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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Attack On Public Employees Embedded Into Administrator's Pension Story

SUNDAY COLUMN | On the same day this week reporters from the San Francisco Chronicle took to social media in protest of a proposed hike in health care premiums laid out by their management, the paper’s two star reporters wrote Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi essentially pulls down $800,000-a-year—not news--but that her pension will pay her over $400,000 for life. That was news. However, let’s pull back the curtain on what is really going on.

Sure, Muranishi’s compensation is a boatload of money, but its significance is greatly clouded by what was not mentioned and merely Phil Matier and Andrew Ross fanning the flames of conservatives hungry to further trample on workers.

While Muranishi, a county employee for 38 years, is also part of management, the headlines and editorials this week critical of her paycheck, make no consideration for the fact the meme of a government worker making a killing, whether it be the head of the fifth-largest county in California or one possessing a annual budget of over $2.5 billion, is purposely lost in the translation. In fact, the meme is designed to demonize all government workers at every level, a majority of whom earn paltry pensions barely large enough to survive month-to-month. Also, don't forget many local jurisdictions, whether they be Alameda County or its cities, are heading into early budget hearings for the next fiscal year starting next week. Coincidence?

Here's what is notable about the Chronicle is the flagrant lack of context. What does the top executive in Alameda County exactly do? Is her pay within range of other large counties in the state? Does she even do a good job, according to a general consensus? Of course, none of these facts made it into the Matier & Ross column, normally a haven for news items blatantly lifted from local bloggers without attribution.

The problem with these types of hit pieces aiming to maim public workers is they never offer alternatives. Instead of paying someone with extensive experience in public sector a wage commensurate with their talents, should we instead hire a 35-year-old with little know-how and pay them $150,000? If you’re Yolo County, maybe. If you’re Alameda County, in the heart of one of the most populated and dynamic areas in the world, you spend the money for quality and avoid problems inherent with running a chintzy, error-prone organization. It's a catch-22 because once you hire that inexperienced executive and everything goes to hell, the same folks complaining about city employee salaries come back and yell, "What the fuck is going on with City Hall!?"

What this story does remind us, though, is the two barons who run all the papers in the Bay Area—Hearst Corporation and the Bay Area News Group—control the local media and possess stark anti-labor stances. And they are more than willing to undercut workers wages and benefits with propaganda. When protesting Chronicle scribes again walk the picket line, I suggest keeping an eye on Matier & Ross. They’re likely management spies.

Quotable
“Unless these numbers go up, this is going to fail, this whole thing is going to go up in flames.”
-Michael Sweeney, mayor of Hayward, Mar. 26, remarking about data found in a report on the city’s federal grant to improve its schools showing just 16 percent school attendance among ninth graders in its chronically poor Jackson Triangle neighborhood.

The Week That Was
Scott Haggerty
>>>It was not the best week for Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. It was revealed the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury is looking at complaints believed to be connected to claims made by Haggerty’s former chief of staff over a land deals in Livermore and Pleasanton in 2007. In another offshoot of the complaint, the Fair Political Practices Commission issued a warning to Haggerty over previous economic interests filings. However, the commission levied no fine.

>>>Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski, also a Haggerty ally, is battling a low-level schism among South Asian Democrats in his 25th District. It was reported this week, a re-vote for the crucial slate of Democratic convention delegates lobbied for by Wieckowski returned no change in the list of winners from last January. Wieckowski needs to stay in his delegates good graces if he wants the party’s endorsement for a likely 2014 run for the State Senate. In the meantime, expect to see Wieckowski at many cultural fundraisers in the Fremont area in the next year donning full ethnic garb.

>>>Rep. Mike Honda now lacks only Bill and Hillary Clinton (maybe, FDR) as the biggest names in Democratic Party circles not yet endorsing his 2014 re-election in the 17th Congressional District against, as of yet, not a single soul. Ro Khanna, however is lurking over Honda shoulder, so this week, U.S. Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, along with State Attorney General Kamala Harris added their support.

>>>San Leandro Councilmember Ursula Reed surprised many this week by announcing she will run for Alameda County superintendent of schools next year. Shelia Jordan, the current officeholder since 1999 is likely to retire, but Reed just won re-election to her District 2 council seat last November.

Tweet of the Week
“Curious: Does today’s "seeing red" protest include @sfchronicle columnists who've opined in favor of healthcare cuts to govt. workers?”
-@GonzOakland, Mar. 25, referencing San Francisco Chronicle reporters, who launched a social media campaign in protest of proposed cuts to health care benefits by its employer, Hearst Corporation.

Best Read
>>>Matt Taibbi, this country’s greatest investigative reporter, demolishes California’s “Three Strikes Law” and poignantly describes the insanity of jailing mostly poor and/or black men for stealing $2.50 socks, for instance, while Wall Street banksters continue to reside in gilded towers of ill-gotten means. (Rolling Stone, Apr. 27).

Voice of the People
“It's quite hypocritical for the pro-homosexual marriage and pro-abortion crowd to have dinner honoring a Roman Catholic Saint. But, then stupidity is innate with Democrats.”
-Anonymous, Mar. 28, commenting about Eden Area Democrats and their annual St. Patrick's Day Dinner in Hayward on “Corbett Shook Swalwell’s Hand; Lockyer Left Nadia At Home; Democrats Gossiped.”

San Leandro Mayor Delivers A More Upbeat State Of The City Address

San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Mar. 28, at the annual State of the City address.
PHOTO/Shane Bond
SAN LEANDRO | San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s State of the City Address departed from last year’s grim outlook for the city and made an effort to focus on positive aspects of the city’s developments with Lit San Leandro and Net Zero Energy Center and a consistent touting of the recent Police Officers Association labor agreement.

The address soundly largely like a public relations oration to help build a positive aura around a city that just last year the mayor said was facing bleak economic issues and pension costs that Cassidy was sternly determined to reduce by making employees pay more into their pensions.

Unlike last time though, this city address was not held at City Hall during a council meeting and no one was able to make public comments. Instead, it was hosted at the sleek Senior Community Center on East 14th Street and co-sponsored by companies partnered with the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce as well as OSISoft, who run Lit San Leandro’s fiber optic loop that the city has been praising as a huge potential contributor to bringing high-tech manufacturing and economic vitalization to town.

Cassidy noted the Police Officers Association deal brokered with the city concerning pension costs. “I commend the Police Officers Association with working on this new agreement for public safety and fiscal responsibility,” said Cassidy. The deal established an incremental increase in contribution by officers into their pension by 3 percent over the next three years topping off at a 9 percent which is down from Cassidy’s preferred 10 percent that he campaigned on when he ran for mayor. Despite not being what Cassidy has originally campaigned on, the Mayor praised the deal as evidence that the city was able to tackle an issue that he cited with churlish detail at last year’s state of the city address.

Cassidy praised, as he did a year ago, the Lit San Leandro fiber optic loop. The fiber optic loop has gained national attention for its incredibly high speeds of data transfer the city hopes will attract business. The project has been funded by OSISoft which is headed by San Leandro resident Patrick Kennedy and offered 10 percent of its use for city offices in return for use of the city’s conduit to lay lines down. The company’s corporate investment into the loop has opened up opportunities that the city thinks it can capitalize on and has fervently been speaking highly of it since 2011. Cassidy also thanked Rep. Barbara Lee who helped the city receive a $2.1 million grant to help expand the fiber optic loop last year. The mayor also spoke of the Zero Net Energy building, a first of its kind, that produces as much energy as the building will consume and will be used as a training center by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 595 Union.

But despite Cassidy’s attempt to stay upbeat this year he did slump into negative issues that the city faces in the middle of his speech. He went from speaking about brokering a deal with the pension issue with officers to dealing with the expensive costs the city maintains with the county’s firefighters department. According to the Mayor, health costs for the firefighters has increased the costs of maintaining a relationship with the county fire department with an unfunded liability standing at $18.5 million. Cassidy and the council have already begun to discuss this issue at a work session meeting earlier this year where Cassidy talked about drawing down the use of fire fighters in situations that otherwise a team of paramedics could do on their own in order to save cost,“We must learn to do more with less,” said Cassidy at the time.

Deteriorating streets also marked a low point in the mayor’s speech when he dwelled on budget cuts that made managing the city’s streets a greater difficulty. Measure B1, Cassidy said, would have helped to renovate the streets that otherwise will fall into further disrepair without immediate attention. The quality of the streets, measured by a pavement condition index, is down from a high of 64 percent in 2004 to 54 percent today. The Mayor proposed putting a local tax measure or a bond measure on the ballot for next year to help the roads. In the meantime, Cassidy said, there is a $6.6 million project “cobbled together” from grants to renovate the boulevard.

Also, the mayor noted a public safety update this year from Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli on the sharp increase in burglaries since January in San Leandro. Cassidy attributed the rise up in part to prison realignment that has released prisoners ahead of time. “In response to the burglaries our police have ramped up walking neighborhoods to educate people on public safety,” said Cassidy, “we are committed to truly exceptional public safety services and our police are committed to enhancing and committing to community relationships.” Cassidy also noted the end of a federal grant to fund five police officers that now must be shouldered by the general fund.

Cassidy made sure to end on a positive note by reiterating Lit San Leandro and retaining Macy’s at Bayfair Mall. Sources have told The Citizen that they pushed Cassidy to focus mainly on a positive message this year to sell the city to interested onlookers, as opposed to year’s address, sources say, was more gloomy.

Hayward Finds Sobering Stats Signalling Trouble For Federal School Grant

HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL//EDUCATION | In Hayward's impoverished Jackson Triangle
neighborhood, just 16 percent of ninth graders attended class on a daily basis and just 34 percent of seniors at Tennyson High School graduated last year, according to a report this week.

The Hayward City Council held a hearing on a one year update on the Promise Neighborhood Initiative that focuses on education and safety in the Jackson Triangle which aims to increase school attendance, test scores and parent interaction with children’s education. The first-year report by Library Commissioner Sean Reinhardt noted low school attendance and graduation rates the counsel drew grave concern over.

The Promise Neighborhood Initiative is part of a federal grant from the Department of Education. The California State University East Bay, was one of the five recipients in the nation to be awarded a multi-year, multi-million dollar grant that aims to provide a continuous pathway from kindergarten to college that has guiding principles to help assist this goal. It also aims to make a healthier, more active and safer community. The partners in the implementation include, the Hayward Unified School District, including the adult school, Eden Area Regional Occupational Program, Chabot College and the Child Care Coordinating Council of Alameda County.

A couple major themes stuck out from Tuesday night’s discussion, attendance, graduation rates and education reform. Mayor Michael Sweeney began the questioning drilling home his concern over the poor attendance. “A couple of stats here are of a great concern. We are going beyond API [Academic Performance Index] scores here which we already know are horrible. This average daily attendance for 2012 is 75 percent for 6th grade, 22 percent for 7th, 29 percent for 8th and 16 percent for 9th grade. How do you explain that?” questioned Sweeney. Reinhardt said the school district’s wide attendance is at 90 percent but the data given was just the Jackson Triangle and was pulled from the Department of Education and needed to be confirmed. Sweeney was not amused, “That is not a very good excuse for not explaining this data,” said Sweeney, “Unless these numbers go up, this is going to fail, this whole thing is going to go up in flames.”

Sweeney also noted the level of graduates in 2012 with 75 percent from Hayward High School compared to a low of 34 percent to Tennyson High School. “These are just a couple of the areas that we need some breakthroughs and if not then you can forget about the rest of it. If kids are not coming to school and we can’t get them to graduate then they will not be successful in college,” said Sweeney.

Melinda Hall, Hayward Promise Neighborhood project manager, further elaborated on Reinhardt’s defense on the lack of confirmation on low attendance scores. “There are two ways of looking at attendance. There is the chronic absentee and the average daily attendance and I think there is an error between those,” said Hall who promised to have a more specific answer on that soon.

Despite that, other council members agreed with the Mayor over the dismal attendance, graduation rates and low API scores. Although, despite low API scores Reinhardt did say there was a small increase in scores for some schools over the years but overall ranged mostly in low 600 to the 700 when proficiency is expected to be at 800, a B grade level.

Other council members, like Greg Jones, Mark Salinas and Marvin Peixoto, focused on a second theme on Tuesday’s night’s meeting, education reform. Salinas called for radical reform, “I understand the Mayor’s point on students needing to be present and that’s important but also I think this is an opportunity to really think about radically changing the school structure. Here is an opportunity to really start something new,” said Salinas. Peixoto agreed, “There has not been much change structurally when it comes to education. We are still operating the same old way like we did 40 or 50 years ago when we were an agrarian society. When kids went home for the summer and picked fruit and that's why they got three months off. This old model is not the best structure for education,” said Peixoto.

“That’s a pretty heavy duty question,” said Hall, “but from my perspective there is some things happening around this particular grant on how instruction is changing.” Hall noted that they are moving away from students opening text books and answering questions at the end of the chapter and doing packets. Peixoto also noted the importance of technical training for those who do not want to go to college. Hall further agreed in pursuing that road as well and added that technical college is thriving in California.

Representatives of the program also said a current assembly bill aims to partner different California promise neighborhood programs from Los Angeles, Chula Vista and San Francisco.

Although some change has happened, such as a small uptick in academic scores, the program takes some time to have a significant impact, said Hall. The program is based off of the Harlem Children's Zone project that Hall said evolved on its own and did not start as a grant. But based off of that project it takes a “long time to make the systemic change but they weren’t as fortunate to have schools as partners,” said Hall.

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

‘Larry You Are My Brother’ Facebook Page Lacking Likability, But Friends Lurk In Low Places

"Larry You Are My Brother" Facebook page
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | When times are tough, many say, the only people you can really count on is family. In embattled Oakland Councilman Larry Reid’s case, his propensity for calling everyone his brothers and sisters just may get him out of the jam laid out in a hard-nosed city audit last week.

There is no shortage of long-time Oaklanders and city contractors willing to go to bat for Reid, who has held the District 7 seat since 1997. After City Auditor Courtney Ruby’s scathing report fingering Reid and a member of his staff for allegedly breaking the law, those symbolic family members are stirring to save him once again.

A Facebook page supporting Reid, calling itself “Larry You Are My Brother” makes sly reference to Reid’s primary term of affection. However, as of Thursday afternoon, just five people have expressed support on the page and sales of the corresponding cap may not be doing brisk business. It’s also not clear whether the page is truly supportive of Reid or possibly a satire since the cover photo features a screwy-looking Reid along with a similarly shifty-eyed former Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente. But there is more than enough love to go around when it comes to Reid.

San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson noted this week Reid’s professed love on video just recently of Ken Houston, another brother, it should be noted. Houston has ties to the Oakland Army Base deal referenced in Ruby’s report alleging another type of love given to his long-time cohort. But, the existence of footage showing Reid’s expressing the height of admiration is not unusual. Just two weeks ago during the Mar. 12 City Council meeting, Reid prefaced his comments to Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan by telling him he loves him.

The most interesting expression of support for Reid as he faces possibly censure by the council, along with Councilmember Desley Brooks, came from Oakland blogger Zennie Abraham. The uber SEO manipulator maliciously floated the dangerous meme of racism as the root of Ruby’s exhaustive investigation. In these types of situations, just raising the unjustified complaint is not meant to change opinions, but merely singing to the choir. Southern political consultants use the trick in reverse all the time to knock African American candidates by speaking in codes readily understood by rural white voters. The move is dastardly and divisive, but it may be a glimpse of what Reid and his supporters aim to employ in the next month or so.

Abraham, it should be noted, also raised the flag of racism two years ago in an attempt to aid former 18th Assembly District candidate Joel Young after he was accused by an ex-girlfriend of striking her in the head. In two videos, Abraham lauded Young, debunked the claims and wished him luck in an astonishingly transparent move to aid Young's floundering campaign. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

San Leandro Councilwoman To Run For Alameda County School Superintendent

San Leandro Councilmember Ursula Reed
SAN LEANDRO | Two-term San Leandro Councilwoman Ursula Reed says she intends to run for Alameda County superintendent of schools in 2014.

The current holder of the seat since 1999, Sheila Jordan, is eyeing retirement in two years, making Reed the first potential candidate to replace her.

Reed, who won election to the District 2 San Leandro council seat in 2008, won a tight three-way race for re-election last November over San Leandro school trustee Morgan Mack-Rose decided by ranked choice voting. If elected next year, Reed would only serve half of her second term in office. She says running another office so soon after winning re-election shouldn’t rankle constituents. Instead, they should view it as an opportunity for their children.

“Right now I’m a full-time educator and a full-time politician, so I have to split my life two ways—city and schools,” says Reed, who believes the superintendent job is best suited to her resume. And when it comes to her consituents, she won't forget where she comes from, she says. “Not only would it make sense for all the kids in Alameda County, but because I have a preference and special allegiance to San Leandro, it could only help the students of San Leandro.”

Sheila Jordan
In addition to her stint on the San Leandro City Council, Reed has been an educator for 27 years, serving as principal of Markham Elementary School and vice principal at Bret Harte Middle School, both in Hayward. She also served a number of different positions at the Oakland Unified School District, including human resources, labor relations and student services.

“I’ve been in education this whole time,” says Reed, who insists she was not thinking of running while Sheila Jordan is seated in the superintendent’s office. Reed says she was first approached by some community groups in Hayward who urged her to contemplate a run for county superintendent of schools. However, in the past few months, Jordan has been rumored to be angling to groom a number of protégé to replace her in 2014.

Running a county-wide race is different and quite costly as opposed to the council races Reed has run in the past and less focused on blanketing the entire county in mailers. Reed says she has tabbed noted East Bay political consultant Doug Linney to run her campaign. Linney, viewed as one of the rising stars in campaign consulting helped Alameda County Superior Court Judge Tara Flanagan win her election to the bench last June without the need of a November runoff.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

FPPC Issued Warning Letter To Haggerty Over Former Employee's Claims

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty PHOTO/Shane Bond ILLUSTRATION/ Steven Tavares
ALAMEDA COUNTY BOS | The Fair Political Practices Commission, the state body that oversees campaign fundraising and potential conflicts of interest, issued a warning letter in the last month to Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, but issued no fines, says his chief of staff.

The investigation into Haggerty’s economic interest and campaign disclosure filings with the FPPC was triggered by allegations from his former chief of staff Chris Gray, who was fired last June and subsequently filed a complaint against his former employer for discrimination. The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury is investigating Gray’s allegations. Haggerty’s chief of staff Shawn Wilson, said the supervisor received notice of the grand jury receiving an anonymous complaint over the issue.

Haggerty’s office recently received the warning letter, says Wilson, but minor revisions were already made to the supervisor's Form 460 and 700 filings, he said, following their own investigation, which found two unreported personal loans.

“The loans were small and overlooked because they were personal in nature and made by people that did not have any business with the county and the supervisor has known both of them for over 30 years,” Wilson said. “We took the initiative and reported our findings to the FPPC with the proper corrections made. The FPPC issued a warning letter and the issue has been closed.”

Candidates for public office are required to periodically report campaign-related expenditures and fundraising on a "consolidated campaign disclosure," better known as Form 460. In addition, a "statement of economic interests," (Form 700) is also required detailing the candidate's personal income and investments. The disclosure is typically used to locate any potential economic conflicts of interest between the candidate and the office or subsequent matters that may be voted upon in the future.

According to the FPPC, the issuance of warning letters without a violation is somewhat common; however, most complaints are resolved with a simple advisory letter. A warning letter is typically sent when its enforcement division finds enough evidence to prove wrongdoing, but may choose against a fine for a variety of factors, including no history of previous transgressions by the candidate or public official.

Shortly after Gray’s termination last June, he filed a legal complaint with the county alleging his former employer of 16 years, routinely filed shoddy campaign finance forms and incomplete economic interest reports. Gray also claimed the often-gruff Haggerty, known for a wickedly wry sense of humor, mistreated staff. An investigation by counsel for the Alameda County Board of Supervisors reported last December also found no merits to Gray’s claims against Haggerty.

Hayward School Board Cuts Funding to Adult Education Program

HAYWARD | The Hayward School Board struck down a $375,000 expenditure to Hayward’s adult school program last board meeting to help stave off deficit spending despite staff’s recommendation to approve the fund part of the second interim budget report to help keep the adult education program afloat until school year’s end.

The second interim report included the $375,000 to help the adult education program for the rest of the year despite it already depleting reserves made available to it for the past three years. Most districts in the state have cut their adult education programs when the state made cuts to education. Hayward opted to maintain their adult education program despite the heavier financial burden. Now the adult education program is expected to be able to sustain itself, as planned, and if not may face being cut.

The district once appeared to have been on the road to a state takeover because of its cumbering financial woes but by including early teacher retirement incentives and cutting back on recycling costs last spring the district was able to present a balanced budget. The second interim budget report presented by staff said the district is once again positively certified and will be able to pay its bills this year, a conclusion that’s compliant with a similar analysis last December. But according to board member Luis Reynoso, who was not present for the budget report but spoke to The Citizen later, the district is currently deficit spending $6.5 million.

But despite the large deficit figure the district will end the financial year with a $12.2 million fund balance. Although this is down from $13.1 million projected at last year’s first interim budget report. The reduction is due to Tier III flexed state revenue to the Adult Education program and Special Education.

The principal of Hayward’s adult school, Ryan Whetstone, who recently stepped into his administrative role, expected to have the funds available to meet financial obligations for staff for the rest of the year. But school board President, William McGee and Vice President, Annette Walker, wanted to see more aggressive action to reign in the program’s spending and McGee criticized the principal for not meeting the program’s required obligations to self sustain by 2013. Whetstone reminded the board that he inherited the program’s financial woes when he was hired this past year and was beginning to look at potential cuts now, but this argument did not appease McGee.

“You say ‘I’m about the cut,’ when the response should have been ‘I am cutting and I need assistance in this.’ The board has been asking about this for awhile,” said McGee, “You may have inherited this but it is your job to manage it correctly.” McGee noted the previous board, that was under Jesus Armas’s leadership, for overspending. “We had to cut elementary music to save money but we kept adult education. I have people calling me telling me we don’t need adult education, but we kept it,” said McGee.

McGee’s tough stance on spending marks a continued trend that is stark departure from the previous board. The former board was racked by controversy because of Armas’s affair with former board member, Maribel Heredia but Armas was also criticized by fellow board members McGee and Reynoso for what Reynoso has called called, “rubber stamping,” excessive spending.

McGee said the board, nor staff, needed to take the blame on the adult education program's lack of cuts whose budget is the principal’s responsibility. Walker agreed with McGee and questioned staff on the budget interim report’s inclusion of funding the adult program. “I’m hearing doom and gloom outside of positive certification. It’s very disconcerting at this point because we are way off from the first intro report as far as the numbers lining up. I’m almost in tears that that we are now accepting the fact that we are cutting back books and supplies because we are deficit spending on Tier III funding,” said Walker.

McGee added that he was not going to "rubber stamp," this expenditure and rejecting it shows that they were not continuing "business as usual." "We shouldn't be making these decisions, it should be made at the school site," said McGee.

Board members John Taylor and Lisa Brunner questioned staff and the principal some but without the same rigorous questioning that Walker and McGee gave and less frustration over the deficit. Both Taylor and Brunner wanted to pass staff’s recommendation to accept the report as is but McGee opted to pass it only if the $375,000 allocated to the adult program was taken out. It was and the board passed the budget with four yes’s. Reynoso had left previously and did not vote on the subject. The principal of the adult education program will return this Wednesday to discuss further on how the program will stay solvent.

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.

Rep. Honda Gains Feinstein, Boxer's Backing For Congress In Yet Another Move To Discourage Khanna

Calif. Sens. Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein
CONGRESS 17 | California’s two Senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer added their
endorsements to Congressional District 17 Rep. Mike Honda’s, long list of growing endorsements in preparation for a potential battle with young lawyer Ro Khanna who recently served in President Barack Obama’s Commerce Department.

“I’m proud to endorse Congressman Mike Honda,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein. “He works tirelessly for the people he represents and is an important leader on issues such as helping to create jobs and improving our schools. He is a champion for Silicon Valley and I’m glad to offer him my support.”

“The people of the 17th Congressional District need Mike Honda's strong voice now more than ever,” said Senator Barbara Boxer. “I am proud to endorse such an effective leader for education, innovation, and families throughout the region and country.”

Honda thanked the senators for their support and added that “we can all agree that the formula for growth in Silicon Valley jobs is straightforward. It requires smart and targeted incentives to help companies locate and grow here while accessing our unique and diverse workforce, and providing our students with the education they’ll need to compete.”

Honda’s recent big name endorsements comes off the heels of his biggest from President Obama including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz among others. Honda also released a poll last week favoring his re-election and taking shots at Khanna for having “weak,” numbers in his internal poll. The abrasive action is a potential sign of worry from Honda who may fear a defeat at the hands of a young challenger like former Rep. Pete Stark did to Rep. Eric Swalwell in Congressional District 15.

But Honda’s strategy is likely to discourage Khanna from challenging him as he soaks up important endorsements. Although, Khanna did raise $1.2 million last year when he explored challenging Stark in the 15th. Instead he held off for Stark’s rumored retirement in 2014 but to much surprise ended up being defeated by Swalwell. Since then Khanna made a compromise with State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett to take on Honda while she challenges Swalwell in 2014. But since the two met to hammer out this compromise Khanna has yet to officially confirm his challenge to Honda. Insiders say he will likely announce his candidacy within the next month or so.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Corbett Shook Swalwell's Hand; Bill Left Nadia At Home; East Bay Dems Gossiped

Prelude to 2014: Rep. Eric Swalwell and State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett greet each other Mar. 21 at the Eden Area United Democratic Campaign St. Patrick's Day dinner in Hayward.
PHOTO/Shane Bond
ALAMEDA COUNTY//DEMOCRATS | The Eden Area United Democratic Campaign St. Patrick's Day dinner served as the backdrop for the first encounter between congressional opponents that will likely be best remembered for the limp corned beef and cabbage served. Despite the event being set closer to Easter than St. Patrick's day it didn’t matter because while the Irish fare lacked seasoning so did the first encounter between Rep. Eric Swalwell and his likely 2014 opponent in the 15th Congressional District, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett.

Little occurred as Corbett introduced Swalwell, admittedly 30 minutes late for the function that put her in the position of stalling the crowd after Assemblyman Rob Bonta energetically bounced onto the stage, gave a few impromptu words and leaped away. San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy, trying to show his liberal cred, walked around with an Obama ball cap atop his curly Irish fro.

“Thank you for the filibuster,” said Swalwell upon his arrival. The young Tri-Valley Democrat curiously jumped straight into a campaign speech heard many times the past six months that now includes his short list of accomplishments on Capitol Hill. Swalwell’s ability to swoon Democrats on “this side of the hill” is crucial to re-election. The perceived more liberal side of the district looks warily at what kind of Democrat Swalwell really strives to be. However, with that in mind, the inclusion in his stump speech of working in a bipartisan manner, was curious and potentially a glimpse into his mind on political cruise control. In fact, this group of hardcore Democrats does not think working in a bipartisan way is possible with an uncompromising GOP and wholly distasteful to deal with the orange-tinged android named Rep. John Boehner.

Swalwell talks to Hayward Democrats Mar. 21. PHOTO/Shane Bond
Among the chatty and catty Alameda County Democrats last Thursday there was some talk of The Citizen's interview with Progressive Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) who said he be "open" to supporting a challenger for Swalwell if the moderate didn't join the Progressives. Even though Ellison scrambled to soften the edge of the comments last week (he called Swalwell “a friend”) the sentiment by such a high-profile progressive seemed to harden already deep skepticism over Swalwell’s Progressive credentials.One Democrat told The Citizen Ellison’s words could be a boon for Corbett to win over potential donors looking to fund the more liberal candidate.

After the group of speeches (State Treasurer Bill Lockyer was also in attendance and, no, Nadia was not there) Corbett and Swalwell could be seen chatting with Democrats in two spheres which never seem to have crossed orbits. While most have known Corbett for years from her time as San Leandro mayor to representing the area in the State Legislature since 1998, Swalwell’s demeanor looked stuffy and unsure. In addition, he now travels in these parts, at least, with a posse of Tri-Valley acolytes who seem to wear their tighty-whiteys a size or two too small. On numerous occasions, a few appeared to feign interest in the constituent’s comments to Swalwell, while casting a sharp eye on whom may be plotting to ambush him with an unscripted question.

In short, there was mushy corned beef eaten by Democrats four days after St. Patrick’s Day in a musty hall near a shuttered Banchero’s Restaurant. Corbett and Swalwell shook hands, Bill left Nadia at home and whole bunch of bitchy Democrats furnished me with loads of gossip totally unrelated to the race for congress two years hence, yet all together pertinent to their own designs for knocking down political rivals a peg or two or maybe even three. This is how we roll in the East Bay.

Sources: Alameda County Grand Jury Investigating Haggerty Over Land Deal

ALCO Supervisor Scott Haggerty
PHOTO/MTC
ALAMEDA COUNTY BOS | Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty is the subject of a grand jury investigation for allegedly facilitating the sale of his Livermore home in 2007 to a buyer later approved by the county to purchase 12 acres of county-owned ranchland near Pleasanton, according to sources familiar with the inquiry.

The allegation, reported in December by the San Francisco Chronicle, was laid out by Haggerty’s long-time chief of staff Chris Gray in a $10 million legal complaint following his dismissal last summer.

Numerous sources tell The Citizen the Alameda County Grand Jury took on the complaint in January with the focus of the investigation primarily on Haggerty's sale of his home in Livermore to Tri Valley developer John Wong. During the same month of the transaction, Wong was awarded the right to purchase a tract of land near Pleasanton from the county’s Surplus Property Authority. At the time of the transactions, Haggerty's District 1 included Pleasanton. Following redistricting, he now represents Dublin, Pleasanton, Sunol and a majority of Fremont.

In addition, to Gray’s allegation of a quid pro quo between Haggerty and Wong, the complaint also includes claims Haggerty routinely filled incorrect economic interest reports with the Fair Political Practices Commission and mistreated staff.

In the past, the Alameda Grand Jury, which convenes throughout the year and whose proceedings are secret and members anonymous, has the power to investigate, among other subjects, allegations of misconduct by public officials, and exist as a type of overseer of county and local government. Because of the whistleblower nature of some allegations investigated by the grand jury it declined to answer inquiries into whether it was currently investigating Gray’s claims against Haggerty.

A recent grand jury report issued in June of last year, for instance, was highly critical of the county’s handling of a little-known anti-poverty agency, called the Associated Community Action Program (ACAP). The organization was later dissolved following criminal allegations against its executive director and a lack of county oversight by its governing board comprised of council members and mayors from every city in Alameda County, excluding Oakland and Berkeley.

The grand jury has also come down hard in the past year on the physical deterioration of the delinquent youth facility Camp Wilmot Sweeney in San Leandro and the need for improved crime labs in Oakland and Alameda County.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Wieckowski Takes It On The Chin Following Re-Vote For State Delegates

ASSEMBLY 25 | After cries of potential voter disenfranchisement by numerous minority groups following a decision to conduct a re-vote of the 25th Assembly District Democratic Convention delegates, a second vote surprisingly reaffirmed the results of the contested election last January.

Six more delegates in Fremont’s Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski’s 25th District were declared victors last week for a second time, according to Andrew Drabkin, a member of the California Democratic Party rules committee. Six other delegates were previously finalized two months ago.

In January, Wieckowski took the unusual step of contesting the Jan. 12 results after allegations numerous non-Democrats had voted in the election of officers to the next two state conventions. Opponents then charged it was actually Wieckowski who brought the voters in question to the election headquarters.

Wiekcowski’s slate of candidates—just two winners--was decimated by the large turnout of party regulars in January. For Wieckowski, who is a likely candidate for the state senate in 2014, the importance of receiving a majority of the delegates from his district increases the possibility he can grab the party’s crucial endorsement. The only other big-name opponent for the seat is believed to be former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi.

Despite angering many in Fremont’s multi-cultural establishment with the complaint, the party called for a re-vote Mar. 10. However, the roster for the upcoming April 12 state convention is unchanged. Winners include, Daisy Chu, Jan Giovannini-Hill, Reshma Karipineni, Michelle Cosgrove, Reena Rao, Dharminder Dewan, Raj Salwan, Jara Danfodia, Chandru Bhambhra, Romesh Japra, Rajesh Verma, Veerendra Vuppala.

Last month, some south county Democrats expressed confusion over Wieckowski's move for a re-vote, noting even though his slate lost, nearly all of the winners are believed to be among his supporters. However, the small skirmish in AD25 may just need a little extra outreach from Wieckowski in the next year to smooth over signs of a small cracks in his own backyard.

A Great Week For Accountability In Alameda County

SUNDAY COLUMN | There is no need to rehash the specifics of the horrendous 2012 political year in Alameda County. But, last Thursday was a great day for accountability with the release of a scathing audit forcefully coming down on Oakland Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid alleging wholesale violations of city non-interference laws. In addition, Alameda County Judge Paul Seeman finally resigned from the bench ending a bizarre episode including accusations he bilked an elderly neighbor out of thousands of dollars. Seeman’s affair showed the local judiciary was impotent since it claimed no power to jettison Seeman, but he did what is right for the county on his own.

The situation with Brooks and Reid is more complicated before true comeuppance can be achieved. Both will fight hard against the allegation laid out by Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby (a new hero for the people?) while it is unclear who can remove the duo if proven true. Unfortunately, comments this week by Oakland Council President Pat Kernighan show the prospect of even censure may be difficult, although, the council members dirty laundry will be aired in chambers sometime in the next month, she said. Then there is Ruby’s decision to forward the allegations to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, another whose relationship over the years with accountability has also been strained, especially when it comes to throwing the books at public officials and police officers.

There’s no indication to all this will all go down, but know this: the days of public officials in Alameda County ruling the region like a fiefdom are over. The types of wrongdoing, however, have not changed, and some get caught and some don’t. The difference is the citizens are well past tired of the antics and willing push for changes or make the changes on their own at the ballot boxes. Residents in Oakland must keep this issue from being swept under the rug and ignore subterfuge like the report having racist intent. We live in a region of uncommon diversity, however, every race and gender has many common denominators, including having a few bad apples.

Quotable
“There is a general culture of interference within the City.”
-Courtney Ruby, Oakland city auditor, Mar. 21, in a report alleging 14 violations of the city charter by two council members.

The Week That Was
Gay pride flag to be flown over
San Leandro City Hall next week.
>>>Aside from the fireworks in Oakland, the City Council also faulted over $400,000 in general fund dollars used for the thriving First Friday monthly street fair. Councilmember Desley Brooks said the city administrator had no authority to approve an expenditure that was initially meant for private security to respond to the Occupy Oakland movement.

>>>The 10-year anniversary of ground force in Iraq came this week with Rep. Barbara Lee criticizing the Bush adminstration’s hubris for entering a war of our choosing. Lee, has significant cred on this issue. She was the only soul on Capitol Hill in the days after 9/11 to vote against the authorization for military force.

>>>A day after an article in The Citizen reporting Rep. Keith Ellison, a co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus would lean on East Bay Rep. Eric Swalwell to fully support Progressives, the Minnesota congressman switched course and called the rookie rep “a friend.” Nevertheless, Ellison’s previous comments had East Bay Democrats in titters.

>>>From the Department of Ridiculous, South Bay Rep. Mike Honda released internal polling showing him leading undeclared candidate Ro Khanna by 52 points. Although, most believe Khanna is a likely opponent, the bold, somewhat obsessive move by Honda, follows endorsements from President Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Is Honda merely doing due diligence or running scared?

>>>In San Leandro, a gay pride flag will fly over City Hall in the next week for support same-sex marriage. The council approved the symbolic gesture led by Mayor Stephen Cassidy. However, the mayor known for his critical comments over the years to city employee unions took it on the chin with a labor-friendly new contract with city police officer’s union.

Tweet of the Week
“Kevin Grant on getting CA Peace Prize: "The last time I got a document with this many 'whereas' it was my federal indictment."
-@OLcitycouncil, reporting from Mar. 19 Oakland City Council meeting as community leader Kevin Grant received an award for his work with city youth.

Best Reads
>>>City reports are frequently unreadable, but the Oakland City Auditor’s report on non-interference allegations is bold and an enlightened read.

>>>How young, rich people are ruining everything. (East Bay Express, Mar. 20)

Friday, March 22, 2013

Miley: A Lack Of Leadership In Oakland Is Hastening Crime Problem

ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS//ROUNDUP | A multi-agency proposal that would add up to 90 public safety officers for high crime areas in Alameda County has some federal and local hoops to jump through before receiving the $67 million grant.

This week, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, often on the periphery of rising crime in Oakland and routinely critical of City Hall mixed their approval for the proposal to hire 90 officers split equally among the Oakland Police Department, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and California Highway Patrol, with skepticism and regionalism.

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who represents parts of the Tri Valley and Fremont, voiced support for the plan designed, in part, to put more officers on the ground in Oakland, but also questioned the message it sends to other parts of the county. Haggerty said helping Oakland with gang problem, for instance, may make other cities like Fremont, which is the second-largest in the county, feel left out. “Fremont has gangs, too” Haggerty said, “and let me tell you Hayward is no Shangri-La.”

A lack of leadership is Oakland’s main problem, said Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley. “I think Rome is burning,” says Miley. “I’ve seen it go down the tubes over the years.”

In the past, whenever other agencies or city beckon the Board of Supervisors for help, Miley regularly portrays their aid in gallant terms. Last Tuesday, he called the board, “knights in shining armor.”

Although, Miley agrees the lack of resources for hiring additional police officers in Oakland is also an obstacle to tamping down crime and homicide rates, he says “It’s an issue of leadership.” He also noted turnover at the chief of police’s office as contributing to the lack of continuity.

COUNTY HEALTH CARE STILL IN STITCHES St. Rose is still losing money, but not as much, says Alex Briscoe, director of Alameda County Healthcare Services. The hospital now run by a new operator has lowered its losses from around $16 million to between $6-8 million, Briscoe said Tuesday. “The problem isn’t going away,” he said, “and we’re not out of the woods.”

Sutter Health, the Alameda County Medical Center and the Eden Township Healthcare were characterized as still in talks over the fate of San Leandro Hospital and a skilled nursing facility at Alameda Hospital was recently approved, said Briscoe. However, like nearly every stand-alone hospital in the East Bay, Alameda Hospital’s poor pay-mix continues to make it difficult to sustain its operations on the island.

Ding Dong, Is The Witch Dead? How Brooks Will Confront Scathing Audit

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Enough is enough! That is what city officials in Oakland appear to be saying when it comes to allegations of unethical behavior among some of its council members and years of institutional abuse. An explosive audit released Thursday may have been the bravest attempt in years aiming to quell the tyrannical ways of Councilmember Desley Brooks and the wily side-dealing of Councilmember Larry Reid. City Auditor Courtney Ruby’s report levied 12 instances of Brooks violating the city’s non-interference laws pertaining to contracts and implicated Reid in another allegation he and Brooks attempted to steer a favored company to win a $2 million contract at the Oakland Army Base. The report also painted an extremely hostile work environment for city staff when dealing with both council members.

In hindsight, the shadow of Ruby’s audit could be seen in the last week by some comments made by Reid and Brooks. During a Community and Economic Development Committee, Mar. 12, chaired by Reid, he called out Ruby to conduct an audit in the Oakland Army Base deal and its master developer. Reid may have been foreshadowing Thursday report when he said, “If she wants to do the city some justice, she should take on those two areas and come back with a finding and maybe she’ll prove me wrong. If she asks the right questions, she’ll prove me right.” According to Reid’s response in the report, he already knew of audit’s findings as early as Mar. 6.

Last Tuesday, Brooks was in rare form, even for someone quite infamous from her rude and tirelessly uncooperative demeanor with colleagues and staff. As reported, Brooks tore into City Administrator Deanna Santana, City Attorney Barbara Parker, Mayor Jean Quan, Council President Pat Kernighan, Police Chief Howard Jordan and Deputy City Administrator Arturo Sanchez during discussion of private security expenditures at the First Friday street fair. Brooks’ specific ire for Santana has been obvious since last year when the seeds of Ruby’s audit, the allegation Brooks improperly funded a pet project in her district, was first publicized by Santana. But, Brooks’ diatribes this week now show she is not going to down without a fight. During numerous exchanges Tuesday, it was clear Brooks was attempting to pin Santana with her own ethics scandal by asserting the authorization of general funds dollars for private security at First Friday exceeded her powers. While Brooks may have presented some salient points, the theatrics give us a clue of how the possible public discussion and talk of censure for Brooks and Reid will play out in the next few months.

In terms of the amount of difficulty Brooks is known to dole out to her colleagues, other East Bay officials and constituents, she is without peer, at least, since former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi was termed out of office last year. In fact, Hayashi’s downfall from likely state senate candidate to political nobody following a shoplifting charge is a guide to how Brooks reacts to these allegations and the spectacular dimension of her possible flameout. Both are widely known tyrants whose mean streaks are as much apparent in public as they are in private. Few public officials have anything good to say about them and anybody willing to work them is seen as desperate.

On a positive side, both are very strong women, but also two people born with copious amounts of hubris. Hayashi didn’t change when she ran for Alameda County supervisor last year and Brooks will not sit at the council dais and take these charges and accusations without first challenging everyone to a knife fight. Unfortunately for Brooks, she and Hayashi’s sowed their fate long ago by the sheer amount of their poor interpersonal skills. Whereas, Reid is slick and willing to publicly express love for his “brothers and sisters,” he will undoubtedly attract others to stand in support with him. Brooks, however, is a pariah; a woman on her own island of anger and retribution. Both Brooks and Reid have had time to draw up a game plan to combat these charges. From their recent comments, Reid will try to massage his way out of it and Brooks will not be satisfied until she takes everyone down with her.

Auditor: Oakland Councilmembers Brooks, Reid Broke Non-Interference Rules

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Oakland City Council members Larry Reid and Desley Brooks broke city laws prohibiting interference in the city's administrative affairs and bidding process, according to a report released by City Auditor Courtney Ruby today. According to Ruby, Brooks and Reid both told city employees to contract with Turner Group Construction on a $2 million demolition project at the Oakland Army Base.

According to Ruby, Brooks and Reid both told city employees to contract with Turner Group Construction on a $2 million demolition project at the Oakland Army Base.

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT OAKLAND LOCAL

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Rep. Honda Releases Internal Polling Favoring His Re-Election

CONGRESS | Rep. Mike Honda continues to bolster a defense against potential challenger Ro Khanna with the release favorable polling numbers a year and a half before primaries and months before challengers will likely officially announce their candidacy. Honda's internal polling shows Honda with a 52-point lead over Khanna.

The hi-tech industry will be a focal point for the potential face off between Khanna and Honda considering the district's location is in the heart of the Silicon Valley. Khanna has built a reputation on hi-tech manufacturing advocacy in the past when he spent time in the U.S. Commerce Department for the Obama administration, along with a recent book on helping to bring economic prosperity to America through hi-tech manufacturing.

Khanna raised $1.2 million last year, with the help of Silicon Valley venture capitalists, when he considered a run for Congress but Honda told San Francisco Chronicle recently that he helped Khanna raise this money. Considering this face-off over whose best to represent the district of hi-tech manufacturing Honda released numbers for the tech industry with 56 percent supporting Honda while only 6 percent for Khanna.

Honda's polling numbers indicate that he has strong support among various racial groups. Honda's poll indicates that he has support of 68 percent of East/Southeast Asians, 59 percent of South Asians, 63 percent of Latinos and 49 percent of Caucasians. The poll says Khanna "only receives," 3 percent from East/Southeast Asians, 14 percent from South Asians, 4 percent from Latinos and 6 percent from Caucasians.

The poll also states that Honda holds 54 percent over Khanna after candidates were given positive and negative messaging on all candidates. Honda's poll says Khanna's support "remains weak at 10 percent of the vote." Honda's poll focused mainly on his biggest potential challenger, Khanna, but did address former Republican and Fremont native challenger, Evelyn Li, as well. Based on negative and positive messaging analysis, Li is higher than Khanna topping off at 17 percent.

Honda's press release on the statistics states that Khanna would have to unleash a "massive expenditure," to gain enough name recognition to overcome Honda. Further, Honda states that 76 percent of his constituents have a favorable view of President Barack Obama and gives opportunity for Honda to "expand his strong base support," considering his recent endorsement from the President.

Honda's been showing an aggressive early campaign to dissuade challengers in recent months by already acquiring other early endorsements from House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Democratic House and Caucus Leadership Chair Steve Israel, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and former Democratic National Committee Chair Howard Dean. Furthermore, just a few weeks ago Honda had already announced his campaign team for 2014.

Khanna hasn't announced his candidacy yet but he did consider a run in the 15th Congressional District against Pete Stark and Eric Swalwell. Khanna since then told The Citizen that potential Swalwell challenger, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, offered a compromise to Khanna to give him a shot at Honda while she challenged Swalwell. Since then Honda rumors have circulated that Honda may fear a defeat at the hands of a young challenger like Khanna because of Swalwell's win over Stark.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

After Suspending Committees, San Leandro Makes Exception For School Relations Group

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | To ease a strain on city resources in San Leandro last fall, the City Council suspended its collection of standing committees, including two of which were related to the area's school districts. This week, however, it reversed course and approved considerations for creating a city and school board relations committee.

Several councilmembers, including Mayor Stephen Cassidy and Pauline Cutter, who are former San Leandro school board members, spoke of maintaining a positive relationship with the school district. Cassidy credited the positive relationship of two former committees for San Lorenzo and San Leandro school districts that helped maintain communication between the city and trustees. “It is important to have a system in place for regular, as needed, conversations to help resolve issue and not have frictions develop,” said Cassidy.

The new committee is a resurrection of two former committee’s that were suspended with all other committees last year to help save money and lighten city’s staff workload. The new committee’s inception is within just six months of the council’s decision to suspend all committees. Every council member, save for Cutter who was absent, voted for the suspension last October.

On Monday, Reed and Souza sought and asked for alternatives to maintain a relationship with the school districts without resurrecting a committee that they had just decided was best to suspend temporarily. Reed’s alternative was to have a city council member attend board meetings, take notes and bring back a report to the city council and if something deemed worthy of discussion on the council then that could be arranged. Cassidy said that idea was not needed because it asks for more than what is necessary.

Furthermore, the council does have joint meetings with the school districts but they are very rare because of the amount of time and preparation necessary to execute them.“The joint meetings take a lot of effort to put together and we can’t have them for more than once a year,” said Cassidy, “Point is to be more nimble as issues come up.”

Councilmembers Ursula Reed and Diana Souza questioned the consideration heavily for its vagueness of purpose and how often it would meet. “How do we know that we won’t meet every week?” said Reed. Souza also added that she doesn’t see the difference between this committee’s purpose and the ones they had previously suspended.

Cassidy said meetings every week wouldn’t likely happen and the committee would only run for a trial period from the moment of its inception to the end of the year. “I’m not worried about that, we are all adults here and it will be just for this year,” assured Cassidy. As for vagueness, Cassidy said that it will happen, but added that “we can’t pin this down in a straight jacket.”

Vice Mayor Michael Gregory and Councilmember Jim Prola threw their support behind the consideration without argument. Despite Souza’s and Reed’s persistency on the reasoning and vagueness of the committee, they, along with the rest of the council, voted unanimously for the decision. Reed added though, “We did say we would not have any more committees for a year and we would do that for the city manager and his staff and we already contradicted what we said we were going to do and I want to make sure we are aware of that. We are going back on that,” said Reed.

Brooks Unloads On—Basically Everyone!—Over First Friday Security Spending

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | What initially appeared to be one of the most mundane Oakland City Council meetings in recent months, turned into a public dress down delivered by Councilmember Desley Brooks.

The East Oakland representative questioned City Administrator Deanna Santana’s authorization to use general fund dollars for security services at the First Friday street fair without consulting the council.

Brooks faulted Santana for exceeding her authority by approving the use of over $400,000 in city dollars since last summer. Brooks contends the contracts were initially earmarked for private security at Frank Ogawa Plaza to deal with the Occupy Oakland movement. However, the contract was later applied to the sprawling monthly event quickly gaining popularity in the Bay Area. Issues with First Friday came to the forefront after a shooting death of 18-year-old Kiante Campbell at the event last February.

“There is money going out the door like there’s no tomorrow and we don’t have that kind of money,” said the irascible Brooks. “We need to get a handle on why our policies and procedures are not being followed.”

“This shouldn’t have happened,” Brooks added, saying the city has a contract ordinance and limits on the city administrator’s spending authority. “Why weren’t those limits followed? How is it that we had this cumulative expense that exceeded the city administrator’s spending authority and nobody ever said anything?”

On two separate occasions during Tuesday night’s hearing, Santana and City Attorney Barbara Parker scrambled to locate background pertaining to the approval and legality of the emergency services contract from last August, also amended last January. Under the city charter, said Parker, there are provisions for the city administrator to approve contracts when a public safety emergency exists. The charter only calls for the city council to be issued an informational report on the action, but gives no direction for a time frame for its delivery to council members, Parker said. Santana later added, her office had previously worked with the city attorney for legal authority on the authorization.

Brooks, though, said the threat of occupy no longer exists. “The basis for the authorization was that it was a public safety emergency and not to continue to spend $300,000 and used that as the same criteria,” she said, “and under the guise of an emergency money is being spent that the council never approved.”

Councilmember Larry Reid agreed with Brooks in questioning the use of general fund money by Santana along with his long-standing opposition to using the city’s police officers at First Friday. “It does not make sense to utilize police officers for a block party,” says Reid. “This is not the appropriate use of our police officers when we just finished with [131] homicides last year--115 the year before.”

Reid then called for a report on the events leading to the authorization. “I want the voters of this city to know who is to be held accountable for spending general fund money the way it was spent without this council authorizing it.”

Meanwhile, Brooks, who has tangled with the city administrator on numerous occasion following allegations by Santana’s office that Brooks misused redevelopment funds on a pet project in her district, also had vitriol left in reserve for other city officials Tuesday night. She called out Mayor Jean Quan for her leadership on the First Friday issue when she challenged her, saying, “Madame Mayor, you need to speak up about this because this has been your baby.” Quan did not respond.

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan was also on the receiving end of Brooks’ hostile questioning. In one particular exchange, Brooks began by praising Jordan’s predecessor, Anthony Batts, for his ability to allocate resources effectively to problem areas. “Where is he?” she interrupted herself while scanning the room for Jordan before he emerged at the lectern from his seat under the gallery. “If you had officers who were doing pedestrian patrols at First Friday,” said Brooks, “I bet you money there were constituents in East Oakland who would rather they be there.”

“I think the constituents in West Oakland would also rather they be there,” shot back Jordan. When Brooks mentioned other crime-addled areas of the city she believed deserved police attention, Jordan said under his breath, “I’m not even going to respond.” To which Brooks triumphantly chimed, “Yeah.”

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

No I Told You So's From Lee On 10-Year Anniversary Of Iraq War

George W. Bush: 'Merica goes to war.
CONGRESS | Rep. Barbara Lee, without a doubt the only member of Congress who can, without a whiff of hypocrisy, criticize today’s 10-year anniversary of the start of the Iraq War, hopes the conflict is a lesson against the country ever entering into an open-ended war in the future.

“It is my hope that this reckless and short-sighted decision will mark a turning point in American history, and that we will never again wage an unnecessary war,” Lee said Tuesday on the House floor. “We must use all the tools of American power in resolving disputes, including diplomacy. And we must have sufficient congressional debate and oversight before ever putting another U.S. soldier in harm’s way.

At the time of the resolution, ultimately giving authorization for the president to wage war in Iraq following the 9/11 attacks and under the presupposition so-called weapons of mass destruction existed in the country, Lee was famously the only member of either house of Congress in opposition.

“Today is a solemn anniversary: a tragedy that began ten years ago today when President George W. Bush launched a war of choice in Iraq, dragging our country into a costly, bitter conflict based on falsehoods and hyperbole,” Lee said.

“What happened from there? We all know the tragic consequences: President Bush dragged the country into an unnecessary war; no weapons of mass destruction were ever found; the costs of the Iraq war soared far beyond what was projected; and we lost 4,486 American troops in Iraq, and over 32,000 were wounded.”


Monday, March 18, 2013

San Leandro Police Union Win Concessions In New Labor Deal; Delivers Anti-Union Mayor Another Blow

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | Police officers in San Leandro stand to gain favorably from a new three-year contract to be approved Monday night by the San Leandro City Council.

The city will save over $560,000 over the life of the new contract through no wage increases during the first year and employee contributions to their pension in three percent increments over the span of the deal.

Approval of the new contract is virtually a done deal. For the council to vote against it could constitute a violation of the collective bargaining process.

The deal with the San Leandro Police Officers Association, however, constitutes another major setback for pension-busting Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who successfully used the issue to win election in 2010, but has since been unable to draw sufficient support from his council colleagues on this issue and others.

On the pension side, police officers, who previously did not contribute to their plans, will begin paying three percent starting this April and up to nine percent by 2015. The city will pay 100 percent of health care costs from Kaiser Permanente this year, up to $1,587-per-family. Over the two next years, police will contribution half of their health care costs.

Despite no wage increases in the first year, officers will receive bumps in pay during the next two years. Starting in 2014, they will be in line for across-the-board increases of four percent, followed by three percent raises in 2015. In addition, a $1,300 uniform allowance is included in the new deal.

Costs savings to the city will be approximately $153,924 this year, followed by $102,939 in 2014, and $304,519 in the final year of the contract.

Cassidy had advocated in the past for the police union and other large city employees groups to pay in upwards of 10 percent for their pensions. The suggestion was not all too absurd since no other neighboring cities had labor groups fortunate enough not to pay into pension plans. In contrast, Hayward city officials have openly had advocated for employees to contribute as much as 15 percent last year with significant pushback. Yet, the slow rollout of pension contributions by police, eventually to nine percent in three years, is a major concession by the council, which besides Cassidy, is normally viewed as pro-labor.

In closed session Monday evening, the City Council will also discuss on-going labor negotiations with the San Leandro City Employees Association and San Leandro Management Organization, which constitute the vast majority of its city employees.

Rep. Keith Ellison Now Says He Won't Support a Challenge to Swalwell

CONGRESS | Rep. Keith Ellison says neither he, nor the Progressive Action PAC, will support a challenge to Rep. Eric Swalwell after The Citizen ran a piece about him stating that he was “open to the idea,” during a fundraiser in Oakland last week.

After The Citizen’s piece ran on Wednesday Ellison’s office contacted The Citizen and stated that there will be no challenge. The Citizen had asked if he or the PAC would be looking for a challenger in Swalwell’s district for 2014 and although Ellison didn’t promise that a challenge would occur, because the PAC traditionally targets Republicans, he did say he was “open” to the idea but wouldn’t "know who that would be." Ellison also said that he wanted to make Swalwell do progressive stuff and make him declare to be with the Progressives.

Ellison’s office says the representative was merely upset over former representative Pete Stark’s loss for re-election and that’s what he was expressing and not an actual challenge to Swalwell. Ellison sent a statement to The Citizen for clarification.

"Eric is a friend, and neither the Progressive Action PAC nor I support a challenge to Rep. Swalwell. In fact, the Progressive Action PAC seeks to elect more Democrats to Congress and does not target incumbents. I called Eric this morning to set the record straight and I look forward to continuing to work with him this Congress."

Sutter’s Change Of Heart Gives East Bay Officials Hope For San Leandro Hospital

St. Luke's Hospital in San Francisco
SAVE SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | Good news across the bay in San Francisco over Sutter Health’s deal to rebuild St. Luke’s Hospital and construct a smaller scale facility at Cathedral Hill is being viewed cautiously as a hopeful sign for the future of San Leandro Hospital.

The fight by community members in San Francisco’s Mission District, along with the nurses’ union to keep St. Luke’s open in many ways paralleled the struggle in the East Bay. Like San Leandro Hospital, the facility primarily serves a high number of poor and underinsured patients. After years of negotiations, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors is on the path to approving a deal with Sutter that should lock the health care behemoth into expanding service in that area for the foreseeable future.

Some labor leaders on this side of the bay have held the opinion Sutter Health will not act upon dealing with San Leandro Hospital, which an appellate court last year awarded to them following a three-year legal battle with the Eden Township Healthcare District, until it concluded negotiations in San Francisco. On both side of the bay, Sutter’s unwillingness to budge on its stated goals has been as sure as the sun setting under the Golden Gate. Its change of heart, however, has raised the attention of some East Bay officials.

“They did something they said they would never do,” said Alex Briscoe, the director of Alameda County Healthcare Services this week. However, Briscoe said the county, at least, has not had any contact recently with Sutter over San Leandro’s Hospital near-term future.

On Wednesday, Carole Rogers, the chair of the Eden Township Healthcare District, during a special meeting on the agency’s role in local health care, said the possibility of it supporting San Leandro Hospital in the future “is not off the table.” She also said district aid for Hayward’s St. Rose Hospital is still in the mix, or even that both facilities could one day receive support from the healthcare district.

Sutter officials have indicated a desire to close San Leandro Hospital as an acute general hospital with 24-hour emergency room services. Sutter says the facility is hemorrhaging in steep monthly losses and would better serve Alameda County as an acute rehabilitation center. Community members and the nurses union, however, have vehemetly opposed the possibility of losing its emergency room out of concern for people's lives.

“Hopefully it’s a sign that Sutter Health is looking at a plan for San Leandro,” said Dev Mahadevan, the District’s CEO. Although, at the same time, he was also skeptical. “Just because they do something in San Francisco, it doesn’t men they’ll do it here.”

When jokingly asked whether Sutter’s new strategy came from sort of corporate heart transplant, Vin Sawhney, a long-time District board member and harsh critic of the health care provider disagreed. “I would say they are learning how to cooperate within a community.”

Despite continued silence from Sutter over finalizing San Leandro Hospital’s fate, Briscoe told The Citizen last January, if they move to close the facility, it would likely not occur before the spring of 2014, sometime after the opening of Kaiser Permanente’s San Leandro facility currently under construction near Marina Boulevard.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Alameda County, Coliseum Needs To Quit Undercutting Its Sports Assets

PHOTO/Mark Salinas-Facebook
SUNDAY COLUMN | We hear quite a bit about shopping locally from our public officials and supporting commerce in Alameda County, but when it comes to one of the biggest and most popular assets in the region, the view is fascinatingly obtuse.

The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, as long-time sports broadcaster Brent Musberger has over the decades introduced as “you are looking live at…” is not just a stadium and arena, but an asset belonging to the City of Oakland and the entire county, hence the hyphenated name. Taxes derived from the large soda bought at a Justin Bieber concert and game tickets to the Oakland Athletics home opener next month go into the coffers that fix your roads and pay public employees to process and distribute social services to needy residents, among many positives.

An AC Transit bus last January celebrates
the 49ers entrance to the Super Bowl.
Yet, now we sit at a time when our local government and corporate entities fret they cannot support major league sports in the East Bay. Maybe the perception of Oakland as crime-infested and the area’s working class ethos doesn’t match the future as it is formulated in the South Bay with the likes of Google and Facebook, but the East Bay is not helping its case either.

Here’s a case in point, last month an antendee at a Save Our Sports event in Oakland raised a very important point. Why can’t all the county’s local agencies stand in solidarity with the challenge of keeping our three teams in the East Bay? Specifically, he said, why are AC Transit buses gliding through the streets of Oakland advertising for the San Francisco 49ers and Giants?

Of course, AC Transit wants to make advertising money, but at the expense of Alameda County's ability to produce tax revenue? Large beer billboards hover next to Interstate 880 and beyond extolling their virtues of cheap lagers and sports franchises from across the bay, while ads featuring the Swingin’ A’s are never plastered in San Francisco. They seem to understand competition why can't Alameda County?

The world of sports, however, seems to cloud matters when it comes to government and doling out tax dollars hand or fist. Unlike, the vicious push and pull of funding additional police officers or improving schools, hundreds of millions of dollars are easily and willingly offered. At least Oakland Councilmmeber Larry Reid, also a member of the Coliseum Authority is honest about his loyaties. He showed up for a meeting last January wearing a Raiders cap. Can you imagine the outrage of opponents to a current plan for a dog park in Oakland if Reid delivered the deciding vote allowing for funding of the proposal while wearing a Scooby-Doo shirt? Roh-roh!

When it comes to supporting large corporations located in the East Bay, local officials extol all their virtues. Mayor Jean Quan would never laud the internet music service Spotify when the headquarters of its competitor, Pandora, resides in downtown Oakland. That’s a given. So, why are some East Bay cities hosting the Giants World Series trophy own their home turf? In particular, Hayward’s City Hall hosted the reigning champ’s spoils last Tuesday. You may recall, the Giants are a multi-million dollar company that provides no economic benefit to Hayward or Alameda County. Even worse, they are company with the express intent of squeezing the life out of its business competitor in this county, the Oakland Athletics Baseball Company, a business that actually generates revenue and significant amounts of civic pride.

Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney, center, Councilman Mark Salinas,
right, poses with the Giants World Series trophy, Mar. 12, inside
City Hall. PHOTO/Mark Salinas-Facebook
It should be noted, too, that Hayward has some of the most viciously critical public officials in the region when it comes to state government stripping its ability to provide services with takebacks of local revenues over the years. However, none saw the hypocrisy of happily posing with the Giants World Series trophy this week, but they surely grouse when fewer tax receipts come their way when the very real possibility all three tax-generating teams scurry from here to other counties.

These cities are not anemic to this trend, the Coliseum’s own governing board and administration can’t even understand some of its actions are actually a net detriment to themselves. Has anyone driven by the Coliseum lately? Not only does the bright red glow of the Oracle sign, a corporation located in the South Bay, light up the freeway, but billboards own by the Coliseum and those adjacent nearby and owned by others are actually encouraging you to spend your money at venues other than the Coliseum. A digital billboard owned by Clear Channel periodically advertises for the World Baseball Classic at AT&T Park in San Francisco. Go across the bay, it is saying, and buy an early dinner and drinks. The Coliseum’s signage is even blunter. An advertisement for the San Jose Sharks even acts as a road map for Coliseum customers to purchase their $15 beers at HP Pavilion in San Jose, saying, “Icy Conditions Ahead.”

Instead of calling our sports teams by the short nicknames, maybe it would be wise to start using the names typed on their corporate tax returns because some of us may have loyalties when it comes to sports teams in far off places, but we also need to start being a fan of our own local government treasuries. If the so-called City of Champions, as the plaque reads on the grounds of Coliseum is to continue to mean anything to the East Bay, it needs to cease to exist solely as a marker for how many trophies the A's, Raiders and Warriors have earned over the decades, but also signify the quality of life exhibited in fields not just played on grass and hardwood exist in all levels in Alameda County.

Quotable
“It’s not unusual for public officials to change sides when something fails.”
-Dev Mahadevan, CEO for the Eden Township Healthcare District, Mar. 13, mocking some Alameda County supervisors (we’re guessing Wilma Chan is one of them) for encouraging the District to sue Sutter Health for title to San Leandro Hospital only to later admonish the District for "wasting money" on legal fees when the strategy failed.

The Week That Was
That old feeling: Bill and Nadia in 2010.
>>>It was surely an embarrassing sight last month when city officials in Oakland announced they would need to return $600,000 in federal stimulus fund due to an error by the past Dellums administration. This week, members of the Workforce Investment Board told a city committee it has streamlined its operations over the past two years. Notably, the city employees who initially misapplied for the federal grants no longer work in Oakland.

Oakland Councilman Larry Reid continued his constant drumbeat of criticizing the master contractor chosen by the city (and him) to develop the Oakland Army Base. Reid said with much bravado the city auditor should investigate the handling of the entire army base deal saying, “If she asks the right questions, she’ll prove me right.”

>>>Not only does Rep. Eric Swalwell have a bill calling for the need to protect rare earth natural resources used for electronic devices (sounds like a declaration of war with China over iPhone parts), he took the lead on an international matter—protecting rights for LGBT communities in Ukraine. Wasn’t using staff time on seemingly innocuous issues a major talking point for Swalwell last year against his opponent, Pete Stark?

>>>The East Bay progressive Rep. Barbara Lee took umbrage with the federal budget plan put forth yet again by Rep. Paul Ryan, saying it would hurt the poor and disadvantaged.

>>>In Hayward, the $100 million 238 Corridor Improvement Plan comes to even greater fruition with the opening the Hayward Loop, which will redirect traffic through the city’s quickly improving downtown business and entertainment center.

>>>Finally, when it comes to love, there is nothing more sweeter than when its once again blossoms where it once was seemingly extinguished. State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, 71, and his wife, former Alameda County supervisor Nadia Lockyer, 40, are getting back together, according to numerous reports this week.

She attended a hearing last Thursday in Orange County for her arrest for possession of methamphetamines and child endangerment. Bill says the couple will try to work it out. That, or he just wants to give Alameda County Democrats at next Thursday's big Eden Area United Democratic Campaign dinner that special feeling of awkwardness when he shows up for his keynote address with his formerly estranged wife in tow.

>>>Ding! Ding! State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbettt and Rep. Eric Swalwell will also speak at Thursday's belated St. Patrick's Day dinner for what may be round one, or, at least, the preliminaires, for their 2014 race for the 15th Congressionl District.

Tweet of the Week
“Shameful #GOPBudget. Republicans vote down my amendment calling for a National Strategy to Eradicate Poverty. #talkpoverty”
-Rep. Barbara Lee (@RepBarbaraLee), Mar. 13.

Best Reads
>>>The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) has been used in the East Bay as a powerful weapon for issues like the possible closing of San Leandro Hospital and a wind turbine on the San Leandro Shoreline, among others. But, a case in Berkeley is showing it can also be used against its own intentions. (East Bay Express, Mar. 13).

>>>The A’s are in a catch-22 when it comes to attracting corporate support in Oakland, says the Web site, Small Ballpark, with team owners looking hopeful to the South Bay, while minimally functioning in Oakland. (Small Market Ball, Mar. 13).