DELIVERING DISCOMFORT TO THE POWERFUL SINCE 2009
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FABULOUS FORUM SANS WIECKOWSKI

They didn't need Bob Wieckowski anyway after a concise and informative candidate's forum in the 10th State Senate District, including Mary Hayashi, above.

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RUSSELL CITY BLUES

At a candidate's forum for the 20th Assembly District, Bill Quirk takes the brunt of questions over the controversial Hayward power plant accused of polluting the air.

GHOSTS OF SAN LEANDRO'S PAST RETURNING?

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy has a history of dividing residents. His newest strategy involves splitting its large Asian American population.

SWALWELL'S FRESH VOICE TURNS STALE

A wealthy Tri Valley family gave Rep. Eric Swalwell over $25,000 in contributions. Later, Swalwell used taxpayer money to hire the daughter for his staff.

FOUR VIE FOR VACANT COUNTY SUPERINTENDENT OFFICE

Alameda County Superintendent of Schools is retiring this year. She has a replacement in mind, but three others think changes is in the air.

CHEN: 'I DID NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG'

Alameda's council member won a seat on the City Council in 2012 and once served on the city's healthcare board, but nobody, it seems, knew about his embarrassing past.

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Juarez Denies Report Alleging Fraud As Another Complaint Is Served

ELECTION ‘12//OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL DIST 5 | Just days after an unflattering television report detailed claims by two former business associates of Oakland District 5 council candidate Mario Juarez alleged he failed to repay loans to them, a lawsuit by a third party was served to him during a candidates forum Thursday night.

Juarez did not initially attend the forum held at the Redwood Day School in the Sheffield Village neighborhood of Oakland. A surrogate, instead, answered questions for the small group of attendees. As Juarez arrived near the conclusion of the discussion, however, a suited gentleman with slicked back white hair and sunglasses stood up from the audience and served him with an undisclosed complaint.

The man, later identified by Juarez, as an attorney representing two other plaintiffs with complaints against him, returned to his seat and later handed a copy of the lawsuit to the forum’s moderator, who did not read the document during the discussion.

Earlier in the day, Juarez’s campaign issued a statement in response to the television report saying, “I can categorically say that the accusations made in the KPIX story are untrue and I will fight to defend my integrity as a businessman and community leader.”

Juarez later adds he believes he is running a strong campaign and “If we weren’t, I don’t think our political opponents would be going after us.”

During the 2008 District 5 race against Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, Juarez faced similar allegations and embarrassing public histrionics. In an infamous YouTube video, a former employee of Juarez's abruptly interrupted a candidates forum and alleged various improprieties. The windows at Juarez’s campaign headquarters were also broken during the race.

Juarez says he has never had a legal judgment against him, but said, “this has not stopped political opponents from making false allegations against me. It happened in 2008 when I was running for office and it is happening again in this campaign.”

Some supporters of Juarez have raised the possibility one of his former opponents may be behind some of the allegations and over-the-top antics. However, when asked about it, Juarez declined to comment.

Stark Apologizes For His 'Tart Tongue'

ELECTION '12//CONGRESS 15 | Although many East Bay Democrats got a kick out of Rep. Pete Stark famously asserting on the floor of Congress President George W. Bush received some sort of sexual gratification from sending soldiers to die in Iraq, his campaign posted a short clip of him apologizing for this "tart tongue." Here's the video below:



The video, titled, "Pete Answers The Tough Questions," however, does not include the formula for the Phythagorean Theorem, a good reason for the  National League's opposition to the designated hitter or why the film Crash received the Oscar for Best Picture over Brokeback Mountain.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

iPadGate: Mack-Rose Says Reed Uses City-Bought iPad; But It's Not True

ELECTION '12//SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL DIST 2 | San Leandro City Council candidate Morgan Mack-Rose accused her opponent Councilwoman Ursula Reed of misusing taxpayers’ dollars by pursuing a proposal earlier this year to purchase iPads for the council’s use. Mack-Rose also faulted Reed for accepting one of the city-issued iPads, but the incumbent Reed vehemently denied the assertion.

“Check your facts, sister,” said Reed after Tuesday night’s candidates forum near the Marina Community Center. During Reed’s closing statement, she took aim at a recent mailer sent by Mack-Rose to area seniors calling her out for buying top-of-the-line iPads for the council’s use. “That is incorrect,” said Reed. “I have my own iPad that I had bought and I use it every day.”

Lasts January, the council approved buying the popular hand-held computers for council members and some top managers to defray costs associated with the printing and delivering of agenda packets. The decision is not unusual. San Leandro was one of the few remaining East Bay council's not using iPads instead of bulky agenda packets. The nearby Hayward City Council has be using city-issued iPads since late 2010.

Reed said the impetus for the council’s vote to purchase iPads was a cost-cutting measure, not an extravagant use of taxpayers’ money and saves the city $20,000 annually on photo-copying. “There’s all these things that we can cut that are actually frills and we don’t need frills.” Reed added.

Mack-Rose, though, stuck to her claim and equated it with her own time as a school trustee presiding over the city’s financially struggling school district, “It would be unconscionable to take iPads when we didn’t have enough money for papers for our students and I question the validity of the councilwoman’s statement that she did not accept an iPad, because she did.”

“I have no idea where she got her facts,” said Reed, afterwards, “because that didn’t happen.”

In fact, Reed is correct.

According to the city’s Information and Technology Department, Reed was never given a city-purchased iPad for her use as a council member.

It is not the first time Mack-Rose has offered a falsehood to voters this campaign season. At a candidates forum last week, she erroneously said the city’s faced a budget deficit last year when it had not and has proffered a tactic warning voters the city’s settlement with Faith Fellowship Church would bankrupt its treasury when, in fact, the expenditure would come out of a self-insurance fund.

Mack-Rose also levied a potentially more serious allegation against Reed Tuesday night when she accused her of gaining the endorsement of public safety unions as a quid pro quo for the current labor negotiations between the city and labor. “You heard my opponent has the personal endorsement of the police and firefighters union, but, let’s be clear,” said Mack-Rose, “those endorsements and the campaign funds that come along with them is about the current contract negotiations as much as anything else.” Mack-Rose denied the use of the term, "pay-to-play," but stood by her statement, nevertheless.

Reed again denied the accusation saying, she received the endorsement of public safety unions four years ago and labor tends to stay loyal to a candidate. She also said the amount of financial support from the unions has been negligible—just $500 from the firefighters—along with permission to trumpet their endorsement on campaign lawn signs.

San Leandro Residents Warn If City Allows One Wind Turbine, More Will Come

SAN LEANDRO//ENVIRONMENT | Nearly every evening, Lula Tsegay, with her five-year-old son in tow, walks the scenic trail along San Lorenzo Creek that stretches from behind her home at the Heron Bay housing development to protected marshlands along San Francisco Bay. She purchased the home thirteen years ago for the area's calming beauty, she said. But a controversial proposal by a nearby green technology firm to erect a 104-foot-tall wind turbine has angered Tsegay and many local residents. While San Leandro is attempting to rebrand itself as a hub of clean tech, critics of the wind turbine say Halus Power Systems and its owner Louis Rigaud are less interested in green energy than in saving greenbacks...

READ THE ENTIRE STORY IN THE EAST BAY EXPRESS

Oakland Council Candidate Juarez Faces Allegations Over Business Dealings

Mario Juarez PHOTO/Shane Bond
ELECTION '12//OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL DIST 5 | Two former business associates of Oakland District 5 City Council candidate Mario Juarez claim he never paid back $240,000 in loans on two deals.

The story, reported by KPIX on Wednesday, feature two individuals who say Juarez, who owns a real estate business in the Fruitvale area of District 5, welshed on a deal for his biodiesel refinery project in West Oakland, including a $210,000 loan. Another partner says he gave Juarez $30,000 to help him open a sports bar in the area. Now both are complaining.

Although KPIX gave no supporting evidence into the claims made against Juarez, controversy surrounding his business dealings have surfaced before. During his run for District 5 in 2008 against incumbent Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, spates of allegations were levied against Juarez for his questionable business dealings.

However, some of the charges were investigated at the time by the East Bay Express. One allegation involving a lawsuit by the City of Oakland against Juarez for nearly $32,000 in the unpaid percentage of money owed the city from his collection service, and referenced in the KPIX story, was somewhat debunked by the Express. According to court filings, the city mistakenly paid Juarez over $20,000 in what the paper called a "comedy of errors" by the city attorney's office.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Swalwell Voter: ‘I’m A Tea Partyer. I’m Voting For You’

ELECTION '12//CONGRESS 15 | Eric Swalwell, Rep. Stark’s Democratic challenger in the 15th Congressional District, may have been bitten by the hand that is feeding his hopes of upsetting the 40-year House veteran—right wing conservatives. But, do they know what Swalwell thinks of them?

The New York Times reported a scene surely to warm the hearts in Stark’s camp, who is going to great lengths to portray Swalwell as the least liberal of the two candidates. In the scene, a crotchety Tri Valley voter opens his door to Swalwell, However, before the young Dublin councilman can get out his message, the man immediately shuts the door, but not before telling Swalwell, “I’m a Tea Partyer--I’m voting for you.”

Swalwell's courting of conservative votes in the Tri Valley is well known, but less so is disparaging comments he has made, notably in vastly more liberal parts of the district. During a Latino-themed appearance in Hayward earlier this month, Swalwell told the group he hopes members of the Tea Party are "cycled out" out of Congress.

The exchange in the Times is a gift for Stark’s campaign team who has seized every opportunity to equate Swalwell with Republicans since noted labor leader, Sharon Cornu, came on board this summer. Cornu has attempted to create linkage between the Rep. Paul Ryan budget plan and Swalwell as well as charging him with swift boating Stark with the flimsy assertion he supports Citizen United.

Swalwell may have received the vote of another Tea Party supporter, but how many staunch progressives in Hayward did he lose with the undivided support of right wing ideologues?

Has Richard Valle Really Never Killed A Fly?

ELECTION '12//ALCO SUPERVISOR DIST 2 | A reporter’s rule of thumb says, if a subject wants to talk, then let them talk and don’t you dare stop them. Sometimes the subject will take the conversation into a bizarre place.

Last week, it wasn’t a reporter who asked Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle about his beliefs in religion, but a young girl who posed the question Sept. 21 at a forum in Hayward. The backdrop for the gathering at the former Westminster Hills Church featured a large crucifix behind the three District 2 supervisor candidates in attendance, Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, Mark Turnquist and Valle.

As a practicing Buddhist, Valle’s answer should not surprise you. Here he describes his non-profit recycling company’s philosophy on life:

“At Tri-CED, when we do a tour with our young people, one of the things we talk about is when you walk through Tri-CED, you see stray cats, occasionally a mouse, sometimes a rat, pigeons and hawks. And we have a tendency to strike out—even after a fly,” said Valle in his low, monotone voice."

The philosophy at Tri- CED is: you can’t take a life unless you can replace it. You don’t have the right to take a life unless you can replace it. So, no matter what it is, an ant, a snail, a bug, you don’t take its life because it is connected to the universe and we are all part of the universe and there is a real connection between all of humanity and all of them.”

A couple questions come to mind, some facetious and some pertinent. First, is it plausible to believe Valle has never killed even a fly? And, second, why are there rodents scurrying around the grounds
of Tri-CED? Sounds like an epidemic. Sounds like an expose!

Monday, September 24, 2012

How Valle, Hayashi Plan To Win The Alameda County District 2 Supervisor Race

ELECTION '12//ALCO SUPERVISOR DIST 2 | After two side-by-side public appearances, Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, have given more than enough clues on how they plan to win this November’s campaign for District 2.

HAYASHI’S PLAN

HIGHLIGHT LEGISLATIVE EXPERIENCE It’s clear Hayashi plans to run solely on her record in the Assembly. It will almost seem like she’s the incumbent and not Valle. “I have earned the respect in Sacramento and here in the district,” Hayashi said in her closing statement last Friday. You will also hear so much about A.B. this and A.B. that, that you will want to kick all that legislation up its A.S.S. Hayashi is already honing in a few bills, such as AB 509, her bill helping establish the statewide office of suicide prevention and a recently signed bills extending funding for veterans’ tuition to two years and high school sports concussions.

I’M THE STEWARD FOR OBAMACARE Hayashi is arguing her experience in Sacramento will help her regarding the implementation of Obamacare in the county over the next two years more than her opponent. “I’m the most qualified and best positioned candidate for Alameda County to get its fair share,” she said last week. It followed a longer recitation before county Democrats the week before. This stance could be an opening for Valle if he can identify Hayashi and her votes in the Assembly as being the cause for many of the budget shortfalls at the county and city level. But, he hasn’t touched it.

VALLE SCREWED UP ST. ROSE On this point, Hayashi is switching from acting like the incumbent to the candidate taking shots. This is a real Achilles Heel for Valle, if the current direction of the situation at St. Rose continues. It could continue wallowing near bankruptcy or it could be purchased by an acolyte of Prime Healthcare. Either way, Valle has little breathing room since he was at one time on either side of the negotiating table—as a member of the St. Rose Board of Directors and now as a county supervisor. A well-written mailer explaining St. Rose’s mismanagement to voters could allow Hayashi to easily paint an relatively unknown Valle however she wants.

MAKE TRI-CED VALLE’S WEAKNESS Eight years ago it was dubbed “swift boating.” But, the act of making your opponent’s superior strength their weakness is an underutilized political weapon. Democratic activists love Tri-CED, the state’s largest non-profit recycling company. Valle not only was ahead of the recycling curve three decades ago, but has long offered good paying jobs to ex-cons and troubled youths. Although, Hayashi has not made a public statement as of yet regarding Tri-CED, there are indications her team is planning an assault on his campaign’s “Honest & Accountable” tag line now emblazoned on his lawn signs across District 2. Among the possible attacks points may be Valle’s compensation at Tri-CED in relation to increases in recycling fees in Union City and Hayward, the company’s connection to former St. Rose CEO Michael Mahoney or something more nefarious.

VALLE’S PLAN

ALL ABOUT ST. ROSE AND TRI-CED Valle is clear about running on (1) St. Rose Hospital. (2) Tri-CED, as he says. It’s actually that simple. However, there appears to be few positives for Valle when it comes to St. Rose. So much so that it almost appears like he’s unwittingly falling into Hayashi’s trap. Every time Valle mentioned St. Rose during the Democratic Party endorsement interview Sept. 15, Hayashi was seen grinning ear to ear.

TOUT UNION, PARTY ENDORSEMENTS It’s probably a no-brainer to repeatedly name-drop his expansive list of local party and labor endorsements, especially, when his appointment to the Board of Supervisors last June was procured in large part by extensive lobbying by the Alameda County Labor Council. However, the labor council appears to be on a job-related medical leave of absence lately. Not only did they possibly back the lesser opponent to face Hayashi in November, but also raised significant concerns by backing two anti-labor candidates for San Leandro City Council. Labor and party support, though, is significant, especially when Hayashi may hold access to equal or greater resources.

ATTACK HAYASHI ON THE SLY While critics of Hayashi and her shoplifting conviction are screaming for Valle to trot out “The Mugshot.” He has not done so, nor come close to referencing his opponent’s self-made wound. Aside from all the tough talk in the blogosphere, nobody has even questioned Hayashi about the incident. Democrats on Sept. 15 asked her obliquely about integrity and Hayashi acknowledged she had “paid a fair price” for the incident. Valle may be gun shy about attacking Hayashi forcefully and he has friends in labor who can do the hatchet job for him. It’s interesting, though, that you hear quite a few of his supporters clamoring for a more aggressive stance. The flip side though is with every public appearance Hayashi makes without being held to the fire, you can already see a growing confidence in her physical demeanor and comments. BE

BE LIBERAL AND BE PROUD Hayashi is clearly a very liberal legislator, but Valle’s ideological rhetoric sounds like he’s attempting to hip check Rep. Barbara Lee from the furthest left in the East Bay. With help from Robert Reich’s new book, Valle stood up for employee pensions and took aim at the far right. “We are pitting teachers against firefighters, firefighters against police officers and so forth and we are losing the big picture,” he said. “While we are fighting amongst ourselves for what little we are able to get in terms of pensions and health care—and they’re all going up—all of Corporate America are taking those jobs to the far east and don’t really have an allegiance to our country. That’s real simple. We need to be careful about falling into the pitfall of fighting amongst each other because that’s what the Koch Brothers want.”

Valle, Hayashi Set Course For A Battle Over St. Rose Hospital

ELECTION ‘12//ALCO SUPERVISOR DIST 2 | The fate of St. Rose Hospital may be entwined with Supervisor Richard Valle’s bid to retain his seat on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors this November. Following a decade on its Board of Directors, the hospital now sees itself teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. For Valle, its resolution could also be his greatest short-term accomplishment since replacing Nadia Lockyer on the board last June. Especially, if a suitable owner is found before Election Day.

With all of the Alameda County’s problems, from crime to high rates of obesity and under performing schools to high unemployment and underwater mortgages, the issue most likely to decide the Board of Supervisors District 2 race resides at a small community hospital just off Winton Avenue in Hayward.

However, the precipitous decline of St. Rose in the past year and not its potential for saving, for Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, is quickly becoming a point of contention in this race, one of the most watched in the Bay Area.

On Friday in Hayward, Hayashi raised the issue of the county’s inability to manage the situation at St. Rose, which now includes Valle among its membership. “For over a year now, the county Board of Supervisors and Supervisor Wilma Chan has expressed strong concerns about St. Rose Hospital’s serious financial mismanagement that has cost Alameda County taxpayers millions of dollars and taxpayers need to see a strong plan for long term viability,” Hayashi said.

Earlier this year, the Board of Supervisors came down hard on former CEO Michael Mahoney for misleading the group about the hospital’s mounting debt. Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, at one point, said Mahoney lied to the board. Following the resignation of Mahoney, who is now reportedly working for Valle’s Union City non-profit recycling company, Tri-CED, a rescue plan for St. Rose including a short term infusion of $12 million was approved.

Funding for the hospital came from the county, Kaiser Permanente and nearby Washington Hospital, but Valle says Kaiser recently pulled up stakes on its $3 million contribution. “We are publicly asking Kaiser, at some point, if that $3 million is needed,” said Valle, “we want them to provide that grant to St. Rose because we sincerely believe they owe that to the community.”

There may be a significant amount of political ammunition available for Hayashi to use against Valle since St. Rose’s dire financial condition was publicly acknowledged in August 2011. As part of a brief flirtation with the nearby Eden Township Healthcare District, St. Rose obtained a $3 million loan to keep it afloat. However, in December, it nearly defaulted on its payments. Earlier this year, St. Rose publicly shopped the idea of merging its facility with San Leandro Hospital, but that plan withered as the Washington Township Health Care District hoped to merge with St. Rose. Hovering over both deals were discussions of Prime Healthcare swooping in to purchase the hospital, although, many at the time viewed the talk as opportunity to gain leverage by the St. Rose Board of Directors over the county. At times, in fact, it has appeared like nobody at any level of local government has a handle on resuscitating the hospital.

Valle blames St. Rose’s chronic struggles on the state of health care in the state and insurance providers, who typically ramp up hospital costs. He also said the board has kept its promise to the Catholic founders of St. Rose. “As health care has spun out of control, out of no fault of St. Rose, no control of the Board of Directors of St. Rose, we would up in a deficit situation because we cannot control--Blue cross, Blue Shield and all of those expensive health care providers," says Valle. "That’s how we arrived at this situation. We kept our commitment to the sisters and did what the sisters wanted us to do and we continue to do that today.”

It would appear like Valle is playing with a losing hand by basing his campaign on St. Rose, unless the issue can be sufficiently resolved before election day. A sort of October Surprise, maybe? After Friday’s candidates forum in Hayward, Valle confirmed St. Rose Board of Directors are currently in discussion with Lex Reddy, a Southern California businessman with ties to Prime Health, a controversial health provider. Valle added talks between Reddy, who was once Prime’s CEO, are doing well. Recently, Reddy has been meeting with doctors, nurses, Teamsters associated with the hospital, Valle said. “From what I’m hearing, the hospital is beginning to know him and they’re beginning to know each other. So, I’m not hearing anything negative.”

Reddy’s connections to Prime and their controversial business practices such as terminating union contracts and relying on emergency room visits to boost profit margins have come under fire by health care experts who say the practice worsens the state’s overall function of health care. Valle, though, believes any potential deal with Reddy will be thoroughly vetted. “I have confidence in Kamala Harris,” he said. “The attorney general is going to do due diligence and the supervisors are going to weigh in," said Valle. "There are a lot of eyes in that deal and I believe it is going to get consummated before the election.”

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unknown Alameda County Supervisor Candidate Makes Public Safety Top Priority

Mark Turnquist
ELECTION ‘12//ALCO SUPERVISOR DIST 2 | In the high-profile Alameda County District 2 supervisor special election, Richard Valle and Mary represented varying degrees of liberalism, Mark Green carries the center of the electoral spectrum and political novice Mark Turnquist definitely treads far to the right. But, who is Turnquist?

Up until recently, Turnquist was a 23-year deputy for the Alameda County Sheriff's Department. He retired last week and has jumped right into the cauldron of one of the marquee political matchups in the entire Bay Area this fall.Turnquist is a veteran of the Navy and served in the Middle East during the first Gulf War. He grew up in Montana and before relocating to the East Bay he took over his ailing grandfather’s backhoe business. In 1989, he became a deputy at the sheriff’s department and worked at various levels of law enforcement from guard at Santa Rita Jail to working with troubled youths.

His first foray into politics almost came in 2006 when he pulled papers to run for county sheriff following the retirement of Charlie Plummer, but did not qualify for the ballot. The job went to Greg Ahern. This time around, he says the impetus for his campaign is to help steward the county through realignment of jail services from the state to counties. While noting public safety is his top priority, he called realignment “an overwhelming financial burden.”

Although a registered Republican, Turnquist said he opts for the best candidate and often votes for Democrats. But, his comments Friday night during a forum at the Hayward Democratic Club, Turnquist’s stances on the death penalty, taxing the rich and tough, but compassionate rhetoric regarding troubled youth was undisputedly conservative.

In response to a question on Proposition 34, the state initiative to ban capital punishment and replace it with life in prison, Turnquist said he opposes it. “This county has not given the death penalty to a cop killer. It’s a pathetic shame and I’m for the death penalty for people who kill people,” he said. “It’s a shame that people want to get rid of the death penalty when even the Bible says, ‘an eye for an eye.’”

Regarding taxes, Turnquist believes in a mixture of taxing the rich and offering tax breaks for job creators. “Many of these rich people are our employers,” Turnquist said. “If you tax the heck out of them, they’ll just pack up and leave. We have to have an equal medium.”

When it comes to helping troubled teens and young adults, Turnquist’s plain-spoken rhetoric dances lightly across hard line law and order and tough love. Although, sometimes discerning between the two is difficult. Following a more nuanced answer by Supervisor Richard Valle for creating new opportunities for young people, Turnquist touted his rapport with troubled youth who have come through Santa Rita, which he estimates at over 700,000 during his career.“All these gang bangers Richard talks about, if you ask any one of them, who I am, they’ll tell you,” he said. “We need to get these gang bangers educated and employed so they don’t hang out on the streets.”

“All my life, I’ve been working with the youth and they have a hard ladder to climb. Every year they keep taking money from education and we need to put a stop to it.” Later, he even offered to enlist youth to clean up persistent graffiti in Hayward and throughout District 2. “I still have my bus license from the sheriff’s department hauling inmates," he said. "I have no problem filling a bus and taking people to filthy neighborhoods and cleaning them up." 

After Friday night’s forum in Hayward, however, Turnquist laid out the harshest attack in a race certain to become a mudslinger’s paradise. When asked whether Turnquist, with a strong background in law enforcement, entered the race in response to Hayashi’s infamous brush with the law and misdemeanor conviction for shoplifting last January, he denied it, but wryly added, “I wanted to ask her who was her probation officer because I probably know them. I know them all.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

Assembly Candidates Bonta, Guillen Push Populist Streak At San Leandro Forum

Rob Bonta, Abel Guillen
ELECTION ‘12//ASSEMBLY 18 | With the days tumbling quickly towards election day, 18th Assembly District candidates Rob Bonta and Abel Guillen unfurled noticeable shades of populism during a forum Wednesday night in San Leandro.

Both progressives stances came into sharp relief on the subject of Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension reform bill quickly passed by the Legislature at the end of the August session. The problem is not $2,000-per-month pensioners, said Guillen. “We should be going after the managers, folks who are CEOs of hospital district with high salaries. That’s what I would have gone after first.” Earlier on a question regarding the possible closure of San Leandro Hospital, Guillen mocked the CEO of Sutter Health, the owner of the facility for making “$10,000-per-minute, or something like that.” Guillen’s opposition to the governor’s bill bled into a second question when he said, “Instead of beating up public employees, we need to look at the private sector and for them to say, ‘Hey, how come I don’t have pension, also?’ We should all have pensions, don’t you think?"

Bonta added rushing a bill through the Legislature late at night and at the last minute is “not a recipe for good legislation.” “It totally does an end-around the good faith public bargaining process at the heart of rights for working families,” said Bonta. Both of his parents receive $30,000-a-year pensions, he told the audience and he is working on his own for the future. “We owe it to hard-working employees to provide the pension that was promised to them.”

A similar tone of populist anger also crept into a discussion of making funding for schools more equitable. San Leandro and Alameda both lie at the bottom for funding per students in the entire county. San Leandro students, for instance, bring in nearly $1,000 less per student in school funding than children in the Tri Valley. “The formula we have now for receiving funding from the state is archaic, outdated; it’s inefficient,” said Bonta, whose children were plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for chronically underfunding mandated school services. “Different district have different challenges and resources need to be allocated accordingly,” he added, such as district’s with disproportionate numbers of low-earning family, second language learners and large achievement gaps. “We’re going the wrong way, guys. But, I think you know that with where we’re headed with our public schools,” he said.

Guillen, whose background is in finance and also sits as a trustee on the Peralta Community College board said he has seen the inequities of state funding across the state. However, at one point, he drew quizzical looks from some in the audience when he said, “I worked down in Bakersfield, down in the Central Valley and there was school district—I thought we had bad schools down here--but this one particular school, literally, in their classroom, they only had one electrical outlet in the classroom.” Afterwards, Guillen said he misspoke and was only referring to the state of decay he witnessed down south and not to disparage local area schools. Guillen also said he would move to change the formula for distributing state funding to schools. “You’re educational outcome should not be based on where you live,” he said. Like Bonta, Guillen also supports Measure L, the San Leandro Unified School District’s $39 school parcel tax on the November ballot.

Later, a bit of hypothetical thinking may have provided a fresh insight into how either candidate would perform on the fly, if elected to the Assembly. On a question that assumes Proposition 30, the governor’s sales tax measure fails this November, both discussed how they would move to plug the potentially enormous budget short fall. Prop. 30 won’t improve things, said Bonta, but it ensures the state’s budget situation won’t get worse. He added Brown could call for lame duck session of the Legislature or quickly prepare for another ballot measure in the near future. They could also wait until December and call in the new fresh-faced Legislature, he posited. “Get the new legislators, once they are sworn in to the table to try to do what is the state’s job. What it has failed to do time and time again, which is create a balanced budget to address the cost side and the revenue side.”

At no other time did Guillen become more animated than when he described disgust with Sacramento’s inability to function smoothly. “They can’t make deals, so they come to us to decide,” said Guillen. “It’s the Legislature’s job to make those tough decisions.” He would also try to work with those across the aisle. “Those Republicans in Kern County love their kids as much as we do up here,” he said. To help increase the chances of passing Prop. 30, Guillen said voters needs to know exactly where each dollar is going within their specific municipality. “And that will bring government closer to home.”

Did Chris Crow Lie About His Warrant For Pot Possession?

ELECTION ‘12//SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL DIST 4 | San Leandro city council candidate Chris Crow on Thursday confirmed on San Leandro Patch, he had a received a citation for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana in 2009.

The existence of the citation was reported Wednesday in The Citizen after San Leandro Police denied Crow a ride-along with officer after the citation, upgraded to a warrant, was discovered in a routine background check. Crow admitted to the ticket and told the online news site,

“I’m sorry that I got this citation (and) I have smoked weed before. It’s not something that I’m proud of. I don’t smoke it anymore.” Crow said he quit smoking marijuana sometime before being appointed to the city’s planning commission by Councilwoman Ursula Reed in 2010.

However, when Crow was asked to comment on the veracity of the report in The Citizen detailing the discovery, he called the allegation “incorrect.” When pressed Thursday over what part of the report was erroneous, he declined to comment.

Crow’s inclination for using the San Leandro Patch site as a de facto campaign web site, featuring clearly targeted policy blog postings, including highly favorable posts from a campaign advisor and even press releases is becoming a cause for concern for the site’s perception of objectivity. At Wednesday night's candidates forum, Crow went as far as direct voters to his collection of postings on the Huffington Post-owned site.

The muddling of news gathering and public officials is somewhat of a recent and discouraging tradition in San Leandro, where one of the school board’s long-time trustees has written a news blog while treading a fine line between news and government propaganda.

In the Patch article regarding Crow’s pot citation, for instance, the lack of independence is no more noticeable than the lone comment in support of Crow from current Councilwoman Pauline Cutter. “I did not know about the pot incident, but that doesn’t change my opinion,” she told Patch. But, did she tell the reporter Crow use to date her daughter?

At First HUSD Forum Reynoso Discusses Affair While Other Candidates Remain Silent

ELECTION '12//HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | Hayward Unified School District candidates gathered at the Skywest Golf Course last night for the first forum since board members, Jesus Armas and Maribel Heredia, didn’t file for re-election after a salacious affair was exposed between the two sitting members. The scandal has left community leaders, local media and candidates publicly silent about the affair opting to discuss the “bickering” instead of the affair.

Candidates on Wednesday night decided to stick to familiar ground treaded and discuss leadership, consensus building and “making sure everyone is on the same page,” as candidate Peter Bufete put it. “This is part of my background. I spend a lot of time building trust between people and between myself and other folks. I feel my endorsements reflect the trust I built in this community, from labor to business,” said Hayward Planning Commissioner Sara Lamnin who ran for city council two years ago. Others reiterated the common point from Cal State East Bay administrator, Annette Walker, school teacher John Taylor, former city council candidate, Peter Bufete, and Heather Reyes of the HUSD Fiscal Integrity & Transparency Advisory Group. Only incumbent Luis Reynoso, who is up for re-election this fall brought up the affair.

 “The problem isn’t the bickering, it’s about fraud and corruption and if you are so naïve to think that the board has to smile and rubber stamp everything then you shouldn’t be running for the school board,” said Reynoso to a few cheers in support of him in the crowd. "No one questions the affair, why is that? What is going on?" Reynoso mentioned two California school districts, Sweetwater and Calexico, as examples of boards that “rubber stamp” but now are in legal trouble, “They are all going to jail now,” said Reynoso.

 Some candidates were more open to discuss the affair after the forum. Lamnin said that she is looking for a way to approach the issue without “harming the students,” and discuss it in a “productive way.” Bufete has remained silent on the affair but believes that his connection to Armas because of his friendship with his son will not harm his run for the school board. Bufete admitted to The Citizen last month that Armas had suggested to him to run for the school board after the incumbent decided not to run for re-election.

Deficit and bullying were other topics asked about by the moderator, Hal Gin, from Asian Pacific American Public Affairs Association (APAPA) who hosted the event. Discussion of the $12 million reserve that was actively talked about at the last school board meeting was discussed about at some length. Walker said that she would look for a way to spend that money appropriately. Walker noted the deficit spending by the district but added that "We need to make sure that the limited dollars that we have go to teachers and students."

 Reynoso stated soon after that the $12 million can not be touched because the district must maintain a 3 percent reserve at minimum. He further argued for fiscal realignment to maintain fiscal accountability in spending, “When we find money, we always find ways to spend it. It isn’t about the money, it is about realignment with the money that we have,” said Reynoso. Others expressed wariness of making cuts that could potentially hurt students and classrooms and advocated for smarter spending. Lamnin wanted greater transparency so that public knew where the money was going and how it was being spent.

 The issues concerning spending and fiscal accountability is a problem that candidates recognized will change at some length depending on the passage of Proposition 30 this November which seeks to raise taxes on those making $250,000 a year and raise statewide sales tax by a quarter cent. Bullying, or public safety, was an issue that Taylor said needed to be addressed with a two prong approach with campus police and security teams hired by the police. Walker emphasized making sure that parents are notified when a student doesn’t show up for class.

 Candidates exemplified stout talking points and confidence, notably Bufete who showed greater confidence in his knowledge and public speaking capabilities since he ran for Hayward city council last spring. Reyes on the other hand was short in answers, less specific and visibly nervous. She later admitted to this even on Facebook, “I was excited by the forum, but also extremely nervous!”

 Taylor recently was endorsed by the Alameda Democratic Party, which he said is because of his years of experience as a teacher. Taylor has been awarded in recent years with Teacher of the Year and Educator of the Year. Although he was rather silent about Armas during the forum he spoke more openly afterwards about his inability to garner the Hayward Chamber of Commerce endorsement, “Well look who is on the council!” said Taylor referring to Armas. Taylor said that he didn’t understand why a current sitting board member was part of an endorsement process for candidates that will be replacing him this fall. The candidates that were endorsed by the Chamber were Bufete, Walker and Lamnin. Wandra Williams, another candidate, was not present Wednesday night. The second forum will be hosted by the Hayward Demos Democratic Club and will be held at the Westminster Church in Hayward Sept. 21. 

 Shane Bond is a regular contributor to the East Bay Citizen.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Brunner Launches Another Volley of E-mails Against Parker

ELECTION '12//OAKLAND CITY ATTORNEY | Oakland Councilwoman and city attorney candidate, Jane Brunner, e-mail blasted Barbara Parker this week in a “Part Two” condemnation of City Attorney, Barbara Parker’s solicitation of campaign funds from attorneys that Brunner says are engaged in “suing the city,” or that Parker “awarded work to.”

Brunner claims that Parker allocated millions of dollars in outside contracts to law firms with “no transparency, no review and no oversight.” The abrasive e-mail further states that “every other significant city contract goes through a public review process and comes to the City Council for approval,” and that the City Attorney’s office “refuses to do this.” Brunner concludes that this leaves Parker open to “pay-to-play” politics. 

 Like last time, Parker responded to the caustic e-mail on her Facebook page in a letter called “Enough!” “This may be my first political campaign, but I’ve followed elections in Oakland long enough to know that my opponent [Brunner] is running one of the nastiest, most cynical campaigns in the history of our city,” said Parker. 

Parker says when both she and Brunner filed for election that they both pledged to maintain a Code of Fair Campaign Practices that Parker believes Brunner is openly violating with her aggressive campaign tactics. Parker also mentioned the recent mid-annual report released by her office last week that stated a 40 percent reduction in costs in outside counsel that Parker says Brunner “admitted.”

In the e-mail Brunner did mention last year’s costs was $6 million last year and close to $4 million this year. “Brunner admitted that her numbers were wrong and yet she is still attempting to somehow use our record on outside counsel costs against us – in the same email,” said Parker. Parker also addresses Brunner’s accusation concerning public review process before the City Council, “What she hasn’t told you is that it is actually the City Council’s responsibility to decide on whether to settle any case with a payment of $5,000 or more.” 

 Parker also reiterates that although she has called law firms for donations, Brunner has also called the same ones asking for money. “My opponent has shown what kind of campaign she plans on running: dishonest, negative, and nasty. I expect it to just get worse,” said Parker. Brunner also mentioned the recent San Francisco Chronicle article concerning Parker’s solicitation of funds from civil rights attorney, John Burris, and his wife, capping at $700 apiece. 

Parker admitted to asking for the funds in the column and defended the donation saying that it wasn’t a “conflict of interest from a legal standpoint.” Parker added that if it became a distraction that she would give the money back to Burris and his wife. Burris won $32.5 million in judgments for his clients in police misconduct cases in 1992 and is currently engaged in a battle over court-ordered police reforms concerning the Riders case from a decade ago.

Shane Bond is a regular contributor to the East Bay Citizen.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

San Leandro Council Candidate Who Supports Pot Dispensaries Recently Cited For Possession


ELECTION '12//SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL DIST 4 | A San Leandro city council candidate who has previously stated support for bringing medical marijuana dispensaries within the city limits was recently notified of a police warrant for marijuana possession, according to sources familiar with the disclosure.

Chris Crow, a candidate for the District 4 council seat in San Leandro’s somewhat conservative bedroom neighborhood of Washington Manor, according to sources, was cited sometime in the last two years for possession of under an ounce of marijuana. He was issued a ticket, but failed to pay the fine, in most cases, treated the same as a simple moving violation.

Although the exact date of the citation is not known, the process of ticketing violators followed the decriminalization of possessing small amounts of marijuana began in 2010 under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. In such cases, nowadays, a citation is given and once paid; the ticket is expunged from the person’s record.

According to sources, Crow, 28, did not pay the fine and it was upgraded to a police warrant. The existence of the citation for marijuana possession became known a few months ago when the San Leandro Police Department denied Crow a ride-along for the council candidate with officers due to a records check which revealed the outstanding warrant. Crow has reportedly dealt with the issue and the existence of the fine is in the process of being expunged. On Wednesday, Crow simply said the charge is “incorrect.”

In the recent past, Crow has been a strong public supporter for allowing medical marijuana dispensaries to open shop in San Leandro. Over the past two years, the City Council has wavered from prohibition to a willingness to discuss the hot-button issue unpopular with older San Leandro voters.

Crow’s brief foray into city politics has been muddled in controversy for nearly a year. His campaign, based upon opening up San Leandro’s lackluster business climate with more lenient zoning and policies for entertainment options in the city and new streams of tax revenue, faced controversy earlier this year when he began an early challenge for Councilwoman Ursula Reed’s seat in his native District 2.

As Reed’s appointee to the city’s planning commission, she was angered by Crow’s designs for her seat and moved to have him replaced. Some in the city were also unsettled by Crow’s strong connection and advocacy for the owner of the Bal Theatre, Dan Dillman, who is also running for council in District 2 amid a zoning battle with City Hall. However, instead of running against the incumbent, Crow moved his address to the open seat in former Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak’s District 4. Starosciak was termed out this fall and resigned in August to relocate outside of the county.

Known to some as a potential up-and-comer in San Leandro, Crow’s strong opinions and penchant for speaking before thinking has gotten him in trouble in the final few months of the race for council. Last month, his comments on Facebook calling Chinese Olympians, “cheaters” and “the sorest people in the world,” angered a large part of the city’s large Asian American population. The demographic makes up San Leandro’s largest racial group with nearly 30 percent of the population.

Crow has also upset residents in the Heron Bay community for the perception he accepted campaign donations from a wind turbine company in the area who plans to controversially erect a wind turbine in their backyards, on the San Leandro Shoreline. And, his recent alliance with noted anti-worker Mayor Stephen Cassidy has also soured progressives in the city.

Family Member Says Heredia Is Lying About Reason For Missed School Board Meeting

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD SCANDAL | A family member of the deceased great-grandmother referenced last week by Hayward school board member Maribel Heredia as an excuse for missing a board meeting Aug. 21, says she is lying.

“If Maribel Heredia is in fact stating that she went to be with the family, then Maribel Heredia is lying and it is completely disgusting and sick to use such a reason as an excuse for her vacation,” said the family member related to Heredia’s ex.

Maribel Heredia, Jesus Armas
At the Sept. 12 school board meeting, Heredia apologized for missing the previous meeting due to a death in her children’s family on their father’s side. In the days after the Aug. 22 absence, a screen shot of Heredia’s personal Facebook page showed postings in the Newport Beach area of Southern California. The preponderance of the evidence suggested to some the sojourn was a late summer vacation.

“I can state with 100 percent certainty that Maribel Heredia did not come close to the hospital, the home, nor the family,” said the relative. “She did not contact, nor provide support with anyone in the family.”

The explanation for Heredia’s absence has angered relatives in Southern California, who, according to the source, had huddled in a constant around-the-clock bedside vigil during the final days of the grandmother's life. According to the family member, her health had been in decline following a stroke in late July. Although she was steadily improving, the grandmother passed away two weeks ago.

“I spent many days and nights at the hospital and we have gone through some really difficult times as my grandmother was our family matriarch, respected and very much loved,” said the family member. “I know exactly who was there and who was not. I will be honest to say that our family does not like her and are glad that she is not even distantly connected to our family anymore. If she had showed her face at the hospital, which, I don't even think she would because she is so selfish and uncaring, we would have turned her away in a second.”

The allegation Heredia may have lied about the reasons surrounding her whereabouts around the Aug. 22 meeting adds to a growing number of misdeeds for the school board member in the final months of her first term in office. After news of a secret affair with fellow board member Jesus Armas was reported in late July, both sitting trustees chose not to run for re-election to their seats this November. Neither has publicly denied the allegation, in part, contained in romantically-tinged text messages provided to The Citizen.

Two other school board members have also asserted Armas and Heredia may have colluded on a vote this summer to reinstate a Hayward High School principal. This additional allegation may bolster the argument the secret affair may have crossed over into potential violations of the state’s sunshine laws.

In addition, another report also showed Heredia stated last May in a sworn deposition given to attorneys in her custody fight with her ex-fiance that she does not read the school board agendas and leans on another unnamed trustee to instruct her on how to vote. In the meantime, the board’s majority headed by Armas and aided by school district staff, has stifled any investigations or official discussions into the growing list of alleged indiscretions on the Hayward school board.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Inside The Mind Of Democrats: Fremont Mayor, Oakland, San Leandro City Councils

ELECTION '12//DEMOCRATS | The blessing of the local Democratic Party is an important tool for any campaign, not only for the seal of approval it bestows, but access to the party's purse strings and significant electoral amenities. This weekend, comments by various party committee members, made during the deliberations for a slew of Alameda County races provided telling insights into how they voted and why they chose against offering endorsements. Here are five particular races where party insiders gave clues to how the final outcome may rest:

FREMONT MAYOR Councilmembers Anu Natarajan and Bill Harrison are waging a potentially divisive campaign for the city and party to replace Mayor Bob Wasserman, who died late last year. The race has been run respectfully thus far, at least, in the public realm. Both Natarajan and Harrison are well-respected in Fremont and some equate their qualifications and relatively star power as a small town equivalent of Barack Obama versus Hillary Clinton in 2008. The Democratic Party went with Harrison last weekend, but the vast majority of the comments made by committee members showed apprehension and caution. Most surrounds an affinity for Fremont to elect an Indian American mayor, who also happens to be female. There also appears to be a significant bloc that fears an electoral scenario where the two Democrats fracture the vote and provide an opening for former Councilman Steven Cho, a Republican, to walk into the mayor's office. It's not clear, however, if such a opportunity is realistic in blue Fremont and whether it's merely a red herring. To quell the potential divide-and-conquer scenario, at one point, last weekend, there was discussion of offering a no-endorsement as an expression of Natarajan and Harrison's appeal, but that later fizzled.

OAKLAND AT-LARGE If the verbal battle between candidates for the Berkeley Rent Review Board presented the day's highest proportion of fireworks, the interview session for competing Oakland Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Ignacio De La Fuente was second, according to about 10 committee members, who one-by-one alerted me to it by saying, "Oh, you missed it!" During the interview, Kaplan again hammered De La Fuente over police layoffs and highlighted with a biting reference to Mitt Romney. Like every public forum The Citizen has covered featuring De La Fuente, the raspy-voiced Fruitvale councilmember has made a beeline for the door at its conclusion. Committee members almost unanimously backed Kaplan as a few voters faulted De La Fuente for expending the party's resources for the at-large seat when he already possesses one in District 5. Another groused, if De La Fuente wins the seat, he will likely become a bulwark against another sitting Democrat in 2014, Mayor Jean Quan. For a newly-minted, committee member (De La Fuente, received the most votes last June) he is not very popular among his colleagues and most said they don't expect him to attend many monthly meetings in the future. At one point, Robin Torello, the chair of the Alameda County Democratic Party, called on committee member Mario Juarez to speak, but mistakenly called him, "Ignacio." The jocular Juarez, who is no friend of De La Fuente and is running for his old District 5 seat this November, laughed and said, "What?!! I'm better looking than him."

OAKLAND DISTRICT 3 Of the dozens of races on the agenda last Saturday, none were more deadlocked than Oakland City Council District 3. None of the three Democrats came close to even 50 percent of the vote, let alone the required 60 percent for endorsement. Nyeisha DeWitt received 13 votes; Sean Sullivan 9; Derrick Muhammad 6. Many members, however, referenced DeWitt's unique background story of a high school drop out who ultimately went to college and earned a graduate's degree. To nearly the same degree, Sullivan's work with the youth and poor at Covenant House also gained plaudits and Muhammad's strong ties to labor made up the rest of the vote. However, it was Muhammad's stunning and controversial two-page mailer that was making the rounds around Democratic Party headquarters in Oakland. Like DeWitt, Muhammad's back story is also compelling. His brother was killed earlier last decade in West Oakland and his candidacy is based, in part, to helping stop similar violence from occurring again. The mailer, when opened, features a large, glossy and watery bright pool of blood to signify the loss of life in Oakland. It is destined to be the boldest mailer this election season and certainly the most disgusting. Suffice to say, many committee members were speechless when the mailer was quietly passed around the room.

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 2,4 Oftentimes, San Leandro politics gets short shifted in the grand scheme of Alameda County, however, the three races for City Council elicited some heated exchanges between committee members who reside in the city. Like Oakland's District 3, San Leandro's District 4 was also tangled in uncertainty. In this case, with a whiff of disappointment over their choices. Chris Crow received 12 votes; Benny Lee 11 and 6 members voted for a no-endorsement. A pro-Crow member accused Lee of flip-flopping on his stance on medical marijuana, although three other members, including one from the initial screening committee, disputed the assertion. The narrative of Crow being too green for the job, but a future prospect nonetheless was also mentioned until chair Robin Torello and former San Leandro Councilwoman Linda Perry warned Crow's strong connections to the anti-worker cabal in the city, led by Mayor Stephen Cassidy, was a major concern. Other members, though, appeared underwhelmed by Lee's lackluster performance. In District 2, Councilwoman Ursula Reed easily won the party's endorsement over San Leandro school trustee Morgan Mack-Rose, but with less than enthusiastic qualifications. Like a champion boxer, who must be overwhelmingly defeated by the opponent to lose their title, Torello told committee members Reed has done nothing to lose their party's past support and without any discussion, they agreed.

Oakland City Attorney Report Lends Support to Barbara Parker’s Campaign

ELECTION '12//OAKLAND CITY ATTORNEY | The Oakland City Attorney's Office released a mid-annual report last week showing a significant draw down on costs for outside legal council, lawsuits and claims. The report recites arguments, and lends support to, City Attorney Barbara Parker during her campaign to maintain her incumbency as City Attorney.

The report shows costs of payouts for claims and lawsuits, including settlements and judgments against the City have fallen by 50 percent in the last fiscal year that ended on June 30. The total financial decline is $6.7 million from the previous year which the report stated as “unprecedented in modern City history.” The report also claims that the cost of outside legal council also dropped by more than 40 percent, a total of $3.86 million.

“Reversing these trends is a good start, but we have more work to do. Part of the City Attorney’s job is to be a watchdog for taxpayer resources, and that includes resources in our own Office," said Parker in a press release.“I believe Oakland needs to focus all available resources on critical priorities like public safety, filling potholes, fixing infrastructure and staffing libraries. I am committed to cutting our legal bills as much as possible while still providing the absolute best legal services to the residents, businesses and taxpayers of Oakland."

Due to budget reductions over the past few years the City Attorney’s Office has dropped from $15.41 million in 2007-08 to $12.4 million in 2010-11. The staff reduction of 19 attorneys and 14 support staff positions has lead to reliance on outside counsel, according to the report.

This resulted in an increase in costs that the report claims is counter to the original budget reduction goal. By increasing caseloads, managing outside counsel contracts and in-house restructuring the Office has been able to bring down extravagant costs. Despite this the Office argues that for the long run this method of cost reduction will not be sustainable due to the outside counsel costs “skyrocketing” from $1.74 million to $6.38 million. The Office has concluded that staff reduction has cost the City more money than it has saved.

Parker has repeatedly stated this claim throughout her campaign but it has also been a point for ridicule by her campaign opponent, District 1 councilmember Jane Brunner, who has been relentless in her criticisms of the City Attorney’s Office. Brunner has said the Office has failed to cope with City's budget reductions and has not properly streamlined despite the cost savings accomplished by the City Attorney’s Office thus far. She argues for further streamlining and more support staff reduction.

During the League of Women Voter’s forum last month she argued that the city's attorneys did not need one helper per lawyer but rather one helper for every four lawyers. Although, Parker has argued that the work load has become increasingly burdensome for a staff already cut by a third. But Brunner has argued that she rather use money to hire police and get the City Attorney’s Office to work with what they have. The report, although, argues that hiring more staff attorneys will help the City “maintain and build legal expertise and save dollars that can be used for other critical services and programs.”

Last week, The Citizen, reported Brunner’s release of aggressive emails accusing Parker of “pay-to-play” politics where attorney firms that receive City contracts are also helping to fund Parker’s campaign. Parker has called this accusation “Laughable” and accused Brunner of committing similar actions concerning developers, lawyers and other special interests.

Shane Bond is a regular contributor to East Bay Citizen.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Ong Touts Poll Showing Large Lead In AD20; Endorsement From Green, Primary Rival

ELECTION '12//ASSEMBLY 20 | A new poll released last week shows optometrist Dr. Jennifer Ong gained a significant lead over former Hayward Councilman Bill Quirk in the 20th Assembly District race. Quirk, however, refutes the data. 

The poll, compiled by Global Strategy Group, states that after hearing positive statements about both Ong and her opponent, the voters chose her by a significant percentage, 52-37.

The survey of over 500 voters in the district, further states that after hearing criticisms of both candidates, the poll moved more “decisively” in Ong’s direction, favoring her over her opponent by a 31-point margin, 54 percent to 23 percent. Ong’s campaign states that this poll shows a “clear path to victory.” Ong was also clear the poll had no direct or indirect contribution from her campaign.

The polling, however, runs considerably counter to Quirk’s internal poll, released last month and conducted by Godbe Research. That poll showed Quirk with a double digit lead over Ong with 43 percent to 30 percent and evaluated 602 likely voters, along with both candidate’s ballot designation and excerpts from the candidates statements.

Quirk had also funded another poll prior to the primaries, also conducted by Godbe Research, showing Quirk with a significant lead among his four other opponents. That poll proved to be not far off the mark as Quirk took first in June primaries with 30.3 percent of the vote, a 4.6 lead on Ong who finished second with 25.7 percent.

Quirk points to his primary poll and first place finish in the primaries as a legitimate indicator of his potential victory, “Jennifer also had a poll showing she would win the Primary. My poll showed I would win, and it was right,” said Quirk. “The same firm, which I used for the primary, used the same procedures to take my poll for the general. Look at the results. I stand by them.”

Ong also received the support of one of her primary rivals. Union City Mayor Mark Green endorsed Ong for Assembly last week. Last month Ong told The Citizen that although he supported Ong he would not likely come out with an official endorsement while he was running for the Alameda County District 2 supervisorial seat left vacant earlier this year when Nadia Lockyer resigned amid a drug and sex scandal. Green also sought the appointment to Lockyer's seat, but was passed over for Richard Valle.

Even though Green’s support was originally thought to have been quid pro quo he decided to come out officially in his support for Ong. The mayor ran for the Assembly this year, but lost in the primaries, finishing third with 20.3 percent. The gregarious, long-time mayor, who typically eschews loafers for sensible shoes, ran as an independent, as he is this fall.

Shane Bond is a regular contributor to the East Bay Citizen.

As Valle, Hayashi Vied For Party's Support, A Quiet, Unnoticed Political Ballet Ensued


ELECTION ‘12//DEMOCRATS | When it came time Saturday afternoon for the marquee event of the Alameda County Democratic Party’s nearly 10 hours endorsement meeting, there was a bit of buzz in the air as Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi strode into the small, stuffy office space in Hayward. Once she sat, back stone stiff, in front of fellow Democrats, her eyes darted across the room while she fired intermittent smiles and terrified grimaces. It was the definition of hot seat, which is probably why she visited the endorsement meeting with her long-time lieutenant Chris Parman; apparently one last battle for the district manager in the name of his former boss.

Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle entered the room equally as quiet. Like some fusion of a bushy, white-mustachioed "Rebel Without A Cause" with dancing West Side Story roughnecks in tow, fingers-a-snapping. As Valle delivered his opening remarks, he let it be known, the entire gang of usual Alameda County suspects were riding with him--his "ride-or-die bitches." The leaders of the county building trades union and labor council seemingly rolled up with their invisible Harley’s rumbling and offered just a slight nod of steely recognition as Valle called out their names. However, neither would be Valle’s enforcer Saturday afternoon for this rumble in the county jungle. That’s because Valle’s muscle would come in the form of Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney.

It didn’t take long for Sweeney to see something was amiss with Hayashi, often the target of his ire, along with State Sen. Ellen Corbett, the city’s two representatives in Sacramento. If critics of the local Democratic Party severely fault elected officials for being far too lenient to Hayashi in the early weeks of her shoplifting arrest last Oct. 25, 2011, the derision should probably be saved for Sweeney, who has unleashed numerous public tirades against both for what he perceives is their treachery against Hayward in the form of votes allowing the Legislature to further take back local funding.

Sweeney, who, along with his wife, were positioned near the door for Saturday's almost high-noon shootout and somewhat behind Hayashi as she answered committee member’s questions. Stern and with his arms tightly crossed, Sweeney briskly walked to the back of the audience and firmly planted himself in front of Parman. At first glance, the maneuver appeared designed to intimidate Hayashi, who was glancing numerous times at Parman. Potentially looking for a friendly face among sullen, brow furrowed fellow Democrats? Afterwards, Sweeney told The Citizen, he believed Parman was videotaping the proceedings with a smart phone. The upshot being Team Hayashi might use Valle’s answers against him sometime in the next two months of the campaign, Sweeney said.

With the operation possibly foiled, Parman did not move from behind the Sweeney blockade, but instead appeared to begin texting Hayashi during the interview session. Onlookers from the side, including myself, could see Parman tap-tapping on his phone and moments later, witnessing Hayashi grab her own phone from the table and responding back slightly under the table and astride her left leg. Parman denied it, but said he was puzzled why Sweeney chose to stand directly in front of him when plenty of other vantage points were available. However, taping the interview session is not against the rules. The central committee is an elected office and meetings are open to the public. Every committee member asked about the political ballet going on unbeknownst to nearly all, did not fault the alleged move by Hayashi, but some took umbrage with the gamesmanship.

So, while the Valle and his gang of South County choppers rode away down B Street like the ending of some 1950s black-and-white movie matinee, from the looks of things, even though Valle won the party’s endorsement by a land slide, not all may have been lost for Hayashi. When Valle spoke of St. Rose Hospital as a shining example of his leadership, Hayashi beamed. When Valle spoke of his work with Tri Ced, she lit up again like a merry prankster whose glee slowly builds as the primary mark inches closer to falling for the trick. If Richard Valle pulls a drag from that exploding cigar, it will surely go….boom!

Shane Bond also contributed additonal reporting for this article.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Democrats Overwhelmingly Endorse Valle Over Hayashi For Alameda County Supe

ELECTION '12//ALCO SUPERVISOR DIST 2 | Despite reports Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi had lobbied Alameda County Democrats hard for a no-endorsement in her race for supervisor, the party overwhelming voted to back the re-election of District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle.

Valle, appointed to the seat last June to replace Nadia Lockyer, easily garnered the requisite 60 percent of the central committee members Saturday night with 26 of 33 votes, or 79 percent. Hayashi won five votes, while two members pushed for a no-endorsement.

Alameda County Democrats met for nearly 10 hours Saturday to finalize endorsements for races and measures from across the East Bay, but the most highly-anticipated decision featured one of the first face-to-face match ups between Valle and Hayashi. Union City Mayor Mark Green and Mark Turnquist two other candidates also in the race, but not up for the party's imprimatur.

During the interview process, Hayashi called herself the "most qualified candidate running in this race," but most committee members appeared more poised to hear her comments regarding the infamous January conviction for shoplifting. In fact, when the question was read aloud, a distinct murmur rose throughout the meeting room at party headquarters in Hayward.

"I went through a really negative press cycle," said Hayashi, "and I paid a price." She alluded to the possibility of Valle using the shoplifting charge against her during the campaign, but characterized the incident as a "honest human mistake that I paid for." Citing her own research data, Hayashi indicating voters, instead, want to talk about job creation.

Some committee members also appeared wary of rumors Hayashi, if she wins this November, may run for state Senate in 2014. She denied the rumor, however, saying it would be no different than Valle abandoning his mayoral race in Union City this year to apply for county supervisor.

Valle opened his remarks Saturday afternoon showing more excitement in his speech and delivery and addressed the crowd with supporters in tow, including leaders from the local building trades union and labor council, along with Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney. As Valle rattled off  the names of his of endorsers, Hayashi was seen grinning widely. She later said she won her Assembly seat in 2006 without an extensive endorsement list and can do it, again. "I don't do window-dressing campaigns," Hayashi said. "I go to the voters."

Both candidates showed particular interest in using health care as a catalyst for their campaigns. Valle noted offering seven county initiatives in his first three months in office and touted his work in finding a potential new operator for beleaguered St. Rose Hospital in Hayward and working with Kaiser Permanente for a clinic in South Hayward.

Hayashi, who began her rise to Sacramento through health care, explained the extensive roll out of Obamacare in the next two years will involve greater participation at the county-level. "I will fight for our fair share," she said.

While some Hayward and Tri Cities officials grumble over the perception Valle is not showing enough outward effort thus far in his re-election campaign, he showed renewed vigor with a almost rousing stump speech to end his interview. Although Valle noted competing against Hayashi's large war chest is an obstacle, he vowed to run a determined campaign. "We are stickers and we are staying around," he said. To which, Hayashi replied, "Don't get too close. I don't want to get sticked."

Later in the evening, when Valle and Hayashi were long gone, committee members discussing the party's endorsement rationalized Valle's long commitment to provide union jobs and Latino heritage were a greater fit in the district's large Hispanic demographic. However, 18th Assembly District committee member Marga Lacabe, was the only voice to direct an opinion against Hayashi and her past troubles. "She has brought shame to the Democratic Party," said Lacabe, and the party should hold her accountable for her actions. "Endorsing her would be endorsing her actions."

Friday, September 14, 2012

Swalwell Attempts To Pry Daylight Regarding Stark's Previous Comments On Citizens United

Pete Stark, Eric Swalwell
ELECTION '12//CONGRESS 15 | Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell's campaign for the 15th Congressional District is attempting to poke holes into Rep. Pete Stark's strong opposition to Citizens United.

On Wednesday, Swalwell and supporters, like Alberto Torrico, reacted sharply to a Facebook posting by the Stark campaign asserting their opposition to the controversial U.S. Supreme Court decision effectively viewing corporations as people and ushering in a new era of exorbitant and unlimited campaign financing from wealthy interests.

However, Swalwell has long maintained in numerous stump speeches that Stark's previous public statements belie his stance against Citizens United. "Desperate flip-flop or confused?" asked Swalwell on various social media outlets this week, while citing Stark's answer during the infamous April 10 candidates forum in Hayward. When asked about his stance on Citizens United, Stark said:

"Corporations are treated as people, and they should be under the Constitution. The answer there is that if a corporation does something that a person could be prosecuted for, like Mr. Swalwell, if a corporation takes a bribe, the head of the corporation should be responsible criminally for that act, just as a person would be, so that every corporation must have an individual who is responsible and has to answer to the law for any crimes committed."

Sharon Cornu, Stark's campaign manager said the congressman's stance against the ruling has been consistent and referred to citations in the Congressional Record starting in June 2010 that show Stark's opposition, in addition, to early support for the DISCLOSE Act, which calls for greater transparency in campaign finance. "Anybody who knows him knows he is not afraid to take on big money interests," said Cornu, who also called Swalwell's accusation a "non-issue."

"Let's call this what it is–swiftboating," said Cornu. "Our opponent is turning the truth on its head. He’s like Paul Ryan and the Republican convention–refusing to let the facts get in the way of his campaign. I ask our opponent to check the facts and retract his spurious allegation."

Justice Is Blind, But Voters Aren't As Alameda County Lawyers Turn Their Backs To Swalwell

ELECTION '12//CONGRESS 15//ANALYSIS | The impetus for the Citizens United attack this week by Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell came from comments made this week by Rep. Pete Stark following a endorsement meeting for the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers Club.

"I was pleased to have the opportunity to address members of the Alameda County Democratic Lawyers Club and to express my long-standing opposition to Citizens United and big money in politics," Stark said Wednesday on Facebook.

During the primary season, the group supported Swalwell, also an Alameda County deputy district attorney. However, lost in the campaign scrum this week over Citizens United, was the pulling of the group's backing from Swalwell to a non-endorsement.

The loss of support from Swalwell's brethren is definitely a setback for his campaign, but also raises another consistent question about his temperment and readiness for the extreme rigors of the Beltway.

According to witnesses of the Alameda County lawyers endorsement process, Swalwell's performance was flat and uneven with a tinge of fear. It would not be the first time his performance has perplexed audience members. In situations where the audience is perceived to be friendly to Swalwell, he appears confident, well-spoken and highly competent on the issues. However, when he wears his road grays outside of Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore and San Ramon, Swalwell becomes a very unsure, uncompelling and, afterwards, almost petulant young candidate.

This dichotomy was uniquely evident Thursday night at a Swalwell event in Hayward featuring a discussion of the issues facing the district's sizable Latino community. Although, the forum was outside of Swalwell's Tri Valley stronghold, his stump speech was clear and well-delivered. The small group of about 30 people were quite supportive of Swalwell as he laid out his positions advocating a path to citizenship and referring to immigrants as "aspiring citizens."

However, when Hayward school board President Jesus Armas (of all people!) sternly questioned Swalwell, the candidate crumbled. "Eric, do you say the same things on other other side of the hill?" asked Armas. Swalwell, though, did not directly answer the question, leading Armas to repeat it. "I do," Swalwell finally said and challenged voters to boot him out of Congress in two years, if he fails to keep his promises regarding immigration. "But, they look at us differently over there," then blurted Hayward Councilman Mark Salinas, but received no response from Swalwell.

In the end, it begs the question of which Swalwell might voters send to Washington? The one who rises to the occasion at friendly galas or the one who shrinks from the angry mob?

Dlugosh Appointed To San Leandro City Council; Replaces Starosciak Until End Of Year

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | The San Leandro City Council is whole once again following the appointment of city planning commissioner Tom Dlugosh to the seat vacated last month by former Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak.

Dlugosh, an 18-year veteran of the planning commissioner and former San Leandro police officer, received four of the six votes on the council during a special meeting Thursday night. Dlugosh was the expected front runner for the seat after being the only applicant to receives all six votes last week during the winnowing process.

After receiving the support of Mayor Stephen Cassidy and Councilmembers Michael Gregory and Pauline Cutter, Dlugosh clinched the appointment in the second round of voting when Jim Prola switched his vote from former Mayor John Faria in the first round to Dlugosh. Diana Souza and Ursula Reed maintained their votes for Charles Kane in the subsequent round.

The selection of Dlugosh ends the council's month-long search to replace Starosciak, who abruptly resigned during a meeting in late July, citing residual sadness following her loss two-years ago during the 2010 mayoral race. Starosciak has since re-located to the Sacramento area, however, she never officially resigned until the middle of the last month. Starosciak, though, had only months remaining on her second and final term, leaving the council to search for a replacement to effectively become a placeholder until voter elect a new council member in November.

"It's a temporary position, so it's not going to be a difficult transition," Dlugosh said Thursday night. He also describes himself as politically independent. "I don't have any leanings. I'm non-committed as far as party's are concerned. I vote for who I think is the right person."

Despite his short stay, Dlugosh and the council may have some difficult decisions before the end of his term on Dec. 31. They may include a discussion of approving the installation of a private 120-foot wind turbine near the shoreline, contentious contract negotiations with public employees and possibly the future of medical cannabis dispensaries and grow sites in the industrial zones. He will make his council debut next Monday, Sept. 17.

On the Halus wind turbine potentially set to rise in Dlugosh's District 4, he said, "I don't have any position at this point in time, but I'm aware of the issue."

Citing his background as a police officer in the 1970s as a factor in his opinion of marijuana, he said, "I'm dead-set against it."

When it comes to labor, Dlugosh may make some public employee groups nervous, especially when it comes to pensions. "I think some changes have to be made, but I'm not quite certain what those changes need to be," he said. "Obviously, we can't continue the way we are. We need to fulfill our contracts, but I've been on the other side and I probably have a little different opinion than some."

To No Avail, Reynoso Pushes For Investigation; Heredia's Absence Is Excused

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD SCANDAL | Another school board meeting in Hayward, another chance lost to confront serious allegations of potential violations of the state's sunshine laws.

Since allegations surfaced July 25 of an undisclosed romance between Hayward school board President Jesus Armas and fellow member Maribel Heredia, the pall of obfuscations has hovered over the fractured board and seemingly unmotivated school district staff.

For a third consecutive meeting, a viable plan was not offered by school district staff to either conduct an investigation into the affair or author language to be added to its bylaws. The school district's legal counsel have also yet to have advised the board of the ramifications of the allegation and how to proceed forward.

Despite the school administration's inaction, two current members of the school board, William McGee and Dr. Luis Reynoso have both questioned, at least one instance of suspected collusion between Armas and Heredia, occurring earlier this summer regarding a vote to reinstate the employment of the principal at Hayward High School.

On Wednesday night, Reynoso again broached the subject. “It about a collusion of votes,” he said. "We initiate action through a majority.” Reynoso says time is of the essence and estimates the board will cast over 100 votes from now to November. “We need to do this as quickly as possible, we need to get this going.”

He also sought to apologize to the community for what he believes was an improper abuse of power on Aug. 22 by Armas when he asked district employees in the audience that night to raise their hands. "It's the reason why we need a vote of no-confidence," he said.

HEREDIA'S EXCUSED ABSENCE Earlier in last Wednesday's school board meeting embattled Hayward school board member Maribel Heredia publicly apologized for missing the Aug. 22 meeting. During that meeting, school superintendent Dr. Donald Evans reported Heredia was in Southern California for a "family emergency."

Heredia reiterated Wednesday she traveled to be with her children's great-grandmother, who had fallen ill. While stifling tears, Heredia revealed the loved one, related to her estranged ex-fiance, had passed away last week.

A story in The Citizen last month, citing Heredia's Facebook postings, revealed what appeared to be a late summer vacation in Newport Beach.

Her excuse, though, seemed to have emboldened Heredia, who became far more assertive and lively following the disclosure. The board ultimately approved paying Heredia for the missed meeting.