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Monday, April 29, 2013

Police Monitor Cites Slight Improvement In Oakland PD Complying With Reforms

OAKLAND//POLICE REFORMS | The Oakland Police Department's record of compliance with a decade-old settlement aimed at reforming its ranks is getting better, according to new report released Monday. However, following a scathing report two months ago, its accomplishments are only as good as two assessments prior.

The mixed report from independent monitor Robert Warshaw noted the number of tasks in full compliance by the Oakland PD at 12, just one short of the highest number of accepted reforms since overseeing the department in 2010. The monitors visited the department in mid-February to assess progress instituted from October 2012 to the end of the year.

Warshaw also described optimism the recent appointment of former Baltimore police commissioner Thomas Frazier as the department's compliance director will hold the city's administration and police brass accountable.

He also reiterated a long-held criticism officials in Oakland have resisted reforms at the police department. "We have noted in our past reports our serious dismay with the Department’s stagnation in its progress toward effective, just, and constitutional policing," wrote Warshaw. "The Department and the City have stifled and sidetracked this effort for far too long."

Oakland's battle to reform its police department following the infamous Riders' case over a decade ago has been a long and tangled affair highlighted by institutional resistance to change. Warshaw was appointed as a federal monitor in January 2010 to force reforms upon the department stated in the 2003 Negotiated Settlement Agreement. However, compliance has remained slow leading to the hiring of Frazier as compliance officer to speed up the pace of reforms.

A previous report issued by Warshaw Jan. 31 came down on the department for regressing on a number of compliance categories. It also slammed police officers for allegedly pointing their weapons unnecessarily at citizens on five separate occasions and detailed officers pointing a gun at a 19-month-old baby sleeping in its crib.

One Man's Plea To Prosecute Bush For War Crimes Gets Berkeley's Attention

BERKELEY CITY COUNCIL | Nearly two years ago, East Bay resident John Henneberry sat lonely and patiently at the San Lorenzo Library waiting for a soul willing to just listen to his proposal to right the wrongs of President George W. Bush’s presidency. His plan did not stem from the collapse of the nation’s economy and quickly rising unemployment blamed by many on Bush, but even more serious matters, he believed. Henneberry, instead, wants to prosecute the former president for war crimes and he finally has someone listening.

A week after the national press lapped praise on the era of President George W. Bush following the dedication of his presidential library, the Berkeley City Council is poised to bring the two-term commander-in-chief back to reality.

On Tuesday, the Berkeley City Council, famously on the cutting edge of passing progressive resolutions and legislation outside the sphere of the East Bay, will discuss a proposal that would instruct the Alameda County District Attorney to prosecute Bush and others for war crimes committed during the Iraq War.

The proposal may appear symbolic, but Henneberry believes he has a novel approach—focus the prosecution against Bush only for the deaths of Alameda County soldiers killed in action.

In fact, Henneberry’s dogged zeal for the cause has been going on since he read a book by nationally-known attorney Vincent Bugliosi, titled, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder. Henneberry told The Citizen last year the book was the inspiration for his campaign and has spoken and coordinated his efforts with Bugliosi.

The Berkeley resolution was first approved last February by the council’s Peace and Justice Commission, 6-2, with one abstention. The Berkeley city manager’s office took no position on the matter, according to the staff report.

If the resolution is approved, a letter will be sent to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley asking her office to “prosecute George W. Bush and his co-conspirators for murder for the deaths of Alameda County resident that were killed in Iraq as a result of the 2003 invasion of that country.”

The legal rationale for bringing the case to the county D.A. stems from an announcement in 2009 the federal government would not seek to prosecute any member of the Bush administration for any crimes allegedly committing during the run-up to war in 2003 and after. Therefore, according to Henneberry and the proposed resolution, Alameda County is the next avenue for prosecution. Eleven Alameda County residents have been killed in the war, according to the resolution.

The crux of the argument surrounds allegations the Bush administration deceived the American people over the reasons for invading Iraq in March 2003 and invalidated congress’ approval for military action.

The resolution also names Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice, but reserves stern condemnation for Bush, holding him “criminally accountable for their actions before any tribunal with jurisdiction over the matter.”

Henneberry’s keen sense of right and wrong also extends closer to his Tri Cities home. When Mary Hayashi, the former Hayward assemblywoman was charged with shoplifting from Neiman Marcus in 2010, it was Henneberry who repeatedly called her office asking her to resign.

When she ignored his demands, he painted his plea on a large plywood sign and stood on the street corner near Hayashi’s office. He continued his one-man protest even after Hayashi’s staff called the police asking him to leave. Clearly exercising his right to free speech, Henneberry returned the next day and the day after.

Swalwell’s Demonstrates Feats Of Strength Playing The Games Of Politics

Rep. Swalwell in 1999. One of the
few times he excelled going to his left.
CONGRESS 15 | Rep. Eric Swalwell once dreamed of playing professional soccer in Europe. That dream ended when he broke both hands while tending goal in college. Having a goaltender with butter fingers is one thing, having one with two broken hands is another.

So, Swalwell turned to politics, a game in which he found success. However, it would have been interesting to see Swalwell use the well-worn line he employed against the 80-year-old Pete Stark about his image and immobility in the English Premier League to argue for taking the place of the aging net minder David Seaman a decade ago.

Regardless, Swalwell's two world’s came together last week when Politco reported Swalwell was back in net reportedly stopping a penalty kick against fellow Democrat Rep. Chris Von Hollen. The event was put on the U.S. Soccer Federation and pitted a bipartisan group of congress members against 1990s era former U.S. national team members.

In a bit of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington treacly rhetoric, Swalwell told the Web site that before Von Hollen teed up his penalty kick, he told him, “Sir, you’re in the leadership, but I hate losing.”

Swalwell’s feats of strength will continue this summer. Roll Call lists the East Bay representative as likely member of the Democratic Party’s team in the 52nd edition of Congressional Quarterly’s congressional baseball game at Nationals Park.

However, Team DNC may want to keep an eye on the moderate Democrat Swalwell known to play footsie with the other team. Wouldn’t want to see Swalwell conjure the ghost of "Shoeless" Joe Jackson and throw the game to the Republicans in a similar fashion to members of the infamous “Black Sox” who rigged the 1919 World Series.

Say it so, Eric?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hayward City Manager Hints Its Gang Injunction Program May Not Have A Case

HAYWARD//GANG INJUNCTIONS | During a tense exchange Tuesday night, Hayward City Manager Fran David denied her staff is ignoring the council’s priorities when it comes to gang injunctions, but hinted its efficacy may not be affirmed by any court in Alameda County.

“Until we have a situation which a gang injunction, which is an injunctive action with the courts, is warranted and can be reasonably successful, there has not be an opportunity to apply a gang injunction,” said David in an emotional give-and-take with Councilmember Marvin Peixoto, a strong supporter of gang injunctions..

Peixoto charged city staff with ignoring staff direction to include gang injunctions in its annual list of council priorities. Two weeks ago, Peixoto similarly challenged staff to deliver a status report on the issue. “Can you understand how at our last meeting I said, I don’t get the feeling that staff is fully into this gang injunction program?” he said with exasperation. “I don’t think they bought into it. I don’t think they want to do it.”

Oakland’s experiment with gang injunctions in parts of North Oakland and the Fruitvale District was met with questionable results when its legality was challenged in court. Meanwhile, Hayward has watched its East Bay neighbor’s every move for over two years all the while never implementing a plan city staff acknowledges is ready.

Over the past year, however, Oakland’s experience has yielded a legal strategy in Hayward targeting not only specific gang members, but, more importantly, the specific area of the city they congregate. City staff reported last year this plan also has drawbacks since many of Hayward’s 2,000 suspect gang members are spread across the city without any unique boundaries.

Some like Peixoto, nevertheless, have continued to press the city’s staff to be more proactive, but the conversation Tuesday night between him and David grew increasingly hostile as she reiterated the lack of data available to move forward with gang injunctions. “It’s not that we don’t have the data,” David said with a quick-paced staccato. “It doesn’t exist at the moment in a geographical area in Hayward in which a gang injunction can be successfully applied.”

David dismissively told Peixoto if the council wants to apply a gang injunction with regard for its being successful, her staff would comply. “We cannot guarantee it will have any value or any success, if it’s not done correctly based on good data and the correct data and have success in the Alameda County courts system, sir,” David said, tersely.

But, Peixoto quickly cut off David and charged staff with changing language in the council’s approved priorities to consolidate gang injunctions with other public safety initiative and using the term, “gang injunction-like approach.”

“You watered it done then, you’re watering it down now,” said Peixoto.

“I don’t expect to have an argument over it,” David shot back. “If you want it, we will put it in. If there are four votes on the council, we will put it in.”

“Whaddaya mean if there are four votes?! Peixoto said incredulously, adding the council had already adopted gang injunctions as a priority in the past.
The seeds of the red-hot exchange, unusual for the normally easygoing Hayward City Council, came after numerous council members; including Mayor Michael Sweeney slammed David’s revised report on council priorities. Sweeney called the document too long and containing excessive complexity; finding faults and errors like a college professor trashing a student’s graduate thesis. At times charts contained in the reports were mismatched with corresponding narrative, said Sweeney. “I don’t find this all particularly useful. It’s a lot of information that doesn’t seem to be particularly coordinated.”

Nevertheless, Councilmember Francisco Zermeno believes gang injunctions will come to Hayward sooner or later. “We eventually will have a gang injunction program is my guess,” said Zermeno, who notes Oakland’s program has not be readily defensible in court. Hayward also needs suspected gang members to congregate in a single location before they can move forward, said Zermeno. “Let’s get them all together in one particular neighborhood and convince them to buy a house and then we can act against them.” The comment appeared to be a joke, but nobody was laughing.

Swalwell's War Chest Sees An Increase In PAC Donations

CONGRESS 15 | Rep. Eric Swalwell’s campaign coffers saw a huge bump in donations in the first financial quarter of his career in Congress topping off at a whopping $262,000 with $171,839 from individual contributors and the other $90,954 from Political Action Committees (PACs), according to campaign finance reports.

However, Swalwell’s greatly increased PAC contributions marks a turning point from the freshmen’s campaign rhetoric during his battle with former Rep. Pete Stark for Congress last year. Swalwell heavily criticized Stark’s campaign being heavily financed by PACs while he praised his own contributions coming from mainly individual contributors. While Swalwell still maintains 65 percent of his donations from individual contributors the other 34 percent comes from PACs.

Some of the largest contributing PACS include the American Association for Justice that donated $7,500 and the Building Relationships in Diverse Geographic Environments PAC that gave $5,000, who both largely support Democratic candidates. Also, multiple union PACs donated large funds including the International Operating Engineers PAC and the Sheet Metal Workers’ International Association PAC that both donated $5,000. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) PAC also gave $1,000. Two of those unions, the UFCW and Operating Engineers were once large contributors to Stark. Also Large liberal leaning PAC, National Education Association donated $2,000.

Last year, Swalwell’s PAC contributions topped off at 16 percent, less than half of what he collected this first quarter. But in Swalwell’s hardscrabble effort to beat Stark last year he accepted PAC donations that included some conservative donors to help boost his chances at defeating the liberal-standard bearer. Swalwell accepted funds from conservative PACs including Because I Care PAC ($500), Publix Supermarkets PAC ($5,000) and one of America’s largest medical institution’s PAC, Wellpoint ($5,000) last year. Swalwell also took large sums of money from Democratic PACs like the Carpenters and Joiners Union ($5,000) and Democrats Win Seats ($2,500). Although Stark was no stranger to accepting special interest money from the medical industry as well.

Some of those conservative leaning PACs are absent this financial quarter while more liberal PAC donors have donated to Swalwell, largely because of his Democratic incumbency and new found support among the Democratic establishment. Although, the conservative leaning pharmaceutical corporation, Allergan, donated $1,000 to Swalwell and were large donors to Swalwell’s campaign last year as well. Also Venture Capital’s PAC ($1,000), Chevron's PAC ($1,000), and National Association of Health Underwriters ($2,000) all of which largely give money to Republicans.

One of Swalwell’s early allies, who appointed him as assistant whip, Steny Hoyer, came to Swalwell’s aid this quarter as well. Hoyer’s PAC, AmeriPAC, gave $5,000 to Swalwell’s campaign. Hoyer’s placement on the political spectrum is further removed from the more liberal representatives in the Bay Area. Although he doesn’t belong to the Blue Dog caucus he is sometimes referred to as one because of his somewhat right leaning positions such as support for cutting Social Security.

Swalwell’s individual contributions include some old faces from last year’s campaign. One controversial figure includes a $2,500 donation from consultant Gordan Galvan who was involved with other large donations to Swalwell with employees at Amador Valley Industries (AVI), a Tri Valley garbage company, which Galvan represents and prior to Swalwell’s vote giving the company a no-bid contract in Dublin while serving on the Dublin City Council. Swalwell’s acceptance of $15,000 in donations from AVI representatives and his vote in favor of the company and its consultants raised concerns of pay-to-play.

Other large contributors include common political donor, real-estate broker Thomas Silva ($2,500), Senior VP of Calpine Corporation, Joseph Ronan ($2,600) and Cal State East Bay Prof. Jian Shen Guo, (two donations totaling at $4,000). Like last year Swalwell racked up a significant number of donations from lawyers and this year is no different. Steven Meyer of the popular law firm that supplies lawyers to multiple city council’s in the East Bay, Meyers Nave, gave $500.

Swalwell also received huge contributions from developers that Stark commonly criticized him for. The Tri Valley is known for developers throwing money around to leverage influence in the political arena for their projects. Swalwell’s campaign against Stark was largely funded by them in a attempt to compete with Stark’s campaign war chest. Although the bulk of the developer money didn’t return this financial quarter some donors of real-estate special interest tossed Swalwell money. Besides Silva, the largest investment came from Mackenzie Capital Investment, a real-estate investment firm, that bundled large donations among upper management totaling in at $7,700.

Swalwell’s impressive catch this financial quarter is far greater than other congressional incumbents in the Bay Area. Furthermore, compared to State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett, his likely challenger in 2014, he is far ahead in finances. Corbett only took in $16,201 this quarter and has a total cash on hand of $114,963 which is still significantly less than Swalwell’s total of $222,993. Former mayor of Pleasanton, Jennifer Hosterman, who is also expected to compete in 2014, reported just $2,750 in campaign fundraising.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Alameda County Supervisors Discourage Sheriff From Detaining Undocumented Residents

ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | A resolution by Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle discouraging the county sheriff from honoring request from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to detain undocumented residents in the county passed, 3-1, Tuesday afternoon despite the hearing being called a “farce” by fellow Supervisor Scott Haggerty.

The issue of Secure Communities, a federal program that has raised controversy since its enactment in 2008 for allegedly targeting undocumented residents and deporting them, in some cases, for violating something as simple, as minor traffic violations. Valle, who represents Alameda County’s heavily Hispanic District 2, says the issue is creating fear among his constituents.

“They have families. They have families in our schools. They work in our hotel and our restaurants. They work as care-givers,” said Valle. “Some of them are my neighbors and friends and a lot of them have fear of Secure Communities because they don’t want to get swooped up in that net.”

Valle said he met with Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern on Monday morning and found the meeting positive. “I think the one point the sheriff and I saw eye-to-eye was the issue that the Secure Communities, as it is currently used in this country and Alameda County, has been victimizing a lot of people.” Valle added many are accused of minor offenses, non-serious crimes and “do not present a clear danger to our society.”

Under Secure Communities, an offshoot of the Patriot Act, local law enforcement agency are required to offer fingerprints to a regional data repository, which then can be later accessed by other agencies. However, critics say the program is being used to target undocumented residents. When unable to produce proper identification, some undocumented residents are detained and many times not charged for any crimes. However, deportation proceeding are often set in motion, which can split up undocumented parents from their American-born children. It also has the unintended effect, critics say, of discouraging undocumented residents who are witnesses or victims of crimes from coming forward to authorities for fear of being detained.

The resolution passed Tuesday is symbolic, Valle noted, and does not preclude the sheriff from continuing to honor ICE detainers. Instead, it sends a message to the state and federal authorities that Secure Communities is not working as it was intended five years ago, Valle said. San Francisco County, Santa Clara County and Berkeley have previously passed similar resolution against ICE detainers and Secure Communities.

Berkeley Council member Jesse Arreguin called Secure Communities a social justice issue. “Our brothers and sisters are living in the shadows due to a broken immigration policy,” he said. “SComm divides families, creates fear in our undocumented community and does not improve public safety.”

Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who said he also met with Ahern on Monday, registered the only dissenting vote against Valle’s resolution. Supervisor Nate Miley was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

Haggerty took great offense to what he label “Little League politics” coming from Valle’s office over the resolution. Haggerty claimed he never saw the resolution’s text and for that reason, was prepared to ask for Tuesday’s agenda item to be continued to its next meeting. He later claimed Valle’s office told him they were prepared to issue a press release Tuesday blaming Haggerty for asking for a continuance of the resolution.

“I have to tell you I have never been subject to such Little League politics in all my life,” Haggerty said. “It is a very sad day when members of this very board play internal politics and games to keep their own personal agenda moving forward. It is reckless and it is disrespectful.”

Ultimately, Haggerty chose not to ask the board to continue the item, but proceeded to unleash a sometimes dramatic, often times discombobulated 10-minute speech, at one point stating rhetorically, “I probably have just as many undocumented friends as you do.”

“I am not anti-immigration,” said Haggerty. “I don’t care if you’re from Mexico, Bosnia, China, Africa, you want to be here? Why do you want to be here? The same reason why my family, when they immigrated from Ireland wanted to be here. We wanted the American Dream and I wanted to help each and every one of you get that, but I’m going to tell you, you don’t get it today! You get a piece of paper that is meaningless.”

Alameda County Supervisor Haggerty's 'You Don't Know Me' Speech Is A Classic

"You Don't Know Me!": Supervisor Scott Haggerty.
PHOTO/Shane Bond
ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | "You don't know me," said Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty on Tuesday. Over and over he repeated the line to those critical of his vote against a resolution discouraging county cooperation with Secure Communities, a controversial federal program critics say target undocumented residents.

His 10-minute long remarks were often times theatrical. Haggerty's elocution was impeccable. "You don't know me!" he again said forcefully, before dramatically pausing. Followed by an almost whispered, "You don't know me.

The speech, an instant classic in these parts, is long and winding, often disjointed. At one point proclaiming support for immigrants. "I know about them," he said. "Fun to work with--not for--but to work with. You don't know me." Other times he said Secure Communities also protects Hispanics sitting in church from terrorists. It's one hot mess of a speech. Here's a transcript of Haggerty's remarks:
______________

You don’t know me. You don’t know me. I probably have just as many undocumented friends as you do. Because when I walk out of these chambers, you have no idea where I go. You don’t know what I do. In fact, I had several conversations with my undocumented friends yesterday and, in fact, I have a friend who is married to an undocumented woman. I see the fear they walk in everyday.

You don’t know me. But, I actually talk to them in an effort to do my homework and I’m sorry, again, that I was singled out because I wanted more information. I wanted knowledge. That’s wrong? That’s wrong that I wanted a continuance so I could learn more? So I could spend time talking to the people that I know are undocumented? I don’t think that is wrong. Some people may.

You don’t know me. You don’t know that I walk upon hundreds of undocumented people working and I’m really sorry that today this has been made a Hispanic issue because, you know what? The undocumented’s that I walk amongst are largely Hispanic and you know what I know about them? They’re hard-working. I know that about them—a great sense of humor. I know that about them. Fun to work with—not for--but to work with. You don’t know me. You don’t know where I go when I leave here. So, you shouldn’t prejudge me as I won’t prejudge you. This is a very emotional issue for me.

The problem that I have today is we are passing a resolution—we had a lady come down today and speak against you. She spoke against you and you applauded her…and that’s my fear because you think if we pass this resolution today that there's no more SComm in Alameda County. Wrong! There sheriff is going to do whatever he wants. This is symbolic. This means nothing! This means that they passed a resolution on a piece of paper that was nothing but words because he’s still going to enforce it. And we can’t tell him what to do. We’re the Board of Supervisors. He is an elected official, too. So what scares is that the people who applauded at the lady who came down and spoke also believes that we are doing something today. We are doing nothing! This was a waste of time. This was a farce and, in fact, I would have much rather marched on Washington, D.C.—to the White House—with you today. I would have rather marched in Congressman Swalwell’s office, Congressman Honda’s office—a noted progressive—Congressman Barbara Lee and said, look this is what SComm is doing, this is why it’s bad and this is why it’s hurting the Hispanic communities, but instead we decided to sit here and pass something that means nothing.

Don’t tell me you know me. But, you know what? It may be a situation where somebody comes into our jail and I’m sorry, I’ve spent time learning about this, and I can tell on this own board up here, people don’t understand it, but quite frankly, your prints are not here, but they could be somewhere elese and you could be a known terrorist. The chance that happens in the Hispanic community—extremely slim—I get that. But, what if the sheriff actually brings someone in and let’s them go and they blow up a church with your family in it? Then what do we do? The Hispanic community that largely lives in Alameda County are good, great people, but they need to be protected too from the criminals. Because when they sit in churches, they want to sit there and know they’re safe and they deserve that.

I want to be clear; I am not anti-immigration. I don’t care if you’re from Mexico, Bosnia, China, Africa, you want to be here? Why do you want to be here? The same reason why my family, when they immigrated from Ireland, wanted to be here. We wanted the American Dream and I wanted to help each and every one of you get that, but I’m going to tell you, you don’t get it today! You get a piece of paper that is meaningless. So, no, I’m not going to vote for the resolution. You probably expected it, but you know what? Do you want me to march with you for immigration reform? You want me to take you to congressman’s offices? I will do it, but I’m not going to pass meaningless pieces of paper that tell another elected official in this county what to do. I will not do it. I will not give you that false sense of security.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Hayward's Superintendent Offers Vision He Likely Wont Be Around For

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | In the midst of Dr. Donald Evans's likely departure as Hayward's superintendent of schools for the same job in Berkeley, he produced a short presentation Saturday to a meager attendance of just a few dozen, many district staff or elected officials, on the district’s vision and progress.

The town hall comes at an odd time for Evans. He recently was announced as a finalist for the superintendent of Berkeley Unified School District; therefore any vision he lays out now he wont likely be around to help further implement. Evans offered no reason for seeking a new position. “They’re personal reasons,” Evans told The Citizen.

Evans may not say why he is leaving, but the district had previously been plagued by turmoil over an affair between two former board members and controversial dismissals of some of its principals. Also despite Evans’s efforts to highlight positives of the district Saturday, it still remains one of the lowest performing in the county and is still racked with financial issues. Evans only spent a mere 18 months with the district before deciding to seek employment elsewhere.

But Evans pressed on with his town hall. He claimed that Hayward’s school district has been missing a vision for years and recently offered a clear path to better education in the district. “Students will be prepared, challenged and motivated in a 21st century learning environment that develops the physical, intellectual and emotional success of all learners,” said Evans. The three R’s are the common principles of the district’s vision, Rigor, Responsibility and Results.

Evans said new instructional framework, dual language immersion programs and school district learning academies, like last Summer’s Algebra Academy or the CAHSEE Academy, helped create a college preparation environment for students. Evans talked results highlighting the district’s rise in Academic Performance Index (API) scores since 2008 for 10 schools. He also praised the district for being positively certified for its budget, meaning the district can pay its bills this year, although deficit spending still remains a major issue with the board.

Evans noted the negative impression of Hayward’s schools without pointing fingers at anyone but asked for the community to accentuate the positive. “We like to talk about the negative a lot, but we need to celebrate the positive things happening” said Evans enthusiastically. The superintendent wouldn’t elaborate on who he was referring, but Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney has been one of the more caustic critics of the district over the past few years..

The mayor recently railed against Hayward’s schools for still being the worst performing in the district despite the slight uptick in API scores. Sweeney said because of the dismal API scores the value of Hayward’s houses are kept low. “Your homes could be worth $100K more!” exclaimed Sweeney at his State of the City address earlier this year. “We’re the lowest performing school district in Alameda County. This is a big problem.”

One attendee, Kirk Williams, a PTA member, criticized the district’s Youth Enrichment Program heavily. He called it, “glorified paid babysitting,” and how he has to correct the tutor’s misinformation provided to his kids when they return home. “I gotta spend three hours re-teaching them everything they were just taught because it's wrong,” said Williams. Evans offered no response, but Lisa Brunner, a school board member, offered defense to the program saying that some schools have better mentoring programs than others. However, Board President William McGee agreed full heartily with Williams. “He’s right, it’s completely broken and we need to do something to fix it.”

Even though Evans wanted to highlight the positive aspects of the district, like increased API scores, better budget management or staff recognition rewards, Williams said he thinks the district spends too much time celebrating one small victory, like a high-scoring child, rather than paying attention to a rash of other problems that signal a broken system. “It’s like we celebrate the one kid who eats asparagus over eating ice cream but the nine other kids are still eating ice cream,” said Williams. McGee agreed with this. Evans will give his second town hall this Saturday.

Pleasanton Council Candidate Is An Investment Waiting To Payoff

PLEASANTON CITY COUNCIL//PROFILE | “I’m curious to know do we have an imperial president, or, because of term limits, that’s not necessarily the case?” Olivia Sanwong asked a classroom full of seniors at Pleasanton’s Amador Valley High School choosing to spend their spring break at school, instead of doing things that teenagers do. Such a query would normally elicit a perplexed facial expression from a typical high school student, but not these.

“In anti-federalist 69, George Clinton argues, when is the president different from a king or a monarch? And this is countered, by Hamilton who writes that the president is not unlike the king, but only has powers related to the military, and I think through these crisis that we see today, the president acts more like a monarch as described in anti-federalists,” said a young student in rapid-fire succession, only to have the baton passed to another who picked off where the others logic may or may not have lapsed.

Sanwong, left, judging the Amador Valley High
School competition civics team last spring break.
“The anti-federalists did truly fear the idea of limited terms of a president, but I would argue the other side as a Devil’s advocate because the president has terms limits, he is insulated from public opinion, he doesn’t need to seek the whims of the people in a second term because he doesn’t need to try and get elected.” Well, okay, you get it. These kids are smart. But, the nationally-known competition civics team at Amador Valley High is more than an exercise for allowing college-bound senior an opportunity to pad their resumes and bone up on government and law, it may also be a fertile breeding ground for the next generation of public policy makers and elected leaders. I may also be a long-term investment almost ready to pay dividends.

In fact, this is where Pleasanton City Council candidate Olivia Sanwong first caught the bug of public service more than a decade prior with some of the same teachers grilling and poking her arguments in these mock congressional hearing exercises. Part prodigal daughter, part generational trailblazer, part-local cheerleader all lashed together in hopes of fighting off a surprising and serious takeover of the Pleasanton city government by conservatives.

It’s easy to forget the Tri Valley we know today is not very old. Pleasanton threw off the yoke of small town USA with a population explosion doubling its size since 1980. In terms of development, like the students at Amador Valley, the city is nearing adulthood. By 2025, Pleasanton’s footprint is will be indelibly cast leaving little wiggle room between its growth plates. It won’t get any bigger and likely not any smaller. How the city navigates its last few rounds of expansion may be one of the lasting legacies of the current city council and subsequent iterations. Sanwong thinks the baton should be passed to a product of Pleasanton instead of continually handing it over to transplants who built it from a little Tri Valley outpost to one of Alameda County’s almost recession-proof cities.

‘UNCLE SAM’
Sanwong, 33, and her family moved to Pleasanton in 1981. Her father, an immigrant from Thailand, was influenced by American military men stationed in the region following the Vietnam War. His admiration was so great that upon moving to the United States he adopted the name “Sam,” as in “Uncle Sam.” “It’s really kind of cute,” Sanwong says with a smile. A flood of civic pride and small town patriotism was stoked annually by the 4th of July parade and the return of the Alameda County fair every June. A family member recently reminded her of prescient words once uttered by Sanwong as an early teen envisioning the day she would become mayor of Pleasanton. Sanwong had forgotten the declaration and denies her childhood desire factored into any life decisions that may have led to her candidacy this year. “I just think the world works a certain way,” she says.
I grew up here. I’ve been in the city for a long time. I’ve seen it grow and change. I went to school here...and we take a lot of pride in our schools, But, we do nothing to make this town attractive to people in their 20s or 30s. So, it seems like we’re getting a pretty poor return on our investment.”
___________
How Sanwong became one of four candidates to serve out the remainder of newly-elected Mayor Jerry Thorne’s council seat began a year ago after being named to the city’s economic vitality committee. What occurred next in Pleasanton politics stunned the Alameda County Democratic Party and left it scrambling not only to rexamine how conservatives hijacked the city council, but how it would wage a ground attack to take it back. Sanwong says former Pleasanton Mayor Jennifer Hosterman first contacted her about running for the open seat around the Thanksgiving holiday last year. Sanwong was flattered to receive the call from Hosterman, someone whose rise to mayor she had watched over the years and greatly respected.

Conversations not only with Hosterman, but others in the county featured uncertainty over how to confront the conservative challenge. “We don’t know what to do,” Sanwong recalls Democrats saying. “We don’t know what happened in the fall is an indicator of whether things are going in one direction and should we even try to change that direction.” In fact, much of the blame among Democratic leaders in Alameda County was placed on Eric Swalwell’s campaign decision to enlist the help of Tri Valley conservatives and Tea Party adherents in helping him defeat fellow Democrat Pete Stark. After stoking these conservative groups, party leaders were livid on Election night to see Pleasanton Councilmember Cheryl Cook-Kallio not only go down in defeat to the Republican Thorne, but also see the entire Tri Valley, save a single precinct, vote down Measure B1, the transportation sales tax initiative that lost by just 700 votes.

While Sanwong’s own resume may not be the most optimum for the party’s tastes (her business background in marketing is normally not a breeding ground for Democratic candidates) she is far more than just the only basket available for liberals to place all their eggs. Politics aside, Sanwong thinks it’s time for Pleasanton to begin reaping the benefits of its success over the last three decades.

PRODIGAL DAUGHTER
“I grew up here. I’ve been in the city for a long time. I’ve seen it grow and change. I went to school here and we put a lot of time and money into our K-12 school district and we take a lot of pride in our schools,” Sanwong says. “But, we do nothing to make this town attractive to people in their 20s or 30s. So, it seems like we’re getting a pretty poor return on our investment.” She regrets only knowing a few people, who, like her, returned to Pleasanton to set strong roots in the area. After attending UCLA and living in Boston for a few years, she rented an apartment near Stoneridge Mall and purchased a home with her husband last year just blocks from Pleasanton’s quaint Main Street.

Her biggest complaint with the current administration is the perception it lacks council members with a total stake in the city’s future and a voice for its younger population. “Everyone is around the same age,” she rattles off. “No one grew up here. No one went through the school district here,” although she notes one candidate has children in the school district.

At a candidate’s forum Apr. 9, Sanwong put her civics training learned at Amador Valley to the test with a tight, reasoned argument for voters replete with accoutrements that would have made her teachers proud. In fact, it appeared Sanwong was the only candidate who received the memo to simply smile. She also maintained perfect posture while her main opponent, Pleasanton Planning Commissioner Kathy Narum slunk over her notes and read from prepared remarks and her more right wing challengers came precipitously close to demanding a life free from tyranny amidst the warm weather and elegantly manicured lawns of Pleasanton without a whiff of irony.

OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH
Aside from political ideology, the biggest difference between Sanwong and her opponents is strong support for affordable housing centered around the city’s two BART stations. In a few years, Pleasanton will be built-out, says Sanwong. “It’s a critical time for how the city is going to be developed and what it’s going to look like in the future.” She says the city needs to better exploit its geographical strength as a gateway to the San Joaquin Valley and its position equidistant between San Francisco and San Jose.

“How can we have a Walmart and not have housing for the people who work there?” Sanwong says. Utilizing affordable housing in these areas, she says, is “good for the workers, the environment and the city.” By doing away with the decades-old model of building large-scale business parks surrounded by seas of parking lots in favor of pedestrian-friendly designs featuring retail and dining options, the city will prosper, she says. “I see a lot of potential near our BART station to design this integrated community. I would really put us on the forefront of what the possibilities are for a traditional suburban community.”

Sanwong also does not ascribe to the belief among some conservatives that Pleasanton is nearing fiscal collapse any time soon. As a former actuarial analyst, she perused the city’s obligations and found little reason for alarm. “I don’t think it’s something to be worried about. We’re making very smart decisions in terms of our budget and where we’re putting our money,” she says. “We’re pretty well off as a city. I know there’s a fear about Vallejo, Stockton and San Bernardino, but I don’t think we’re ever going to be on that track. We’ve always been a well-managed city.”

Back in the classroom, Sanwong is listening to another student tackle the issue of a strong commander-in-chief. A whip smart young girl of South Asian descent says, “However, the framers believed the people should have the right to elect a president that is...." Sanwong is nodding affirmatively, but she shifts uncomfortably as another student grabs the attention of the judges and rattles off his own barrage of citations. Sanwong jots down some notes. Afterwards, she tells the girl to be more forceful in her comments and not cede the floor so easily. The young girl nods shyly. In that moment you can almost imagine the roles were once reversed. Olivia Sanwong, a young girl with a Thai father and a white mother, took those words to heart and assuredly this young girl will heed the same advice. It remains to be seen whether they will pay forward their promise to Pleasanton’s future or, tragically, be some other community’s gain. Either way, we probably all win.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Boston Bombings Another Reason Why Oakland Must Join Regional Radio System

SUNDAY COLUMN | Two men in Oakland Athletics jersey, backpacks strapped to their bodies mill around thousands of A’s fans patiently lined up outside the O.co Coliseum in anticipation of a popular bobblehead promotion. Fans love the promotion and wait for hours before the gates open in lines that wrap around the stadium. But, before fans can get their hands on the Reggie Jackson bobblehead, bombs scream out every jam-packed entrance. Horrific screams follow and thousands wildly flee the area. The Coliseum BART station is shutdown. Interstate 880 is closed and authorities are on the way.

However, the assailants escape and law enforcement’s dragnet over the city proves fruitless until reports of two men, somewhat resembling photos distributed in the media, are seen carjacking a vehicle on East 14th Street in San Leandro. The pair kills a woman near the Walmart on Hesperian Boulevard and witnesses tell police the two men are seen near a drainage ditch in Hayward near the sprawling auto auction near Whipple Road. The events are fictional, but in light of the dramatic Boston Marathon bombings this week and the death and capture of two suspects, such stories are becoming less Hollywood-like and more real life every day.

How a crazy-quilt of law enforcement entities joined forces to catch Dzohkar Tsarnaev Friday night will be the subject of analysis for months, however, if the same chain of events that occurred in Boston, or even the tale described above, were to occur in the East Bay, it is highly unlikely law enforcement would be able to respond to such a crisis. While public safety agencies in the entire East Bay possess the ability to communicate via the airwaves, Oakland is its own island when it comes to radio communications.

Due to stubbornness, a lack of leadership and cost-efficiency lost to poor decision-making, Oakland’s aging radio system is unable to plug itself into the modern, more nimble East Bay Regional Communication System (EBRCS).

In light of the Boston Marathon bombing, Oakland’s continued foot-dragging on either finding a suitable go-around or ditching its current system and recognizing it was a $18 million mistake puts this region in danger. In terms of the Coliseum scenario, and specifically, the chain of events that followed, police officers in San Leandro and Hayward would be able to seamlessly communicate through EBRCS, but the Oakland cops would be in the dark.

Of course, in such a situation, the California Highway Patrol, Alameda County Sheriff’s Department and FBI would be on board, but when seconds could mean life or death for officers or the public, how could one of the largest police forces in the county be nimble enough to solve the crimes if their radio are incompatible to every other jurisdiction?

And while a terrorist event in the East Bay is possible, but unlikely, the threat of a catastrophic earthquake in the region will, indeed, happen sometime in the next 20 years or today or tomorrow. In fact, tremors are a fact of life in California and we deal with the matter with typical Golden State gallows humor. But, if the big one hits or a band of bad guys raise significant havoc spilling over numerous jurisdictions, the finger pointing at Oakland will be incessant. The events in Boston make it clear that Oakland must get with the program and embrace EBRCS now.

Quotable
“We need to spend money to audit the auditor’s audits.”
-Desley Brooks, Oakland councilmember, Apr. 16, again challenging the authority and lack of evidence against her in Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby’s report alleging Brooks violated the city charter on 12 separate occurrences.

The Week That Was
Torricos campaigning for state
attorney general in 2010.
>>>By and large California Democrats behaved themselves at last week’s state convention, but former Assemblyman Alberto Torrico’s wife put up her dukes in a fight with Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski’s chief of staff at a luncheon last Saturday. The catfight is just another strange instance indicating Wieckowski, a two-term assemblyman angling for a seat in the State Senate next year, is losing control of his district.

>>>In Oakland, Mayor Jean Quan presented the City Council with a budget proposal that would add more police officers to the struggling department over the next three years. The City Council chided Quan and the city administrator’s office for failing to comply with a federal judge’s ruling for dealing with citizens complaints against OPD. And, Councilmember Noel Gallo asked the council to confront the allegations contained in a city auditor’s report charging Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid with violating the city charter’s non-interference laws on 14 occasions between them.

>>> Some Hayward school board member want their former colleague, Jesus Armas, who chose to not seek re-election last year after being caught in a extramarital affair with a fellow board member, to be replaced on the city redevelopment successor agency, but the official who placed him on the oversight committee last year, Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan says no. She later compares Armas to Bill Clinton in both their dirty deed and their ability to maintain a semblance of gravitas afterwards. The Hayward City Council also officially did away with red-light cameras, that the police chief and council agreed were ineffective. They come down May 1.

>>>Berkeley’s gain is Hayward’s loss. After poaching numerous city administrators from neighboring East Bay over the last two years, Hayward learned its relatively new school superintendent is the top choice for the same position in Berkeley. Dr. Donald Evans’s accomplishments during his brief 18 months in Hayward are scant and his decision to jump ship is raising some eyebrows in Hayward where improving Alameda County’s lowest-performing school district seemed like a ticket for any administrator to parlay into bigger things.

Tweet of the Week
“I've been around for a long time, and there's still those weeks when it seems as if all hell breaks loose. Good night Alameda, and be safe.”
@ParkStBridge, the wise bridge connecting Alameda to Oakland tweets, Apr. 17, following bombings in Boston this week.

Best Read
>>>Term limits were enacted in California to drive the career politicians and dead weight out of Sacramento. Instead, they may be fostering people like Bill Lockyer to eventually run for every state office available Up next for Lockyer: state controller in 2014. (Fox & Hounds, Apr. 15).

Voice of the People
“Lockyer should know all about having ones head up someone’s ass. That's where his head has been for some time now. Look at your wife Nadia and all the problems YOU have caused Bill. I once was proud to be a democrat, but not anymore.”
-Anonymous, Apr. 17, commenting on Bill Lockyer’s Top 10 list last week mocking California Republicans on “Lockyer Diagnoses California GOP With ‘Head Up Ass Syndrome’”.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Hayward School Superintendent Is Finalist For Berkeley Job

Dr. Donald Evans was named Hayward
superintendent in Nov. 2011.
HAYWARD | The superintendent of the Hayward Unified School District is a finalist for the same position in Berkeley, The Citizen has learned.

Berkeley Unified will formally announce Dr. Donald Evans is a finalist for the position Friday morning, according to sources.

Evans's interest in seeking employment outside of Hayward after just 18 months at the helm of its schools is a surprise to many. It also comes at time when his office has led renewed efforts to formulate of new mission statement for the district along with two town hall meetings scheduled for the next few weeks.

“After searching all over the country for a strong instructional leader who is the best fit for Berkeley, the Board believes we have found our next superintendent right next door in Hayward,” said Board President Karen Hemphill. “Dr. Evans came highly recommended from multiple sources, and we were even more impressed once we had an opportunity to meet with him and hear what his vision and experience could bring to our community.”

After serving as an associate superintendent in Compton, Calif. and overseeing Oakland's elementary schools, Evans was named superintendent for Hayward's struggling schools in November 2011.

Although Hayward's academic scores still rank as the worst in Alameda County, during Evans's tenure, the district moved clear of a possible state takeover that had hovered over it for several years, but was also plagued by constant infighting and bickering on the school board. An affair between the previous board's president and a fellow school trustee reported in late July 2012 paralyzed the school board until two new members were elected last November.

The situation in Berkeley has been similarly unstable. After the retirement of Berkeley Superintendent Bill Huyett in August 2012, the school district named interim co-superintendents before failing to name a permanent replacement on two occasions.

Evans is scheduled to lead two town halls on the future of Hayward's schools on Saturday, Apr. 20, Schafer Park Elementary School, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m. and Apr. 27, Winton Middle School, 10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

NOTE: Additions were made to this article following Friday's official announcement.

Oakland City Council Orders Progress Report For OPD Reforms

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Community activists cheered the Oakland City Council's move to force a more transparent police reform process from the city administration Tuesday night.

The Council voted 8-0 to set a timeline for City Administrator Deanna Santana to complete the transfer of citizen complaints against OPD from the police's discretion to her office.

Under the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, a court-ordered series of reforms that were mandated 13 years ago in the wake of the Riders Case, the city was supposed to have already undertaken the effort to move the Office of Inspector General and the public complaints process to under the city administrator's authority.

The City Council's vote on Tuesday was an attempt to hurry the administration along. The Council's motion set an Oct. 15 deadline for the transition, as well as directing city staff to present a monthly progress report to the public safety committee of the Council...

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT OAKLANDLOCAL.COM

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Despite Past Turmoil, Armas Remains On Hayward's Redevelopment Successor Agency

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | Hayward's disgraced former school board President Jesus Armas chose not to run for re-election last year following reports of an affair with a former board member, however, Armas still remains as the school district’s representative on the Hayward Successor Agency Oversight Board (HSAOB) despite no longer being a school district trustee.

Since he stepped down last December, there have been multiple inquiries over removing him as the school district’s representative on the agency but Alameda County Superintendent of Schools Sheila Jordan, who appointed Armas to the board last Spring, has refused to replace him.

In February 2012, the school board approved the selection of Armas to the oversight committee mandated by the state to sort through the assets and obligations of the city's former redevelopment agency. But, according to Jordan, she could have chosen anyone in the district to be its representative and because of that, she said Armas could remain as the district’s representative.

But some, like current board president William McGee, who clashed with Armas in the past, would rather see a current board member be the district’s representative. “If the appointment was made because they wanted somebody who represented the current interest of the schools, then I would like Sheila to appoint a current board member,” McGee told The Citizen.

According to McGee, one of those board members who showed interest in taking Armas’s spot on the oversight committee is board newcomer Annette Walker. She declined to comment on Armas’s initial appointment because she was not part of the board at that time, but added she is willing to serve on any committee that “moves our district forward in the best interest of our children, schools and community.” Multiple people called Jordan to ask if Armas could be replaced on the HSAOB, but Jordan would not elaborate; only identifying McGee.

Armas was exposed by The Citizen last summer engaging in a potential conflict-of-interest secret affair with fellow board member Maribel Heredia. Shortly after the story broke both members decided to not run for re-election but the controversy engulfed the board’s meetings with constant conflict between Armas and board member Dr. Luis Reynoso, whose bulldog persona and fiscal conservatism had already clashed constantly with Armas.

Joined by Reynoso was the more diplomatic McGee, whose own agenda also differed starkly from Armas's. Both McGee and Reynoso had criticized Armas of “rubber stamping” spending they said fanned the flames of the district’s deficit. Neither Armas or Heredia has ever publicly described why they decided against running for an almost sure re-election last fall. Shortly later, new board members Walker and John Taylor joined the board and the controversy drummed up by the affair was finally put to rest. But according to Jordan, Armas contacted the superintendent to inquire about staying with the HSAOB after he left the board which Jordan supported.

The HSAOB is a successor board to the Redevelopment Agency after it was scrapped by the state, along with all others, to stave off further deficit spending. The successor board was created by requirement of the Dissolution Act to help deal with any remaining issues confronting the former agency, and as required by the state, one member was to be appointed by the Alameda County Superintendent of Schools as the school district's representative. The chair of the board is Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney as a representative of the city; while the vice chair continues to be held by Armas. Other members include former Councilmember Olden Henson and current Councilmember Mark Salinas, along with Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle.

Jordan said she doesn’t have much interest in replacing Armas because she believes the agency won’t be around much longer. But despite uneasiness over Armas’s position as representative of the district on the HSAOB, Jordan defended Armas, “I chose Armas because he has a strong background. He has many years as the city manager and has been a strong proponent for schools so I thought it be a short learning curve for him, I thought he was one of the more qualified people I appointed,” said Jordan.  However, Armas's experience in Hayward politics has also been a source of complaints by his opponents due to his close ties to various construction and real estate interests doing business with the city. He is generally regarded as the city's go-to guy for businesses seeking government consultation and for navigating Hayward's bureaucracy.

Armas’s affair also had little sway over Jordan appointing a new representative, “He is representing me, he is my appointment and he came through a democratic process so there is nothing he has done to dissuade me from him being an inappropriate person.” Jordan compared Armas’s affair to former President Bill Clinton's dalliance with Monica Lewinsky. However, despite the controversy, Clinton is still considered an “esteemed person,” said Jordan.

Jordan said that if the board were to bring the issue up as an agenda item, she would pay more attention to a new appointment rather than individuals contacting her office. Jordan said she thinks that would be a big mistake and she doesn’t think a “personal indiscretion” reflects negatively on his ability to do his job.

East Bay Democrats Network, Build Buzz For Campaigns In 2014

CADEM CONVENTION//ROUND UP | Being an off year in California and East Bay politics does not normally elicit much news. In fact, last weekend’s Democratic state convention was more about likely 2014 candidates making important first impressions and building a network of support. Like most conventions, the real news was more likely made outside the men’s bathroom on second floor than inside the convention hall. Here are some news and notes and observations from the Democrat’s annual gathering in Sacramento (sans literal fisticuffs on the streets.)
ALCO Supervisor Wilma Chan
PHOTO/Shane Bond
CHAN FOR SD9? Quite a few delegates said Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan is a likely candidate in 2016 for what is now a potential all-star ballot to replace termed out State Sen. Loni Hancock in the 9th Senate District. Termed out Berkeley Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner is also likely to run for the seat along with former Oakland Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, now a deputy in Oakland Mayor Jean Quan’s office. Swanson made an early and bold move to run against Hancock in early 2012, but quickly pulled up stakes. However, there was more than a slight implication he ended his nascent campaign against the fellow progressive Democrat in exchange for the party’s endorsement in four years. We’ll see about that since endorsement pledges are often flimsy legal tender. For Chan, it would mean a return to the Legislature. She served in the assembly from 2000-2006 before returning to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 2010. No doubt that’s three excellent, although very similar candidates that evokes last year’s 18th Assembly District race between Rob Bonta and Abel Guillen. When asked who might be in line to replace Chan on the Board of Supervisors if Chan were to win in 2016, Alameda Councilmember Lena Tam’s name constantly came up. Tam initially planned to run for former Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker’s open seat two years ago (she even received Lai-Bitker’s endorsement) but dropped out once Chan announced her candidacy. Chan trounced another Alamedan, Beverly Johnson, in the primary.

Betty Yee
EAST BAY FLAVOR FOR CONTROLLER Conventioneers all over Sacramento could be seen with ubiquitous orange lanyards around their necks touting Bill Lockyer’s campaign for state controller in 2014. Lockyer, the current state treasurer, and current Controller John Chiang’s virtual musical chairs in hopes of swapping offices next year has become a billboard for the unexpected pitfalls of term limits. Now, San Leandro’s prodigal son, he started his political career on its school board, is facing a challenge from Alameda’s Betty Yee, a member of the state’s Board of Equalization. Yee surely is in for an uphill climb in battling Lockyer and his high name-recognition across the state. However, it is not clear from delegates whether Lockyer’s negative name-recognition involving him and his wife, Nadia Lockyer’s drug and alcohol problems will be an issue for voters. It is also not clear whether the state’s growing clamor for replacing entrenched politicians with youthful opponents will become an issue in this race. One delegate told me Yee isn’t perceived as young and cool like other upstarts like Rep. Eric Swalwell or even Ro Khanna. (And if you must know; Nadia was not at the convention, but one source said she’s doing well.)

Mary Hayashi
USE IT OR LOSE IT, MARY! Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski was seen on numerous occasions flitting around the convention center. It was a tough Saturday for him following the altercation reported this week involving Alberto Torrico’s wife and Wieckowski’s chief of staff. Surely it was an embarrassment for Wieckowski who is mending relations with some of his supporters in the Fremont area angered by his recent moves. Networking is important for Wieckowski as he ramps up a likely run for the State Senate, which bring to mind Mary Hayashi. The former assemblywoman is a possible opponent for Wieckowski next year and she’s sitting on a boat load of money. However, as one delegates pointed out to me, that isn’t her money. Sooner or later, the individuals and political groups that generously built up Hayashi’s $800,000 campaign account are going to want a return on their investments, either from her or force her to give it to some other candidate or entity. She could lay low for another election cycle and hope her shoplifting scandal dies out or face Wieckowski next year, said the delegate. Either way, I don’t think Hayashi can expect any outcome other than her dismal performance last November for Alameda County supervisor unless she offers a spectacular mea culpa of infinite detail to the public. Shedding some tears won’t hurt, either.

ALCO DELEGATION STILL NOT 'SWALLOWING' State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett was seen all over the convention center shaking hands with delegates inside and outside the main hall. Curiously, though, each time we saw Corbett she was glad handing with delegates from the Southland. Rep. Eric Swalwell, Corbett’s opponent in the 15th Congressional District next year, attended the convention, but when his name was called among a list of 11 new California congressman during the general session by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the cheers were noticeably more quiet than others. To be fair, the delegation from the 18, 20 and 25th Assembly Districts are not the most wild and crazy group of people on earth. However, it is another raw glimpse into the minds of Alameda County Democrats following Swalwell’s upset of Pete Stark.

NOTES Assemblyman Rob Bonta told me his bill allowing non-profits to distribute condoms in state prisons looks promising, but he noted its main opposition may be criticism the proposed law will condone sex between inmates, an act he notes is illegal...Assemblyman Bill Quirk’s supporters were sporting stickers that read, “I’m Quirky for Quirk.”…Apparently, Quirk’s reputation for being a man of science and arithmetic is coming in handy in Sacramento when he noted a scientist’s faulty equation during a recent committee hearing.

Gallo Urges Oakland City Council To Confront City Auditor's Allegations

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//RUBY REPORT | Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo called on the City Council Tuesday night to confront the issues raised in a politically explosive city audit last month against members Desley Brooks and Larry Reid.

“This issue has come up and its been here awhile,” said Gallo, the District 5 representative, “and for this council to sit here silent—we are leadership-less.” Gallo urged for City Auditor Courtney Ruby to respond to the council’s questions over her scathing audit alleging Brooks and Reid of 14 total violations of the city charter’s non-interference laws. “I think these two individuals are members of my team and the issues out there aren’t going away,” Gallo said.

Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo
PHOTO/Shane Bond
The impromptu comments by Gallo’s ignited pointed responses from both Brooks and Reid to condemn Ruby’s allegations against them. “To respond would assume the report has some validity,” Brooks said. Gallo, however, tried to clarify his remarks, but was interrupted by Brooks. “I want to hear from the auditor,” he said before Brooks abruptly cut him off. “I want to finish,” she said curtly.

Brooks continued a similar argument from two weeks ago when she charged Ruby with providing a report without evidence that she and Reid overstepped their council authority by allegedly directing city staff on two projects in Brooks’ district and a construction contract at the Oakland Army Base. “She has tarnished the name of myself and Mr. Reid without a shred of evidence,” Brooks said.

Later Brooks urged the council to, instead, investigate Ruby. “We need to spend money to audit the auditor’s audits,” she said.

Reid said he “concurred” with Brooks’ argument against Ruby and added the auditor was not accountable to anyone at City Hall. After reiterating Brooks’ call to “audit the auditor”—almost using it as likely slogan in defense of the charges alleged, Reid immediately leaned back in his chair and flipped out his cell phone.

Tuesday’s discussion, which, again, included various residents speaking in support of Brooks and Reid, is the third consecutive meeting where the allegations laid out in Ruby’s report took center stage, but without any officials comment or action by the council.

Council President Pat Kernighan said the item could be scheduled for discussion as early as this Thursday’s Rules Committee to which the council could begin sorting out how or when it will discuss the charges. In the days after the Mar. 23 report was released, Kernighan said the council would likely broach the subject in a month’s time, while raising the possibility of censuring her council colleagues, if the charges are proven.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Wife of Alberto Torrico Attacks Wieckowski Aide At State Convention

ASSEMBLY 25 | By most accounts, last weekend’s Democratic State Convention in Sacramento was a quiet, sedate affair. Not so, was the case at a luncheon Saturday afternoon when the wife of former Assemblyman Alberto Torrico attacked the aide of Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski while alleging a long-time romance between the two.

The confrontation, which many in attendance labeled a “cat fight,” occurred after the morning general session Saturday at a party sponsored by Wieckowski and Assemblyman Rob Bonta. Seven delegates who witnessed scenes from the encounter tell The Citizen Raquel Torrico, the wife of Alberto Torrico, aggressively confronted Wieckowski’s chief of staff Trisha Tahmasbi outside the event. Witnesses say Raquel Torrico told Tahmasbi to “leave Alberto alone.”

Those who saw the scene say Alberto Torrico appeared deeply embarrassed by the public exchange, as was Tahmasbi, who attempted to flee to room. However, outside the luncheon, Raquel Torrico followed her outside to the street and began repeatedly slapping Tahmasbi, the sources say, in addition, to trying to choke the Wieckowski aide.

The exchange was so fierce, said some delegates, that pedestrians intervened to break up the fight. One delegate at the party, who did not see the altercation, said upon returning to the party, Raquel Torrico freely told guests, she slapped Tahmasbi three times.

Rumors of a romance between Alberto Torrico and Tahmasbi, who once worked as an assembly aide for him and also worked on Torrico's unsuccessful 2010 campaign for state attorney general, have long bounced around the chatty south county political class.

However, in recent years, Torrico reportedly became a born-again Christian, and was last seen expressing his piety last August when he charged former Rep. Pete Stark with threatening him and his children. Torrico had called Stark to say he was endorsing his opponent, Eric Swalwell, when the tough-talking former congressman questioned Torrico's sanity and facetiously threatened to have mental health officials take custody of his children. "Maybe I should send a social worker to your house. Your kids need to be safe. You're not well," Torrico recalled Stark saying in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The spat in Sacramento also reveals yet another strange turn of events within Wieckowski’s circle of insiders and supporters. In February, Wieckowski formally protested his assembly district’s delegate election citing irregularities in the voting and a large number of non-Democrats allowed to cast their votes. Wieckowski’s slate, incidentally, was routed by another group of minority candidates, but a re-vote was scheduled by party leaders last month. However, the second vote delivered no change in the winners from the initial election. Some minority groups in the Fremont area were displeased by Wieckowski’s move (many accuse Tahmasbi of pushing for the re-vote) and alleged he was disenfranchising their voices.

Keeping this group of delegates content, which serve for the next two years, is in Wieckowski’s best interest since his is likely to seek a seat in the State Senate next year, possibly against former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and her $800,000 war chest. Against such formidable resources, the party’s endorsement would be valuable to Wieckowski, say many East Bay Democrats.

Some now allege Tahmasbi is sporting a shiner due to the fisticuffs last weekend. That is not known, but the chain of events over the past few months in the 25th Assembly District is quickly becoming a succession of black eyes for Wieckowski and his bid for higher office that could start making a certain convicted shoplifter of high-end clothing seem like a less chaotic alternative.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

California Democratic Party's Depth Puts Republicans In An Even Deeper Hole

BOLD AND BEAUTIFUL: California State Attorney General Kamala Harris is at the top of the state's food chain, but schools of energized young Democrats make up a formidable pool of future activists for continuing the party's statewide dominance. PHOTO/Shane Bond 
SUNDAY COLUMN | The first thoughts when comparing the California Democratic State Convention this weekend and the Republican soiree last February is size and demographic. While the Republican Convention at the same venue in Sacramento had the size and feel of a Loyal Order of the Moose Lodge shindig, the Democrats met in style in a setting similar to what most of us see at national party convention every four years. Numerous hi-def video boards splashed information and relevant tweets and speakers walked on stage to rock music blasting from the speakers, in addition to some who preferred the overexposed “Harlem Shake.” It’s a Hollywood production, whereas the Republicans put on a show more reminiscent of a Billy Graham revival, the Democrat’s show is more in line with the Golden Globes.

It didn’t take much more than 30 minutes for the foul-mouthed Democratic Party Chairman John Burton to utter his first curse word from the podium. A few more followed later, including Burton asking how many people wanted to take a picture Gov. Jerry Brown’s “goddamn dog.” Gavin Newsom later jokingly self-bleeped himself saying, motherf**ker during his speech and Bill Lockyer’s dorky Top 10 pinpointed the Republican’s problems—they have “head up ass syndrome,” he said. While Republicans never seemed to have been enthused enough at their convention to ever whoop and holler, prepared lines by Democrats this weekend on same-sex marriage and gun control were met with thunderous applause. But, when Newsom strongly advocated to decriminalizing marijuana, the convention hall went absolutely nuts.

Most importantly, the Democratic talking point labeling Republicans as the party of old is clearly not cliché and should give conservatives in this state great pause before thinking a resurgence is in the mix through simple tweaks here and there and treating their Mexican gardener just a tad better. Just witness the Democratic Party’s farm team, its Young Democrats. A throng of young adults gathered Saturday afternoon in numbers that rivaled anything the Republicans possessed as a whole at their convention. They are engaged, idealistic, highly energized and the backbone of the dedicated generation that has already elected a minority president of the United States in two straight elections. They are formidable and should be the scariest thing state Republicans have ever seen, at least, since that time one of their Caucasian daughters went on a date with a black guy.

What the state Democrats have going on is akin to the Brazilian national soccer team's B-squad possessing more talent in their starting XI than 90 percent of the countries in the world. Coupled with a Democratic monopoly on statewide offices and a supermajority in the Legislature, this extraordinary depth is the main reason why, short of Democrats overreaching on raising taxes or a perception of graft and incompetence, California is nowhere near becoming anything but blue for another generation or two.

Quotable
“Cruz Bustamante has that locked up.”
-Gavin Newsom, California lieutenant governor jokes, Apr. 13, at the Democratic State Convention being upset President Barack Obama did not chose him “best-looking (lieutenant governor) in the country.” Obama took some heat last week for remarking over State Attorney General Kamala Harris’s physical beauty.

The Week That Was
>>>Oakland’s desire to speak out against the greed of banks "too big too fail," like Goldman Sachs, hit a snag this week. An Oakland City Council Committee moved the issue debarring Goldman Sachs from city contract to the full council, but not without Councimembers Pat Kernighan and Libby Schaaf questioning whether the city has a case. A deal is a deal, they said, just one that didn’t work out so well for Oakland.

>>>Assemblyman Rob Bonta’s bill allowing non-profits to distribute condoms in state prisons passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee this week. While the issue could be an enormous savings to taxpayers and helpful for public health, sex in jail, whether consensual or not, is illegal.

>>>There’s a growing feeling in Oakland that the fallout from City Auditor Courtney Ruby’s report on Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid alleging violations of the city charter, will not be dealt with. The Oakland Public Ethics Commission told The Citizen it plans to stay out of the conversation….for now. However, if nothing becomes of the 14 charges laid out in the report, they may be more inclined to speak.

>>>Alameda County will again deal with budget cuts. Nothing new here. The county has faced shortfalls every year for over a decade. The exact funding gap could be announced as earlier as this week. Last year it was lowered to a three-year low of $88.1 million.

>>>The Pleasanton has an open seat on its conservatively red city council. The four candidates, three Republicans, one Democrat, met for their only candidate’s forum in this vote-by-mail-only special election that ends May 7. Land-use issues dominated the forum, along with calls to reform the California Environmental Quality Act.

Tweet of the Week
“Whoever had 10:33 in the #cadem2013 John Burton 1st curse word from the dais pool wins.”
-@JWilliamsAP, tweeting Apr. 13 after California Democratic Party Chairman John Burton let a bad word slip out.

Best Read
>>>Budget cuts have not only transformed the Golden State’s once-vaunted education system, but it’s now changing how our public universities are filling the gap, in some cases with funding for research from some of the biggest corporations in the country. (East Bay Express, Apr. 9).

Voice of the People
“More voters in the new district will identify with Khanna over Honda. The Obama team is there to turn them out. There is no way Honda is going to win this race. Khanna is set to raise another million dollars this coming quarter and he will be neck in neck in the name ID polls within a year. Khanna has plenty of time to destroy Honda.”
-Anonymous, commenting Apr. 8 on “Fearless Prediction: Khanna In A Cakewalk (Write It Down, Dude)".