Wednesday, December 24, 2014

EBC Year-In-Review, Oct-Dec: Schaaf Wins; Surprise In Alameda; Protests Erupt

Libby Shaaf and Jerry Brown.
>>>Gov. Jerry Brown breaks the year-long logjam in the Oakland mayor’s race after he endorses Councilmember Libby Schaaf. The announcement will prove to be a difference maker. In the short-term , a poll in mid-October still shows Rebecca Kaplan topping the field.

>>>The long-awaited debate between Rep. Mike Honda and Ro Khanna is televised on NBC Bay Area. Khanna excels, but Honda also shows he still has a lot still left in the tank.

>>>Not a peep was heard in the 15th Assembly District race all year, then all hell breaks loose. A shocking Alameda County Democratic Party mailer slams Tony Thurmond on behalf of Elizabeth Echols (both are Democrats) and a mysterious independent expenditure committee backed by Big Oil unleashes a flood of mailers for Thurmond.

>>>An independent poll shows the race in the 17th Congressional has tightened up—a dead heat, in fact--with just weeks before Election Day. Late finance reports, though, show Ro Khanna’s campaign is running out of money

>>>In October alone, IEs for both Catharine Baker and Tim Sbranti in the 16th Assembly District will spend record amounts in mailers and television and radio spots played during the World Series.

>>>The Castro Valley school board gets national attention after it approves the purchase of a $14,000 espresso maker for its students. The approval was later rescinded, but with little remorse from some board members. The attention, however, topples a long-time incumbent.

>>>A day after a candidates forum in the 18th Assembly District, long-shot Republican David Erlich is admitted to the hospital. He will spend Election Day in the hospital after a string of bad health. Assemblymember Rob Bonta makes it worse by beating Erlich by 70 points on Election Day.

>>>About 10 days before Election Day, mid-tier Oakland mayoral candidates Joe Tuman, Bryan Parker and Courtney Ruby join forces. The results will show the trio performed a bit less than expected.

>>>Some suspect Peter Liu was certifiably insane. Others claimed his run for Oakland mayor was performance art. Who cares? Either way, Liu gets his 15 minutes of fame when late night host Jimmy Kimmel features him in his monologue.

>>>Libby Schaaf posts a dominating win on Election Day and unseat Mayor Jean Quan after just one-term. Rebecca Kaplan and Jean Quan finish a distant second and third. A mild surprise: Dan Siegel finishes fourth.

>>>In the 15th Assembly District, Catharine Baker beats Tim Sbranti and becomes the first Republican from the East Bay to serve in the Legislature since 2008.

Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer
>>>Another upset, this time in Alameda, as incumbent Mayor Marie Gilmore is upended by school board member Trish Spencer by just 120 votes. The result suggests the future of Alameda Point will come to the forefront in 2015.

>>>Rep. Mike Honda beats Ro Khanna by four points. During his victory speech, Honda makes it clear he intends to serve past 2016. Is a rematch in the cards?

>>>Pauline Cutter easily wins a three-way race to become San Leandro’s next mayor. The City Council also adds three new members—Corina Lopez, Lee Thomas and Deborah Cox.

>>>Voters in Oakland approves a measure raising the city’s minimum wage to $12.25 an hour starting next March. On top of the fight to push back the Domestic Awareness Center earlier this year, the measure’s passage is another feather in the post-Occupy Oakland cap.

>>>Protests in Oakland rage over the non-indictment of a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., who killed black teenager Michael Brown and later Eric Garner in New York City. The protests will spread to in the Bay Area to Berkeley and San Francisco and feature acts of disobedience and the shutting down of some freeways and BART.

>>>Ellen Corbett’s starts work for the Hayward Unified School District after losing out on a congressional bid last June and being termed out of the State Senate earlier in the month.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

EBC Year-In-Review, July-Sept: Whole Lot Of Garbage; Race To November Begins

Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday takes the
oath of office in July.
>>>Hayward’s Barbara Halliday is sworn-in as mayor. She will be the first of three female mayors elected in the Greater East Bay in 2014.

>>>Eighteen Hayward residents apply to fill the council seat left open by Halliday’s election to mayor, but Planning Commissioner Elisa Marquez is selected to serve the remaining two years of the term.

>>>During an entertaining Oakland City Council that featured speakers dressed as Colonel Sanders and the Burger King, a city ordinance gradually raising the minimum wage is defeated. It paves the way for the ballot measure boosting the minimum wage to $12.25 by March 2015 to move forward.

>>>Not without a significant amount of useless controversy, the Oakland Athletics will continue playing at O.co Coliseum for at least the next three years after a 10-year lease is approved by the Oakland City Council and Coliseum Authority Join Powers Authority.

>>>Rep. Barbara Lee says she “felt ashamed” of America after hearing testimony from undocumented immigrant children about their treatment in the U.S. after fleeing strife in their home countries. Meanwhile, Rep. Eric Swalwell is named the sixth most beautiful person in D.C.

Ro Khanna strolls to the right.
>>>Ro Khanna’s stark shift to the right reaches its nadir when he calls San Jose’s pension-busting Mayor Chuck Reed an  “American hero.”

>>>Oakland City Council candidates Abel Guillen and Jill Broadhurst come out the gate with strong campaign finance numbers, but District 6 candidate Michael Johnson makes up his lack of funding with a barrage of biting attacks on incumbent Councilmember Desley Brooks.

>>>San Leandro Councilmember Benny Lee inexplicably testifies before the Oakland City Council in favor of an Oakland garbage contract that puts a $2 million hole in his own city’s budget.

>>>Despite being one of the most notorious public officials in the East Bay, the Alameda Labor Council clears the field for Joel Young and tries to sneak through his endorsement. SEIU Local 1021, though, remembers Young’s betrayal two years hence and blocks it. Young still win re-election in November.

>>>Fair Political Practices Commission clears the Alameda County Democratic Committee of wrongdoing following a tip from one of its own elected committee members. The local party says the investigation cost it thousands of dollars and the growing antipathy toward the member who blew the whistle likely causes her husband a seat on the San Leandro City Council.

Dan Dillman, seated, and Pauline Cutter at
the first of just two forums in San Leandro.
>>>A moribund San Leandro mayor’s race is boosted by the candidacy of businessman Dan Dillman. Just months out of county jail for battering two sheriff’s deputies, the ebullient Dillman gets widespread notoriety. However, it won’t translate to the ballot box and San Leandro is faced with a real stinker of a mayoral election.

>>>Alameda County Democrats turn their back on BART board director Robert Raburn after his handling of the BART strike last year and endorse Alameda Councilmember Lena Tam for the job. It doesn't hurt him in November.

>>>San Leandro’s Benny Lee can rest easy. The Oakland City Council reaches a compromise with its garbage contract and San Leandro’s Davis Street Transfer Station will continue receiving trash from Oakland and cash from Waste Management.

>>>A San Jose alt-weekly thinks it has Rep. Mike Honda’s re-election up against the wall with allegations it pressured employees to coordinate work with the congressional staff. The allegations are a bit ho-hum and fail to solidify. 

>>>Jean Quan’s re-election campaign releases a hip-hop video featuring rapper Suga-T. Quan used the same gimmick in 2010.The Oakland police union quietly grumbles about the brief appearance of the department’s shield in the video.

Monday, December 22, 2014

EBC Year-In-Review, Apr-June: Dueling Negative Website; GOP Primary Surprises

Joe Tuman speaks to an audience at Laney
College in Oakland.
>>>The first major gathering of Oakland’s quickly growing mayoral field meet at Temple Sinai to discuss one issue—likely the most vexing of the campaign—public safety.

>>>With two months until Election Day, Hayward’s three major mayoral candidates meet in a public forum for the first time and dance around the issue of city employee relations. No easy task since all three, as members of the City Council, voted to impose a wage cut in recent months. In the meantime, the trio is shut out by all local endorsing groups.

>>>In a surprise, the California Labor Federation chooses to endorse Ellen Corbett over the incumbent Rep. Eric Swalwell in the June primary.

Rob Bonta not ordering Big Macs.
>>>Assemblymember Rob Bonta, Rep. Barbara Lee and other elected officials takeover a McDonald’s in downtown Oakland to highlight the plight of fast-food workers and wage theft.

>>>It’s hardly the most glowing endorsement of Hayward, but mayoral candidate Barbara Halliday reasons, at a candidate forum, the city will never be rich like Piedmont. Her opponents hit back at her lack of optimism.

>>>Swalwell, Corbett and the lone Republican in the CA15 race meet for the first time at a forum in Castro Valley. Not much happens, but Swalwell claims he has fought vigorously for privacy rights as a member of Congress, but his record says otherwise. However, the corporate media in the audience choose not to call him out on the lie.

>>>MugshotMary.com happened

>>>In a story which some in Oakland still believe another shoe will drop, news reports say undercover FBI agents who investigated Leland Yee in San Francisco, later visited Oakland Councilmembers Larry Reid and Lynette Gibson McElhaney.

>>>Fremont League of Women Voters forget to invite State Senate 10th District candidate Peter Kuo to its forum in late April. They profusely apologize, but the oversight doesn’t hamper the Republican’s surprising result in June.

Members of Fremont's Sikh community await
entrance to a highly-anticipated forum in CA17.
>>>Rep. Mike Honda and Ro Khanna faceoff for the first time at a jam-packed forum in Fremont. The encounter is virtually a stalemate other than the Republican Joel VanLandingham landing the occasion anti-establishment zinger against each Democrat.

>>>Public safety is the cornerstone of yet another Oakland mayoral forum, this one at Laney College. The event moderated by Oakland attorney John Burris is destined to be the most entertaining, thoughtful and memorable of any race in the entire East Bay this election cycle.

>>>San Leandro’s first term Mayor Stephen Cassidy surprisingly announces he will not seek re-election in the fall citing the realities of juggling work with his mayoral duties.

>>>BobProtectedRapists.com happened.

>>>An Alameda County candidate for auditor-controller is accused of using a fraudulent address in San Leandro and charged with six counts of voter fraud. She still garners a quarter of the vote in June and pleads to lesser charges in November.

>>>Does Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski have a sex tape floating around the capitol? Who knows? Maybe not even Wieckowski? Nevertheless, at a few endorsement interviews for the State Senate 10th District, Wieckowski asks if they know about his sexcapade.

With garbage as a backdrop, Rebecca Kaplan
announces her run for Oakland mayor.
>>>Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan officially enters the race for mayor and quickly shoots to the top of the already large pack of candidates.

>>>Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid hints he may soon be retiring. After nearly two decades on the City Council, Reid even goes as far as name-drop his daughter as a possible replacement. By the end of the year, Reid’s health is noticeably improved and most expect him to stay on through his current term ending in 2016.

>>>A true primary shocker: Republican no-name Hugh Bussell snags the second spot in the November election over Ellen Corbett. Rep. Mike Honda beats Ro Khanna by 21 points; Bob Wieckowski avoids meeting Mary Hayashi in the general; Republican Catharine Baker tops the field in the contentious 16th Assembly District along with Tim Sbranti.

>>>Barbara Halliday becomes the next mayor of Hayward. Councilmember Marvin Peixoto wins re-election and Sara Lamnin finally wins a seat on the City Council. The results, however, leaves Mark Salinas out in the cold as both an unsuccessful mayoral candidate and former councilman. He plots a return to power in 2016.

>>>The corporate media hounds Oakland Mayor Jean Quan after a video shows her talking on her smartphone while driving. Later, when Quan’s car is rear-ended, the frenzy continues with early reports insinuating she was again talking/texting while driving. It appears she was not.

>>>Rep. Mike Honda says there will be only one debate between the incumbent and Ro Khanna in the fall and he lives up to the pledge with a televised debate in October.

>>>The knives are already out for Rebecca Kaplan after a report details allegations she paid some current campaign staffers with fundraising from a previous committee set up for an Oakland transportation measure.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

EBC Year-In-Review, Jan-Mar: Primary Races Heat Up; DAC Is Dumped

Dan Siegel
>>>With Bryan Parker, Joe Tuman and Libby Schaaf already in the race, civil right attorney Dan Siegel announces his candidacy for Oakland mayor while pledging to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour and end the city’s proposed surveillance hub. The former soon to become a major electoral success for workers in the city.

>>>Ro Khanna challenges Rep. Mike Honda to four debates prior to the June Primary. It’s the beginning of a year-long debate mostly in the corporate media’s editorial pages over Honda’s reluctance to meet Khanna face-to-face.

>>>Rep. Eric Swalwell places a bet over on the San Francisco 49ers playoff game with a Republican representative from North Carolina in a lengthy YouTube video showcasing Swalwell’s acting skills, or, lack thereof.

>>>Rep. George Miller retires after four decades in Washington. 

>>>Oakland mayoral candidate says he will accept campaign donations in the form of the crypto-currency Bitcoin. The futuristic embrace doesn’t exactly help Bryan Parker's campaign when some in the tech community question his understanding of its usefulness for helping the poor in Oakland.

>>>Joe Tuman’s campaign for Oakland mayor releases a video in which he refers to the city as the “Detroit of the West.”

>>>Rep. Mike Honda’s campaign unearths a gem of a video showing Ro Khanna profusely praising the representative’s work in Congress almost two years prior.

>>>The early cash receipts in Oakland’s pivotal mayoral race are in: Bryan Parker leads with $140,000 in cash. Mayor Jean Quan, though, struggles to finish third just ahead of Libby Schaaf, whose $119,000 in donations stood as an impressive one-month haul to begin her campaign.

>>>Highlighting that the 15th Congressional District isn’t totally Swalwell Country, the Alameda County Democratic Party fell short of giving him their pre-endorsement for the June Primary race against Ellen Corbett. Swalwell, however, will have to pull significant strings to win the endorsement at the Democratic Convention in March.

This revelation likely upended Stewart Chen's 
re-election in November.
>>>It is revealed Alameda Councilmember Stewart Chen, up for re-election in fall, has a dirty secret. He was convicted two decades prior for insurance fraud, but never told anyone about it despite a long career in public service.

>>>With 100 days until the June Primary, a poll shows Rep. Mike Honda leading Ro Khanna by 19 points. The result will be prove prescient come the summer.

>>>Port of Oakland commissioners reject maritime uses for Howard Terminal, just north of Jack London Square, paving the way for the possibility of a downtown ballpark for the Oakland Athletics touted by a group of local businessmen.

>>>The Hayward City Council takes a Draconian step toward its city workers by imposing a five percent pay cut. Over 300 city employees have been on the job without a contract since April 2013. The union vows to make elected officials up for re-election in June pay for their decision. 

Deanna Santana
>>>Embattled Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana resigns her post. In recent months she was a finalist for the same job in Dallas and Phoenix. Her assistant, Fred Blackwell, is appointed to replace her with great fanfare, but weeks later, he too, will leave the city for a San Francisco non-profit. Henry Gardner becomes the interim city administrator through the end of the year.

>>>The daughter of one of Rep. Eric Swalwell’s biggest individual contributors snags a job in the congressman’s D.C. office.

>>>The controversial Domain Awareness Center, a high-tech surveillance hub originally proposed to protect the Port of Oakland from terrorist attacks, but ballooned into a city-wide proposal, returns to its initial purpose after the Oakland City Council approves limits on the center. This decision marks a major victory for privacy rights activists. 

>>>The National Journal places Rep. Mike Honda in a seven-way tie for the most liberal member of Congress in its annual rankings. However, among the Bay Area’s eight members of Congress, East Bay Rep. Eric Swalwell is the seventh least liberal.

>>>With the mystery of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 deepening, Swalwell seeks out the advice of American hero and Danville resident, Capt. Sully Sullenberger. Later, Swalwell passes his first bill.

>>>A Sacramento Superior Court judge shakes up the CA17 primary when he orders the removal of Vinesh Singh, a political unknown who happened to have the same surname as another Republican candidate some believed would pull votes away from Ro Khanna. Chhallenger Vanila Singh, however, suspects Khanna put up the other Singh into running.

>>>At an endorsement meeting for the Hayward Demos, Assemblymember Bill Quirk says the controversial Russell City Energy Center on the Hayward shoreline is “quite healthy,” despite constant concerns by the community that it is not. Quirk’s contention and connection to Calpine through campaign contributions, however, will not become an impediment to his re-election.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Report reveals Oakland Councilmember McElhaney's hypocrisy over gentrification

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | One thing is clear from the report in the East Bay Express Wednesday on Oakland Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney—her personal finances are in shambles and it’s affecting her role as a steward of the city.

In an area of Oakland racked by fears of gentrification, McElhaney has often employed rhetoric in opposition to rich entities moving into the West Oakland neighborhoods and pricing out current residents. But, according to a report in the Express, McElhaney’s housing non-profit has been flipping homes for profit. From the article:
Gibson McElhaney's house-flipping deals also contradict her claims that she's concerned about low-income Oakland residents being squeezed out of the housing market. The deals occurred at a time when soaring housing prices and rents have caused a crisis of affordability for many residents — a crisis made worse by shadowy investors, including those that Gibson McElhaney has done business with.
The instances may not be illegal, but likely to arouse cries of hypocrisy against McElhaney, who won the council seat in 2012. While she does not refute the allegations in the article, the report reveals the personal finance of her and her husband, along with the non-profit, are facing troubled times.

In addition, McElhaney still owes $17,000 to the IRS for unpaid taxes that was revealed after her election to the council. McElhaney later indicated the tax lien from 2006 was being taken care of, but it has not nearly two years after the pledge, according the Express. McElhaney’s husband is also in financial dire straits, said the report.

Furthermore, McElhaney told the Express one reason for the house-flipping strategy was to replace state and federal grants that had recently dried up. But, to make matters worse, McElhaney’s sister was also given a piece of the action with a fair amount of obfuscation offered to the paper over the link between the council member’s knowledge of her sibling’s involvement.

Keep in mind, McElhaney is still less than two years from her first re-election campaign, which is, politically, light years away from today and that’s about the only positive she can glean from this report.

Alameda welcomes a new mayor while the previous one skips the swearing-in

Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer takes the oath
of office Tuesday night. PHOTO/Steven Tavares
ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Alameda’s new Mayor Trish Spencer still can’t believe her good fortune and the outgoing mayor skipped out of the council chambers before the new mayor was sworn-in to replace her. The Alameda City Council also added two new members, Frank Matarrese and Jim Oddie, at a ceremony Tuesday evening.

Spencer, who upset the incumbent, Marie Gilmore, by a scant 120 votes, said her election last month is “another part of my life I didn’t see coming.” Spencer, who was an Alameda school board member, only pulled papers to run for the seat four days before the early August filing deadline. She rode a path to victory over frustration among Alamedans concerned about over-development on the Island and historically low voter turnout.

“We will do our best to meet our needs,” Spencer said of the new council, but before later adding, “We will do good work.” In fact, Spencer took the oath of office twice Tuesday night to allow an overflow crowd of supporters to witness the event. Each time she took the oath with young children. Afterward, Spencer said the inclusion of children during the oath symbolizes the city’s work is ultimately about the future.

Tuesday’s meeting also ended Gilmore’s four years in office. In her remarks, Gilmore acknowledged Alameda is changing, but urged for continuing the planned development of Alameda Point proposed under her leadership. “Change is never, ever easy,” said Gilmore, “Even when it’s good change.”

However, during a brief recess between the regularly scheduled council meeting and the swearing-in ceremony, Gilmore and her husband, ESPN college football analyst, Rod Gilmore, exited the proceedings and again highlighted the frostiness during and following the November election from Gilmore toward Spencer.

Tuesday also marked the return of Matarrese to the City Council. Matarrese served two terms before unsuccessfully running for mayor in 2010. “Life doesn’t give you many second chances,” he said. “and I will not waste this one.” Oddie, who won the second open seat on the council last month, signaled a desire to seek common ground with his colleagues on a council potentially divided, at least, on the issue of development.

With two new members taking the oath, two others ended their terms. Lena Tam wrapped up two terms on the City Council, along with Stewart Chen, who failed to win re-election after serving the final two years of former Councilmember Rob Bonta’s term. “It was a good run,” said Chen who finished third last month in a race with two open seats. Chen thanked supporters and notably, his critics.

“The process made me a better person,” said Chen, whose campaign was likely undermined by a report earlier this year highlighting a never-disclosed charge of insurance fraud two decades ago. “We make mistakes,” he said, “but I’m a better person than before or even 20 years ago.”

The Alameda City Council will get back to work in January. In addition, as the highest vote-getter in the November election, the council unanimously selected Matarrese as vice mayor.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Doris Rodriquez, former Hayward councilmember, civic leader, dies

Doris Rodriquez
HAYWARD | Former Hayward Councilmember Doris Rodriquez, known for her wit and collaborative spirit, died last Sunday after a brief illness. She was 86.

Rodriquez served two terms on the Hayward City Council after an appointment to the council in 1991. Rodriquez, subsequently, won three full terms starting in 1992.

In 2006, she returned to the dais after being appointed to fill the last two years of Councilmember Matt Jimenez's term following his passing.

Many of the changes in Hayward over the past few years, such as the push to revitalize the downtown area, the Hayward Loop, the Highway 92/Interstate 880 interchange contain Rodriquez's footprint, along with the push for a new Hayward Library.

Even after her retirement from politics, Rodriquez still held sway at City Hall and served on numerous boards in Hayward, said former Hayward Councilmember Kevin Dowling.

"Doris was one of these people who brought everybody together," said Dowling. While many of the former council members moved on, he added. Rodriquez's opinion was often sought by others in the community. "People knew she took things seriously and she was fun to be around."

Black elected officials, faith leaders to hold town hall on police relations

ALAMEDA COUNTY | Aside from Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks’ remarks regarding racism last week, many of the region’s elected black officials have stood in the background as protesters demonstrate on the streets of Oakland and Berkeley on almost a daily basis following national attention on police brutality against blacks. This may be changing.

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson is leading an effort to allow members of the community to vent their frustrations following non-indictments against white police officers who killed black men alleged of crimes in Ferguson, Mo. and New York City. Cases of police brutality have also occurred in the Bay Area over the years adding a strong local link to the anger felt all over the country.

Members of the public can participate in the town hall this Wednesday being called “A community meeting with elected officials and community leaders on solving the strained relationship between law enforcement and our communities.”

The event is Dec. 17 and begins at 7 p.m. at Beebe Memorial Cathedral, 3900 Telegraph Ave, Oakland.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Ellen Corbett's next step is improving education in Hayward

Hayward schools get a boost from the addition
of Ellen Corbett.
HAYWARD | Ellen Corbett's near future will be with the Hayward Unified School District. The termed out former State Senate majority leader accepted a position last week within the school district's administration.

The announcement ends speculation as to what would be Corbett's next career move following her tenure in Sacramento.

Corbett new role as Hayward Unified's director of institutional advancement will entail advising the district on legislative matters and procuring state grants, along with fundraising, among other duties, she said Monday evening.

"It's a good fit for me," said Corbett, whose first day was last Friday."I believe the most important thing we did in the State Senate was our work in education."

This is not Corbett's first foray in education in Hayward. Before she was elected to the State Assembly in the late 1990s, Corbett taught government at Chabot College.

Earlier this month, Corbett ended eight years in the State Senate after unsuccessfully running for the 15th Congressional District seat last June.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Labor leads compromise pushing bullhook ban in Oakland to 2017

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The use of bullhooks and other implements for controlling circus elephants will be banned in Oakland starting in late 2017 after city councilmembers reached a compromise agreement to phase-in the prohibition rather than the beginning of next year. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan offered the amendment after labor leaders reached an agreement with the operator that it would not pull the circus out of town within the next three years.

The ordinance passed, 5-2, with Councilmembers Larry Reid and Desley Brooks voting no and Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney abstaining.

Hours of testimony on the issue Tuesday night followed a similarly contentious public safety committee meeting a week ago. On both occasions, a vast majority of the speakers supported the ban on the bullhook — a fire-poker like device with a metal point and hook attached to one end, the use of which, critics say, amounts to torture.

“If you stop and think about it — it is cruelty — and it’s a sign of our values,” said Councilmember Noel Gallo, who, along with Councilmember Dan Kalb, sponsored the legislation, which originally sought to ban the bullhook immediately. “This issue is about banning the bullhook. We didn’t want to ban the circus. That was his choice and his argument,” Gallo added, referencing threats made by representatives of Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.


Desley Brooks' amazing speech on race in Oakland; need for civil disobedience

Desley Brooks: "Our city has been torn up
by angry, young white people, but that’s
not the perception that goes out.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Councilmember Desley Brooks can sometimes confound even her strongest supporters with a propensity toward inflammatory and in-your-face remarks, but when she is on, few in Oakland speak with more passion and clarity than the East Oakland council representative.

While introducing a resolution calling on authorities in Ferguson, Mo. to file charges against the police officer who killed teenager Michael Brown, Brooks launched a charged screed against the hypocrisy in Oakland toward the killing of black people before urging the community to eschew violent protests in favor of acts of civil disobedience such as the Black Friday shut down of the West Oakland BART station. Below are her remarks during Tuesday's City Council meeting:
Racism is alive and well in the United States. And we talk about a justice system—and it isn’t simply the justice system—it’s the education system. It is so many systems in this country that are denying people an opportunity in equal opportunity that looks at them because of the color of their skin and makes decisions. It is a fallacy for us to believe that the criminal justice system is the only system that’s not working here. It is a fallacy. There are too many things that have gone wrong. Black lives matter. And today I’m talking about black lives, not just all lives, I’m talking about black lives. Because we are dying in too many numbers to make any sense. And it isn’t just when we talk about the end point of people dying and we go back to business as usual or we don’t speak up until tonight when injustice has been done on a regular basis in this country. You know, we had an opportunity to get out in front to talk about this issue, but we gotten into a society that says that if you talk about race, that you’re pulling the race card. We are so politically-correct. Black lives matter.  
We are dying in this country and people go on as business as usual when we die. And I’m not talking about when black on black crime happens because they are not charged people who are killing people in the streets with protecting us and that’s the difference. And every time we raise that as an issue and act like it’s a justification, we do a disservice to our communities. Black lives matter. We have an obligation to address the race issue in this country and in this city because racism isn’t just alive and well in the United States, it’s alive and well in Oakland. And we would be lying and not talking about the real elephant in the room if we fail to acknowledge the racism that exists right here. 
When I watch the news media talk about the protest and make it seem as if black people are out tearing up our city, when we know and the chief knows that 80 percent of the people who have been out there since Oscar Grant have been white tearing up our city, but we will allow it to be put out over and over again that the destruction is being done by black people. I’m not saying that there aren’t any black people out there tearing up the city, but let’s talk about the real issues and put the real issues on the table. Our city has been torn up by angry, young white people, but that’s not the perception that goes out. We can talk about the killing of people on a daily basis when they have no hope or opportunity in their communities. And yet, it’s okay, we’ll come out and talk about elephants, we’ll come out and talk about the zoo, we’ll come out and talk about everything but—everything but—when do our lives matter?
Later Brooks called for “real reform” at the police department and “reform in the systemic system that makes sure black and brown lives don’t matter.”

She also lauded the effort last month by protesters who chained themselves to BART trains in West Oakland as opposed to the recent street protests that have often been highlighted by violence and broken windows. “We need to teach our children the difference between protest and civil disobedience,” said Brooks.

“I would encourage all those who believe that something is wrong with this system to go out and to take part in civil disobedience—shake it up, make a difference in this community—because we all have an obligation."

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

New San Leandro council members hail city's promising future

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | Upon receiving the oath of office from former San Leandro Mayor Ellen Corbett, Mayor-elect Pauline Russo Cutter said she is enthusiastic about her new job. "I'm just as excited as I was 17 years ago," she told a packed City Council chambers Monday night to witness her swearing-in, along with three other new members.

Cutter, who beat two challengers last month, takes over for Stephen Cassidy. However, Cutter and new Councilmembers Deborah Cox, Lee Thomas and Corina Lopez, will not officially take office until New Year's Day.

In her brief comments, Cutter urged members of the community to "come back and share their ideas" for improving the city many consider an up-and-coming tech hub. "We're all in this together," she added. At the conclusion of Cutter's remarks, one of her mayoral opponents, Dan Dillman, in fact, gave her a standing ovation.

The city's rosy outlook was mirrored by the new council members, who collectively represent the largest turnover of members in the city's history. "I'm truly looking forward to the future we have in San Leandro," said Cox, who defeated three other candidates for the District 1 seat.

Thomas, who replaces termed out Councilmember Diana Souza in District 3, thanked his wife and added, "Let's make great things happen."

Meanwhile, Lopez, who won the District 5 seat left open by Cutter's run for mayor, told supporters she loved them and offered, "We are going to accomplish a lot of great things."

Hip-Hop icon Russell Simmons supports Oakland’s proposed bullhook ban

Russell Simmons is urging the Oakland City
Council to ban the bullhook.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | PETA, long known for connecting the entertainment world to its advocacy for better animal treatment, is upping the ante in advance of Tuesday night’s proposed ban on the bullhook before the Oakland City Council.

Hip-hop icon Russell Simmons weighed-in on Oakland’s proposed ban on the hooked and pointed tool used to control circus elephants.

"I've been fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe elephants in their natural habitat in South Africa. The magnificent animals I encountered weren't performing headstands or standing on tubs like they do at the circus, where they're routinely beaten with bullhooks,” Simmons said in a press release Tuesday. “Instead, they were tending to their young, running free, and living in peace. I urge the Oakland City Council to ban this weapon that causes elephants such immense suffering."

Others like Davey Havok of the musical group AFI and a former Oakland Raider, David Carter, also offered support.

Oakland’s proposed ordinance, co-authored by Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Dan Kalb, would prohibit the use of bullhooks by circuses performing in Oakland. The parent company of Ringling Bros., Barnum & Bailey Circus, however, says the ordinance effectively means their traveling company and other acts they own, such as the motor cross, monster trucks and Disney on Ice, in the future, will not come to Oakland.

Monday, December 8, 2014

San Leandro to swear-in four new City Council members

Mayor-elect Pauline Cutter will be sworn-in
Monday, but won't assume office until Jan. 1.
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | The largest class of new San Leandro council members in the city’s history will be sworn-in during a special meeting Monday night.

Four of the seven seats on the City Council will have new members. In addition, to Mayor-elect Pauline Russo Cutter, new council members Deborah Cox (District 1), Lee Thomas (District 3) and Corina Lopez (District 5) will take the oath of office at the San Leandro City Council chambers.

But, despite the swearing-in ceremony, the new members won’t assume office until Jan. 1, 2015, according to the City Charter.

Meanwhile, Mayor Stephen Cassidy, who did not run for re-election last November, wraps up his final month in office. The council will also bid farewell to a pair of two-term members, Michael Gregory and Diana Souza.

During safety walk to highlight prostitution on International Blvd; Quan mistakenly hops into a stranger's car

Volunteers walk the streets on International Boulevard in Oakland, Dec. 5, to highlight public safety.
Mayor Jean Quan's difficulties with personal
transportation continued Friday night.
OAKLAND | Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo couldn’t help cracking wise.

During a neighborhood safety walk he led last Friday evening on International Boulevard--also attended by Mayor Jean Quan--to highlight and deter criminal activity in his district, the out-going mayor mistook a car that pulled up beside the group for her own and got in.

Many in the large group walking International Boulevard watched quizzically as Quan approached the beaten down Toyota Corolla with a cracked windshield and hood badly oxidized by the weather and hopped in.

The driver and two passengers seated in the back seemed equally perplexed as to why a stranger was sitting in their vehicle. In fact, it was not readily apparent to Quan that she was in the wrong car for between 45 seconds and a minute before exiting.

When it became clear to onlookers that Quan had indeed entered the wrong vehicle, the group roared with laughter. One person joked, “There’s goes another missed YouTube moment."

Quan, though, seemed visibly embarrassed as she returned to the sidewalk and walked away with the correct driver in the opposite direction, but not before Gallo loudly blurted out within feet of the mayor and her husband, “Ahhhhhhhh! She got in the car like she was hustling!”

Friday, December 5, 2014

Oakland City Council will decide whether to ban the bullhook at circus next week

An elephant trainer holding a bullhook.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | One year after the Oakland City Council passed a watered down ordinance regulating the safety of circus performances in the city, a proposed new law would go further by banning the use of bullhooks and other implements used for controlling elephants. The proposed ordinance is headed for discussion to the full council later this month.

The proposed ordinance, passed the Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee on Tuesday night, is far more strict than one introduced late last year by Councilmember Libby Schaaf, which fell short of banning the bullhook. Animal activists say the tool, essentially a stick with a small hook and point attached to the end, wields unnecessary fear in elephants and constitutes torture.

But representatives from Feld Entertainment, which owns Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey Circus, among other properties that use the Oakland Coliseum complex for performances, are threatening to drop Oakland from their touring schedule if the ban of bullhook is approved. Feld Entertainment also brings motor-cross and monster truck events to the Coliseum, along with various Disney on Ice productions. City staff said the Coliseum complex, which is jointly operated by the city and Alameda County, could lose up to $1.4 million in revenue if Feld Entertainment were to pull out of Oakland.


How Libby Schaaf got her groove back and became Oakland's next mayor

Oakland Mayor-elect Libby Schaaf
OAKLAND | Sometime in August, Libby Schaaf found her groove. With less than three months before Election Day, Schaaf’s hardworking, technically advanced campaign had not yet found its voice. Late in the summer, The New York Times had a delivered a blow to Schaaf’s populist rhetoric when it described her as the candidate who “speaks to the city’s wealthy old guard, in leafy Oakland Hills.”

Sure, Schaaf’s “Made in Oakland” tagline was there from the start, but for some voters the real question was, which Oakland? The more affluent hills, or the rugged, overachieving flatlands?

The answer, ultimately, was both.

One August afternoon, following an outdoor luncheon in East Oakland, the infectious beat of the popular line-dancing track, “Cupid Shuffle” blared, “To the right. To the right. To the left.” Schaaf had been schooled on the dance’s intricate moves by her campaign manager Peggy Moore. “She picked it up real quick,” Moore said. Video of the dance showing that Schaaf had, indeed, mastered its moves, was uploaded to social media. Weeks later, the campaign released a campaign commercial with Schaaf interacting with Oakland residents and business owners—standard for most political ads—but with the off-beat ending of the narrator saying, “Because it’s hella time for leadership in Oakland.” It was also around this time that Schaaf began letting her hair down in public appearances and photos.


Alamedans showed election indeed have consequences

Mayor Marie Gilmore: one and done.
ALAMEDA | MAYOR | Alameda Mayor-elect Trish Spencer was discussing her victory. “Do you really know why I ran?” she asked. “Because nobody else did.”

And so, with the simplest of intentions, began one of the biggest electoral upsets in the entire East Bay. Spencer, a long-time school board member, filed paperwork to face incumbent Mayor Marie Gilmore on Aug. 4—just four days before the filing deadline. Three months to the date—on Election Day—the mother of four and seven-year cancer survivor had upended Alameda’s power structure by the slimmest of margins and possibly begun to lead a great deviation from the city’s current course for development on the Island.

In terms of political seismic shocks, the temblor that hit Alameda on Election Day was significant. In just a single election, the city’s clear path toward a pro-development policy at Alameda Point and other projects around the island slammed into political reality. Alameda voters are, indeed, skeptical of City Hall’s development plans at Alameda Point because of its potential, in part, to further clog traffic and change the character of the city. In its wake, the election left Mayor Marie Gilmore out of office after one term and Councilmember Stewart Chen on the outside looking in after just two years in office. Alamedans’ hunger for throwing the bums out this election cycle seemed to extend down the ballot to races not clearly connected to development, but to candidates representing the status quo. Long-time school board member Mike McMahon lost his seat, and termed-out Alameda Councilmember Lena Tam fell well short in her bid to defeat incumbent BART Board Director Robert Raburn.

But, no other race result defied conventional wisdom like Spencer’s upset of Gilmore by barely more than 100 votes. “Regular people like me can only do this with people at the grassroots,” said Spencer, a member of the Alameda school board since 2008. Greatly out-funded by Gilmore, who also possessed the endorsement of the powerful firefighters’ union and its own campaign largesse, Spencer spent only $9,000 on her campaign. That meant costly direct-mail pieces to voters were not within the budget. In fact, the only public presence that Spencer had in the race were some gorgeous dark green lawn signs strategically placed around Alameda. Spencer’s low-budget campaign strategy, including eschewing political consultants altogether, had worked for her in previous school board elections. In the much higher–stakes campaign for mayor, Spencer’s no-frills approach was part of her campaign’s charm in an era of expensive political contests even at the small-town level. For instance, shortly before the county registrar finished counting the ballot last month and it became clear Spencer had pulled off the upset, she asked this reporter, “What do I do after I win? Send a press release announcing I won?”


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Bonta chosen to lead two Assembly committees; Quirk to chair public safety

Bonta will add the powerful Health Committee
chairmanship in January.
ASSEMBLY | Assemblymember Rob Bonta will be pulling double-duty as chairperson of two committees starting in January.

Among the roster of chairmanships announced Wednesday by Speaker Toni Atkins, Bonta retained his position on the Public Employees, Retirement and Social Security Committee while adding the powerful Health Committee.

Bonta’s position as Health Committee chair is another indication the Democratic leadership in the Assembly values his fundraising ability, not only for his our campaign coffers, but for the state party.

Committees that oversee legislation pertaining to powerful lobbying groups typically attract special interest contributions and few industries have more money to throw around than the health care and insurance companies.

Other East Bay assembly members were also named by Atkins to leadership positions. Assemblymember Bill Quirk begins his second term with his first chairmanship. Quirk was tabbed to chair the Public Safety Committee on Wednesday.

Newly sworn-in Assemblymember Tony Thurmond was named to lead of one of six Budget Subcommittees, this one pertaining to health and human services.

Concord Assemblymember Susan Bonilla was selected to lead the Business and Professions Committee, while San Jose Assemblymember Kansen Chu heads the Human Services Committee. Chu was elected last month to represent the 25th Assembly District, which also includes Fremont.

The full roster of committee members will be announced later this month, according to Atkins’ office.

Former San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young is back in the game and making history

ORO LOMA SANITARY DISTRICT | It took two attempts, but former two-time San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young is again a public servant. On Tuesday, Young was sworn-in as the first female board member in the 103-year history of the Oro Loma Sanitary District.

The five-person board, in fact, has been led by some of the same male board members for the past two decades. Two of the current members are in their 90s and the retirement of a third, Frank Sidari, this summer may have left the door open for Young to win an open seat last month. Young, along with incumbents, Howard Kerr and Tim Becker, all finished within a percent point of each other to win the General Election.

Despite the district’s aging membership, Young isn’t looking for to make wholesale changes on the board which oversees the sewers and recycling for over 135,000 residents in unincorporated Alameda County, Hayward, San Lorenzo and parts of San Leandro . "I look forward to working with the agency and learning more about the vision, objectives and goals from the seasoned veterans who currently serve the district."

“I don’t want to change their way of living,” says Young. “I don’t want change their culture. But, I think women think differently. We bring a different feel to the group.” The view dovetails with Young’s campaign slogan of “I’m the only woman for the job.” Young was the only female candidate in the five-person race.

However, she has a few ideas to add to the board which, in the past, has managed to keep rates low. For starters, Young believes the board could do a better job of working closely with StopWaste.org, the government body assigned to reduce waste in Alameda County. In the past, a few Oro Loma’s more conservative board members have openly questioned StopWaste.org’s usefulness.

Outreach to constituents by the Oro Loma board has been minimal in the past, according to Young. She believes members making personal outreach to residents, such as speaking before homeowners associations, instead of merely mailing out questionnaires, will foster greater participation.

Better communication will be increasingly important over the next few years, says Young, since financing for needed repairs to the district’s 100-year-old sewer system will become an even greater and costly priority.

Monday, December 1, 2014

East Bay Assemblymembers sworn-in; Wieckowski joins State Senate

Assemblymember Rob Bonta with his wife and
father at Monday's swearing-in.
ASSEMBLY | STATE SENATE | Just like two years ago, Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta rocked traditional Filipino attire for his swearing-in Monday in Sacramento. Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk also took the oath of office for another term in the Assembly, along with newcomers Tony Thurmond and Catharine Baker.

In the upper house of the State Legislature, two-term south county Assemblymember Bob Wieckowski became the region's newest state senator. Wieckowski replaces termed out State Sen. Ellen Corbett, although, technically, because of redistricting in 2010, the seat covers a slightly different area. Kansen Chu, a former San Jose council member, replaces Wieckowski in the Assembly's 25th District.

Meanwhile, Democrats expected to have another new member of the Assembly in the 16th District, but Republican Catharine Baker scuttled that premise with her victory last month over Tim Sbranti. Baker's election gave Bay Area Republicans their first taste of victory in eight years. Notably, one of the most prolific donors to Baker's campaign, GOP billionaire activist Charles Munger, Jr., attended Monday's swearing-in ceremony and was seen on the Assembly floor.

Although Monday marks the beginning of the legislative schedule in Sacramento, it will not convene until Jan. 5. In the meantime, some legislators wasted no time in offering new or recycled bills for consideration in the new year. Bonta's sporting of a barong, similar to two years ago, marks a continued effort by the state's first Filipino American member of the legislature to honor his heritage. A bill honoring Filipino American labor leader Larry Itliong was quickly introduced Monday by Bonta to celebrate Itliong's birth date as a day of remembrance in the state.

Across the bay, but pertinent to the push by some East Bay cities to raise the minimum wage, San Francisco State Sen. Mark Leno re-introduced a bill to boost the state's minimum wage to $13 an hour by 2017. San Francisco approved a wage hike to $15 an hour last month, while voters in Oakland backed a measure raising the minimum wage to $12.25 an hour.

In addition to Wieckowski's move to the State Senate, Thurmond replaces termed out Assemblymember Nancy Skinner. Thurmond won a hard-fought race last month over fellow Democrat Elizabeth Echols.

Corbett mum about next move

Riding off into the sunset...until further notice.
STATE SENATE | Democrats in the State Legislature gathered Monday to welcome new and returning legislators, but for the first time in eight years, without Ellen Corbett

In a retrospective article in the San Jose Mercury News, the now-former State Senate majority leader did not rule out running for public office in the future, but sidestepped any specifics.
"I have not foreclosed that," she said in an interview last week in a San Lorenzo coffee shop, as she took a break from boxing up her district office. "I already have people asking me if I'll run for different offices, but for now I'm happy taking a break and doing something new for a change. "I have my resume put together, I've been talking to people in the district and in Sacramento" about jobs that would make use of her public policy experience, she added.
One potential landing spot could be the Alameda County Board of Supervisors if District 3 Supervisor Wilma Chan, indeed, chooses to run in 2016 for the open seat left by termed out State Sen. Loni Hancock. However, Nancy Skinner and Sandre Swanson reportedly also have their eyes on the same seat.

Meanwhile, as shoppers too lazy to put some thought into choosing a thoughtful present turn resort to purchasing gift cards this holiday season, recall it was legislation authored by Corbett that prohibited card issuers from placing an expiration date on them and nabbing your remaining balance afterwards. Merry Christmas, East Bay.