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Sunday, June 30, 2013

Don't Blame Striking Workers, Blame MTC

SUNDAY COLUMN | How about blaming the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) on Monday morning when your car is sitting in traffic, instead of workers? Oh, you don’t know what or who MTC is? That’s exactly how they like it. Starting on Monday, the East Bay could be in the middle of one major traffic jam, but it is also a significant show of the area's strength in the labor movement. Not only might BART workers hit the picket lines, but so too might AC Transit workers and Oakland city employees. If the progressive New York Times loved Oakland before, imagine their admiration when public workers shut down the region?

The hacks in the corporate media, of course, hardly disguise their disdain for workers. In the past week, the drumbeat has aimed at cajoling you into blaming public employees. It’s not about the issues of health care and pensions they report (you, of course, probably face the same problems at you private sector job, but never mind). Instead, it’s those striking workers who are going to gravely affect your life. The trick is dastardly and contains some of the same corporate media tricks used during the Occupy Oakland protests (I that case the line was these people protesting "need to get a job.)

However, here’s an alternate reading of the situation. If any group is to blame it’s MTC, the shadowy, half unelected and elected commission that oversees transportation in the Bay Area. They’re the same bunch of bureaucrats who fucked up the new Bay Bridge. Not only does MTC have problems with overseeing the region’s biggest public works projects, but it also has problems with planning. Why isn’t anybody questioning the supreme stupidity of allowing not one, but two labor contracts with BART and AC Transit workers to expire on the very same day. Add in Oakland public employees and talk about strength in numbers when it comes to negotiations between management and any one of the labor groups.

Oh, you don’t think management at BART and AC Transit have anything to do with MTC, at least, not officially, well keep thinking that way, because that’s their aim. How can you blame a group with no recognizable face? Conversely, the "bad guys" created by the corporate media at the behest of the One Percent look just like you and me and work just as hard. Now, just pay them so I can pay my $8.50 to get from the BART Fruitvale station to San Bruno.

Quotable
“You know what? I don’t know, maybe I should freaking run for mayor of this city and the more I think about it, the more and more I’m just waiting for a signal from God.”
-Larry Reid, Oakland council member June 27 during the approval of rival’s budget plan.

The Week That Was
>>>Alameda Point’s forward: The Navy handed over 1,300 acres of prime waterfront real estate at Alameda Point this week, but trouble could lie beneath. The deal is a great opportunity for Alameda and also could be a beacon for shady deals and developers. The land below is also a toxic wasteland. Who knows what we’ll find in the ground or what creatures slithering above it.

>>>Budgets approved in Oakland, Alameda County: Oakland approved a new two-year, $2 billion budget this week with some contention between slightly differing proposals. Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and newbies Dan Kalb and Lynette Gibson McElhaney came out on top and may signal a new direction for the moribund council. The county also passed its own $2.7 billion budget. With an improving economy, the county was able to shrink an $80 million shortfall--the lowest in five years--without excruciating cuts. Workers even got a cost-of-living increase for the first time in five years.

>>>I do: Civil rights history was made with the U.S. Supreme Court striking down key provisions of the Defense of Marriage Act and leaving Proposition 8 to die on the vine. The seeds of the victory for society and LGBT community, as we all know, started in the Bay Area. At least, one East Bay official decided to tie the knot this weekend. Meanwhile, Hayward’s first openly gay elected official, former Councilman Kevin Dowling, said on Facebook that he’s still looking for “Mr. Right.”

>>>Nothing odd here, look away: Questions still linger as to why Eric Swalwell Sr. was sitting on the Alameda County civil grand jury for the last 10 months while his son was playing Camp Congress? In the meantime, a weak grand jury report hit none of Swalwell, Jr’s supporters, even though Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty was sitting there like a dead duck following a long list of accusations by former chief of staff.

Tweet of the Week
"After deciding to adjourn in memory of Nelson Mandela, Oakland council discovers that he's not dead. #oakmtg"
-@matthai, the San Francisco Chronicle's Oakland City Hall beat reporter tweeting June 27. Matthai Kuruvila announced the same night that he's leaving the paper for a new job at the city of Berkeley. He will be missed.

Best Reads
>>>Although some are equating the release of "Fruitvale Station," the Oscar Grant film, to the ongoing Trayvon Martin shooting, the story is far more complicated. (Los Angeles Times, June 28.)

Voice of the People
“No one cares about the kids of Hayward. :(“
-Anonymous, commenting June 29 on “How Hayward’s New Superintendent Wanted The Job, Quit The Job, Got The Job.”

Friday, June 28, 2013

How Hayward's New Superintendent Wanted The Job, Quit The Job, Got The Job

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD
By Steven Tavares and Shane Bond
It’s not often a reporter is called out by name by an elected official in front of a crowded board meeting, but at this month's Hayward school board meeting the East Bay Citizen again found itself in the middle a hot topic of discussion. However, without much context it only proved to be a non-sequitur to many in the audience and those watching at home.  Before the board even discussed the approval of a contract for their new interim superintendent, Stan "Data" Dobbs, board members were already talking up the topic during opening comments.

Board member John Taylor oddly took it as prime time to call out to East Bay Citizen about documents the publication had been seeking for over a week, “Mr. Shane I have the papers for you,” said Taylor, waving a handful of documents towards the East Bay Citizen reporter. Then, as the meeting progressed, board conversation dropped hints at the controversy that has been causing havoc behind closed doors with terms like “Stanford” and “certificate” populating their discussion. There was also similar disjointed references made by a member of the Chamber of Commerce and former Hayward Councilman Olden Henson as well during public comments. What exactly were they talking about?

Those documents were the evidence that we had been actively seeking for 10 days that was to prove Dobbs had in fact attended Stanford University for a certificate in Advanced Project Management. The saga was to corroborate the credential but our phone calls and emails to Dobbs about the certificate had unforeseen effects. On Thursday, June 13, we had reached Dobbs by phone but before we had an opportunity to pop the question about Stanford the potential superintendent hung up rattling off an excuse about “being in line at a department store.” We continued with more phone calls and emails but Dobbs refused to respond. Then, the next day, Dobbs floored people at the district with a surprising announcement--he revoked his candidacy as superintendent finalist.

The days following up to this surprise announcement contained rumblings about Dobbs’s lack of an administrative credential but also that he possibility lied on his resume. According to information received by The Citizen a firm contracted by the school district to conduct a background check determined that Dobbs not only never received a certificate from Stanford, despite his resume claiming he did, but he also never even enrolled in the university. This could only amount to one conclusion: Dobbs lied on his resume. If true, it would of been a massive blow to his credibility to lead not only the lowest performing school district in the county but any district period.

The Citizen moved to fact check this information. We contacted Stanford but due to the school’s privacy policies they refused to confirm if Dobbs had or had not attended their school. They offered only one bit of information - that perhaps legal counsel contacted the wrong department. The Citizen had only one option left, contact Dobbs, but he refused to speak with us. However, he seemed more intent on learning how we got his number. Dobbs would later reference what he believed was some sort of an invasion of his privacy, but procuring someone’s phone number is hardly journalistic wizardry by any extent.

Shortly after Dobbs announced he was revoking his candidacy The Citizen received the email announcing his departure. The email sent by the school district’s legal counsel to the board stated that Dobbs claimed he was experiencing “harassment.” Dobbs’s legal counsel claimed he was receiving “harassing phone calls (and questioned how people got his number), leaks of confidential information and damaging erroneous information about his credentials.” Dobbs’s legal counsel then added “its not the kind of environment that any reasonable person would want to work in.”

The move was peculiar because no story had been written yet, instead, we had only asked questions that any reasonable journalist would ask. So we sent out more emails the following days. If a person had received a certificate bearing the name of such a prestigious school as Stanford then why wouldn’t Dobbs share his accomplishment with the world? If he, indeed, had the certificate then what is the problem with furnishing the proof? Still, there was no response. Dobbs’s resume also had other certificates from Ivy League schools like Harvard and M.I.T. that appeared to check out, but this one from Stanford continued to be vexing. One cabinet level administrator in another school district described the certificates as fluff that can be easily obtained as long as one is willing to pay the expenses to attend a handful of classes.

There was one board member who knew exactly what was brewing in the background. Taylor's public offering of Dobbs’s transcripts proving he had the Stanford certificate clearly showed he had been in contact with Dobbs. Never mind the whiff of impropriety exuded when a public official is conversing with the candidate whose contract is currently being negotiated behind closed doors, the evidence strongly suggests Taylor acted as Dobbs’ consigliere while the heat was being applied.

Some board members and Dobbs’ coalition of supporters in the hierarchy of the Hayward Education Association and the Chamber of Commerce freaked out after receiving notification that Dobbs dropped out on Friday, June 14. Shortly after, board member Lisa Brunner called for a special closed session meeting to discuss Dobbs’s contract. Since she was not the board president and acting alone, Brunner had no power to call such a meeting. According to board bylaws, it is the board president’s duty or the direction of a majority of the board approved at a previous board meeting. More importantly, board members are explicitly prohibited from discussing contract matters in special closed session. Board President William McGee would later admit the board violated the Brown Act.

In the rush by some board members to change Dobbs’ mind, Taylor was still in contact with Dobbs. In fact, in public comments and an interview with The Citizen, it was clear Taylor was well aware of the questions and evidence we were repeatedly asking Dobbs. After the special meeting on June 18, when asked if Dobbs had a certificate from Stanford and, if so, why wasn’t he providing it, Taylor opened the cover on his iPad to immediately and comically display an image that appeared to be what Taylor called Dobbs’ “transcripts.” “Transcripts are public record,” Dobbs said assuredly. “Anybody can get them.” Except, this is not true and attempts to gain confirmation of Dobbs’ attendance at Stanford were repeatedly denied by an official at the university. However, we never asked for a transcript, specifically, just some proof of his certificate. The next day, during the June 19 meeting to approve Dobbs’ contract, Taylor openly said he had spoken to Dobbs and that he had released the documents to him to be forwarded to us. In the meantime, none of the other board members, excluding Dr. Luis Reynoso seemed interested in the matter whatsoever.

Curiously, Dobbs’ decision to pull out of consideration appears to have given him leverage in subsequent contract negotiations. In the potentially illegal special closed session, both Taylor and Brunner advocated for a vastly more lucrative contract for Dobbs. Separately they pushed for a one-year contract in excess of between $230,000 and $240,000. Such a princely sum is equal to and beyond the contract given to Evans just 18 months ago. However, Evans’s resume far exceeded that of Dobbs, who has spent all of his career in education. Nevertheless, the board would approve a contract of $229,500 for Dobbs along with $7,500 in moving expenses from San Diego. Keep in mind, Dobbs only left the Hayward School District last November.

Although Dobbs’ stay at Stanford was finally confirmed nearly 10 days after repeated attempts to speak to him, a laundry list of questions still persist. Why the immense obfuscation culminating in Dobbs’ sudden, but brief, bailing from consideration? Why did the school board disregard a host of questions about Dobbs concerning his reasons for abruptly leaving the school district six months ago and why does he want to return? And for a school district long downtrodden by low performing students, why was there never any discussion about what this candidate would do to improve work in the classroom? Instead, he was generally praised for having a good working relationship with the business community and championed by the president of teachers’ union despite inflammatory anti-union comments made by Dobbs in February to a San Diego news site. On the same night his contract was approved, Dobbs' business acumen during his short time at the school district's business department was destroyed when it was revealed it is again broke.

In addition, a potentially illegal special meeting commenced featuring Taylor tiptoeing the bounds of public ethics by possibly maintaining contact with the candidate while pushing for an exorbitant public contract. "What was the rush?" said board member Reynoso. Was Dobbs’ appointment pre-ordained by the same cabal of business leaders that have longed sucked blood out of public finance in Hayward? In this case, despite Dobbs’ trepidation in taking the job, apparently, they just wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Oakland Passes A Two-Year Budget Shaded Toward Public Safety

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL//BUDGET | A two-year budget including increased funding for public safety was passed by the Oakland City Council late Thursday. The “all-in” budget compromise backed by Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, Dan Kalb and Lynette Gibson McElhaney was approved, 5-3, with dissent coming from the authors of a competing proposal.

“This budget will improve public safety, enhance economic prosperity and improve quality of life for our residents,” said Kaplan. “It responsibly allocates resources to meet the needs of our residents.”

The so-called “all-in” budget includes almost $12 million to form four police academies over the next two fiscal years, in addition to 17 civilian employees for the police department and five 911 dispatchers. The budget also includes funding for various quality of life issues, including replacement of $1.5 million for Headstart, previously cuts by federal sequestration cuts. The plan also sets aside $5.2 million in city savings.

McElhaney said the new budget does not include rosy forecasts even though revenues could potentially be higher than expected in the next two years. “Rather than counting those chickens before they were hatched, we dealt with the most conservative numbers and still said, if you look at this through the lens of love, opportunity, prosperity, you would be able to satisfy everyone.”

However, Councilmember Desley Brooks said McElhaney originally belonged with the budget plan laid out by herself and Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Larry Reid. She claimed McElhaney violated the Brown Act after reaching out to the competing proposal thereby privately discussing the item with more than the quorum of the council.

Brooks also called labeled the months-long finance discussion “one of the worst budget processes I’ve seen in the 10 years I’ve been on this council.” At times, though, sour grapes may have also been present. Reid called the all-in budget “irresponsible” and at one point, in a rambling speech, hinted he might run for mayor next year. “You know what? I don’t know, maybe I should freaking run for mayor of this city and the more I think about it, the more and more I’m just waiting for a signal from God.”

Both Brooks and Reid criticized passing a budget without first finalizing a major labor agreement still in progress. “We have a balanced budget and we want to squeeze our employees,” declared Brooks. McElhaney, though, disagreed. “There were some who tried to pit public safety against employees as if they had to be a zero-sum game. We said that was not true.” Meanwhile, negotiations with city employees continue without resolution. The budget, however, includes $6 million in additional funds for bargaining with its labor unions.

How Alameda Health System Is Going All-In With Deals In Alameda, San Leandro

ALAMEDA COUNTY//HEALTH CARE | The fall and potential renaissance of two East Bay health care facilities in San Leandro and Alameda share similar qualities, they reportedly bleed money and struggle to compete in a market dominated by big players in the health care industry. However, while Alameda resident’s took control of their stand-alone hospital years ago with a annual $297 parcel tax, San Leandro put the onus on the local health care district and Sutter Health. Ironically, in the end, either gambit has led both into the arms of the county’s safety net health care provider, Alameda Health Systems.

This month, the formerly named Alameda County Medical Center, signed a letter of intent with the Alameda Healthcare District to operate Alameda Hospital. All sides were careful how they labeled the deal after a healthcare district’s board members recently resigned citing concerns the pact with AHS should be posed to voters. A state law exists requiring a vote of the people when the assets of more than 50 percent of the health care district is transferred to another entity. “This is not a sale, not a merger,” said Debbie Stebbins, the Alameda Healthcare District's CEO. “It’s an affiliation.”

The proposed deal includes maintaining Alameda Hospital’s emergency room, no reduction of services or loss of jobs, said Stebbins. It also extends a $3 million line-of-credit from AHS to the hospital, of which half can be immediately accessed upon signing the non-binding letter of intent. In addition, medical staff at Alameda Hospital will be autonomous from AHS, said Stebbins. “We have met these people. We have sat across the room from them,” said Alameda Healthcare District board member Dr. Robert Deutsch. “We’ve made eye contact and I think we’ve created a trust.“

Behind the novel realignment of the health care safety net in Alameda County is Wright Lassiter, the long-time CEO of Alameda Health Systems, who says, “Health care is definitely about consolidation. It’s about scale, to some extent, because we all have fixed costs.

Wright Lassiter
“There is a requirement for some level of scale for you to be able to spread your costs and that is what this is about to some extent. Every market is a little bit different. We have two well-run health care systems that cover a lot of the community. Unless you can do something similar to what Kaiser and Sutter, then it is very difficult to compete. So this conundrum is, do you stay small and cover a local community like Alameda and San Leandro has tried to do, or do you try to become more regional?”

While Alameda Health System is currently constructing an addition to its Highland Hospital in Oakland, Lassiter says his recent moves is “not about going big because big is better, necessarily. It’s about doing things to be sustainable.” He adds public-private partnerships like those with hospitals in San Leandro and Alameda “is the future” of public health care systems. “Often times you don’t see public entities doing this. You see private not-for-profit systems doing this.”

However, like the situation in San Leandro, AHS was not willing to take on the risk of an underperforming facility without some financial backing in some form. While San Leandro’s potential renaissance will be boosted by $22 million in short-term subsidies from Sutter Health, another $20 million from the Eden Township Healthcare and $3 million from both the city of San Leandro and Alameda County, Alameda Hospital will continue to rely on proceeds from its parcel tax.

Over a decade ago, Alamedans, fearful of being without an emergency room in this island city, overwhelmingly chose to tax itself through a parcel tax that contribute over $6 million to the hospital’s operations. However, the amount is still not enough. A decision by Kaiser Permanente two years ago to pull out of a partnership with Alameda Hospital hastened an already worsening financial outlook. The health care district maintains control of the hospital and its assets and will also oversee distribution of parcel tax monies, Stebbins said this week, while AHS will gain a seat on the district board.

Lassiter says the deals with San Leandro Hospital and Alameda Hospital are independent of each other. “They are really completely independent. One deal is not dependent on the other. Frankly, we look at them as some of the same reasons for us from a strategic perspective for trying to serve areas we don’t serve well today.”

The main difference, says Lassiter, is Alameda Hospital’s closer proximity to Highland Hospital’s perpetually stretched emergency room. The plan is to alleviate some of the burden on Highland’s ER to Alameda Hospital, he says. “The difference is we are not really looking at shifting volume from Highland Hospital to San Leandro like we’re looking at here.”

But like many hospitals all over the state, both Alameda and San Leandro Hospital have little recourse at this point other than to explore novel new approaches for competing on a regional basis. It is for many, either adapt or die. Added Alameda Board Director Deutsch last week, “The impossible can no longer be pulled off.”

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Eden Township Healthcare District Ordered To Pay Sutter Health $17 Million In Damages

SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | An arbitrator ordered the Eden Township Healthcare District to pay Sutter Health over $17 million in damages to compensate for losses the health care provider incurred during a two-year span while ownership of San Leandro Hospital was in legal dispute.

The District filed a lawsuit in 2010 in order to block Sutter's option to purchase San Leandro Hospital and convert it to an acute rehabilitation facility. The lawsuit was seen as a critical step in keeping the hospital and its emergency room open for the next two years. An Alameda County Superior Court judge ultimately sided with Sutter and awarded it the hospital last year.

The gambit could have come at great cost to the District, however, Sutter will allow for the payment to be allocated towards operations at San Leandro Hospital, said Carole Rogers, the chair of the Eden Township Healthcare District Board of Directors. Last week, the District approved $20 million in subsidies to fund operations of the emergency room for one year.

Sutter had initially sought over $28 million in damages it said resulted in operating losses at San Leandro Hospital from April 2010 to April 2012. Although the District offered $11 million in damages, the arbitrator nearly split the difference.

In the past few months, movement on the future of San Leandro Hospital has come at feverish pace. In May Sutter offered to transfer title of the facility to Alameda Health Systems along with $22 million in subsidies. A letter of intent was subsequently signed allowing for the hospital to maintain the status quo with emergency room and without job losses.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

EAST BAY OFFICIALS REACT TO SUPREME COURT RULING ON PROPOSITION 8/DOMA

CIVIL RIGHTS | Following Wednesday's historic U.S. Supreme Court decisions repealing parts of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and the high court's decision on Proposition 8 effectively allowing county clerks to soon issue marriage licenses to all, elected officials in the East Bay had much to say as the LGBT community, and the region at-large, celebrated.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan (joint statement)
“The Supreme Court’s decisions this morning are a profound victory for same-sex couples – and for humanity. Oakland has long been a place of diversity and inclusion – we overwhelmingly rejected Proposition 8 – and we’ll forever be proud to have been on the right side of history. We are so proud of Oakland for being an instrumental part of the progress we’ve made – and will continue to make for years to come.”

State Sen. Ellen Corbett
“I have always believed that the basic premise of Proposition 8 was deeply flawed and am pleased that, after today’s historic ruling, wedding bells will soon be ringing for all Californians regardless of sexual orientation. I thank the Supreme Court for taking an important step toward true equality and ensuring that all Californians have the freedom to marry the person they love.”

Rep. Barbara Lee
“This is an amazing day for marriage equality and for love. The Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act is long overdue, and I could not be more excited. With this decision, the Court brought our nation one step closer to realizing our Constitution’s promise of equality for all Americans.”

Assemblyman Rob Bonta
"The ruling on Proposition 8 allows two loving adults in California to enter into marriage, regardless of their gender. While it was my hope that the Supreme Court would have more broadly ruled in favor of justice and equality by holding Proposition 8 unconstitutional, their more narrow ruling on the standing of the parties invalidates Proposition 8 and legalizes gay marriage in California.”

Assemblymember Nancy Skinner
"California has two courageous women to thank for fighting the good fight (Berkeley residents Kriss Perry and Sandy Stier, both named in Hollingsworth v. Perry heard before the U.S. Supreme Court). Their efforts affirmed a basic human right that will enable my daughter and all Californians, regardless of sexual orientation, to be treated equally under the law."

Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski
“The momentum is strong, but the struggle for marriage equality will continue in those states that still discriminate. I am confident that someday all Americans will enjoy the rights that Californians now have as a result of this historic day.”

Alameda County D.A. Won't File Charges Against Oakland Councilmember Brooks

The statute of limitations for prosecuting Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks for allegations of 12 violations of the City Charter has passed, said Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.

On the heels of a civil grand jury report criticizing Brooks and the City Council's inaction over the matter, O'Malley told the San Francisco Chronicle Wednesday says the alleged wrong-doing occurred too long ago for her office to act.

O'Malley would not comment on whether there was sufficient evidence against Brooks, the Chronicle reported.

The Oakland city auditor's report released last March, also included an alleged violation against Councilmember Larry Reid. But, it was the allegations that Brooks personally and repeatedly interfered with city staff in the building of a teen center in her district that caught the attention residents, other council members and Alameda County grand jurors.

The grand jury report released Monday singled out the allegations against Brooks, albeit not by name, and described an atmosphere among council members as being "mayors of their own districts." The report also called on Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby to release her report to the City Council and for the city to more greatly fund its public ethics commission.

Last month, both Ruby and Council President Kernighan agreed to put the issues detailed in the city audit on the back burner in light of more pressing needs, such as the budget and continuing problems at Oakland PD.

Quirk Snags A Photo With Halle Berry

Asm Bill Quirk and Halle Berry
ASSEMBLY 20 | When Assemblyman Bill Quirk posed for a photo last week with local labor leader Lillian Galedo and fellow Assemblyman Rob Bonta, the look on the Hayward lawmaker’s face was…meh?

However, when Halle Berry showed up at the Capitol Tuesday to testify before a legislative committee that her children are relentlessly stalked by paparazzi, Quirk and legislators couldn’t help snagging a photo with the beautiful Hollywood ingĂ©nue.

Quirk posted the pic on Facebook and the look on his face is priceless. You can’t help wondering what thoughts were going through his mind as Berry placed her arm around Quirk. A few come to mind:
  1. A rendition of Don Quixote’s “Dream the impossible dream!”
  2. "This sure beats posing with Hayward Councilmember Barbara Halliday."
  3. Bazinga!
There is also work to be done in Quirk’s 20th District. On Monday, his first piece of legislation was signed by the governor. AB 492 requires courts transfer the cases of those on probation or supervision for non-violent drug possession offenses to the county of the person’s residence. The bill passed through both houses of the Legislation without opposition.

State Senate Committee Slows Down Fast-Break On S.F. Arena For The Warriors

A state Senate committee threw the brakes on a bill by San Francisco Assemblyman Phil Ting that would pave the way for a waterfront arena in The City for the Golden State Warriors.

The Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee insisted AB 1273 not bypass conditions of the state Tidelands Act for approving the project proposed for Piers 30-32. The Sacramento Bee reports:
As proposed and approved by the Assembly, Assembly Bill 1273 would have had the Legislature bypass local and regional authorities to authorize use of publicly owned tidelands for the project, which also includes a large retail and office complex. Proponents say the project would generate new business for San Francisco and pay for improvement of a deteriorating block of piers.

However, the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee insisted that the decision on use of tidelands - without which the arena cannot proceed - would be made later in the project approval process by the State Lands Commission and the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC) after local studies and hearings.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan testified before the senate committee Tuesday, said the report. Ting’s bill passed the Assembly last month, but without the entire East Bay delegation and fellow San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano.

Interestingly, as talk of a ballpark for the A’s near Jack London Square at Howard Terminal again sparked up Tuesday, the same regulatory hurdles regarding the waterfront arena in San Francisco could be also applied to any ballpark on the opposite side of the bay.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Unremarkable Grand Jury Report Has One Surprise: Rep. Swalwell’s Father Served As Grand Juror

ALAMEDA COUNTY//GRAND JURY REPORT | Outside of Dublin, most people are unaware Rep. Eric Swalwell is not the first in his family to be an elected official. Eric Swalwell, Sr. served on the Dublin school board nearly a decade ago before his son upset Pete Stark last year in the 15th Congressional District.

However, it comes as some surprise Swalwell, Sr. served on the Alameda County grand jury while his son represented a large portion of the county in Congress. Swalwell was a grand juror from July 1, 2012 to May 2013, according to the report released Monday. He resigned last month after moving outside of the county.

How Senior got on the grand jury is unclear, nor are the reasons why he did not resign sometime after Junior was elected last November. Grand jurors typically apply for the one-year service and are nominated by county judges. According to the report, 25-30 applicants were whittled down to 19 grand jurors through a lottery system. Swalwell was nominated by Alameda County Superior Court Judge C. Don Clay, the grand jury’s presiding judge.

In addition, the grand jury is split into specific committees relating to health care and social service; law and justice; education and administration; and government. Swalwell served on both health care and as secretary on the government committee.

The potential for conflict of interest exist by Swalwell’s inclusion on an investigative body charged with rooting out government corruption, not only possibly pertaining to his son, a former Dublin council members who had his own battle with ethics last year, but the congressman’s political supporters, some of whom were the subject of the report.

Whether or not Swalwell, Sr., a Republican, may have steered the grand jury to a more conservative bent is not clear, however, the list of topics tackled by the group is noticeably uncontroversial, and at times, laudatory regarding some issues including praise for the condition of some county jails. The grand jury also oddly spent time investigating the county’s innovative plan for firehouse medical clinics. Unsurprisingly, it found nothing wrong with the program. Past grand jury reports were notable for their outrage and criticism of local issues such as Oakland crime labs and the widespread inaction that led to the dissolution of a county program for the poor.

What is missing from the grand jury report, however, is any mention of numerous allegations of graft and ethics violations made by Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty’s former chief of staff against his former boss. It was reported earlier this year a complaint was made to the grand jury. Similarly, a section of the grand jury report on nepotism in Alameda County noted two unnamed county supervisors widely-known to dabble in the act. However, neither was named and both are Swalwell supporters. In fact, the investigation, as detailed, quickly veers into a discussion on nepotism policies in all cities in the county. It found just 3 of 14 entities lacked a policy.

Despite the minimal reference to county supervisors and nepotism, there is no mention of Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, whose son has worked as a staff member for Supervisors Nadia Lockyer and Richard Valle, nor his daughter, who infamously worked for the Associated Community Action Program (ACAP) which dissolved last year and who is now is employed by the county’s ambulance vendor Paramedics Plus.

In the past, Senior attracted local curiosity as a school board member in Dublin from 2000-2004 when he helped push a plan for Dublin High School students to be voluntarily-tested for drug use. Those who passed would receive a red star for display on their person. The “scarlet letter” could then be redeemed for discounts on food and others publicly congratulated for being drug-free.

Monday, June 24, 2013

County To Form Task Force Examining Re-Up Of Measure A For Next Year

ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | Measure A is one of the most successful voter-approved referendums in Alameda County over the past decade. Since 2004, the half-cent transactions and use tax has garnered nearly $1 billion in revenue, two-thirds of which, greatly aid the county's health care safety net.

In order to continue the tax windfall generated by Measure A, county and local officials have recently begun conversations on how to reauthorize the measure before it sunsets in 2019. In fact, the referendum could be on the ballot sometime next year.

On Tuesday, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley will ask the board to authorize the creation of a Blue Ribbon Task Force to review its options in attracting voter approval for the measure. Miley would chair the task force along with Supervisor Wilma Chan as its vice chair, according to a staff report.

Miley says the group could be formed in the next few weeks and begin deliberations in July or August. A similar panel was formed in 2004, according to the report, and chaired by former Supervisor Gail Steele. The next iteration of the task force will contain 32 members, including 25 appointed by the five county supervisors.

Seventy-five percent of Measure A funds go directly to Alameda Health System, formerly named the Alameda County Medical Center, for emergency, inpatient and outpatient services for the indigent, low-income earners, children and seniors in Alameda County. The remaining quarter is allocated by the Board of Supervisors to various community-based organizations (CBOs) and partially uncompensated health care costs for emergency care, says the report. “This measure is extememl essential for us to deliver health care,” Miley said Tuesday.

The staff report says the task force may look at placing the measure before Alameda County voters as early as next June's primary or the November mid-term general election.

NOTE: additions to this article were made to include Miley's comments during Tuesday's Board of Supervisors meeting.

Grand Jury Slams Oakland City Council For Its Inability To Self-Police

Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks
ALAMEDA COUNTY//GRAND JURY REPORT | The Oakland City Council lacks the ability to self-police itself, says an Alameda County grand jury report released Monday. In addition, the grand jury’s investigation of similar complaints laid out in a city auditor’s report last March alleging Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid for violating the city charter also came to some of the same conclusion.

The annual grand jury report also calls for the Oakland city auditor to release its own findings to the City Council charging both members of interfering with staff’s day-to-day operations. In addition, they recommend adding teeth the Oakland Ethics Commission’s powers, including the ability to levy fines against negligent public officials.

Although the grand jury report does not specifically name either Brooks or Reid, however, from the description of their findings regarding the Oakland Digital Art and Culinary Academy (DACA), it is clear one council member described is Brooks. According to the report, the grand jury made repeated attempts by all manner of communication for the unnamed council member, believed to be Brooks, to appear before grand jurors, but they refused.

The grand jury's investigation found city staff were confused by the actions of some councilmembers regarding some pet city projects along with fearful of recriminations from elected officials. The city auditor's reported anonymous staff members lodging similar complaints against Brooks.

"Testimony indicated that throughout the different stages of the DACA project, there were concerns by some staff involved that if they failed to cater to the council member’s needs, their jobs could be in jeopardy," said the grand jury. "Since some city department heads were copied in a variety of emails, staff assumed they were to move forward with their efforts regardless of city rules and regulations. Whatever the reasons, the Grand Jury finds a clear failure by the chain of command to stop the unauthorized behavior."

Similar to the Ruby report last March, the grand jury labeled a perception of some Oakland council members acting as “mayors of their own districts,” and exacerbated by the city’s large bureaucracy and its default for slow change.

“District elections, a history of hands-off mayors, and the fact that large government bureaucracies operate using policies and procedures that can cause change or improvements to occur slowly, all contributed to this behavior,” said the grand jury.

The report in many ways corroborates Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby’s report last March citing violations of the city charter regarding non-interference. In the report, Ruby alleged 12 violations of the charter by Brooks regarding the building of a teen center in her district and 2 violations by Reid pertaining to the Oakland Army Base deal.

The grand jury’s investigation found a city council shackled by alliances and an inability to fund further investigations into council member’s alleged wrong-doings. “This brings into question the council’s ability to self-police,” said the grand jury.

It also calls for additional funding for the Oakland Ethics Commission, whose budget has routinely been cut by the City Council over the years and is currently just over $186,000 with one full-time staff person. By contrast, San Francisco's public ethics commission employs 17 staff members with a $2.2 million annual budget, says the report.

Meanwhile, the grand jury recommends giving the commission power to levy fines, penalties or other sanctions. “This would also better serve the citizens of Oakland because traditionally, the city council’s ability to self-police or censure its own members who commit wrongdoing is an ineffective tool.”

Despite the uproar surrounding the allegations against Brooks and Reid, the City Council showed little desire to tackle the issue contained in that report. However, Councilmember Noel Gallo broached the subject in May, urging Ruby to release her report, but Council President Pat Kernighan successfully steered the controversy to the backburner a few weeks later.

With A Bright Future Ahead, Alameda Officially Takes Control Of Alameda Point

Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore signs the conveyance of Alameda Point June 24 with Roger Natsuhara, assistant secretary of the Navy. PHOTO/Steven Tavares
ALAMEDA//DEVELOPMENT | Sixteen years after the Alameda’s Naval Air Station closed forever, the U.S. officially conveyed the scenic, but still toxic Alameda Point back to the city of Alameda.

“Come to Alameda Point,” said Alameda Mayor Marie Gilmore. “We are open for business.”

At an outdoor ceremony Monday afternoon on the grounds of the former Navy base, Gilmore and Assistant Secretary of the Navy Roger Natsuhara officially signed the conveyance of Alameda Point over seven decades after the point was ceded to the federal government.

The road to turning over the former Navy installation back to Alameda has been long and arduous. But, in 2012, the federal government offered the over 1,300 acres of waterfront land offering some of the most sweeping panoramas of the San Francisco Bay, back to the city at no cost.

“The Alameda community has been waiting a very long time--a very long time--for this moment,” said Alameda City Manager John Russo. “We’ve crossed one finish line and find ourselves ready to race at another starting line. No more false starts in this race. Now is the time.”

During the past year, the city of Alameda has made significant progress in near-term planning. Early planning and regulatory hurdles may be completed by early 2014 allowing Alameda to begin attracting investment and capital as soon as next year, said Russo. “The faster we get the right activities going on out there, the faster benefits can accrue to Alameda and to the region,” he added. “To borrow a military phrase, we must move with all deliberate speed.”

The future Alameda Point will include a transit-oriented development featuring a mix of housing options for incomes of all levels, commercial and retail, research and development and 700 acres of parks and open space, says Russo. The city says the project will create over 9,000 permanent jobs along with a bevy of opportunities in construction.

However, while the land is a veritable blank slate for the city and developers to transform the look and prosperity of the island, significant investment is still needed. Much of the point, long rundown following the years following the closure of the military installation, needs refreshing. Historical buildings need retrofitting, while roads call for reconstruction. Years of environmental cleanup left over from the Navy's operations at the point must be continued.

In 1993, the Alameda Naval Air Station was included in steep Clinton-era budget cuts to the military and officially closed in 1997. The base realignment plan ultimately cost the city 14,000 jobs and wounded its civic identity inextricably linked to the base. Gilmore referenced those dark days nearly two decades ago with the city’s new vision for Alameda Point. “Today, we hope to honor that past and to create an extraordinary new community for the city, the region and the state.”

Added, Rep. Barbara Lee, who represents Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro, “I have no doubt the unique charm of Alameda will only grow and thrive with the transformation of Alameda Point.”

As a steady drizzle fell on the proceedings Monday afternoon, Russo noted the island community’s great fortune tied to Alameda Point and its potential as a significant generator of tax revenue for Alameda and the county, at-large. “The Italians say when it rains on a wedding day, it’s good luck. The rain is just a reflection of that luck and now we have to meet that luck with hard work.”

Oakland, Alameda County To Pay $1 Million To Oscar Grant Protesters Arrested Nov. 2010

Just two weeks away from the opening of Fruitvale Station, the highly-acclaimed feature film about the last days of Hayward-resident Oscar Grant and the city of Oakland and Alameda County can't help but unwittingly promoting the film.

On Monday morning, the East Bay Express reported protesters arrested during one of the Grant protest Nov. 5, 2010 will be paid $1.025 million in damages and legal fees. One hundred fifty-two people were arrested that night, reports the Express, but none were ever charged with a crime related to the protest. The mass arrests occurred following a decision by a judge to reduce the sentence of former BART cop Johannes Mehserle. From the Express:
The settlement found that OPD's conduct on November 5, 2010 violated the court-ordered crowd-control policy, which was established after a violent police response to a 2003 antiwar demonstration at the Port of Oakland. “The overall idea of the policy is for the police to use the minimum level of force as opposed to the maximum,” said Rachel Lederman, an attorney with the National Lawyers Guild. Characterizing mass arrests and lengthy detention of peaceful demonstrators as “pre-emptive, precharging punishments by the police,” Lederman claimed that the November 5, 2010 mass arrest had “a really chilling effect on free speech in Oakland.”
In addition, the National Lawyers Guild contends the plan to arrest protesters was predetermined by OPD hierarchy.
The National Lawyers Guild believes the arrest plan was preconceived by Breshears, then-Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan, and then-Police Chief Anthony Batts. At his deposition, Downing testified that he was prepared to give an unlawful assembly announcement and provide an opportunity for dispersal, and did not know why Breshears deviated from standard procedure. Alameda County Sheriff's Office buses arrived at the scene to transport the 152 arrestees to jail. Because of the sheer volume of people, sheriff’s deputies at North County Jail in Oakland kept many of the detainees on buses for up to six hours while handcuffed. As a result, numerous people urinated on themselves while waiting to be processed. Female detainees were also required to give urine samples for mandatory pregnancy tests.
The film Fruitvale Station opens July 12.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Battles For Hayward

SUNDAY COLUMN | On Saturday, Rep. Eric Swalwell opened an office in downtown Hayward. The bit of real estate is important to note. His battle for re-election next year runs right through the Heart of the Bay. But state Sen. Ellen Corbett is also hoping to throw a "loop" in Swalwell's plans.

During the last few weeks, it has become clear that Swalwell views Hayward's voting bloc and women voters, in general, as the key to his re-election. You might say it is also his Achilles' Heel. Corbett is well-known in Hayward and, of course, she is a woman. Not only that, but also one of the most accomplished politicians in the entire East Bay.

Swalwell had one hit in a 22-0
rout of the GOP last week.
This is why, in the last two weeks, Swalwell has donned a Tennyson High School baseball jersey for the annual Congressional baseball game in Washington (nevermind a white boy from Dublin like Swalwell would not last a second at Tennyson) and routinely tweets his doings in the area. Conversely, Corbett has been seen doing the reverse--showing up in the Tri Valley early and often in recent months. Swalwell;s problem is he lost Hayward last year to Pete Stark in a convincing manner and his good showing in nearby Castro Valley may not be replicated with Corbett's high-name recognition in that town.

However, it is Hayward that is destined to either make or break Swalwell. Can he be liberal enough for Hayward, and Fremont, for that matter, while still catering to Tri Valley moderates? What if Tea Party darling and newly-minted Republican Chris Pareja joins the race and gobbles up rightwingers Swalwell cheerily courted last year? And how will he attract Hayward's large Latino population? By courting the support of Councilmembers Francisco Zermeno and Mark Salinas and having your events at a Hayward restaurant named "The Mexican Restaurant? Good luck with that. In that case, he would be better off driving around the Hayward Loop in a rented convertible Impala wearing a huge foam sombrero

THE OTHER BATTLE
While Swalwell vs. Corbett is an ideological battle, the literal war surrounds saving the city's school children from decades of graft and corruption among the Hayward Unified School District and some in the business community. As we saw this week, both those groups showed no shame and suggested the enormous left hook it sustained last year with the deposing of former school president Jesus Armas has forced these shadowy characters to, in effect, go bigger than ever before.

This week, school board members Lisa Brunner and John Taylor used same dangerous cover for these group by urging everyone to again look away from the mess certain to reappear at HUSD and, instead, think about the children.  If you understand Hayward, you will understand how outrageously faulty such logic is when it has been the children, a large percentage of which are minorities have paid the costs with their futures and taxpayers have been duped by exorbitant tax increases.

But that's why Stan "Data" Dobbs is back as interim school superintendent. He is a respected pillar of the community, his supporters say, and his financial acumen will greatly aid the district's bottom line. In fact, HUSD again finds itself in the same pickle of mismanagement it faced two years ago when whispers of the state taken over were loudest. Sounds great, except for a report by staff said HUSD is again unable to pay its financial obligations. Did staff simply undo the work Dobbs' reportedly did in just six-month after his brief sojourn to San Diego? The answer is no. Also, anybody else notice the absence of any rhetoric involving hiring an administrator that can change the educational philosophy at HUSD? Hayward is the most underperforming school district in Alameda County because kids in Hayward are not learning. That doesn't take money per se, it takes innovative new ideas for helping them understand the curriculum.

However, there is good news. the four-year battle in San Leandro to save its hospital is weeks away from an armistice. The good people of San Leandro have won. Our work is done. The mission statement of the East Bay Citizen calls for underserved areas to again have important news stories at a keystroke. In addition, one huge, overarching issue, not necessarily pertaining to our bread and butter coverage of local government, should be given a substantial amount of our collective bandwidth. With nearly 200 original articles posted over four years detailing the fight to save San Leandro Hospital, we can now declare mission accomplished. Now, we turned our sights on saving Hayward's schools and I really don't think they're much of a match for us. 

Quotable
“We’re lawless.”
-Luis Reynoso, the Hayward school board’s rapier-tongued board member said June 19, and with dramatic exasperation, after he charged his colleagues with violating the Brown Act last week by calling a special meeting to discuss the contract details for its interim superintendent. Doing so, is expressly forbidden in the state sunshine law.

The Week That Was
Cisco Field: future home of the A's?
>>>Opening A Way To San Jose?: The City of San Jose apparently had enough and made good on a threat to sue Major League Baseball in hopes of forcing a determination on the future home of the Oakland Athletics. In general, the move seems to enforce a new perception that MLB would rather have the A's stay in Oakland rather than get into a messy battle with the Giants over rights to the South Bay. Nevertheless, this game probably isn't even near the seventh-inning stretch. And, oh, yeah, there was a major sewage leak in the locker rooms at the Oakland Coliseum making matters a bit more...messy.

>>>’Dro TV: In a week when government transparency took a hit on a statewide level, San Leandro joined the 20th Century and approved a $395,000 remodel of its council chambers to install high-definition video and improved audio. San Leandro is the only city in Alameda County that does not televise its government meetings over the air or online. It currently livestreams audio-only on its Web site. Don’t expect must watch T.V., however, from the San Leandro City Council, other than witness Councilmember Jim Prola’s biweekly 15-20 item rundown of every single meeting he attended in the past two weeks, along with an update from Alameda County Mosquito Abatement Committee of which he proudly serves.

>>>As Hayward Turns: First the Hayward School Board appointed former employee Stan Dobbs interim superintendent. Then just days before offering him a contract, he suddenly drops out citing the blitzkrieg leveled by The Citizen surrounding his resume. A few days later, a potentially illegal special meeting is called regarding his contract and the next day, the man who calls himself “Data” Dobbs is pulling in a contract commensurate with his vastly more experienced predecessor. In the meantime, a bevy of issues fail to pass the smell test, meaning, stay tuned for a summer of wild antics in the Heart of the Bay.

>>>Hospital moves: Alameda Health System, former Alameda County Medical Center, is going big in advance of Obamacare changing forever the business landscape of health care in the county. AHS this week entered into an “affiliation” with the struggling Alameda Hospital. The deal follows a similar move last month for San Leandro Hospital. Both deals would maintain the emergency rooms, involve no changes in staff and provide hope to the county’s safety net hospitals. In addition, the Eden Township Healthcare District approved adding $20 million to the operating costs for AHS to run San Leandro Hospital.

>>>Young is back!: The notorious former assembly candidate and current AC Transit board director who allegedly hit his former girlfriend is the target of a scathing internal report charging him with potentially breaking board bylaws and state law. Young, according to the report, may have used his privileged duties as an AC Transit board member for his own profit and that of the law firm he is employed. His use of insider information for his own benefit is nothing new. Just ask SEIU, who revoked their endorsement last year when he peddle its confidential questionnaires to potential supporters to undermine his opponents who also had the backing of the powerful union.

Tweet of the Week
"The asshats at @SFGate think Wolff selling #Athletics to group that would keep them in #Oakland would be a bad thing"
-@HarryElephante, tweeting June 18 about a San Francisco Chronicle editorial in favor of San Jose's lawsuit against Major League Baseball. Of course, everybody in Oakland already knows the Chronicle hates Oakland.

Best Reads
>>>Cal State East Bay's iconic Warren Hall, is due to be imploded within the next two months, but scientists plan to use the event to study the potentially dangerous Hayward Fault. (NBC News, June 21.)

>>>Having trouble understanding the legal underpinnings of San Jose's lawsuit against Major League Baseball in hopes of freeing the team to move from Oakland to the South Bay? Here's a highly-detailed primer of the case. (Baseball Prospectus, June 20.)

Voice of the People
"I too love this blog. We have the [Voice of] San Diego but yours is more entertaining because your politics are more crooked. Thank you for taking Dobbs back from us."
-Anonymous, commenting June 22 on "Hayward School President Admits They May Have Broken The Brown Act."

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hayward School Board President Admits They May Have Broken The Brown Act

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | The quickly assembled special meeting last Tuesday called by the Hayward school board to discuss the contract of its interim superintendent may have been illegal.

“I do think we violated the Brown Act,” said Hayward school board president William McGee early Thursday morning following the unanimous approval of a 1-year, $229,500 contract for interim superintendent Stan “Data” Dobbs.

Not only may the events leading up to the Tuesday special meeting have broken the state sunshine laws, but also the discussions inside the closed session meeting.

According to the Brown Act and the board’s own bylaws, special meetings may be called only by the board’s president. A majority of the board can also vote to hold such a meeting, but only during the course of previous regularly scheduled session. In this case, according to documents seen by The Citizen, the meeting was called by board member Lisa Brunner through its clerk. Subsequently, board members John Taylor and Annette Walker consented to the meeting. Under these circumstances, Brunner, in effect, called the meeting using the sole powers of the board president.

Furthermore, the Brown Act explicitly prohibits using special meetings for the business of discussion superintendent contracts, salary schedules and fringe benefits. It was previously reported the board indeed discussed the terms of Dobbs’ salary and agreed on a specific salary range. Terms of relocation expenses for Dobbs, who currently lives in the San Diego area, were also discussed during Tuesday’s closed session.

During Wednesday’s hearing to approve Dobbs’ contract, board member Dr. Luis Reynoso referenced the potential impropriety of the special meeting, saying with a tinge of dramatic exasperation, “We’re lawless.”

The reasoning behind disallowing elected officials from discussing contracts in special closed session is to protect the public from board members and council officials perceived to be negotiating in secret with taxpayers money.

The potential of violating the Brown Act, comes on the heels of an array of peculiar actions by certain board members, the business community, teachers union and Dobbs, himself. According to a source familiar with the events leading to Tuesday’s special meeting, Brunner reportedly first called the meeting last Friday during the late afternoon. It is believed the impetus for her action was an email from Dobbs unequivocally  pulling out of consideration for the interim superintendent position. In the message, Dobbs claimed he was being harassed and deemed the potential work environment in Hayward too poisonous for him to succeed.

However, his reluctance to be considered for the job, according to sources, was never discussed by the board and by Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, his contract was unanimously approved.

Shane Bond contributed to this article.

Coliseum Officials Hint A’s Are Using Sewage Leak To Their Advantage

OAKLAND COLISEUM AUTHORITY | Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley checked his email last Sunday and found a message alerting him of a sewage leak in the player’s locker room at O.co Coliseum. Miley, also the chair of the joint powers authority that runs the facility, understood it was a minor problem being handled accordingly.

“Then when all the press started hitting us like, whoa, what is all this?” said Miley on Friday following the Coliseum Authority’s monthly meeting. “I’m not necessarily blaming the press," he added, "but there are people feeding this type of information. I’m blaming folks who are maybe taking it and using it to their advantage in inappropriate ways.”

Although, Miley did not mention Oakland Athletics co-owner Lew Wolff by name, he and other team officials made assertion in some reports characterizing the sewage leak as symptomatic of an aging ballpark and a prime reason for construction of a new stadium in San Jose.

“The way it was characterized just got me annoyed and upset,” Miley said. “Once again recognizing the explanation, I think it was blown out of proportion and people were mischaracterizing it. For what purposes? I’m not going to say.”

However, a few days after the initial uproar following the damage to the locker room, the city of San Jose curiously filed suit in U.S. District Court in hopes of forcing Major League Baseball to make a determination whether to allow the A’s to move to San Jose. Four years after the commissioner of baseball assembled a so-called “blue ribbon committee” to study the proposed move to the South Bay, no recommendation has been made.

Chris Wright, the general manager for both the Coliseum and Oracle Arena, says news reports confused recurring plumbing problems at the 46-year-old edifice and sewage leaks like the event last weekend. “I was stunned when I heard the comment, ‘this happens all the time,’” said Wright.

Wright says he then asked for clarification on the claim being made by some that sewage problems were a somewhat regular event at the Coliseum. “I was told the statement was in a response to a question, ‘Do you have plumbing issues’ and the response was, ‘Yes, we have plumbing issues all the time,’ but not necessarily sewer issues,” Wright said. “We have plumbing issues as any other facility would have.”

He also dismissed comments made by Wolff last week regarding the closure of a kitchen in the Westside Club and described the problem as a clogged sink. “We’re a major facility that has lots of things going on,” he said. “Do sinks back up? Absolutely.”

When asked if the suggestion was an opportunity to kick the Coliseum while it was down,Wright grinned, and said, “I’m going to take a sip of my coffee on that one.”

In the meantime, the A’s and visitor’s locker rooms is scheduled to be re-opened Saturday, said Wright. Both were cleaned and tested for bacteria on Thursday, he added, along with installation of new sheetrock. Carpeting and a new paint job are being applied today, he said.

Miley, however, does not believe the Coliseum, a publicly-owned facility, has a marketing problem as a substandard entertainment venue, but new stadiums are needed in the future. “I heard feedback both ways. Some people love this place like a distinguished old jewel that they are comfortable with and others have the perception this is a dump.

“That’s why we’re working with the Raiders to build a new stadium and a new stadium for the A’s," said Miley, "if we can get Lew Wolff to cooperate.”

NOTES Construction crews are working on seismically retrofitting the bridge on the 66th Avenue entrance to the Coliseum. On Friday morning, the entrance was closed, but Wright says the Coliseum is working with the Oakland Public Works Department to schedule partial openings of the entrance during event days. The A’s, however, have their own separate arrangement with Public Works for opening the gate on game days...It was announced the Oakland Raiders will hold a corporate event July 19 at team headquarters in Alameda. The event hopes to entice corporate support for the team and is  co-sponsored by Oakland-based Clorox. In recent months, the NFL has stated the key to football thriving in the East Bay includes a more regional-based strategy along with attracting big-name corporate sponsorship dollars. For this reason, officials from all cities in Alameda County are invited to the soiree, in addition, to those from Contra Costa County…And, for the record: Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid again wore a Raiders cap to this morning’s meeting and was joined by fellow Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, who donned a black A’s cap. As noted before, it’s sort of like Walmart applying for a permit and seeing the city’s planning commissioners wearing blue Walmart smocks to the hearing.

Officer Friendly Set To Join OPD?

Gone are the days of Officer Friendly walking the beat, twirling his baton down Broadway and stopping to pat little Johnny on the head.

"How are the Oakland Oaks looking this season, Johnny?"

"Gee, I don't know, sir? But Jackie Jensen is the bee's knees!"

Times have changed, however, but the Oakland Police Department as part of its plan to resorganize the city into five smaller policing districts, wants its officers to get out of their patrol cars and mingle with the citizenry.

According to KPIX, interim police chief Sean Whent believes once the residents forge better relationships with officers, the city's high crime rate will fall.
Whent said the department also wants to “improve our relationship with the community” so that community members feel more comfortable talking with police officers and helping them solve crimes.

“As trust builds, cooperation increases,” he said.

Whent said he believes “there will be a significant crime reduction” by using the new system.

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said, “I’m really excited” about the new system and said the city is “building a new Police Department” in which police work hard to develop better relationships with citizens.

“We want officers to slow down and smile,” Quan said.
However, it is not clear whether officers improving their personal contacts (taking into accounts very few actually live in Oakland) means shooting the breeze about last night's ball game at taco truck in Fruitvale or merely putting boots on the grounds in a more confrontational style.

Capt. Kirk Coleman, who heads the East Oakland district leading to the San Leandro border, told KPIX, “We want to eliminate violent crime, including robberies" and he plans to increase bicycle and foot patrols because "'we want to get up and personal' with criminals."

In the meantime, can somebody explain why Oakland police officers don't wear caps?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Swalwell's Video Stunt Could Violate House Rules

CONGRESS 15 | The six-second Vine video sent out on Twitter Wednesday by Rep. Eric Swalwell may be in violation of House rules for decorum, reports ABC News.

Swalwell sent video of himself voting against a Republican-backed bill some labelled "anti-abortion" either because he was bored or believed he could use the social media service to further advocate for his pet issue of a "mobile congress." However, there are rules about playing around with your cell phone while doing your job in Congress.
One of those rules of Congress may conflict with the congressman's filmed veto. House rules prohibit "the use of mobile electronic devices that impair decorum" and states that, "No device may be used for still photography or for audio or video recording."

However, Swalwell stands by his Vine. "I interpret the rule to say that I can't use a device that would impair the decorum," Swalwell said. "I did not see this as impairing the decorum. I think what this did was highlight, for all to see, the democratic process."
Swalwell probably will not be admonished, said the report, quoting an expert who says representatives frequently take photos on the House floor. "All the same, Swalwell may not press the issue again. 'I don't know if there will be another vote [video]," he said. "I will make sure that we don't cross the Vine, so to speak.'"

Of course, whatever admonition he receives will be well worth it. The attention-starved freshman congressman got the attention of a national news source and that was his aim all along.

San Leandro Hospital Deal May Not Be Done By Deadline, But Don't Worry

SAN LEANDRO HOSPITAL | The letter of intent between Sutter Health and Alameda Health System (AHS) to keep San Leandro Hospital open expires July 1. However, if July 2 comes around without a deal in place, don’t worry; says Wright Lassiter, the head of AHS, it’s not the end of the world.

Lassiter told The Citizen this week talks between AHS and Sutter are doing well, but a deal may not be signed by the July 1 deadline oulined in the letter of intent. However, it is not cause for concern, he says.

“I can’t give you a prediction of July 1 or not, but what I can tell you is both parties are working really hard to get it done,” said Lassiter. “So, even if it’s not July 1, we’re working on getting that deal done.”

Last month, Sutter Health, which now owns San Leandro Hospital, offered to transfer title of the facility to AHS at no cost, along with a short-term $22 million subsidy. Under the plan, AHS would keep the hospital’s emergency room open and honor the existing labor agreements. The building’s vacant top floor would also be converted to an acute rehabilitation center.

Also on Wednesday, the Eden Township Healthcare District approved an additional one-time $20 million subsidy which should greatly clarify the situation at the negotiating table.

“We continue to make progress with Sutter on the letter of intent,” added Lassiter. “Our team is working really hard to get through all the details. There’s still a lot more work to be done.”

A Sutter spokesperson declined to speak on the progress of negotiations, but Lassiter assured both parties are “100 percent committed to make it work.”

“As long if we both agree sufficient progress is being made, then that will continue,” Lassiter continued.

Lassiter should be busy over the next few weeks as AHS makes a move in the East Bay to consolidate the area’s underperforming facilities amid the changing healthcare landscape in the dawn before Obamacare more fully comes online next January.

In addition, to the potential San Leandro deal, AHS has a somewhat similar offer to operate Alameda Hospital with a letter of intent that expires July 13. If all goes as planned, both facilities could be operating the umbrella of AHS by year’s end.

Hayward School Board Approves $229,500 Contract For Interim Superintendent

HAYWARD SCHOOL BOARD | A $229,500 contract for interim superintendent Stan "Data" Dobbs was unanimously approved by the Hayward school board early Thursday morning, despite some controversy over his lack of an administrative credential and former employment with the district just over six months ago.

Board member John Taylor, who has been the strongest advocate for Dobbs and most intimately involved in trying to bring him back to Hayward was again supportive. “We have come up with a highly qualified person and I feel he will take us forward and move us through all the backlash and waste of time," said Taylor. "He is a gentleman who knows business and knows how to operate a district.”

Board President William McGee was not pleased with the salary figure offered to Dobbs and had argued for it to be lower during closed session Tuesday. Last week, he claimed he was being “harassed” by people about his credentials. According to board member John Taylor, some of those people who were “harassing” him were reporters including The Citizen asking questions about his background. Dobbs had to be talked into coming back this past weekend after he suddenly told the board he was dropping his candidacy last Friday.

Dobbs' contract amounts to big raise over the $173,000 he was earning in San Diego. The $229,500 contract in Hayward is similar to the salary of outgoing Superintendent Dr. Donald Evans. According to staff, Evans's contract was used as a benchmark for the deal offered to Dobbs.

Board member Luis Reynoso also railed throughout the night against Dobbs. However, besides Dobbs’ salary, Reynoso wasn’t interested in having the appointee serving in Hayward at all. Reynoso argued that Dobbs was inexperienced and lacked the necessary credentials to oversee teachers.

“In the process of hiring an interim superintendent, keeping in mind we are the lowest performing district in the county," said Reynoso, "we would need someone properly qualified.”. Reynoso further argued Dobbs did not have an administrative credential which requires at least three years of teaching experience. “Every superintendent in the county has been a teacher except for ours...The education process needs someone familiar with education.” It was debated by Reynoso if Dobbs could evaluate his assistant superintendents without an administrative credential. McGee stated that Dobbs would be able to review principals and other site administrators but it was unclear whether he could evaluate assistant superintendents. Staff has since then confirmed that Dobbs could in fact review assistant administrators without an administrative credential. Reynoso also questioned Dobbs' commitment to the district.

Reynoso later added Dobbs spent less than two years in Hayward as a chief financial officer followed by just six months in San Diego in a similar capacity. No one backed Reynoso on this point Wednesday night, but McGee had previously stood against Dobbs returning to Hayward for the same reasons. McGee changed his vote on appointing Dobbs to interim superintendent two weeks ago when the majority of the board, Annette Walker, Taylor and Lisa Brunner, showed their support for Dobbs. Losing support against Dobbs moved McGee to likely cast a ceremonious vote.

However, despite McGee opposing the salary figure, he oddly argued to provide Dobbs with more than the agreed $7,500 in the contract for moving expenses in case Dobbs had to make multiple trips to San Diego. Taylor opposed, “I would caution against it because I would like the contract to stay intact. This is what he agreed to.” The rest of the board offered no support.

On-going discussion on revamping the board's bylaws concerning superintendent contracts also happened to be on the agenda the same night the board was approving Dobbs' deal. Undoubtedly, the debate repeatedly alluded to Dobbs. Reynoso used the opportunity to criticize Dobbs. “What if someone lied about their degree, their certificate? We need language here to reflect that," said Reynoso. "What if somebody commits a very similar, serious offense?”


Steven Tavares contributed to this article.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Swalwell Posts GIF Of His Vote On Anti-Abortion Bill

Over Rep. Eric Swalwell's first six months in Congress he has captivated voters who might have limited knowledge of various social media technologies and one middle-aged San Francisco Chronicle political reporter.

He first touted the use of Skype to speak to the Fremont City Council and various classrooms with the video conferencing site to great fanfare. Nevermind, Skype and other similar technologies is the stuff of the 20th Century.

Now, Swalwell is using the micro video-sharing site Vine to show voters that he is, well, 32-years-old. Mashable reported today Swalwell used Vine, a service that users can produce six second GIF-like audio and video, to share his vote today in the House on a bill deemed by critics as "anti-abortion."
Swalwell was protesting a bill called the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. It would ban abortions after a fetus is 20 weeks old, and is based on the idea that fetuses can feel pain earlier than previously thought. On Twitter, Swalwell posted that the bill was part of a "war on women." Of the Vine, he said, "When House @GOP try to roll back health protections for women, this is how I vote."
Now, if Swalwell really wants to impress us, he would post on Pinterest his beliefs for cutting Social Security benefits for seniors.

Lawmakers Respond To Criticism Over Records Act; Guv Says Put It To A Vote

Just as Gov. Jerry Brown and legislators in Sacramento continue to take heat from proponents of open government who howled the state's recently approved budget would "gut" the state's Public Records Act, there appears to be movement in the Legislature.

State Sen. Mark Leno, according to the Sacramento Bee, will introduce a constitutional amendment Thursday that requires local governments and public agencies to comply with the act, but on their own dime.

"The amendment will clarify that this controversy was never about weakening the Public Records Act," said State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. "It instead is about whether state taxpayers pay the bill for what cities and counties should be doing on their own," reported the Bee on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Brown also told the same newspaper he would support placing on the ballot the issue of whether the state or municipalities should foot the bill that comes with furnishing reporters and concerned citizens with its government's records.

The state Assembly also has plans for its own legislation on the issue. Nevertheless, local leaders will invariably see this tussle as yet another instance of Sacramento infringing on their local control following years of take-backs and tax realignment last year. Council members and mayors in all Alameda County cities level this charge on a monthly basis and will likely continue to do so.

AC Transit Board Member Joel Young In Trouble, Again


AC TRANSIT BOARD | AC Transit board member Joel Young may have used confidential legal information that he received from the transit district for his own personal gain and for that of his private employer, according to a hard-hitting report released last week. Young, an attorney and former state Assembly candidate, also violated AC Transit rules regarding the use of public agency resources for personal gain and may have run afoul of state law, the report stated.

The report, which was conducted by AC Transit's general counsel's office, centered on Young's actions relating to a legal case involving the transit district. The report found that Young may have used confidential information that he gleaned in his role as a board member in order to benefit two similar but separate lawsuits that he is involved in through his private law practice. Young's actions could produce millions in legal fees for him and his firm, The Tidrick Law Firm of Berkeley...

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