Monday, March 31, 2014

The Skinny: Oakland City Council Preview, Apr. 1, 2014

Oakland City Council Preview
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Tuesday, Apr. 1, 5:30 p.m.
Twitter hashtag: #oakmtg

The crematorium proposed for East Oakland
could incinerate 3,000 bodies a year.
ASHES TO ASHES Last year, East Oakland residents protested a planned “mega-crematorium” initially approved for 9850 Kitty Lane near the Oakland Airport. Last October, the City Council extended a 180-day emergency ordinance effectively putting the crematorium on hold. On Tuesday, city staff is asking to extend the conditional use permit another 180 days. The reason: city staff says they don’t have enough expertise in air quality issues to make a recommendation whether the property for the proposed crematorium is a legitimate use for the zoned area. An air quality consultant has since been hired, but the city needs more time. A city staff report could be ready for late spring or early summer, staff said. [Item 9.2]

WHAT IT MEANS The proposed crematorium may be able to incinerate up 3,000 bodies a year. Opponents and two memos from the Alameda County Health Services Agency believe the amount of toxic compounds from the crematorium will only add to the area’s historically high numbers of asthma sufferers and other air quality issues. Recall, the Oakland City Council approved the crematorium two years ago, but quickly switched gears. The city was subsequently sued by the parent company of the Neptune Society of Northern California and lost last August. Renewing the emergency ordinance is ultimately an attempt to give the city more time to figure out an end game for an issue deeply resented by East Oakland residents who feel their neighborhood is continually suffering two steps backward for every step forward.

BE AWARE He is currently the OPD’s independent monitor, but Robert Warshaw is set to add the title of compliance director for the Oakland Police Department. The contract, not put out for bid, is not to exceed $165,000, said a city staff report. Last Feb. 12, Thomas Frazier was relieved of his duties by Judge Thelton Henderson. Warshaw asked the city to pay him separately for his new duties. The contract is set to expire Jan. 20, 2015.

The City Council will reappoint Sokham Mao to the Citizens Police Review Board. Mao is also a candidate for the open District 2 seat on the Oakland City Council…New members to the Oakland Youth Advisory Board will be appointed Tuesday: Rebecca Dharmapa, Takai Ginwright, Mahlik Smith, Jamila Coleman and Eleanor Good.

Councilmember Noel Gallo celebrates Cesar Chavez Day. Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney proclaims April as Victims Support Month to acknowledge the impacts of violent crime in Oakland on victims and their families.

Mar. 18, tenants in Oakland received some help from the City Council after approving a compromise deal to cap annual rent increases to 10 percent after improvements to their dwellings. In addition, they limited the cost of capital improvements passed down to renters at 70 percent. The council also approved a settlement worth $3.25 million to a cyclist who was injured by a large pothole in 2011 on Mountain Boulevard. >>> SEE IT FOR YOURSELF

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Moneyball: First Quarter East Bay Campaign Finance Reports

CAMPAIGN FINANCESTATE SENATE DISTRICT 10 Mary Hayashi still holds a 4-to-1 money advantage over Assembly Bob Wieckowski in the five-person State Senate 10th District race. Hayashi reported a cash balance of $690,733, as of Mar. 17, according to finance reports. Of her $73,000 in expenditures since Jan. 1, nearly $27,000 was used on polling since Feb. 4. Incidentally, Wieckowski spent $7,500 on polling on Jan. 13 with Juan De Leon Research, Inc., the same firm used a month later by Hayashi’s campaign. While Hayashi and Wieckowski continued to do well with labor and special interests group, Republican Peter Kuo continues his surprising fundraising strength with $121,597 in contributions this year. Most of the donations flowed from Chinese American groups upset with an attempt by the Legislature to roll back Proposition 209. Since the Assembly shelved SCA-5 two weeks ago, keep an eye on whether Kuo can continue fundraising at his past clip.

SD 10.......End Cash..1Q-In.....1Q-Out
HAYASHI.....$690,733  $ 29,900  $ 73,178
WIECKOWSKI..$152,440  $131,181  $ 80,610
KUO.........$109,594  $121,597  $ 38,941
REED........unavailable at this time
BOCK........no report filed

ASSEMBLY DISTRICTS 18, 20 Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Bill Quirk, both facing their re-election campaigns this year, continue to raise large amounts of money while their opponents scratch for cash. Bonta, who represents Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro in the Assembly, has raised $130,215 this year, according to finance reports. With over two months before the June primary, Bonta has $332,793, as of Mar. 17. Republican David Erlich did not file a campaign finance report. It’s a similar case in the nearby 20th Assembly District. Quirk raised $75,865 since the beginning of the year and reports $171,800 in cash on hand. Meanwhile, Republican challenger Jaime Patino and Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso, now independent, did not report any contributions this year.

AD 18.......End Cash..1Q-In.....1Q-Out
BONTA.......$332,793  $130,215  $113,001
ERLICH......no report filed

AD 20.......End Cash..1Q-In.....1Q-Out
QUIRK.......$171,800  $ 75,865  $ 84,492
PATINO......no report filed
REYNOSO.....no report filed

AD 15.......End Cash..1Q-In.....1Q-Out
ECHOLS......$140,341  $ 58,889  $ 43,403
THURMOND....$ 98,953  $ 66,234  $ 46,515
KANG........$ 68,800  $ 21,184  $ 72,094
HUNT........$ 30,950  $ 43,861  $ 12,911
PRICE.......$ 20,020  $ 54,390  $ 34,370
KINNEY......no report filed
RUYLE.......no report filed
WAHL........no report filed

AD 20.......End Cash..1Q-In.....1Q-Out
GLAZER......$429,608  $150,189  $ 48,950
SBRANTI.....$126,442  $117,761  $ 97,577
BAKER.......$139,965  $ 50,990  $ 18,524
ARNERICH....$ 66,823  $  9,760  $ 15,878

AD 25.......End Cash..1Q-In.....1Q-Out
GOMEZ.......$230,622  $108,556  $ 33,365
CHU.........$201,723  $ 48,186  $ 52,774
STECKLER....$123,480  $ 41,357  $ 21,057
COX.........$ 65,186  $ 12,801  $ 20,378
*All figures from Jan. 1-Mar. 17.
Source: California Secretary of State.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bill O'Reilly calls Barbara Lee a 'Race Hustler'

Bill O'Reilly
CONGRESS | 13TH DISTRICT | Rep. Barbara Lee brought home a $2.8 million federal grant this week for Asian health services in Oakland, but that's not what made headlines. Instead, a tit-for-tat, first with Rep. Paul Ryan and now with Fox News host Bill O'Reilly over race in America took center stage.

Last week, Lee took offense to remarks made by Ryan on a conservative radio program and highlighted his use of the phrase "inner city." Lee believes the phrase is actually a signifier for "blacks."

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning to value the culture of work, so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with,” Ryan said, Mar. 12.

Lee responded a day later. “My colleague Congressman Ryan’s comments about 'inner city' poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated," she said. Ryan then apologized.

However, O'Reilly reignited the controversy on Tuesday with Ryan as his guest and called Lee a "race hustler" for her opposition to Ryan's previous statements. In the interview Ryan appears reluctant to revisit the controversy, but O'Reilly, nonetheless, pushes back. (Watch here.)

"They don't want a conversation. They don't want to solve the problem," said O'Reilly. "These race hustlers make a big living, and they get voted into office, by portraying their constituents as victims, and it's all your fault and it's my fault, it's the rich people's fault, it's the Republicans' fault. It's everybody's fault except what's going on.

"And what's going on, as you know, is the dissolution of the family, and you don't have proper supervision of children, and they grow up with no skills, and they can't read and speak, and they have tattoos on their neck, and they can't compete in the marketplace. And that is what is going on. But if you say that you are a racist. So, no matter what you say congressman, you are going to be branded because the race hustlers don't want to solve the problem, how's that?"

On Wednesday, Lee said the issues of racial discrimination and poverty need to be addresses. “Unfortunately we’ve come to expect language like 'welfare queens,' 'food stamp president,' and now 'race hustlers' from the right wing and Mr. O’Reilly," Lee, said in a statement. "It is disgusting and divisive and should never be accepted in our national discourse."

Amid Scandal, A Conversation Changed in the 17th Congressional District

Hayward Mayoral Candidates Face Labor | Mr. Know-It-All | Guillen is a Lock | Forum Schedule
CHAPTER 9 | Sometimes all a campaign needs is a little luck. Just as pressure was renewed for Rep. Mike Honda to debate his fellow Democratic challenger Ro Khanna, comes help from an unlikely source—the Republican Party. Honda desperately needed an avenue to change the conversation being stoked by the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board, along with KPIX-TV and KCBS radio, which offered to host a televised debate in coming weeks. Honda again declined. Whispers were then spread why is Honda, yet again, ducking a debate? Well, two points: the debate debate is meaningless especially since not a single issue has been discussed thus far in the race, and, second, there is no front-running campaign known to man that would advocate their candidate risk a lead this early in a race. The Chronicle’s gambit is merely to knock down an incumbent with a sterling progressive pedigree (Recall Pete Stark?).

Ro Khanna
But now, the 17th Congressional Race has a certain amount of scandal following the disqualification by a judge this week of a Republican candidate from the ballot. The accusations leading to the ruling were included in a lawsuit filed by Jeffrey Wald, a long-time Alameda County Republican politico. A Sacramento County Superior Court judge focused only on Republican candidate Vinesh Singh Rathore, who has certain ties to Khanna, and the appearance of two signatures on his nominating petition with similar handwriting. The judge, however, sidestepped the accusation Rathore and another Republican, Joel VanLandingham, are ringers recruited to aid Khanna this June. But, the appearance of impropriety remains. The lawsuit asserts the late additions of Rathore and VanLandingham were meant to confuse and dilute Republican Vanila Singh’s conservative base of voters.

Leah Cowan, Khanna’s campaign manager tried to turn the tables on Honda, even though it was attorneys linked to the state Republican Party's vice-chair who filed the lawsuit Mar. 24. "It’s obvious that the defenders of the status quo feel threatened by the momentum behind Ro’s change campaign and now they’ve resorted to old-style political attacks and dirty tricks," said Cowan. "There was never evidence to support the ridiculous claim and it was dismissed yesterday by the judge who examined it.”

Vanila Singh
Yet, questions still persists over Khanna’s ties to Rathore, who only became a Republican a day before filing his nominating papers earlier this month. Rathore, a product attorney for Google, previously practiced law at Wilson, Sonsini, Goodrich & Rosati, the same law firm Khanna is currently employed. Google is also a Wilson, Sonsini client. Furthermore, there is evidence a registered Democrat from Newark named Manorama Kumar signed Khanna’s own nominating paper, but then later circulated a petition for the Republican VanLandingham’s candidacy. The judge ruled in favor of keeping VanLandingham on the ballot, noting no state election laws forbids the signing of two different petitions in the same race. However, a Democrat going to some lengths to aid a conservative candidate is strange.

Singh, who only launched her campaign last December, has the most to lose by the appearance of electoral shenanigans in this race. She shot back Thursday at Khanna calling the allegations against his campaign, “disturbing." “That a candidate or his supporters would tamper with an election like this demonstrates a deep and clear sense of entitlement. California’s top-two primary system is new. And it should be respected, not manipulated by candidates desperate to gain an unfair and undeserved advantage through vote dilution."

Although, in Khanna's defense, if you believe he urged Rathore to enter the race as a Republican, one would think his highly-paid and experienced staff would have done a better job to get him on the ballot. That Rathore only submitted the minimum 40 nominating signatures, and thus leaving no room for error, is telling and a common mistake made by many first-time candidates.

GUILLEN FOR OAKLAND With progressive candidate Abel Guillen in the race for Oakland’s District 2 council seat, there may not be a race this election cycle more of an early lock than this one. Port Commissioner Michael Colbruno said Guillen is very familiar to voters in District 2 and will be hard to beat based on past performances. Guillen has won Oakland elections for his seat on the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees and, although Guillen lost the race for the 18th Assembly District to Rob Bonta in 2012, he garnered the most votes in the same area. Bonta, in fact, already endorsed his former opponent. Bonta’s staff said the decision was a “no-brainer.”

NO ENDORSEMENT Despite the recent anti-unions actions of the Hayward City Council, the city is still one of the most labor-friendly cities in the entire Bay Area. Three candidates for Hayward mayor, all of which are members of the City Council and voted to impose wage cuts on city workers without collective bargaining, are having a hard time answering to local Democratic clubs who are offering their endorsements. Last week, the Hayward Demos declined to endorse any of the three candidates. Most of the questions posed to the candidates—all three have been backed by the club in previous campaigns—had a distinct union theme. Apparently they all failed to make a convincing argument. On Tuesday, one of the candidates, Councilmember Mark Salinas said of the club’s decision, “I can only worry about what I think, how I look and what I say. I can’t worry about what they think or what you think.” Salinas has the most to lose this June. Instead of running for re-election to the council this year, he chose to run for mayor. If his mayoral aspirations are dashed, he’s out of office. Meanwhile, both Councilmembers Barbara Halliday and Francisco Zermeno have two more years remaining on their terms.

STUPID COMMENT I recently wrote about glaring weaknesses in San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy’s argument for re-election this November. During his State of the City this week, Cassidy again laid out his case for another four years in office. However, nearly all of his accomplishments could be ascribed to the previous administration. Most significantly, the notion a sales tax increase approved by voters in 2010 greatly aided the city’s finances. The major problem for Cassidy is he vehemently opposed the measure while running for mayor the same year. When asked this week by a local newspaper in San Leandro why Cassidy opposed the now general fund-boosting measure, he said it was because he worried then-Mayor Tony Santos would squander the additional tax revenue. It’s a silly assertion since it was Santos who greatly slashed city staff and expenditures during the worst of the Great Recession. Observers in San Leandro, however, know Cassidy’s schtick. The guy is never wrong. Like. Never.

Mary Hayashi
HERE AND THERE Candidate's forum season is upon us. Here’s some notable events over the next two weeks: Wednesday, April 2, Hayward mayoral and council candidates face-off at Hayward City Hall, starting at 6 p.m. The same group meet again, Wednesday, April 9, before the Southgate Homeowners Association at 951 Turner Court in Hayward, 7 p.m...Thursday, April 3, Oakland mayoral candidates meet at Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit Street in Oakland, starting at 6:30 p.m...Lastly, a potential hot one in the State Senate District 10 race with Mary Hayashi and Bob Wieckowski, Wednesday, April 9, Fremont City Hall, 6 p.m…Further down the road, a candidates forum between Rep. Eric Swalwell and State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett in the CA-15 has been rescheduled for Friday, May 2, at Hayward City Hall, 7:30 p.m...The next day, Rep. Mike Honda, Ro Khanna and Vanila Singh meet in a much-anticipated CA-17 forum, Saturday, May 3, at Fremont City Hall at 6:30 p.m.

Port Begins Talks with Oakland Waterfront Ballpark Group; Option for Warriors Included in ENA

Howard Terminal is big enough for two sports
venues and could be an option for the Warriors.
PORT OF OAKLAND | HOWARD TERMINAL | The Port of Oakland and a group of local business leaders hoping to build a new waterfront ballpark near Jack London Square for the A’s are now officially talking. Port commissioners approved on Thursday a 10-month exclusive negotiating agreement with Oakland Waterfront Ballpark LLC to study the construction of a 38,000-seat ballpark at Howard Terminal.

Now, comes the hard work. “This is just an opportunity for ten months to talk,” said Pamela Kershaw, the port’s director of commercial real estate. The ENA calls for the ballpark group to deposit $100,000 with the port, half of which can be used to fund various studies on the 50-acre property. The agreement may also shed details on the feasibility of the site for a ballpark and its costs to investors and the public. “A’s fans are really ready to get some answers to these question,” said John Henson, who is part of a fan group seeking a new ballpark for the A’s — Oakland Fan Pledge...


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Departing Mayor Sweeney gave to Halliday, Salinas Campaigns, not Zermeño

Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney: no 
invite, no donation.
HAYWARD | MAYOR | Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney made small contributions to the campaigns of two of the candidates hoping to replace him this June, but not the third, who like the others, is a colleague on the City Council.

Since the beginning of the year, Sweeney contributed $198 to the mayoral campaign of Councilmember Barbara Halliday’s campaign and $150 to Councilmember Mark Salinas’ campaign, according to finance reports released this week. That leaves out Councilmember Francisco Zermeño, who is also running for the seat.

Voters shouldn’t look too much into the matter, said Sweeney, Zermeño simply didn’t invite him to one of his fundraisers. “I told each of them when they have a fundraiser, send me something and, if I can’t attend, I’ll send some money. I never got anything from Francisco,” Sweeney said with a shrug following Tuesday night’s council meeting.

Francisco Zermeño
Zermeño declined to comment, but wrote one word in a response on Facebook: "Interesting."

When Salinas was asked about the potential slight against Zermeño's campaign, he, too, declined to comment, but grinned, nonetheless. Halliday was absent from Tuesday night's meeting following the recent passing of her mother.

Upon announcing he would not seek re-election last year for a third consecutive term, Sweeney made clear he would not make an endorsement in the race. All three candidates have respected Sweeney’s wishes, he said, and have not since made overtures for his endorsement. A fourth candidate, Rakesh Kumar Christian, is also a candidate for mayor.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Over One-Third of All Hayward Mayoral, Council Contributions this Year are Loans

Mayoral candidates Barbara Hallida, Mark
Salinas, Francisco Zermeno.
HAYWARD | CAMPAIGN FINANCE | Candidates for mayor and the City Council in Hayward reported campaign contributions totaling over $47,000 during the first quarter of this year. However, according to campaign finance reports, over 35 percent, or $16,771, of the total represents personal loans made by candidates to their respective campaign efforts. Of the seven candidates who filed finance reports this quarter for either office, just one, Councilmember Mark Salinas, who is running for mayor this June, listed no outstanding loans to his campaign. A second candidate, Councilmember Marvin Peixoto, who is running for re-election, however, did not report any new loans this year, but still owes $41,300 in campaign loans to himself from 2008 and 2010.

The figures suggest most of the candidates deemed front runners in their respective races are having difficulty inspiring financial backing. Mayoral candidates Barbara Halliday and Francisco Zermeno, also colleagues on the City Council, inflated their cash on hand with significant personal loans. A day before the end of the first quarter filing period, Halliday added a $5,000 loans to her campaign coffers. Since last October, she has issued a total of $7,000 in loans. Meanwhile, her total cash on hand, as of Mar. 17, is $12,073, according to finance reports, with $3,985 in individual contributions received and $6,269 in expenditures.

Zermeno’s financial picture is also similar after giving himself $5,000 on Feb. 28 for a total of $10,000 in loans since last fall. The late loan bumped Zermeno’s cash on hand to a campaign-leading $15,636, according to finance reports, and including $3,329 in individual contributions and $9,338 in expenditures. Salinas reported $12,350 in cash with $8,339 in individual contributions and $9,186 in expenditures, according to finance reports.

In the City Council race, which features an at-large format with the top-two finishers winning open seats, Councilmember Peixoto’s re-election is being threatened by potential union-friendly candidates hoping to unseat him. In February, Peixoto and the entire council angered labor leaders by imposing a five percent wage cut on nearly 300 city workers. Peixoto reported $8,165 in cash, including $3,398 in contributions and just $208 in expenditures, according to finance reports. Among his contributors is fellow Councilmember Greg Jones, Hayward school board member William McGee and Mayor Michael Sweeney, who has endorsed Peixoto.

To illustrate the propensity of Hayward candidates to put their campaigns in debt, one candidate's entire financials is currently comprised of loans. Sara Lamnin entered the race near the end of the filing period earlier this month, potentially at the behest of the Service Employees Union International, and loaned herself a total of $4,971. Over half of the loan was used to pay $2,471 in filing fees and a candidates statement. After the payments, her cash on hand is $2,400.

Hayward Planning Commissioner Rodney Loche also has a $1,000 outstanding loan from last November, however, his $9,263 in individual contributions received this year is the largest total among all candidates for office in Hayward. After $5,356 in expenditures, Loche maintains $5,625 in cash, according to finance reports. Among his contributors is Councilmembers Jones, Peixoto and Mayor Sweeney.

Hayward restaurant owner Julie McKillop reported contributions of $2,349 and expenditures of $2,546. McKillop, too, issued an $800 loan to her campaign to give her an ending cash balance of $604, according to finance reports. Other council candidates, including Rocky Fernandez, Ralph Farias, Phillip Gallegos, did not file campaign finance reports.

Judge Disqualifies Republican Candidate in Honda-Khanna Race Following Lawsuit

Ro Khanna, Rep. Mike Honda
CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | A Sacramento Superior Court judge ordered the removal Wednesday of one of the three Republican candidates in the 17th Congressional District race from the June 3 primary ballot after invalidating two nominating signatures.

Vinesh Singh Rathore, an attorney for Google, offered only the minimum number of 40 nominating signatures to the Alameda County and Santa Clara registrar of voters earlier this month. According the The Recorder, a Sacramento-based legal publication, Judge Allen Sumner threw out two signatures deemed to have been written by the same hand. A lawsuit filed Monday by Jeffrey Wald, a long-time Alameda County Republican Party insider had alleged Rathore’s nominating papers were invalid.

The suit also alleged the nominating papers of Joel VanLandingham, yet another Republican in the race, contained signatures also included on Khanna’s petition. The judge, however, found no state election laws forbidding “cross-candidate support” and allowed VanLandingham’s name to be included on the ballot.

The ruling comes just one day before the California Secretary of State is due to publish the list of certified names for the June primary. Subsequently, the sudden reconfiguring of the race may reverberate through the next two months of the primary season. The absence of Rathore, and Indian American who only recently became a Republican, may force some recalculation in the race, which also features a Republican Indian American woman named Vanila Singh. Khanna, though a Democrat, is also of Indian ancestry in a congressional district with a large South Asian population.

Some observers had openly questioned whether Rathore’s candidacy was legitimately inspired or raised solely as a bulwark against Vanila Singh’s potential to siphon moderate and conservative votes away from Khanna. In fact, at the Republican state convention in Burlingame two weeks ago, there was significant grumbling and speculation over the sudden appearance of Rathore in the race. Monday's lawsuit was filed by the San Francisco law firm headed by Harmeet Dhillon, the vice-chair of the state Republican Party.

Wald’s suit, though, more than insinuates Rathore candidacy came at the behest of Khanna. However, only anecdotal evidence is offered. For instance, the lawsuit alleges the use of Singh, Rathore’s middle name, on nominating papers appears nowhere else in the public sphere and constituted a strategy to confuse voters with Vanila Singh. It also notes Rathore switched his party affiliation to Republican just a day before filing three weeks ago. “The addition of Singh Rathore and VanLandingham, both of whom are running as Republicans, will split the GOP vote, effectively moving Khanna to second place in the top two June 3 Primary Election,” said the suit. Khanna, Rathore and VanLandingham have all denied the allegations, according to media reports.

Polling last month paid for by Democracy for America, a Honda supporter, raised questions whether Singh’s entrance into the race might erode Khanna’s chances of winning one of two spots on the November ballot.

Abel Guillen puts on his Running Shoes; Declares Run for Oakland District 2 Race

Abel Guillen, left, during a candidate's forum in 2012. Guillen announced Wednesday he's running for the Oakland City Council and with the endorsement of his former opponent Rob Bonta, right. PHOTO/Shane Bond
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | DISTRICT 2 | Abel Guillen announced on Facebook today that he’s running for the open District 2 seat on the Oakland City Council. Guillen, an elected member of the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees since 2006, is the fifth declared candidate in the November council race.

“I simply love this city. Oakland has played big role in my life, shaping my character and instilling my dedication to community service. Oakland’s challenges are many and varied, but the solutions lie in our neighborhoods, our communities, our schools and the people of our city. I want to make District 2 an example of how we can move Oakland forward, together and build together,” said Guillen in a press release...


Honda Offers Plan for Rape Kit Backlog; Wants to use Alameda County for Pilot

Rep. Mike Honda
CONGRESS | Across the country there is an estimated backlog of nearly 500,000 rape kits awaiting testing, including about 2,000 in Alameda County alone. To alleviate the backlog, Bay Area Congressman Mike Honda asked a House Appropriations subcommittee Wednesday to allow the FBI to eliminate a time-consuming bureaucratic step. Honda, along with FBI Director James Comey, also recommended Alameda County serve as a pilot for the plan.

The backlog of untested rape kits has long been a concern to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley. East Bay Congress members Barbara Lee and Eric Swalwell have also previously raised the issue and support removing the technical review for government labs certified to test the kits. According to the Alameda County DA’s office, certified labs in the East Bay are only able to perform four to five cases a month. Conversely, the office believes that a certified private lab could examine at least one hundred kits per month. Honda’s proposal would require government labs to maintain quality control on the private labs with periodic “spot checks.”...


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Khanna's Promise

CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | Ro Khanna's first television spot is clean, cool and probably costly. But, that's the point. With less than three months before the June primary, Khanna's campaign is starting to show just how much power a nearly 3-to-1 cash advantage over Rep. Mike Honda really means. However, it doesn't matter how much money you have, you have to spend it wisely. Tuesday's release of the Khanna campaign commercial titled, "The Promise" is well done, pleasantly airy and general enough not to offend voters on either flank of the political spectrum.

"Here's my promise to you: I'll never take money from corporations or lobbyists," Khanna says in the 30-second commercial. But, as The Nooner's Scott Lay observed today, this particular pledge is a red herring. It's illegal for candidates to accept contributions from both these entities. Kind of like saying, I vow never to drive 50 miles per hour over the speed limit.

NOTE: In an email Wednesday, Khanna's campaign clarified receiving contributions from corporation is legal through political action committees. Khanna has vowed not to take money from corporate PACs during this campaign, while his opponent has not.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Skinny: Oakland City Council Committee Preview, Mar. 25, 2014

Oakland City Council Committees Preview
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Tuesday, Mar. 25, begins at 9:30 a.m.
Hashtag: #oakmtg

DENSITY BONUSES Oakland needs to update its planning code regarding density bonuses used for enticing developers to build additional affordable housing. The city is currently not in line with state laws. The proposed draft ordinance calls for density bonuses for 10 percent of total units for lower income households; 5 percent of total units for very low income housing; 10 percent of a common interest development, such as a condominium; and a Senior Citizen housing development.WHAT IT MEANS Aside from being in compliance with state law, if Mayor Jean Quan's 10KII housing plan to attract 10,000 new residents throughout Oakland is going to work, its going to have to incentivize lower income affordable housing and allow larger developments through density bonuses.

(Time change: Meeting starts at 1:30 p.m.; Special CED Committee mtg on Workforce development/WIB, Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.).

TAX AUDITS An audit of Oakland hotel tax Measure C, passed in 2009, came up squeeky clean, according to a city staff report. The tax brought in over $3.5 million in revenue last year, with half going to the Oakland Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Oakland Zoo and Oakland Museum of California each receive an eighth of the revenue. In addition, a three-year audit on Measure DD is presented to the commttee. Also passed in 2009, it authorized the issuance of $198 million in bonds for various improvements to Lake Merritt and other water-related projects. WHAT IT MEANS Unless you expect city government to always be corrupt, both audits show Oakland is merely doing what it's suppose to do. (Starts at 9:30 a.m.)

ILLEGAL DUMPING Since last July, Public Works has been able to remove illegal dumping items within three days 85 percent of the time, says an informational report, and removed over 2.5 tons of material last fiscal year. Since Feb. 21, 9 of 45 citations issued for illegal dumping resulted in the violator either paying Public Works for the cost of removal or committing to community service. Two others paid the cost of the entire citation. WHAT IT MEANS There may be some positives coming to Oakland's nagging illegal dumping problem after it strengthened penalties for violators. What this report really represents is a opportunity for committee member and illegal dumping opponent Noel Gallo to passionately riff on the subject. (Starts at 11:30 a.m.).

BIKE/PEDESTRIAN ORDINANCE As more people eschew cars in favor of bicycles or walking, says an draft ordinance authored by Councilmember Libby Schaaf, vulnerable bicyclists need civil remedies for accidents with automobile, either because of negligence or intentional malice. The ordinance would allow for civil penalties up to $1,000. WHAT IT MEANS Control of city streets is slowly being ceded to other modes of transportation. Last year, four bicyclists were involved in an accident in Oakland when the driver allegedly harassed the bicyclists for road space and accidents and deaths in other big cities, like San Francisco, have made headlines. Berkeley also has a similar ordinance. (Starts at 6 p.m.)



Hayward Budget Report Tamps Down Exuberance After $4.8M in New Revenue

HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL | Hayward is forecasting a significant bump in revenue in a mid-year budget adjustment report to be presented to the City Council this Tuesday. On the heels of increased real estate activity in Hayward, the city’s finance director expects $4.8 million in additional revenue this fiscal year. The report, however, attempts to temper enthusiasm, noting its economic resurgence may be an anomaly. In March, the City Council unilaterally imposed a five percent wage cut on nearly 300 city employees, claiming its financial future is uncertain without the wage cuts. The employees have been without a contract for nearly a year.

“The economic news indicates a slow national economic recovery, and the City of Hayward is beginning to see glimmers of economic improvement. Sales tax revenues are improving and the real estate market is once again seeing increased activity, with increases in valuations from recent past years,” said the report compiled by Hayward Finance Director Tracy Vesely and only offered for public review a day before Tuesday night's meeting.

In addition, Vesely says the 11 percent increase in the Real Property Transfer Tax revenue “is a reflection of increased real estate sales activity and housing prices in the Hayward market." However, the report speculates whether the additional revenue from the sale of homes in Hayward will continue. The report notes revenues from the tax have been “highly volatile” in years past. For instance, property transfer taxes dropped from a high in 2006 of $10 million to $3.8 million four years later, said the report. However, the significant drop in revenue occurred during the height of the Great Recession and also affected other communities, as well.

Mid-year adjustments to expenditures have also risen to $5.7 million, or 4.5 percent, said the finance report. The adjustments include an additional $1 million in payments owed to the city’s medical retirement employee benefits fund. Previously, Hayward had not budgeted its minimum annual payment to the fund.

Hayward expects to see over $1.1 million in cost savings from labor contracts this year, or, what it labelled "concessions." However, the recent contract imposition occurred too late in the budget year to attain full savings, said the report. It now only expects savings of $750,000 this fiscal year. In addition, a $3.46 million deficit is projected by the finance department next fiscal year beginning in July.

Swalwell’s Passes First Bill; Incentivizes Donations to Filipino Disaster Relief

CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Legislation allowing taxpayers to deduct charitable donations to victims of last November’s Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) on their 2013 tax returns, passed the House Monday. The bill is East Bay Rep. Eric Swalwell’s first successful piece of legislation since being elected in 2012 and awaits the President’s signature.

“I take great pride that the first bill I passed in the House of Representatives will speed recovery in an area that desperately needs support,” said Swalwell.

The bill, H.R. 3771, will allow taxpayers to deduct donations to the Philippines on last year’s tax returns made through April 15. Otherwise, contributions made after the first of the year would have had to wait until next year without Monday's legislation.

Typhoon Haiyan touched down in the Philippines on Nov. 8 and killed over 6,000 people while devastating a large swath of the country’s central regions. In 2010, Congress incentivized donations with similar legislation to aid survivors of a magnitude 7.0 large earthquake in Haiti.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Case for Candidates Avoiding The Bay Area News Group Editorial Board

Bonta's Fundraising Drive | Nobody Wants To Run For Mayor In San Leandro | Swalwell OK With His Ethics
CHAPTER 7 | In the fall of 2012, San Leandro Councilmember Jim Prola was gearing up for a likely winning re-election campaign against a relatively unknown and unremarkable member of the city's school board when he received a phone call from Bay Area News Group columnist and editorial writer Daniel Borenstein. The paper was in the midst of interviewing City Council candidates in San Leandro and, Prola, one of the most consistently liberal council members in the East Bay, was missing. In addition, Prola is also one of the busiest public officials in the region and often the city’s sole representative at events across the East Bay. In fact, Prola was at one such event when Borenstein called again and left a nasty message. However, Prola is one of the few elected officials who is wise to Borenstein’s tricks and right wing editorial slants and after playing phone tag throughout the afternoon, the councilman decided to blow off the Bay Area News Group editorial board consisting of one—Borenstein. Days later, BANG endorsed Prola’s opponent and two other San Leandro council candidates who also stoked populist anger towards city employee pensions. The paper noted “Prola couldn't find the time in his busy schedule.” All three endorsed candidates were defeated in November. Prola’s calculation the BANG editorial board is merely a one-trick pony that bases its backing solely upon whether a candidate will pledge to reform city employee pensions is a move other liberal candidates should follow in the coming weeks. You don’t need their endorsement and in fact there is evidence their right wing bias is so out of whack with the liberal Bay Area that no matter how well they make the argument, lefty voters will simply turn the page to the comics section, assuming they actually read the increasingly irrelevant paper.

Daniel Borenstein, above, has only
one trick--pension reform.
A few months before meeting with candidates in San Leandro two years ago, Borenstein issued his most infamous endorsement, this time in the Oakland 18th Assembly District race, when he touted Joel Young’s superior knowledge of the state’s finances. “Young, an attorney, demonstrated the greatest understanding of the complexities of the state budget and the challenges of key policy issues, including, most notably, public employee pension funding,” said the editorial. However, there was no mention of Young’s considerable sins, including allegations made in a lawsuit he smacked his girlfriend in the face. In fact, at the moment Young, Rob Bonta and Abel Guillen were meeting with Borenstein, Young’s candidacy had imploded to the point he was willing to tell anybody everything they wanted to hear, including busting pensions. Borenstein fell for Young's rhetoric back rub, but the voters didn't.

Further south in the 20th Assembly District, Borenstein backed Bill Quirk primarily on the Hayward’s City Council’s stern position versus its city employees. “We opt for Quirk in part because of the more effective leadership he and his city have shown controlling employee benefit costs.” In the city’s council race, Borenstein again based his endorsement only on pension reform and ridiculed the candidate up for re-election, Francisco Zermeno, for not telling him what he wanted to hear when it came to pensions. “While each of the four candidates we endorse disagrees with us on at least one of those issues, they each demonstrate solid analytical skills. And that's what we're looking for. It's also one reason we did not endorse Francisco Zermeno's re-election. His comments indicated he was unwilling to recognize the need for more painful cuts that will be necessary to keep the city solvent.”

Similar to the Young endorsement, there were other dubious selections made by BANG without any pertinent information outside of pensions. In the same Hayward City Council race, Borenstein gave glowing praise to Greg Jones, a former Hayward city manager, for his superior budget acumen. “That's why we were particularly impressed by the financial expertise Jones would bring to the City Council,” said the editorial. “It would be refreshing to see elected leaders who understand the intricacies of budgets and can navigate the complexities of public employee retirement benefits.” Jones, you see, is a conservative, who routinely hides behind the banner of “no party preference.” It’s not the only thing Jones was hiding at the time.

The editorial noted Jones is married to Anna May, a former Hayward council member and that's where the problems began. If Borenstein, a reputed defender of government transparency, had a functioning reporter on the scene, he would have been outraged that the pension buster he was endorsing actually circumvented sunshine laws in Hayward when he entered the extramarital affair with May and neglected to tell the City Council. In the meantime, Jones and May gallivanted around town and even attended closed session meetings together while hiding their secret romance. Jones came close to termination, according to some former council members, when the council and staff confronted Jones. He later resigned.

These are the perils voters face when paying mind to endorsements from the Bay Area News Group, no matter how you see the city employee pension debate, it’s only a very small piece in a set of often complicated questions facing each city. Yet, Borenstein never focuses on any issue but pensions. Why? Because the Bay Area News Group is paying dearly for its mass layoffs of years past and low morale. The resulting brain drain has left an enormous gaps in its institutional knowledge when it comes to East Bay government and politics. In short, Borenstein relies on the pension issue because it’s the only thing he knows more about than the candidates he’s interviewing. Furthermore, if you’re a candidate unwilling to tell Borenstein you'll stick it to city employees, you should just stay home. You won’t win with him, but you will likely win come Election Day.
Asm. Rob Bonta
A UNITER, NOT A DIVIDER “There’s only eight percent of Republicans in the district. I need to work with Democrats,” said David Erlich, the Republican opponent to Assemblymember Rob Bonta in the 18th District. However, he didn’t offer any daylight on which issues he would stray from the GOP platform. “If people don’t work together, nothing works,” said Erlich, a San Leandro resident. He urged wiping away ideological name tags, instead referring to both Democrats and Republicans as simply “Americans.” Bonta is using the appearance of a Republican challenger to his own benefit. In an email to supporters, he used Erlich’s candidacy as a Republican to pitch for additional contributions to his large campaign war chest. In reality, Bonta had over $300,000 in his re-election account, as of Dec. 31, while Erlich didn’t even file a campaign finance report.
Tony Santos
CANDIDATE APATHY? In both Hayward and San Leandro, you can’t come close to enticing viable candidates to run for mayor. In the case of Hayward, three members of the City Council are on the June ballot, but after a controversial labor vote last month, the Service Employees Union International could not recruit a suitable challenger, despite red-hot vows to do so. In San Leandro, Mayor Stephen Cassidy seems vulnerable; not for his policies, but for how he continually alienates some residents, his colleagues and city staff with dictatorial tendencies. Just like his time on the city’s school board, it’s difficult to find council members who personally like Cassidy. Termed out Councilmember Diana Souza is a likely opponent, but otherwise, there’s no candidate in sight who could utilize the city’s ranked choice voting and make life difficult for Cassidy. There has even been quiet pushes to recruit former mayors Shelia Young and Tony Santos into the race, if anything, to complicate the RCV tabulations, which returned a surprise victory for Cassidy in 2010. However, neither seems to have any interest in returning to City Hall. Last week, Santos said he would challenge Cassidy to a rematch of their 2010 race, if only the ex-mayor was younger.

Hayward council candidate
Sara Lamnin may have the union's
strong backing this June.
HERE AND THERE This week, SEIU Local 1021 confirmed Hayward City Council candidates Sara Lamnin and Rocky Fernandez are the two candidates identified by the union to unseat Councilmember Marvin Peixoto, but the union has not yet made an official endorsement, it said…A member of the Alameda County Green Party said it is not sure whether it will direct resources to Oakland mayoral candidate Jason “Shake” Anderson. They are still determining whether he is viable candidate…Oakland Mayor Jean Quan has been saying since at least December she expects a stadium deal with the Raiders by the end of summer. With a few sports columnists strongly asserting this week the Raiders are leaving for Los Angeles (likely being fed Raiders talking points), her continuing faith in a deal had better happen or she risks a difficult setback in her re-election campaign smack in the middle of the final stretch to November...It’s possible no other Republican candidate come out of last week’s state convention in better shape than 10th State Senate District candidate Peter Kuo, who not only caught the eye of party leaders who placed his race on the party’s watch list this June, but he thinks he has a path to place in the top-two by way of converting a number of no party preference voters to his side…The five candidates for the open 10th State Senate District race are scheduled to meet at a candidate’s forum, April 9, Fremont City Hall, 6 p.m. Expect a wild one, folks.
Rep. Eric Swalwell
ONE MORE THING Rep. Eric Swalwell apparently is showing no remorse for poor ethical standards contain in my article in the East Bay Express. It was revealed two weeks ago, Swalwell hired the daughter of one of his largest campaign contributors to work in his congressional office. Bill Watkins and his family, including the Swalwell staffer have contributed over $25,000 to Swalwell since 2012. The breach of ethics elicited no response from the rookie congressman, but he took to Twitter in an attempt to make a point, albeit, in a passive aggressive manner, rather than answer my questions directly. Swalwell retweeted this comment from a constituent referencing the staffer named in the article, "I'd like to thank Ms. Watkins in your #Hayward office for her prompt and efficient handling of my request today. #GoodWork.” Nevermind, the article made no reference to whether Kelly Watkins was an exemplary employee or not, but detailed yet another instances when Swalwell offered donors a quid pro quo arrangement, first with developers in the Tri Valley, and now with taxpayers money.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Larry Reid Loves Life, says He'll Pay to Put Phrase on Oakland Welcome Signs

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Dwain Butler appeared before the Oakland City Council Rules Committee Thursday morning with an idea to add the phrase “lovelife” to the city’s welcome signs. Although council members generally supported the sentiment of the charming request, the slow-moving wheels of government bureaucracy nearly swallowed it up before Councilmember Larry Reid intervened.

Wearing a black fedora Butler said was meant to evoke Bay Area dealmaker Willie Brown, he said the phrase, which is also the name of a local foundation, is “not just the people who lost their lives. It’s going forward, so our city can be recognized nationwide for standing for something. It’s a spiritual thing”

Joe Wang of the Oakland Public Works Department said most traffic signs cannot legally be modified, but a request to change a city guide sign is possible. “Actually there’s flexibility for us to do something,” said Wang. However, a design and cost estimate would first need to be determined, he said.

Councilmembers Libby Schaaf, Pat Kernighan and Dan Kalb then debated over how to proceed with the citizen request. For instance, Schaaf opposed sending the request to a committee without first having a report from the appropriate city department. Kalb agreed, but wondered whether the addition of a slogan to the city’s welcome signs should be open to every citizen to choose, not just one person.

“This really isn’t a big deal,” Reid interrupted and looking a bit perturbed by the added complexity being added to the simple request. “The kind of loss of life that we lose each and every year to the stupidity—to gun violence—and to add something that says lovelife. Hey, I want everybody to love life. Maybe it won’t stop the violence that’s occurring on our streets, but it’s certainly a message worth putting on our signs.”

The discussion ended when Reid offered to sponsor legislation on the subject. But, what about cost of either modifying or replacing the signs? No problem, Reid said send him the bill.

Oakland Urges Sens. Feinstein, Boxer to Support Postal Service Legislation

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL |The state of the U.S. Postal Service is a touchy subject to many in the East Bay. Threats by the federal government to shutter some post offices have ignited strong protests, along with potential cuts nationwide to service in response to large deficits.

A resolution approved by the Oakland City Council Tuesday night urges California’s U.S. senators to add their support to a pair of bills in Congress that would maintain traditional six-day postal service and reorganize the agency’s fiscal problems.

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan offered the resolution as a means for protecting over 1,000 postal jobs in Oakland, she said, during Tuesday’s meeting. The bills also maintain service for residents and businesses, she added, in a press release Thursday. In a memo from Kaplan last month urging her colleagues to support the resolution, Kaplan noted the prevalence of residents who use the postal service to vote-by-mail and to receive prescription drugs.

Although, the future of the U.S. Postal Service has been a hot-topic issue in Washington, both bills cited in the resolution have sit in committees for over a year. H.R. 630, authored by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) and S. 316, authored by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have roughly the same intention to change how the postal service calculates its retirement and health benefits and eliminates pre-funding the plans. The unique requirement, in large part, accounts for the multi-billion dollar shortfalls widely reported.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Eric Swalwell asks Sully Sullenberger for Advice on Missing Malaysian Airliner

Danville resident Chesly Sullenberger.
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Rep. Eric Swalwell is an expert in air travel. The first-term congressman often touts his cross country flights from the East Bay to the nation's capitol, but, when it comes to mysterious missing airliners, he reached out to a local icon.

Swalwell called Danville resident Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger for possible clues about the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, according to Politico.

Sullenberger, who became a national hero in 2009 for safely landing a malfunctioning U.S. Airways plane into the Hudson River without casualties, offered his opinion on various scenarios, said Swalwell, including whether the plane crashed in the ocean or was flown to an unknown area.

“It’s much harder to ditch or land a plane in darkness. It’s very, very hard to do in daylight, as Capt. Sullenberger proved, but it’s damn near impossible I would imagine [in darkness]."

Quirk's Ties To Calpine, Hayward Energy Plant Becomes Election Issue

AD20 candidates: Asm Bill Quirk, Luis
Reynoso, Jaime Patino
ASSEMBLY | 20TH DISTRICT | Assemblymember Bill Quirk says his Republican opponent in the 20th Assembly District is a nice guy. Jaime Patino, the first-time office-seeker, says Quirk is a fine fellow, himself. Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso, who switched from Republican to no party preference will likely not have nice things to say about the latter and the former, but he hasn't joined the fray. Just wait.

Nevertheless, Patino said his first encounter with Quirk was by accident. A charity breakfast a few months back Patino found himself in the food line with Quirk, who didn't know him until Patino introduced himself. "What don't you like about me?" Quirk asked, somewhat hurt, according to Patino's description of the encounter. The question is not surprising since Quirk has showed a somewhat thin skin when it comes to few instances he has been criticized since taking office last year.

At the Republican state convention last weekend, Patino said he wants to create jobs, but he believes Quirk's policies so far have not and will not provide results. Noting Quirk's professional background as a scientist, an occupation he often trumpets as a unique perspective he brings to the Legislature, Patino said, “He might be a rocket scientist, but when it comes to public policy, his ideas are way out of this orbit.”

Even though the first year of Quirk's first term was somewhat uneventful, he has attracted no opposition from the Democratic Party. In addition to access to vast party resources, Quirk has amassed an enormous fundraising advantage over Patino and Reynoso. Quirk reported a $180,000 ending balance through the end of 2013, according to the most recent campaign finance reports. Meanwhile, Patino and Reynoso will likely run bare-bones campaigns.

Reynoso, who has burnished a reputation for speaking his mind on the Hayward school board and for a doggedly questioning school district expenditures, has run against Quirk in the past. Two years ago, the pair competed in the primary for this same office, with Reynoso finishing fourth. Reynoso changed his party affiliation this time around after repeated sparring with the Alameda County Republican Party leadership, which, in both assembly races, encouraged him not to run. Reynoso won re-election to the school board later that year.

Absent of resources, Quirk's conservative opponents have a wealth of Quirk's strong opinions to use against him. Even as a Hayward council member Quirk has been quite open, if not blunt, about his beliefs. Last year, Quirk took aim at gun advocates at a press conference in Oakland when he said, “In the area we come from guns are for killing people.” He later said firearms in the home is the leading cause of death and added you can't fire a gun without bullets. Based on science, Quirk has long advocated for the legalization of cannabis in the state, but when it comes to scientific inquiry, his strong support for the Russell City Energy Center based on chemistry, is likely a hot-button election issue this June and beyond.

Environmentalists and student activists at nearby Chabot College along with the school's administration has long opposed the natural gas-fired plant on the Hayward shoreline. The plant came online last October and Calpine, which constructed the plant, is also one of Quirk's largest campaign contributors. Last month, staff for the Bay Area Air Quality Management Board issued a complaint alleging the water particulate from the plant is 10 times higher than the allowable amount.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Holding office in Alameda County: It's a good gig, if you can get it

Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern is
running unopposed this June.
PHOTO/Shane Bond
ALAMEDA COUNTY | Patrick O'Connell — like most Alameda County politicians — has run unopposed each time he's been up for reelection to his longtime post as county controller/auditor/clerk recorder. And most East Bay political observers expected him to once again run unchallenged this year. But then in a surprise move, O'Connell declared last week that he had decided to not run for reelection after 28 years in office.

The timing of O'Connell's surprise move also was curious. He made his announcement after the March 7 deadline had passed for candidates seeking to replace him. And his deputy auditor, Steve Manning, officially filed papers to run to replace O'Connell just before his boss made his announcement — and just before the candidate filing deadline. O'Connell denied that the timing of his announcement was designed to help his deputy cruise into office this year, but the move was nonetheless emblematic of a decades-old problem with the Alameda County electoral process — a system that typically discourages competition and resembles political patronage...


The Skinny: Oakland City Council Preview, Mar. 18, 2014

Oakland City Council Preview
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Tuesday, Mar. 18, 5:30 p.m.
Twitter hashtag: #oakmtg

LANDLORDS VS TENANTS A week ago, members of the Oakland City Council Community and Economic Development Committee were unwilling to take a clear stand on contentious rental adjustment proposals meant to help the city’s renters from incurring step rent increases following capital improvements on their buildings. Instead, the committee voted to kick their entire package of options to the full council. Councilmember Larry Reid, however, abstained Mar. 11 and said he would likely do the same Tuesday night. One proposal considered amendable to the committee includes increasing the number of years landlords can amortize the cost of capital improvements to tenants from 5 years to 20 and cap hikes in rent at 10 percent (Item S-12.1).

WHAT IT MEANS If San Francisco is any indication; this may be the first in a line of landlord/tenant issues before the Oakland City Council as more East Bay property owners seek to cash in on priced-out renters from across the bay. Members of the CED Committee say representatives from both sides have made great strides in coming together for a compromise, but the committee itself couldn’t pull the trigger in a definitive fashion. As it stands tonight, there’s a good chance the City Council might call in the punting team and hope for a booming kick.

BE AWARE City appointments: Jay Ashford to the Community Policing Advisory Board; Howard Tevelson, Jason Takenouchi, Brian Bingham to the Citizen’s Police Review Board; Mary Thiessen, Chris Burgardt to the Wildlife Prevention and Assessment District Advisory Board…Council seeks to urge the state’s U.S. senators to protect Postal Service delivery currently at six days a week (Item 7.15)…Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley presents the council with a report detailing the disposition of arrests made by the Oakland PD (Item 11). Read here for last week's committee skinny.

Many commendations on the agenda tonight: Cesar Chavez National Day of Service on Mar. 31; resolution honoring Oakland’s Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson; celebrating Williams Baptist Chapel Church’s 75th anniversary. Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney honors Oakland School for the Arts A Capella group Vocal Rush for finishing third in last year’s “The Sing Off” on NBC. Councilmember Noel Gallo thanks his chief of staff Claudia Burgos for 10 years with the city. Councilmember Dan Kalb honors Emerson Elementary School teacher Juanita Matthews for 40 years of service.

Mar. 4, the Oakland City Council ran deep into the morning hours to roll back the controversial Domain Awareness Center to a port-only program. After hours of testimony, some critics of the DAC who sought to ban the federally-funded surveillance center from Oakland, yelled “shame” after the 4-4 tie was broken by Mayor Jean Quan. Nevertheless, the vote was seen as a success for returning the proposal back to its originate intent to secure the Port of Oakland. >>> SEE IT FOR YOURSELF


After Dividing San Leandro over Fiscal Fears, Cassidy Now Exploiting Race

SAN LEANDRO | ANALYSIS | Last September, a group of Chinese Americans in San Leandro asked the city to fly the red and gold banner of their homeland at City Hall in honor of the country’s national day on Oct. 1. Initially, the request appeared perfunctory. Raise the flag in place of the San Leandro city flag, make a few speeches celebrating the city’s diversity, maybe a song or two and that would be it. However, some in San Leandro took offense to honoring a flag they strongly believe represents oppression and civil rights abuses. Mayor Stephen Cassidy added his voice to the anti-flag faction that now included Bay Area Tibetan independence activists. The City Council, though, has always been untethered from Cassidy, an often dictatorial bully who prefers leadership by blunt force rather than a sugar and honey approach and voted, 4-3, to allow the flag-raising. But, the issue was not dead. A few days later, Cassidy used powers contained in the City Charter to nullify the vote and called for an ad hoc committee to study the city’s policy on flying foreign flags at City Hall. Politically, the decision by Cassidy to allow the divisive and potentially harmful issue (to his own re-election this year) to periodically reemerge is a questionable. Cassidy’s critics quickly labeled him anti-Democratic for reversing the will of his colleagues who colored their arguments in favor with general calls for cultural unity.

As the council’s ad hoc members, Councilmembers Benny Lee, Pauline Cutter and Cassidy met over the months to hash out a compromise, the issue had lost its direct connection to whether the Chinese flag should fly in San Leandro. After all, Oct. 1 had long since passed and the ad hoc committee was seemingly designed to tackle the general act of flying any country's flag at City Hall. Ostensibly, Cassidy’s rationale for overturning the council’s vote was to call a timeout and figure out a new play for the city. However, when the issue returned to the City Council Monday night, an entirely different rhetorical tactic was employed by Cassidy. One that strongly indicates Cassidy is aiming to replicate his corrosive campaign strategy of four years ago: Divide and conquer San Leandrans. In 2010, he aimed to pit recession-weary residents versus allusions of city employees living high off the hog. In 2014, the same theory will this time employ xenophobia and irrational fears of Red China to divide the city.

When Cassidy narrated a PowerPoint presentation Monday night laying out his position against flying foreign flags at City Hall, it likely represented his campaign kickoff speech. The presentation featured gratuitous use of images and quotes from some of history’s greatest leaders, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandi and the Dalai Lama. It was also tailored toward China and its civil rights abuses. Clearly, Cassidy’s rhetoric was designed to again stoke divisiveness against Chinese Americans in San Leandro, which, incidentally, is now the city’s largest demographic at nearly 30 percent. And to further indicate Cassidy’s real intent, as part of the ad hoc committee, he was the lone dissenting vote against a compromise presented by Cutter to construct a new flag pole at nearby Root Park reserved for foreign celebrations like the Oct. 1 Chinese national day celebration. On Monday night, Cassidy noted he would back Cutter’s proposal “for the sake of compromise,” but the motion was never offered for consideration. In fact, after the City Council voted, 4-3, Monday night to support the existing policy allowing the mayor to make the call on future flag ceremonies at City Hall, Cassidy strongly indicated he would again disallow any flags flying. It’s a line in the sand, which almost assuredly will be crossed sometime next September if the flag issue is again broached in advance of the Oct. 1 Chinese holiday. What will happen then? The same four members, Councilmembers Jim Prola, Diana Souza, Lee and Ursula Reed will vote for the flag-raising in the name of cultural comity and what will Cassidy do then? Again reverse the will of the council? And at what cost?

In the meantime, nearly every public speaker Monday night continually referenced the Chinese flag even though the proposal to fly their banner had come and went. Tibetan freedom fighters argued passionately against oppression by the Chinese government, yet one couldn’t help wondering whether the initial spark in this controversy would have never ignited if the flag initially considered was a staunch ally of the U.S., like say, Australia or even Mexico. This is the message of many of the city’s Chinese Americans are likely taking from Cassidy’s comments.

Proponents of the flag have continually argued their reasons for flying the Chinese flag is solely cultural and a manifestation of their ancestry, not the action of the Chinese government. It's also a notion people without a direct connection to the American immigrant experience cannot fully grasp and one Cassidy is betting to exploit in the next seven months. If an American is far removed from their family’s journey to America, the idea of simultaneously pledging primary love for the United States and, secondarily, for the nation of your birth or your parent’s birth is a difficult for some to comprehend. However, this duality exists, is powerful , and poses no hindrance to how much pride you have in being American, or, one day becoming one. In fact, the notion you may not be American enough is despicable. A generation or so ago, San Leandro could have been labeled the East Bay’s capital of racism. Before 1970, the question would not have been whether you were sufficiently American, but whether you were white enough to live in San Leandro (i.e., not black). Despite a truly miraculous four decades in which the whitest city around became literally the most equally diverse city in the region, the terrible ghosts of leaders like Mayor Jack Maltester are aching from the ether to bring racial divisiveness back to San Leandro. All it needed was a simple red flag flapping in the wind.