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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Schaaf’s proposed budget includes creation of Department of Transportation

OAKLAND | BUDGET | Mayor Libby Schaaf hopes to close projected $18 million budget shortfalls over the next two years without many cuts to city services and staff, while also beginning to pay down unfunded liabilities.

The two-year budget proposal released Thursday by Schaaf’s office also hopes to allocate funding for 40 new police officers next year with a long-term goal of reaching 800 sworn officers by 2018.

The $2.4 billion two-year budget presented by Schaaf will rely on cost-savings along with a bid to improve the city’s collection of taxes and fees from the city’s landlords. Oakland’s inability, for instance, to secure millions in fire inspection fees owed to it was noted last year in an Alameda County grand jury report.

But, if a city’s budget is based on its values, Schaaf’s proposal suggests helping the resurgent city transform its character without pushing out its existing core residents is a top priority.

Among the city departments slated to receive increased funding for new employees is planning and the Housing Assist Center and Rent Adjustment Program.

Schaaf’s focus on Oakland’s aging infrastructure with the creation of a new Department of Transportation will surely be a main topic of debate as the Oakland City Council begins budget deliberations beginning next week through the month of June. Under Schaaf’s plan, employees for the new department will be cobbled together from existing staff.

Notably, another proposed city department received short shrift in the budget plan. Councilmember Desley Brooks’ proposed Department of Race and Equity is referenced in the budget, but no funding is allocated to the plan, which a city staff report, estimated to cost around $500,000 a year to staff.

Instead, Schaaf seeks to allocate $150,000 for creating a Race and Equity Initiative and other aspects of Brooks’ proposal, but without the infrastructure of city bureaucracy.

Earlier this month, Brooks chose to withdraw the proposed new department out of an Oakland City Council committee hearing and, instead, debate its merits during the budget meeting throughout May.

Schaaf is scheduled to formally offer the City Council her proposed budget on May 5. Approval by the City Council must occur before the end of the fiscal year on June 30.

Honda blasts Japanese PM over failure to admit World War II-era sex slavery

Rep. Mike Honda
CONGRESS | DISTRICT 17 | Rep. Mike Honda invited 86-year-old Yong-Soo Lee to attend Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's speech Wednesday before Congress.

Seventy years past, Lee was one of over 200,000 so-called “comfort women” enslaved for sex by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

However, during his address, Abe offered little acknowledgement of the wrongs by his country generations ago and the omission raised the ire of Honda,

“It is shocking and shameful that Prime Minister Abe continues to evade his government’s responsibility for the systematic atrocity that was perpetrated the Japanese Imperial Army against the so-called ‘comfort women’ during World War II, by not offering an apology during his speech today,” Honda said in a statement Wednesday.

Honda had previously called for Abe to issue an apology in a op-ed.

Although Abe did not explicitly issue an apology for the wartime atrocities against women during the war, he called for strengthening women’s rights in the region. But it wasn’t enough for Honda, who added, “without acknowledging the sins of the past, history will repeat itself.”

Honda, himself, also suffered during World War II, spending time during his youth in a Japanese-American internment camp in Colorado.

John Russo, Alameda's big fish, moves to a bigger pond

Alameda City Manager John Russo accepted
a new job in Riverside last February.
ALAMEDA | Outgoing Alameda City Manager John Russo likes to use sports metaphors. So, when news broke in February that Russo, along with his oversize personality, was leaving the Island for a new opportunity and greater compensation in Riverside, the response from city officials was akin to what small-market baseball teams admit when they land a high-priced slugger in the last year of his rookie contract. “Frankly, we were lucky to have him,” Councilmember Jim Oddie said in the days after the announcement.

Following stints in Oakland, first as a council member and then as city attorney, Russo’s thoughtful wit and razor-like barbs made his hiring as city manager in 2011 as curious as a big fish swimming in a small pond.

By most accounts, Russo’s four years in Alameda were a success. In an understated, yet frank interview, Russo said his greatest accomplishment is not moving along development at Alameda Point, but repositioning the city and public employee unions away from constant back-biting to an atmosphere of shared values and greater economic certainty. There were rumors that Russo’s departure was exacerbated by the surprise results of the fall election, but Russo said the rumors are untrue and that he merely landed an opportunity to fast-track existing plans for moving himself and his family to Southern California. “To the surprise of many,” he said, “I’m not an important person. I am just city manager of a small California city, and later I’ll be a city manager of a bigger city in California.”

However, under Russo’s stewardship, decades of uncertainty over the direction of development at the former Alameda Naval Air Station was resolved following an agreement with the U.S. Navy for the city to limit housing at Alameda Point in exchange for reconveying the land at no cost to Alameda taxpayers. But, Russo said credit does not lie with his actions. “I don’t think I have a legacy,” he said, noting his viewpoint is deeply rooted in his Southern Italian ancestry. “I have a fairly fatalistic view of the world,” he added. “I know no one ever believes this applies to me, but I think I have a fairly modest view of what my role is. This community was ready to make progress at Alameda Point.”

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN ALAMEDA MAGAZINE

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Appointment process for Castro Valley's 'Un-City Council' to be held without public

CASTRO VALLEY | For residents of unincorporated Castro Valley, the Municipal Advisory Committee is its de facto local government. In county literature it's even called Castro Valley's "Un-City Council." But, the seven-member committee has no real power and its members are appointed exclusively by Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley.

In recent years, some Castro Valley residents have grown critical of the arrangement for its lack of transparency and a direct connection to the public. A vocal minority has routinely urged Miley to make the committee an elected board.

The lack of a true government body for Castro Valley residents to control their own destiny appears to be manifesting around three open seats on board, known as the CV MAC, soon to be filled by Miley.

A reported 16 candidates have applied for the appointment, but the interview process scheduled for Wednesday night in Castro Valley is not open to the public.

“Why is that?” wrote East Bay Municipal Utilities District board member Frank Mellon on Facebook Wednesday morning. “This will be the selection of people who will affect Castro Valley and we are not invited.”

Mellon also worried about the composition of the interview committee which he labeled as Miley’s “cabinet.” “Who are the members of this ‘cabinet’? And why do they get a say without our input?” Despite the 6 p.m. meeting not being open to the public, Mellon said he plans to show up at Castro Valley Library anyway.

Anna Gee, operations chief for Miley’s office, said the appointment process has never been open to the public. When asked about the concern by some in the community that the process lacks transparency, she said, “People are going to think what they want. I can see the perception, but it’s never been an elected position.”

“It wouldn’t hurt,” added Gee, to make the process open to the public, but in this case, no public outreach was previously made to inform residents of the meeting. In addition, the applicants were not informed they would be interviewed in front of an audience, said Gee. In the end, any decision over future appointments would have to be made by Supervisor Miley, she said.

The list of applicants is not publicly known, which has added another level of consternation for residents, some who chose not to be quoted for fear of angering Miley and hurting the chances of a few potential candidates.

However, two candidates believed to have applied are labor leader John Maher, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat last year on the Castro Valley Sanitary District board and Tojo Thomas.

Thomas’s bid is the most intriguing. In 2012, he challenged Miley for the District 4 supervisorial seat and has indicated he will again run for the seat in 2016. Although Miley easily defeated the severely underfunded Thomas in the June Primary, it was not without a few bruises laid upon the incumbent.

Thomas, who is also an Alameda County probation officer, routinely pestered Miley in public forums and infamously challenged Miley to back his candidacy. “Why don’t you just endorse me like a real man?” said Thomas.

UPDATE Supervisor Nate Miley allowed members of the public to witness the interview process Wednesday evening. The number of applicants was reported as 18, however, only 14 participated.

UPDATE II Supervisor Nate Miley filled two of the open three seats on the Castro Valley MAC on Monday. Miley named Castro Valley businessman Chuck Moore to the advisory board, along with Janet Everson, an attorney. The third vacancy will be filled soon, according to Miley's office.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Five seek to replace Landis on Oro Loma board, including two African Americans

Former San Leandro Councilmember Surlene Grant 
is one of five applicants for the open seat
on Oro Loma Sanitary District.
ORO LOMA SANITARY DISTRICT | Five applicants to replace long-time Oro Loma Sanitary District member Laython Landis will make their case Tuesday to fill out the remainder of his term through November 2016.

Landis officially retired Mar. 30 after a turbulent four months when he was sanctioned by the board for making racially-insensitive comments before a committee meeting last December. His colleagues eventually stripped Landis of all his committee assignments and numerous public officials and residents urged for him to resign. Instead, he announced his retirement from the board in February after nearly five decades in public service.

Among the five applicants to replace Landis is two African Americans from San Leandro, former San Leandro Councilmember Surlene Grant and Chike Udemezue, who finished fifth in last November’s general election. Similarly, Dan Walters, another candidate for the board last fall who finished fourth with more than 14 percent of the vote is another candidate. San Lorenzo resident Tom Silva, a well-known local insider and campaign contributor is also seeking the seat, along with Rita Duncan, a Hayward resident.

Laython Landis retired in March
after using the n-word at a meeting
in early December.
In addition to the board’s negative press of following Landis’ comments, an institutional lack of diversity has plagued the Oro Loma board of directors over the decades. Until current board member Shelia Young was elected last November, a woman had never sat on the board in its century-old history. The need for diversity in the wake of Landis' comments may make Grant the odds-on favorite for the appointment.

Not only did Grant serve eight years on the San Leandro City Council from 1998-2006, she served during the same period when Young was mayor. Young is also a member of the board’s two-person ad-hoc committee (along with Board President Tim Becker) created to search for possible replacements for Landis’ seat.

The Oro Loma board will likely nominate and vote on one of the five applicants at Tuesday meeting in San Lorenzo, starting at 3 p.m., after each present their cases for the appointment and take questions from the board. However, if a new member is not chosen, the decision process will continue to the next regularly scheduled meeting on May 5, according to the district.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

AGENDA NOTES: Oakland's Homeland Security grant does not yet include approval for thermal imaging camera

Oakland City Council will decide Tuesday whether 
to accept a $578,000 Homeland Security grant.
Oakland City Council Preview
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, third floor
Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 7 p.m.
[FULL AGENDA HERE]
Twitter hashtag: #oakmtg

HOMELAND SECURITY GRANT Any time grant funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security appears on an Oakland City Council agenda, you can expect privacy advocates have a keen eye on the proceedings. In this case, the council will decide whether to accept a $578,527 federal grant to improve its existing the video security system at the Emergency Operations Center with up to 30 surveillance cameras.

However, the issue of whether to purchase a Forward Looking Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera System (FLIR) will have to wait, according to the proposed resolution. Funding for the expenditures comes from the Homeland Security's Port Security Grant Program. (Item 12)

Acceptance of the grant was delayed by the council last month when City Council Public Safety Committee requested additional information on Oakland's existing policy on the use of thermal imaging cameras by law enforcement.  The camera, according to a previous staff report, would provide law enforcement with live aerial imaging of police and fire situations and patrol of the Port of Oakland. A supplemental staff report reiterated the camera's potential uses and added, data and video retention from its use would not exceed three years. 

Mounted to a helicopter, the FLIR assembles a rough aerial picture of activity on the ground by primarily detecting heat, for instance, emitted from people. The use of FLIR is common for security of the U.S. border. but its constitutionality was questioned by the U.S. Supreme Court for surveillance, without a court order, of private property. Oakland police said the technology has long been used in Oakland without opposition and never used to peer through walls of private citizens.

The cost breakdown includes $263,773 for purchase of the EOC building video security system and $314,754 for the FLIR camera. The grant, however, requires $192,842 matching grant from the Oakland Police Department and Fire Department. 

THIS & THAT Oakland's next city administrator will earn $275,000 a year and start work on July 1. The contract's length is four years, according to the resolution confirming her appointment by Mayor Libby Schaaf...An ad-hoc Working Group on Police Recruitment comes before the council, although, according to a committee last week, its main function may include an online survey...Brooklyn Basin, Oakland's billion dollar waterfront development moves forward with three items on the agenda... 

Mayor Schaaf will appoint to the Community Police Advisory Board, Ravinder Singh, Colleen Brown and reappoint Jay Ashford, Don Link and John Garvey...Six anti-graffiti grants totaling $60,000 will be approved for Councilmember Abel Guillen's District 2...A $4.3 million city contract will be granted to Pacific Trenchless, Inc. to rehab sewers around Mountain Boulevard and Joaquin Miller Road...DeFremery Park Rec Center will get a $640,000 upgrade, but the project is set to be a no-bid contract...An update on the city's zero waste garbage contract with Waste Management and California Waste Solutions will be offered Tuesday night...

A second reading of the Coliseum Area Specific Plan and EIR is on the consent calendar for final approval...Oakland weighs-in on the two-year labor battle between the United Farm Workers of America and San Joaquin County fruit producer Gerawan Farming. A resolution is on Tuesday's agenda calling for Gerawan to recognize workers' rights and settle the labor dispute that is also pending in Fresno's Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals....Resolutions sponsored by Councilmembers Larry Reid and Rebecca Kaplan oppose so-called "religious freedom" legislation in Indiana and Arkansas. Critics say the bills discriminate against members of the LGBT community...

POMP & CIRCUMSTANCE . April 19-26 will be proclaimed "Oakland Veg Week," while April 20-26 is "Sexually Exploited Minors Awareness Week." The City Council will also recognize retiring OPD Capt. Ricardo Orozco for 28 years on the force and adopt a resolution honoring Saundra Andrews for her 20 years working in Rep. Barbara Lee's office. In celebration of Arbor Day, the city will hold and tree planting ceremony on Friday, April 24 at Parker Elementary School on Ney Avenue.

AGENDA NOTES: Alameda County to approve issuance of revenue bonds; San Leandro Creek tree removal

Revenue bonds approved by the Alameda County
Board of Supervisors will help bring 66 units of 
affordable housing to West Dublin/Pleasanton BART.
Alameda County Board of Supervisors
1221 Oak Street, Oakland, fifth floor
Tuesday, April 21, 2015, 10:30 a.m.
[FULL AGENDA HERE]
Twitter hashtag: alcomtg

BONDS FOR HOUSING Four separate, albeit short, public hearings Tuesday morning could results in the issuance of millions in revenue bonds for four housing and education-related projects in Alameda County.

One project slated for development is 66 units of affordable housing near the West Dublin/Pleasanton BART station to be funded with $19 million in Multi-Family Housing Mortgage Revenue Bonds (Item 40), which are tax-exempt and allow for developers to secure a lower interest rate for acquiring land and constructing or rehabilitating housing. Opponents of affordable housing in the Tri Valley have often registered disenchantment with proposed additional units around the two BART station in the area, in addition, to the proposed station in Livermore.

A proposed issuance of up to $70 million in revenue bonds would also help refinance two care facilities in Oakland known as Grand Lake Gardens on Santa Clara Avenue and Piedmont Gardens on 41st Avenue. (Item 41.2) In addition,, a proposed charter school on Independence Drive in Livermore is in line for $30 million in Statewide Communities Development Authority revenue bonds (Item 41.1), along with the issuance of $44.5 million in state Municipal Finance Authority revenue bonds for the renovation of Bowles Hall, which houses 192 students at U.C. Berkeley. (Item 41).

THIS & THAT The board will discuss whether to approve a Vegetation Management Plan to evaluate trees around San Leandro Creek on county land between the railroad tracks and the 580 freeway crossing. The plan includes pruning branches that may endanger property, cutting native trees in poor condition and controlling invasive plant species. This issue attracted significant opposition from environmentalists in San Leandro a few years back. Among the chief concerns was public perception that the county failed to properly notice residents of their intentions (Item 34)...

Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority member Mary Warren will be reappointed through April 2017...A one-time allocation of $25,000 in Measure A health care tax proceeds is on the agenda to improve working conditions in nail salons...The cost of consulting services for Alameda County's proposed Community Choice Aggregation program will be increased to $70,269 after the contract is extending nine months through Mar. 2016.

CLOSED SESSION Supervisors and negotiators will discuss Coliseum City with the Oakland Raiders, Oakland Athletics, New City Development, LLC and the City of Oakland.

POMP & CIRCUMSTANCE Supervisor Scott Haggerty will proclaim May as "CalFresh Awareness Month and the county administrator declares May 3-9 as "Public Service Recognition Week. In addition, April 19-25 is "Victims' Rights Week," the month of April is "Sexual Assault Awareness Month" and April 20-26 is "Sexually Exploited Minors Awareness Week." April 22 is "Earth Day" and April 25 is "African American Student Achievement Day."

TRAVELOCITY An Alameda County deputy sheriff will be attending the 10th Annual Gangs, Guns and Drugs Training Conference in Las Vegas on May 10-4 (Cost: $1,389)...Two "retired annuitants" and a deputy sheriff will attend training for computer voice stress analyzer certification in Las Vegas (Total cost: $3,966)...A sheriff captain will travel to Seattle on July 10-14 for FBI National Academy Associates. (Cost: $3,039).

Friday, April 17, 2015

AFTERNOON UPDATE | 4.17.15

It's a bird. It's a train. It's probably the worst municipal logo ever to survive the 1970s.
RICHMOND | Richmond mayor says city logo ‘is incredibly ugly,’ needs replacement (San Francisco Chronicle) Mayor Tom Butt may be the most honest politician in America

CA DROUGHT | To shield tech executives, California’s biggest water users are secret (Reveal News) When the privacy of the rich supercedes the rest of us

California's Drought Grabs Headlines, But Other States Face Water Woes Too (Huffington Post) The forest for the parched trees

OAKLANDWhy these San Francisco companies are moving to Oakland (San Francisco Business Times) Low rents. Could there be any other answer?

ECONOMY | South Bay, East Bay post strong job gains during March (San Jose Mercury News) Taken with a grain of salt: East Bay has posted positive job numbers in 14 of past 15 months.

CA15 | Dems launch push to win young voters (The Hill) The future of democracy rests with Snapchat

AGENDA NOTES: San Leandro to add more funding for the homeless

San Leandro City Council Preview
835 East 14th Street
Monday, April 20, 2015, 7 p.m.
[FULL AGENDA HERE]
Twitter hashtag: #slmtg

HELP FOR THE HOMELESS Last October, the San Leandro City Council established a Homeless Task Force with $150,000 in funding for a warming center in advance of the coming winter. However, the task force is already finding the problem of homelessness and general demand for social services is outstripping dwindling local and state funding streams. 

On Monday, the City Council will determine whether to allocated $400,000 from its General Fund Uncertainty Reserve to create a community assistance budget. "Assessments by our social service providers demonstrate a disparity between the growing demand for human services and declining funding," says a city staff report. "Agencies that provide the basic safety net services to our most vulnerable residents have articulated the need for better collaboration and City support."

The sentiment was also conveyed this week by the director of the Alameda County social services agency following the announcement of a $65 million funding gap.

Under the proposal, one-fourth of the $400,000 allocation would go toward continuation of services at the current warming center, followed by $75,000 for the social service needs assesment, among other budgetary items.

THIS & THAT After San Leandro City Clerk Marian Handa retired last month, the city manager combed over 80 applicantions for her replacement and chose Oakland Assistant City Clerk Tamika Thomas. Oakland's city clerk's office has made city government there the most transparent in the East Bay. Expect big changes coming to San Leandro...Just in time for 420 Day, City Manager Chris Zapata will give the council an update on San Leandro process for selecting an operator for its first-ever medical cannabis dispensary.

CLOSED SESSION Council will meet with negotiators from the Port of Oakland on price and terms over the 14-foot strip of land known as Eden Road. 

POMP & CIRCUMSTANCE The city will celebrate Arbor Day on April 24 with a tree-planting ceremony. Proclamations for "Fair Housing Month" and "Solar Week" starting April 27 will also be declared. Former City Council candidate David Anderson will be appointed to the Senior Commission and Planning Commissioner Scott Rennie will receive a commendation for his service.

LAST TIME OUT April 6, the council heard plans by Waste Management's Davis Street Transfer Station to expand its operations. Through permits, the new construction should be a financial windfall for the city's general fund...City staff updated the council on San Leandro's water conservation efforts following Gov. Jerry Brown's emergency order for a 25 percent reduction in usage. >>>WATCH IT HERE>>>Next council meeting: Monday, May 4, 7 p.m.

ALMANAC Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter (first term, ends 2018); Councilmember Deborah Cox (first term, ends 2018); Councilmember Ursula Reed (second term, ends 2016); Councilmember Lee Thomas (first term, ends 2018); Councilmember Benny Lee, first term, ends 2016); Councilmember Corina Lopez (first term, ends 2018); Vice Mayor/Councilmember Jim Prola, District 6 (second term, ends 2016). 

Republicans support Susan Bonilla, too?


STATE SENATE | DISTRICT 7 | A new campaign commercial from Seventh State Senate District candidate Susan Bonilla features cameos from reitred Rep. George Miller and Contra Costa District Attorney Mark Peterson. It also hints that Bonilla's campaign views her opponent, Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, also a Democrat, and his centrist platform as a great strength.

"Susan Bonilla is true to her word and her actions and that's why Democrats and Republican, local businesses, law enforcement...and thousands more support Susan Bonilla," says the ad, with Miller delivering the word "Democrat" and Peterson uttering "Republican."

Although the Seventh District is hardly a bastion of progressive thought, the play for moderate Repubicans is quite a jarring coalition for the large number of volunteers from labor unions currently stumping for Bonilla.

The commercial debuts today and will run through the May 19 special election.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

AFTERNOON UPDATE | 4.16.15

Sign at the door of a restaurant in Downtown Oakland.
CONGRESS | 'NAFTA on steroids' pacts pits Silicon Valley against big labor (San Francisco Chronicle) Issue may reside at the corner of Ro and Khanna over the next year.

LEGISLATURE | For California's Powerful, Following the Law Often Means Writing It Yourself (KQED) The cold hard truth

CA DROUGHT | Here's the Real Problem With Almonds (Mother Jones) Freaking almonds!

California's Farms Would Only Need to Cut Water by 6.6 Percent to Match Urban Restrictions (Newsweek) If the drought persists for years, a proposal for the future?

OAKLAND | San Jose and Oakland fast-food workers join protest for $15-an-hour wages (Contra Costa Times) Fast food giants say they don't control employment decision at their franchises

Carson council to vote on NFL stadium plan after signatures verified (Los Angeles Times) Carson's city clerk spent the last 11 years as mayor.

Oakland city attorney 'haphazardly' prepared cases against disciplined cops

Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker
PHOTO/Shane Bond
OAKLAND | An investigation precipitated by the controversial reinstatement last year of an Oakland police officer disciplined at an Occupy Oakland protest in 2011, found the city attorney’s office typically handled arbitration hearings “haphazardly” and waited until the last minute to prepare for hearings or even assign cases.

The investigation lead by San Francisco attorney Edward Swanson released Thursday criticized the city for allowing undisciplined police officers to remain on the force while also lowering the morale of those who ascribed to higher standards of law enforcement.

"For years, Oakland's police discipline process has failed to deliver fair, consistent, and effective discipline," said the report. "Time and again, when the Oakland Police Department has attempted to impose significant discipline, its decisions have been reversed or gutted at the arbitration stage, causing the public to question whether the city handles disciplinary cases appropriately. The result is that many, both inside and outside of the department, have little faith in the integrity of the process."

Oakland city attorney's office, though, has improved its effectiveness in handling recent arbitration hearings, said the report, but "there is little evidence the [Oakland City Attorney] was taking action to address its poor record in arbitration before the court ordered this investigation."

A lack of accountability, not only at the police department, but at City Hall, has exacerbated problems with police discipline, the report concluded. "The problems with police discipline are not just an OPD problem; they are a City of Oakland problem...But the Oakland City administration--the Mayor, the City Administrator, and the City Council--has not held anyone to account for these failures," the report continued, "The city administration has done nothing to demand or enforce an effective discipline system. Simply put, it should not have taken a court order to focus the city's attention on these problems."

The report, however, found no evidence that Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker selected outside counsel for the cases based on campaign contributions, as alleged last year. Oakland’s city attorney, unlike most Bay Area city, is a publicly-elected. Parker is up for re-election in 2016. In December, the investigation was momentarily stalled, when Parker, citing attorney-client privilege, initially balked at turning over records to the investigator. Her office later relented.

Despite positive indicators, Alameda County’s deficit is same as lastyear

CHART/Alameda County
BUDGET | Alameda County’s budget funding gap for the 2015-16 fiscal year is $65 million. The shortfall was announced Wednesday in Oakland at a county budget work group meeting and is roughly the same as the $67.1 million deficit the county closed last year.

The budget estimated released to department heads and community-based organizations, though, shows the county’s rebound from years of triple-digit deficits is stalling. Alameda County’s estimated $2.3 billion general fund budget amounts to a 3.2 percent increase in appropriations over last year, which Alameda County Administrator Susan Muranishi called “modest” in light of rising salaries and benefits and cost of living increases. Meanwhile, revenues have only risen by less than a half percent.

Find Alameda County FY 2015-16 budget documents here

“I know there’s a perception that revenues are up, the economy is doing a lot better,” said Muranishi. “Why do we have a funding gap?” Although the county’s discretionary revenues such as property tax receipts are up by $29.5 million over last year and vehicle registration taxes have risen by nearly $10 million, the shortfall is offset by increasing demand for services still struggling to receive restoration of cuts stemming from the height of the last recession.

“We have a revenue problem,” said Muranishi. She suggested in the coming weeks the county find solutions to increase revenue derived from county programs. Reevaluating budgeting for the voter-approved hospital sales tax dollars and realignment funding from the state for incarceration of county inmates and reducing recidivism could be on the table as the county begins discussions over how to balance its budget starting in May.

While the unemployment rate in Alameda County is inching closer to five percent, said Kai Mander, Alameda County’s principal budget analyst, demand for social services is still high. The quality of life for many upper and middle class residents has improved, said Mander, but the poor continue to struggle. He posits the county’s unemployment rate fails to take into account residents who have exited the job market and those underemployed to the level county services are needed to make ends meet.

In contrast, during the 2009-10 fiscal year, Alameda County’s funding gap bottomed-out at more than $177 million, leading to several rounds of deep cuts to services for the young, poor and disabled that still persist.

County officials hope Governor Jerry Brown’s budget revise next month will include more spending for social programs. The proposed state budget earlier this year increased funding for programs mostly centered on education, said Mander, but future funding increases in the near-term are unlikely.

However, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson believes the state’s economic outlook is rosier than has been reported. “The state is doing better than what it’s publicly putting out there,” said Carson. In addition, the county also maintains a $200 million budget reserve, said Muranishi, and its economic outlook was recently moved from stable to positive, according the Fitch credit rating agency.

In the next few weeks, Muranishi said, county staff will seek a consensus on areas of the budget to target for possible cuts and offer the Alameda County Board of Supervisors 3-4 options for balancing its budget. A proposed budget is scheduled to be released in early June, she added, and approved just before the June 30 fiscal year deadline.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

State Sen. Hancock voices opposition to controversial vaccination bill

State Sen. Loni Hancock called SB 277 a Draconian
bill to protect children from infectious diseases.
STATE SENATE | A controversial Senate Bill that would remove the personal belief exemption for parents wary of vaccinations for their children stalled in a senate committee Wednesday led in part by opposition from East Bay State Sen. Loni Hancock.

"I'm looking for the compelling state interest in doing something here as Draconian as I read this bill," Hancock said of Senate Bill 277, co-authored by State Sen. Richard Pan and Ben Allen, during the State Senate Education Committee.

Last week, the senate health committee approved the bill which has attracted strong opposition from parents and anti-vaxxer groups who believe immunization of children cause unduly harm and potentially contributes to greater incidents of autism.

The education committee, however, found fault with language in the bill regarding home schooling as an alternative for children who are not fully vaccinated. Under state law, parents of children attending public schools must provide proof of immunization.

"I'm a person who believes in vaccines. My kids are vaccinated. I think I would hope kids would get vaccinated," said Hancock, who added, "It says there is nothing you can do if you choose not to vaccinate your child except personally home school them."

"I'm not disputing the desirability of having kids immunized, [but] whether this is actually the best way to build a community consensus around it," she said.

The state's interests rests in stopping infectious diseases like the measles outbreak at Disneyland last year from spreading, said Pan. "Parents demand that their children are safe at school," he continued and infectious outbreaks disrupts the class room and leads to students being quarantined at home for weeks at a time.

State Sen. Carol Liu, who chairs the committee, was troubled by the effective penalty for declining immunization is home schooling. "I dont' think that's a solution to the problem," said Liu. Later, while noting a lack of support for the bill, Liu told Pan, "If I were you, I would not take a vote today." Pan agreed. The issue will return to the education committee on April 22 as a vote-only agenda item.

AFTERNOON UPDATE | 4.15.15

Afternoon shadows filtered through the trees on a house in Alameda.
SD7 | Bloomfield spending in East Bay Senate race reported as all positive – or is it? (Sacramento Bee) Glazer's sugar daddy

Steve Glazer, Blazing a Trail (Fox and Hounds Daily) Part of the Glazer maverick meme, but can a lone-wolf in the Legislature really change much?

OAKLAND | Counter-Terrorism Officials Helped Track Black Lives Matter Protesters (East Bay Express) Don't even say, 'If they don't want to be tracked, then don't make trouble in the streets.'"

ALAMEDA | City Council to get budget overview Thursday night (The Alamedan) The Big A's council meetings are getting quite a reputation and this one should be a three-ring circus.

HOUSING | Where luxury homes sell the fastest (Wall Street Journal) Oakland may soon have another 298 such units at Lake Merritt to briskly sell

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Oakland committee moves Lake Merritt luxury tower deal for council approval

Oakland Councilmember Abel Guillen's plan
to conduct a new appraisal of the parcel was 
rebuffed by the committee.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The proposed sale of the vacant Lake Merritt property, known as the 12th Street remainder parcel, has frustrated neighbors and stoked fears that the 24-story luxury apartment tower will hasten gentrification. In addition, the $5.1 million price tag for the public property potentially holds scant benefits to the public, according to affordable housing critics.

At an Oakland City Council committee Tuesday afternoon, the proposed sale was forwarded for the full council's approval on May 5, along with direction to set aside a quarter of the proceeds from the sale to the city’s affordable housing fund and another quarter for improvements to Lake Merritt. But Councilmember Abel Guillen is seeking more and told the committee he is in negotiations with the tower’s developer for the inclusion of community benefits to the deal. However, there appears disagreement over how much the developer is proposing for the project.

Michael Johnson, CEO of UrbanCore, LLC, one of the partners in the deal, told the Community and Economic Development Committee the menu of community benefits amount to around $1 million in addition to the proposed selling price and include a skate park, benefits for nearby Fairyland and open space adjacent to the proposed building.

Guillen, who represents the district where the tower will be constructed, but is not a member of the committee, could be seen in the audience shaking his head in disagreement over Johnson's statement. Afterwards, Guillen told the East Bay Citizen, “It’s not $1 million.” Guillen and Johnson continued the discussion in the back of the room, with Guillen telling the developer, “I’m just trying to do what’s best for the city.”

Earlier, Guillen asserted the $5.1 million asking price negotiated by the city is too low—maybe $1 million short of fair market price. After informal talks with appraisers, Guillen told the committee the price tag is possibly 25 percent, or another $1 million below what the city could receive if it conducted another appraisal of the property. The suggestion set off a chaotic scene as members of the developer team and council members who have previously supported the deal, scrambled to discredit including the Guillen’s proposal for a new appraisal.

Changing the negotiated deal, at this point, is “tantamount to retrading,” Johnson told the committee. The developers agreed to the asking price and are ready to move forward, he added. “This is not the type of situation we expected to be in. We hope you all stick with what has been negotiated.”

Councilmember Larry Reid and Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney expressed support for keeping the deal as negotiated. “My belief is that the city must honor its processes and what we’ve said to the public,” said McElhaney.

Reid added, a new appraisal, if conducted, could be lower than the original. However, a city staffer testified earlier that Oakland’s sizzling housing market would likely return a higher monetary figure over the appraisal executed last January and would take an additional 6-8 weeks to complete. McElhaney said she did not believe another appraisal would be markedly different than the first.

McElhaney then asked city staff to explain the specific point when the city's deal with the developer is finalized. City staff replied, when the Development and Disposition Agreement being discussed Tuesday is formally approved by the council. Meanwhile, Ray Leon, Reid’s long-time chief of staff could be seen texting his boss that the $5.1 million price tag has already been agreed. Seconds later, Reid interjected, “But, we agreed to the $5.1 (million), correct?” asked Reid. Afterwards, Leon repeatedly muttered, “What’s fair is fair” and “That’s not right.”

Battle for Silicon Valley, part two?

REMATCH: Once again Ro Khanna has the cash to challenge Rep. Mike Honda in CA-17. The two appear destined for a rematch of their contentious 2014 clash.
CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | Let the rematch begin? Ro Khanna has not announced his candiday for the 17th Congressionl District next year, but Rep. Mike Honda seems to think Khanna wants another go of it.

A week after Khanna’s presumptive campaign began whispers of an impressive $800,000 in campaign contributions during the first reporting quarter following last November’s election, Honda’s campaign responded Tuesday by welcoming the challenge.

“Mike Honda is well prepared to run and has already assembled his experienced team to fend off the latest challenge,” said Adam Alberti, a spokesperson for Honda campaign.

Campaign finance reports due this week will show Honda raised $257,962 in campaign contributions since the beginning of the year, said his campaign, and included nearly $209,000 cash in hand.

Keep in mind, the June Primary for the 17th District is more than a year away, but similar to the 2014 clash between the two Democrats, a potential rematch will again be eagerly-awaited and flush with millions in cash.

Last time around, Khanna’s campaign spent over $4 million to finish a tad under four percent behind Honda last November. Meanwhile, the trash talk has already begun with Honda’s campaign calling Khanna an “overly ambitious challenger” supported by “special interest billionaires.”

“It is no surprise to anyone that Ro Khanna is running for Congress, something he has been doing for more than a decade,” said Alberti. “As we know from history, Ro Khanna’s ability to raise money is only surpassed by his ability to squander it.”

AFTERNOON UPDATE | 4.14.15

Wall of license plates at a diner in Downtown Oakland. 
CA DROUGHT | Nestle investigated for taking water from national forest with expired permit (San Francisco Chronicle) Permit expired in 1988!

EBMUD Board votes to enact new drought surcharges and penalties (KTVU) Average household uses 246 gallons of water per day

BLACKLIVESMATTER | Bay Area protesters denounce police killings, try to block freeways (San Francisco Chronicle) In Oakland, protester shutdown an empty City Council chambers

SPORTS | NFL to meet with East Bay officials on Wednesday (CSN Bay Area) Will Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan show up wearing a Raiders cap?

San Jose takes fight against MLB to U.S. Supreme Court (San Jose Mercury News ) Department of Dream the Impossible Dream

Ivan Rabb chooses to play for Cal (San Francisco Chronicle) The most talented East Bay basketball phenom since Jason Kidd stays home.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Swalwell swats away balls for Democrats

Rep. Eric Swalwell is known to play the ball
with aggressiveness.
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Rep. Eric Swalwell hasn't maintained a clean sheet when it comes to keeping people from sneaking into the San Jose Airport (This goes for Rep. Mike Honda, too).

But, House Democrats hope he can do better as the party's goalkeeper this week in a charity soccer game in Washington. Democrats will face Republican Tuesday at RFK Stadium, according to Roll Call.

Swalwell has experience keeping balls in front of him. He was once a D-II college goalkeeper and often tells audiences a soccer-related injury pushed him towards politics. Swalwell has played in this charity soccer match before, in addition, to the annual Congressional baseball game in June. The game's proceeds benefit the U.S. Soccer Foundation.

Swalwell may not belong to the Progressive or LGBT Caucuses, but according to Roll Call, Swalwell is also one of four co-chair of the Congressional Soccer Caucus.

According to the scouting report on Swalwell, he is prone for aggressive play. One story involving Swalwell and soccer has made the rounds since last year. At a charity soccer match held at the Bladium Sports and Fitness Club in Alameda, sponsored by Swalwell and another former soccer player, Assemblymember Rob Bonta, the second-term member of Congress was seen vigorously defending his goal.

When a loose ball squirted near Swalwell's goal along the end line, he and woman, also playing in the game, sprinted toward the ball. When they met, Swalwell pushed the woman to the ground and played the ball out of danger. The woman was unhurt by the play, but some who witnessed it at the time said they were shocked by Swalwell's over-aggressiveness, but also how it evoked this scene from Meet the Parents.

An idea for combating sea level rise at the Hayward Shoreline and beyond

Assemblymember Bill Quirk's involvement with the Oro Loma ecotone project goes back to his time as a Hayward council member. PHOTOS/Steven Tavares
ENVIRONMENT | Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk understood a rise in sea levels was impending way back in the 1970s. As a scientist at NASA's Goodard Institute of Space in New York City, Quirk built a computer model that today, he calls rudimentary compared to the massive data-crunching available today, that showed carbon dioxide levels would lead to sea level rise in the future. However, he couldn’t fathom its speed and breadth. Global warming is here and the oceans are slowly encroaching in the East Bay in places like the Hayward Shoreline. Now come the solutions.

Quirk,, along with Jeremy Low, sea level rise
program manager for Environmental Science
Associates, last Thursday in San Lorenzo.
On yet another bright, but dry afternoon in San Lorenzo, local officials and scientists lauded a new project on the grounds of the Oro Loma Sanitary District’s waste water plant that they hope will not only provide an environmentally-friendly solution to thwarting the seas from taking back important marshlands, but also rebuilding the shoreline and contributing to a healthy bay.

The $6 million feasibility project will allow scientists to study whether reconstructing the natural slope of the shoreline with help of more than 70,000 native plants will limit the eventually encroachment of sea rise. In addition to $2 million in state grants, the sanitary district pitched in over $4 million for the project. Its angle is to study whether treated waste water from its plant can use the same plants as a natural filtration to provide more fresh water back to the bay.

“This is a win-win-win and I think in the long run, it’s cheaper,” Quirk said in an interview before the ceremonial “first-planting” of immature native plants that will eventually be part of the study. “It’s a valid concept,” said Quirk. “It will work. The main thing is to get the money to do it.”

If scientist can prove the small-scale feasibility study, formally known as the Oro Loma Wet Weather Equalization and Ecotone Demonstration Project, can work, additional state dollars might one day be available to expand it to other areas around the bay.

At one point, said Quirk, a regional assessment tax was talked about for the 2014 ballot, but it was agreed that politically, the time was not right. But, armed with some early data from the study, set to begin later his year, Quirk hopes 2016 is a better political atmosphere for asking voters in the nine counties surrounding the bay to pay for an expansion of the study.

Although, Quirk has been involved in the ecotone project and sea-level rise issues since its infant stages as a Hayward council member starting nearly a decade ago, opponents have often scoffed at his environmental record because of his strong support for the Russell City Energy Center, a natural gas-fired power plant on the Hayward Shoreline, which was approved during Quirk’s time on the Hayward City Council.

Quirk has long maintained the science behind the power plant shows negligible amounts of pollution to the city. There is also some question whether the power plant, constructed in 2013, will be able to withstand sea-level rise over the next few decades.

In the meantime, the Hayward Shoreline is already disappearing. Near the Hayward Area Recreation District’s Interpretative Center--the rustic wooden building on the marshes just before the San Mateo Bridge toll crossing--you can already witness the landscape changing, said Quirk. “There used to be benches there,” said Quirk. Now, they’re gone.”

AFTERNOON UPDATE | 4.13.15

The iconic Oakland Tribune building beneath a vibrant blue sky. If you have a photo of life in the East Bay that you want featured in the Afternoon Update, email it to steventavares.ebc@gmail.com
CONGRESS | Trade fight looms as Congress returns (Politico)
East Bay Reps. Barbara Lee and Eric Swalwell opposes the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

DROUGHT | California's Cycles of Drought (The New York Times)
Burgeoning buzzword: megadrought.

SD7 | Will the 'real Democrat' please stand up? (Contra Costa Times)
Answer: I am standing up.

HEALTH CARE | Sutter Health East Bay Rehab Center for Adolescents Faces Possible Closure (East Bay Express)
Sutter Health and other non-profit heath care organizations are suppose to provide "community benefits." Is this one?

EDUCATION | State lawmakers take aim at U.C. brass' lofty salaries (San Francisco Chronicle)
Case in point: UCLA basketball coach Steve Alford takes home a state-funded $2.6 million salary.  



Friday, April 10, 2015

AGENDA NOTES: Oakland examines racial profiling; repeated failure to join regional radio system; 12th Street sale

Rendering of the proposed 24-story apartment
tower near Lake Merritt in Oakland.
Oakland City Council Committees
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, first floor
Tuesday, Apr. 14, 2015, starts at 9:30 a.m.
Twitter hashtag: #oakmtg

FINANCE & MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE Oakland's difficult path toward switching over its public safety radios to the regional East Bay Regional Communication System Authority isn't getting better. The Oakland City Council gave approval last July for the city to join its East Bay neighbors and other government agencies in the regional system. The time frame given for Oakland's inclusion was three months, but according to a staff report, much is still pending, including questions over the inter-operability of the city's current radios with EBRCSA. Oakland uses Harris mobile radios and while the testing for inter-operability is not complete, city staff's early conclusion is they "should adequately function" with EBRCSA's system. There are other reasons why Oakland's long-awaited inclusion to EBRCSA has lagged. Concerns over how much power Oakland will wield on the multi-agency governing board still have not been determined and the entire deal was further complicated by the untimely death of EBRCSA's Executive Director Bill McCammon last fall. The entire issue, however, is wrapped around concerns over whether Oakland will be able to patch its radios into the regional network in the event of a natural disaster. (Starts at 9:30 a.m. Committee members: Annie Campbell Washington, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Abel Guillén; Dan Kalb (chair).

PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE Brooklyn Basin, the $1.5 billion Oakland waterfront development, will have a resolution heard Tuesday to approve a final map for the first phase of the project on the Embarcadero and, pending approval, a guarantee it will construct "public infrastructure improvements, including roads, sanitary sewer mains, storm drain lines, street lights, curb, gutter and sidewalks." (Starts at 11:30 a.m. Committee members: Noel Gallo, Dan Kalb, Larry Reid, Rebecca Kaplan (chair)

COMMUNITY & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT  The proposed 24-story, 298 unit luxury tower near Lake Merritt has met some controversy of late. Some believe the city's $5.1 million asking price is too low for the nearly one acre lot. Then came word the project's developers may have hauled unsuspecting non-english speaking Asian seniors to advocate for the plan at a recent Planning Commission hearing under the falsehood the building would provide low-income housing for seniors. On Tuesday, the committee will discuss moving forward with the propose sale with a Development and Disposition Agreement (DDA). (Starts at 1:30 p.m. Committee members: Annie Campbell Washington, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Rebecca Kaplan, Larry Reid (chair).

PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE An informational report on racial profiling and the Oakland Police Department will be offered Tuesday night. While recent reports over OPD's compliance with the Negotiated Settlement Agreement have shown improvement in this area, the issue is not going away. Despite encompassing roughly a quarter of Oakland's population, African Americans are disproportionately represented in police statistics such as stops by police. From July 2013 to June 2014, 27,991 stops were made by police in Oakland. Of those, 59 percent, or 16,542 were African American. The reason for the stops: 9,888 for traffic violations, 3,794 for probable cause, 1,636 for reasonable suspicion and 778 were consensual encounters. The next highest demographic is Latinos, with just 17 percent. The breakdown by gender, according to the staff report is heavily skewed towards men, 75-25 percent. (Starts at 6 p.m. Committee members: Noel Gallo, Abel Guillén, Dan Kalb, Desley Brooks (chair)

LIFE ENRICHMENT COMMITTEE is cancelled. (Committee members: Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo, Abel Guillén, Annie Campbell Washington (chair.).

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Hayward mayor proposes 'work-at-home, skip-a-shower day'

Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday
HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL | Hayward Mayor Barbara Halliday said she has been known to forsake a shower, but only if she plans to spend the entire day at home. The idea is just another of many for residents to conserve water during the state’s enduring drought.

“Maybe we can start a stay-at-home, work-at-home, skip-a-shower day?” Halliday joked Tuesday night as the Hayward City Council applied to own conservation plan additional cutbacks prescribed last week by Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order to reduce statewide water usage by 25 percent.

The amendments to Hayward's existing Water Shortage Contingency Plan include a prohibition on watering lawns and ornamental landscapes during and within 48 hours since the last rainfall, an instruction to restaurants and bars to only provide water when a customer specifically asks for it, and for hotels in Hayward to notify guests of an option to not launder their towels and linens

Hayward residents, however, already do a good job of saving water. Each day, they average 52 gallons of water per resident, said Alex Ameri, director of Public Works Utilities and Environmental Services. The amount is one of the lowest in the state and Hayward’s previous conservation efforts may translate to a lower restriction than the 25 percent across-the-board reduction ordered by Brown.

Not all municipalities may be treated equally, said Ameri, after the State Water Board hands down specific instructions for Brown’s executive order in early May, Hayward may only be ordered to reduce water usage by 10 percent, said Ameri due to its successful recent history of conservation.

In addition, the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which is Hayward’s water provider, may also impose a 10 percent ration on usage, said Ameri. Whether or not the SFPUC orders mandatory rationing rules could occur in July and put into effect on Aug. 1. At that point, the City Council could be asked to approve stricter conservation guidelines, Ameri added.

The growing issue of equity born out of Brown’s plan to place the brunt of water conservation on regular citizens rather the state’s agricultural interests, which put far greater burdens on the water supply, was discussed often by the Hayward City Council.

“I’m looking for fairness across the board. I want to be treated with respect when it comes to cutbacks,” Councilmember Marvin Peixoto said, within the context of other wealthy enclaves such as Atherton, where per capita water usage is sky-high in comparison to Hayward.

“Somebody told me it was idiotic for me to control my gallons [of water] when I wash dishes and when I bathe, but nothing to Nestle for stealing our water,” Councilmember Francisco Zermeno said, a common critique against the multinational corporation that also bottles water in the state.

What is the state doing? asked Councilmember Greg Jones. “What are we doing proactively to solve some of this? He suggested alternatives like employing gray water for irrigation and possibly a multi-tiered pay structure for those using more water. “We just can’t keep cutting or we’re going to be sitting around smelling pretty bad and I don’t look forward to that eventuality," said Jones. "I like you all up here, but, please, keep taking a shower.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Run, Ro, Run?

Ro Khanna's reported $800,000 in campaign finance
indicates donors are still bullish about his future.
CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | When congressional campaign finance reports are released next week, they will show former 17th District candidate Ro Khanna has raised more than $800,000 in contributions. The news confirms a report last week that also attributed the spike in fundraising—in the first quarter since the November 2014 election—to video of Rep. Mike Honda sleeping during a House floor session last February to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

According to a source, the considerable bump in checks to Khanna, indeed, coincided with the napping episode featured in a C-SPAN video clip that went viral. However, exactly what the incident means to individual donors is not know, but it more than hints that Khanna’s donors believe he is still a viable challenger to Honda after falling short in the general election last fall by less than four percent.

But, whether Khanna’s time is 2016 or 2018 is the question. It’s also still a remote possibility that Honda retires in the near future. On Wednesday, long-time California Rep. Lois Capps announced her retirement from Congress after 17 years. But, Honda who has served since 2001 and will be 74 in June, showed few ill-effects following a tough re-election campaign last year.

Honda also appears to harbor some antipathy toward Khanna, which clearly showed during a trash-talking victory speech delivered last November. Furthermore, in recent months, Honda’s congressional office has gone to great lengths to burnish his progressive credentials, highlighted by a popular tweet announcing support for his transgender grandchild. This gave the sense to some, Honda was attempting to stave off a potential shift by the moderate Khanna to the left, if the challenger were to run again next year.

The feeling that a Khanna campaign is looming due to phenomenal fundraising numbers has occurred twice before. Khanna pulled down $1.2 million in 2011 while he was contemplating a challenge to then-Rep. Pete Stark. He relented then, but in July 2013, Khanna gained national attention when he posted $1 million in campaign contributions in a single quarter for his run against Honda.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Former Assemblymember Nancy Skinner named policy fellow at U.C. Davis

Nancy Skinner, right, is a likely candidate for
the 9th State Senate District in 2016, as is 
Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, right.
PHOTO/Steven Tavares
ASSEMBLY | Former East Bay Assemblymember Nancy Skinner has something to do while she contemplates a likely run for the State Senate next year. The termed out legislator was named a senior policy fellow at U.C. Davis.

Skinner's expertise will be utilized at the school's energy, transportation policy centers, including the Energy Efficiency Center, Institute of Transportation Studies, and the Policy Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy, according to a press release.

Most East Bay political observers believe Skinner, a Democrat, will run for State Sen. Loni Hancock's termed out 9th District seat in 2016.

The race, in fact, could be one of the 2016 campaign season's main events. In addition to Skinner, former Assemblymember Sandre Swanson is viewed as a strong challenger for the seat, as is current Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan.

However, two of three potential senate candidates may be disadvantaged by their current status outside the political arena. Swanson was termed out of his Assembly seat in 2012 and spent the next two years as former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan's deputy mayor. Similarly, for Skinner, the period out of the political limelight between her time in the Assembly and potential campaign for the senate could be problematic.

Ironically, it was the same period of purgatory that some believe hurt Chan's unsuccessful first bid for the state senate in 2008 following three terms in the Assembly ending in 2006. Chan lost the Democratic June Primary to Hancock.

NBC’s Brian Williams uses a trick from Mary Hayashi’s playbook

Brian Williams should ask Mary Hayashi. The 
Brain Tumor Defense almost never works.
ALAMEDA COUNTY | NBC’s suspended news anchor Brian Williams suggested he “misremembered” disputed events in Afghanistan because of a brain tumor, according to a lengthy expose of the network’s downtrodden news division in the current issue of Vanity Fair.

It begs the question: Why sully the reputation of brain tumors by using them as excuses for poor decision-making? East Bay politicos might recall another instance when the brain tumor defense was used—to equally poor results.

In early 2012, the attorney for former Hayward Assemblymember Mary Hayashi said a previously undisclosed brain tumor contributed to her infamous shoplifting arrest at Neiman Marcus in October 2011. Hayashi later plead no contest to misdemeanor charges, received a fine and one-year probation for shoplifting three articles of clothing worth $2,450.

Similar to Hayashi’s consistent aversion to specifically speaking to the charges against her, Williams literally could not voice the words, “I lied,” said a source in the Vanity Fair article.

“We could not force his mouth to form the words ‘I lied.’ He couldn’t explain what had happened. [He said,] ‘Did something happen to [my] head? Maybe I had a brain tumor, or something in my head?’ He just didn’t know. We just didn’t know. We had no clear sense what had happened. We got the best [apology] we could get,” according to the article.

Hayashi’s case was no different and her inability to apology or even induce sympathy from voters led directly to a pair of brutal and ultimately disastrous campaigns—first for Alameda County supervisor in 2012 and the State Senate last year.

Hayashi's experience proves employing the brain tumor defense only works if, unfortunately, the person actually has a brain tumor.