Friday, September 27, 2013

Flag Controversy In San Leandro Reveals A Mayor’s Re-Election Vulnerabilities

SAN LEANDRO//FLAG FLAP/ANALYSIS | There's reasons why residents in Oakland, San Francisco and Alameda are not up in arms about a Chinese flag being unfurled over their cities next week, while San Leandrans tears itself apart. It has little to do with geopolitical rivalries, the treatment of Tibetans or China’s awful civil rights records. In San Leandro, the issue may unwittingly have exposed a vulnerable mayor caught between raging displeasure within its growing Asian demographic and a small band of rabid progressives who encompass his likely foot soldiers and campaign volunteers for re-election next year.

In fact, the entire controversy over flying the Chinese flag over San Leandro City Hall Oct. 1 to celebrate its national day is about as organic and unlikely as you will see at any level of government. When Councilmember Benny Lee placed the issue on the Sept. 16 agenda, he simply wanted to encourage Chinese investors to set up shop in San Leandro. However, Lee may have been a bit na├»ve to the potential political ramifications of flying a rival economic banner over the city. In addition, he could have never foreseen the issue potentially shaping the city’s elections next year by waking a growing Asian American demographic in San Leandro already showing signs of operating aggressively and en masse.

Lee and other who supported the flag flying stress their intentions rest solely on honoring the city’s Chinese residents, not the Chinese government. However, Mayor Stephen Cassidy opposed the resolution as did San Leandro School Trustee Mike Katz, a strong Cassidy supporter and candidate for the City Council next year. Katz’s often abrasive wife Margarita Lacabe, a member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, was also vocal in opposing the resolution. She led an online petition against it citing China’s dismal civil rights record.

The city’s Asian American populations, especially a large number of shoreline residents at Heron Bay, have been deeply critical of Cassidy and the Katz’s in the past. Over the past year, the trio strongly supported controversial approval of a commercial wind turbine just outside the Heron Bay housing development. To say certain influential members of the Asian American community have the long knives out for Cassidy and his core supporters is an understatement. While there is a lament in the East Bay among some Asian American and Indo American leaders their groups often put themselves at a political disadvantage by adhering to cultural mores promoting campaigns run with utmost honor, this is not the case in San Leandro. In fact, Asian Americans here are building the template for growing minority populations in the East Bay to grab hold of their growing power and potential.

San Leandro’s Asian American population showed last year it could organize and vote as one. When Chris Crow, another member of the Cassidy/Katz/Lacabe team, ran for the same council last year seat sought by Lee, the community rose up in ferocious anger when a report detailed comments made by him against Chinese. On a Facebook posting, Crow called Chinese Olympians “sore losers.” Knowledge of Crow’s inflammatory words travelled quickly and seemed ubiquitous within the Asian American community. Although Lee was a likely front runner for the seat, he surprised some by garnering over 60 percent of the vote in a four-person race. The victory made Lee the first-ever Asian American member of the San Leandro City Council.

There is now precedent for candidates in San Leandro to bend over backwards for the Asian American vote. The group is expanding and already encompasses the city largest demographic at nearly 30 percent. The rift between this group and Cassidy seems irreparable after the mayor last week opted to suspend the City Council’s vote to fly the Chinese flag. Adding further insult, Cassidy’s plea for a restart in the discussion is undermined by the calendar. Lee sought to hold the ceremony to coincide with the Oct. 1 Chinese holiday. However, the City Council does not meet again until Oct. 7.

Others have criticized Cassidy for not offering a compromise solution. For instance, nearby Alameda will also fly the Chinese flag next Tuesday, but it displays the banner on a smaller, temporary flag pole and not on the taller stationary poles used for the U.S., state and city flags. The ugly spectacle enflamed by Cassidy appears to have disrespected the city’s largest community, brought a “loss of face” to the Chinese counsel general in San Francisco, shown an antipathy toward the will of a majority of the City Council and possibly endangered business investment from abroad.

From Cassidy’s perspective, the calculation may have been made with serious caution, but it also highlights a mayor unpopular among city staff, many council members and Alameda County Democratic Party leaders. In Cassidy’s case there is no reason to be choosy in picking friends when you only have a few willing to help with your birthday party. In 2010, Cassidy ran on a fiscally conservative platform that demonized city workers. The memory of his words and actions still elicit either eye rolls or gnashing of teeth by party leaders. His bullying tactics as a school board members have also highlighting his tenure as mayor.

Yet, in the past year, he has become noticeably more liberal. First, supporting medical cannabis dispensaries, gay marriage and voting to limit security cameras in public places. Coincidentally, these are all issues his inner circle of friends and potential campaign workers next year vociferously support. Without this group it would appear the political engine leading his upset run for mayor in 2010 would be struggling to hum without motor oil. The battle lines have been set in San Leandro and Benny Lee could have never imagined the ramifications that could linger into next year all for simply wanting to fly a red flag over City Hall.

Brown Signs Corbett Bill Strengthening Protection Of Usernames, Passwords

LEGISLATURE | When the security of your personal information on the Internet is breached, state law requires the data storage company notify you in a timely manner. However, while the breadth of personal information, such as your name, address, social security number and bank accounts is covered by state law, the potential cracking of usernames and passwords are not.

A bill authored by State Sen. Ellen Corbett closing this crucial entry point in the notification system was signed into law Friday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

“Many consumers now conduct their day-to-day personal business online, including banking and paying bills, which creates more opportunities for sophisticated cybercriminals to access and steal their personal information,” Corbett said Friday afternoon.

This familiarity has also quelled some fears that their personal information could be left up-for-grabs. Nevertheless, over a million Californians were victims of identity theft last year alone, according to the state attorney general’s office. Without exception, the State Legislature agreed more could be done to protect online consumers. Corbett’s Senate Bill 46 navigated the entire legislative process without a single no vote.

Specifically, the new state law requires companies hosting personal data to additionally notify consumers when usernames, associated email addresses, passwords and related security questions and answers may have been breached.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

On Second Thought, Armas Will Not Be South San Francisco's City Manager

Jesus Armas
HAYWARD | South San Francisco is having second thoughts about hiring former Hayward school board president Jesus Armas as its next city manager. After the city’s city council apparently approved the terms of a 2-year, $230,000 contract earlier this month, an internal memorandum dated Sept. 19, says otherwise.

“The City Council has elected to continue with the City Manger recruitment process and to also consider the selection of an Interim City Manager while that recruitment process continues,” wrote South San Francisco Mayor Pedro Gonzalez. The current city manager will continue through Nov. 1, the previous date of his retirement.

During a Sept. 11 City Council meeting, its appeared the hiring of Armas, a former South San Francisco city manager in the late eighties who also served as Hayward’s city manager and later a school board member until last year, was a done deal. The council approved the agenda items late in the evening without discussion. A request to the South San Francisco city manager’s office was not returned as of Thursday evening.

However, the city’s staff may have done some eleventh hour research into Armas’s infamous extra-marital affair with a fellow school board member that resulted in both not seeking near certain re-election in November 2012.

Noel Gallo, Juvenile Curfews And The Politics Of Personal Experience

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//CURFEWS | A younger Noel Gallo once walked the late night streets of Oakland. “Growing up in the city of Oakland as a teenager, I knew what the curfews was because I was one individual picked up by law enforcement and questioned what was I doing on a Thursday night on Fruitvale Avenue at 12 midnight.” Police back then gave him a choice: we’ll call your parents or take you home?

The connection between life then for Gallo growing up in Oakland’s Fruitvale District and the Latino-infused area he now represents has often been a proxy for a very paternal view of fixing the problems that plague his neighborhood. In only his first year on the City Council, Gallo has literally and figuratively, worked to cleanse the Fruitvale District of grime and graffiti, searched for ways to stop young women from prostituting themselves along the International Boulevard corridor and strived to change the downward direction of youths.

This week Gallo and other members of the council propose enacting stronger fines for those who illegal dump garbage on city streets. On Thursday, Gallo also scheduled a proposed mechanism for censuring council members for Oct. 17 in the aftermath of a contentious hearing last July to reprimand Councilmember Desley Brooks for violating the City Charter. His old school ways may irk some in Oakland, along with a default setting for bending rules and relegations, but his clear desire for law and order is exactly what many Oaklanders say they desire.

An ordinance to enact a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily juvenile curfew that features punishment ranging from community service, fines or even incarceration, is likely to be the next battle in cleaning up Oakland. On Thursday, Gallo requested his controversial proposal be scheduled for introduction Nov. 12. Gallo told the City Council Rules and Legislation Committee, he needs more time to fine-tune the proposal, along with allowing the city attorney’s office to weigh-in on some portions of the ordinance and locating areas and circumstances outside the proposed curfew rules. “By then we will have the police chief, the city administrator, the attorneys, all engaged in what a curfew should look like and be all about here in the city of Oakland,” he said.

The juvenile curfew ordinance is similar to a proposal by former Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente, of which Gallo replaced last year, and current Councilmember Larry Reid. Gallo told the committee a copy of the prior curfew ordinance will be attached to the latest version when it eventually appears before the Public Safety Committee.

The De La Fuente/Reid plan, however, met resistance from the previous council and elicited stiff public condemnation. Opponents deny juvenile curfews actually improve public safety, while unwittingly offering a target for police to harass young black and Latino males. In the past, Gallo has also supported gang injunctions in the Fruitvale area, which critics have opposed under a similar argument to juvenile curfews. Nevertheless, Gallo often views the city's problems within the prism of his own personal experiences.

It wasn’t just the cops, however, who set Gallo straight. It was his parents, he says, who ultimately stopped his late night gallivanting. After being questioned by police as a teenager for loitering, he finally got the message. “I experienced that not only one time, but several times,” Gallo says before adding the kicker, “So I got it after the third time due to my mom’s discipline and direction.”

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Campaign Promise Broken

CONGRESS//15TH DISTRICT/ANALYSIS | What happened last week to Rep. Eric Swalwell is better explained through cinema. Taken from the viewpoint of Swalwell’s large moderate, more well-to-do base in the Tri Valley, Swalwell’s unfortunate utterance of the word and imagery of a “wet dream” last Friday was the moment the young Jedi became his father. Pete Stark, the man who presided over the East Bay for four decades before being beaten last year by Swalwell, might have whispered from his barcalounger, “Eric, I am your father.”


So, in one brief moment, the rookie congressman reneged on his biggest, most heartfelt, campaign promise from a year ago. After vowing never to embarrass the district with name-calling and truly outlandish behavior, Swalwell became Stark. (Watch the video below.)

The reaction to the phrase was so critical that even the local mainstream media, which has cheered Swalwell unmercifully after the past year, couldn’t look away. Josh Richman of the San Jose Mercury News reached out to Stark, whose comments sounded like last year’s campaign never ended. "I hope I'd have the good taste in all my outbursts not to say something like that, but I guess it gives you the measure of the man," Stark told the newspaper.

Even the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci, who continues to confound many by her rah-rahing for Swalwell, noted the wet dream quote “raised eyebrows.” However, she remained insufferable by also noting a wet dream is a “natural bodily function.”

The Huffington Post suggested Swalwell’s speech may have violated the House rules for decorum, which prohibits members from disparaging each other or using vulgarity within the House of Representatives. Ironically, Republicans used the same rule to sanction Stark for saying President George W. Bush found certain eroticism by sending young men to get their heads "blown off" in Iraq. Swalwell’s behavior while in the people’s house has faced criticism in the past. ABC News noted this summer that Swalwell’s recording of a vote, later uploaded to Vine, violated House rules for the use of electronic devices. In both instances, Swalwell appeared unrepentant.

Tea Party adherents who voted for Swalwell last year will tell you he lied to voters the first time he appeared with Sean Hannity on Fox News last January and strongly-backed gun control. But, whether Swalwell ever communicated a pro-gun stance may have been part of their collective imagination and exploited by his brand of moderate politics that struggles to believe in everything and nothing at all. However, making national news for saying weird and nasty things is, by far, the number one reason conservatives in the district hated Stark and why even some liberals secretly wished he would go away.

After last week, Swalwell became exactly what he repeatedly told thousands, from Livermore to Hayward, he would never become—an embarrassment to his district.

Report: Reps Honda, Swalwell Part Of $1.7m In Special Interest-Paid Trips Abroad This Summer

CONGRESS | Some members of Congress spent the summer break hobnobbing with constituents. Others did that while also travelling abroad to places such as Africa, the Middle East, South America and Israel. Roll Call reported over $1.7 million in special interest money was spent on members of Congress to fly free this summer.

Included in the report are South Bay Rep. Mike Honda and the East Bay’s Rep. Eric Swalwell. The congressional newspaper reported the Pacifica Institute; a Turkish lobbying group spent $5,675 to fly Honda to Istanbul last month.

The report also detailed Swalwell’s more widely known trip to Israel last month that included over 60 members of Congress. The excursion was paid for by the American Israeli Foundation for an education seminar, according to Roll Call. On the trip, Swalwell posted numerous photo of himself praying before the Wailing Wall and before Christ himself. The photos were posted on social media.

The nexus of special interests lavishing trips on elected officials, especially those in the perpetually unpopular House of Representatives, is a potential goldmine for any mid-term congressional candidates. Ro Khanna, Honda’s intra-party opponent in the 17th Congressional District didn’t think twice before taking a cut at the report that included Honda in its free version of the article.

“At a time when our nation faces crushing budget shortfalls – and when Congress should have been at the negotiating table to reach bipartisan compromise to avert a looming government shutdown – this spike is a troubling sign that our representatives are putting special interests ahead of our communities,” Khanna said.

Members of Congress are not the only elected officials taking international vacations on lobbyists’ dime. This summer, a similar report detailed a special interest-organized trip to Cuba featuring among other California legislators, Berkeley’s Assemblymember Nancy Skinner.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Halliday Becomes Third Sitting Council Member To Run For Hayward Mayor

Hayward council members planning a run for mayor include, encircled, Mark Salinas, Francisco Zermeno and Barbara Halliday. Mayor Michael Sweeney, center, will not seek re-election, while Councilmember Al Mendall said last week he has no interest in running.
HAYWARD//MAYOR/2014 ELECTION | As opposed to her fellow council members who took very little time announcing their intentions to replace Mayor Michael Sweeney next year in the mayor’s office, Councilmember Barbara Halliday said she needed some time to think it through. Times up. She’s in, boys.

On Tuesday, Halliday officially announced her run for mayor in the at-large June 2014 election. “I am pleased and excited to enter the race for Mayor,” said Halliday. “As a Council Member for the past nine years and a longtime community volunteer, I have the experience, knowledge, and track record needed to lead the city forward, to improve public safety, keep our budget balanced, protect our environment, improve our schools, and continue to revitalize our downtown.”

She joins fellow Councilmembers Francisco Zermeno and Mark Salinas in the race. Zermeno threw his hat in the ring last May, while Salinas waited roughly 24 hours after Sweeney announced last month he would not seek re-election.

Halliday says she also plans to focus her campaign around Hayward’s youth. In a statement Tuesday, she offered a helping hand to the beleaguered Hayward Unified School District, whose low student scores rank as one of the lowest in Alameda County. In many ways, the school district’s poor performance over the past few years has been mentioned by many as an impediment to the city’s revival.

Such an emphasis on education by Halliday is a bold move against what is perceived as her opponent’s strength. Both Zermeno and Salinas are long-time college professors in Hayward.

Oakland Gets Tough On Illegal Dumping

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//ILLEGAL DUMPING | The sight of dirty mattresses propped up by sign poles and piles of unattended refuse is getting on the nerves of many Oaklanders. Residents routinely complain illegal dumping on Oakland streets is ubiquitous and the mess may sit on city sidewalks for days, even weeks. “It begins to feel like no one cares,” said Oakland Councilmember Lynette McElhaney of the psychological toll the presence of garbage takes on the city’s residents.

On Tuesday, McElhaney and other members of the council, along with City Attorney Barbara Parker began crafting a strategy for containing the problem of illegal dumping. A proposed ordinance approved by the Public Works Committee Tuesday afternoon would designate illegal dumping as a public nuisance punishable by a misdemeanor. It would also fine those who illegal dump mattresses $1,000 on the first offense. The matter will be heard by the full council on Oct.1.

“We’ve had enough,” said McElhaney, who is not a member of the public works committee, but addressed it during public comment. “The message to those is we will prosecute you. We will pursue you in court.” Haulers located in Oakland and in neighboring cities illegally dumping in the city could be subject to stiff fines and possible seizure of their truck, according to the ordinance. However, the city attorney’s office told the committee the process by which seizures occur rests with the state. Before a vehicle could be seized, the owner must have two previous criminal convictions.

Nevertheless, there was no shortage of ideas for stemming illegal dumping, which many labeled not only a public works problem, but also one of health and safety. Councilmember Noel Gallo, undoubtedly the city’s most active critic of illegal dumping, called for a comprehensive strategy for cleaning up the city involving nearly every sector of government, and notably, residents themselves. The first-term District 5 council members can be seen every Saturday morning painting over graffiti, picking up liter and hauling mattresses. “Don’t just talk about it, but get your hands dirty,” Gallo urged.

There are other extenuating circumstances for why residents or unscrupulous haulers leave their trash in Oakland. The recent recession resulted in many evictions and belly-up mortgages. The cost of disposing large personal items is also prohibitive for some low-income earners. Gallo noted Oakland and neighboring San Leandro have some of the highest rates for dumping in the region. He also proposed lowering standards and permitting fees for haulers and deputizing some city workers to issue tickets to those who illegally dump. Gallo even suggested splitting the proceeds from fines between the city and residents who alert authorities to dumping as it occurs.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan urged the city to search out ways to subsidize a pilot program for special days when residents can drop off old mattresses for free. She also proposed creating a countywide registry of private haulers to track and regulate the local industry. She, like others on the public works committee, hammered the notion the council and their constituents have reached a breaking point when it comes to sullying the city’s streets. “You cannot trash Oakland,” said Kaplan, “and we won’t let you get away with trashing Oakland.”

Friday, September 20, 2013

Coliseum Official: Flushed Towel Caused A's Toilet To Backup

COLISEUM AUTHORITY | So, who clogged the dugout toilet last Tuesday?

Was it you, Josh Reddick? Did you do it, Jed Lowrie? Hey, guy whose job it is to hold the water hose, was this your doing?

On Friday, Coliseum management said a flushed towel caused the toilet in the A's dugout to overflow during the seventh inning of a game Tuesday night.

Maintenance workers could be seen mopping the concrete dugout floor during the game. A plumbing snake was later used to unplug the toilet. However, Dave Rinetti, the vice president of stadium operations for the team told KTVU the culprit was a malfunctioning sensor on the toilet that caused it to repeatedly flush.

This is the second time a national news report about the aging Coliseum featured an overflowing toilet. It is also the second time the cause of the problem was either clothing or a towel flushed down players-only areas of the stadium. Last June, an article of clothing, believed to be a sweater, caused both clubhouses to be overrun by sewage. The blockage was reportedly blown out of the sewer line. In both instances, Coliseum officials say the accidents had nothing to do with faulty plumbing.

However, both instances have drawn cries from A's fans, who theorize both accidents are inside jobs co-opted by co-owner Lew Wolff and the media to create buzz for a new stadium. A's fans are quick note both plumbing accidents occurred within a few days of what appeared to be media blitzes by the mercurial owner. The first came days after the city of San Jose sued Major League Baseball to allow a determination on the team's desired moved to San Jose. This week's accident came on the heels of another round of derisive comment by Wolff and rightfielder Josh Reddick knocking the stadium and fans for low attendance during their drive for the pennant.

During an Oakland Coliseum Authority meeting Friday morning, Chris Dobbins, a member of the board and Oakland school board trustee asked Chris Wright, the general manager of the Coliseum, about suggestions of sabotage. Wright would not comment, but, added the timing between the toilet overflowing in the dugout, to him, seemed to have occurred just as reporters were being led into the area. Wright made similar suggestions at a June meeting following the leak in the clubhouses insinuating complicity between the A's and news media to perpetuate a belief the stadium was in clear disrepair.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Heavyweights For Controller Pose A New Stumbling Block For Alameda’s Betty Yee

Board of Equalization member Betty Yee
STATE CONTROLLER//2014 ELECTION | For a few months this summer, Alameda resident Betty Yee’s campaign for state controller was looking good. When State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, another East Bay resident, decided against another round of statewide musical chairs and announced he would not run for controller, it left the Board of Equalization member as a possible frontrunner.

She had piled up nearly $475,000 in campaign contributions, according to campaign finance reports and support was beginning to coalesce among Democrats, at least, here in the Bay Area. However, the road to the controller’s office and whatever the controller actually does, isn't looking so clear, anymore. (The controller is sometimes referred to as the state's top bookkeeper.)

Whereas, Lockyer jumped off the statewide merry-go-round, the open seat is being filled by termed out State Assembly Speaker John Perez, who is a political heavyweight in more ways than one. Most observers undoubtedly see Perez as the runaway favorite. He will leave the State Assembly in better shape than when he found it and is only 43-years-old.

According to capitol watcher Scott Lay’s column, The Nooner, another Democratic stalwart could be jumping the line in front of Yee and others. Former State Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides may be staging a comeback after years out of Sacramento and a stint trying to fix Wall Street's financial shenanigans.

In a race with Perez, in addition to Angelides, it’s hard to fathom Yee’s campaign war chest getting any larger after the soon-to-be former speaker calls in all the chits earned over his years in Sacramento.

San Leandro Mayor Suspends Council Decision To Fly Chinese Flag At City Hall

Mayor Stephen Cassidy voted against
the resolution on Monday.
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL//FLAG FLAP | The Chinese flag won’t be flying over San Leandro City Hall after all. Three days after a contentious City Council meeting narrowly approved celebrating China’s national day on Oct. 1 with a ceremonial flag-raising of that nation’s banner, Mayor Stephen Cassidy is suspending the decision.

"San Leandro does not fly the flags of other nations at our City Hall. We need to call a time-out and allow the community to weigh in on whether or not we should raise the flags of other governments before jumping ahead of ourselves and hosting the flag of a specific government at City Hall," Cassidy said in a statement Thursday afternoon.

The resolution led by Councilmember Benny Lee, the city’s first-ever Asian American member of the City Council, was met with resistance from the some in the community and strong opposition from Bay Area leaders in the Tibetan independence movement. Lee said the gesture was only meant to honor the Chinese people and not their government. It would also signal to Chinese investors abroad that San Leandro is open for business, he said.

The 4-3 vote last Monday night was opposed by Cassidy and Councilmembers Michael Gregory, Pauline Cutter for the apparently divisiveness the issue had conjured in the community. The power to suspend the council’s decision is found in the City Charter.

Some San Leandro residents had vowed to protest the flying of the Chinese flag on Oct. 1 and the San Leandro Board of Education, which also holds its meetings at City Hall, voted last Tuesday to boycott the ceremony by moving their meeting that week to another location. The Chinese flag would have replaced San Leandro's city flag, not the state or U.S. flag.

"I recognize this decision will disappoint many in our Chinese-American community,” said Cassidy. “I greatly value and am tremendously thankful to our Chinese-American community for its many and significant contributions to the welfare of the people and economy of San Leandro. We are proud that San Leandro today is one of the most diverse cities in California and the U.S."

Those in our community wishing to celebrate the founding of the People's Republic of China are welcome to use one of our parks, as are other groups celebrating key dates and events of the nation of their origin."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A’s Owner Hints At Downtown Ballpark in Oakland

A's co-owner Lew Wolff
OAKLAND | Was A’s co-owner Lew Wolff being positively flippant today about a downtown ballpark for the team in Oakland or is the recent spate of trash talk against the aging Coliseum a new strategy to pressure Oakland and Alameda County officials to help fund a new venue potentially near Jack London Square?

Wolff’s comments to reporters today is the first time the disliked owner has hinted at being amendable to staying in Oakland over a clear intent to move the team to San Jose. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Wolff said a downtown ballpark in either Oakland or San Jose, “is the key to unlocking the fan base.”

While speaking to reporters before Wednesday afternoon’s game in Oakland, Wolff added, “Look at a beautiful day like today,'' he said. “Downtowns are where the transportation hubs are. People can walk over.”

“If we were in a downtown, like most stadiums are now, there's a chance that people would be around and come out. I doubt very much that a lawyer in downtown Oakland is going to go down the elevator (from his office), get his car and drive to the park.''

Later, according to a tweet by San Francisco Chronicle reporter John Shea, Wolff told the paper he has no intention of revisiting a plan to build a ballpark in downtown Oakland.

The comments, though, represent a major thawing of Wolff’s consistent claims no suitable location exists for a new ballpark in Oakland. In recent months, the city of San Jose sued Major League Baseball in an effort to force the commissioner’s office to allow the team to move to the South Bay. Most observers view San Jose’s legal action as an ill-fated, last-ditch effort by city officials to lure the A’s. Meanwhile, a waterfront home for the team in Oakland adjacent to Jack London Square at Howard Terminal has emerged as an attractive potential site.

In addition, Wolff’s recent comments over low attendance despite the team being on the cusp of another division title and the decrepit state of the Coliseum may not be a signal of his desire to move to San Jose, but instead an admission the team’s relocation is no longer an option.

A former Alameda County officials told The Citizen Tuesday, an alternate theory is Wolff’s current posturing is a new strategy to instead begin the process of pressuring Oakland and Alameda County officials to help build a new ballpark in Oakland. On that front, the A’s would join the Raiders, who are also actively working with local officials for a replacement of the Coliseum at its current location.

Labor Negotiators For Hayward City Employees Accuse City Of Threatening Layoffs

HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL//LABOR | A three-day strike by Hayward city employees last month did nothing to persuade city officials to return to the bargaining table, while union negotiators accused the city of threatening layoffs if their demands for wage cuts were not met.

“We’re at a stalemate,” Gilbert Hesia, a Hayward city employee directly involved in negotiations with the city. “We’re just asking for them to come back to the table.” Hesia, a member of the Service Employees Union International Local 1021, who has been employed by the city for the last 24 years, says negotiators from the city have not responded since Aug. 15 to their calls to resume labor talks. SEIU represents 350 city workers in Hayward.

The city’s decision to declare an impasse last July 26 is also bogging down the bargaining process, says Ariana Casanova, the union’s political coordinator for the East Bay. There has been no movement whatsoever from city officials demanding employees take another five percent pay cut, said Casanova, although both sides agreed to appoint a fact-finder to investigate recent collective bargaining talks following the city’s decision to declare an impasse. “Unless the city removes the impasse, we’re all very limited with what can and can’t be done,” Casanova said before Tuesday night’s council meeting in Hayward. Like nearly every other city in Alameda County, the last recession greatly affected Hayward’s revenues. Since 2010, city employee have agreed to cuts in salary and benefits, but they say another round of givebacks will decimate its members.

Members of SEIU Local 1021, the same union currently in contentious negotiations with BART, packed the city council chambers and charged elected officials with failing to take a leadership role in the labor dispute slowly burning since February. In particular, union leaders have reserved ire for Hayward City Manager Fran David, who has exhibited a stern stance against labor over the past two years. When asked whether David has been an impediment in negotiations, Hesia agreed. “She is a hurdle,” he said before the council meeting. “I don’t know her intentions.”

During public comments, Steve Sommers, SEIU’s lead negotiator, accused David of threatening workers with layoffs if the union did not accept management’s position. In a statement on the city’s Website, David denied the claim, which Sommers labeled a falsehood. Sommers also said the city is deliberately painting a far worse economic forecast than truly exists. It’s a allegation that Sommers and other union leaders have lodged in the past against David and the city.

The Hayward City Council, however, has been virtually silent when it comes to the labor dispute despite the city’s strong labor presence. SEIU officials say four of the six members have agreed to speak with labor in the past month, but Mayor Michael Sweeney has refused. In the meantime, many council members remain coy on the subject of the city’s hardball negotiating tactics. The issue is particularly treacherous for two council members, and likely a third, who have eyes on the mayoral seat left open last month when Sweeney announced he would not seek re-election next June. “This is a union town,” said Tony Guerra during public comment, “and for the council members running for mayor, we are watching.”

According to Hesia, Councilmembers Francisco Zermeno, Mark Salinas (both have declared intentions to run for mayor. Councilmember Barbara Halliday says she will make an announcement at the end of this month) and Al Mendall appeared amendable to the workers’ situation. “They seem to listen, but it’s hard to say,” Hesia said in an interview. “They might be listening and showing concerns, but who knows what they’re really saying in closed session?” Minutes later, Zermeno was seen glad-handing and hugging union members before the start of the meeting. Mendall acknowledged meeting with the union and said, “I’m willing to talk to anyone.”

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

San Leandro Approves Draft Ordinance Allowing Two Dispensaries

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL//DISPENSARIES | After much advocacy and derision regarding one of San Leandro’s most controversial topics, the City Council passed a draft ordinance that could allow up to two medical cannabis dispensaries in city boundaries following over three years of debate.

A large amount of medical cannabis supporters argued for the safe use of cannabis and its positive therapeutic benefits to patients. Their arguments were reflected in the votes of the council’s two biggest advocates for dispensaries, Councilmember Michael Gregory and Vice Mayor Jim Prola. “We have been messing with this for three years and it is time we move on and get beyond this,” said Prola, before citing statistics that claim dispensaries lower crime and regulation will help squash the black market.

The council’s common fence sitters on this issue, Councilmembers Ursula Reed, Pauline Cutter and Mayor Stephen Cassidy, came out in favor of dispensaries. Reed’s vote was likely the biggest surprise considering she voiced support for a ban after the California Supreme Court ruled last Spring that cities could institute an ordinance to ban dispensaries. “I took the opportunity to do the due diligence of visiting Harborside Center," said Reed. "I have gone back and forth on this issue but after visiting the health center today I was very impressed.” Cutter argued the same point after visiting Harborside.

But despite a victory for pro-cannabis dispensary advocates in San Leandro, a new battle, although far more particular one, is building steam. Both Cutter and Cassidy want to cut the allowed amount of dispensaries in the ordinance from two to one. Souza, in an effort to undercut the ordinance, threw her support behind Cassidy and Cutter’s proposal. However, the draft ordinance, for now, passed as is with a recommendation for a maximum of two dispensaries. The issue of limiting the number of dispensaries to one could return to the council as early as this November.

Some on the council, most notably Reed, also want to push for a ballot measure to tax the cannabis in order to collect more from the dispensaries rather than business fees. Reed argued the potential to collect could mean millions in new tax revenues for the city that is currently being lost to Oakland, which regulates its dispensaries with taxes.

But religious special interests, most notably San Leandro's Heritage Evangelical Foundation Church, also showed up in force Monday night, lead by Pastor Alan Fong, who offered a staunch and socially conservative opposition to medical cannabis.

The religious congregation flooded the chambers of the San Leandro Senior Community Center last Spring as well at a council work session on medical cannabis dispensaries. But unlike then, Fong steered clear of the religious argument against drugs and instead favored a more practical approach denouncing the dispensaries as detrimental to the quality of life in San Leandro.

“There is a public safety risk of what medical marijuana would bring into the city. There would be the use of it while driving, there would be increase in juvenile delinquency and juveniles would have greater access to it,” said Fong, “Medical marijuana would damage the reputation of San Leandro being a safe place to live.”

Fong’s pressure on public safety and worry over unprescribed use was followed by two of the council’s most ardent naysayers to medical marijuana dispensaries, Councilmembers Benny Lee and Diana Souza. “My response is cultural. In the Asian community we do have a lot of concern over any kind of unprescribed use,” said Lee. Souza advocated for the issue to go to the ballot instead.

The draft ordinance continues to the Board of Zoning Adjustments and Planning Commission for review before returning to the council for final approval.

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor. Follow him on Twitter @Shane_Bond_

Monday, September 16, 2013

After Divisive Discussion, Chinese Flag Will Fly Over San Leandro City Hall Oct. 1

San Leandro Councilmember Benny Lee
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | A foreign banner will fly over San Leandro next month. With the approval of a controversial plan to celebrate China’s national day by flying the country’s flag over San Leandro City Hall next month, a majority of the City Council said the decision is meant to honor the people of Chinese descent and not the often oppressive government. However, the agenda item requested by Councilmember Benny Lee caught the city off guard and provided an evening of unusually combative discourse.

The City Council narrowly approved the proposal, 4-3, to raise the Chinese flag at City Hall on Oct. 1, following similar events in other Bay Area cities. Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Councilmembers Michael Gregory and Pauline Cutter voted against the flag-raising for its divisive attributes. Much of that disharmony could be heard Monday night.

“Do not honor violence and China by raising this flag,” said Giovanni Vassallo, president of Bay Area Friends of Tibet. The red and gold banner symbolizes oppression and the murder of millions of Tibetans, he told the City Council.

“Are we going to start raising the Cuba flag, too?” said San Leandro resident Dan Dillman. “As far as I know when an entity raises a flag over a country it means they conquered it.”

Mayor Cassidy and others who voted against the proposal agreed. “Symbols are important, especially when used by the government,” said Cassidy. “In this case, it’s one that is not democratically elected and has had severe violations of human rights over the years that continue to the present.”

Lee, who said the impetus for suggestion the flag raising ceremony was to honor the city’s growing Chinese population and to provide a welcome mat to potential business opportunities, added “The representation of the flag represents the people of China just as the American flag represents the people of America.”

“We don’t want to close our doors," Lee said. "If we close our doors there is no sharing of their prosperity." San Leandro’s Asian population is the city’s largest demographic and has continued to grow over the past two U.S. Census.

Councilmember Jim Prola admitted the contentious issue had forced him to change his mind 3-4 times. He ultimately settled on approving the plan after speaking to numerous Chinese American residents over the past few weeks. “My vote tonight is honoring the Chinese people and not the Chinese government," said Prola. “I want to make it clear; I don’t stand for anything the Chinese government does, as far as oppression.”

A Host Of East Bay Authored Bills Await The Governor's Signature

LEGISLATIVE ROUNDUP | Democrats in the State Legislature have quietly been true to their word. The vaunted super majority has indeed allowed the party to push a far more liberal agenda this session.

In addition to a trio of gun control bills with a distinct East Bay influence sitting on the governor’s desk, Democrats have passed important immigration bills such as those allowing undocumented residents to serve on juries, practice law and soon the ability to apply for driver’s licenses.

Last Friday marked the end of the legislative year. The deluge of bills under consideration led to a flood of bills passed by the Legislature, which have until Oct. 13 to gain the governor's signature.

Below are some notable pieces of legislation from East Bay lawmakers still awaiting an up-or-down determination in the next month:

State Sen. Ellen Corbett
  • SB 109 Limo Safety; requires charter limousine companies to install rear doors and safety push-out windows. The legislation is a response to the deadly limo fire that occurred on the San Mateo Bridge earlier this spring killing five passengers.
  • SB 205 Prescription labeling; requires pharmacies to print labels on prescription bottles with a larger 12-point font. Corbett says the easier readability of drugs labels will cut down on medical accidents within the state’s growing elder population.
  • SB 454 Electric vehicle charging stations; would make public charging stations as convenient as gasoline stations. The bill will require charging stations to accept credit/debit cards and prohibit other fees or subscription models for its use.
Assemblymember Rob Bonta
  • AB 999 Condoms distribution in state prisons; would approve a state pilot program distributing condoms to state prisoners in an effort to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases among inmates and those in the public once they are released.
  • AB 180 Oakland gun law exemption; gives the Oakland City Council the right to enact more stringent gun control laws than the rest of the state. Tighter controls on gun licensing and registrations are among the potential strategies that could be enacted by the City Council. Similar exemptions have been approved by the Legislature for Los Angeles.
  • AB 174 trauma care for students; would enact a one-year pilot program of up to 10 locations in Alameda County to provide trauma and mental health counseling to students.
Assemblymember Nancy Skinner
  • AB 48 firearms, ammunition; this potentially precedent-setting bill would make it a misdemeanor and sentence of up to six months in prison and/or $1,000 fine for possession of a gun magazine containing more than 10 rounds of ammunition.
  • AB 1131 firearms, mental health; increases the wait time from six months to five years for anyone communicating to a licensed psychotherapist their intent to harm another with a firearm.

San Leandro Inching Closer To Allowing Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | Nearly three years ago, the San Leandro City Council was in the midst of reefer madness. In late 2010, it nearly placed a 22-month moratorium on medical cannabis dispensaries--a potential death sentence possibly leading to an outright ban. Through a slick parliamentary maneuver by Councilmember Jim Prola, who argued for a shorter moratorium, instead of the lengthier version preferred by two staunch opponents to dispensaries, the compromise proposal bought the city time as attitudes in favor of cannabis continued to be emboldened.

In hindsight, Prola's outwitting of the City Council's dissenting votes that night now stands as the defining moment when medical cannabis dispensaries began its road toward possible acceptance in San Leandro. On Monday night, the City Council will mull over a draft ordinance allowing up to two dispensaries to put up shop in San Leandro’s commercial and industrial zones.

Like much of the region and state, San Leandro’s attitude toward cannabis has evolved recently. Prola’s move in 2010 to enact a 10-month moratorium while some votes on the council teetered close to prohibition, was followed by two additional moratoriums. In the meantime, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy recently eschewed his earlier opposition against dispensaries from during his campaign for mayor and those on the fence softened their attitudes on pot.

In the past year, the City Council’s move toward dispensaries, despite worried direction by City Attorney Richard Pio Roda and the police chief, has led to various suggestions for a preliminary ordinance. However, the draft to be presented Monday night is the least restrictive proposal yet. In addition to allowing permits for a minimum of two dispensaries—located at least 1,000-feet from schools and parks and 500-feet from residential zones—the non-profit collectives must provide up to 3 security guards around the clock and maintain operating hours not to exceed 7 p.m.

Earlier version of the draft ordinance, clearly limited the dispensaries to the distribution only of medical cannabis to authorized patients. The current draft, however, allows baked products, such as brownies and cookies, to be sold on the premises. Refrigerated or heated items would still be prohibited, according the draft.

It may still be some time before the first medical cannabis patient lines up for a joint in San Leandro. Monday’s discussion asks the council to further direct staff on how to proceed. However, the votes to ultimately approved a medical cannabis ordinance appear to be there. Prola has long been a supporter of dispensaries. Councilmember Michael Gregory and Mayor Cassidy are also in support. Councilmembers Diana Souza and Benny Lee have consistently opposed dispensaries and Councilmember Ursula Reed, despite some wavering on the issue over the years, may have political reasons for opposing. She is a candidate next year for Alameda County superintendent of schools. Councilmember Pauline Cutter could be the swing vote, however, she has recently voiced support for dispensaries.

In the past, San Leandro's older residents have typically been opposed to medical cannabis dispensaries over fears the collectives attract crime and find ways of ending up in the hands of children. Last February, Heritage Baptist Church, located on Merced Avenue, organized its congregants to oppose an early version of the draft ordinance. In a sermon posted online, its pastor urged his followers to "flood" City Hall with letter in opposition of medical cannabis. He then added, “We’re not going to win this in the power of the flesh. It’s going to be in the power of God.”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

People's Republic of San Leandro? Chinese Flag May Fly Over City Hall

San Leandro may fly the Chinese flag
over City Hall on Oct. 1.
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | A Raiders flag recently flapped over Oakland City Hall and numerous Bay Area cities have flown the rainbow-styled LGBT flag in public spaces. In San Leandro, Councilmember Benny Lee, the first Asian American representative in the city’s history, wants to celebrate the Chinese national day next month by hoisting the banner of the People’s Republic of China over City Hall. The item will be discussed at next Monday's city council meeting.

The flying of a foreign flag, albeit, an economic rival of the U.S., might rankle some Cold War veterans in San Leandro, but other nearby cities are planning similar flag-raising ceremonies, said Lee. Oakland and Alameda will also fly the Chinese flag over City Hall Oct. 1 to commemorate the national day similar to independence day.

The Chinese general counsel from San Francisco is scheduled to attend each event and Lee believes another in San Leandro will show Chinese investors the city is open to attracting new business. "I believe this will put us on the map for China to recognize San Leandro's openness to them,” said Lee.

San Leandro’s Asian American population is actually the city’s largest demographic. A city once infamous for its whites-only policies just a generation ago now boasts a community of Caucasians, Asians and Latinos in nearly equal proportions.

Lee says the San Leandro needs to do a better job of attracting and keeping Chinese-related business in the city. He noted during his campaign last year for City Council, a large number of San Leandro’s Chinese residents travel to Oakland for services such banking, insurance and shopping.

Dr. Quirk's Scientific Knowledge Adds To Approval Of Controversial Fracking Bill

Asm. Bill Quirk
LEGISLATURE//FRACKING | When it has to do with science, he becomes Dr. Quirk.

On Wednesday, a controversial and water-down fracking bill cleared the State Legislature, but not before Assembly Speaker John Perez called on Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk to urge for its passage, while bestowing him the honorific of doctor.

Critics say the bill allows the fracking industry to begin cracking rocks in the potentially lucrative Monterey Shale formation along the coast of Central California before state regulators can discern its potential danger.

Quirk is a trained nuclear physicist and educator who ran for the seat last year partly on the notion his scientific expertise would add significantly to the discourse in the Legislature. However, Quirk's opinions don't allow pencil out in favor of environmentalists.

Despite his extensive academic resume, Quirk's critics in Hayward have long criticized his support as a Hayward council member in approving the Russell City Energy Center, a natural gas-fired power plant on its shoreline. The power plant came online last month. Quirk maintains it does not pose a health risk to Hayward residents, nor to the thousands of students who attend class just a mile away at Chabot College.

He also doesn’t believe Senate Bill 4 presents a danger to the state’s ground water and geology. Watch Quirk’s knowledge of the intricacies of fracking in the clip below.

Assemblymembers Rob Bonta, Bob Wieckowski and Quirk voted for the bill, which supporters labeled as the next best thing to a blanket moratorium on fracking favored by environmentalists. Assemblymember Nancy Skinner was absent for the roll call. In the State Senate, East Bay Sens. Ellen Corbett and Loni Hancock approved the bill.

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Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Swalwell, Following Obama, Reformulates His Stance On Syria

 CONGRESS//15th DISTRICT | In all fairness to Rep. Eric Swalwell he did once tell President Barack Obama, while attending a Bay Area fundraiser, that he had his back. After voicing support for military intervention in Syria a week ago, Swalwell either heard the rising tenor of constituents against such an attack, is following the President's new course of action, or probably both.

In a statement following Obama's televised speech Tuesday night, reported by the San Francisco Chronicle, Swalwell advocated for allowing the latest Russian-led diplomatic efforts run their course instead of the rush to military action initially pushed by the Obama administration.

“I support President Obama’s decision to pursue a diplomatic solution to rid the Assad regime of chemical weapons and postpone military action in Syria. This approach, if successful, helps ensure that never again will this ruthless dictator gas innocent civilians, including children, to death.

“I strongly believe that the response to Assad’s chemical attacks on his own people is not limited to a false choice between military action and inaction. Rather, we must relentlessly engage the international community and exhaust all possible diplomatic solutions. I will continue to monitor the situation in Syria as it progresses.”

The political pause may be a blessing for Swalwell and other moderates on either side of the aisle. Swalwell's initial stance on Sept. 3 indicated he would vote with the Democratic House leadership led by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who favor military intervention. For instance, Swalwell did not sign a letter written by progressive Rep. Barbara Lee calling for congressional approval of such action. To highlight the confusion among moderates over how to proceed with Syria, inland moderates like Rep. John Garamendi sided with Lee, while Swalwell and Rep. Jerry McNerney did not.

Ultimately, avoiding, at least for the time being, a controversial vote on Syria serves Swalwell--well. A freshman congressman heading into his first re-election year while caught between toeing the leadership's line and constituents increasingly weary of another military skirmish is not a favorable position. Besides, even if a vote is called, it's not entirely clear voters in the 15th congressional district will even care about Syria this time next year.

Richmond's Foreclosure Plan Yet Another Cry For Help At The Local Level

Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin is just the latest
voice in the East Bay railing against government
inaction over the past five years.
LEGISLATURE/FEDERAL GOVT | Those in high finance decry the gambit being employed by Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin as underhanded. Ironic, huh? The same group of greedy practitioners of high-risk loans that put Richmond and other cities homeowners underwater take such stances because the plan to take back foreclosed homes by any means necessary deeply inhibits Wall Street's huge scam.

McLaughlin, a Green Party mayor more in touch with constituents than possibly any other politician in the Bay Area, is trying to stick it the new age robber barons sucking her residents dry. Taken another step, Richmond's plan is actually yet another loud cry for the state and federal government to merely do something to alleviate its woes.

Whether its keeping people in their homes in Richmond, fighting rising crime in Oakland or continuing state takebacks that crippled cities like Hayward from providing simple services to its residents, all continue to receive a deaf ear from Sacramento and Washington.

The situation in Richmond is the clearest sign yet municipalities are becoming more desperate to alleviate the woes of its citizens. The anti-foreclosure proposal approved Tuesday night by the Richmond City Council is an ingenious end around of the banking industry's stranglehold of toxic loans. The city would purchase or use eminent domain to take over underwater mortgages and set up a Joint Powers Authority to implement the plan. This move isn't something Wall Street is taking lightly.

Unless Richmond is an island from the rest of the country, the plan is fraught with danger. Retribution from Wall Street, in fact, has already occurred when investors turned a blind eye to a recent bond sale by the city. We are all still connected and there are ways for high-finance to exert enormous pressure on a city like Richmond. “We knew the empire was going to strike back. This is no surprise,” Richmond Councilmember Jim Rogers said Tuesday night.

Conversely, the federal government has done little to help cities like Richmond rebound from the speculative and proven illegal use of toxic loans by big banks. Wall Street got away without even one captain of industry doing a perp walk to the federal pen. In this case, how can you blame Richmond for being proactive?

In Oakland, there is a similar refrain when it comes to the notorious Goldman Sachs swap still costing the city's general fund millions each year. The feds did nothing to punish Goldman Sachs, so attempts to police the financial giants misdeeds falls on a small group of local council members. “When we look at the malfeasance of Goldman Sachs," said Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan this summer, "it would be really nice if the federal government took this on. It is really a nationwide issue and the misconduct of these corporations has caused financial devastation throughout the country. I support us moving forward because someone has to step up and say that behavior is not okay.”

Unlike Richmond's plan, Oakland's proposed move to exclude Goldman Sachs from bidding on city contracts in somewhat symbolic. Nevertheless, the Quan administration continues to sidetrack the city's investigation even before its starts. But, even though the debarment of Goldman Sachs may be for show (Oakland still has to pay back the loan swap, nonetheless) the idea of landing a hard jab to Wall Street's jaw is a powerful statement potentially copied across the country. One that Wall Street almost fears as much as Richmond's eminent domain plan.

When it comes to rising crime and a sorely needed boost in police officers, Oakland still can't bother the state and federal government to help. Therefore, local leaders have to turn to a band-aid approach or, if you're Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta, use legislative methods like authoring a bill granting the city a waiver to preempt state gun control laws. Bonta's bill passed the Legislature last week and awaits the governor's approval. The bill doesn't put more cops on the streets, but it is potentially a very important step toward lowering crime without the help of much-needed funding. But, yet again, it raises the point of why Oakland must consider cheap and secondary actions for protecting a community clearly shell-shocked by violent crime?

Over the past few years, Sacramento papered over its woeful budget mess year-after-year with excruciating takeback from local government. Theoretically, the takebacks were loans, but good luck finding any local official who believes they would ever see those tax dollars ever again. Then the dissolution of redevelopment agencies happened and although, some cities and counties blatantly misused those funds, others municipalities used it to become economic engines and rebuilt aging infrastructure. Every city in the state was left to scramble to first make sense of the end of redevelopment and then figure out how to shift dollars and balance their respective accounts with the state.

No other city in the East Bay unleashed more vitriol towards the state's propensity for takebacks and the end of redevelopment than Hayward. From its mayor, to the entire city council and even down to the city manager, you could barely escape a public meeting when a handful of that group didn't rail against Sacramento. Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney routinely urged groups and those watching city meetings online and on television to call Hayward's representatives in the Legislature. During one meeting in late 2011 discussing an unexpectedly large payment by the city for redevelopment, Sweeney summed up the lament heard in every city in the state.

"This is torturous and those of you watching this torture at home, thank Sen. Ellen Corbett and Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and their colleagues in the state Legislature for imposing this on us all." When a Hayward resident later told Sweeney to "suck it up," he tersely responded by saying, "I'm sure you'll be pleased to suck it up when we have to reduce services because the state continues to take general fund money." Without a doubt, this sort of rhetoric has been ubiquitous in every single city in the East Bay over the past five years and it continues today.

State and federal officials are simply not listening to the locals on the ground. Yet, their inaction will only breed bolder and even more desperate moves than the proposal highlighted in Richmond. The message is now, if Sacramento or Washington doesn't take control, we will. Because, clearly, mayors and council members inherently understand government by the people for the people better than those in Congress and the State Legislature.


HAYWARD | Jesus Armas, the embattled former Hayward city manager and school board president who chose not to run for re-election in 2012 following an embarrassing sex scandal, has reemerged across the bay. On Wednesday, the South San Francisco City Council is set to approve a 2-year, $230,000 contract for Armas to become its next city manager.

Jesus Armas on the Hayward school board.
Armas is no stranger to the peninsula. He served as South San Francisco’s city manager from 1988-1993 before being named to the same position in Hayward. He replaces Barry Nagel who announced his retirement early this year. If approved Wednesday, Armas will take over Oct. 14, according to a staff report. He will also receive a generous contract.

In addition to the $230,000 base salary, Armas will receive full benefits plus a $350 monthly automobile allowance and moving expenses including the lowest of three bids plus $15,000, according to the contract. Armas indicates he intends to move from his Hayward home to South San Francisco, according to the staff report. A $75 monthly cell phone allowance is also included in the deal, which may illicit some guffaws in Hayward.

The story of Armas’s downfall on the Hayward school board centered on sexually-charged text messages between him and fellow school board member Maribel Heredia. The infamous screen shots of text messages clearly sent by Armas, who is married, titillated the city and featured queries among other things of “So what do u buy?” Heredia answered: "crotchless panties."

In the months that followed, numerous Hayward residents repeatedly admonished the couple during school board meetings, while news of the affair spread widely among the East Bay’s chatty political class. Although, they never acknowledged the validity of the articles, its contents were also never denied. Armas and Heredia eventually did not seek likely re-election in November 2012 and are reportedly still a couple, according to recent Facebook posts by Heredia.

UPDATE: On Wednesday night, the South San Francisco City Council unanimously approved Jesus Armas's contract to become its next city manager. The decision was made without discussion.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Halliday To Make Mayoral Announcement By End Of September

Councilmember Barbara Halliday
HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL | The wide-open mayoral race in Hayward already has two sitting council members formally announcing their intention to replace Mayor Michael Sweeney next year. Now, a third may be poised to enter the intramural campaign for mayor and potentially become an instant frontrunner.

Three-term Councilmember Barbara Halliday said Tuesday she is interested in the job, but still mulling her options.

“I will be making an announcement by the end of the month,” Halliday said following a short special council meeting Tuesday evening. Halliday added she is “strongly considering” a run for the seat next year vacated by Mayor Sweeney, who decided last month against running for a third term.

Halliday wants to take time before committing to another campaign, she said. She won re-election last year nabbing one of four open seats in Hayward’s at-large election model. As one of only two women in a nine-person field, Halliday was also the election’s top vote-getter. It is also constitutes a trend for Halliday in previous elections.

In 2008, Halliday was again the top voter-getter in a seven-person field. Her first campaign for City Council in 2004 also yielded impressive results. A former planning commissioner, Halliday won one of four seats in a large 12-person race. She finished second to former Councilmember Bill Ward.

This time around, only Councilmembers Francisco Zermeno and Mark Salinas have officially launched campaigns for the June 2014 election. Similar to the 2012 council election, there appears to be no other woman in the race.

Councilmembers Marvin Peixoto says he intends to run for re-election next year and Al Mendall has reportedly nixed any interest in running for mayor. Former Councilmember Olden Henson continues to be another possible City Council alum running for mayor, sources say.

Halliday like others on the council considering campaigns for mayor indicated she would not have challenged Sweeney if he had chosen to run for re-election and added she was surprised by Sweeney’s decision. Zermeno first announced his run in May and Salinas waited just one day after Sweeney’s chose not to seek re-election to enter the fray.

Renaming Oakland’s 19th Street BART Station Could Be Costly

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Oakland's Uptown is where the cool cats play. Hip taverns and restaurants of national renown reside in the neighborhood and some want to rebrand the 19th Street BART station to reflect its resurgence. Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney proposed Tuesday to seek preliminary support for renaming the station as “19th Street/Oakland Uptown.”

However, the city’s potential expenditure for new signage, brochures and other costs associated with the name change could be costly. BART Board Director Robert Raburn, who represents the area surrounding the station, told the Oakland Community and Economic Development Committee the cost of tinkering with station names could be as high as $600,000.

McElhaney and others noted the planned renaming of the Oakland Coliseum station next year to reflect the addition of the Oakland Airport BART connector to the system represents an opportunity for Oakland to defray its costs, but only if it acts soon. The BART Board of Directors meets Thursday to finalize the Coliseum name change.

No cost estimates were including in Tuesday’s agenda item. Instead, McElhaney said she is merely seeking council support for the concept and direction to move forward with a cost estimate. Even in the event, Oakland can split the cost of rebranding the 19th Street station, Councilmember Libby Schaaf said, she could not support the city footing part of the bill. Schaaf later voted to move the item to the full City Council. The name-change item was placed on the City Council's consent calendar for consideration Sept. 17.

Spotlighting one of Oakland’s most vibrant neighborhoods all over the BART system could be a boon to the area’s business community. On Tuesday, McElhaney hinted members of the Uptown business community might be asked to help pay some rebranding costs.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Warriors Arena Bill Clears Legislature

Proposed S.F. arena at Piers 30-32.
LEGISLATURE//WARRIORS | Supporters of a bill that could hasten regulatory approval for a San Francisco arena on the water proposed by the Golden State Warriors say the legislation merely gives power back to the Bay Area.

Assemblymember Phil Ting’s bill, passed the State Senate late Friday and heads to the governor’s desk for consideration, but not before the East Bay’s delegation again attempted to thwart the bill’s efforts.

Ting’s bill originally made a more clear end around existing local conservation and state tideland's trust rules, but was gutted through the legislative process. The impetus for the bill is a proposed $1 billion arena at the aging Piers 30-32. The arena would sit on the water at rebuilt piers potentially costing between $120 million-$150 to construct. Proponents say the current bill is not about the arena proposal but allowing the state tidelands commission and Bay Conservation Development Commission determine whether the proposed use constitutes enhancement of the public trust.

“If [the bill] reiterates the existing process,” argued East Bay State Sen. Loni Hancock, “why do we have a 26-page bill to do it?” During a senate floor speech Friday, Hancock said legislation passed generations ago halted excessive development and kept the bay from becoming a “trickling stream.” She later cited a passage in the bill that vaguely references a proposed waterfront arena theoretically meeting the requirements for use under the public trust. “That’s a runaround of the system,” Hancock said.

The State Legislature risks becoming a de facto zoning commission for big-time developers, Hancock said. “If we go around local and regional concerns with our waterways, we will end up turning the State Legislature into the zoning board for the state of California. Why would a developer go local if they can get a trust determination here?”

State Sen. Joel Anderson, a Republican from San Diego, added, “Nobody should get cuts in line,” while referencing the controversial regulatory exemption previously given to backers of a proposed NFL stadium in Los Angeles.

East Bay State Sens. Ellen Corbett and Mark De Saulnier voted no along with Hancock. The stern opposition to Ting’s bill, seen as poaching jobs from the East Bay to San Francisco, followed similar rhetoric in the State Assembly two months ago. East Bay Assemblymembers Nancy Skinner, Rob Bonta and Bill Quirk voted against the bill, as did several Tri Valley representatives.

Despite the bill's passage to the governor’s office, a concrete proposal for the San Francisco arena has not been revealed, although preliminary cost overruns have already been reported. Meanwhile, public officials in Oakland and Alameda County have maintained a hands-off approach to the potential move of the Warriors, noting the maze of regulations and vociferous community groups in San Francisco already present the team and city with significant hurdles. The Warriors hope to move to San Francisco by 2017.

Watch the State Senate floor discussion on AB 1273:
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Friday, September 6, 2013

Bill Giving Oakland Local Control Over Gun Laws Passes Legislature

Bonta at a press conference last May on
gun violence in Oakland.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
LEGISLATURE//GUN CONTROL | A bill giving the Oakland City Council a blank slate to enact stronger gun control measures than the rest of the state heads to the governor’s desk.

The legislation authored by Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta, passed Friday by the State Senate, allows the city stricken by gun violence to potentially offer gun laws along the lines of federal regulations, which are more restrictive than the state’s current laws.

The bill’s primary focus rests with the registration and licensing of commercial firearms, but does not contain specifics for how public officials in Oakland should implement any new rules. That will rest with Oakland City Council, a body known for its infighting, but regarding the issue of gun violence, have typically been unified in recognizing its corrosive effect on the city.

“No one can deny that Oakland is suffering from among the highest levels of gun violence in the state and in the nation,” Bonta said in a statement late Friday. “AB 180 is a smart and sensible bill that empowers Oakland and provides local control in addressing gun violence--where it is needed most.”

Budget cuts at the statewide level and locally have created a disastrous situation in Oakland as steep cuts in the number of cops on the street has exacerbated its problem with crime, Bonta added.

Gun rights advocates fear Bonta’s bill could set a precedent for tighter gun control measures across the state. During a discussion o then topic last May, Republican Assemblymember Tim Donnelly said the bill’s unintended consequences threaten law-abiding residents. “It is going to deny every citizen in Oakland the right of self-defense,” said Donnelly, who added. “This is really a poll tax on your right to defend your own life.”