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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Thursday, November 29, 2012

After Falling Just 721 Votes Short, Measure B1 Supporters Ask Registrar For Recount

TRANSPORTATION//MEASURE B1 | After losing out by a mere 721 votes, backers of the Alameda County Transportation Commission’s Measure B1 have asked the county registrar for a recount.

The crucial reauthorization of the existing half-cent sales tax used to fund various transportation projects in the East Bay garnered 66.53 percent of the vote last Nov. 6, but failed to reach a two-thirds majority needed for passage.

"We have an obligation to the 66.53 percent of Alameda County voters who supported Measure B1 to leave no stone unturned," said Arthur Dao, the commission’s executive director. "After receiving such strong support, we won't turn away a critical $7.8 billion investment prematurely."

Dao believes a partial recount of this month’s results could begin as early as next Monday, Dec. 3. Today, Dao told the East Bay Express supporters of the measure plan to pay for the initial recount, estimated to cost $30,000-$40,000. If a large number of undervotes, believed to number around 18,000 in Oakland and 8,000 in Berkeley, alone, the group will ask for a full recount, the Express reported. Around 75,000 undervotes exist county-wide, said the paper.

The partial recount, however, will focus on Oakland and Berkeley, reported the Express, where support for Measure B reached around 80 percent. In the eastern and southern Alameda County, though, the measure consistently failed to barely reach 60 percent. In the Tri Valley, a just single precinct in Dublin mustered over two-thirds of the vote.

Lee Drops Plans For House Leadership Post; Must Deal With Glut Atop Party

CONGRESS | Rep. Barbara Lee dropped her bid Wednesday for one of the top leadership positions in the House Democratic Party delegation, but the attempt may indicate a desire by the long-time Oakland congresswoman for a greater role in the future.

Lee’s withdrawal leaves New York Rep. Joe Crowley as the likely vice chair of the party in the House, its fifth-highest ranking official. Notwithstanding, Carolyn Lochhead of the San Francisco Chronicle noted yesterday, “Getting into a leadership race signals ambition.”

“My goal in seeking the position was to provide a broader voice to our Democratic agenda,” Lee said Wednesday in a statement. “We fight each and every day for the middle class because without a middle class there would be no American dream to reignite. However, like so many in our Caucus, we also want to fight for those aspiring for and striving to be in the middle class and our message, legislative agenda and politics must reflect this reality.”

However, the reality may have been Lee realized she did not have the votes needed to beat the more moderate Crowley before stepping aside.

If Lee’s ambition is to eventually take on a more public face for the Democratic Party, she and others in the House will have to deal with the current glut atop its leadership. The race for vice chair was already the only leadership slot set to be contested. Colorado Rep. Jared Polis also dropped out a week earlier.

As noted by Roll Call this week, the four members leading House Democrats are quite entrenched while two others appear to be formidable young prospects waiting in the wings. Going forward, its unclear where Lee stands in the pecking order over the next few terms.

Green Says Measure B1 Campaign Was ‘Poorly Run’

TRANSPORTATION//MEASURE B1 | The chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission says the campaign for Measure B1, which narrowly missed out on a two-thirds majority last Election Day was “poorly-run” and county leaders need to quickly amass support for placing another measure before voters.

Measure B1 would have reignited a half-cent county transportation tax, approved in 1986 and 2000. However, the measure fell short by some 700 votes of clearing two-thirds with 66.53 percent support. The Alameda CTC on Thursday announced it will ask the Alameda County Registrar of Voters for a recount that could begin Dec. 3.

Alameda CTC Chair Mark Green, who is also Union City’s out-going mayor, said Tuesday night the ill-fated campaign could have done more with its vast resources. “It was a campaign that was poorly-run—well-financed—but, poorly-run,” said Green. “Just a targeted mailer here and there would have been enough to push that over.”

Mark Green
Green pinpointed the seeds of the measure’s demise came in the eastern and southern parts of Alameda County. In the Tri Valley cities of Dublin, Livermore and Pleasanton, said Green, just a single precinct among the three cities mustered more than two-thirds majorities. Furthermore, in Fremont, where funding for a potential BART station was on the table, just four precincts voting affirmatively for Measure B1, said Green.

The transportation hub of Alameda County, however, came through, said Green. Albany, Berkeley, Oakland and the centers of San Leandro and Hayward showed significant support for Measure B, he said. A quick legislative fix, though, needs to be found to keep repairs and construction on the East Bay's aging trasportation infrascture moving forward, he said.

“The first thing that needs to be done for us to go up this mountain again,” added Green, “is legislation has to be there to allow Alameda County to get an additional half-cent authorization.”

In Sept. 2011, Gov. Jerry Brown signed into law Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski’s bill allowing for a one-time only, two-year exemption allowing the county exceed the two percent threshold on local taxes.

Green says he also already impressed upon the county’s newest legislators—Assemblymembers-elect Rob Bonta and Bill Quirk—the need to offer legislation reauthorizing another exemption. Yet, he believes the previous two-year window may have to be lengthened to four years along with threshold for approval lowered to possibly 55 percent.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Forerunner To St. Rose’s Questionable New Operator Hit With $95,000 Fine

Prime's Dr. Prem Reddy
HAYWARD | While the health care system in Alameda County undergoes significant growing pains in the run-up to Obamacare coming in 2014, the questionable acquisition of St. Rose Hospital by a group with close ties to a notorious Southern California hospital chain has flown under the radar.

Last September, the governing board at St. Rose approved an acquisition by Alecto Healthcare Services to help stanch its growing and potential debilitating losses. However, the group, only formed last February and headed by the former CEO of Prime Healthcare Lex Reddy, failed to raise many eyebrows in the East Bay.

In fact, Reddy resigned his post a day before he was scheduled to testify before a joint legislative health committee hearing over Prime's controversial billing practices. In March, rumors of Prime helping St. Rose avoid potential bankruptcy were met with significant derision from the county officials, including Supervisor Wilma Chan. But, a nascent group headed not by Prime's charismatic founder, Dr. Prem Reddy, but his right-hand man and brother-in-law, was apparently good enough for St. Rose and county officials.

Over the years, Prime’s zeal for acquiring bankrupt hospitals and quickly, sometimes magically, turning them into multimillion dollars profit centers, in some cases, within a year, has raised questions at the state and local level. Prime’s tactic of funneling uninsured patients through the more costly emergency room is cited as its golden goose, but, ultimately poses a direct threat to the entire health care delivery system. Prime’s reputation in health care circles is as bad as it gets. Numerous investigations over its business model, including allegations its bilked Medicare have hovered over Prime over the past few years. This week, according to a report, the state Department of Health fined Prime $95,000 for publicizing a patient’s private medical records in a bid to discredit a new report alleging it overcharged for unneeded procedures

The CEO of the newly-formed Alecto, curiously named after one of the ferociously vengeful mythological Greek Furies, is Lex Reddy, the former head of Prime for the last 11 years and brother-in-law of its founder, Dr. Prem Reddy. Is this just a different logo and color scheme pasted upon the same group of allegedly unscrupulous hospital providers or St. Rose’s savior? According to St. Rose’s Web site, the hospital’s operations will go forth without any changes to its customer base, staff or accepted insurance providers. Yet, the potential $75 million debt will be reversed without changes to the status quo?

In the meantime, the transfer of the hospital to Alecto must be approved by Attorney General Kamala Harris, who in the past has been cool to Prime’s rapid expansion in the state. The application was sent Nov. 1, according to St. Rose. Harris’s office will likely render a decision in the 60-90 days.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Chan Threatens Healthcare District; Seeks More Money For San Leandro Hospital

Supervisor Wilma Chan in less cozy
times with ACMC
SAVE SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | The Eden Township Healthcare District is steaming mad following a letter from Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan and San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy hinting at the possible dissolution of the elected body if they do not raise their contributions for the framework of a proposal to save San Leandro Hospital for, at least, three years.

The District previously approved a two-year contribution of over $700,000, representing 50 percent of projected positive revenues, last October. The City of San Leandro, the Alameda County Medical Center and the Alameda County Board of Supervisors each approved $3 million in subsidies over the next three years this month to cover shortfalls in keeping San Leandro Hospital in each operation as a general care facility with around-the-clock emergency room services.

But, now the Alameda County Board of Supervisors is pushing for a larger commitment from the District and some of their Board of Directors took umbrage at the tone of the Nov. 9 letter sent by Chan. In the correspondence, the issue of dissolving the over 50-year-old health care district is clearly dangled as an inducement to add funding for a third year, potentially in the neighborhood of $1.2 million and representing an increase of future revenues from 50 to 70 percent.

“Without this increase,” the letter to the District states, “the revenues for the upcoming three years may fall short and undermine the deal. We believe as the entity that been responsible for the hospital for many years, your board should make a contribution at least equal to the other three partners.”

The correspondence goes on to assert Alameda County’s Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO), an agency charged with regulating the boundaries of government bodies and combating urban sprawl, may consider dissolving the District. “The State of California is shutting down districts that do not run hospitals,” said the letter referencing the District’s loss of title to San Leandro Hospital to Sutter Health. “We believe the strongest argument to retain the District is your on-going financial participation as an equal partner in keeping this hospital open. In the alternative, you could dissolve and transfer your assets to ACMC earmarked for financial support of San Leandro Hospital.” Incidentally, LAFCO is partly comprised of Alameda County Supervisors Wilma Chan, Scott Haggerty and Nate Miley, who acts as the agency's chair.

The Eden Township Board of Directors, however, took the tone of the letter as an inappropriate threat at their Nov. 14 meeting. “This is a perfect letter on how not to win friends and influence people,” said Board Director Lester Friedman. “It is a letter that is on the verge of offensive when you have a board here that has done everything it could do for San Leandro Hospital while every other participant has done nothing.”

Dev Mahadevan, the District’s chief executive officer, said he was also “outraged” at the tone of Chan’s letter. “I think they are ignorant of the facts,” he said, since raising the District’s contribution to 70 percent of projected revenue would violate terms of their loan with their financial institution. He also questioned the assertion health care districts without hospitals to run were under threat of dissolution by the state and their value is far greater than the actual facilities within their boundaries. “There are 20 other districts that will take up arms,” Mahadevan said, while adding such a move requires a vote of the people.

In a tersely written response to Chan’s letter, dated Nov. 15, the District suggested officials from the county and San Leandro were now turning their back on them after their ultimately unsuccessful legal challenge versus Sutter. “All the elected officials from the city of San Leandro and the county have been urging us to pursue the legal remedies we sought. Now, when we have been battered by this dispute and exhausted so much of our resources and still try to provide any unencumbered funds we have, you suggest we may be dissolved as a public agency because the wounds we incurred in the battle limit what we can do now.”

Earlier this year, the District lost its three-year-old legal battle to retain title to San Leandro Hospital. For Sutter, the spoils of that victory include owning San Leandro Hospital at no-cost while potentially possessing the power to bankrupt the District in damages. During the Nov. 14 District meeting, Board Director Rajendra Ratnesar referenced potential damages ranging from nothing to $40 million. Sources have told The Citizen, Sutter may be angling for the District’s stake in the Dublin Gateway Center and San Leandro Surgery Center on East 14th Street. If so, it would render impossible the District’s ability to live up to the proposed 50 percent of expected revenues, they approved last month.

In the meantime, the proposal to keep San Leandro Hospital is plagued with uncertainty, most of which, include Sutter being the final arbiter of any deal. Over the past five years, Sutter has never shown a willingness to allow San Leandro Hospital to survive in its present form. According to sources, somewhat corroborated by statements made by Chan at the Board of Supervisors meeting on Nov. 6, there is no indicated Sutter is willing to approve such a deal. However, they have hinted at willingness for ACMC to hurriedly submit a proposal pending Sutter's approval.

Any proposal, if approved by Sutter, does not currently hold any stipulations against ultimately turning the hospital into an acute rehabilitation facility once strongly advocated by the Board of Supervisors and ACMC in 2009. Wright Lassiter, ACMC’s chief executive officer, who called the District “the less definitive of the partners at this time” at the Nov. 6 Board of Supervisors meeting, in fact, told the board Lassiter says there could still be a need for subsidy after three years, but would re-evaluate the potential deal at the mid-point over the hospital’s future.

At the District, Mahadevan raised significant doubt over the numbers being offered by Lassiter, calling them “just estimates.” “Math is my game,” Mahadevan told the District Board of Directors Nov. 14, alluding to his 40 years in accounting. “It will not add up.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

San Leandro City Manager Takes Cut To Offer Lucrative Five-Year Agreement For Two Top City Officials

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | The San Leandro City Council adopted a new five-year agreement starting next year increasing compensation and benefit packages for two top level executives in San Leandro, Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli and Assistant City Manager, Lianne Marshall, as incentive for them to stay with the city. San Leandro has had trouble maintaining top level management in recent years and the new agreement is an effort to provide incentives for longer terms.

The package is a relatively lucrative offer passed 5-2 with council members Jim Prola and Pauline Cutter dissenting. The package offers a pay increase that would cap off over $200,000 for both Spagnoli and Marshall by 2017. The compensation package begins January of next year with an immediate pay raise from $177,000 to $187,000. City Manager Chris Zapata sacrifices a total of $10,000 annually from his own salary to each of the city management executives during the first two years.

Zapata sponsored the agreement after elaborating his worries concerning recent staff reductions. Three city managers left their posts since 2009, along with three different police chiefs in the last five years. The proposal would aid in maintaining top level staff that, if otherwise left, would add stress to the City Manager when dealing with vacancies and new hires.

The proposition was met with astounding support from most of the council. Reed emphasized the necessity to maintain talent in the city to ensure stable functionality and consistency. The plan offers sick leave buy back compensation, although it would only be available if either Spagnoli or Marshall were fired without cause. Cutter voted against the agreement on this notion that although it is a relatively small amount of city funds lost if the buyback kicked in it would be a dangerous precedent to set.

Prola on the other hand, who is the most union-supported member of the council, voted against the agreement on ethical and financial grounds. The agreement comes at a time just before union negotiations are to be finalized and much discussion, some by Mayor Steven Cassidy during the State of the City address earlier this year, advocated for employee pension cuts by forcing the union members to pay more into their pensions. What that amount will be is unknown at this point. But Prola was steadfast to reject a proposal that offers top level management pay increases while working class city employees feel the brunt of the financial squeeze.

“In January 2013 they will get a raise of $10,000 that equivalent of 5.65 percent, it will bring the salary to $211,461, that is over $34,000 in a five year period and then you include vacation, health and sick leave benefits, they are getting a really good contract here,” said Prola, “I don’t think we should be giving our executives a boost in salaries while asking our employees to sacrifice. We are creating a couple of contracts over $200,000 here that will boost their pensions. I say the pensions of the employees are the not the ones that the masses complain about but it’s the huge pension increases for executives…I don’t think any employee should be treated differently than most of our employees.”

Cassidy, who showed less regard for potential employee pension cuts in the wake of top executive pay raises, spoke to a different axiom, “While the work of all individuals should be valued, I don’t believe in the philosophy that the compensation of all individuals should be treated the same, there are logical distinctions that can and should be made between those who are on the front line and those who are on the very top of management,” said Cassidy. The mayor threw his reasoning behind common business and economic rhetoric, “There is a pay increase in the beginning, but this is to reflect the realities of the market place.”

The agreement though is not a mandate. It does not require the police chief and the assistant city manager to stay for the full five years. In fact, both could quit at any point if dissatisfied or offered a more lucrative deal in another city. It is nothing but a mere financial incentive. Furthermore, if Zapata does not finish out the remainder of his contract, set to expire in 2014, then the pay increase would have to come out of the general fund. Even if Zapata finish in 2014 and does not renew his contract, the remaining three years of pay increase would likely be compensated by the general fund.


Accused Sexual Harasser David Muhammad Making a Comeback in Alameda County?


ALAMEDA COUNTY | Former Alameda County Chief Probation Officer David Muhammad arrived in 2011 among much fanfare. He left in an equally spectacular cloud of disgrace and revile earlier this year amid allegations he forcefully sexually assaulted an underling at the San Leandro Marina.

Alameda County investigators, last June, however, found the allegation by a woman in the probation department was “unsubstantiated.” Muhammad, though, resigned while some county supervisors lauded his efforts. The county is still representing Muhammad in his civil case.

But, according to sources, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors unhealthy love affair with Muhammad is going on despite his alleged monstrous activity in May 2011 when the victim said in court filings Muhammad forcefully kissed and digitally penetrated her at the San Leandro Marina. The filings and other newspaper accounts regarding Muhammad’s activity in Washington, D.C. also suggest a history with assaulting women.

The media’s complicity in reforming Muhammad’s public image caught the attention of some county employees who expressed disgust over an opinion piece in the Bay Area News Group papers Oct. 20 authored by Muhammad, who describes himself as the former chief probation officer for Alameda County and presently a consultant for various non-profits. The article clearly represents a very public reintroduction of Muhammad despite the allegations against him. It also signals a renewed partnership with him and the county.

Over the past two years, there has been no doubt Muhammad’s rough-hewn biography and seductive ways have lulled Alameda County Supervisors Nate Miley, Keith Carson and others for some time. Critics have charged the county with being extremely lax in its vetting of Muhammad for the job, citing a simple Google search of his background quickly offers questionable activity in his past. Carson, went as far as to heap effusive praise on Muhammad this summer even with the horrific charges still hovering over his head. According to county sources, both cannot seem to detach themselves from Muhammad.

In addition to the opinion piece, Muhammad has had a hand in procuring a federal grant for Alameda County, along with acting as a consultant on probation issues. His continued involvement within the battered probation department is also creating an understandable rift between the interim chief LaDonna Harris and her department, along with its relationship to the Board of Supervisors, sources told The Citizen last week.

Muhammad’s presence at the county level, in fact, has some employees worried about his eventual return to the probation department. Except, there is one huge hindrance in the way—the victim still works there.

Swalwell Shows Pro-Israel Slant, Calls Out Palestinians For ‘Terrorist Attacks’

PHOTO/Steve Rhodes
CONGRESS 15 | Representative-elect Eric Swalwell is still weeks away from being sworn into the 113th Congress, but he wasted little time by espousing a very unpopular sentiment among progressives in the East Bay--calling out Palestinians for “terrorists attacks” against Israel.

Last Friday, Swalwell, the 15th Congressional District’s newest representative referred to Palestinian “terrorist attacks” on Israel and support for defending the Jewish state. After repeated rocket attacks on the Israeli countryside, Israel retaliated last week, while the conservative government threatens a ground assault on Gaza.

Swalwell’s statement, however, shows a pro-Israel bent, contrary to supporters of the Palestinian struggle, who claim the state of Israel, is the true aggressor in the conflict.

Swalwell
“I am very concerned about the continued terrorist attacks in Israel,” Swalwell said Nov. 16 on his Facebook page. “No nation should face constant attacks on its civilians. I stand with hundreds in Congress who support Israel's security and right to defend itself. I hope we can see long-term peace in the region and immediate calm for those who are living in fear.”

The comments are a shocking change for residents in the district who were previously represented by Pete Stark, one of Congress’s most consistent peaceniks. The words of support by Swalwell for Israel comes as no surprise and represent a payback of sorts for one of the lobbying groups most influential in his upset of Stark this month.

Despite a sleepy Jewish presence in the district, various pro-Israel lobbying groups have gravitated to the congressional rookie in a progressive enclave more easily tempted to support the Palestinian cause for self-determination. Pro-Palestinian, however, derisively affiliate these types of supporters with “Christian Zionists.”

Lee All Over Cable News Circuit; Gaining Support For House Vice Chair Post

Rep. Barbara Lee
CONGRESS | Rep. Barbara Lee made the rounds on the cable news television circuit Monday in move possibly designed to raise her public profile as she runs for the vice chair of the House Democratic caucus.

Lee appeared on CNN Monday morning issuing support for averting the “fiscal cliff” without cuts to entitlement programs, especially unemployment compensation. “There’s reason for hope,” Lee said of the President and House Republicans striking a deal before the end of the year. She called cuts to unemployment insurance for over 2 million Americans, “tragic,” when 60 percent of federal discretionary spending is on defense.

The Oakland congresswoman, instead, urged for the end of the Bush tax cuts. “However they work this out, I hope we don’t see the extension of tax cuts for those making over $250,000.”

Later in the day, Lee also appeared on MSNBC dealing with an altogether different topic—United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice—who she vehemently defended. “We are attacking this ambassador for doing her job and we need to stop the politicizing of this and get the facts,” Lee told Andrea Mitchell.

President Obama and Democrats have stood firm in their support of Rice as Republicans led by Sen. John McCain, who faulted her allegedly proffering false intelligence following the attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya. Many believe Rice is first in line to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state.

Lee’s support Monday of entitlements and Rice shores up two strong constituencies within the Democratic Party—unemployment insurance on the progressive wing and the administration, which has gone to great pains to support Rice.

Last week, Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) dropped out of the race for the House Democrat’s only contested leadership position. That leaves Lee and New York Rep. Joe Crowley in the running to take over for Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-Calif.) as vice chair of the party's House caucus.

Crowley is a moderate Democrat who ran for the chairmanship, the fifth-highest position among the party’s House leadership, in 2006, losing to Rep. John Larson (D-Conn.). According to The Hill, Crowley was favored by Rep. Steny Hoyer, while Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has long supported Lee, her fellow Bay Area representative. Pelosi’s decision last week to stay on as minority leader may be a plus for Lee, however, the congressional newspaper hints Polis’ exit may improve Crowley’s chances.

Watch Rep. Barbara Lee on CNN, Nov. 19, 2012.


Watch Rep. Barbara Lee on MSNBC, Nov. 19, 2012.
Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Congressman-Elect, Eric Swalwell, Hires District Director, Shannon Fuller

CONGRESS |Newly elected Congressman, Eric Swalwell, hired one of his first staff members today, Shannon Fuller, as the District Director of the newly drawn 15th Congressional District.

The freshman congressman announced his new hire via Twitter while attending the Congressman orientation in Washington D.C. for newly elected representatives. The Tweet is as follows:

“To deliver responsive constituent services, I've hired Shannon Fuller as #CA15 District Director. Her organization & vision is what we need,” said Swalwell, “New #CA15 District Director Shannon Fuller is a Bay Area native, a mom, has worked for @EllenOTauscher & @JerryBrownGov, and loves cooking.”

According to Legistorm and Linkedin, Fuller was a fundraiser and finance director for Swalwell’s congressional influence, Ellen Tauscher. She also served as a scheduler for the U.S. House of Representatives and as an executive assistant for Jerry Brown’s campaign manager.

Following Re-Election As Hayward School Trustee, Reynoso May Seek Board Presidency

HAYWARD SCHOOL DISTRICT | What would have been unthinkable even just six months ago could soon be fact—fiscal crusader and Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso may be soon ruling the roost and he would like the title of board president to go with it.

Reynoso won re-election last week to the Hayward school board along with newcomers Annette Walker and John Taylor. The three open seats were once thought to be cakewalks for current members Jesus Armas and Maribel Heredia until text messages showing a secret affair between the two led each to pass on re-election this November.

The openings allowed for wide-open race that ultimately could swing the balance of power toward Reynoso, the board’s most consistent voice against the school district’s profligate ways. Walker finished first in the at-large race followed by Taylor and Reynoso. Newcomer Heather Reyes eeked out a surprising fourth place finish over Sara Lamnin, whose quest for public office was again dashed. She was followed by Wandra Williams and a disappointing last-place finish for the Armas-supported Peter Bufete.

Reynoso believes last week’s results show the community supports his platform rooting out wasteful spending and corruption at the school district. “They want to see changes and voters want us to implement them without spending money or changing direction,” said Reynoso. He plans to seek the board’s presidency in the coming months saying he is most experienced on budget issues and board procedures. “We’re the gatekeepers. We need a knowledgeable person to be the president,” he said. “I’m going to try, but I don’t know if I have the votes.”

Reynoso, though, says he is “cautiously optimistic” about the additions of Walker and Taylor, but he’s playing a game of wait-and-see. “We don’t know yet because they don’t have a record. If I delete the campaign rhetoric, then these two might work out. But, I’ll take time to figure it out.”

The current board has been plagued with instability following news of the affair last July with the majority of Armas, Heredia and Lisa Brunner blocking or limiting discussion of an official investigation into the affair and whether it violated the open government laws, including collusion by the two paramours within some of their votes. The majority has also stymied creating specific rules prohibiting such liaisons between members to its 20-year-old board bylaws.

Over the past two years, Reynoso has had only fellow board trustee William McGee as an ally. Some Hayward insiders, however, believe between Walker and Taylor, the most likely third vote will come from Taylor. In fact, Taylor’s comments to The Citizen during the campaign suggested interest in rooting out the school district’s numerous problems and finding solutions along with an antipathy for Armas’s behavior.

Bonta Declares Victory; Guillen Concedes Without Mentioning His Opponent

ASSEMBLY 18 | Assemblyman-elect Rob Bonta declared victory in the 18th Assembly District late Monday night. His opponent Abel Guillen conceded shortly after, but failed to acknowledge his opponent in a brief statement.

“I first want to salute my opponent Abel Guillen for his public service and his forceful campaign,” Bonta said Monday night. “The results indicate voters had two very good choices and while I am grateful for our campaign’s success, I am mindful of the issues Trustee Guillen and I agree must be addressed and that we will need to work together.”

Referring to his campaign platform of public safety, schools and creating jobs, Bonta says he is “ready to get to work starting today.” His election to the state Assembly is also historic. Bonta becomes the first-ever Filipino American member of the Assembly. He replaces termed-out Assemblyman Sandre Swanson representing Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro in the Legislature’s lower house.

With some provisional ballots still to be counted in Alameda County through Monday, Bonta maintains a two percentage points lead over Guillen. The spread has been relatively consistent since the initial release of absentee ballot results on Election Night.

Guillen’s concession statement, however , made no mention of Bonta’s victory. The lack of any conciliatory comments is a glaring omission. In contrast, vastly more hostile intra-party local races between Pete Stark and Eric Swalwell; and Bill Quirk and Dr. Jennifer Ong featured acknowledgement of their opponent's efforts.

Instead, Guillen thanked his supporters and vowed to continue his work as a Peralta Community College trustee. “While the outcome is not what we hoped for,” he said, “I am honored to have had your support and your involvement in this campaign. It means the world to me."

The result also has ramifications for Alameda. Bonta's win open his seat for Stewart Chen, last week's third-place finisher in the Alameda City Council race. Chen, who finished behind councilmembers-elect Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Tony Daysog, will serve out the remaining two years of Bonta's term.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

What To Expect From Congressman Eric Swalwell

Eric Swalwell PHOTO/KQED
CONGRESS | After an amazing upset in the 15th Congressional District with the young, now Congressman-elect Eric Swalwell ousting long-term incumbent, Pete Stark, from his 40-year throne, we can now wonder what a Rep. Swalwell will look like.

Swalwell had looked to be a likely loser after the Hayward Demos forum early this year showed an inexperienced candidate with little new flavor to add to Democrat’s legislative history which Stark enjoyed poking at with snarky enthusiasm. Instead what voters witnessed was an anti-Stark media clamoring for more Stark gaffes after his bribery accusation landed him in hot water last spring. Swalwell’s unorthodox campaign was then able to ride the bribery charge to the finish line despite a recent expose that alleged Swalwell had engaged in pay-to-play politics in June.

Swalwell will head to Congress in January and while constituents were familiar with Stark because of his long voting record it is still unclear what Swalwell will bring. He’s a Blue Dog democrat with particular differences from Stark. Swalwell says he will have the cordial attitude to get work done in a divided Congress that the progressive standard bearer, Stark, couldn’t do. He may be right, but who, exactly is Swalwell? From what one could tell he seeks funding for NASA and local labs, continuation of global American hegemony and seeks some social security adjustments.

Understanding Swalwell would require looking at his prime influence, former Rep. Ellen Tauscher, who not only endorsed the young candidate but announced his victory before the excited electee took the podium on election night to speak to his supporters. Tauscher’s voting record and bills is layered with defense-related legislation from voting for the Iraq war and increased sanctions on both Libya and Iran. She sat on the House Committee for Armed Services and since retiring from her seat in 2009 became Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security for the State Department.

Swalwell’s own foreign policy initiatives follow on the heels of Tauscher and pays respect to President Barack Obama’s nuanced foreign policy in Middle Eastern hot spots, namely Iran. Swalwell was clear when he first sat down with me in January that he believed Iran to be a real threat and when peacenik Stark voted nay on sanctions against Iran last spring Swalwell hopped on the opportunity to attack him, “Does Stark want to start a war with Iran?” It didn’t make too much sense considering the aggressor in the Middle Eastern region for decades has been largely America, not Iran, but it tells constituents that Swalwell will not be the peacekeeper that highlighted Stark’s legacy.

But the congressman will be an advocate for NASA, an undernourished economic opportunity for America. Since scientist and praised Internet celebrity, Neil deDegrasse Tyson, spoke before the Senate Committee on Science to double the current half a penny budget for NASA there’s been some enthused advocacy for space exploration among citizens. Swalwell has joined that pack expressing to me via Twitter his desire to see increased funding for not just NASA but local laboratories like the Livermore National Lab that Stark has expressed weary support for because of their past participation in nuclear proliferation. Swalwell praised the lab as an example of energy related job creation, a penchant of his campaign and alleged primary focus. He will likely seek funding for the Livermore lab but hasn’t shown much regard to non-proliferation like Stark has on the campaign trail; an important topic for progressive peace keepers.

Stark’s career was defined by his legislation’s focus on Medicare and Social Security. When Nancy Pelosi called him the “Champion of Medicare,” last month during a health related committee hearing, she honored him with an accurate career title. Former congressman Dennis Kucinich wrote in the San Francisco Chronicle that Republican attempts at repealing Obamacare would face difficulty in the Ways and Means Committee because of Stark’s staunch defiance to repeal as chairman of the health subcommittee. Kucinich was right about this and his argument was a likely benefactor in trying to re-elect Stark. But Stark’s often rude remarks stunted relations between congress members that cost him the Ways and Means chairman seat. Stark shot himself in the foot too many times to win re-election. But Democrats in Congress have lost an aggressive defender of Obamacare that a newcomer like Swalwell cannot replace.

Swalwell criticized Stark over giving his kids social security benefits while still working and has promised to close what he calls “the rich kid loop hole.” Swalwell says he can do it without means testing but the San Francisco Chronicle cites experts calling that impossible, "Social Security experts, liberal and conservative, agreed that Swalwell's proposal would require some form of means testing." The experts are right. The only way to close the “loophole,” would be to limit collection benefits for kids based on their parents income levels, which is means testing. Swalwell knew that the term carried a bad taste in democratic constituents’ mouths and strayed from it when The Chronicle first cited the term regarding the controversy.

The Democratic establishment won’t likely receive means testing well and while reform will be needed eventually the program doesn’t reach deficit spending for another two to three decades. Swalwell’s idea doesn’t save money and only solves a problem that Swalwell called an ethical issue. If Swalwell proposes legislation to deal with this issue, it may pass the House but not the Senate and those who would meet him at the table will probably be Republicans before Democrats since it was from the right-wing camp a few years ago that wanted to aggressively means test Social Security.

Furthermore, the right-wing think tank, Heritage Foundation, jumped on the opportunity provided by Swalwell’s attack to point to their economic plan that wants to not only means test social security but also transform it to something reflective of a privatized 401k plan. Swalwell won’t likely go this far but there are Republicans will try to use it as opportunity to do so.

Swalwell isn’t the stalwart progressive that those in the Hayward area may like, he won’t be the party’s enforcer like Stark was of staunch democratic principles and he hardly will be able to fill the shoes of Stark’s influence in medical legislation. Instead, what Swalwell offers is alleged bipartisanship, job creation (albeit with no solid plan), and the usual American international aggressiveness. Whether Swalwell can deliver on his promise for jobs befitting of the new digital and hi-tech age will have to be seen. If he can't prove himself to be a capable Congressman then he will be nothing but a mere footnote in political history when former White House Business Council member Ro Khanna and State Senator Ellen Corbett come for his seat in 2014.

Swalwell, Minorities, School Children In Hayward Were Big Election Day Winners

Eric Swalwell
ERIC SWALWELL What can you say? The kid shocked the entire political establishment in the East Bay. Through hard work and boats load of good luck, namely, his opponent’s astonishing self-destruction, Swalwell is a United States representative. How did he do it? His greatest accomplishment was selling new voters in the 15th District something they didn’t even know they wanted. He took common knowledge about Pete Stark’s residency, combined it with his age and forced voters to want something else. The huckster in Swalwell did it without even having to introduce himself to voters. We know nothing about Swalwell and to do that and still ease to a four-point victory last week is an amazing accomplishment. He needs to create a positive image for himself before his opponents proffer an ugly version. Is he a closeted conservative, an overly ambitious, cocky, young bachelor? And what is up with those perfected-trimmed eyebrows? Or, will he show progressives he is like them and calm any further scrutiny into his politics. In the meantime, he needs to meet a woman, get married, knock her up and start acting like an adult who understands his constituent’s real-world problems. Will Swalwell be a generational touchstone in local politics or ultimately the first example revealing the inherent instability of the new open primary system?

Luis Reynoso
HAYWARD SCHOOL CHILDREN Hayward school board trustee Luis Reynoso is back for another four years and for the first time may have a majority of the five-person body on board with his zeal for ridding the school district of graft and money-wasting. Gone are Jesus Armas and Maribel Heredia, who along with remaining trustee Lisa Brunner, stymied investigation into the district’s inner-workings and alleged hanky panky. Make no mistake about it, the problem with Hayward’s under performing schools does not rest with the board of trustees, it lies squarely on the school district’s staff. Money is missing and some of the alleged crooks audaciously sit in the audience at City Hall at every single school board meeting. Their pull with the board is now gone and there will be no more obfuscation when it comes to rooting out the bad characters. Here’s hoping John Taylor sits firmly with school board members Reynoso and William McGee in helping clean up one of the top-three most corrupt government bodies in the East Bay.

Richard Valle
PHOTO/MATT SANTOS
RICHARD VALLE Talk about avoiding the worst possible election result imaginable? Not only avoiding losing, but risking defeat at the hands of Mary Hayashi? It didn’t happened and Cool Hand Rich’s ground game with help from labor got the message across to District 2 voters in ways costly mailers and Hayashi’s infamous mugshot could not. Valle went from possibly becoming a lingering punch line in these parts to simply an elected supervisor on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and ended speculation over whether the seat was indeed cursed. However, there is no time to rest on his laurels, Valle will soon be back on the fundraising trail with an eye towards 2014 when he finishes the rest of Nadia Lockyer’s first term and seeks his own four-year re-up.

EAST BAY POLITICAL BENCH On some levels, the future of the East Bay when it comes to cultivating new talent looked bleak, but there were positives to be taken away from the open primary system where it rests in the area’s two internecine fights for the Assembly. Not only did the process elect two highly-qualified people—Rob Bonta and Bill Quirk—it also attracted and created an additional duo of candidate who were not as lucky last Tuesday, but have very bright futures. If you can’t win a race, then the best consolation prize is positioning yourself on a steep upwards trajectory for the next time. Both Abel Guillen and Dr. Jennifer Ong did just that and have nothing but greener pastures in their future. In fact, all four of the general election candidates in the Assembly are barely recognizable with the hesitant, bland politicians I watched just nine months ago in the primary. We have not heard the last from Guillen and Ong. In addition, Oakland's city council races also showed signs of strength in the future even though Richard Raya, Sean Sullivan, Nyeisha DeWitt and Mario Juarez fell short.

Rob Bonta
ASIAN AMERICANS Many East Bay political insiders are routinely flummoxed by Asian American candidates they say are “too nice,” “too conciliatory to their opponents” and “too proud” to ask for votes and fundraising. Most of these traits are cultural and not necessarily bad, but in need to integrating into the realities of campaigning in the East Bay and beyond. These groups are also underserved in parts of the East Bay and that is changing. Rob Bonta is likely to become the first Filipino American member of the Assembly next month after winning in the 18th District and Benny Lee becomes San Leandro’s first Asian American council member. These groups have historically contributed greatly to region and the time has come for them to finally take their share of local government. Don’t worry white man, your world is not falling apart. Nearby Alameda will be represented by three Asian American city council members next year and white slavery is nowhere near in the horizon.

ORGANIZED LABOR This group is here not for its exemplary work, but for averting what could have been a disastrous Election Night. Start off with Richard Valle. The Alameda County Labor Council put all their eggs in Valle’s basket last June by getting him the appointment at the Board of Supervisors. Even though Richard Valium seemed unenthusiastic and downright unimpressive, labor came through for him and avoided the ignominy of losing to Hayashi. And, despite labor’s own attempts to shoot themselves in the foot in San Leandro after endorsing two candidates for the city’s City Council who backed pension reform at the behest of crusader Mayor Stephen Cassidy, all three candidate’s look like they will fail. Labor also dodged a bullet with Bill Quirk’s win the Assembly, even as Dr. Jennifer Ong eventually made it a very tough race. Let’s hope next time, labor takes fewer risks with the movement’s future.

Hayashi, Cassidy, Natarajan Had A Bad Election Night

MARY HAYASHI The historians will have to sort out which fall from grace was more precipitous. In terms of their personal life, it’s the sad tale of Nadia Lockyer, but politically it’s Mary Hayashi. In just one year’s time, Hayashi went from chair of the Assembly’s powerful business committee and likely state senator in 2014 to a candidate who couldn’t even finish SECOND to Richard Valle at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors! However, if you think the keys to her dreadful third place finish last Tuesday was solely because of her shoplifting conviction, I think you would be wrong. It was not the indiscretion that made her literally a pariah among local leaders; it was the catalyst for paying her back for years of abuse. Coincidentally, it was the same perception of Pete Stark among old Democratic hands, who while supporting him, also faulted him for his treatment of them. What’s next for Hayashi? Well, not much. Some believe she will emerge again in 2014 to battle Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski for the state senate. But, that inclination is based solely on her large remaining campaign war chest. She’s tainted and unpopular. In this situation, it might be better for her to shower others with campaign donations and look for one of those $150,000-per-year state boards and hope for better days.

Stephen Cassidy
STEPHEN CASSIDY Hubris can catch you with your pants down even if you’re as smart as San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy thinks he is. The city’s moderate conservative mayor won in 2010 by demonizing city employees and tried to use the exact same recipe to pack the city council with three endorsed candidates. It didn’t work so well this time with all three possible going down to defeat. Not only did Cassidy endorse the candidates, but he also contributed to their campaigns, including two who were running against incumbents. A third, Hermy Almonte, seemed like he was reading familiar past speeches written by Cassidy, himself. Indeed, it was Cassidy’s biggest fuck you to his colleagues ever, but voters in San Leandro showed they are wise to Cassidy’s cancerous and cantankerous ways and beat the shit out of him on Election Day. The result was a clear referendum against Cassidy and doesn't favor him for re-election in two years.

POLITICAL REPORTING See Carla Marinucci of the San Francisco Chronicle and realize if she is the best we have in political reporting, then we are, indeed, fucked.

LOCAL TAX INITIATIVES Not only did nearly every single local tax initiative stall at the ballot box, but their existence should have been questioned from the get-go. With the crucial Proposition 30 on the ballot and the Democratic Party’s thrust to get it approved taking resources away from local measures to fund transportation, zoos, community colleges and school parcel taxes, they never really had a chance. What a waste of money. It would be sad if an important initiative like Measure B1 is stymied because of the existence of these other municipalities also asking for tax dollars. The gambit was ill-advised and greedy at the same and they are lucky, at least, it did not get in the way of keeping Prop. 30 from passing.

Anu Natarajan
FREMONT’S ANA NATARAJAN My grandmother always says, “Somebody has to lose for someone to win,” but it didn’t have to be so for two once-up-and-coming women in local government. Campaigns are about correct political calculations and sometimes simply exercises in patience. For Fremont’s Councilwoman Anu Natarajan, the local establishment and Democratic Party encouraged her to wait, instead of running against their guy, fellow Councilman Bill Harrison. She didn’t listen and apparently Fremont voters did the same. She finished third to Harrison and Republican Steve Cho with just a quarter of the vote. However, she is very well liked in the East Bay and her set back may not be a mortal wound. In fact, her future may lie one day in Sacramento representing a large and dynamic demographic in Fremont’s South Asian population.

Sara Lamnin
HAYWARD’S SARA LAMNIN It’s not so for Hayward’s Sara Lamnin whose nascent political career is starting to resemble a former top baseball prospect who seemingly has all the tools to succeed, but simply cannot make the transition for Triple-A to the majors. After failing to grab a seat on the Hayward City Council in 2010, Lamnin again fizzled in last week’s school board race. How many times can she fail before her promising career in elected service is irreversibly diminished? Her decision to run for the seat this spring was curious when it appeared all three incumbents would run for re-election. When Armas and Heredia were bumped aside, it greatly brightened her chances, but sadly one of Hayward’s most dedicated and capable public servants is left to wonder about what went wrong.

Wait And See: Even The Losers Get Lucky Sometimes

Ro Khanna
ELLEN CORBETT/RO KHANNA It’s assumed Eric Swalwell’s upset last Tuesday was the worst thing possible for the congressional hopes of State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett and former Obama appointee Ro Khanna. Not so, but it is now based solely on how Swalwell is able to build upon the power of the incumbency. If Swalwell eventually caucuses with Blue Dog Democrats he might not get much done since that group was a big loser nationally last week. The party is also not happy with Swalwell and it already harbors potentially irreversible distrust towards him and his real political beliefs. Corbett has gravitas. So does Khanna and he also has $1 million in the bank and the perception that it could become virtually an endless supply. Both need to remember, Swalwell’s victory came within a perfect storm of redistricting, an open primary system and a local media that severely compromised their prestige to get Swalwell elected. The first two reason are known quantities now, the third—media fawning over Swalwelll—will not occur again. He is untested politically and as a human being. He will stumble and the sins he committed to become congressman will surely come back to haunt him. My advice to Corbett and Khanna: position yourselves as the side of reason and experience and realize in terms of the his future, Swalwell may be far less Pete Stark and more like Audie Bock’s brief reign in the Assembly a decade ago. Also, hit him hard. The media was Swalwell’s bodyguard this year, but in two years they will allow the punches to be thrown and he should be hit with the same playbook Stark used this fall.

TRI VALLEY DEVELOPERS Swalwell’s win was an even bigger for Tri Valley developers and other business interests hoping to cash in on the growing region. They now have their guy in Congress, but at what cost? Interests like Charter Properties and Amador Valley Industries are now on the map for being possibly being unscrupulous business entities. In addition to their sullied images, their conduct and ties to other Tri Valley politicians may force their connections underground. My story on Swalwell’s tendency for pay-to-play politics last month revealed something very interesting to me. Just about every elected leader in the Tri Valley could be the focus of a similar story just like the one I wrote on Swalwell for the East Bay Express. They are seemingly all in bed with developers and so are the city staff’s. In addition, good luck in finding any paper trails at City Hall, because if you’re like Dublin, the documents seem to simply disappear. The corruption is so engrained in the Tri Valley that you can’t even discount council members who oppose developer’s plan are not merely ringers feigning protest just to make the whole enterprise believable.

Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg
LEGISLATIVE SUPER MAJORITIES In terms of their relation to Democrats, Republicans in Sacramento are now forced the same reality some women encounter when they find a particularly impressive dildo. Why do we need men? Well, why do Democrats need Republicans anymore with a supermajority in the Legislature? The more pertinent question for Democrats is whether they will use the great power for good or for evil? The cynical view says Democrats will overreach and herald the beginnings of their downfall. Here’s hoping they correctly read the political landscape and realize there is no reason to broaden their powers in the state since the Republican Party is already extinct. California’s role is to lead the nation forward and Democrats need to transform the wet dream of a progressive panacea into a reality. The re-election of President Obama may signal a more progressive future in the next four years and California needs to be the place where education is again paramount and the rich pay far more of the share of putting the state and country back on track.

OPEN PRIMARY/DEM VS. DEM The open primary put a moderate into office in the 15th Congressional District. However, electing someone who might potentially play nice with obstructionist House Republicans is not what we had in mind. If the results of two Dem vs. Dem races for the Assembly in the East Bay are any indication, the likelihood of producing moderates is very unlikely and the offshoot may be more about creating divisions and negative campaigning. Rob Bonta versus Rob Guillen in the 18th Assembly and Bill Quirk versus Jennifer Ong in the 20th did not exactly produce many policy disagreements. It did, however, produce a pretty chippy last few weeks of the campaign that would not have occurred under the old system. The format will appeal to Bonta and Quirk in this cycle because they won, but opponents in 2014 for these seats and for local races for state senate will figure out all Democrats in the East Bay are quite progressive and the only weapon available is to get real nasty. In the end, it eventually chips away at the Democratic Party. If you’re a Republican without any statewide power, why not let the opposing party beat itself up for you?

Friday, November 9, 2012

A Heartfelt Tribute From The Son Of Pete Stark

STARK | There is probably nothing more powerful than a thoughtful young man willing to examine adversity and still finding hope at the end of tunnel.

A day after Fish Stark's father lost his seat in Congress, the 16-year-old political prodigy of Pete Stark did what most young people do in this day of social media, he poured his heart out on Facebook. Except, instead of telling us what he had for dinner, like most teenagers do, or denigrating the musical chops of Justin Bieber, Fish instead wrote a heartfelt salute to his father's legacy (see below), sprinkled with a bit of the old man's tenacity. And, wait, did he just announce his candidacy for Congress in 2022?

Dad said to me once that being a Congressman was like being a symphony conductor: they both got up every day knowing that they were going to make someone's life a little bit better.

He lost his election last night, in the wake of a campaign filled with lies, innuendo, and attacks on his age, his service, and our family.

I'm not going to do anything but hold my head high. I'm proud to be the son of a man who went to work with the one simple goal of helping people who needed it. I'm proud that he wrote the COBRA law that helped people keep their health insurance between jobs. I'm proud that he wrote the law ensuring that everyone who needs emergency room care gets it, whether they can pay or not. I'm proud that he was the architect of Obamacare. I'm proud of the work he did for technology in schools, foster children, and students with dyslexia.

Dad doesn't believe in politics as we know it. He believes in saying what he means and doing what he knows is right, not dancing around the truth or going with the flow. That frankness and that courage helped him do wonderful things. It also gained him enemies and, ultimately, lost him an election. I wouldn't have it any other way. He fought hard for forty years and never compromised his values. That, to me, is as clear a win as you can get. He taught me that the most noble thing you can do is to have the courage to stand up for what's right, for others, and for yourself, even if you have to sacrifice to make it happen.

Dad's career is over but his legacy is not. We will always need leaders who believe that those in positions of power have a responsibility to help those in need. We will always need those who believe in being bold and speaking truth to power. The developers, Republicans, and the pharmaceutical companies that spent heavily to defeat him haven't heard the last of the Stark family. Not by a long shot.

San Leandro Voters Issue A Stunning Rebuke To Cassidy’s Beliefs, Cantankerous Style

Stephen Cassidy: in the drink?
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | It appears San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy went to the well one too many times.

The stubborn moderate conservative mayor surprised many in 2010 with his victory based upon fiscal responsibility and the demonization of public workers. However, what worked two years ago didn't catch lightning in bottle this November. The likely defeat of all three of his endorsed candidates for the City Council, including two incumbents, is a stunning referendum against his beliefs and possibly pointing to his personal inability to compromise.

Anyone can see the San Leandro City Council is stunningly divided. You can hear the strain and frustration in the voices of Councilmembers Diana Souza and Pauline Cutter when they address Cassidy. You can read the puzzlement on Councilman Jim Prola’s face when he gets cut off by the mayor. The problem is Cassidy and his long-held interest in participating only in “my way or the highway politics.”

It’s not working and the disbelief in San Leandro over his decision to not only back challengers to incumbents Ursula Reed and Prola’s seat, but also taking the extreme step toward helping fund their campaigns hardened the resolve of his detractors. “These folks were already on the council,” said Benny Lee, who won the District 4 seat over Chris Crow, another candidate endorsed by Cassidy. “To do something like that, it didn’t sit well with a lot of people.” District 6 candidate Hermy Almonte went down in defeat to Prola this week, while Reed appears on the cusp on narrowly beating out Morgan Mack-Rose.

Just how Cassidy will be able to govern in this environment of enmity and suspicion is unclear. “He did what he had to do and I did what I had to do,” Prola said of Cassidy’s opposition to his re-election. “I want to work with him, but everybody needs to give a little.” However, one side may need to give a lot more than other. As it stands come January, Cassidy will likely have only Councilwoman Cutter as an ally. Prola, Souza, Gregory and Reed now have reason to block Cassidy’s agenda, as does Lee, who campaign closely with Reed even though they ran in separate races.

If Cassidy cares to be a two-term mayor or simply sheds interest in running for re-election like he did in 2008 as a school board trustee following a very similar run of bullying and ineffectiveness, he will have to change not only his ways, but his politics. There are already signs Cassidy is willing to move left on some issues, namely medical marijuana dispensaries. He raised some eyebrows last month when he offered a council resolution against Proposition 32 and showed willingness to open the city’s purse strings to keep San Leandro Hospital open for three years to the tune of $3 million.

If something doesn’t change soon, the city faces more than a City Council plagued with ineffectiveness and infighting but one unable to effectively provide services to its residents. San Leandro City Hall is not known to be the best working environment among East Bay talent searching for work. Morale is extremely low from the policies and rhetoric flowing from Cassidy’s mouth. Not only is a brain drain occurring at City Hall handcuffing the ability of the city manager to apply his vision for the city, but quality managers and underlings are leaving San Leandro not for greater riches, but to neighboring cities, in most cases, in lateral moves without much increase in pay.

This is the city where a bright, young finance director, just seven months on the job, eschewed the relatively stable budget situation in San Leandro for the same job in Hayward to deal with a $20 million financial mess. That’s like saying a shittier job elsewhere is way better than the shitty job I have now.

Benny Lee Becomes San Leandro’s First Asian American Councilmember

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL DISTRICT 4 | San Leandro’s demographics of a generation ago is a well-known secret. In 1970, 99.9 percent of the East Bay city was white. Times have changed when it comes to its City Council, which has integrated both women and certain minority groups since, except in one glaring category. On Tuesday, Benny Lee became the first Asian American council member in San Leandro history. The result makes room on the council for a member of the city’s largest minority group and a chance to keep up with the changing times.

“It almost feels like a Jackie Robinson experience,” Lee said Thursday. “A lot of other cities have already done it; we’re the last to do it.” The shift from government by white men-only is not only a national reality, but also a local one in the East Bay. In nearby, Alameda, its new City Council next year will feature three Asian Americans among its five-person council. In Oakland, change on its City Council is flowing in reverse. Dan Kalb’s election to the seat in District 1 represents the return of a white male to the body in a decade.

The makeup of the next council in San Leandro will likely contain three white males, one African American, two white women and one Asian American male. However, it will still be searching for its first Latino—another large, under served voting bloc in San Leandro.

Lee said, while Asian Americans in the city were indeed energized to attain a voice on the City Council, he praised his campaign’s strategy for reaching out to voters. “Our ground game made a huge difference,” Lee said. The game plan from the start was to reach out to voters in the city’s more conservative Broadmoor area, said Lee. “Voters in Washington Manor were familiar with me,” he said,” but in other areas they didn’t know who I was.”

Just as San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy was attempting to push through three preferred candidates to stack the council in his favor, including opposition to two sitting colleagues, Lee said the strategy was to pick off voters in Cassidy’s District 5 stronghold, while also teaming with District 2 candidate Councilwoman Ursula Reed. The move appears to have worked on two fronts. Not only winning a seat for Lee, but possibly gaining the endearing gratitude of Reed, who appears likely to stave off an upset in her race against Morgan Mack-Rose.

In hindsight, the once-believed tight race in District 4 turned into a laugher with Lee winning nearly 60 percent of the vote over Chris Crow, after ranked-choice votes were tabulated. His clear victory was buoyed further by the fact Lee didn’t even need the support of his preferred second-choice candidate Justin Hutchison, who finished fourth with 10 percent. Hutchison’s second-place votes didn’t even favor Lee in the end.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Confident Quirk Took A Late Nap Before Hearing Election Returns

A headline in the June 2011 EBCitizen.com.
ASSEMBLY 20 | Nobody epitomizes their surname better than Assemblyman-elect Bill Quirk. His personality and style sometime takes precedent over his actions, but the sketching of a stodgy patrician is often incorrect.

In a sports blazer and tie dominated by a pink shirt, Quirk was upbeat Tuesday night about his likely election to the State Assembly. He said the campaign had achieved everything they had set out to do, including unleashing a significant ground game to get out their message to voters. The campaign made over 85,000 phone calls and knocked on 35,000 doors, said Quirk. “I have left nothing on the table.”

When Quirk was asked to describes the normally tense hours before election results start pouring in, he said he took a nap between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. and proceeded to show us a phone app he uses to collect data on his sleep patterns while emitting radio waves. Quirk slept 29 minutes Tuesday evening and received a “Sleepscore” of 126. The former nuclear scientist obviously does not shy away from his past occupation as he gave an impromptu science lecture at Democratic Party headquarters in Hayward.

“These are radio waves,” Quirk said in response to a playful question about the safety of the app. “What you are talking about is ionizing radiation. That’s totally different. You’re talking about x-rays, ultra-violet—totally different.”

Quirk, however, will not have much time to rest before making the transition to life in Sacramento. An orientation for the new class of state legislators is scheduled for Thursday. How long has it been since Quirk’s been a freshman? “Almost 50 years,” he joked.

THE CITIZEN CALLED IT IN JUNE 2011 Check out this East Bay Citizen article from June 2011 that predicted the likelihood of Quirk's victory Tuesday night. Earlier in the campaign season, Quirk told me the questions about his public persona were useful. Needless to say, we never saw the infamous green "Masters" blazer ever again.

Add caption
QUIRK WON’T BE THE ONLY QUIRK IN SACRAMENTO Quirk isn’t a common name, yet there will be two freshman in the Assembly with the same surname. Assemblywoman-elect Sharon Quirk-Silva will follow Bill Quirk in the roll call starting next month.

The Orange County Democrat issued a major upset for the party’s bid to strengthen its upper-hand in the Legislature, when Quirk-Silva topped Republican Assemblyman Chris Norby in the 65th Assembly District.

I don’t know? Look at the photo, they kind of look alike.

County Democratic Chair Laments The Loss Of Progressive Standard Bearer Stark

CONGRESS 15 | Even as election returns Tuesday night in the 15th Congressional District race between Rep. Pete Stark and Eric Swalwell slowed to snail’s pace, but showed little hope for the incumbent's return to Capitol Hill. The chair of the Alameda County Democratic Party Robin Torrello, though, was still holding out hope. “My glass is always half-full,” she said at the party’s headquarters in Hayward.

But, the sense the East Bay was about to lose its most decorated progressive voice was quickly setting in. “I feel sorry for him,” said San Leandro Councilman Jim Prola. “He did a lot of good things for San Leandro. Pete did so much for the people of this district and more than people give him credit for.”

Others were not as kind when it came to the new Congressman-elect Swalwell with much of it already centered on 2014. “He’s going to have a target on his back,” said one Democratic Party volunteer. “John Boehner is going to come up to him and thank him for what he did.” Another added, at least initially, Swalwell will be more popular among conservatives than his own party for nothing more than slaying one of their most vitriolic opponents.

Torrello also voiced support for Stark's long legacy while taking aim at Tri Valley business interests and the woeful performance of the local media in this race. “This man has done so much for the community,” she said, while ticking off his role in drafting health care reform legislation, instituting COBRA and bringing billions in federal dollars to the county for transportation, schools and infrastructure. “The whole Tri Valley couldn’t have been built without him, including those business parks that gave money to Swalwell. What did they do? They turned their back on Pete.”

Referring to the seat’s precipitous drop in seniority under Swalwell, Torrello said the district will struggle to maintain its current place in line when it comes to federal dollars. “The spigot is closed,” she said.

She also faulted the local media for failing to focus on the issues or examining Swalwell’s record. “When you run a campaign on lies and innuendo and the media only covers the sensationalism rather than the facts, we all lose.” She said instances of Swalwell’s pay-to-play past in the Tri Valley were well known, but neglected by the media, as was the falsehood repeated by Swalwell that Stark was habitually absent from the district despite consistently holding town hall meetings every month for years. “Name another congressman who meets with their constituents more than him?”

As the clock passed midnight, leaving Election Night in the rearview, one of the likely participants in the race to make Swalwell a one-term congressman briskly walked into headquarters. Her name: Ellen Corbett.

Stark Magnanimous In Defeat

CONGRESS 15 | A day after suffering easily the worst defeat of his four-decade career in Congress, Rep. Pete Stark issued this statement Wednesday morning thanking his supporters and offering Congressman-elect Eric Swalwell his help.
It has been my honor to serve the people of the East Bay for the last 40 years. I have worked hard to deliver results: accomplishments like writing the COBRA law to make health insurance portable between jobs, bringing the first computers to schools, and crafting President Obama’s groundbreaking health care law.

I went to Washington by running against an unpopular war and for women’s rights, opportunity for children and dignity for seniors. I leave knowing that the landscape has changed, but the needs of my constituents remain.

I congratulate Mr. Swalwell on his victory. I am happy to be of assistance in the future.

I want to thank all the wonderful people I met along this fabulous journey and I will remember them fondly. Together, we have made a real difference.

Local East Bay Races Offer Few Surprises

| ELECTION NIGHT ROUNDUP |

OAKLAND | At-Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan has likely won re-election Tuesday night after fending off a brutal challenge from fellow member Ignacio De La Fuente.

In De La Fuente’s old District 5 stomping grounds, Noel Gallo cruised to victory over Mario Juarez, as did District 7 Council President Larry Reid.

In District 3, Sean Sullivan failed to hold a lead in first round votes after a preliminary run of the ranked-choice voting algorithm and falling behind Lynette Gibson-McElhaney.

Dan Kalb appears to be in line to be the next District 1 council member. He extended a small first lead over Amy Lemley to open up a four-point lead after seven rounds of ranked-choice voting.

Oakland’s city attorney race turned out to be no contest. The office holder, Barbara Parker, beat Councimember Jane Brunner, 68-31.

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | Belittled Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso has won re-election. Reynoso finished third for one of three open seats.

Annette Walker, the first place winner, and John Taylor will join Reynoso on the embattled board beset by controversy after two member chose to not seek re-election after allegations of a romantic affair.

FREMONT | Bill Harrison is the new mayor-elect of Fremont after holding off Republican Steven Cho by four points. Councilwoman Anu Natarajan finished a disappointing third with a quarter of the vote.

Eighteen-year-old Aziz Akbari finished fourth with just 5 percent of the vote.

Harrison will replace interim Mayor Gus Morrison, who was appointed to the seat following Mayor Bob Wasserman’s death last year.

ALAMEDA | The Island is on the verge of replacing a majority of its City Council Tuesday night, if Rob Bonta maintains his lead in his Assembly race. In the meantime, Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Tony Daysog will join the council. It will be a return to the dais for Daysog, who served a decade ago.

If the Bonta result holds, third-place finisher Stewart Chen his in line to serve out the remaining two years of his term.

Swalwell Upsets Stark; Ends Reign Of California's Longest-Serving Congressman

CONGRESS 15 | Dublin Councilman Eric Swalwell has registered on the biggest Congressional upsets in the nation Tuesday night after ending the 40-year reign of Rep. Pete Stark.

Swalwell beat Stark with 53.1 percent of the multi-county 15th Congressional District. Stark barely improved upon his win in the June primary with 46.9 percent.

The rise of Swalwell has been swift. In just a years time, the political novice, having served just a year on the Dublin City Council, makes the huge leap to Capitol Hill.

CD15.............VOTES...PCT
Eric Swalwell....85233...53.1%
Pete Stark.......75340...46.9%