Wednesday, July 31, 2013

San Leandro's Successful Downtown Fiber Optic Network Gaining Imitators In Oakland, Hayward

San Leandro: hub of high-speed
business Internet.
SAN LEANDRO//TECHNOLOGY | It has been some time since San Leandro was the leader and not the follower among East Bay cities.

Just two years after a unique partnership between the city and a local data company in need of extremely high-speed internet connectivity created Lit San Leandro, a downtown fiber optic network, the idea is spreading to its neighbors to the north and south.

On Tuesday, city councils in Oakland and Hayward discussed bringing San Leandro’s idea of becoming a regional tech hub to their own cities.

In Oakland, the council authorized its city administrator to negotiate a 12-month implementation and leasing strategy with LightUP Oakland, a partnership between two private companies that includes Lit San Leandro.

Oakland’s plan would bring faster Internet speeds not only to its downtown, but areas around Jack London Square, the Edgewater business park and the Fruitvale District. Incidentally, following a contentious council meeting Tuesday night over funding for the Domain Awareness Center, a staff report notes the LightUP Oakland project would also facilitate greater connectivity for the controversial citywide surveillance center.

Across the way in Hayward, its city council was presented with a similar strategy to allow Lit San Leandro to use existing city conduit to lay fiber optics in and around its downtown. In all three cities, the infinitely faster capacity for transmitting data along the lines will hopefully attract high-tech business to their cities.

In San Leandro, the partnership with OSiSoft and its founder Patrick Kennedy, has already signed up 25 businesses to tap the fiber optic network since its launch last year. In exchange, for using the city’s 11 miles of conduit, San Leandro retains 10 percent of its capacity.

Although, Hayward is just in the early stages of following San Leandro’s lead, city staff there say, installation of underground fiber optics could begin as early as January 2014.

Parker Tops Quan In Fundraising

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Bryan Parker
OAKLAND//MAYOR | Bryan Parker’s campaign for Oakland mayor is getting an early boost. The Port of Oakland commissioner attracted over $108,000 in donations during the first half of this year, according to finance reports filed Wednesday. The figure nearly doubled Mayor Jean Quan’s yield of $66,000 through June 30.

Through a novel use of crowdsourcing and an early start to campaigning, Parker also leads the growing pack of challengers to Quan’s re-election next year in cash-on-hand. Parker reported over $95,000 in the bank, according to campaign finance reports.

The total barely eclipses Quan’s remaining balance of just over $83,000. However, Quan’s account was boosted by two personal loans to her campaign since May totaling $30,000.

“Today’s report shows that hard work, a real vision for change and the opportunity for every Oaklander to participate in the change process is the clear path to a better Oakland,” Parker said in a statement released Wednesday. “If we want Oakland to have the best chance for a brighter future, we have to change the people we elect to local office and how they get there.”

Political science professor Joe Tuman, who officially entered the race last week, did not file a report for the first half of the year. Tuman, though, showed an ability to raise funds in a crowded field during the 2010 mayoral race, raising nearly $80,000, while finishing fourth. Councilmember Larry Reid has also recently indicated he might enter the race.

Parker’s impressive early performance continues to gain attention. His campaign touted over 300 donors in its semi-annual report. Oakland campaign finance rules provide a $700 maximum donation to candidates. Parker has said he intends to observe Oakland’s $396,000 campaign finance spending cap.

Amid Cries Of 'Shame,' Oakland Approves Funding Citywide Surveillance Program

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | At a time when Americans are increasingly skeptical of government surveillance in their lives, the Oakland City Council reversed the trend early Wednesday morning by authorizing funding for a large-scale citywide surveillance center backed by federal stimulus dollars.

As dozens of critics consistently interrupted and jeered discussion of approving $2 million for the surveillance clearinghouse of multiple video and analytics feeds from the Port of Oakland and across the city, known as the Domain Awareness Center (DAC), some restrictions were added by three members of the council.

To assuage some concerns the council rushed the DAC through committee without a failsafe for resident’s privacy and the retention of data, Councilmembers Lynette Gibson, Dan Kalb and Libby Schaaf added language for staff to create a specific policy. According to the amendment, the DAC will not be “activated” until the City Council approves the privacy guidelines no later than March 2014.

Aside from some privacy concerns and worries about potential abuses by the DAC, the council was relatively supportive of the controversial surveillance program, which passed, 6-0 (Councilmembers Larry Reid and Desley Brooks were absent). “We have tried our best to find the sweet spot to make our city safe,” said Schaaf.

However, the second contentious Oakland City Council in less than a week produced new questions over the scope and authority of the DAC. City staff acknowledged the program would warrant approval by the court-appointed Oakland PD compliance director Thomas Frazier. It also remains unclear exactly what the city and port hope to incorporate into the surveillance system.

A widely-distributed chart found on the Port of Oakland's Web site detailed potential video and data feeds that could be streamed to the DAC, including over 700 closed circuit cameras located in and around Oakland schools. Renee Domingo, the director of city emergency services, said Tuesday night, the inclusion of school cameras is not part of the DAC’s second phase. The statement and others by city staff backtracked from a far more effusive description of the DAC during a Public Safety Committee meeting July 9 detailing a wide range of potential data points fed into the surveillance system, including school cameras. Later in the long meeting that stretched on until 1:30 a.m., in response to a question about the length of time the DAC will be monitored, Domingo said the system will be staff around-the-clock once funding for a staff of roughly three is found.

Concerns over how much more invasive the cameras can become in the future were also raised. Ahsan Baig, the city's interim manager for technology services, said facial recognition software is not part of the current DAC, nor on the “roadmap.” But, during the same July 9 meeting, he told council members, while the feature was not currently part of the DAC, its addition constituted a simple software upgrade.

Linda Lye, an attorney for the ACLU, told the council, systems like the DAC do not lower crime . She cited studies showing they, in fact, allow law enforcement to target minorities. “Surveillance systems do not make us safer,” she said, “but have the potential for discrimination.” In a letter to the council last week, Lye criticized it for moving the item through committee with the hope of laying down ground rules for its use and data retention after the fact. Although, some in the audience disagreed with the ACLU attorney’s suggestion urging the council to, at minimum, craft privacy controls into the system rather than disavow the program entirely, she said, “It’s our strong recommendation that you do not put the cart before the horse.”

For critics of the DAC, the long wait until the agenda item, placed next to last on a lengthy final meeting of the legislative year, appeared to zap their zeal to fight. Some complained of the political gamesmanship of the council waiting out Oakland’s often ravenous public speakers until after 11 p.m., while many anticipating to speak left early. Those who stayed, however, hissed, jeered and berated council members unmercifully. Two of the DAC’s biggest supporters, Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Schaaf, took the brunt of critic’s verbal attacks. Gallo appeared unnerved when audience members continually called him a fascist, while one woman repeatedly called Schaaf a “sick person.”

Polls continue to show a growing number of Americans are becoming more concerned about the gradual loss of privacy to the government following the leak of damning intelligence by former CIA member Edward Snowden. The revelations showed the federal government’s capability to spy on Americans were pervasive and largely unfettered. However, in Oakland, a city long racked by spikes in violent crime, while also the cradle of highly successful populist protests over the past four years, some like Schaaf, said Tuesday, she could not justify turning down federal funding that could aid Oakland in stopping crime. But, Sara Jeong, a Harvard law student, warned the council their actions Tuesday night will be thoroughly discussed and criticized in classrooms and think tanks across the nation. She added, “I don’t think you want to be on the cutting edge of Fourth Amendment jurisprudence.”

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Oakland Public Ethics Commission Laments Lack Of Power, Jurisdiction

Current members of the Oakland Public
Ethics Commission.
OAKLAND//ETHICS COMMISSION | The Oakland Public Ethics Commission is having a major identity crisis. After years of being part of Oakland’s backwater of appointed boards and commissions and without any tangible power, a scathing Alameda County civil grand jury report has breathed new life into what should be the city government's ethical compass.

Although, ironically, the county civil grand jury has no power to enforce its findings, either; its words tend to have weight. Coupled with a City Council interested in burnishing a new public image, a new council president and its three new members, along with a public bent on greater government transparency, the time may be ripe for change at the Public Ethics Commission.

However, until then, the commission faces a host of problems some critics deem were designed to defang the potency of a group created and financed by the Oakland City Council ostensibly to keep watch of themselves and other city agencies. The commission has no power to fine or reprimand those found in violation of city rules and can only forward potential violations to the Alameda County District Attorney. In fact, it’s jurisdiction over matters is so limited in scope that it was forced last year to turn down 18 different cases brought to their attention.

Its staff numbers just two and it hopes promises by the City Council to boost the commission’s budget will yield a staff of at least five. Comparably, according to the grand jury report, San Francisco‘s ethics commission employs a staff of 17. The council’s power of the purse and a legal structure seemingly at odds with an independent government watchdog has long hamstrung the commission.

The grand jury’s report released last June scolded the City Council for not funding the commission. Some members of the commission have questioned the role of the city attorney’s office, which acts as the its legal counsel while also representing the levels of government under the commission’s purview. Although, the commission admits the current legal arrangement has not been an issue, it may consider the option of hiring outside counsel, said Whitney Barazato, the executive director of the Public Ethics Commission, “if not for public perception.” Barazato is appointed by the mayor.

Among the powers the ethics commission may seek include, formulating rules for disciplinary action, the ability to issue advisory and warning letters to violators, administrative fines, debarment, censure and the removal of public officials from office for misconduct.

A working group created by Councilmember Dan Kalb is due to convene in the next few weeks with the hopes of bringing the City Council a publicly-vetted proposal to strengthen the commission’s role in Oakland city government. Kalb told the commission last week his goal is to have plan ready for the City Council by January 2014. “Hopefully we’ll have something that is strong,” said Kalb, including what he called a package of recommendations featuring not only an ordinance, but tweaks to a number of laws already on the books. However, Kalb told the commission, “I can’t make any promises now.”

Last week, the contentious censure hearing into alleged violations of the City Charter by Councilmember Desley Brooks fell short, but yielded a motion approved to create specific rules for censure. An amendment to the motion offered by Brooks also faulted past and seemingly widespread violations of the city’s non-interference laws by council members. The general admission may be an opening for the ethics commission going forward.

With a high-profile grand jury report advocating for beefing up the commission’s powers, coupled with strong support by the public and local media, Roberta Johnson, a member of the commission, thinks a perfect storm exists for change. “It’s appropriate to have an ethical presence in Oakland,” she said. “If there is an opportune time, this is it.”

Monday, July 29, 2013

Bechtel, Wellpoint, Calpine, Pro-Israeli PACs Fill Swalwell's Campaign Coffers

CONGRESS 15 | Rep. Eric Swalwell’s coffers continue to swell with more Political Action Committees and special interest donors with big pockets contributing to his first swing at re-election next year. Thus far he attracted $237,000 in the second financial quarter of this year with $405,000 ending cash-on-hand.

Swalwell’s growing war chest dwarfs his likely competitor, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, whose donations have not budge much from last quarter’s with only $115,772 on hand. However, Corbett has been campaigning vigorously using some of the same strategies Swalwell used last year featuring retail politics and appearances at many public events around the district.

Of course, Swalwell’s incumbency gives him an advantage with familiar Democratic donors and PACs leading him to a large financial boost over Corbett. Some familiar donors make a return from the last financial quarter as well as some that helped Swalwell beat Pete Stark last year. Some of those include PACs such as the American Association for Justice ($5,000), Publix Supermarkets ($1,000), Calpine Corporation ($2,000) and Safeway ($4,000).

Also, controversial health provider, Wellpoint Inc, that Stark formerly grappled with for spiking health care premiums in California in 2010 also unloaded more money into Swalwell’s coffers with $3,500. During Swalwell’s race against Stark Wellpoint Inc, gave $5,000 to Swalwell. Swalwell’s campaign avoided discussing Wellpoint’s controversial past at the time, when questioned. Also, controversial engineering firm Bechtel donated $5,000 to Swalwell. The energy company is involved with the construction of Calpine’s Russell City Energy Center on the Hayward Shoreline. Some environmental activists have been highly critical of the energy plant, in addition to nearby Chabot College.

Another controversial donor returning to Swalwell’s aid is the World Alliance For Israel PAC, which typically backs candidates willing to lobby in favor of Israel’s own special interests which commonly includes their enduring conflict with Palestinians. Swalwell has not hid his favor for Israel in the past and has accepted other funds from Israel support groups, both conservative and liberal, during his race against Stark. This time the WAI PAC raised their contribution to $5,000, as opposed to just $2,000 last year.

Expected Democratic donors also included such as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who donated $2,000 and unions such as National Air Traffic Controller Association with $1,000 and Carpenters Legislative Improvement Committee with $5,000.

Also John J. Dutra of Dutra Land and Consulting Services, who unsuccessfully ran for Fremont city council last year, donated a relatively high sum of $1,000 to Swalwell. His father, John A. Dutra, ran against Corbett for State Senate in 2006, which Corbett surprisingly won when many expected her to lose.

Some other big time individual donors who donated the yearly maximum in campaign donations to a single candidate allowed of $2,600 were Wahed Qureshi, technology officer of Citrix, Melanie Shelby of Gray, Greer, Shelby and Vaughn LLC (A consultant agency) and Jaspreet Dosanjh, general manager of Fremont Chevrolet.

Former Pleasanton mayor, Jennifer Hosterman, who is also a potential candidate for Swalwell's seat next year, reported no campaign activity for the second quarter.

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.

Reid For Mayor? ‘If I Can Raise $400,000, I’m In The Race’

Larry Reid: awaiting a call from God
or campaign donors?
OAKLAND//MAYOR | Councilmember Larry Reid entered the Oakland City Council chambers last Thursday evening to a wave of cheers from supporters on hand early for a truly raucous, yet divisive night. Their exuberance was mixed with calls urging for a run for mayor next year by Reid. As he strode to his council seat, he stopped, grinned widely and tried to wave off his supporter’s plea in the same way a comedian feigns modesty from adoring fans by telling them to halt their applause with one hand while employing the other to continue with their good cheer.

After Thursday’s censure meeting for Councilmember Desley Brooks, Reid acknowledged the support slowly bubbling in recent weeks. If he can raise upwards of $400,000 in campaign donations, Reid said, he will take a swing at unseating former council mate Mayor Jean Quan next year.

“I’m considering it,” said Reid. “I’m giving myself until October to decide whether or not I’m going to run. If I’m going to get into the mayor’s race, I don’t want to get into it half-ass. I just don’t want to jump into the race and I have taken all the means to raise all the money to put a campaign together to communicate my message to the voters up in the hills and precincts you can’t walk. If I can raise $400 grand, I’m in the race." Last month, during another City Council meeting, Reid famously said his mayoral aspirations were awaiting a sign from God.

Reid says he is currently in talks with political allies and fundraisers to help him amass a suitable campaign war chest. However, it has been quite awhile since Reid has been forced to make requisite phone calls hoping to cajole wealthy donors to part with their money. Reid, for instance, needed just $1,000 in fundraising to defeat a host of no-names for re-election last year.

In addition to Quan, others already declared their candidacy for mayor include university professor Joe Tuman and Port of Oakland Commissioner Bryan Parker. Based on demographics alone, the current field, including Reid, if he indeed runs for mayor, strongly favors Quan as the incumbent, but also as the only woman in the race.

Antics by Reid, like those that occurred last Thursday night when he pointedly accused his council colleagues of being racist and hinted at threatening Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby, might make crafting a strategy for winning votes in the more wealthy and white Oakland highlands quite difficult.

“I don’t like to use racism,” said Reid Thursday, “but in this institution that I’m a part of, on this council that I’m a part of, racism is alive and well.” The comments left Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Dan Kalb and several staff members behind them with their mouth agape. Later, Reid hurled aspersions at Ruby, who charged him and Councilmember Desley Brooks of violating the City Charter’s non-interference laws. “I’m not saying what the city auditor said about me is true,” said Reid. “And I’d loved just to have her in front of me.”

When asked afterwards whether the racial tenor of his comments were overheated, Reid exclaimed, “No! Because it’s the truth!”

Friday, July 26, 2013

Brooks Escapes Censure; Council Admonishes Itself For Past Interference

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks escaped censure Thursday night in a meeting filled with racial innuendo and a flood of support from members of her East Oakland district. However, the City Council voted to reprimand itself, excluding its three new members, for unspecified past conduct of interference laid out, in part, in an Alameda County civil grand jury report last month.

Council President Pat Kernighan’s decision to place the controversial motion for censure against Brooks may have backfired during a night some viewed as a setback for a council believed to be turning a corner recently from one of extreme infighting to thoughtful forward-thinking. Near the hearing’s conclusion, Kernighan admitted as much. “I think Ms. Brooks is maybe glad that I did this, after all,” said Kernighan. “It has been interesting and a lot of support for Ms. Brooks.”

The clear strategy to stoke the city’s historic racial and economic divide enflamed the audience Thursday night, made up primarily of black residents. Brooks and Councilmember Larry Reid, who was named in the city auditor’s report last March for violating the City Charter’s non-interference law, but not included in the censure discussion, have long argued both were singled out by the report for wrongdoing pervasive among their colleagues. They also asserted racial reasons

“I don’t like to use racism,” said Reid in an animated speech met often with thunderous roars from the gallery, “but in this institution that I’m a part of, on this council that I’m a part of, racism is alive and well.” He asserts City Auditor Courtney Ruby, who is Caucasian, did not allege non-interference rules were broken by others on the council because of personal friendships. “She can go have lunch with some of my colleagues who she’s afraid to mention in her audit reports and make it seem like the only two people violating the law around here are the two African American council members.”

In a twist, Reid motioned to censure the entire council and specifically accused Councilmembers Libby Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan and Kernighan of interfering with city staff. However, such a move, without proper noticing, would violate the Brown Act, said an assistant city attorney. Reid then clarified his own allegation against him . “I’m not saying what the city auditor said about me is true. And I’d loved just to have her in front of me.” To which Kernighan responded, “I’m sure you would.”

The long, ugly night of political volleying started early. Within 30 minutes, a coordinated effort by Brooks and Reid to bully, obfuscate and lodge insults at Kernighan and Schaaf and others, became evident. As Brooks quibbled with Kernighan over the order of two censure agenda items, Brooks concluded her remarks and called on Reid to speak to past council’s procedures for responding to grand jury findings. Kernighan objected, but Reid proceeded. A subsequent motion supporting the new agenda order favored by Brooks would become a harbinger of the council’s mood later against censuring Brooks and her role in the building of the Rainbow Teen Center in her district.

A few minutes later, while Brooks was lashing out at Schaaf, Reid’s long-time chief of staff Ray Leon could be seen joyously gesticulating at a desk behind his boss as Brooks skewered Schaaf. At one point, Leon motioned for Brooks' attention from across the room and mouthed, “I love it.” Leon then raised his cell phone to his ear motioning for Brooks to look at her own phone. Brooks shifted in her seat and immediately walked away from the dais and followed Leon outside the chambers. Following the meeting Leon denied communicating with Brooks during the hearing. But, when asked what a public record request of his text messages might reveal, he grinned and said, “Nothing, because it’s my personal cell phone.”

The motion calling for the creation of an ad hoc committee to formulate procedures to censuring council members in the future was approved with six ayes. Kernighan and Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney abstained. “Hopefully this issue is done,” said Brooks. “With the motion tonight to vote down the censure, I hope that we can put this behind us and be about the business of the business of Oakland.”

The motion also contained an amendment offered by Brooks admonishing violations of city non-interference laws by council members in the past. However, when asked afterwards whether her motion included her own alleged violations in the city auditor’s and the grand jury reports, she stated it was a general admonishment. When pressed, she curiously referenced the same grand jury report that only specified a investigation into her alleged wrongdoings. She added, “You can go and check the grand jury and see what they thought the interference was.”

Thursday, July 25, 2013

ACLU: Oakland DAC Amounts To Warrantless Surveillance Of Residents

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//PRIVACY | Oakland’s plan to link disparate video feeds across the city and port into one massive data center is drawing intense criticism from the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California. In a letter sent Wednesday to the Oakland City Council, the ACLU says the program, known as the Domain Awareness Center (DAC), amounts to warrantless surveillance of Oakland residents and should not be approved .

The Oakland City Council is scheduled to hold a second hearing July 30 for the approval of $2 million in federal funding for the DAC allowing it to begin installing software that cobbles together hundreds of video cameras from not only the Port of Oakland; of which the original stimulus funds were earmarked, but feeds across the city from the Oakland Coliseum, to city streets and schools, among others.

Approval of the latest phase in the DAC program will also allow it to reach out to other government entities for additional video streams, such as the California Highway Patrol, Caltrans, U.S. Geological Survey, National Weather Service and highway traffic monitoring cameras. Additionally, the DAC is also a clearinghouse for police and fire data.

In their letter, the ACLU urges the City Council to withhold the agenda item following grave concerns the DAC program will infringe on resident’s right to privacy. The plan is also devoid of any guidelines before possible implementation, they add, for the storage and dissemination of such data in the future. “Oakland should not approve a system that would allow for widespread warrantless surveillance of Oakland residents,” wrote Linda Lye, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Northern California. “The DAC as currently proposed allows for the collection and stockpiling of comprehensive information about Oakland residents who have engaged in no wrongdoing whatsoever, and lacks any binding privacy protections.”

The ACLU also doubts the city has studied the unquantifiable costs to privacy while mocking language in the city contract for the DAC that painstakingly details how specific pieces of equipment should be installed with stated precision. “But just as the City Council should not approve the DAC without knowing its financial price tag, the DAC should not approve the DAC without its privacy costs,” says Lye, who is no stranger to the creeping privacy concerns recently being raised in Alameda County.

As early as last fall, Lye spoke out against a still pending plan by the Alameda County sheriff to purchase up to two domestic drones intended, they say, to aid in emergency and rescue situations. However, like the DAC program in Oakland, concerns were raised over how the unmanned aircraft would be deployed absent clear guidelines for its use.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Tuman Running On Public Safety

OAKLAND//MAYOR 2014 | Next year’s mayoral race in Oakland is certain to be dominated by public safety, and candidate Joe Tuman vowed today to make that the central platform of his campaign. The university professor and local television political analyst, who ran an unsuccessful bid for Oakland mayor in 2010, announced this afternoon his run to challenge Oakland Mayor Jean Quan in 2014 with plans to reverse the city’s nagging problems associated with violent crime, including adding up to 350 new police officers.

“I want to be clear that my campaign for mayor of this city will really focus on the real issue — the dominate issue, the narrative of this city — and that is public safety, or, more accurately, the absence of public safety,” said Tuman during a press conference outside Oakland City Hall today. “What we need in the city going forward is, and what I intend to do in my campaign for mayor, is recalibrate a new normal.”


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Alameda County DA Says No Hamburglars In Alameda

Nancy O'Malley
ALAMEDA//PLANNING BOARD | Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley rarely has a beef with elected officials who break the law, but she objected Monday night to a proposed In-N-Out Burger at Alameda Landing citing its likelihood for attracting crime to the city of her residence.

The Alameda Planning Board approved the addition of In-N-Out set to be constructed at the new development between the College of Alameda and the Webster tube leading to Oakland.

Although O’Malley, who never identified himself as the county’s top cop during public comment, said the development, also including a Target, a bank and gas station, will overwhelm the area’s traffic situation, but the burger joint’s presence near Oakland will bring crime to the island city.

“I do know something about public safety,” she said. “We have people coming to what could be considered a vulnerable site in Alameda. It’s easy in and easy out, no pun intended.”

O’Malley added the restaurant’s nighttime hours will attract people to the location from Oakland along with its continuing problem with crime. Over 5,000 robberies were reported in Oakland last year making it the robbery capital of America, O’Malley said. “Every city that surrounds Oakland is impacted by Oakland’s high crime.”

For now, the closest In-N-Out for Alamedans hankering for a Double-Double is located on Hegenberger Road in Oakland where they will gladly take your order and your money.

Press play to watch O'Malley's comments.

Get Adobe Flash player

Oakland Army Base Tenants Have Still Not Signed Leases For Relocation; Reid Blames Quan For Port Inaction

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//ARMY BASE | The brisk removal of tenants at the former Oakland Army Base before this September is of utmost importance to the City of Oakland. However, it needs to pick up the pace or risk the embarrassment of losing out on over $176 million in federal funding to refresh the lucrative port property into a driving economic force for the city. In the meantime, the city and Port of Oakland continue to struggle with relocating some of the remaining businesses as precious time continues to be lost.

The city’s property manager, John Monetta, said three of the four businesses still operating at the base had unlawful detainers filed Tuesday morning against them by the city. All four have previously signed stipulations agreeing to vacate their properties, however, but their movements have been slow. Monetta told the Oakland City Council’s Community and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday afternoon, the timeline to gain site control of the entire property before Sept. 3 has been shrunk from roughly two months to 45 days. The countdown began yesterday, said Monetta.

When the four businesses will be off the property is still unclear. Monetta told the committee Aug. 1 is a possibility, but representatives and owners from the affected businesses disagreed with the assessment. One representative from Pacific Coast Container Logistics said, although they do not intend to object to the unlawful detainer, they are still at least five weeks away from beginning the process of moving from the former base.

A disconnect between the city administration and the Port of Oakland was evident Tuesday when the committee was told few of the tenants had yet to even sign leases for new digs with the port. Assistant City Manager Fred Blackwell said the lack of a signed agreement was news to him, while Councilmember Larry Reid chided Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for not doing enough to seal the deals at the port.

“We are where we are right now and it seems to me where not getting things done,” said Reid, who asserted Quan or someone on staff should have pushed along the foundering lease negotiations. “It’s almost like were not focusing on bringing this to some conclusion.” Reid asserted Quan’s power among the port’s commissioners is evident since she has appointed a good number of them. He added, if he had known the leases at the port had not been signed, “I would have been on their butts, but I’m not the mayor.”

Alex Rosenthal, outside counsel for the city, said the timetable for removing tenants through legal means could add another week to the timetable, if uncontested by the tenants. California courts, said Rosenthal, typically expedite unlawful detainers, which could speed up the process and ultimately lead to a writ of execution allowing the city to summon the sheriff to evict tenants. The presence of stipulated judgments, said Rosenthal, however, suggests the tenants are unlikely to contest any legal maneuvers.

Bill Aboudi, the co-owner of one of the businesses affected and the tenant without an unlawful detainer filed against it, Oakland Maritime Support Services, says all the remaining tenants want to move. “The decisions are not in my hand, they are in your hands and the propaganda that you listen to,” said Aboudi. “Do I want to fight? No. I just want to run my businesses.”

Defiant Brooks Offers 35-Page Retort To Censure; Calls Charges ‘Purely Political’

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//BROOKS CENSURE | Don’t confuse the relative silence from Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks before she faces censure proceedings this Thursday with resignation, she’s merely been assembling her defense. On Monday, Brooks, who was accused last March by City Auditor Courtney Ruby of violating the City Charter’s non-interference laws on 12 occasions, offered the City Council a 35-page defense featuring an array of supporting exhibits and charges of her own.

In the frequently defiant response, Brooks denies any wrongdoing involving interference with city staff in the funding and construction of the Rainbow Teen Center on International Boulevard. Brooks also took aim at Council President Pat Kernighan for placing the censure item on the agenda while accusing her colleague and her allies on the council of their own specific violations of Section 218 of the City Charter prohibiting council members from directing the actions of city staff.

“To date, no one has produced an email or other correspondence where staff advised me to do something; I refused and undertook a different course of action,” wrote Brooks. “Absent such action, there is no showing of ‘willful’ actions on my part. To the contrary, I specifically asked staff to advise us on the process and we followed their direction.”

Brooks also reiterates an argument she has made since Ruby’s scathing report was released March 30 that the City Charter contains no language allowing officials to judge her actions since violation of Section 218 is deemed a misdemeanor subject to immediate forfeiture of office. “Only a judge or a jury can determine if Section 218 has been violated because it is a crime,” wrote Brooks. “As such, no one at the city, not Ms. Kernighan, the Mayor, the City Council, the City Administrator, the City Attorney, the Auditor, or the Grand Jury has the authority to determine if a violation has occurred.”

Specifically, Brooks says problems with the lack of a competitive bidding process in the refurbishing of the building destined to become a much-needed teen center in her district, lay at the feet of the city’s former city administrator. In addition, Pulte, the contractor on the project, which built the center out of philanthropy was not aware of certain city rules and merely followed city staff’s lead. She adds receiving no personally benefit from the project to herself or her campaign. Brooks is up for re-election next year. However, she denies the city could have received a better deal from competitive bidding. She asserts the city received double in labor and costs from Pulte for their $151,000 investment in the teen center

Ruby’s report and a subsequent investigation by the Alameda County civil grand jury, whose finding were released last month, were both critical of Brooks’ approval of a recording studio built within the teen center. Brooks says she used $114,000 of her own discretionary funds to build, furnish and stock the studio with equipment. “As such, I was not merely the Council Member,” wrote Brooks, “I was also the client.”

Mention of an invoice for over $18,000 in recording equipment from a Guitar Store in El Cerrito, first reported last October by San Francisco Chronicle, including a stamp from the city and Brooks’ signature is included in Brooks’ response. However, she does not deny signing the invoice and laments in hindsight not reviewing the form before approving it. “I do not now, nor have I ever, possessed a “CEDA Payment Approval” stamp," wrote Brooks. "A City staff person would have had to provide my staff with the prestamped form. My assistant filled out the forms for my signature. Where I made my mistake was that I didn’t review the forms and the stamp more closely before I signed the documents.”

In the days since Kernighan scheduled Thursday night’s special council meeting, the often coarse Brooks has remained noticeably silent over her current predicament, which, if punishment is passed by her colleagues, could greatly affect her bid for re-election next year. Over the past year, she has grappled often with Kernighan, Councilmembers Libby Schaaf and Rebecca Kaplan, as well as City Administrator Deanna Santana and City Auditor Ruby. In Brooks’ response she claims the cabal against her have ulterior reasons for attempting to reprimand her, while lodging allegations her colleagues are also guilty of specific violations of the City Charter.

“If Ms. Kernighan had such grave concern for the Council’s reputation one wonders why she has singled me out,” wrote Brooks. “Truth be told what’s motivating Ms. Kernighan in this process is purely political.” Kernighan’s allies on the council, Kaplan and Schaaf, violated the charter, said Brooks, but Kernighan did not act. “One would also wonder why Ms. Kernighan doesn’t admit her own violations of the Charter when overseeing the drafting and implementation of the Equal Access Ordinance; directing staff not to issue tickets to certain areas; or renovations of Quickway,” added Brooks. “When will these matters be scheduled?”

Monday, July 22, 2013

Swalwell Can't Help Kicking An Old Dog When He's Down

Still in the crosshairs: Pete Stark
CONGRESS 15 | The National Journal’s Shane Goldmacher is either the most thorough political journalist in American history or he has nothing better to do than investigate campaign finance reports of bygone representatives no longer serving in Congress.

The conservative magazine’s Web site reported Monday former East Bay representative Pete Stark spent $2,240 in campaign funds last month on party supplies and a honky-tonk band named the Hula Monsters, according to finance reports released this month.

Stark was defeated last November by Rep. Eric Swalwell, also a Democrat, after 40 years serving the East Bay. Despite Swalwell’s victory, this latest piece by the journalistic industrial complex (also including the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci and Oakland Tribune’s Josh Richman) which has long been in favor of the newbie congressman, reeks of a hit piece against Stark by Swalwell surrogates.

Goldmacher, a former Los Angeles Times capitol reporter, is no stranger to Swalwell. He penned a positive profile on Swalwell last fall in which he tagged along canvassing a neighborhood in the Tri Valley. It’s unfathomable any reporter, especially a Beltway scribe, would have the time to research such a story, nevermind, actually reaching out to one of the band members who played at the Stark soiree, like Goldmacher did.

The story is also similar to a hit piece put out by Swalwell last year against Stark where his campaign attempted to mock him for allegedly using campaign donations to pay for clowns at his then pre-school children’s birthday party. The tagline then, as in this posting, is Stark’s treasurer is also his wife.

And while the National Journal speculates the party may have been thrown as a thank you to capitol staffers, in an equally speculative vein, it could have also been the family's own farewell. Earlier this year, Stark said he plans on moving back to the East Bay from their Maryland home once the teenage Stark son settles into Yale this summer.

Former CEO Who Wrecked St. Rose Hospital, Took $1.28M Severance, Named To 'Measure A' Blue Ribbon Committee

Michael Mahoney
ALAMEDA COUNTY | Michael Mahoney once ran one of the most crucial safety net hospitals in Alameda County. His mismanagement coupled with the dim realities of running a hospital in pre-Obamacare America led to the near bankruptcy of St. Rose Hospital in Hayward last year and a $1.28 million severance package from the county for his work.

Mahoney, who Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson once publicly accused of lying to the Board of Supervisors during a meeting in 2012, is now part of the Blue Ribbon Task Force charged with renewing the wildly successful health care tax, known as County Measure A, for the 2014 ballot.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors last week named Mahoney to the 32-person task force created earlier this month by Supervisor Nate Miley. The working group will study the pros and cons of renewing the tax which sunsets in 2019 for either the June primary ballot or November midterms. The original Measure A half-cent transactions and use tax has generated nearly $1 billion in revenue to fund the county's health care safety net since 2004. Mahoney’s nomination to the task force was one of five placed by Supervisor Richard Valle last week, who has been linked the former hospital CEO in the past.

In fact, Mahoney’s connections to Valle have been a source of his income since being driven out of his post at St. Rose Hospital. After receiving his $1.28 million severance, Mahoney quickly moved on to a management position at Union City’s Tri-CED, a non-profit recycling company founded by Valle. Later, Mahoney was rumored to be a candidate to become the CEO of the Alameda County Fairgrounds, but that opportunity fell through.

Once viewed as affable and businesslike, Mahoney’s tenure at St. Rose was viewed as positive until the wheels began to fall off the safety net hospital, known for attracting some of the largest percentages of uninsured and Medicare patients in the county. Mahoney’s severance was discovered when the new operator of St. Rose refused to include the package in its purchase agreement. As the hospital’s financial missteps multiplied at an increasing rate, Mahoney asked and received from the Eden Township Healthcare District a $3 million short-term loan to pay employees.

However, Mahoney struggled to pay back the healthcare district and nearly defaulted on the loan. Meanwhile, to buy time, Mahoney was less than truthful with some county supervisors over the true health of the facility. During a meeting in March 2012, the normally staid Carson said Mahoney briefed the board in the morning saying the hospital was doing fine, but followed it up later that day by asking the board for an infusion of cash.

"Mike lied to us. He sat here and lied to us. We asked him what the financial status was in the morning. It's perfect. We've got money. We're good," said Carson. "That afternoon we got a letter saying we need money. We can't make payroll."

A few days later, Cal Mortgage, which financed St. Rose’s earlier loan, put pressure on the county to remove Mahoney. After several twists and turns, the hospital is now run by a separate operator with subsidies from the county. Now, Mahoney’s public reemergence includes deciding whether taxpayers should fund struggling facilities like the one he previous led.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

#Oakmtg Hashtag Flexes Its Growing Political Muscle

SUNDAY COLUMN | Last week, Joshua Daniels, a frequent tweeter and participant in the Twitter hashtag #oakmtg, a collectively agreed upon moniker to sift commentary of Oakland City Council’s meetings into one easy-to-find spot, seemed like the only person in the entire city questioning a resolution over what amounts to a city-wide surveillance program.

In fact, at the July 9 public safety meeting, the item appeared to be like many de rigueur pieces of city legislation. There was no public comment and two City Council members showed no reason to challenge the proposal to allocate $2 million in federal stimulus dollars given to the Port of Oakland and the city to begin phase two of what is ominously called a Domain Awareness Center (DAC). The hub will eventually enable law enforcement better access centrally-located floods of data points and numerous video feeds not only at the port, but city streets and the Oakland Coliseum, among other areas. While some council members exhibited gee whiz enthusiasm for the software’s nifty abilities, including the possibility of adding its capabilities to mobile devices, Daniels feared yet another violation of the citizenry’s privacy.

In the week that followed the committee meeting, Daniels, under the Twitter handle, @HarryElephante, mobilized the often sarcastic, but inquisitive and locally-engaged followers of #oakmtg. Tweet after tweet, he educated his audience to the mere facts, including in a short staff report and the meeting, itself, including a cheery comment by Councilmember Dan Kalb concluding the proposal, “Sounds good to me.”

At Tuesday night’s council meeting, many of the same #oakmtg followers took on their public persona to address the City Council and chided Kalb for his enthusiasm, which they believed was unwarranted. Kalb, however, wondered why the throng of opponents to the DAC did not attend last week’s committee meeting to voice their opinions. The irony, though, is many of them were at the meeting. Maybe not physically, but in the ether, 140 characters at a time.

While social media networks have been credited with helping democracy organize and coalesce in the Middle East, the growing power of #oakmtg gives an indication of what civic participation will look like in the near future. The Oakland City Council, appearing like they were caught flat-footed by the immense lack of vetting for the DAC issue in committee, moved to delay any action on the item to July 30.

Although many feel powerless and disillusioned when it comes to government, it can be argued a single person’s advocacy forced the City Council to step back and pause before blindly approving an expenditure that without specific rules and conditions could one day greatly affect the privacy and ability to protest not just for Oaklanders, but every visitor who unwittingly passes within the field of one of its surveillance cameras.

“Time’s up, Dr. Death.”
-Larry Reid, Oakland councilman and member of the Oakland Coliseum Authority July 17 alerting a Raiders fan named “Dr. Death,” clad in his game day costume, that his public speaking time had elapsed during a presentation of a preliminary study for a new football stadium at the Coliseum.

The Week That Was
Protesters on Broadway in Oakland Monday.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
-Trayvon Martin Protests: Protests last weekend spilled into Monday evening as marchers briefly took over the 880 Freeway near Broadway in Oakland and nearly did the same at the 580 freeway. One marcher was injured and a waiter was assaulted, but the marches were largely peaceful. The Oakland PD, however, admitted they were caught flat-footed when the George Zimmerman verdict was passed down last weekend, but never passing up an opening to denigrate protesters, the City Council will soon discuss making it illegal to carry makeshift weapons at protests.

-Central Alameda: San Leandro is trying to shed its boring, unassuming self by marketing itself as a hub of green tech. This week it added to its reawakening by allowing civil marriages to be performed at City Hall. Nevermind who would choose to get married at San Leandro’s City Hall, but it’s a move forward. In Hayward, voters may be asked to fund the $40 million difference for a new 58,000 sq. ft. main library. A staff report this week showed the city's libraries are some of the most outdated in the entire state.

-Raiders stadium study: There was some disagreement over the cost and size of a potential new stadium for the Raiders, but the big takeaway this week is both the Raiders and the Coliseum Authority realize the league’s lowest revenue-earning franchise will have a tough time attracting corporate sponsors in the East Bay. This is not small problem and may be the first crack in the possible relocation of the Raiders to…elsewhere?

-Plan Bay Area is a go: After nearly 200 public meetings over the past three years, a sweeping plan to remake the Bay Area and the way some of us will live in the next three decades was passed this week. The initiative hopes to create 80 percent of new jobs in Bay Area transportation hubs and advocates for high-density housing to achieve the expected increase in population. Conservatives again raised objections. In fact, calling someone a “communist” was used in bulk like no period since 1965.

Tweet of the Week
“I'm on the road with limited internet - anyone know if the #oo settlement was approved at last night's #OakMtg?”
-@angrywhitekid, one of the Occupy Oakland protesters who received part of a million dollar settlement from the City of Oakland, tweets July 17 on whether the City Council had made him whole.

Best Reads
>>>With an impending BART Strike, Part II on the horizon, the rapid transit system and its board of directors have left a lot of funding opportunities on the table in favor of the rich, while asking workers to pay the price. (East Bay Express, July 18)

>>>The Oscar Grant film, Fruitvale Station, opens to wide-release this week and his legend in these parts as a symbol of police brutality is likely to be solidified by the highly-acclaimed movie. (SF Weekly, July 12)

Voice of the People
“It is time to cancel the term for those who were in office that accepted the bribe from Russell City and it is time all of us to insist that the money is spent on the existing library. Has anyone asked what we can do with Ten Million Dollars? I think a lot.”
-Thomas Clarke commenting July 19 on the $10 million gift from Calpine to the City of Hayward to build a new library on “With Some Of The Most Outdated Libraries In The State, Hayward May Ask Voters To Fund $50M Project.”

Friday, July 19, 2013

Transformative 30-Year Bay Area Planning And Transportation Plan Gains Approval

An opponent of Plan Bay Area speaks before the joint meeting of regional government bodies in charge of implementing the 30-year planning initiative approved Thursday night in Oakland.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
PLAN BAY AREA | After years of discussion and fiery dissent from Bay Area conservatives, a regional housing and transportation project, both massive in scope and funding, was passed Thursday night in a marathon meeting lasting into the early morning hours.

The Plan Bay Area project hopes to transform cities in its nine counties over the next 30 years into a more environmentally-friendly, transit-oriented region featuring high-density housing closer to urban center. Opponents of the plan have consistently argued the regional government bodies in charge of implementing the initiative—the Association of bay Area Governments (ABAG) and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC)—have attempted to limit dissent and presented a one-sided version of the plans benefits and shortcomings.

Another opponent who earlier serenaded officials
with an anti-government song again registers her
protest of Plan Bay Area. PHOTO/Steven Tavares
In the East Bay, only Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty and Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne, both who represent the Tri Valley, voted against Plan Bay Area. Thorne was elected last year primarily on his vociferous opposition to the plan, while Haggerty has advocated putting the issue to voters.

Thursday night’s meeting in downtown Oakland featured nearly 200 public speakers who packed the large ballroom at the Oakland Convention Center. Many jeered public officials for their support of the plan. Former congressional candidate Chris Pareja and others organized caravans from different points of the Bay Area Thursday to speak out against Plan Bay Area.

Roberta Allen, one of those who bused in highlighted a common refrain by some conservative speakers who believe Plan Bay Area will infringe on their right to live in single-family dwellings and commute however and whenever they please. “We chose to live in certain areas for certain reasons,” she said. “I don’t want to live in stack-and-pack housing. I want my garden and my car.”

Ezra Rapport, the executive director of ABAG, and others, says the plan does none of those things and denies it amounts to some type of grand social experiment in the Bay Area, as some contend. “The plan is not radical. It is incremental,” Rapport said Thursday, while admitting he hopes to achieve greater consensus on the plan as it evolves in the future.

Housing and transportation advocates in the Greater Bay Area, however, laud the plan for attempting to limit sprawl and getting residents out of their cars and onto public transportation.

Stephanie Reyes told ABAG/MTC commissioners she recently moved into new high-density housing at the former Bay Meadows Racetrack in San Mateo and looks forward to riding the train to work. David Pepper, who described himself as a public health advocate in Alameda County said residents need to eschew cars and fight the growing problem of obesity. “We’re fat. We’re lazy and we are suffering the ravages,” he said to guffaws from opponents in the audience.

The final resolution adopted Thursday night includes goals for improving the region’s transportation systems and locating areas to increase housing densities to accommodate the Bay Area’s growing population by 2040. It hopes to lower greenhouse emissions 7 percent by 2020 and 15 percent by 2035. Most importantly, it will center 80 percent of the region's new housing be located in centrally-located transportation hubs and two-thirds of job growth through 2040.

Some commissioners from outlying and more conservative areas of the Bay Area had received pressure from constituents to clearly define the plan not supersede local general plans and land use policies. Those concerns were included in the final legislation. An amendment offered by San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener and minutely discussed and approved as the clock passed midnight will also allocate 80 percent of the state’s potential proceeds from cap-and-trade into the plan.

Although many opponents of Plan Bay Area were not optimistic the plan would be rejected Thursday, a nascent, but unfunded drive to potentially file a lawsuit against Plan Bay Area is still being quietly planned.

With Some Of The Most Outdated Libraries In The State, Hayward May Look To Voters To Fund $50M Project

Mockup of the proposed 58,000 sq. ft.
Downtown Hayward library.
HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL | Hayward’s public libraries are some of the most outdated in the entire state, according to a staff report this week, and the City Council believes residents are willing to pay out of pocket next year for a new main library.

The estimated cost building a new three-floor 58,000 sq. ft. downtown library is $50.8 million, according to a presentation given Tuesday to the Hayward City Council. However, the only identifiable funds for the project currently are a $10 million gift from Calpine in 2011. The energy producer is building a natural gas-fired plant on the Hayward Shoreline. The city, though, wants to be prepared when and if additional funds become available.

“Pending the day we find funding for this we are more ready to build the building," said City Manager Fran David. "But, in the meantime, we want to proceed forward and make sure the project does not lag behind just because we can’t find the funding at the moment.”

The project dubbed the “21st Century Library and Community Learning Center” would feature literacy training, after school programs, tutoring and multimedia rooms, said Sean Reinhart, Hayward’s director of library and community services. A digitally-equipped conference holding up to 200 people is also included in the project, along with several smaller meeting rooms. The building would also come equipped with 18,000 sq. ft of rooftop solar panels, which could eventually attain zero net energy output, meaning it produces enough energy to power the entire building at no cost.

Hayward’s libraries already rank as some of the smallest not only in the Bay Area, but the entire state, said Reinhart. The average Bay Area public library has a square feet per capita in the range of .75 sq. ft. Hayward’s is just .25 sq. ft. of library for every resident. Despite the need and the current condition of the school district, nearly every city leader realizes Hayward’s slowly recovering economy does not have the cash to fund the remaining $40 million needed to fund the library project.

“It’s going to cost $50 million and we’ve got 10,” said Councilmember Al Mendall. “I don’t see a source of money that we’re going to stumble upon in the next couple of years. The city is not flush with cash.” Mendall said he once had reservations whether the city should invest in a single, large-scale library or several smaller venues, but Tuesday’s report helped him come to the conclusion both are needed. “We’re so behind and so under served in terms of libraries that in the long term,” he said, “we’re probably talking about a couple of decades here, we should strive to do both.”

Mendall, like nearly every council member Tuesday night, advocated for placing a potential tax measure on the 2014 ballot. “I will do everything in my power for this to get built,” added Councilmember Francisco Zermeno, who has already officially declared his intention to run for mayor next year. In recent years, Hayward voters have twice easily approved tax measures for its under performing schools.

Councilmember Mark Salinas, however, went a step further, not only advocating for a potential tax measure voters to fund the new library, but floating the possibility of expanding its scope to include new buildings for the Hayward Police and Fire Departments. He added, the potential new library should be bigger and thereby send a message to the region Hayward, with a university, community college and numerous other types of educational campuses, is a hub of learning in the Bay Area. A grand new library could also offset the loss of Cal State East Bay’s iconic Warren Hall, slated to be torn down next month, said Salinas. “This library could send a very powerful message throughout the region that is a educational city.”

Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Proposed Citywide Surveillance Center In Oakland Is Delayed As Opposition Builds

The Domain Awareness Center began as a
federal grant for port security, but has
expanded to include more of Oakland.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The approval of $2 million in federal funding for a citywide surveillance center in Oakland was postponed to July 30 as opposition to the controversial proposal slowly gains public awareness and criticism.

The agenda item first presented in an Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee received little vetting by the some council members when it was heard July 9. It also attracted no public comment that night. However, in the past week the issue has gathered energy as some city advocates question the proposal, they say, may further infringe on their privacy, in addition, to it lacking any guidelines for its use and possible expansion.

At Tuesday’s Oakland City Council meeting, the director of the city’s emergency services, Renee Domingo, said no standard operating procedures currently exist for how the system known as the Domain Awareness Center (DAC) will be employed, if approved by the council. In addition, the city and port are in the process of studying various public records and data retention requirements in relation to the DAC, said Domingo. Later, she added there is doubt whether the DAC will function as a center for data storage since the feeds it will pull in already come from sources with their own retention rules.

The DAC was first approved by the City Council in July 2010 following the allocation of federal stimulus dollars for security at the Port of Oakland. The $2 million outlay before the council this month represents phase two of the program which, according to a city staff report, has ballooned from covering the port to other parts of the city, including street cameras and various other locations, including schools and the Coliseum. Approval would also allow the city and port to seek out other agencies to provide additional video feeds to the DAC, including the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and Caltrans, among others. During the Public Safety Committee meeting last week, staff also indicated plans to partner with other statewide and federal authorities for inclusion in Oakland’s DAC.

Privacy advocates say the DAC’s ability to become a clearinghouse for numerous video feeds from a panoply of government agencies, along with a torrent of data sources, including information and statistics from law enforcement, sets a dangerous precedent in a city beset with a police department, which in the past, has routinely infringed on citizen rights and has paid millions in settlements for their actions.

“[There are] huge opportunities for abuse here, too,” Oakland resident Joshua Daniels said Tuesday night. “We’re talking about giving a surveillance system for the entire city over to, perhaps, the most abusive police force in the country.”

Gwen Winter, another Oakland resident speaking during public comment said, “This has nothing to do with crime. This has nothing to do with terrorism. What you want to do is watch what all the people are doing so they won’t organize.”

Following revelations brought on by Edward Snowden over the federal government’s ability to spy on Americans, Sandy Sanders urged for the council to maintain a delineation between the city’s data and other agencies. “Our data is our data and your data is your data and those should be separate. Do your job in government and protect us.”

A few public speakers took fault with Councilman Dan Kalb’s comments in committee last week when he concluded his statements on the DAC by saying, “sounds good to me.” In response to the public outcry Tuesday night, Kalb said, “This is not a fault or a criticism, but I’ll only say, I wish all the people who were here today were at the public safety committee a week ago. It would have been more helpful.”

The City Council may have been caught flat-footed by the amount of criticism against the DAC Tuesday night. Councilman Larry Reid moved to delay the item to July 30. Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who sits on the Public Safety Committee, agreed. Reid asked staff for additional research on the proposal before adding, “Given that we can’t even get our freaking phones working for our police officer…and now we want to add this additional technology when there’s only two to three years for maintenance?” He also criticized the public safety committee for not properly vetting the item.

Councilmember Desley Brooks said the item should have never been placed on Tuesday’s consent calendar. “It was only supposed to go on the consent calendar if it wasn’t controversial and clearly there are people who have a different opinion.”

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Swalwell: An A’s Fan Who Likes Will Clark? A Democrat Who Wants To Cut Social Security?

Giants great Will Clark gave Rep. Eric Swalwell
a thrill, according to a tweet Tuesday.
CONGRESS 15 | Mr. Everything To Everybody is back at it. Rep. Eric Swalwell continues to understand moderate Democrat to mean a catch-all for the entire political spectrum. The philosophy apparently is not only includes politics, but other parts of life.

On Tuesday, the freshman congressman who touts manning his own Twitter and Facebook feeds, took to pandering to Oakland Athletics fans when joking about offering a resolution to put its star outfielder, Yoenis Cespedes on the All-Star Game roster (since corrected to simply put him in the game before the 9th inning). Smart, since his East Bay constituency is mostly A’s fans.

However, later, in response to comments during the broadcast of the All-Star Game Tuesday evening informing viewers Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw wears the number 22 in honor of former Giants great Will Clark, Swalwell showed his true orange and black colors by tweeting a similar affinity for the man nicknamed Will "The Thrill." "I was practically raised by #TheThrill," tweeted Swalwell.

A couple of things here: when former Rep. Pete Stark offered a House resolution in 2011 honoring A’s pitcher Dallas Braden for a throwing a perfect game, Swalwell unmercifully used it to show his former opponent's neglect of the district. Curiously, Swalwell famously rented a yacht to carry his campaign signs at McCovey Cove last year during a Fox Sports telecast of a Giants game. He also tweeted his great support of the San Francisco 49ers during their Super Bowl run earlier this year. Swalwell even posed with San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee clad in Niners gear.

Of course, which sports teams you support, no matter if they are located in the congressional district or not, ultimately is inconsequential when it comes to lawmaking. However, it feeds into a solidifying sense in the East Bay that Swalwell is not who he seems. Those in Hayward remain wary whether his stances on immigration, social security and privacy actually matches the rhetoric he offers white, middle-class suburbanites in the Tri Valley. Is he really the kind of Democrat that embodies the entire district? Might he favor the Tri Valley over the Hayward- Fremont area? His recent campaign finance report says he should.

Would a progressive Democrat actively support lowering Social Security benefits for seniors like Swalwell is advocating? And when it comes down to it, what kind of self-respecting A’s fan tells people they like Will Clark?

Bonta Asks Oakland To Refocus Anger Over Zimmerman Verdict

A Woman carries a Trayvon Martin sign Monday
near 6th Street and Broadway in Oakland.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
ASSEMBLY 18//OAKLAND | After three days of peaceful protest in the streets of Oakland following the not guilty verdict in the killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, which was marred by instances of violence and private property damage, Oakland Assemblyman Rob Bonta says the community needs to channel its anger from destruction to a social movement.

“We also must realize that our community is being judged on our response to the jury’s verdict,” said Bonta on Wednesday. “I echo President Obama’s call to ‘ask ourselves if we’re doing all we can to widen the circle of compassion and understanding in our own communities.’ The counterproductive acts of those outside of Oakland who come into our city vandalizing storefronts of businesses employing hard-working Oakland residents and destroying property neither honors the memory of Trayvon Martin nor widens the circle of compassion and understanding.”

Few public officials outside of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s office have spoken out over the events following the acquittal of George Zimmerman Saturday night. Bonta’s statement regarding the violence in Oakland over the weekend and last Monday night is rare among the East Bay delegation.

Bonta, like Rep. Barbara Lee, added to a growing chorus of lawmakers urging the U.S. Department of Justice to file civil rights charges against Zimmerman. “Our community, which is still reeling from its own tragic, unnecessary shooting death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed young African American man, looks to federal authorities for justice so we can begin to heal these wounds,” said Bonta, who has focused his first year in the State Assembly on curbing gun violence and limiting access to firearms and ammunition.

Similar to a growing number of vibrant, yet violent protest in Oakland over the past three years, a few unfortunate events of broken storefront windows and the attack Monday of a waiter have turned the media and public focus away from the protest’s aims to spates of vigilantism. “I encourage our community and our nation to channel the passion of our outrage and sadness towards the vital, peaceful struggle for justice and equality,” said Bonta. “As a community and as a nation, and, painful as it may be at times, we must progress together or we will not move forward at all.”

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Stephen Colbert Takes On The KTVU Fake Name Meme

KTVU | It really cannot get any worse for KTVU and the "award-winning 10 o'clock news." Within two hours of the infamous broadcast last Friday afternoon of four fake pilot's name on the fateful Asian Airlines Flight 214, the local Fox affiliate was a national laughingstock. The video of the afternoon anchorwoman uttering the names of "Captain Sum Ting Wong, Wi Tu Lo, Ho Lee Fuk and Dang Ding Ow," was posted on media blogs across the country.

However, it got worse Monday night, when their spectacular crash-and-burn become fodder for Stephen Colbert. In a segment broadcast on Comedy Central, Colbert mocks the station for being racist, but with a twist. "This is a Korean airline," said Colbert. "Those are Chinese names. That's racist. That's racist, okay? And if you are going to do a racist joke, at least get the ethnicity right." He then offered his own more Korean-centric faux names.

Curiously, the mere mention of the station's call letters alone elicited laughter from the New York-based audience. It was only further evidence the once-proud Oakland television station is the butt of many jokes, not only in the Bay Area, but beyond.

Meanwhile, Bay Area media insider Rich Lieberman says KTVU's parent company, the privately-owned Cox Media, is conducting an internal investigation into how the embarrassing list of names traveled through its newsroom without someone catching the quite obvious prank before it made it on-air last week. Lieberman notes KTVU's news director Lee Rosenthal has only been on the job since April and could be on the chopping block and the anchorwoman who uttered the hilarious, but cringe-worthy names, Tori Campbell, took a leave of absence over the weekend.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Preliminary Studies Find Corporate Sponsorship Lacking For New Raiders Stadium

OAKLAND COLISEUM AUTHORITY | Two preliminary studies — one by the City of Oakland and Alameda County, and one by the Oakland Raiders — say the feasibility of a new stadium in Oakland for the football team would be hampered by the East Bay’s lack of corporate support. The stadium project also falls short financially due to a lack of public and private development dollars, according to a presentation of early findings offered Monday to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority.

According to one of the reports, the Raiders may be able to only contribute $300 million toward a new stadium in Oakland. This figure includes a potential loan from the NFL. The total cost of a new stadium, based on similar new facilities in other cities, could be about $1 billion.


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Joel Young And Never Having To Say You’re Sorry

SUNDAY COLUMN | Let me start by saying, I know more about AC Transit Board Director Joel Young than care to know. From covering his campaign last year for the State Assembly to his latest transgressions leading to his censure this week, reporting on the man is easily least fun activity for me, by a longshot. Those who read the East Bay Citizen know my editorial style views the news through characters like a playwrights sees a three-act drama. You would think someone like Young would fascinate me, but he doesn’t. And the reason why? He lacks any ounce of empathy. That is a scary proposition. A public official without the requisite ability to care about others. The only thing worse is someone who can’t say sorry and Young apparently cannot produce either emotion.

Joel Young
Fellow AC Transit Board Director Jeff Davis referenced this shortcoming this week when voicing displeasure over Young’s absence and inability to offer exactly what was going through his head while attempting to essentially act as a mole in pilfering the district’s confidential legal files and strategy for his own gain in private practice. “I would like to hear some contrition and I’m not hearing it,” said Davis.

Having to never say you’re sorry is common theme for Young. For crissakes, an Alameda County Superior Court judge last year said he believed Young struck his girlfriend in the face. The case was later dismissed, but Young never should any compassion over the incident. In fact, Young was more intent over parading around town a ridiculously tiny cut suffered on his torso, allegedly by the same ex.

The same penchant to attack his accusers rather than own up his misdeeds has a common thread through Young’s public pratfalls. It’s always someone else's fault. AC Transit Board President Greg Harper summed up Young’s modus operendi two weeks ago when Young chose to attack him and Board Director Elsa Ortiz rather than confront the allegations against him. ““It’s a little bit symptomatic of his style. Rather than address the issues, he wants to say, ‘I’m not worse than anybody else.’ He counterpunches and he thinks that’s effective and then kind of flails away.” said Harper, and he is totally right.

There were some indications that if Young would showed some sorrow over his actions, he may have received some sympathy from his colleagues. Instead, the seven-page response to the internal investigation was a typical mishmash of disparate allegations against his accusers and taunts, such as saying the rest of board had “filthy hands.” Making matter worse, Young chose to cowardly jettison himself away from the board’s public discussion and when he returned chose to duck questions on the matter.

The AC Transit Board of Director, however, deserves a tremendous amount of credit for swiftly and without hesitation throwing down the gauntlet on Young. Those who know him personally all say it is always better to avoid confrontation with him, rather than to face his incessant wrath and physical threats. This week the AC Transit board stood up to a bully and found him to be a paper tiger. Another equally intimidating public official in the East Bay may be next to stand before a censure hearing later this month. Here’s hoping the Oakland City Council is inspired by the righteousness of their colleagues on Franklin Street.

“If we're going to really change Oakland, it's critical to have a candidate and eventual mayor who gets the details right. I am a detail-oriented person. You'll have my answer in less than two weeks.”
-Joe Tuman, the former and now-likely Oakland mayoral candidate, July 8, telling supporters he’ll give them an answer whether his running in 2014 in a few weeks. Logically speaking, his comment more than suggests he’s in it to win it.

The Week That Was
Ro Khanna
>>>Khanna’s cool million: Forget about what a week it was for 17th Congressional District candidate Ro Khanna, how about the last 90 days? Khanna blew away political observers in the South Bay and the Beltway this week with campaign finance reports showing over $1 million in contributions since last April. It’s not even his personal best for a quarterly filing period. You might remember in 2011, Khanna burst upon the scene with a whopping $1.2 million in donations. At that time, it wasn’t clear whether he would challenge Pete Stark in the 15th District or was positioning himself as heir apparent in 2014. Fate may be on his side against the popular, but aging Rep. Mike Honda in a district where old is just an update to your app away.

>>>Transportation beat: Federal officials continue to sort through exactly what happened when an Boeing 777 fell short of the runway and crashed killing two. The transportation beat in the Bay Area has been in the spotlight for about the last month starting with the BART strike. On that front, following a one-month renewal of the contract, BART union leaders apparently got the hint to start protecting themselves from management and the media’s attempts to vilifying middle class wage earners. The spotlight this week turned to how much BART’s upper management earns and a report detailing a union-busting negotiator hired by the elected BART Board of Directors. The same negotiator then notified officials that he is going on vacation for five days later this month.

>>>Oakland City Council: Affordable housing and privacy advocates will likely have their time at the bully pulpit later this month at the Oakland City Council, both centered on Councilman Dan Kalb. An ordinance proposed by the freshman member setting aside 25 percent of the state boomerang fund for affordable housing passed a council committee this week, although two council members registered some opposition. A more controversial resolution on privacy, though, might make Kalb’s liberal constituents scratch their heads. Another council committee moved an item approving the allocation of $2 million in federal stimulus funds for an all-inclusive center that will pull in extensive data and video feeds from all over the city at the pleasure of the city’s public safety officials.

>>>Another censure? Joel Young is the only elected official in the East Bay to face down the threat of censure. The Oakland City Council will debate whether to formally rebuke, or even censure, Councilmember Desley Brooks after the city auditor accused her of violating the City Charter on 12 occasions. The report alleged Brooks interfered with city staff in the handling of a new teen center in her district. Courtney Ruby’s findings and an Alameda County civil grand jury charged Brooks and other council members acting as mayors of their own district. The hearing, sure to be contentious, is scheduled for July 25.

Tweet of the Week
"If Napolitano thought homeland security, disaster relief & immigration were contentious issues, wait until she tries to update the UC logo."
-@aewright, tweeting July 12 on the naming of former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano to head the University of California system.

Best Reads
>>>The new Alameda County public defender is trying to own up to his job description. In this excellent profile, Brendon Woods describes how he hopes to look out for interests. (East Bay Express, July 10.)

Voice of the People
“Swalwell made a big mistake in trying to cut Social Security benefits for Seniors, Veterans and the Disabled. He will pay for that on 2014, and Ellen Corbett will reap the benefits.”
-Anonymous, commenting July 11 on “S-p-p-p-pit It Out, Junior!”