EAST BAY CITIZEN. EVERYWHERE SINCE 2009

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Oakland Councilman’s $10.20 Minimum Wage Ordinance Held in Committee

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | An Oakland City Council ordinance that would enact a citywide minimum wage of $10.20 was held in committee Tuesday while staff continues to study the issue. Meanwhile, a potential local initiative for the November ballot to raise the minimum wage to $12.25 per hour continues to gain steam. The proposed ordinance was introduced by Councilmember Larry Reid, who chairs the Community and Economic Development Committee. Reid's colleagues on the committee all  issued support for proposal as a good first step, while hinting at a preference for a higher wage.

“His goal is to have a minimum wage with little or no drastic impacts on small businesses owners,” Reid’s chief of staff Ray Leon, told the committee. The plan would also adjust the minimum wage based on inflation, said Leon, including exemptions for youth job training programs and for small businesses based upon the number of employees and how much revenue they generate.

Al Auletta, program manager for Oakland Economic and Workforce Development staff, said since the San Francisco Bay Area has a higher cost of living, any minimum wage ordinance should be based on a local consumer price index. Auletta added, a wage bump would increase discretionary spending in Oakland and increase worker productivity, loyalty to their jobs and better service for consumers. It is not clear how any minimum wage increase, be it, $10.20 per hour, $12.25 or $15 urged by some, will affect commerce. According to a city staff report, among small businesses in Oakland, restaurants could be more impacted than others. However, Auletta said any rises in restaurant prices are marginal and historically absorbed by customers.

Michael LeBlanc, owner of Pican restaurant, said he is in favor of raising the minimum wage and, specifically, Reid’s proposal. Oakland’s thriving downtown restaurant scene has positively changed the outside perception of the city, he said. “The reality is if the minimum wage were $15, I could no longer operate in Oakland.”

“I think a lot of it is how fast it goes up and if it allows businesses to accommodate it,” said City Council President Pat Kernighan. She also believes some restaurants in Oakland could handle the higher $12.25 figure, but called raising the minimum wage a regional issue and worried some businesses might be forced to move to neighboring cities. “If Oakland gets out ahead of its neighboring East Bay cities it would be bad for our city,” she said.

Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates has recently urged for a regional approach to raising the minimum wage and publicly predicted Oakland’s $12.25 ballot measure will be passed by voter this fall. Reid suggested Tuesday afternoon, the city collaborate with Bates on the issue. Councilmembers Libby Schaaf and Lynette Gibson McElhaney both said they could support Reid’s $10.20 plan for now, although both urged for more analysis, in addition, to voicing interest in the potential $12.25 ballot initiative. Oakland does not currently have a city minimum wage. The state minimum wage, however, is set to raise to $9 per hour this July before increasing to $10 in 2016. At the federal level, President Obama is seeking to raise the minimum wage to $10.10.

Many progressives, however, believe the minimum wage should be even higher. Oakland mayoral candidate and civil rights attorney Dan Siegel called for the committee to amend Reid’s proposed ordinance to $15 per hour. Siegel cited a city study that found a family of four in Oakland needs to earn a gross income of $86,000-a-year to stave off poverty. Such a figure, he said, would call for two members of the household to earn a minimum of $20 per hour. “We need to have a wage policy in Oakland that will allow our workers to get away from a life of poverty,” said Siegel.

In response to Reid’s $10.20 per hour proposal, Oakland resident David Colburn added, $12.25 is already a compromise to $15 per hour. “Then to undercut that for $10.20 is, I think, sort of grotesque,” said Colburn. “I hope this doesn’t go anywhere, because it shouldn’t.”

League of Women Voters Apologize for Neglecting to Invite GOP Candidate

Republican Peter Kuo, right, at a forum in 
Fremont April 9.
STATE SENATE | 10TH DISTRICT | While his opponents in the State Senate 10th District race were busy at candidate’s forum last Friday night in Fremont, Republican Peter Kuo was all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Well, not exactly, but the non-partisan League of Women Voters of Fremont, Newark and Union City say they forgot to invite the lone Republican in the five-person race.

Kuo’s campaign manager Jason Scalese said the League’s representative called the next day to apologize for the error. “It was obvious that the volunteer making the call was deeply saddened and embarrassed by the mistake,” said Scalese. “We understood immediately that an error had been made and though we regret that Mr. Kuo was not able to take part in the forum, we greatly appreciated the League's call and apologies.”

Sam Neeman, co-president of the south county chapter of the League of Women Voters invited Kuo to record an interview this weekend to be included with footage of the April 25 candidate’s forum.

Kuo, whose campaign has attracted the attention of the state Republican Party, lauded the League for their work in the community and accepted their apology. “Honest oversights are made by professionals and volunteers alike, and clearly this was just that.”

Meanwhile , Kuo has successfully tapped into a vein of campaign fundraising through his opposition of SCA-5, state legislation unpopular with Asian American voters. Some believe the issue has the potential to propel Kuo into the top two come the June primary. Others vying for the seat include Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, former Assemblymembers Mary Hayashi and Audie Bock, in addition, to Roman Reed.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Wieckowski Aide Filed Unsuccessful Restraining Order Last Year Against Wife of Alberto Torrico

STATE SENATE | 10TH DISTRICT | A violent feud between the wife of a former East Bay state Assemblymember and the ex-chief of staff of a current one is raising questions about the use of taxpayer funds on what appears to have been a private — albeit, salacious — dispute. In addition, the public fight between Raquel Torrico, the wife of former Assembly Majority Leader Alberto Torrico, and Trisha Tahmasbi, the now ex-chief of staff of current Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski, could have political repercussions, because the Torricos are now openly backing one of Wieckowski's Democratic rivals in what promises to be a hotly contested June election for the state Senate.

[READ THE EBC ACCOUNT FROM APRIL 16, 2013

The dispute between Raquel Torrico and Trisha Tahmasbi first drew attention in the capital last year when the two got into a physical altercation outside the Democratic Party state convention in Sacramento. At the time, Tahmasbi was Wieckowski's chief of staff, and her confrontation with Raquel Torrico stemmed from a romantic relationship that Tahmasbi had with Alberto Torrico. The street fight between the two women resulted in Tahmasbi suffering a bruised cheek and a black eye. Raquel Torrico said later in court documents that she and her husband subsequently became the victims of an attempted threat to make his tryst with Tahmasbi public...

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE AT EAST BAY EXPRESS

Monday, April 28, 2014

Swalwell Again Avoids Questioning Over His Vote Allowing Government Spying

CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | For the second straight public forum, Rep. Eric Swalwell again sidestepped his April 2013 vote that would have allowed the government to request the Web histories of ordinary citizens without their knowledge. Swalwell voted for the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, known as CISPA, which passed by the House last spring, but was never taken up by the U.S. Senate.

Similar to a candidate’s forum for the 15th Congressional District held April 15 in Castro Valley, Swalwell failed to acknowledge the likely problematic vote for privacy advocates and, instead, focused his response solely on another government spying vote he supported, a budget amendment to defund the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program of warrantless monitoring of cell phone metadata.

“There was one vote on the NSA spying program, just one vote in the Congress,” said Swalwell, a first-term congressman seeking re-election, “and that vote was to defund the program and I voted to defund the program.”

In the past, as an Alameda County prosecutor, Swalwell said he successfully used cell phone metadata to prove some of his cases, however, with a warrant. Speaking of his vote to defund the NSA program last July, he said, “There reason I did that, and it wasn’t easy because I was a prosecutor and for seven years, I used cell phone data to prove many of my cases." Swalwell prosecuted his last three homicide using cell phone data, he said. “But in each and every one of those cases I had to go to a judge and I had to get a warrant. I had to show probable cause that I could go in and invade the privacy of the person whose cell phone record I was seeking to use.”

The NSA, he said, is not following this procedure when it seeks records in bulk without any correlation to fighting terrorism from abroad. “We must not sacrifice privacy for security,” he added.

It’s the second time Swalwell’s Democratic challenger, State Sen. Ellen Corbett, has gently referred to her opponent’s vote on CISPA. “The role of congress is to protect citizens and, again, one of our most important, precious things is our personal privacy. It is Congress’ role to ensure an agency such as the NSA performs the role it was set up to do, not unduly intrude upon the privacy of individuals.” When it came to CISPA, Corbett later added, “One member of the California delegation voted for that measure.” That person being Swalwell.

The replay among the three candidates over government spying was so similar to two weeks ago that it suggests it will become a major campaign theme in the November general election. Republican Hugh Bussell also registered a similar refrain to two weeks ago by acknowledging the government illegally spied on Americans. “Congress has a fundamental oversight right and a fundamental responsibility over the NSA,” said Bussell. He then added, “The only reason [the NSA is] there is to protect us. It’s not there to spy on us. Well, we should say, it wasn’t created to spy on us.”

20th Assembly Candidates Support Gay Marriage, but Spar over Gender I.D. Law

Bill Quirk, Luis Reynoso, Jaime Patino
ASSEMBLY | 20TH DISTRICT | When it comes to gay marriage, candidates for the 20th Assembly District made a mad dash to the left of each other, but not before two of them swung wildly to the right when it comes to gender identification.

Incumbent Assemblymember Bill Quirk, Republican Jaime Patino and nonpartisan Luis Reynoso, formerly a member of the GOP, all registered strong support for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender issues before attempts to shade differences in their position.

Patino, a first-time candidate from Union City, appeared to set the tone last Friday night at a candidate’s forum in Fremont when in response to a question on equity and, specifically, LGBT issues, he veered well left of the Republican Party’s ambiguous stance. “I’m one of the few—and I may get in trouble tomorrow when it hits the news—but, I’m one of the few Republicans out there that actually is supportive of gay marriage and I’ve always been,” said Patino. “It’s out there and if people want to make a big thing, let them.”

“I feel very much for people in the LGBT community, any community that is discriminated against, because it doesn’t just scar that particular community; it scars the whole city, the whole area," said Patino. "And it also hurts us economically because businesses see that and they don’t want to be in an area that’s putting up with that stuff.”

Quirk, whose liberalism is questioned by few, seemed pleasantly surprised by Patino’s statements. “Let me say, it is a pleasure to have Mr. Patino state what he did and to say that he’s for gay marriage and I really appreciate it,” said Quirk. However, Patino’s comments were also the catalyst for each candidate to draw distinctions in their support for gay marriage.

Quirk then rushed further left, stating he has supported gay marriage “ever since it became an idea” and then-San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made a strong push for it in 2004. He also touted his support for a controversial assembly bill, AB 1266, strongly opposed by state conservatives, which would allow transgender children to assign their own gender when it comes to sex-segregated school programs, athletics and facilities. Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill into law last August. “I’m out on the edge on this and I’m proud to be out on the edge,” said Quirk.

On gay marriage, Reynoso said, “This is really a non-issue because discrimination is discrimination. When it comes to gay marriage, the government can’t tell you who to marry and they cannot tell you who to divorce, either.” However, when it comes to AB 1266, it’s a different story. “We’re really operating on shaky ground at that point because for us to demand a kindergarten girl’s bathroom to be available to a six-year-old boy because he feels he’s a girl, it’s a privacy issue. The issue needs to be examined more carefully,” said Reynoso, who is also an elected member of the Hayward school board. “Facilities use are not there for us to exercise our gender, but rather to use them in private.” Reynoso’s first move to the left followed by a sharp turn to the right, then set off a similar tag-team attack by him and Patino on Quirk also witnessed earlier this month over the Calpine Russell City Energy Center issue.

“The line stops when it comes to kids using the same restroom,” Patino said in his rebuttal. Local school districts should be allowed to make their own decisions on the matter, he added. “Because what flies in San Francisco, may not fly in Tulare County and Sacramento should not be putting the values of San Francisco down the throat of people in the valley or the Inland Empire that don’t agree with that.”

Quirk then asserted Republicans, in general, now laud Civil Rights leaders of yesterday after doing nothing to support the cause when it was occurring. “You know, that’s what it takes being out on the edge,” said Quirk. “When you’re being a pioneer, when you are seeing what’s new. What we’re seeing today is Republicans love Cesar Chavez . Republicans love Martin Luther King, but when they were out pushing the envelope, the Republicans weren’t to be seen. I’m very proud to be pushing the envelope.”

The forum moved on to another question on green building and renewable energy, but the previous back-and-forth clearly festered. After Patino answered the question, he quickly responded to Quirk’s comment, “This Republican was at Kitayama Nursery in Union City back when I was a kid. This Republican was there. This Republican’s parents were farm workers, so don’t lump everybody all together. We shouldn’t do that.” Reynoso followed. “Mr. Quirk doesn’t really understand Martin Luther King was a Republican. Don’t forget that,” said Reynoso. “One of the greatest fighters for equal justice was actually a Republican.

Report: G-Men Reached Out to Oakland Councilmembers Reid, McElhaney

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | G-Men were not only trolling San Francisco State Sen. Leland Yee, they were also snooping around Oakland City Hall, according to a report Monday in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Oakland Councilmembers Larry Reid and Lynette Gibson McElhaney were approached by an undercover F.B.I agent posing as a rich developer seeking to build in their respective districts, the paper reported.

According to the Chronicle, he specifically expressed interest in building a five-star hotel on Hegenberger Road near the Oakland Coliseum complex. Reid even took the suspected FBI agent on a tour of the property, located in his district.

The FBI, though, may have been targeting Dhar Mann, an Oakland businessman, with connections to the property, who plead guilty last December to defrauding the Oakalnd Redevelopment Agency $44,300.

McElhaney told the paper she wasn’t impressed with the prospective investor’s knowledge of development, while not knowing he was actually an undercover agent.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Khanna Donates Contributions from Tech CEO Guilty of Domestic Violence

Gurbaksh Chahal gave $5,200 to Ro Khanna's
congressional campaign last year.
CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | Wealthy tech entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal was alleged to have punched and kicked his girlfriend 117 times during an incident in August 2013. He was also a major donor to the Democratic Party and Ro Khanna, the tech-friendly challenger to Rep. Mike Honda in the South Bay's 17th Congressional District.

The astonishing story of brutality from one of Silicon Valley’s youngest and most powerful titillated the tech industry for months until Thursday when the 45 felony counts against Chahal were greatly reduced to a pair of battery charges, three years probation, 52 hours of domestic violence classes and 25 hours of community service.

Two months before the attack last year in San Francisco, which was recorded by video cameras at Chahal’s apartment complex, but later ruled inadmissible by a judge, he contributed $5,200 to Khanna’s congressional campaign. Chahal has also donated $20,000 to the Democratic National Committee.

Tyler Law, Khanna’s communication director, said Friday the campaign donated the full amount to Next Door, a Santa Clara County-based non-profit that helps women and children victimized by domestic abuse. He added, Chahal was removed from its public list of endorsers after news of the battery last fall.

Judy Pipkin, a member of the Santa Clara County Democratic Party and San Jose’s Democratic Activists for Women Now (DAWN), had earlier demanded Khanna return the contributions in letter shortly after Chahal plead guilty.

“Chahal's behavior is reprehensible and I request that you immediately refund any contributions that Chahal has made to your campaign, and disavow his behavior,” Pipkien wrote, “…As a woman, and as a human being, this is an issue that is very important to me, and I hope that you will do the right thing here.”

Law said the campaign notified Pipkin they had already made the donation to Next Door before receiving her letter.

NOTE A clarification was added to the timing between the donation to charity and receipt of Pipkin's letter.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Wieckowski Releases Hard-Hitting Website Attacking Hayashi

Bob Wieckowski, Mary Hayashi
STATE SENATE | 10TH DISTRICT | Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski is coming out punching. His campaign released a Web site this weekend dedicated to 10th State Senate District opponent Mary Hayashi’s three year old shoplifting incident. The campaign is not distancing itself from the site, named mugshotmary.com.

The site features Hayashi’s infamous mug shot along with headlines and corresponding newspaper links to Oct. 25, 2011 arrest. A colorful graphic explaining the incident is also included for users to share on various social media platforms. A second page attempts to link Hayashi’s transgression to the notorious trio of state senators recently accused or convicted in the Legislature’s upper house.

Wieckowski’s campaign manager Mark Goodwin, citing an internal poll that found Hayashi’s negatives “off the charts,” said the decision was made to strongly highlight Hayashi's shoplifting arrest at a Neiman Marcus in San Francisco. She later plead guilty to a misdemeanor and received three year’s probation ending in 2015 and a fine of $180.

“I guess when you don’t have something good to say about yourself, you have to tear down others,” said Josh Pulliam, Hayashi’s campaign consultant. He believes the “tone and tenor” of the site has “racist and sexist overtones” because every person pictured, including Hayashi and the three state senators, is a minority. “I think it’s telling his first thing out is a personal attack like this,” said Pulliam. “What does that say about his character?”

In addition, Pulliam said an assertion made on the site that Hayashi never apologized for the incident is “completely false and they know it.” In fact, Hayashi has apologized numerous times all the way back to her run for Alameda County supervisor two years ago and as recently as the local Democratic Party pre-endorsement meeting in February.

The strategy to directly attack Hayashi’s negatives in such a strong and deliberate fashion is completely opposite to the plan Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle employed in their 2012 race. Aside from a few negative comments, Valle chose, instead, to let the issue fester on its own. He went on to win re-election in November, while Hayashi finished a distant third.

UPDATE Mark Goodwin, Wieckowski's campaign manager responded Saturday to the assertion from Hayashi's team that the Web site it released this weekend has racist and sexist overtones. "Shoplifting luxury goods isn't a women's issue; it's not a race issue; it's a character issue. Mary Hayashi has never apologized for shoplifting. She's apologized for the negative press."

Primary Candidates with Cash to Burn Turn to Mad Men

A Tucker in Wieckowski and Swalwell's Camp | Bock Bopped | Union Buddy in Hayward?
CHAPTER 13 | Ro Khanna has the cash to literally buy a Super Bowl ad, but he didn’t. However, his campaign for the 17th Congressional District was the first to hit the airwaves with a 30-second television spot last month. Khanna has $1.9 million to spend from until the June 3 primary, so expect more TV ads in the future.

However, the list of East Bay campaigns with the funds to buy expensive ads is very short. In fact, there is likely only four—Khanna, Rep. Eric Swalwell, Rep. Mike Honda and former Assemblymember Mary Hayashi.

This week, Swalwell and Hayashi released campaign ads, leaving Honda as the last out of the gate. Campaign finance reports last week, shows Honda is on a fundraising kick putting him at $1 million in cash. That's more than enough to start thinking about TV ads.

Meanwhile, Swalwell’s first ad places him front and center, in a tie and rolled-up sleeves touting his record on jobs and innovation. The campaign, though, remains cognizant of State Sen. Ellen Corbett’s strong support among women. For instance, Corbett accentuated her femininity this week when she said, "I've lived the life." Later she joked about a pledged to continue being the only woman in the race. I personally saw the Swalwell ad running on the Hallmark Channel late Thursday night. (Full disclosure: I was watching The Golden Girls.)



During the same night, former Assemblymember Mary Hayashi put her $700,000 coffers for the 10th State Senate District race to the test in an ad that ran during the Golden State Warriors playoff game. Hayashi’s campaign described the ad buy as “robust.”

As opposed to the Khanna and Swalwell spots, Hayashi is only seen interacting with people, but not heard. Instead, others do the talking while praising her work with women and health care. The strategy meshes well with some of Hayashi’s recent appearances where she’s touted advocacy for women. Hayashi is also sending mailers to voters hitting some of the same notes in the commercial. However, now that her opponent, Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski has gone down the rabbit hole of negative campaigning with a Web site featuring Hayash's shoplifting arrest, the claws may eventually come out.


****
SWALWELL AND WIECKOWSKI After Friday night’s forum in Fremont, it’s now clear Wieckowski intends to lump his State Senate opponent, Mary Hayashi, with some members in the upper house of the Legislature currently in trouble with the law. And, although, Swalwell has not utter a single negative comment against State Sen. Ellen Corbett in their 15th Congressional District race, most believe he will use the same line of attack against her as the state senate majority leader. However, there’s an interesting connection between the camps. Both employ campaign consultant Lisa Tucker, who helped Swalwell win election to Congress two years ago. The arrangement is potentially fraught with ethical problems since both races overlap the same areas in southern Alameda County. Clearly, Wieckowski beating the drum of an stained state senate creates an echo effect which also helps Swalwell’s campaign against Corbett. With the same conductor leading each orchestra, how can voters guard against some type of coordination? Especially when one candidate has a clear edge in campaign finance in Swalwell, while Wieckowski’s coffers are extremely dwarfed by Hayashi’s largess?
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Audie Bock
KNUCKLE SANDWICH Former Assemblymember Audie Bock, who is running for the 10th State Senate District, recalled during a candidate’s forum Friday, an incident when a Republican member of the Assembly back in 2000 once punched her in the arm when she vowed to not vote for a water bill that was introduced at the last minute and just before midnight. “I told him I’m not voting for a bill I haven’t read,” Bock said, who is nonpartisan, but once a member of the Green Party during her one term in Sacramento. The unnamed legislator then punched her. Some members of the press saw it, too, she said. When they asked her about it, Bock said she covered for the assembly member who was up for re-election. “I told them I fell down.” Flash forward to today. Bock also rides horses, but she won’t be covering for the one who fell on her during a ride a few months ago that crushed her ankle. It’s the reason why Bock is wearing a walking boot. If anybody is looking to buy a colt, she says, she has one for sale.
****
Vanila Singh
HERE AND THERE Mayoral candidate Francisco Zermeno is continuing a late push for union votes in Hayward even though he was one of the seven council members who harshly imposed a five percent wage cut on 300 city workers. Zermeno is now endorsing the two union-backed City Council candidates, Rocky Fernandez and Sara Lamnin…A 17th(!) Oakland mayoral candidate entered the race to replace Mayor Jean Quan this week. Larry Lionel Young, Jr. officially formed a committee. The former Oakland school teacher ran for mayor in 2010 and the District 3 City Council seat two years ago. In both races, he finished last…The Chronicle had an odd piece this week on 17th Congressional District Republican Vanila Singh, calling her out for some strange campaign strategies. The reason it may seem odd is because its fails to realize Singh is a political novice competing with little money relative to Rep. Mike Honda and Ro Khanna. A minor leaguer playing in the majors. It’s hard to be conventional in one of the most expensive congressional race in the country. That being said, Singh is extremely raw as a politician, but the Republican Party’s instincts are correct, she could be a rising star, if time and money is used to cultivate her candidacy. But her time is not now.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Kalb: State Senate ‘Did a Dumb Thing’ on Smartphone Kill Switches

Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb
STATE SENTATE | OAKLAND | Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb know first hand how a kill-switch on smartphones may lessened the likelihood of being a victim of armed robbery. On Thursday, the State Senate narrowly failed to pass a bill backed by the Oakland City Council to include a function on all smartphones allowing them to be deactivated when stolen. The feature renders the smartphone useless for robbers and potentially dissuades them from targeting those who often fiddle around with their pricey hardware in public. The bill failed, 19-17.

"The State Senate did a dumb thing on smartphones today by not passing SB 962,” Kalb said, in a statement Thursday afternoon. "As an Oakland local elected official and the victim of an armed robbery, I know that if and when this bill becomes law, it will reduce armed robberies in Oakland and throughout the state. I hope that the wavering senators who failed the public today wise up and vote Yes when it comes up for another vote."

In Oakland, Kalb has been the most vocal proponent for making kill-switches a standard feature on all smartphones. A recent rise in armed robberies has been attributed to thefts involving smartphones. In response, the City Council passed a resolution authored by Kalb last month in support of State Sen. Mark Leno’s bill .

The legislation was also backed by San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon. After the vote, Gascon wrote on Twitter, “How many telco lobbyists does it take to kill a bill that safeguards their own customers from violent theft?” The tweet was accompanied with photo of cell phone lobbyists waiting outside the senate chambers.  Cell phone providers have resisted including the kill-switch function to its phones despite evidence it would protect its customers. They add, the feature can be easily downloaded by users as an app on their smartphones. Gascon said he will attempt to push for another try at kill-switch legislation in the near future.

Hayward Mayoral Candidate Says City Will Never Be Wealthy Like Piedmont

HAYWARD | MAYOR | In Hayward’s even mayoral campaign, the potential front runner, Councilmember Barbara Halliday, may have given her two main challengers a significant sound bite to use against her this June when she said Hayward will never be a wealthy city.

During a League of Women's Voters forum Wednesday in Hayward, Halliday concluded her closing statement by describing her public service to the community and a pledge to return stability to the city’s fiscal bottom line. “We need to stick to our plan,” said Halliday. “But, you know, let’s face it, we probably never will in our lifetimes be a very wealthy city like, I don’t know, Piedmont, Palo Alto. We’re Hayward. I’m proud that we’re Hayward. We have a heart and we’ve shown it.”

Candidates Francisco Zermeno, Mark Salinas,
Barbara Halliday.
Councilmember Mark Salinas, another candidate for mayor, quickly seized upon the comment. “I’m the only candidate up here that was born and raised in Hayward and my optimism is, quite frankly, much greater,” Salinas said in his closing statement. “I think we can be better than Piedmont. I think we can be better than Danville, San Ramon. I think we can be better than a lot of these cities that people compare us to.”

Since the exchange occurred at the end of the 45-minute forum, mayoral candidate and Councilmember Francisco Zermeno did not have an opportunity while at the dais to weigh in. Afterwards, in an interview, Zermeno said Halliday’s comments are just another instance where city leaders are disparaging Hayward, instead of focusing on its positives. “It’s disrespectful of what we can be,” Zermeno said. “But, I’m not one to be attacking.”

When Halliday was asked about her comment, which some may find minimizing to Hayward’s potential, she said. “I don’t know what I said was so horrible?” Halliday added, she was only trying to emphasize Hayward’s unique qualities and the short time frame allowed during the forum for answering questions presents a challenge for fully expressing a candidate’s thoughts. “Sometimes in a minute you can’t say everything you mean out there.”

Halliday, though, was somewhat circumspect. “Yeah, you know, maybe I shouldn’t have said it. I don’t think that what I said was anything that was sort of not something everybody realizes. So, that’s not us. We have to be Hayward.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Wieckowski’s Revenge Porn Bill Passes Assembly Judiciary Committee

ASSEMBLY | 25TH DISTRICT | A bill that would give victims of revenge porn the ability to file civil lawsuits against perpetrators under a pseudonym unanimously passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee Tuesday, 10-0.

Fremont Assemblymember Bob Wieckowksi offered AB 2643 in February. He is also the chair of the powerful judiciary committee.

With the ubiquity of cell phone cameras and social media site, the act of potentially scorned ex-lovers distributing naked photos and videos of their former paramours on the Internet is becoming more prevalent.

Other states are currently are attempting similar and, in many cases, more stringent laws against revenge porn.

Wieckowski says most of the victims of the embarrassing episodes are women. Furthermore, many, he says, are dissuaded from lodging civil complaints for fear of having their names placed in the public record through the lawsuit.

The bill also allows for a temporary restraining order and injunction for removal of the offending images.

This June, take their Suggestions and do the Opposite

MEDIA | ANALYSIS |The Bay Area News Groups version of political endorsements is here, or, better understood as an editorial staff of one filing out a page on an anti-worker edition of Mad Libs. On Wednesday it somewhat surprisingly passed over Democratic apostate Steve Glazer in favor of Republican Catharine Baker in Contra Costa County’s tough 16th Assembly District.

The money would have been on Glazer taking the endorsement after he continually hit all the requisite anti-worker notes, while creating another catchy tune for the corporate conservative paper to employ—banning union endorsement questionnaires. The taste makers at the San Francisco Chronicle even saw a potential chart topper in that one. But, BANG said it thought long and hard and, instead, picked Baker by a nose over Glazer.

Sbranti, however, is a union hack, the editorial suggested. The more interesting dilemma with Sbranti is questions whether organized labor and its independent expenditure committees will ultimately get what they bargained for in Sbranti. Dublin, the young Tri Valley city Sbranti leads, is hardly known as a bastion of union activity.

And then, there’s Danville Mayor Newell Arnerich. That guy, well, he’s doesn’t understand the severity of the pension problem in the state, opined BANG. It’s the same context this editorial staff of one (Daniel Borenstein) uses on every single candidate who disagrees with the state of employee pension liabilities. Arnerich probably wasn’t too forceful in his views during the editorial meeting. If he was, the next sentence would have been disparaging.

To prove the theory the Bay Area’s corporate newspapers all have their hands on the same cock. Across the bay, the Chronicle is operating on a similarly, but false sense of superiority. The Chronicle’s John Diaz in fact was sitting on his high pony last week when he cried in print about Rep. Mike Honda forcing him to work on Sunday. Diaz’s first-world problems don’t concern us any more than the fact he shops in the boy's department at J.C. Penney’s.

As in 2012, when the paper had it in for Pete Stark, they are doing the same with Honda. However, it is proving far more difficult with Honda not giving his opponent any free ammunition. The Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci is trying, though. Last week, she reported Honda does not live in the congressional district, hardly a news flash to anybody in the area. In fact, a front page story stating Honda is of Japanese descent would have been more shocking.

And once again, this is the problem with the corporate media and how today they make endorsements based upon scant reporting and knowledge of the area. Neither of these paper have had boots on the ground anywhere in the East Bay for about a decade. What’s their true perspective? It’s more like someone who went on vacation in the Ukraine 10 years ago and found Kiev absolutely delightful in the spring. Meanwhile, without any connection to the place in subsequent years, that same person just assumes the Ukraine today is as safe and harmonious as it was back in 2004. Of course, it’s a whole lot different now.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Celebrating Earth Day After Stuffing Your Wallet With Calpine Money

Swalwell tweeted this photo Tuesday
from Hayward's Eden Landing.
HAYWARD | ENVIRONMENT | The Eden Landing ecological reserve on the Hayward shoreline is just miles south from the polluting Calpine Russell City Energy Center. During this primary season, Hayward mayoral candidates and Assemblymember Bill Quirk have been harangued by the deeply unpopular natural gas-fired power plant that was found earlier this year to be polluting the area with 10 times the amount of allowable water particulate.

Some candidates have resorted to hyperbole to describe the potential damage to the ecosystem, but others like Quirk have been saddled with criticism over their support for the plant and the thousands of dollars in campaign contributions they received from Calpine and its executives.

So, on this Earth Day, it was a bit ballsy for another local official to pose like he was helping rehabilitate the San Francisco Bay's marshlands when, he too, counts Calpine as one of his largest campaign donors. On Tuesday, Rep. Eric Swalwell tweeted a photo of himself at Eden Landing getting his hands dirty, both literally and figuratively.

Meanwhile, campaign finance reports from the last two election cycles show Swalwell padded his coffers with $20,350 in contributions from Calpine's political action committee and a number of its executives. The financial ties to the polluting power plant may present a weak spot for Swalwell's primary opponents to manipulate. Ties to Calpine have already tripped up two of the candidates for Hayward mayor.

In Hayward's 20th Assembly District race, Quirk's two challengers each sought to heavily exploit the issue during a candidate's forum earlier this month. Quirk has accepted over $14,000 from Calpine and its executives since 2012, according to finance recrods. But, potentially worse, he has registered support for the plant almost since its infancy while a member of the Hayward City Council. However, while Swalwell will say he supports the environment, don't expect him to call the plant "quite healthy" as Quirk did three weeks ago.

Coliseum Authority Offers A's a 10-Year Lease to Stay in Oakland

COLISEUM AUTHORITY | The A’s may be in Oakland through 2024 after the Coliseum Authority offered the team a 10-year lease Tuesday to remain at the O.co Coliseum. A press release only noted the length of the proposed deal, but no terms.

“We wanted to send a clear statement to the A’s, the fans, Lew Wolff, and Major League Baseball that we want the A’s at the O.co Coliseum and want to keep baseball in Oakland,” said Coliseum Authority Chairman and Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley.

“A ten year extension, lasting through the 2024 season, gives the team a place to a call home and our fans and sponsors a window to continue investing their time and passion in this team. We are also working to ensure this deal safeguards county and city taxpayers. We are meeting the A’s management where they say they want to be and hope to conclude these negotiations quickly,” he added.

Shortly after the late evening announcement by the Coliseum Authority, the San Francisco Chronicle reported a response from the team. “The A’s received the Oakland-Alameda County Authority’s proposal earlier this afternoon. While the proposal was for 10 years, it did not address all of our issues. Consequently, we cannot accept the terms of the offer. We have tried to negotiate in good faith for the past several months. As the Authority knows, it is still our preference not to negotiate this agreement through the media.”

Some in Oakland and the county had urged for costly financial penalties to be built into any long-term lease agreement to guard against the team’s ownership one day seeking a ballpark in another city.

A group of East Bay business people are also eyeing a potential ballpark at Howard Terminal near Jack London Square. However, A’s ownership has recently voiced favor for a new stadium at the currently Coliseum complex.

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Case for Taxing Property Owners Who Leave Their Storefronts Empty

SD10 Republican 'Splintering' Dems | Superintendent Candidate's BF? | Forum Changes Working
CHAPTER 12 | There’s a book making waves among economists named Capital in the Twenty-First Century. In part, the tome by Thomas Picketty rising in influence since its release last year proposes a global tax on capital, not income. The plausibility of installing such a radical notion of taxation in its entirety is next to zero. However, the germ of the idea could possibly be applied to some local East Bay cities continuing to struggle on the revenue-generating side of the ledger. An editorial in last week’s Bloomberg Businessweek advocated for the idea. “For one thing, it gets the incentives right. If a global tax on capital were imposed, owners of valuable assets such as empty lots might be more likely to put them to good use, or sell them to someone who could, to cover the tax bill.”

Instead of allowing property owners to leave
storefronts empty, how about giving them an 
incentive to open their doors to commerce?
Empty storefronts in Oakland, Richmond, Berkeley, San Leandro, Hayward and others, currently lie fallow even as the economy begins to percolates. But, the resurgence has been excruciatingly slow. All of the cities mentioned are beginning to see new small businesses sprout again, but more could be done, especially for properties owned by landlords who have learned having storefronts empty at this time pencils out to smaller losses than the risk of a new businesses opening its doors.

Case in point, Hayward’s downtown could sometimes act as a sound stage for the television show, The Walking Dead. Foot traffic is low and many storefronts are abandoned and the ones in business fail to capture the imagination of residents and out-of-towners. The notion Hayward can’t attract new businesses based on the merits of the city may not be entirely true. Last year, Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney specifically called out some property owners, many he said, who live in Hayward, for purposely leaving their properties empty in hopes of better rental deals in the future. Maybe Hayward could be the place to foster some sort of vacancy tax on empty storefronts?

They wouldn’t be alone. A staffer from another East Bay city said recently they may offer their city council a similar vacancy tax in the near future. Although the Hayward City Council is now notorious around East Bay political circles for their Draconian wage cut imposition against city workers, a vastly more progressive assault on greedy property owners would certainly garner appreciation from the 99 percent.

Additionally, with less than two months before Hayward elects a new mayor, the four candidates, three of whom sit on the City Council, have yet to prescribe any new ideas for putting the city back on track. Generally, the topics of conversation have been about how projects, long discussed and already built, have ruined Hayward. The Loop and the Russell City Energy Center are monuments to Hayward’s myopic past. Yet, almost nobody is talking about how Hayward can rise from the ashes. Hayward City Council candidate Rocky Fernandez, in fact, is talking about forward-thinking ideas like no other candidate in recent memory. His youthful outlook on the future includes using some of the empty storefronts as incubators for the new businesses and technologies of the future. If something like a vacancy tax could unlock some of those properties, the next Twitter, Facebook or some type of gadget or services we can’t even fathom today might grow there.
****
Peter Kuo
DEMS PAYING FOR SCA-5 Last week, Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski acknowledged the unintended consequences of State Senate Constitution Amendment 5, passed last January by the upper house of the Legislature, but now languishing in the Assembly. Wieckowski is running for the 10th Senate District seat, but out of nowhere, Republican Peter Kuo has used the issue to stir up concern and fundraising in the Asian American community against SCA-5. “Nobody liked Proposition 209,” Wieckowski said Apr. 12 about the referendum ending affirmative action in public universities nearly two decades ago. “We all benefited from affirmative action. We know the Republicans are using it as a wedge. Mr. Kuo, who is in this race, is raising boatloads of money and splintering the Democratic Party and having Hispanics and the [Asian Pacific Islander] Caucus and the African American Caucus think we’re not on the same page.”
****
SOUND OF SILENCE San Francisco Chronicle reporters Carla Marinucci and Debra Saunders were at last Tuesday's CA-15 forum in Castro Valley, featuring Rep. Eric Swalwell, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett and Republican Hugh Bussell. The Bay Area News Group's Josh Richman was there, too. So, why was I the only reporter who caught Swalwell in a lie when he obfuscated about his record on digital privacy rights? The silence from the local conservative media outlets was never more noticeable. Richman wrote a perfunctory rundown of the hour-long forum and Marinucci has been silent. Saunders, however, wrote a column attempting to link Corbett by association to her troubled State Senate colleagues, Leland Yee, Ron Calderon and Rod Wright. The argument doesn't hold water. In fact, Saunders wasn't trying very hard to implicate Corbett, which, in a practical sense, says she really had nothing to write about this week. Furthermore, the corporate media's fascination with Swalwell is no longer a conspiracy theory. Not on board yet? Here's some homework: cobble together every article written by this trio and you won't find a single negative sentence about Swalwell. Dig deeper and you will find numerous occasions where they needlessly covered for him. Ask yourself? What benefit do these corporations receive from having Swalwell in Washington?
****
Karen Monroe
HERE AND THERE Expect to see Corbett more forcefully attack Swalwell for flip-flopping on government spying at future forums. Just ask me, Swalwell does not react to pressure in a courageous fashion, preferring flight to fight…During this week’s CA-15 forum, Swalwell quipped about his parents both being Republicans. Odd, since in the past, he claimed his mother was a Democrat and his father was a Republican…Does Ro Khanna’s campaign know most Christians will be spending this Sunday celebrating Easter with their families? Then why the email asking supporters to join him on the campaign trail on that day?...Among all California Democrats seeking a seat in Congress, Khanna’s $1.9 million in cash on hand is tops…California conservative sugar daddy Charles Munger, Jr. contributed $100,000 this week to the Santa Clara Republican Party. Might some of this cash be allocated to help CA-17 candidate Vanila Singh? Maybe Peter Kuo, to a lesser extent?...Last weekend, members of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee asked superintendent of schools candidate Karen Monroe, also currently an employee of the Alameda County Office of Education, if another of their employees is her boyfriend and whether he got the job on her behalf, despite disputed credentials. Monroe basically said, he’s not my man. Furthermore, is that even a fair question to publicly ask her?
****
APAPA moderator Hal Gin
ONE MORE THING A few weeks ago, I wrote about the relative value of some candidate’s forums in the East Bay, while questioning why the more familiar debate setup is never used in these parts. The League of Women Voters and Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs Association (APAPA) listened and made some tweaks to their formats. The two pre-eminent groups offering candidate’s forums did not make radical changes, but giving candidates the opportunity to question each other directly or to further expand on a subject has already made the first few events more useful to voters. One group may even employ more radical changes during the general election when some races have been whittled down to two candidates. Nevertheless, one of the points I was trying to make is candidates need to have the ability to control their own destiny in these face-to-face match ups. If they don’t wish to seize the moment, then that’s their problem. And we’ve seen this happen twice—during the Hayward mayoral and city council forum and this week’s CA-15 forum—when each candidate chose a much more conservative battle plan. Nevertheless, the small changes have been a welcome addition.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

San Leandro Begins a Slow, Deliberate Approach Toward its First Dispensary

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | After San Leandro leaders moved to allow medical cannabis to be sold within its city limits, it now needs to find a suitable operator. Last December, the City Council voted to allow just a single dispensary, despite a push by some members to allow more to satisfy demand for the drug’s therapeutic properties.

In the meantime, city staff says it doesn't have personnel with sufficient knowledge for permitting future dispensaries. At Monday night’s meeting, the council will be asked to approve a Request for Qualifications (RFP) for the hiring of a consultant to aid the city’s search for a dispensary operator. The request could be released sometime this month, according to a staff report.

Following a thawing of opposition by some on the City Council starting last year, including Mayor Stephen Cassidy, the city’s move toward allowing a dispensary has been steady, but slow. A public hearing also scheduled for Monday will discuss an amendment to the city’s zoning regulations pertaining to off-street parking for the future dispensary.

San Leandro’s foray into medical cannabis, though, is still clearly in the early planning stages. Once a consultant is approved, city staff will seek a two-step process for culling the list of potential operators. A pre-qualification process will first screen applicants, says the report, based their business plan and experience in the industry. Applicants would then be invited to apply to the Request for Proposal. During this second step, applicants will provide a desired location for the dispensary--an issue many San Leandrans in opposition of the new ordinance want to know--along with plans for security, patient tracking methods and record keeping.

The City Council could have a better idea who may be interested in bringing San Leandro its first dispensary this summer. A timetable estimates the two-step application process could begin sometime after July. Then again, according to the report, it’s anyone’s guess how many groups might be interested in helping patients fire one up in San Leandro.

Bonta: Wage Theft a Sad Reality for Fast Food Workers

By Rob Bonta
Bonta at a McDonald's in Oakland.
OPINION | Imagine being pick-pocketed every time you show up to work. For thousands of low-wage workers right here in the Bay Area, that’s the sad reality they face each day. Their employers, mega-corporations in the fast food industry, are illegally downsizing workers’ paychecks in much the same way they supersize a meal.

A recent poll shows that nearly 90 percent of fast food workers have experienced wage theft. But now workers are starting to speak out.

McDonald’s workers in three states joined class action lawsuits to recover wages stolen from their paychecks when they were forced to work off the clock or were denied overtime pay. Here in the Bay Area, I joined scores of community members at a local McDonald’s this month to support their call for fair treatment and a living wage. The outpouring of community concern echoes growing outrage nationwide as the consequences of the fast food industry’s low-wage business model have come to light in cities across the country.

I am proud to stand with these workers in their demand to change an industry that for too long has taken advantage of low-wage workers without regard to the detrimental impact they have on the communities in which they operate.

When the $220 billion fast food industry bloats its profit margins by squeezing pennies from its workers, the damage to our communities is profound:
  • Workers like SG, a mother of four who earns minimum wage, serve customers with pride at Burger King. But at home, she struggles to put food on the table on her low wages. Her struggle is made even more difficult when her paycheck routinely comes up short of the dollars she’s actually earned.
  • Dollars stolen from workers’ pockets go to the fast food giants’ corporate headquarters, siphoned away from our local businesses and economy.
  • Taxpayers are also victimized every time wage theft occurs, because when fast food giants short their workers’ paychecks, they also underpay their share of payroll taxes.
  • Taxpayers pick up the tab again when wage theft increases pressure on our social services. Workers who can’t possibly survive on less than poverty wages must turn to food stamps or public assistance to feed, clothe, and shelter their families. A UC Berkeley study pegged the tab taxpayers pick up because of low-wage, low-benefit fast food jobs at $7 billion annually.
I’ve heard from many fast food workers who were forced to work off the clock or had their paychecks shortchanged the overtime pay they’re owed under law. Hearing from the many wage theft victims who took part in the Oakland protests, it is clear that the industry needs to step up and become a real model of opportunity in the community.

More Americans than ever are working fast-food jobs. When the industry should be providing an opportunity for low-income workers to earn a living, they’ve instead fought workers’ attempts to organize for fair wages and working conditions by cutting hours or firing workers who speak up. To restore the trust of our communities, fast food companies should immediately do all of the following:

Respect workers. Fast food workers are the engine of the industry’s profits, but their wages tell another story. The fast food industry must respect the rights of workers to organize for fair wages and working conditions.

Respect the law. Minimum wage and overtime rules are the law of the land, and corporate giants can’t operate outside the law.

Respect the communities where customers live, work, and eat. Be a model of opportunity by providing quality jobs with a living wage and competitive benefits that allow workers to provide for their families.

I encourage all of us to consider the consequences of wage theft to our working families and to our communities. We all should agree that fast food workers deserve humane and dignified treatment and a fair living wage.

Assemblymember Rob Bonta serves California's 18th Assembly District representing Oakland, Alameda and San Leandro.

Moneyball: East Bay First Quarter Congressional Finance Reports

Rep. Mike Honda crosses the
$1 million threshold.
CONGRESS | CAMPAIGN FINANCE | The candidates are official and well-financed candidates in three local congressional races are getting ready to spend their campaign largess. All three incumbents have the money to defend their re-election, while a young upstart continues to fascinate political pundits nationally with a large, albeit slowly shrinking, fundraising advantage.

CA17 Money continues to flow, but, for the first time, it's Rep. Mike Honda rolling in more of it. Honda reported $689,000 in receipts this year. That's more than his last two reporting periods combined. Symbolically, his relatively low amount of disbursements allowed Honda to cross over the $1 million mark in cash banked. Ro Khanna's finance report is no slouch, either. Khanna is beginning to put his money to the test. The $467,000 spent over the first quarter of this year is easily the most he has laid out since joining the race. His last three finance reports have also been relatively consistent. However, it's hard to beat the stunning $1.04 million he received in the July 2013 report. In addition, Republican Vanila Singh performed well in her first full reporting period since jumping into the race last December.

CA 17.......End Cash....1Q-In.......1Q-Out
KHANNA......$1,948,833  $467,252  $494,883
HONDA.......$1,083,690  $689,887  $229,186
SINGH.......$  300,422  $224,110  $ 30,973
VANLNDINGHM.no report filed

CA15 Rep. Eric Swalwell's campaign finance ledger has been quite consistent over the past three reporting cycles. His haul of over $273,000 from the beginning of the year to Mar. 31 is nearly identical to reports during the last half of 2013. However, the campaign appears to be ramping up its spending. Over the last three months, Swalwell spent more than all of the last three cycles combined. Meanwhile, Corbett reported just $34,000 in contributions--her lowest total since the October 2013 report. It follows her best showing last December when she posted contributions of $91,000.

CA 15.......End Cash..1Q-In.....1Q-Out
SWALWELL....$922,581  $273,834  $174,614
CORBETT.....$208,005  $ 34,007  $ 34,660
BUSSELL.....$  1,950  $  4,140  $  2,190

CA13 Again, Rep. Barbara Lee is facing a group of untested challengers for her re-election. Nevertheless, Lee is a big spender. Over the last year, her campaign has disbursed nearly $572,000, including $92,940 to the Democratic Party Congressional Committee. You might call it tribute to the House leadership.

CA 13.......End Cash..1Q-In.....1Q-Out
LEE.........$127,721  $148,950  $122,476
SUNDEEN.....$  2,014  $  4,240  $  2,226
JELINCIC....$    414  $  2,085  $  1,840
ALLEN.......no report filed

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

A Feeling Out Period in the Initial CA-15 Candidate’s Forum

CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | It’s too early to get nasty in the 15th Congressional District. Democrats Rep. Eric Swalwell, State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett and Republican Hugh Bussell mostly spoke in generalities, while taking pains to avoid confrontation during their first candidate’s forum of the election season. The top two vote-getters in the June 3 primary will advance to the November general election.

Initially, there appeared to be very few differences between the two Democrats and the Republican who joined the race just prior to the filing deadline last March. All opposed fracking, supported a pathway for undocumented immigrants to achieve citizenship and backed campaign finance reform. However, it was the pressing concern of government surveillance that created some space between the candidates.

Bussell, the Alameda County Republican Party vice chair, uttered one of the night’s memorable sound bites when he referred to the belief, by some; the recent “Heartbleed” computer virus was related to the National Security Agency. “I’m not that quite paranoid, but if people are out to get you, it’s not really paranoia, is it?” said Bussell. When it comes to government surveillance of Americans Internet and cell phone use, Corbett vowed to protect privacy rights, as did Swalwell.

“We cannot, must not, sacrifice our privacy in favor of security,” said Swawell. “There is one vote on the NSA that was taken in Congress and that was to defund its phone collection program and I voted against funding that program. I stood for the rights of privacy.” However, Swalwell voted for an earlier bill allowing the government to view the Web histories of citizen without their knowledge.

[READ Swalwell Says He Stood for Privacy Rights; Record Says Otherwise.]

In what may become a major point of contention during this election, Corbett mentioned Swalwell’s previous vote, however, in vague terms. Similarly, Corbett attempted later to skewer Swalwell’s freshman status in Congress, saying she would not use it as an excuse for inaction. But, the hour-long forum was notable for its comity.

Raising the minimum wage is an issue that has pervading all levels of government. Swalwell said he supports President Obama’s plan to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10, but admitted the figure needs to be higher. Legislation Swalwell offered last year to allow small businesses to defer payroll taxes during the first year would also help boost wages, he said. Local municipalities, though, have been successful in raising the minimum wage on their own, said Corbett. Bussell, though, was less committal when it came to how much he would raise the minimum, other than taking a hands-off approach. “Employers want to pay what they can to keep [employees],” he said. Forcing higher wages may mean “some people will not be hired or lose their jobs," he said.

In the end, it was Bussell, the Republican with seemingly nothing to lose, who delivered the most poignant dig of the night while acknowledging his opponents' legal backgrounds. He asked, “Does Washington really need more lawyers?”

At Forum, Swalwell Says He ‘Stood for Privacy Rights,’ Record Says Otherwise

Ellen Corbett, Eric Swalwell
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Rep. Eric Swalwell said at a candidate’s forum Tuesday night in Castro Valley he voted against government intrusion into the digital records of Americans, but the assertion is false.

When the question of upholding certain privacy rights was posed, Swalwell said he voted on just one such bill since becoming a member of Congress last year.

“We cannot, must not, sacrifice our privacy in favor of security,” he said. “There is one vote on the N.S.A. that was taken in Congress and that was to defund its phone collection program and I voted against funding that program. I stood for the rights of privacy.” He added, “No law-abiding American should have their data blanketly collected.”

Swalwell is referring to his vote on an amendment offered by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) last July. Although, Swalwell voted for the amendment hoping to block the N.S.A.’s plans, it ultimately failed. However, this was not the only vote he took as a member of Congress pertaining to government infringement of privacy rights revealed last spring by Edward Snowden.

His challenger this June, State Majority Leader Ellen Corbett questioned the assertion, although vaguely. “I want to say there have been some votes in Congress very recently when all members of the Bay Area delegation voted against a bill that would have allowed for looking at people’s private records without subpoenas and I’m actually very concerned about that.”

In April 2013, Swalwell was the only member of the Bay Area Democratic Caucus to vote for legislation called the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) allowing the government to access users’ online activity, including social media sites and personal email without their knowledge. The bill was intended to help the government in the event of a national cyber attack, but privacy advocates said it lack protections for misuse. Although CISPA passed the House with Swalwell's help, it was never offered in the U.S. Senate.

During an era when more Americans, regardless of their ideological beliefs, are deeply concerned over the government’s spying on ordinary citizens, Swalwell’s uneven record on the issue is an enormous target for his challengers this June and the November general election.

In the past, Swalwell, also a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, has struggled to connect the dots between his vote for CISPA, allowing the types of warrantless government intrusion described by Snowden and his subsequent reversal months later as a defender of digital privacy.

On Tuesday night, he pretended the first vote never happened.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Rep. Swalwell Boasts No Other Freshman Dem Passed More Bills Than His One

Swalwell said he leads all freshman 
Democrats in bills passed with one.
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Offering fun facts and figures meant to add beef to his flimsy patty of work has been a hallmark of Rep. Eric Swalwell’s first term. In fact, he includes a running scoreboard on his congressional Web site boasting to have flown over 350,000 miles, attending 800 meetings in the district and holding 13 town hall meetings since January 2013. He offered another superfluous fact last Saturday in Alameda.

“I have passed more bills than any freshman Democrat in the Congress,” Swalwell told the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus. “It’s a divided Congress, but no other freshman Democrat has passed more bills than me. Now, only three others have passed a bill in Congress, but I am working to stand up for this community.”

Translation: Swalwell is currently in a four-way tie for most bills passed by rookie Democrats in the House with a grand total of one. President Obama signed legislation authored by Swalwell last month allowing donations to the Filipino typhoon relief fund be included on taxpayers’ 2013 returns.

Other freshman passing bills in the 113th Congress include Rep. Dennis Heck's (D-Wash.) Reverse Mortgage Stabilization Act of 2013 that deleted a period and added “and” to existing legislation, in addition, to a paragraph urging the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development to improve fiscal safety for mortgagees.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s (D-HI) Helping Heroes Fly Act allows expedited airport screening of severely injured and disabled veterans and Rep. Ann Kuster’s (D-N.H.) bill named the air traffic control center in Nashua, N.H. after Patricia Clark.

The uninspiring list of legislation is no surprise given the entire Congress in 2013 passed the least number of bills in U.S. history. Incidentally, Swalwell's predecessor, Pete Stark, also passed just one piece of legislation during his first term in 1973-1974.

When Given the Chance to Attack Hayashi, Wieckowski Demures

Bob Wieckowski, Mary Hayashi
STATE SENATE | 10TH DISTRICT | When the ball was teed up for Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski to knock out of the park, he instead, asked for an intentional walk. On Saturday, during its endorsement meeting, the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus asked Wieckowski, "What is your response to the latest scandals involving elected officials of Asian descent?"

The query is undoubtedly related to Wieckowski's opponent in the 10th State Senate District race, former Assemblymember Mary Hayashi and her infamous 2011 brush with the law. The impetus for the question, of course, is also State Sen. Leland Yee's recent F.B.I. indictment. But, Wieckowski didn't bite. Following the question, he paused a few seconds then feigned ignorance. “Well, I think it’s just Leland Yee. I don’t know of any others.”

Wieckowski said he knows Yee and often lobbied him for his vote on legislation. “I think it has brought shame to all of us," said Wieckowski. The Leland Yee question has been quite popular during recent candidate's forums. Most, like Wieckowski, have chosen to frame their response around what they believe is the root cause of Yee's crime--current campaign finance laws.

For that, Wieckowski offered for the group his legislation in the Assembly urging Congress to overturn the Citizens United case, along with another related to the recent U.S. Supreme Court case McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission, which removes aggregate limits on federal campaign contributions. “We’re all going to have to work together to build the esteem of the institution," he said of the State Legislature.

In the past, Hayashi's opponents have been wary of publicly denouncing her past legal troubles. Although Richard Valle decline to criticized Hayashi during public forums for the 2012 Alameda County supervisorial race, he was more willing to skewer her in private. Valle also received help from an outside group which paid for a mailer featuring the tagline, "There's Something about Mary." Ultimately Hayashi finished third to Valle.

Monday, April 14, 2014

East Bay Political Groups Give Hayward Mayoral Candidates the Cold Shoulder

HAYWARD | MAYOR | As more local political groups continue to shun Hayward mayoral candidates seeking their endorsement, it’s becoming clear the trio who voted to impose a five percent wage cut of city workers carry a torturous Scarlet Letter around town.

You can pick whichever letter signifies Councilmembers Barbara Halliday, Francisco Zermeno and Mark Salinas’ transgression against city workers after yet another group last Saturday declined to endorse any of the three mayoral candidates. This time it was the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus of Alameda County giving the big no thanks.

According to the campaign Web sites of each candidate, only Halliday possess any support from a local endorsing body. Her site lists the Hayward Mobilehome Owners Association as an endorser, along with Gays & Lesbians Organized for Betterment and Equality (GLOBE). The latter likely from a connection between the group and former Hayward Councilmember Kevin Dowling, who is involved in Halliday’s campaign.

Barbara Halliday, Mark Salinas, 
Francisco Zermeno
In fact, nearly every endorsing group has grilled the three over their vote last February harshly opposed by members of Service Employee Union International Local 1021. Saturday afternoon’s endorsement meeting in Alameda was no different with all three having their vote questioned. While Halliday and Salinas held firm to previous statements, Zermeno continued a softening of his stance against workers. Zermeno, on two occasions, described himself a loyal Democrat. One time, offering the group, “If you want a good Democrat, I am yours.”

Later, Zermeno told the caucus he has personally apologized for his vote to various union members and offered to speak to every member of the nearly 300 SEIU Local 1021 workers in Hayward, if needed. However, he maintains his vote was made to protect the city’s promises of retirement and health benefits to workers in the future. “Down the line we see trouble ahead," said Zermeno. "I needed to make sure that we want to be able to keep our promise."

Halliday again struck a similar chord. “We want to protect the benefits these workers have," said Halliday. "We want to protect good jobs with good benefits and if we continue down the path we were we would be risking going bankrupt.” She added, “The union would not agree to anything short of raises this year and no contributions, so impasse was declared.” Labor negotiators have refuted the characterization they were uncooperative, saying city management failed to engage the union at the bargaining table since last April.

Salinas told the group every labor group in Hayward since he was elected to the City Council in 2010 agreed to concessions, notably paying up to 17 percent towards the cost of their benefits. “Every labor group stepped up and hit that target,” Salinas told the group, except for SEIU Local 1021. He later charged the union with waiting for the last minute to negotiate. “There was no negotiation, no proposal and we made proposals that had minimum impact to paychecks.” But, the union didn’t want to do it, he said. And later when it came to backing one or more of the trio, the Asian Pacific American Caucus, like other political groups in the area, said neither did they and offered no endorsement.