Friday, June 27, 2014

Coliseum Authority Does Not Vote on A's Lease Extension After Surprising Oakland City Council Power Play

COLISEUM AUTHORITY | The Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority did not vote on a proposed 10-year lease scheduled for early Friday morning to keep the Athletics at their current location a following a move by Oakland City Council to bar its two members from participating. The absence of Councilmembers Larry Reid and Rebecca Kaplan, along with two other JPA members, who had previous engagements, meant the JPA failed to muster a quorum and therefore could not release details of the proposed lease Friday, nor register a vote.

The Authority was expected to approve the lease that would keep the A’s at O.co Coliseum while the team explores a new stadium in Oakland. However, the deal also needs the approval of the Oakland City Council and Alameda County Board of Supervisors. The JPA has scheduled another meeting for July 3 in hopes of bringing the lease deal back for consideration.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who also serves as chair of the Coliseum JPA called the Oakland City Council’s move frustrating and later added, “I am extremely, extremely annoyed and upset.”

Others on the JPA were equally upset with the Oakland City Council’s surprising move, which they say occurred during a special closed session meeting on Monday. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who along with Kaplan, worked negotiated the lease deal with the Athletics said in an interview, “I know the deal and it’s a good deal and it also allows the Raiders to build there. I know there’s a lot of people running for mayor (in Oakland). Maybe they’re mad because Rebecca and I did the deal. I don’t know.” When asked if he too was frustrated by Oakland City Hall, Haggerty said “I’m tempering my emotions. I’m not frustrated, I’m pissed off.”

Miley also hinted the two missing Oakland council members may have attending Friday’s meeting if not barred by their council colleagues. “I’m not saying they don’t attend because they didn’t want to attend, but because they were ordered to not attend.”

A City Hall source with knowledge of the closed session decision said the Oakland City Council’s vote is legally-binding and strictly forbids its two members on the JPA from attending Friday’s meeting. In addition, Kaplan’s office declined to comment.

In a joint statement from Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and City Council President Pat Kernighan released Friday afternoon, they said the proposed deal still needs work before it can be put before a vote. “This is an important and complex deal. Our shared work with our partners is to negotiate an agreement that benefits all sides and secures the A’s future in Oakland, while protecting the interests of Oakland residents and taxpayers,” said the statement.

“It was clear we needed more time to negotiate terms that will keep the team in Oakland and protect residents’ interests. Council President Pat Kernighan and Vice Mayor Larry Reid made multiple requests to JPA Chair Nate Miley to reschedule today’s JPA meeting. Our top priority is to ensure this deal is successful, and bringing it to a vote before it was ready would only delay a final agreement with the team.” The city council also met with Athletics representatives on Thursday, according to the statement, and described the talks as “positive and productive.”

However, the further postponement of action on the 10-year lease could have great implications for keeping the Athletics’ ownership and Major League Baseball happy, said Miley. He cited previous support from MLB Commissioner Bud Selig for Oakland as the impetus for bringing the Athletics and the JPA together in talks to build a stadium there and not San Jose as ownership had long desired. “I think Major League baseball wants to keep the A’s in Oakland,” said Miley. “By us not being able to vote on this vote today I really think that sends a chilling message, a bad message to Major League Baseball that is extremely disappointing.” Miley added today’s developments, on its own, could “bring the entire JPA structure crumbling down” in Oakland and Alameda County. In the past, the city’s sports franchise have criticized the JPA structure for being onerous and redundant.

Meanwhile, there were signs ill will between the Athletics ownership and the city and county had thawed considerably following the signing last year of a two-year extension allowing the A’s the play at the Coliseum. “I think the spirit at the table was good. (A’s co-owner) Lew Wolff and (Team President) Mike Crowley were very collegial and wanted to make sure that we could come to terms,” Haggerty said of the most recent negotiations with the team. “They gave a lot and I think they were just trying to show the fans that they wanted to stay in Oakland.” Haggerty then offered public apologies to both. “I think it’s an embarrassing moment for the JPA that we could not have a full board today to go ahead and make the vote.”

Further complicating the lease deal is the feeling by some it could inadvertently compel the Oakland Raiders to explore a new stadium elsewhere. A few public commenters in opposition of the lease deal slammed the Coliseum JPA Friday for possibly undermining the Raiders quest for a stadium in Oakland, while registering frustration for the long period of uncertainty fans for all of Oakland’s sports franchises have faced for over a decade. Alameda resident Brien Dixon told the JPA to “Stop being yo-yoed around and stop yo-yoing us, as well."

The JPA members disagree. “I think there is a lot of misinformation out there,” said Haggerty. “There is no time that any of us are trying to move forward with the A’s and not support the Raiders and in fact, it’s very much not true. I would love to see the Raiders stay.”

NOTE: Addition were made to the article after it was published, including comments from the Oakland City Council and a correction on the date of its closed session meeting.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Contaminated Soil Used to Fill Trench Halts Work on Oakland Army Base Project

Groundbreaking last November for the first 
phase of the Oakland Global project.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares 
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | A subcontractor doing work at the Oakland Army improperly filled a utility trench with approximately 20,000 cubic yards of untested soil left over by a former tenant and later found to be contaminated, city staff members said Tuesday. Urban Recycling Solutions, the property's former tenant, has ties to Councilmember Larry Reid and was accused last year of receiving a sweetheart deal allowing it to also accept industrial waste.

The cost of removing the significant amount of soil could be between $2-3 million, said Doug Cole of the city’s Office of Neighborhood Investment. However, overtures have already been made to the former tenant for bearing some of  the clean up costs, Cole added, along with the subcontractor who may have violated protocol by filling the trench without first testing the soil. The subcontractor involved is Morrow-Meadows Corporation of Redwood City. In the meantime, as owner of the property, the city may have front the cost of removal, said Cole.

In April, the Oakland Post reported news of the delay at the large-scale Army Base project backed by Oakland developer Phil Tagami. The report, however, only attributed the delay to substandard work on the utility corridor for underground wiring. It also reported the need for a larger concrete cap on the conduit. Cole added, Tuesday, the city is in disagreement with the Port of Oakland over the size of the concrete cap.

The potential delay for work on the joint trench could be one year, said Cole. John Monetta, the city’s project manager for the Oakland Army Base, however, said while work on the joint trench, for now, will come to a halt, the overall timetable for the project will not likely change.

News of the contaminated soil was not included in the report given Tuesday to the Oakland City Council Community and Economic Development Committee, but referenced in public comment by an Oakland resident. Councilmembers Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Reid were critical of its exclusion and urged Monetta bring such matters to the committee more promptly in the future.

“Twenty thousand yards of contaminated soil--wow,” said Reid following the explanation from city staff. Reid, though, has some ties to the former tenant, Urban Recycling Solutions. Last year, its owner, Tom Chasm, was accused of currying favor with Reid through City Hall insider Darrel Carey. The allegation asserted Chasm paid Carey $1,000 to lobby Reid to approve conditions that would allow the company to begin accepting industrial waste such as soil, concrete and asphalt. In return, they claimed Reid requested $50,000 toward his retirement, which Reid vehemently denied.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Khanna Asks Honda, Why Denounce Redskins, but not Indo American Mailer?

The PAC Working for Us sent two mailers
last month, above and below, that 
offered racial stereotypes against India.
CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | It was an especially steely comment as far as campaign press releases in mid-June go from the Ro Khanna campaign Tuesday morning. And the controversy he may need  to unseat Rep. Mike Honda could be race (if you can believe it).

Recall, shortly before the June primary, a political action committee calling itself "Working for Us" sent a mailer in opposition of Khanna saying, “Don’t let Ro Khanna outsource our jobs.” Another followed with the same theme. “Stop Ro Khanna from shipping American jobs overseas.” Khanna and other Indo American groups protested the loaded language of the mailers. “This is the crudest form of racially coded language,” Khanna would later write in letter deploring the mailers and urging Honda to renounce the ad. Honda did neither and PACs are groups independent of the campaigns they support or oppose.

On Monday, Honda issued support for the U.S. Patent Office’s decision last week to cancel trademark protections for the NFL’s Washington Redskins, a moniker many groups say is racially insensitive to American Indians. “It is now time for the Washington team to move forward in the process of developing a new name that is not disparaging to specific groups of people,” said Honda. “It is offensive to me that in 2014, we continue to have professional, collegiate and lower level sports teams that have names and mascots that are inappropriate. Words and names are powerful, and their impact cannot be underestimated.” Honda was one of 10 congressmembers in May 2013 who publicly called for the team owner to change its nickname.

Khanna’s campaign found more than a bit of hypocrisy in Honda’s support for one cause and not another. “To this day, Congressman Honda remains silent about the offensive ‘outsourcing’ attack launched by his close supporters and donors,” Khanna said in a statement Tuesday. “That it was sponsored by someone outside of his immediate campaign is no excuse for his continued silence. Racism anywhere deserves to be denounced — especially in our political process.”

And, then in one of the most hard-hitting social commentaries you will ever see in a campaign, especially in a race pitting two minorities, Khanna wondered, among other things, if Honda’s campaigns is really about winning at all costs.

“The question for Congressman Honda is why his outrage seems to be selective,” said Khanna. “Does he refuse to speak out against racist messages directed at the Indo American community because it isn’t worthy of his protection? Or is it because it was done in the furtherance of his campaign? The people of 17th District are awaiting an answer.”

Early Crop of San Leandro Mayoral Candidates Failing to Excite, Leaving Others to Contemplate a Run

The lack of quality mayoral candidates
in San Leandro leads some to suggest
Ellen Corbett, left, should run in the fall.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
SAN LEANDRO | MAYOR | When San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy said last month he would not seek re-election after just one term, it suddenly put the mayor’s race in play. Cassidy appeared headed for re-election in November and although his ill-mannered personality and chronic absenteeism from mayor's offie were huge negatives, Cassidy didn’t bring the city down. In fact, San Leandro’s economic recovery outpaced other neighboring cities and under his guidance earned a growing reputation as the East Bay’s newest hub for technology.

Four years ago, Cassidy came somewhat out of nowhere to become the first candidate to unseat an incumbent mayor in San Leandro. With Cassidy off the ballot in the fall, San Leandrans are struggling to find a suitable replacement. If you ask around, the early current field of prospective mayoral candidates is failing to capture the imagination of prospective supporters and donors.

In fact, this lack of exuberance is not entirely surprising. In recent years, San Leandro politics has suffered from a poor bench of prospective candidates to draw from whether it is for mayor or the City Council. Therefore, from this pool of choices, the first two candidates to enter the race are not even the most effective members of the City Council. Councilmembers Diana Souza and Pauline Cutter have already announced their intention to run. Both share a common trait of appearing uncertain during council deliberations. Although, Souza has fought back against Cassidy’s browbeating, Cutter is viewed as his only council ally, however, in doing so, often looking mousy and meek.

Councilmember Jim Prola's strong ties
to labor would make him a front runner
for mayor, but says he has no interest.
Furthermore, two other members of the City Council better suited for a promotion to mayor, say they have no interest. Councilmember Jim Prola would automatically be the front runner upon announcing, but he has maintained a stubborn aversion to the idea. Similarly, Councilmember Michael Gregory is termed out, but he may feel running for the East Bay Regional Park District board is a more fulfilling endeavor.

Even though, San Leandro has had a history of colorful mayoral candidates running campaigns based more on vanity than policy (think rapper Mo Wiley), Bal Theater owner Dan Dillman may fit this description, but he also has some good ideas and a flair for showmanship. Yet, their candidacies are not providing reason for San Leandro politicos to register full support.

With no future prospects for mayor on the horizon, whispers from the past are being bandied about with great frequency. It’s why former San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young is strongly thinking about running. From time to time, you hear Tony Santos’ name floated. The former mayor who lost to Cassidy in 2010 often appears coy about running, but he’s unlikely to run. Sometimes you even hear suggestions former San Leandro Councilmember Bob Glaze might be interested even though he’s been away from City Hall almost a decade.

The most interesting rumor deals with another former mayor, this time, Ellen Corbett. Although, she will be looking for a new job come December, going from the big pond that is Sacramento to San Leandro might, for her, feel like a huge step backward. However, with San Leandro on the upswing, Corbett in the mayor’s office would be a coup. A small city version of Jerry Brown returning to the East Bay to lead an Oakland renaissance a decade ago.

Either way, just like neighboring Oakland where the list of potential candidates is at 18, the bloated ballot denotes widespread dissatisfaction with the incumbent, but it also means no challenger has been able to gain strong traction. This leads to the next prospective candidate to enter the race and so on. This could happen in San Leandro, too, which like Oakland, employs ranked choice voting, the seemingly haphazard method of choosing its leaders. It's also a system that greatly fosters the belief among political dreamers that anything happen. Four years ago, underdogs Jean Quan and Stephen Cassidy only bolstered that idea.

Kaplan Controversy May Undermine Crucial Transportation Measure

Rebecca Kaplan with former aide, now
campaign manager Jason Overman
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
OAKLAND | MAYOR | Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan may have circumvented campaign finance rules when she paid staffer for her 2010 mayoral run from a expenditure committee set up for a local transportation measure. However, the appearance of impropriety could greatly undermine a second effort to pass a crucial countywide transportation measure known as Measure BB. The Oakland Tribune reported the use and shuttering of Kaplan’s committee on Sunday.

The article also notes some Oakland City Council members were ratcheting up pressure on Kaplan by threatening new rules that would highlight allegations she was skirting election laws. Records show Kaplan paid Jason Overman, her council communications spokesman and current mayoral campaign manager, received payments from the Measure F committee formed four years ago. Other mayoral campaign staffers who were paid from the committee accounts were mentioned in the report and claimed to have never worked for the measure. While on the micro level in Oakland, the Kaplan controversy will likely test supporters who often believe she is above reproach. But Kaplan’s “say it ain’t so” moment could also undermine the fate of a second stab by the county to pass a long-term and gigantic $8 billion transportation sales tax this fall.

Measure BB's predecessor lost by only
712 votes in November 2012.
Measure B1 failed by just 712 votes in 2012. There were many reasons for its demise. For one, Tea Party types in the Tri Valley were stoked, first during the primary by an independent congressional candidate with deep conservative roots, and then piggy-backed on by Eric Swalwell’s campaign to demonize the progressive Pete Stark. The scene led to just a single precinct in the entire Tri Valley to reach the two-thirds threshold. Fremont voters didn’t help either, but proponents later realized they didn’t run a very good campaign. It was severely underfunded and some local officials later complained their constituents didn’t have a firm grasp of exactly what local fruit the measure would produce for each city.

Earlier this year, representatives from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission told several city councils in Alameda County it had learned its lesson from two years ago. Voters would know exactly what they would be receiving for the sales tax hike and the campaign in the fall would benefit from greater funding. Promises now, but the Tribune article also touches upon the worry registered from Kaplan using a political committee tied to transportation and how it might undermine or even dissuade its passage in November.

The countywide transportation measure may be the most important issue on the ballot in Alameda County where the condition of roads and freeways is visibly treacherous to anyone. The region’s growth is already outpacing the current infrastructure even before normal wear and tear. Further evidence of its importance is born out of the fact, a second attempt came so soon after it barely lost in 2012. In this particular case, placing these type of measure on the ballot is no easy affair. Because the half-cent sales tax increase would bump some Alameda County cities over the two percent state limit for sales and use taxes, it needed a one-time waiver approved by the State Legislature. Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski successfully carried legislation in 2011, which ultimately wasn’t one-time since he had to return to Sacramento and ask for a second last year.

Several officials who worked on the campaign two years ago also told me the worry about Kaplan sullying the waters of funding for the Measure BB campaign is very real. Because the stakes are so high they are understandably apprehensive and tense about any outside issues possibly complicating their efforts. After all, they thought they had Measure B1 in the bag two years ago and somehow it failed.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Khanna Makes a Sly Opening Statement for Attracting Moderates, GOP Voters

CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | A Santa Clara County activist's praise for Ro Khanna's help in avoiding a newly built public library from becoming an embarrassing white elephant, may represent the campaign utilizing a bit of sleight of hand to attract Republican voters in November.

For some, the story of the Northside Library in Santa Clara is essentially rooted in anti-government rhetoric. Almost one year ago, the completed library sat idle as bureaucrats in Sacramento figured out how to fund its future operation. The library had previously used redevelopment funds for its construction, but that method of financing public projects had since gone by the wayside as part of Gov. Jerry Brown's bid to reorganize the state budget.

Kathy Watanabe, a local activist who pushed for the library's construction and its opening, wrote on Khanna's campaign site on Friday, "We were using redevelopment funds to help pay for the library’s construction, but the state was cinching down on their use as part of overreaching budget cuts. We stopped construction as requested, but the Foundation went into advocacy mode on behalf of the library," she wrote. "Our goal was to cut through the red tape that was holding our library hostage. After all, construction was already nearly completed. If we didn’t fight for it, the building would go to waste instead of being a resource for our community." According to Watanabe, Honda did not lend much support to aid the library-backers cause, but Khanna's campaign did.

It's important to note, the Northside Library issue nearly emboldened Republican Peter Kuo, a Santa Clara resident who lives near the library, to challenge Rep. Mike Honda in the 17th Congressional District. He, instead, chose to run for the 10th State Senate District and will face Democrat Bob Wieckowski in the fall.

Although many Democrats would lament any library sitting unused, there is a political dog whistle being blown here. The Northside Library issue not only implies an affront to children and their education, but screams government--locally or nationally--is broken. That typically isn't a progressive mantra. It may be a moderate's cry, but it is certainly emblazoned on every t-shirt being sold at your local conservative powwow.

Following Khanna's 21-point drubbing on June 3, the campaign desperately needs to figure out a new calculus for winning in November. Conservatives made up almost one-quarter of the voters earlier this month. However, accusations by Republican Vanila Singh and the Alameda County GOP that Khanna tried to manipulate the composition of the primary race with conservative ringers, bred deep dislike for his campaign. He has to be betting GOP voters will not view him as the interloper in conservative affairs that Singh continually asserted. Whether Khanna is the more palatable Democrat over the progressive Honda for Republicans might ignite by reminding them about the brand new library that local elected officials representing the status quo couldn't quite open for business.

Jim Oddie, Bonta's District Director, Announces Run for Alameda City Council

Jim Oddie
ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Earlier this month, East Bay Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski's district director ran for the Hayward City Council and barely lost. As far back as last year, Assemblymember Bill Quirk's former district director contemplated running for local office. But last week, Jim Oddie, Assemblymember Rob Bonta's district director in the 18th District officially announced his candidacy for the Alameda City Council.

Two seats on the council are open this fall, but Oddie is just the third confirmed candidate. Councilmember Stewart Chen is running for re-election after serving the last two years of Bonta's council term. Chen finished third in 2012. Meanwhile, Councilmember Lena Tam is termed out and is running for the area's seat on the BART Board of Directors. 

In addition to Oddie, former Alameda Councilmember Frank Matarrese is also a candidate. The top two vote-getters win seats on the five-person City Council

Oddie should benefit greatly from his boss's personal support along with his own history of advocacy for labor and, specifically, the island's formidable firefighters union. It's not Oddie's first flirtation with local government in the past six months. He was previously an unsuccessful applicant for appointment to a seat on the Alameda Healthcare District Board of Directors. 

Oakland is Leaving a Whole Lot of Money on the Table, says Grand Jury Report

OAKLAND | ALCO GRAND JURY | A new Alameda County Grand Jury report is questioning whether the City of Oakland and its police department are receiving all the revenue they're due from a long-term towing contract. In addition, the report also said the Oakland Fire Department failed to recoup more than $1.4 million in fire inspection fees due to a faulty billing and records system and understaffing.

The annual grand jury report released Monday includes several investigations that focused on the City of Oakland’s inability to conduct proper oversight of fiscal issues. Another investigation also faulted the struggling Oakland Unified School District for shoddy record keeping that inhibits it from conducting timely and accurate audits. The school district has been in state receivership for more than a decade following an emergency $100 million loan in 2003. The grand jury also questioned the negative effects of Oakland’s large number of charter schools on OUSD’s ability to receive adequate state funding for its public school students.

Alameda County grand jurors have routinely slammed Oakland city government for lax oversight in recent years, including harsh criticism of the city’s criminal investigation labs and an inability by the Oakland City Council to police itself regarding non-interference rules...


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Would Rep. Eric Swalwell Really Have Voted Against the Iraq War in 2002?

Rep. Eric Swalwell with an American 
soldier in Afghanistan.
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Although Ellen Corbett’s main argument that Rep. Eric Swalwell isn’t progressive enough for the 15th Congressional District failed to land her a place on the November ballot, there are signs recently that the conjecture stung him to the point of criticizing a war, which based upon his moderatate ideology, he likely would have backed.

Starting in late May, Swalwell seemed intent on showing his liberal constituents he was game for attacking, even belittling his House Republicans colleagues. Three videos posted by Swalwell’s office showed him tussling over parliamentary procedure at the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. It didn’t hurt that the incident revolved around climate change and, more specifically, the stubborn stance of some Republicans against its prevalence. Fighting against climate change, not denying it, is certainly a winning move for progressives in the 15th District as it is for many California moderate conservatives.

But, Swalwell went further this week when he attempted use the single most explosive issue for progressives over the past 12 years for political gain. That issue is, of course, the run-up and invasion of Iraq in late 2002 and 2003. In the last week, some Republican leaders have tried to rewrite history while urging for a return of troops to quell an insurgent uprising near Baghdad.

Mama Bear: Ellen Tauscher,
a moderate, represented nearly
the same district as Swalwell and
voted for the Iraq War.
Like the President, Swalwell doesn’t see a need to send troops back to Iraq and went a step further by criticizing the prudence of approving military action in October 2002. Swalwell added funding the war nearly 12 years ago was a mistake. Aside from the extreme benefit of hindsight and nevermind that Swalwell, himself, was barely of drinking age when Congress authorized military action in Iraq, but taking into accounts his limited record and pedigree, would Swalwell really have bucked the establishment over a decade ago?

Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee was famously the only member of Congress courageous enough to stand against the rising tide of war just days after 9/11. In a local historical context, Lee’s vote and its prescience is likely one of the greatest moments of leadership ever. However, Lee’s votes in 2001 and specifically against war in Iraq in 2012 was totally in line with her past and present progressive record along with representing the overwhelming majority of her district.

Based upon Swalwell’s moderate ideology, there is absolutely no indication he would have vote against military intervention in Iraq if he had served then, and with 9/11 still in the rear view mirror of the American memory. Recall, even Pete Stark, a peacenik of 1960s proportions voted for the original authorization in 2001. But, the best barometer for hypothetically measuring Swalwell against the past, you just need to use the voting record of his mentor, former Rep. Ellen Tauscher.

Tauscher was a strong supporter of the Iraq War while periodically drawing the ire of East Bay progressives for her willingness to play ball with the Bush administration. Tauscher voted for war in 2001 and again a year later. However, there were major differences in the landscape between the two votes. By late 2002, far more Democrats were willing to stick their neck out against war in Iraq than in 2001 when Lee had stood alone (Stark was one of them).

Notably, Tauscher's vote for the Iraq War was out of step with the entire liberal East Bay congressional caucus. We have already seen Swalwell show this willingness to veer from the party line on important issues such as privacy and unemployment benefits. In addition, Swalwell and Tauscher both share great support from the defense industry. When Tauscher left Congress, she was then appointed to the State Department under Hillary Clinton. In the early 2000s, Swalwell worked as an unpaid intern for Tauscher and much of his political identity appears to have been molded by his moderate former boss.

In fact, Swalwell already has propensity for waving the American flag and patting veterans on the back at every turn. There’s no doubt, the phony threat of a mushroom cloud over the U.S. would have elicited in Swalwell the same response witnessed over a decade ago. Furthermore, if sending troops back to Iraq sounds like a bad idea to Swalwell today, then why did he believe last year U.S. intervention in another Middle East quagmire in Syria would be a good one?

Joe Lacob: A Sterling Example of the Rich Stealing from the Poor in Alameda County

The amount of outstanding debt Warriors
owner Joe Lacob owes Alameda County is
almost the same as its fiscal budget shortfall.
ALAMEDA COUNTY | BUDGET | Starting next week, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will begin deliberations on a $2.8 billion fiscal budget. Over the past five years, charting the roller coaster of red ink at the county level has proven to be an accurate depiction of the overall depths of the Great Recession. Conversely, the estimated $67 million budget shortfall next year show just how far we have come. Although, Alameda County is still in the red, the exact figure represents the end of five long and devastating years for the poor, sick and old among us. In fact, the shortfall essentially resets the fiscal order of the county’s finance back to 2008, or before the bottom fell out of the local and national economy.

The Board of Supervisors may not get much credit, but the horrors of a $177 million shortfall just five years ago were plugged up with excruciating cuts to health care, welfare and jobs, but never was a complete collapse imminent. But, as tax revenues and the housing market begins to heat up, the Board of Supervisors will soon be figuring out how to close the ragged loose ends from the Great Recession while beginning to contemplate which programs should again be expanded or even created from scratch.

Alameda County is now just in the early stages of running on all fiscal gears. Just the fact that people are reading about budget-related news stories in mid-June and not March and April shows the perils of previous years are much less dire. Last year, the budget shortfall penciled out at $80 million. The last time the county deficit was this low was way back in 2007-08, when it stood at $52 million.

However, large numbers residents still count on the county for health care, employment opportunities and other forms of aid for quality of life issues. For one, the roads are badly in need of rehabilitation and reconstruction. A transportation sales tax returns to the November ballot that hopes to raise revenues for such an endeavor. But it also helps to acknowledge the basic functions of government not only rest with public officials, but with all of us. We all must do our part, yet some resist.

At a candidate’s forum two weeks ago for Oakland’s District 2 City Council race, Abel Guillen said this of the Golden State Warriors move to San Francisco. “I’m disappointed about the Warriors,” he said. “But don’t let the doors hit you on the way out.” The sentiment is definitely shared by many Oakland nationalists, but he should have added one caveat: before you go, pay the $62 million you owe on Oracle Arena.

Even though the team’s ownership group is contractually obligated to pay the balance of their debt, most local and county officials are almost certain the Warriors and owner Joe Lacob will never pay up. It’s helpful to note the county’s budget shortfall this year is almost the same amount as what Lacob owes them. It’s not hyperbole to suggest Lacob’s refusal to pay his debts should put him the rarefied air of the Donald Sterling’s of the world.

The Clippers owner also screwed over poor, minority tenants at one of his housing development and lost a pricey lawsuit for his transgression. Lacob’s outstanding tab also affects minorities, the poor and everyone else. All those gigantic pot holes bored into the streets in Alameda County amounts to serious wear and tear on your tires. When they begin to bald, how about telling the cashier at Big O Tires to send the bill to Joe Lacob?

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Blowing Hot Air into the Atmosphere

CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Climate change is a very real problem. Most won't deny it other than Republican members of Congress, it seems. In recent weeks, Rep. Eric Swalwell has used his position on the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology to take on climate deniers and obstructionists in the Republican Party.

However, the results have been a bit comical as the freshman struggles to make much ado about nothing in this particular case. During one subcommitee meeting last week, Swalwell unsuccessfully objected to Rep. Cynthia Lummis' (R-Wyo.) decision to waive the full reading of a bill. Lummis responded to Swalwell quizzically as if she had just met the first person who actually liked jury duty. She then asked another member to move for adjournment.

Last month at the same committee, Swalwell mocked his Republican colleagues for enabling the very small minority of scientists who deny the existence of man-made climate change. The diatribe is one of his best yet and almost conjures up the biting humor of his predecessor, Pete Stark. In fact, the clip is like a campaign commercial for his Republican November challenger Hugh Bussell.

CA-17 Twitter War: Yo Mama Is So Big She Lost The Election In Her Fat Roll

Ohhhh yeaaahh!
CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | A South Bay conservative leader's endorsement of Rep. Mike Honda may have been the impetus for a lengthy war of words between the communication directors of Honda’s campaign team and his counterpart on challenger Ro Khanna’s team—albeit in 140 characters or less.

Earlier in the day, Republican Jim Cunneen, who previously supported Honda’s primary opponent Vanila Singh, announced he is endorsing Honda, a Democrat, and urged other Republicans to do the same. Cunneen has some history with Honda. He challenged Honda for Congress in 2000 and served as President and CEO of the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The endorsement may not carry much sway in terms of prominence, but it could serve a message that Republicans in the 17th Congressional District might be shifting toward Honda rather than Khanna, also a Democrat. Following a 21-point primary loss, Khanna’s road to closing the deficit in November rests with building upon a base of Democrats along with moderate and conservatives.

Hours after the announcement Wednesday, the trash talking began on Twitter. The official Khanna campaign Twitter account responded to news of the endorsement tweeted by a San Jose alt weekly. But, Honda’s campaign communication director Vivek Kembaiyan chimed in touting Cunneen’s kind words for the congressman which set off Khanna's press secretary, Ty Law.

“By delivering, do you mean the post office @RepMikeHonda named? The only bill he has passed in 7 terms?” tweeted Law.

“ Shouldn't be hard for you to understand, you've basically said the same thing yourself,” said Kembaiyan, who attached video of Khanna in 2013 praising Honda for his work in Congress. Kembaiyan then referenced Honda’s accomplishments including $900 million in federal grants for the BART extension to San Jose. “I could go on…” he said.

“Be honest, @RepMikeHonda has one of the lightest records of any 14 yr member, ever. What now that earmarks are are gone?” Law shot back.

“Earmarks not the same as appropriations. Be honest yourself-stop distorting @mikehonda17’s record,” said Kembaiyan.

Oh yeah!

“If your team was confident in @RepMikeHonda’s record, you’d let him debate frequently. Period. No record to defend,” tweeted Law. Then came the political equivalent of yelling, “scoreboard!”

“Look at primary results: voters confident in @mikehonda17’s record. Keep up the drumbeat on debates tho, it’s a proven winner,” said Kembaiyan. The exchange continued until others from Khanna’s campaign piled on. “Re: spin, here’s you trying to explain @RepMikeHonda’s penchant for sleeping on the job,” tweeted another Khanna staffer along with a link to an older San Francisco Chronicle posting asserting Honda fell asleep for 20 seconds during a meeting.

In the old days, professional wrestlers had "Mean" Gene Okerlund to use as a medium for trash talking, now we have Twitter. “Whatcha gonna do…!”

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hayward Could Fill City Council Opening by Mid-July

Who will be appointed to Barbara 
Halliday's council seat now that she
is mayor-elect?
HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL | When the new Hayward City Council is sworn-in along with Mayor-elect Barbara Halliday next month, it will have an opportunity not afforded it since 2006—the responsibility of appointing a new member to its ranks.

Eight years ago, however, the moment was a sad occasion following the passing of long-time Councilmember Matt Jimenez just days after his re-election. This time it follows Halliday’s election to mayor earlier this month. Two years remain on Halliday’s current council term.

The decision over how to move forward with filling the seat will not occur until the new council convenes on July 8, said City Manager Fran David. She laid out two scenarios last week, including an appointment process similar to one used in 2006 to fill Jimenez's seat, or a special election in November. While merely appointing a new member will cost the city nothing, the price of a special election could be well over $200,000.

Councilmember Francisco Zermeno was one of the candidates who applied to fill Jimenez’s seat eight years ago and said last week he would support its use this time around. “It was transparent. It was done quick and it was done well,” he said. Zermeno did not win the appointment in 2006, but was elected to the council two years later. In fact, two additional members of the current council, Marvin Peixoto and Al Mendall, were also interviewed for the seat. The nod, instead, went to Doris Rodriguez, who had formerly served on the council and who served in a caretaker role for the next two years.

Under a short schedule recommended by city staff, the City Council will discuss the specific guideline for appointment on July 8 after the new council is seated. Presumably, the window for receiving applications would begin then and end by the July 15 meeting. A special meeting two days later on July 17 could be schedule to determine which applicants will be offered public interviews. On July 22, the candidates would be interviewed and potential selected and sworn-in that night, said David.

If a new member is not selected, a special election may or may not be permissible under the proposed schedule since election laws mandate public notice to occur 133 days before the next election, which is July 14. Compressing the selection process is also not an option since the Alameda County Registrar told the city the June 3 election will not be officially certified until July 8.

City Attorney Michael Lawson said the council could technically notice the intent to hold a November election before the July 14 deadline while continuing with the appointment process. If a replacement is chosen, the city could then rescind the notice.

While there may be uncertainty over how Halliday’s seat will be filled, there is a far greater sense over who might be interested. During last week’s meeting, Mendall acknowledged “we already know who might apply.”

They include Councilmember Mark Salinas, who did not run for his seat last month, but instead ran for mayor and lost. His term ends next month. Other unsuccessful candidates from the June 3 council election may also have interest, including Rocky Fernandez, who finished third; Julie McKillop, who placed fourth and Planning Commissioner Rodney Loche, who was fifth in the seven-person at-large race. Another planning commissioner, Elisa Marquez, could also be a candidate for the post.

In addition to Salinas, Loche's potential application could be favorable to the new council, according to some City Hall sources. Specifically, Loche's vote earlier this year on the planning commission opposing a specific proposal to develop the old Mervyn's property on Foothill Boulevard. The contentious issue could possibly return to the council in the next year. Loche's stance also dovetails with the opinion of at least half of the voting members of the council.

Oakland City Council Not On Board with Fossil Fuels Rolling Through

Activist before Tuesday's Oakland City
Council meeting in support of a 
resolution against transport of fossil fuels.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares 
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The Oakland City Council is thinking globally and acting locally. On Tuesday, it passed two resolutions hoping to do the city’s part in fighting back against the transport of fossil fuels through the East Bay and the companies that profit greatly from its sale and distribution.

In doing so, Oakland become the first city in the state to approve a resolution against the transfer of hazardous coal and oil exports by rail in the region. The legislation was offered by Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Lynette McElhaney and Rebecca Kaplan.

“Oakland is leading the way for Californians who want to tell Big Coal and Big Oil that we cannot bear the risk they impose upon on our town,” said McElhaney, who represents parts of West Oakland that have long suffered from industrial pollution near the Port of Oakland.

West Oakland activist and resident Margaret Gordon told the council Tuesday evening, “We do not need to have anything that will impact our community through coal dust.” In particular, activists say transportation of coal--often left uncovered on rail cars--allows large amounts of coal dust to be dispersed all along its route.

Admittedly, Oakland has no jurisdiction over the railways that snake around the city, but, McElhaney said Oakland needed to register concern over the increased use of rail to transport coal and oil through city and ultimately abroad to other nations that may not possess as stringent air quality regulations as the United States. “I don’t think this is an idle threat,” she added.

“Ten years of advocacy have cleaned our windowsills of diesel soot,” said Brian Beveridge, co-director at West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project. “We don't want replace it with coal dust.”

In fact, environmental groups all along the West Coast, like the Sierra Club, have issued strong opposition recently to a number of oil and coal export proposals, including at the Port of Oakland. Last April, the Sierra Club’s San Francisco Bay Area chapter raised concerns over one proposed use of the now vacant Howard Terminal site for the transportation of coal and petroleum coke. The Port ultimately rejected all long-term industrial uses for the property.

The council also passed a separate resolution urging the city to divest in publicly-traded fossil fuel companies. A city staff report says Oakland’s current portfolio has little or no investment in such companies, but the legislation authored by Councilmember Kalb also urges other public investment groups to do the same. They include, the Oakland Municipal Employees' Retirement System (OMERS), The Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) and the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPERS). “This is our effort to urge them to divest,” said Kalb, “and invest in socially responsible companies.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Assemblymember Quirk, Challenger Patino Misunderstanding Averted

ASSEMBLY | 20TH DISTRICT | Republican Jaime Patino thought he was making a statement of goodwill toward his November opponent in the days after the June 3 Primary. Patino, who finished a distant second to Assemblymember Bill Quirk, a Democrat, in the Hayward and Tri Cities 20th District, personally called Quirk’s campaign, but received no response. He then attempted to email them, but still no response.

Patino then got testy since all he wanted to do was congratulate Quirk on his victory and pledge a clean and issues-oriented fall campaign. Quirk, though, said he was not aware Patino or his campaign was trying to get a hold of him. Nonetheless, Quirk contacted Patino last week and agreed with Patino’s call for a lively, but respectful race.

Quirk won the three-person primary with 66 percent of the vote. Patino qualified for the top two contest with 23.3 percent, followed by Hayward school board member Luis Reynoso with 10.7 percent. Patino's campaign said Reynoso has already thrown his support to them for the November General Election.

However, the quest for comity was also urged by Patino during the spring. At the State Republican Party Convention last April in Burlingame, Patino repeatedly called Quirk a "good man,” but acknowledged significant differences in their political ideology. He also described an initial meeting earlier his year with Quirk when the first-term assembly member seemed surprised by Patino’s challenge to his seat. “What don’t you like about me?” Quirk asked him.

Nevertheless, the first-time candidate from Union City, has shown to be someone with a talent for biting rejoinders and pointed attacks. For instance, he acknowledged Quirk’s background in science by saying, “[Quirk] might be a rocket scientist, but when it comes to public policy, his ideas are way out of this orbit,” said Patino. Furthermore, following a candidate's forum in Fremont, Patino's campaign sent a press release speculating whether Quirk was receiving answers to question via an earpiece. But, Quirk sometimes uses a hearing aid.

Last week, Quirk also called Patino a “good man” and said he looked forward to meeting him at various candidate’s forums in the coming months. In the end, misunderstanding averted.

Debate, as in Singular, not Plural, says Honda’s Campaign

Rep. Mike Honda, Ro Khanna and Joel
Vanlandingham at a May 3 forum in Fremont.
CONGRESS | DISTRICT 17 | Ro Khanna reiterated his desire for five monthly debates from now to the November Election in a letter Tuesday to Rep. Mike Honda. However, there may only be one debate, if Honda’s campaign has its way.

"Congressman Honda has committed to participating in a debate before the general election, and we have not finalized the details yet," said Vivek Kembaiyan, the Honda campaign’s communication director.

Following the lone candidate’s forum on May 3--exactly one month from the June primary--Honda told reporters he would debate Khanna sometime in the fall. The same night, Khanna reacted to the news by suggesting five debates on specific issues confronting the 17th Congressional District. Honda’s acquiescence that night ended months of prodding by Khanna and some local newspapers who also called for debates between the two front runners.

But, during an endorsement meeting last month with the San Francisco Chronicle, when pressed on the issue of debates, Honda said, "At this time I will commit to some debates."

In the letter, Khanna’s campaign, though, voiced displeasure toward Honda over two prior attempts to negotiate logistics for the debates. “While I am encouraged that you have publicly committed to participate in debates in the general election, I am concerned that your team has not yet responded to our repeated efforts to arrange these important meetings,” wrote Khanna. “Ambassador Jeff Bleich from my campaign team has reached out to your campaign manager twice already but has received no response.”

In the weeks preceding the June primary, which Honda won by a 21-point margin, the campaign took on a distinctive negative tone, highlighted by personal attacks and one controversial mailer sent by an independent expenditure committee in favor of Honda. Though not connected to Honda's campaign, the mailer insinuated an unflattering Indian stereotype against Khanna, who is of Indian American descent.

“It’s clear that debates are needed to make certain that misinformation and false attacks don’t take over the general election in the same way that they did in the final weeks of the primary,” wrote Khanna. “Voters deserve better.”

NOTE: Additions were made to this article regarding Honda's comments in May to the Chronicle.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Swalwell: Don't Send Troops Back to Iraq, but Region could become 'Training Ground for Terrorism'

CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Rep. Eric Swalwell was critical of the U.S. exit strategy from Iraq during a radio appearance Friday morning, but did not advocate for sending ground troops to the region as Sunni insurgents threatened to move toward Baghdad.

“I think for me this illustrates bad decisions have consequences and going all the way back to the decision to rush into Iraq in 2003 without much of a plan for a future and then leaving Iraq without a security agreement in 2011," Swalwell told KGO's Ronn Owens. “This is exactly what we were afraid would happen. The country is literally unraveling right now.”

Swalwell later said allowing the insurgent group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) to overtake the region could be catastrophic to American interests. "It could allow that area to return to being a hot bed and training ground for terrorism," said Swalwell.

"The people who are trying to takeover Iraq are terrorists," he added. "The way they are doing this is in a way that is not in accordance with how your resolve disputes. They are doing it through violence; they’re doing through car bombs," he added.

However, when asked if the U.S. should send troops back to Iraq, Swalwell said, “I cannot envision a scenario where we would find any value over sending troops over there.” Over the weekend President Barack Obama said he will not send troops to Iraq, but evaluate several plans to support Iraqi soldiers, potentially with air support.

Anatomy of an Upset

Ellen Corbett loses by 413 votes.
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Just how big an upset did Hugh Bussell pull off last week? It’s hard to quantify since upsets normally entail winning something, but with the state’s top two primary system, second can be as good as first. Maybe the extremely low voter turnout during the June 3 primary was a major factor in State Sen. Ellen Corbett’s shocking third place finish to Rep. Eric Swalwell and Bussell, but other factors of her own doing may have hastened her early demise.

Even though Corbett was telling local officials and supporter of her desire to mount a challenge for the 15th Congressional District seat even before Swalwell, himself, upset Pete Stark in 2012, her campaign was slow in hitting its stride. Earlier this year, some East Bay politicos were grumbling why Corbett had no social media strategy, whatsoever. You can argue it actually never hit on all cylinders throughout the entire campaign. Even when Corbett had a major trump card over Swalwelll, she was indecisive about attacking him for his regrettable vote allowing government spying. Swalwell even obfuscated his vote on the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) to the point that he seemed to be denying that it even happened.

Yet, Corbett relented and the local corporate media looked the other way. In fact, Corbett had at least three public appearances where she could have poked holes in Swalwell’s candidacy in terms of his inexperience allowing the loss of voter’s privacy and the lengthening list of occasions when he lied through his teeth. Swalwell’s television ad asserting Corbett wasn’t doing her job in the Legislature likely did great damage and was never refuted as the single most dishonest commercial and/or mailer in the entire election. The entire commercial was lie followed by a smarmy, smart-alecky Swalwell doing his best Eddie Haskell impression.

Meanwhile, Corbett, instead, went the same route as Stark two years before, by arguing Swalwell was not liberal enough for the district. The strategy was not incorrect and Swalwell’s moderate ideology will become more problematic for progressives in the area in the future, but in itself, the moved lacked sizzle. And, guess what? Progressives appeared to have sat out this election and nearly three-fourths of the voters sided with either a moderate or conservative candidate. Even if she had advanced to the November election, it is likely Corbett could have employed a perfect campaign against Swalwell and still not defeat him. The power of incumbency is that strong and the only way one can possibly lose it is by his or her own hand. Yes, just like Stark did.

San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos used to call Corbett, his former City Council colleague, one of the luckiest politicians around. The description had nothing to do with her capabilities, but her electoral fate always seemed charmed. Well, it lasted until June 3 and the political pixie dust is now attached to Swalwell. He beat a 40-year incumbent by sheer luck and pluck and never had his immense deficiencies in experience and temperament exposed. Two years later, Swalwell is still robotic and as filled with Madison Avenue gimmickry as ever and the gods have again cleared away likely his strongest challenger ever from facing him in November. In June, no less!

Media is in Hot Pursuit of Jean Quan

OAKLAND | MAYOR | As an incumbent, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is constantly looking at her rearview mirror. With 18 potential challengers in hot pursuit this November, she might as well be driving a white Bronco. After a photograph of Quan was trumpeted by KRON two week, it seems every one of her enemies in Oakland have their cell phone cameras trained on the mayor. Every new occurrence seems to corroborate the last and bolster this new meme that not only is Quan bad for Oakland, she’s also literally dangerous.

However, what KRON and other local media outlets did last week was  a shameful hit piece that would have even made the San Francisco Chronicle’s Carla Marinucci blush. When news hit Quan was involved in a fender bender in Oakland, KRON, the Chronicle and the Bay Area News Group framed the news around potentially specious accounts of the accident. For KRON, it was a self-fulfilling prophecy after the station received so much attention for the “People Behaving Badly” story on Quan and her cell phone. When was the last time viewers paid attention to KRON? Last week, they appeared to have overreached in reporting an account biased toward the mayor is driving reckless yet again meme.

Even the top brass at the Chronicle tweeted unverified accounts who say they saw Quan run the red light while using her cell phone. Such shading on the story at the early outset seems a bit risky, since there was not yet a police report and Quan side of the story and the offering of phone records were not yet presented. But, these media outlets trudged on like early reports a generation ago that Muslims were indeed the bombers of the Oklahoma City bombings. They didn’t.

It turns out maybe the media accounts of Quan’s minor scofflaw last week mixed with latent anger toward Quan fueled these early eyewitness reports. After the hubbub just days before, Quan is involved in an accident, how else could this story evolve in the minds of onlookers than she must have been talking on the phone once again and plowed into an innocent motorist? When a massive tsunami slammed into Indonesia a few years ago, it seemed like every little ripple in the ocean was reported by the media. News bureau are more conscience of the major event and consumers of the news are more keyed into the fact. It’s like never knowing of Gruyere cheese before trying a slice and completely loving it. Before you know it, your taste buds are tuned to Gruyere cheese and it periodically enters your consciousness--be it a serendipitous article in a magazine at the dentist office or a stroll down the cheese aisle at Safeway.

This exonerates those at the scene of the accident, but the local media is still at fault for this irresponsible behavior. Not only is there a strong anti-Quan presence in newsrooms around the East Bay, but there appears to be a great deal of cluelessness to what a personal attack against her sounds like to difference ears. Without the facts pinned down, these news outlets proffered a story about a middle-aged Chinese American woman whose erratic driving constitutes a menace to society. When did this cease being a racist stereotype of Asian drivers? What if the same newspapers and television stations ran stories about witnesses insinuating Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid, who is black, wasn't attending council meetings and instead was seen eating fried chicken from Church’s in East Oakland? Residents would go nuts. In either case, it’s unfair and here’s the truth many female politicians will rarely admit: it’s hard running for office when you’re a woman. It’s even harder if you’re a female from a minority group.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Lamnin Leapfrogs Peixoto to Top Hayward Council Race; Both Win Seats

Sara Lamnin
HAYWARD | CITY COUNCIL | Community leader Sara Lamnin is now the top vote-getter in Hayward's City Council election after an update by the Alameda County registrar. Two spots on the council were available to the top two finishers. Lamnin, though, had trailed Councilmember Marvin Peixoto for the top spot since the June 3 election.

Both candidates will be sworn-in in coming weeks, but Lamnin's victory could be symbolic after being one of two labor-endorsed candidates who protested the current City Council's rigid stance earlier this year toward city employees.

Lamnin's lead is 116 votes and likely to stand since the Alameda County Registrar of Voters said Wednesday it has counted all its ballots. Incidentally, Lamnin's 4,895 votes is just 2 fewer than the winner of Hayward's mayoral race, Councilmember Barbara Halliday.

The new City Council will also be short one member after Councilmember Mark Salinas lost his bid for mayor while not seeking re-election to this council seat. Among the potential candidates for appointment to Halliday's last two years of her council term is Rocky Fernandez and Julie McKillop, both candidates from this June 3; Hayward Planning Commissioner Elisa Marquez; in addition, to Salinas.

City Council - Pick 2.....................VOTES....PCT
Precincts reporting 100%
Sara Lamnin................................4895..22.40%
Marvin Peixoto (I).........................4779..21.87%
Rocky Fernandez............................4226..19.34%
Julie McKillop.............................3546..16.23%
Rodney Loche...............................2459..11.21%
Ralph Farias, Jr...........................1083.. 4.96%
Phillip Gallegos............................774.. 3.54%
Write-in.....................................95.. 0.43%

Precincts reporting 100%
Barbara Halliday...........................4897..37.90%
Mark Salinas...............................4162..32.21%
Francisco Zermeno..........................2942..22.77%
Rakesh Kumar Christian......................871...6.74%

Corbett Now Trails Bussell by 323 Votes with Few Ballots Remaining

CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Since Election Day nine days ago, State Sen. Ellen Corbett has narrowly trailed Hugh Bussell for the chance to face Rep. Eric Swalwell in November. Following an update from the Alameda County Registar of Voters Wednesday, the difference is now just 323 votes. The totals lowered the spread by more than half. Previously, the difference was 721.

However, Alameda County reported all of its ballots have been counted and the small portion of Contra Costa County in the 15th Congressional District is not likely to close the slight spread between Corbett, a Democrat and Bussell, the low-funded Republican poised for a major upset.

The Bay Area News Group reported the Contra Costa County registrars plans to report its final tally on Friday. But, Corbett has consistently lagged far behind Bussell in Contra Costa County. Bussell currently holds over a 15-point lead over Corbett there, translating to a 1,371 advantage.

Although, Corbett's lead grew in Alameda County late Wednesday afternoon, her 1,048 lead may not be enough. 

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Oakland District 2 Council Candidates Offer Nuanced Positions on Public Safety

Abel Guillen
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | DISTRICT 2 | The way the five current candidates for Oakland’s District 2 City Council seat were talking inside the Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church you would think they were there for sanctuary from the violence outside on the streets. But, like every candidate’s forum for any race in Oakland this year and assuredly the rest of his year, public safety and quality of life issues highlighted the 90-minute forum last week. Residents of the district currently represented by Council President Pat Kernighan, who is retiring later this year, also worry about changes to their neighborhoods through gentrification and questions over the potential revamping of the public safety tax, Measure Y.

All of the candidates hoping to represent the district encompassing Chinatown, Grand Lake, Trestle Glen and San Antonio believe public safety is a prime concern for the city, but few proffered a distinct law and order flavor within their positions. Abel Guillen, the former 18th Assembly District runner up two years ago and current trustee for the Peralta Community College District touted a recent partnership with the Oakland Police Department and its colleges and called for a larger force that is “reflective of Oakland and its citizens.” Former KPIX-TV anchor Dana King said the city needs to improve its look and feel by cleaning up illegal dumping and graffiti. The current police force, she added, can only do enforcement at its current strength and few additional services for the community. She advocated for 900 officers, but admits doing so will take several years. Kevin Blackburn, a former small business owner who now works for the Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco, believes economic development will help curb violence in Oakland. More tax revenue will allow the city to hire more cops, he added. “Oakland is open to business and we’re closed to crime,” said Blackburn.

Dana King
Sokham Mao, a member of the Oakland Police Review Board, urged for a focus on changing Oakland PD’s organizational structure. “It’s not about being tough on crime,” said Mao, “but being smart on crime.” Andrew Park, a department administrator at UC Berkeley and community activist, also advocates for more police, but added, civic involvement between residents and police is missing. “A connection is what is needed in Oakland and public safety is a symptom of our lack of connection,” said Park.

To various degrees all the candidates said they would support maintaining minimum police staffing numbers included in Measure Y, which was passed in 2004, although the city has struggled to come close to the prescribed 802 officers. There is some
Andrew Park
disappointment around the accountability of Measure Y, but more cops are needed, said King. “Where we all live crime is not an abstract issue. We see it on our streets, we open our doors to it, we read about it in the paper, we see it on the news.” Like King, Park says voters might be hesitant to support a similar ballot measure in November, but the police department is too shorthanded and, at the very least, additional support will bring the “perception of safety” to Oakland. The best solution to crime prevention is jobs, added Blackburn, “People don’t want to be criminals. Criminal activity is a result of a loss of hope.” However, Blackburn also thinks the police force could function well with 700 cops. Mao, too, supports minimum staffing levels and said students graduating from high school in Oakland should be able to find gainful employment either on their own or through city, state and federal programs. Guillen also supports minimum staff, but the city and the police department are not using what they already have wisely. “Oakland has a bad habit of not following its laws,” said Guillen. There’s no reason for sworn officers to run Oakland Animal Services or hold a desk job a civilian could fill, he said.

Kevin Blackburn
With raising home prices and skyrocketing rents in San Francisco pushing more people across the bay, the fear of gentrification will be a major issue this fall. “Gentrification is a loaded words and it’s code. It makes us feel less than,” said King. We can have development without displacement, she said. “We have a city where people say, ‘I love Oakland for its diversity,’ and if we lose the people that make up the diversity of those neighborhoods in District 2, we’re going to lose the heart of Oakland.” Blackburn says the city’s housing stock is far too low and adding to the supply will also increase the tax base. He says he is somewhat supportive of exclusionary zoning policies, although he added it may not be the best solution right now for Oakland, but creating more housing should be the first steps toward funding affordable housing later. Park says he returned to Oakland seven years ago with his wife, both holding advanced degrees, “Are we gentrifiers? It’s really difficult to engage the topic,” he said, but the focus should be on struggling families and getting them help. Guillen wants more affordable housing particularly around transit-oriented developments. “Developers want to know whether they will have predictably regarding the zoning process,” said Guillen, while also alluding to the Lake Merritt BART station plan still awaiting approval by the Oakland City Council. “Look, everybody needs a place to live and we need to welcome newcomers wherever they come from. I think they add to the vibrancy of our community,” said Guillen. “At the same time, we need to make sure senior citizens and longtime residents do not get pushed out.”

Sokham Mao
On the city’s financial standing, Guillen said the budget situation is already improving. However, he advocated using some of the new resources to paying down the city’s debt and unfunded liabilities. That being said, city employees are not being "greedy" when it comes to their pensions, said Guillen, and high-level administrators are skewing the actual median pension earned by workers. “This isn’t something that is unique to Oakland,” he said. “This is an issue that is facing all of California.” King wants a strategy for paying down debt that residents can rally around. New streams of revenue are needed, too. One example, King offered, is the vacant Kaiser Convention Center, south of Lake Merritt. She said City Hall can no longer ask taxpayers for help. “Let’s do what Texas does. Let’s go out and get us some manufacturing,” said King. Park called for “shared sacrifice” to cure the debt and Mao urged for a strategic plan to tackle unfunded liabilities.

“We should have Nordstrom-type service at City Hall and what we have is Kmart service,” said Blackburn. He added the problem is not how many city employees, but what they are actually doing while on the clock. Said Blackburn: “I think what we need at City Hall is a cultural shift and a change in the attitude of how city workers do their job.”

With the Primary in the Rear Mirror, East Bay Campaigns Prepare for November

JUNE PRIMARY | ROUNDUP | Voters in the East Bay and across the state skipped the June primary in droves last week. In Alameda County, less than one-quarter of registered voters cast ballots in the election. The results also indicated that the primary voters in the East Bay were more conservative than in a typical November election. And so while much of the pre-election media coverage focused on intramural Democratic Party battles, often personally vicious, and, in other cases, devoid of truth and accuracy, Republican candidates snuck into the November general election. However, if the primary ballot failed to stoke excitement among East Bay liberals, the fall election offers intriguing races in Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro, not to mention a reboot of a countywide transportation tax measure that narrowly failed just two years ago....


June Primary Winners: The Eric Swalwell Era Begins

PHOTO/Shane Bond
ERIC SWALWELL His upset victory two years ago surprised many, but Swalwell’s longevity was in some question as State Sen. Ellen Corbett stood in his way for a second term in Congress. Without Corbett in the general, there is now no doubt Swalwell has a lock on the 15th Congressional District for as long as wishes. In addition, a challenger the likes of Corbett won’t be coming to face Swalwell anytime soon in the next decade. You can almost envision the list of palookas setting themselves to lose by 50 points in 2016, 2018 and beyond. Now, if he will only cease with the political gimmicks and attract some gravitas, we will all be better off even if his moderate ideology will always be troublesome to progressive just like it was for his mentor, Ellen Tauscher.

MIKE HONDA He did what he needed to do last week: not mimic the close contest and Election day storyline that propelled Pete Stark’s young challenger to victory in November. Honda’s 21-point romp over Ro Khanna effectively quelled any momentum from his fellow Democratic opponent. That’s impressive in itself since the local media was doing their best to hand Khanna the seat just like they did with Swalwell in 2012. Honda limited his unforced errors and failed to give voters on the fence or new ones the impetus to rethink their support for the incumbent. However, he’s not out of the woods, by no means. Khanna can still pulls this out, but he spent nearly $3 million while the June primary results amounts to Honda holding serve. Will Khanna’s impressive fundraising continue? It’s hard to say. Contributors want to back winners and they may not be so sure that their money won’t be wasted on the candidate who could again finish second in November.

HUGH BUSSELL What can you say about Bussell? He had no expectation, whatsoever, of finishing the top two to Swalwell and above Corbett. None! Yet a perfect storm of the incumbent’s rising popularity and an electorate who sat out the primary, will almost assuredly bring him a rematch in November with his Tri Valley neighbor, Swalwell. It’s hard to go against the guy who just benefited from a major local miracle, but Bussell has no chance in November. However, I have found him to be wonderfully self-effacing and someone with a wicked sense of humor. He’s skewered and mocked Swalwell a few times during forums and it should be entertaining to watch him burst Swalwell’s bubble a few times.

HEALTH CARE IN ALAMEDA COUNTY Voters passed the all-important Measure AA that reauthorizes a half-cent sales tax through 2033 passed with a 75 percent clip last week. There was really no reason why the measure should have not passed even for anti-tax advocates. Since it was passed in 2004, the former Measure A helped prop up the local health care system in Alameda County during the depths of the Great Recession and is positioning Alameda Health Systems as a credible player in the region along with other mega non-profits like Kaiser Permanente and Sutter Health. This measure desperately needed to be approved and voters came through for the struggling and poor among us.

SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS The profligate spending by special interests in the 16th Assembly District was truly sickening. Nearly $4 million was spent by independent expenditure committee for and against Tim Sbranti and Steve Glazer. It may seem like this should be a loss since neither took the top spot. Republican Catharine Baker did, but if California’s Jungle Primary continues to drive away voters rather than attract them, all this money poured into campaigns will be greatly amplified. Lost in all the news about spending in the 16th District is Sbranti, the second place finisher, struggled to build up his own fundraising apparatus. He won a slot in the November election on the backs of Big Labor’s money and great antipathy toward Glazer’s anti-BART union stance. Baker can make a strong argument that Sbranti is bought and paid for by the unions. In Hayward, Sara Lamnin finally grabbed a seat on the Hayward City Council. Similarly, it was the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 that pushed her over the finish line after the city took the drastic step of imposing a five percent wage cuts on city workers. Sometimes this works out, sometimes it doesn’t, but if you don't vote, these groups will be emboldened to think they can merely buy every race up and down the ballot.

MARVIN PEIXOTO Hayward Councilmember Marvin Peixoto is one of the few Portuguese American public officials left in the East Bay and his re-election literally came cheap. As someone of Portuguese descent, I’m allowed to perpetuate the stereotype of frugality among my people. Despite raising the ire of SEIU earlier this year, Peixoto escaped their cries to unseat him at any cost. He spent somewhere around 50 cents per vote to accomplish it. Among all candidates on the Hayward ballot last week, Peixoto was last in fundraising, yet he easily took one of top open seats on the council. In addition, Peixoto was the top vote-getter in Hayward’s at-large council race just like in 2010, although he is narrowly leading Sara Lamnin for the honor.