said Hayashi’s behavior and her current campaign for county supervisor is unacceptable to Democrats in the Tri-Cities of Fremont, Union City and Newark.

“We hold our public servants and elected officials to the highest moral and ethical standards, and rightly so–they create public policy that impacts every aspect of our lives,” Salwan said. “The most basic of our expectations are simple: honesty and obedience to the law. We realize that not everyone is perfect, and we all do make mistakes.”

However, our members felt that Mary Hayashi’s behavior has created deep and critical concern among local democrats. In addition, they felt that her insistence on continuing on in public service is seen by many as unacceptable. Although we wish her well in her personal endeavors, the members of the Tri-Cities Democratic Forum have chosen to make a public statement of disapproval for Hayashi’s continuation in public office."

The Tri-Cities Democratic Forum is not the first south county group to register disapproval for Hayashi’s run. Earlier this month, the South Alameda County Young Democratic Club also supported a vote of no-confidence against Hayashi.

Although, the stern tone of the rebukes may be increasing from a small group of local groups, it is clear Hayashi’s star among special interests with deep pockets has not diminished. And while, she has not yet been able to procure endorsements from any local leaders of note, the flip side is none have come close to issuing any type of public condemnation for either her brush with the law or her run for supervisor. The reason, according to many in the area, is Hayashi still holds cache among monied interests and her ruthless reputation still precedes her.

CURIOUS PHONE POLLING Over the past week, numerous sources in Hayward have reported receiving phone calls from pollsters regarding the Board of Supervisors race in District 2. They include queries gauging voter acceptance for a candidate previously convicted of shoplifting and interests in a candidate who suffered from a brain tumor. Sounds familiar, huh?

However, two sources reported being asked another highly curious poll question. “How would you feel if a candidate had breast cancer?”

Although men can certainly face incidents of breast cancer, it is far more prevalent in women. Of the four candidates for supervisor—Richard Valle, Mark Green, Mark Turnquist and Hayashi—she is the only woman.

The poll question maybe nothing more than the campaign testing the waters for a gambit eliciting sympathy for Hayashi or a merely a strategy that never sees the light of day. Hayashi’s campaign had no comment.

VALLE’S BID TO BE THE SAVIOR OF HEALTH CARE Supervisor Richard Valle has been making the rounds recently giving speeches and attending round table discussions about the state of health care in Alameda County. On Friday, Valle spoke to residents in Hayward to discuss how to save St. Rose Hospital along with stabilizing the county’s hemorrhaging problem of serving more uninsured and underinsured residents.

On the subject of St. Rose, Valle is certainly an odd choice to lead the community hospital’s renaissance. Over the past decade, as a Union City councilman, Valle sat on the St. Rose board of trustees during a time when the facility nearly went bankrupt. Through rising health care costs and an increasingly poor payer mix that features a high percentage of uninsured patients, the hospital has surely been struggling for some time. However, there is more than enough evidence to show it was also poorly mismanaged under former CEO Michael Mahoney.

After the fiscal mess at St. Rose was finally revealed to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors earlier this year, the once pristine reputation of Mahoney quickly became that of a charlatan who hid the facility’s dire financial health from county supervisors until the moment it could barely meet payroll. At that point, the county rushed in to prop up the hospital with loans and a proposal to merge the facility with the nearby Washington Hospital Health Care District.

So, when did Valle, as a member of the St. Rose board, first know of the hospital’s poor financial situation and why didn't he sound the alarm?

Friday, August 17, 2012

Armas Interviewed School Board Candidates Vying For Chamber's Endorsement

Less than five days after bowing out of the race for the Hayward school board, Jesus Armas may be in search of a successor.

Armas, who, after two years, is not seeking re-election to the school board following reports of a illicit affair with another member, interviewed prospective candidates Wednesday afternoon vying for the valuable endorsement of the Hayward Chamber of Commerce. Armas is also a member of the chamber’s board and reportedly led the interview process Wednesday, including a spate of harsh queries for his fellow board member and frequent critic, Luis Reynoso.

“I questioned Jesus why he thinks he can do this,” Reynoso told The Citizen, “and he said, ‘I’m not running anymore.’” According to Reynoso, the group conducting the interview process also included, the head of the chamber, Kim Huggett, a representative from Pacheco Brothers, a landscaping business with strong ties to the district and City Hall and three other people. Huggett would not respond to questions over what occurred at the meeting and said they were confidential, but added former St. Rose CEO Michael Mahoney was also present.

However, it was Armas who did much of the talking, according to Reynoso. “He started it all and just kept firing and the rest just sat there.” Reynoso said Armas chastised him on the issues of building consensus, whether he ever supported a state takeover of the district along with his behavior during board meeting. Since protesting Armas' appointment to the board in early 2010 while his wife also headed the district's human resources department, he as been a favorite target of Reynoso's. When asked about Armas grilling Reynoso, Huggett laughed and added he is beholden to confidentiality.

Many of Armas’ critics, including Reynoso, have repeatedly questioned the lame-duck school board members ties to numerous groups in the city. Armas is widely known to be one of Hayward’s most influential fixers and proverbial sherpa to business outsiders interested in travailing the city’s levels of power. However, since reports in The Citizen last July 25 detailed an on-going romance with board member Maribel Heredia which showed suggestive text message between the two, many in Hayward have begun questioning his ties to land developers as he juggles dual roles as a sought-after consultant and school board president.

Earlier this week, it was reported former Hayward City Council candidate Peter Bufete was urged by Armas to run for one of three open seats on the five-member school board. Bufete, 22, finished fifth in the council race last June while running on a platform, in some ways, more suitable for the school board, while impressing many for his poise and likability.

Alameda Council Candidate Proposes Plan To Lessen Unfunded Pension Liabilities

Tony Daysog
ELECTION '12//ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Never shy to stray from the Democratic Party's prevailing wisdom, Alameda city council candidate Tony Daysog says he has a plan to alleviate the city's perplexing unfunded liabilities without affecting municipal services.

Exactly how much Alameda is on the hook when it comes its obligations to current and retired public employee is open for debate. Speaking at a candidates forum Wednesday night at Alameda Hospital, Daysog put the total at around $200 million, while others contend it is really about $90 million. A speaker Tuesday night, floated it was as high as $350 million.

Daysog, who served as councilman from 1996-2006 and finished a distant fourth in the mayor's race in 2010, believes the city's public safety employees must pay more into their pensions. While Alameda's police officers and firefighters already pay 11 percent to their pensions--a figure Daysog admits is high when compared to the contributions of public safety workers in nearby cities. "The magnitude of the situation is that they are going to have to pay more," he said. As much as 15 percent, the maximum allowable.

"This is the big question every single candidate--if they're serious--has to address" said Daysog. "What steps are you going to take to close the unfunded liability of $200 million?"

Although Daysog's prescription for Alameda's unfunded liabilities lacks specifics, nevertheless, it is still more detailed than virtually any other candidate running for office this fall on the platform of fiscal sustainability.

Asking public safety to bear more of the burden will not erase all of the city's debts to workers, Daysog admits and fixing the problem will take years. He believes 7-9 percent in unspecified cuts to the budget will help over time to "buy down the debt."

"Those cuts, in my estimation, won't result in a dilution of municipal services," he says. To achieve his path to fiscal solvency, Daysog proposes cutting back public employee hours by 60 minutes per week. He surmises cutting back the hour, for instance, in the early morning hours when presumably fewer residents are seeking questions about city services will result in negligible impacts in customer service.

Harking back to Al Gore's infamous "lock box" proposal during the 2000 presidential campaign, Daysog said he would use a similar gambit for steering potential new city revenues into lowering its debts to pensioners. "Whatever new revenues that come down in the future," he said, "we need to have a policy that they be put in a lock box of sorts to buy down the unfunded liability." However, Daysog said Alameda's fiscal future is nowhere near as dire as compared to city's like Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino.

Wednesday night's forum hosted by the Alameda Citizens Task Force consisted of just three of the eight candidates for two certain open seats on the council. A third seat could open up for the third-place finisher if current Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta wins a seat this fall in the State Assembly. In addition to Daysog, candidates Jeff Cambra and Jane Sullwold also answered questions from the group. On the subject of pension reform, however, neither offered specifics, but preached aspects of fiscal austerity.

"The city must be run like a business," said Cambra, a former assistant city attorney in Hayward and long-time business owner. "I would spend the city's money like I would spend my own." Cambra also stressed the importance of keeping the city's reserves intact in the case of emergency.

Sullwold, a member of the city's golf commission, said while many of Alameda's special interests group crave adding or improving amenities such as sports fields and swimming pools, the city must prioritize its fiscal responsibilities first and "see what we can find in the future." The economy will eventually perk up, she said confidently, but when and which segments improve more quickly than others is anybody's guess.

Current Councilwoman Beverly Johnson is also in a field of eight candidates that include Marilyn Ezzy, Stewart Chen, Gerard Valbuena Dumuk and Joana Darc Weber.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Mystery Of Mary Hayashi, Jesus Armas And A Seedy Porn Shop In Hayward

L'amour Shoppe in Hayward.
ELECTION '12//HAYWARD | Two weeks ago, Hayashi's rudimentary campaign Web site included her committee's mailing address of 22561 Main St., Suite 200 in Hayward. Coincidentally, that is also the address of Armas Consulting, the influential Hayward firm headed by disgraced school board member Jesus Armas.

The address is also connected to the city's chamber of commerce (everything in Hayward seems connected in some unholy manner or another, it seems) and lies adjacent to the L'amour Shoppe, Hayward's best location for procuring fuzzy handcuffs, dildos and scented lubes.

Hayashi's campaign consultant, Mark Capitolo, dismissed the connection between the committee's address, Armas and the sex shop on Main Street. "I don't want to talk about where she picks up her mail," he said last week.

However earlier this week, the mailing address was changed to a P.O Box in Castro Valley.

Hayashi's Paltry Support Among Local Pols Reaches Outside Supervisorial District

ELECTION '12//ALCO DIST 2 | As expected, many elected officials in the contested Alameda County Board of Supervisors District 2 race view Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi's run for the seat as something as uncomfortable as a pair of leather pants filled with itching powder.

Of the nine endorsers thus far, according to Hayashi's campaign Web site, just two--recently retired Hayward Fire Chief Craig Bueno and Fremont Councilwoman Suzanne Lee Chan--have any connection to the district encompassing Hayward, Fremont, Union City and Newark. However, Chan's Fremont is split among two districts. She is also up for re-election this fall, making her support politically courageous.

However, that doesn't mean the controversial legislator convicted of misdemeanor shoplifting last January is short of big name backers from Sacramento's Democratic leadership. Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg and Assembly Speaker John Perez issued support for Hayashi's run for supervisor, as did Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Fiona Ma.

Regional labor groups covering large swaths of the Western United States with long names offered support including the United Steel, Paper and Forestry, Rubber, Manufacturing, Energy, Allied Industrial and Service Workers International Union, District 12 and Local 1304. The United Farm Workers of America are also listed, according to Hayashi's Web site.

Curiously, it is two names from within Hayashi's current assembly district in San Leandro, but the borders of the supervisorial seat she is vying for that may elicit the most animosity. Hayashi received the endorsement of John Sherr, the president of the San Leandro teachers' union and former San Leandro Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak. Both may be upsetting to the city's educators and long-time supporters of Starosciak in the Washington Manor neighborhood. However, Starosciak no longer has skin the game when it comes to Alameda County.

Starosciak abruptly resigned last month before the end of her term this year to move to Roseville. Her sudden departure and reasoning for the move--she claimed lingering "sadness" over her 2010 mayoral defeat as the culprit--has sullied her reputation after two effective terms on the city council. As the city searches for a two-month replacement for her seat, it seems to some the endorsement of Hayashi came sometime between packing the family China and hitting the on-ramp near Highway 238.

COMIC STRIP The best place for ravenous critics of Hayashi and her infamous brush with the law last year is not a certain East Bay political site or even from one of her opponents for Alameda County supervisor, but a scrappy special interest group offering humorous cartoons and GIFs poking fun at Hayashi.

A group calling itself, People Opposing Referral for Profit Kickbacks, has been vicious in its attempts over the past few months to use Hayashi's shoplifting conviction to shame her while criticizing her support of physician-owned physical therapy services.

Cartoons like the one above show just how visceral the anger towards Hayashi can get in the political realm. It remains to be seen whether County Supervisor Richard Valle and Union City Mayor Mark Green will use surrogates to employ some of the same tactics against Hayashi, or, in the case of Green, unleash a barrage of sharp-tongued soundbites alluding to what still remains the single most bizarre news story ever to hit the political scene in the East Bay.