Friday, February 27, 2015

Rep. Mike Honda needs a recharge; falls asleep on the House floor

CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | It's been a hard week in Congress. House Republicans and Democrats are dueling over funding for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and there's uproar over Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaking before Congress next week.

Rep. Mike Honda, for one, is apparently exhausted. Need proof?

C-SPAN noticed the 73-year-old Honda counting blue donkeys in his sleep Friday during a discussion about breaking the longjam over Homeland Security's budget.

In the video, Honda appears to have been awaken by fellow California Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard's introduction to speak on the House floor. However, Honda then squeezes his eyes tightly together, cocks his head to his right shoulder and is out, again.

Soon, thereafter, a gentleman, possibly Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) walks in front of Honda's seat and momentarily startles Honda out of his slumber.

For his part, Honda acknowledged his moment of sleepy time in response to a tweet from a C-SPAN reporter. "Yes, I'm tired of the GOP playing games with out national security," joked Honda in a tweet.

During Honda's re-election campaign, San Jose Inside highlighted Honda possibly falling asleep during a community meeting in November 2013. However, video of that incident was less than conclusive. Instead, Honda may have been merely resting his eyes for a moment since the alleged naptime clocked in at under 30 seconds.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Ellen Corbett, once unemployed following State Senate terms, now has two jobs

On second thought: Ellen Corbett is taking leave
from HUSD for a legislative appointment.
LEGISLATURE | After former State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett was termed out of office last December, the parlor room bets were immediately taken over where she would land next. Some guessed a judicial appointment could be in her future, but that didn't happen. Neither was a congressional seat in the cards.

Instead, Corbett took a newly-created $168,000 a year government affairs job in mid-December with the Hayward Unified School District.

But, less than two months on the job, Corbett was already seeking an appointment to the infamous landing spot for termed out legislators, the California Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board.

On Thursday, the State Senate Rules Committee named Corbett to the government board, according to the Sacramento Bee.

Corbett will be taking a cut in pay, however, earning over $128,000 annual from her new position. The long-time San Leandro politician will not be drawing two salaries.

A letter to the rules committee from the Hayward school district's Superintendent Stan Dobbs, dated, Feb. 6, said, if appointed, Corbett would be placed on a "long-term leave of absence from the district." She also will not be drawing a salary or benefits from the district, the letter adds.

In the past, appointments to the state Unemployment Insurance Appeals Board have been viewed somewhat derisively as the place where former capitol stalwarts go to draw a paycheck. Until Corbett's appointment, the current five-member board only had three members. A fifth slot will be named by the governor's office.

In the East Bay, former State Sen. Liz Figueroa sat on the appeals board following the end of her terms in 2006, as did former Assemblymember Alberto Torrico in 2010.

Alameda County grand jury is examining Oakland's bungled garbage deal

The Alameda County grand jury's annual report is 
typically released in late June.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The spate of controversies that followed the Oakland City Council’s decision last August to initially award a $1 billion garbage contract to a local operator with little requisite infrastructure to handle the job has gained the attention of the Alameda County civil grand jury, according to City Hall sources.

The county grand jury process is secretive in nature to protect whistle-blowers, but some members of the City Council and other staffers have already testified before the 19-member grand jury, said sources with knowledge of the proceedings.

While referencing the rash of negative press following Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney and the entire council, a City Hall source added, “This is going to minor as compared to what’s ahead of us.”

At issue are the circumstances surrounding the request-for-proposals (RFP) provided by Waste Management for renewal of its Oakland garbage contract. After the City Council abruptly changed gears and supported the cheaper bid from Oakland-based California Waste Solutions to handle the entire contract, Waste Management sued the city. The council's decision was also in opposition to its staff's recommendation.

California Waste Solutions was previously contracted to provide half of Oakland’s recycling services. In Waste Management’s complaint, they charged the city undercut their bid by illegally providing its details to California Waste Solutions.

The lawsuit named virtually the entire Oakland city government, but specifically charged Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan, Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Dan Kalb with violating their own RFP rules when they called for a new round negotiations over the lucrative waste contract.

Every member of the council voted in favor of California Waste Solutions, except Councilmember Desley Brooks, who abstained, and Councilmember Larry Reid, who was absent. Reid, in fact, has strong ties to California Waste Solutions' CEO David Duong and is godfather to one of his sons.

The city later agreed to split the contract between the two companies, thereby, ending the conflict.

But, exactly who gave California Waste Solutions access to the competing bid may be part of what the grand jury is investigating, says a source. At minimum, reviewing Oakland’s procedures in the RFP process is well within the grand jury’s overall mission to act as a watchdog of local government.

The Oakland City Council has been the subject of several harsh findings by the grand jury in recent years that have reverberating across the city’s politics. The significant back-log of forensic investigations at the Oakland Police Department’s crime lab was highlighted by the grand jury in 2012.

The next year, it slammed Oakland officials for an inability to “self-police” itself, specifically over alleged violations of the City Charter’s non-interference laws by Brooks and Reid. In the same report, the grand jury called for strengthening the Oakland Ethics Commission’s power to levy fines.

Oakland also failed to provide proper oversight of numerous fiscal issues such as its failure to recover $1.4 million in fire inspection fees, according to last year's report, along with the Oakland Unified School District's inability to perform timely and accurate audits of its books

The Alameda County grand jury’s annual report is typically released in late June.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

UPDATE: Pete Stark's college-age son is eyeing political office

Former Rep. Pete Stark in a graphic from 2011.
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Many in East Bay have long expected Pete Stark's young son will one day follow his father into the world of politics. Some even joke Fish Stark will one day avenge his father's loss to Rep. Eric Swalwell. That day, if it ever happens, is a long way off.

But, first things first. Stark, who is a student at Yale, opened an exploratory committee recently to run for New Haven Board of Aldermen, according to the Yale Daily News.

If he runs for the seat, which represents about 4,000 New Haven residents, it may be against a Democratic incumbent who recently graduated, according to the paper.

Ironically, Fish Stark, who is set to graduate in 2017, may be taking a cue from his father's ouster who claimed Pete Stark had become disengaged from his congressional district.

“It’s very important that we have an alder that is present, visible, vocal on campus, that is regularly engaging with group leaders, who is communicating with the student body through newsletters of social media,” Stark told the paper. “And I think there’s an extent to which that role is best filled by someone who is a current student and has those connections on campus.”

UPDATE Stark announced on Facebook Tuesday that he will officially run for the Ward 1 seat on the New Haven Board of Alders.

"I’m running for Ward 1 Alder because I love New Haven, and I love Yale, and I know that these two communities are strongest when we engage meaningfully with one another and work together towards progressive change," said Stark.

Thurmond bill seeks to outlaw smokeless tobacco at MLB ballparks in the state

Assemblymember Tony Thurmond at a Sacramento Park
Monday announcing his bill to ban smokeless tobacco
in Major League ballparks in California. 
ASSEMBLY | 15TH DISTRICT | Assemblymember Tony Thurmond wants to take the spittoon out of Big League clubhouses and ballparks.

Thurmond, who represents Berkeley, Richmond and parts of Oakland, plans to introduce a bill that will ban baseball players and fans from using smokeless tobacco products in Major League Baseball ballparks across the state. Five franchises operate in California. The bill also includes a prohibition on e-cigarettes.

Thurmond's bill would place signage alerting players to the tobacco ban in dugouts, bullpen areas and locker rooms, among others areas of their workplace, in addition, to around the ballpark. A violation of the prohibition could result in a fine.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors are also eyeing a ban on smokeless tobacco at AT&T Park and baseball fields across the city.

The legislation was created with young baseball fans in mind, Thurmond said in a radio interview Tuesday with Canada's CBC Radio. “We want to make sure kids aren’t using tobacco and we know kids look up to baseball players as role models.”

Big Tobacco's formidable lobbying strength in Sacramento will surely provide resistance to Thurmond's bill. "If there’s a fight involved, it’s a fight that’s worth it,” he said. “We can help prevent kids from developing habits that can hurt them.”

There have been pushes in the past to ban tobacco in MLB dugouts. During negotiations for the last Collective Bargaining Agreement in 2011, the players' union rejected an outright ban on tobacco and management conceded the point as one of the last disagreements before coming to term on a new labor deal.

The use of  tobacco products by players has been banned in the minor leagues across the country since 1993.

The freshman assembly member's opposition to tobacco also revisits one of the great mysteries of the local 2014 election cycle.

Thurmond's mild upset of Elizabeth Echols last fall was fueled in large part by an Independent Expenditure Committee named Alliance for California's Tomorrow, A California Business Coalition.

The committee, heavily backed by Big Oil, Big Pharma and Big Tobacco, poured more $620,000 in campaign cash last year in support of Thurmond's efforts, despite the candidate being adamant that he had no idea who the group was or why they favored his campaign. Tobacco companies, such as Philip Morris and Lorillard, together contributed $130,000 last year to the IE.

As a member of the Richmond City Council, Thurmond was known as a critic of the nearby Chevron refinery, which fueled confusion as to the why the IE was backing his campaign so strongly.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Rep. Swalwell did not renew $400 membership in LGBT Caucus

Many Democrats, like Rep. Eric Swalwell, have
left the LGBT Caucus, apparently over the new
$400 annual fee.
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Rep. Eric Swalwell was a member of the LGBT Equality Caucus during his first term in Congress. This time the caucus created to fight for the human rights of LGBT people does not include Swalwell, even though, he has stated support for the cause.

Membership in the caucus dropped precipitously from 114 to just 54 this year, according to Buzzfeed. Some say the new $400 annual membership fee dissuaded some from reupping with the caucus. Most congressional caucuses charge members a fee, which are typically far more taxing on a congressmember's budget than the amount the LGBT Caucus is asking. The Progressive Caucus, for instance, charges $2,000 a year for membership.

Swalwell has not given a reason for not rejoining the LGBT Caucus, but, last year, his reason for not joining the Congressional Progressive Caucus was also cost. As a low-ranking Democrat, the amount of money budgeted for his office is sparse in comparison to other lawmakers, he said last year. Instead of paying to join the Progressive Caucus, he said, he would rather give his staff a raise.

During the last session of Congress, Swalwell, though, belonged to five other caucuses: Wine Caucus, Anti-Bullying Caucus, Science and Labs Caucus and Internet Caucus, according to his website.

South Bay Reps. Anna Eshoo and Zoe Lofgren also did not renew their membership in the LGBT Caucus.

In the East Bay, Swalwell is alone when it comes to either caucus. Both Reps. Barbara Lee and Mike Honda are members of both groups. However, when it comes to the LGBT Caucus, Lee and Honda aren't just members, but vice chairs, a position that costs each member $2,100 annually, according to the Washington Blade, a respected LGBT newspaper based in Washington.

Just last week, Honda tweeted to great fanfare and support a photo of his transgender grandchild.

Meanwhile, a source told the paper, the new $400 price tag is just an excuse.

“Members and staff who say their offices cannot afford the annual membership dues are being less than honest with their constituents,” the source said.

“This is a question of priorities, and members of Congress who are declining to rejoin the Equality Caucus over a fraction of a percent of their annual budget are not prioritizing equal rights for the LGBT community. Donors who value true champions of LGBT equality in the House should keep these names in mind when opening their wallets for the 2016 election cycle.”

Assemblymember introduces bill to ban BART strikes

AB 528 is Assemblymember Catharine Baker's
first piece of legislation.

ASSEMBLY | 16TH DISTRICT | Freshman Assemblymember Catharine Baker’s first bill makes good on a major campaign pledge she offered last year. It may also be a potential boon to one candidate in the State Senate special election in her Contra Costa County district.

Baker introduced legislation Monday that would prohibit BART workers from striking. During her campaign last year, Baker, the first Republican elected to the Legislature from the East Bay in six years, used the series of transit strikes that roiled commuters and voters starting in 2013 to her advantage.

The bill, AB 528, closes a loophole, said Baker, and says if BART management maintains the pay and benefits detailed in the expired contract, its employee unions must not strike.

“This is a very different and unique approach to preventing future BART strikes,” said Baker. “This approach is fair to workers, riders, and the general public who rely so heavily on our mass transit system.”

Labor unions will almost assuredly balk at the legislation even though BART employees are one of the few transit labor groups with the ability to strike. The Legislative is also dominated by Democrats, many of which have strong ties to labor.

Additionally, Baker’s legislation also brings the conversation of BART and transit strikes back to the forefront in the neighboring State Senate 7th District special election.

Steve Glazer, who participated in last year’s Assembly 16th District race along with Baker and is currently in another tight campaign this spring for the State Senate, was the first candidate to highlight the growing discord among voters toward the BART strike. After Glazer, a centrist Democrat, failed to reach the top two general election, he endorsed Baker over the labor-backed Tim Sbranti.

Based on campaign mailers, former Rep. Ellen Tauscher greatly aged in one day

Is this the same person? Susan Bonilla's State Senate campaign sent a mailer last week featuring former Rep. Ellen Tauscher using a much younger photo than the current version, on the right.
A second Bonilla mailer shows a more mature
Ellen Tauscher.
STATE SENATE | DISTRICT 7 | Politically savvy voters in the State Senate's 7th District were probably shocked by former Rep. Ellen Tauscher's apparent makeover into the Dynasty-era blonde featured in a mailer sent last week on behalf of Susan Bonilla's bid for the open seat next month.

The mailer, which arrived in mailboxes around Valentine's Day was paid for by the California Dental Association's independent expenditure committee.

Roughly a day later another piece featuring Tauscher followed, this time coming from Bonilla's campaign.

However, the second piece was far more accurate, showing Tauscher with the short, brown haircut more recently seen, for instance, as her official photo at the U.S. State Department.

The California Dental Association might hearkening back to better days with other mailers in this race. Paid political advertisements by the group for Bonilla featuring the endorsements of Rep. Mark DeSaulnier and State School Superintendent Tom Torlakson, also look a bit dated.

Using a much younger photo is usually reserved for veteran Real Estate agents, online dating profiles and independent expenditure committees not paying attention to what they're doing.

Hayward councilmember: convert old shipping containers for the homeless

HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL  | Hayward Councilmember Francisco Zermeno's heart may be in the right place, but he has another wild idea to help the city's homeless. This time, he's floating the idea of converting old steel shipping containers into dwellings for the homeless.

On Instagram and Twitter, Zermeno posted this:
The idea is not entirely novel. Others cities have studied recycling shipping containers into tiny homes for the less fortunate, but the idea may do little to treat the underlining issues that lead to homelessness--lack of jobs, mental health, age, and disability.

A blithely proposed idea to help the homeless in Hayward is nothing new for Zermeno. In 2013, after he and others on the City Council prohibited free food-sharing in city parks without funding an alternative for hungry residents, Zermeno mentioned fig and kumquat trees on public land are teeming with fruit near Southland Mall.

Zermeno's insinuation being: the city's homeless could grab a free snack near the mall or for Hayward to allow fruit-bearing trees on city sidewalks. City staff, though, demurred and, added, fallen fruit on the sidewalk pose a major liability to the city.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Proposed Oakland department on race would be one of its least expensive to run

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Councilmember Desley Brooks' proposal to create a new city department on race and equity in city government could cost over $800,000 annually to operate, according to a staff report, making it one of the least expensive at City Hall.

The Oakland City Council's Finance and Life Enrichment Committees will first hear the plan to create a Department of Race and Equity this Tuesday.

The proposed department would be divided into the areas of race and equity, Civil Rights, and equity and project Implementation, according to Brooks' draft work plan.

In addition, the department's function would include creating a citywide Equity Initiative Plan; working with all departments to focus on equity as a standard practice and promote social and racial injustices within the city and potentially the entire region.

The city nor the county currently have such an office dedicated to race and equity. Similar departments in San Francisco, Portland and Seattle were briefly studied by city staff.

The cost of establishing a new city department on race and equity has earned early support since Brooks first offered the proposal late last month. However, with a budget shortfall of nearly $30 million on the books, money for creating the department could be problematic.

City staff estimates the staffing and operating the department could run as high as $819,000 a year. The estimate includes a $232,000 salary for a director and three other full-time employees, according to the report.

Labor-backed IE spending money in SD7 on Republican who dropped out

STATE SENATE | DISTRICT 7 | Steve Glazer urged his supporters Sunday night to "Follow the $" after learning a political action committee typically backed by labor is spending thousands to back the lone Republican in the State Senate 7th District special election primary next month even though she dropped out of the race earlier this month. "Obvious dirty trick," Glazer tweeted.

The Asian American Small Business PAC has spent $46,378, according to finance reports, to back Republican Michaela Hertle, despite its history of backing mostly liberal Asian American candidates--of which, she is neither.

The expenditures were posted over the weekend and has already resulted in one mailer touting Hertle, a previously unknown candidate, for the open state senate seat.

During the last election cycle, for instance, the PAC contributed thousands of dollars to the campaigns of Asian American Democratic such as John Chiang, Betty Yee, David Chiu, Evan Low and Rob Bonta, among others.

Possibly to blunt the curious coupling of the Asian American PAC's influence, Glazer, a Democrat, announced late Monday the endorsement of his campaign by the Silicon Valley Chinese Association.

The presence of a Republican in the race, no matter their prominence, is seen as a threat to Glazer's centrist platform. In press releases, Glazer's campaign is quick to note Hertle has dropped out of the race and has endorsed his candidacy.

The increasingly expensive three-person primary race on Mar. 17. The race also includes Assemblymember Susan Bonilla and former Assemblymember Joan Buchanan. If no candidate reaches a majority of the vote, the top two will face off on May 19.

Hayward is hoping to market its way to prosperity with rebranding

Hayward's new marketing campaign:
Simple, green and straightforward
HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL | When Frank Holland, Hayward’s community relations officer, pored over the city’s host of marketing materials, he found it lacked a cohesive look and message. “Visually, there is an extraordinary level of fragmentation,” said Holland.

Over the years, Hayward has described itself as the “Heart of the Bay.” The slogan is grounded in geography and, of course, demeanor, but with a city still struggling to break out from the doldrums of the recent long recession, a new message is needed.

A rebranding was prescribed as part of its Economic Development Strategic Plan, approved by the Hayward City Council in 2013. “I hear a lot about telling our story,” Holland told the City Council last week. “How we have a great story to tell.”

Starting in November of last year, Hayward officials, business owners and residents participated in a pair of workshops to hash out a new vision of the city for itself and outsiders. They settled on portraying Hayward as an area of unexpected opportunity for residents, current and future, and for business. The latter emphasizing Hayward’s relatively low-cost rents for potential businesses to set up shop, said Holland. Additionally, Hayward’s new marketing plan will highlight the city as an area of opportunity for artisans. Holland labeled the idea, “We make real things.”

A stylized logo  of Hayward's border. Its new
marketing campaigns hopes to portray Hayward
a place of unexpected opportunity.
Holland eschewed the call by some in Hayward to market the city as "college town" since it boasts of Cal State East Bay, Chabot College and numerous trade schools. Unlike other cities like Chico, Calif., Hayward’s identity is not predicated on a university existing within its border, said Holland. “With Hayward, it’s there, but doesn’t define what Hayward is.”

Hayward City Manager Fran David said the current municipal logo and rosette will not be phased out. However, a new suite of marketing logos and colors palettes will be added. They include a simple “H” colored with a green gradient along with a stylized, multi-colored map of Hayward. The colors on the map, however, have no correlation to any neighborhoods or districts, but a series of arrows, said Holland.

The City Council expressed great support for the marketing campaign last week. Councilmember Sara Lamnin gushed, “Mostly, I want to get out of your way and say do it.”

Funding the campaign with more than the $103,000 budgeted by the City Council last year will likely be an issue as city officials begin hashing out its next fiscal budget this spring.

Councilmember Greg Jones suggested local businesses have access to co-branding with the campaign. David agreed the simple and straightforward campaign allows flexibility for business owners to co-opt their message, but with some restrictions, said David. “We want some control on who uses it, but we don’t want to be too constrictive.”

Hayward’s city finances are still lackluster and one of its largest employers, bus manufacturer Gillig, skipped town for Livermore this month. In addition, over 300 city employees are still on the job without a contract, but like its also struggling school district, a change in public perception may help place it on the fast track.

Over the past year, the Hayward Unified School District’s “Made in Hayward” campaign has gained great support in the community. The city appears inspired by their efforts. For instance, Holland, was also behind the raft of publicity this month that followed Hayward’s use of quirky road signs near Cal State East Bay.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Warmerdam in line to be named Alameda interim city manager

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | With Alameda City Manager John Russo announcing he is taking the same position in Riverside, who will run the day-to-day operations of city government in the interim?

City Hall sources say Assistant City Manager Liz Warmerdam will be named Russo’s temporary replacement.

Alameda currently has two assistant city managers, but the choice of Warmerdam over her colleague, Alex Nguyen, is not controversial, say sources, because he’s believed to be heading to Riverside, along with Russo.

The move isn’t entirely surprising for Nguyen, who has made a career in public service acting as “Cato” to Russo’s “Green Hornet.” Nguyen was Russo’s trusted right hand during their time at the Oakland city attorney’s office and then in Alameda when Russo was named city manager in 2011.

Warmerdam was named Alameda assistant city manager in 2013 after serving the same role in Hercules. However, she spent time in Alameda city government in the late 1990s as a management analyst.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Coliseum JPA postpones vote on Raiders lease; Miley says some public money may be used for new stadium

COLISEUM AUTHORITY | The morning after the Oakland Raiders unveiled a surprise joint proposal with the San Diego Chargers to build a stadium in Southern California, the Oakland Coliseum Joint Powers Authority (JPA) postponed a decision to approve a one-year lease extension for the team to play another season at O.co Coliseum.

No official reason was offered for the postponement, which was announced after the JPA officially named former Oakland Tribune publisher Scott McKibben as its new executive director. A vote by the JPA on the Raiders lease, however, could occur at a special meeting scheduled for early March, said Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, a member of the stadium authority.

JPA Commissioner Chris Dobbins said the move should not be seen a response to a report Thursday evening in the Los Angeles Times revealing that the Raiders and Chargers had recently purchased land at a landfill in the city of Carson, near Los Angeles, for a new 68,000-seat stadium to be shared by the rival football teams.

“The city wants to get its ducks in a row. We don’t want something to happen like last summer with the A’s where the city and county looked like they were playing stupid,” said Dobbins, referring to negotiations last year in which the Oakland City Council balked at a deal that the county had agreed to with the A’s. Dobbins, like other JPA commissioners, did not know about the Raiders and Chargers’ stadium plans before last night.

Other members of the JPA, including Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, said they first heard of the stadium plan from news reports and that Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid was alerted by Raiders officials shortly before the LA Times article was posted online.

“It’s still posturing, but even so, the Raiders are still saying they want to stay here. It really puts it on us to make something happen. Historically, we haven’t gotten anything done,” said Dobbins.

JPA officials agree that time is running out on keeping the Raiders in Oakland, while giving hints to some of the terms potentially being negotiated with the city, county, and the Coliseum City development group, known as New City Development, led by San Diego businessman Floyd Kephart.

“The clock is ticking,” said Miley. “The deadline is approaching.”

In an interview following the JPA meeting, Miley placed the current odds of the Raiders building a stadium in Oakland at “fifty-fifty.” But, he added, the Raiders are growing more comfortable with New City Development. Oakland officials recently approved a ninety-day extension of its Exclusive Negotiating Agreement (ENA) with New City. Miley added that he believes the county will eventually join the ENA. However, neither government body nor the Raiders have seen details on how New City plans to finance Coliseum City, he said.


Schaaf chooses Emeryville's Landreth to lead Oakland city government

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Oakland had to only look across its border to find its next city administrator as Mayor Libby Schaaf announced the hiring of Emeryville City Manager Sabrina Landreth late Friday.

Landreth is a native of Oakland and Cal graduate. She also served as Oakland's assistant city administrator budget director under former Mayor Jean Quan before she was selected to lead Emeryville's city government in 2013.

The Oakland City Council must also confirm Landreth's appointment. Her starting date is not know, according to the city, but based upon Emeryvile finding a replacement for Landreth, although, no later than July.

“This is the single most important decision I will make as mayor,” said Schaaf. “Restoring stability to the City Administrator’s Office is vital to achieving sustainability in Oakland. Given the importance of this role, we were committed to conducting a robust search of top-notch professionals to identify a candidate that would bring competence, integrity and energy to City Hall – Sabrina is that person.”

Landreth follows two interim city administrators following Deanna Santana's resignation in March 2014.

A number of potentially daunting issues will confront Landreth from outset, including negotiations with city employee unions, reconciling a nearly $30 million budget shortfall before the end of June and continuing the city's on-going reforms at the Oakland Police Department.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

UPDATE: John Russo says arrivederci to Alameda; takes new job in Riverside

John Russo begins his new job as Riverside
city manager in May.
ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Alameda City Manager John Russo is leaving his post on the Island for the same position in Riverside, according to a local report Thursday afternoon. Russo, who also served on the Oakland City Council and eleven years as Oakland’s city attorney, will start his new job in May, according to the (Riverside) Press Enterprise, and earn an annual salary of $295,000. He has served as Alameda’s city manager since 2011.

Although Russo’s departure appears on the surface to have been abrupt, there have been persistent rumblings in Alameda that the gregarious city administrator was unhappy with the new direction of the Alameda City Council following last November’s election.

Two new members of the five-person council, including Mayor Trish Spencer, ran on a successful platform of slow growth in Alameda. Their agenda of limiting traffic on the land-locked city, in many ways, ran counter to Russo’s continuing work to develop Alameda Point, located on the former Naval Air Station, with housing, commercial use, and open space.

“It was not surprising,” said Councilmember Jim Oddie. “We were lucky to have him." Rumors of Russo’s interest for moving on to another city was known by many at City Hall, he said. “It was only a matter of time.” The surprise election of Spencer last fall was also a factor, he added.

An interim replacement will soon be named to replace Russo preceding a search for a permanent city mananger. “It’s an opportunity now for the new City Council to put a stamp on the city manager’s job,” said Oddie.

According to the report, the Riverside City Council had interviewed six candidates, including Russo, for the position. Riverside has been without a permanent city manager and city attorney since last year.

Coincidentally, Russo is following another Alamedan to Riverside. In 2013, the general manager of Alameda Municipal Power also left to work for the Southern California city.

Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog said Thursday afternoon that Russo will be missed and he credits him with directing the city’s efforts during the early planning stages at Alameda Point. “By accomplishing these front-end tasks in an orderly and timely manner, John positioned City Council, [former] Mayor Marie Gilmore, and now Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer to find the right developers to help us redevelop Alameda Point with residents' concerns in mind.”

NOTE: this article was updating Friday to include reaction from city officials.


Gallo wants McElhaney to publicly address ethics allegations against her

Councilmember Noel Gallo wants Council
President Lynette Gibson McElhaney to
address newpaper's allegations against her.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | At least one member of the Oakland City Council is willing to speak publicly on the multiple controversies surrounding council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney detailed recently in a series of investigative reports in the Express.

At the start of a special meeting on Thursday afternoon, Councilmember Noel Gallo attempted to schedule an agenda item in early March that would require Gibson McElhaney to answer to the ethical and legal issues raised in the Express reports.

In fact, Gallo said in an interview that his first inclination was to schedule the item using the city’s censure policy, which he introduced in December 2013 following hearings earlier that year involving alleged violations by Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid of the city’s non-interference laws.

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney
The City Attorney’s Office, however, told Gallo that his requested agenda item had to be noticed 48 hours beforehand and needed to include a list of allegations against Gibson McElhaney.

Instead, Gallo suggested during Thursday’s meeting that the city council schedule a closed session agenda item allowing for Gibson McElhaney to address the Express report that she used her personal nonprofit to flip homes in Oakland despite her own calls for limiting gentrification.

Another article revealed the first term councilmember appears to have used a developer contracted with the city for the sprawling Coliseum City project to combat a proposed housing development next to her home. However, the City Attorney’s Office said that a council closed-door discussion of the Express reports would violate the Brown Act — the state’s open meetings law.

“All I wanted is for Lynette to come before the council and explain what’s going on — that’s all,” Gallo said. However, when Gallo broached the subject on Thursday during a council meeting, Gibson McElhaney momentarily left her seat at the dais.

If one councilmember breaks the public’s trust, it reflects not only on that person, but on the entire council, said Gallo. However, he does not believe any of his colleagues currently have an appetite for dealing with the issue. “So, for me to sit there silent, and, I’ve given them plenty of time to come forward. I’ve checked with my colleagues and it’s not going to happen so that’s why I brought it forward.”

Gallo said he has an issue primarily with the Express report that Gibson McElhaney used her city staff to interfere with the details of the housing project proposed in her neighborhood. He took umbrage with comments made by the architect in the article who suggested he had donated his time to help Gibson McElhaney because he believed in the cause.

“That’s BS,” said Gallo. “Why doesn’t he do my house, too? You can’t do that. I represent the public’s trust. Is there a conflict of interest? If you look at the policy, it is very clear that you can’t interfere with staff.”

Incidentally, Gallo was the only member of the council to vote against Gibson McElhaney’s appointment last month to become council president. Brooks abstained. At the time, he expressed concern over some of the earlier Express reports on her, while also questioning her lack of experience. Gallo, instead, nominated Reid for the post, but Reid declined.


Coliseum Authority to offer next executive director 3-year, $250,000 contract

Scott McKibben
COLISEUM AUTHORITY | Former newspaper publisher Scott McKibben wanted a bit more to fill the long-vacant executive director position at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Authority, but he’ll settle for an annual salary of $250,000.

McKibben, who led the Oakland Tribune in the early 2000s and was CEO of the Rose Bowl from 2009-2011, will be offered a three-year deal, according to the Coliseum Authority, which oversees the publicly-owned O.co Coliseum and Oracle Arena.

Media reports said McKibben was seeking a deal closer to $300,000 per year, but suggested he was willing to lower his asking price. In addition to his experience running the Rose Bowl committee, McKibben was an aggressive backer of a downtown ballpark for the Oakland Athletics and envisioned bringing the Super Bowl to a new football stadium in Oakland.

The Coliseum board will also vote to extend an offer for consulting services to Deena McClain, the current interim executive director, to aid McKibben’s transition.

The issue of authorizing another one-year extension of the Oakland Raiders lease at the Coliseum is also on Friday morning’s agenda. According to a staff report, the Raiders requested extending the lease through the end of the 2015 football season.

Meanwhile, a report in the Los Angeles Times Thursday evening says the Raiders and the San Diego Chargers are prepared to share a stadium in Carson, if negotiations with both home cities fail.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Rep. Mike Honda tweets support for transgender granddaughter

Rep. Mike Honda has been touting his 
progressive credential in recent weeks.
CONGRESS | 17TH DISTRICT | Support and recognition for the transgender community in America is slowly building. Olympian and reality TV star Bruce Jenner's reported transformation as a woman is destined to be a cultural touchstone for those fearful of society's viewpoint.

On Wednesday, Rep. Mike Honda joined the movement when he tweeted a photo of himself and transgender grandchild in a loving embrace.

"As the proud grandpa of a transgender grandchild, I hope she can feel safe at school without fear of being bullied," he tweeted. The age of Honda's granddaughter is unknown, although the photo appears to be recent.

Aside from the obvious cultural ramifications, the announcement, delivered on Honda's congressional Twitter account, continues a recent reintroduction of Honda, long known for his progressive credentials. The flurry of press from Honda's office has been notable.

In recent weeks, Honda has questioned military action in the Middle East, called for revoking the trademark of the Washington Redskins, in addition, to today's support for the transgender community.

The amount of activity even has some South Bay politicos thinking Honda is anticipating another brutal re-election campaign next year. And who might challenge Honda in 2016? Well, you know who.

Former mayoral candidate has video of UFO over San Leandro

Former San Leandro mayoral candidate Dan Dillman with video of a UFO last Friday. Click to full screen mode for a better view of the object.
Dan Dillman, left, during a mayoral forum last
fall in San Leandro.
SAN LEANDRO | San Leandro theater owner Dan Dillman believes he witnessed a UFO last Friday night and he has video of the reddish-orange orb floating in the sky over East 14th Street and Bancroft Avenue.

Dillman, ran for San Leandro mayor last fall, but he is also an expert on other worldly phenomena after appearing last year on an episode of the History Channel's "Ancient Aliens."

After leaving the Bal Theatre, which he owns and operates, Dillman says he saw the object in sky. He pulled over and got a better look.

He stared at relatively stationary object for awhile, which appeared to be pulsating high in the sky. At times, the object looked like a ring, he says. "This is definitely not a helicopter," said Dillman after investigating the UFO. The video above shows the object as white, but Dillman says in person, it was actually red and orange.

"This is not so strange in San Leandro. Lots of people are seeing objects," he says, before noting a number of videos online.

Dillman first posted the video on Facebook and may offer it to MUFON, a non-profit group that investigates UFO sightings.

However, he doesn't want people to think he's part of tinfoil hat crowd. Instead, he believes people need to have an open mind about what they see in the sky. The East Bay is ground zero for numerous government agencies doing top secret work, he says.

"People assume we're talking about aliens. UFO means "Unidentified Flying Object." That's what we saw Friday night."

Meanwhile, K-Ci and JoJo are appearing at the Bal Theatre this Saturday night, he adds, "Tickets are still available."

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Proof Oakland is rising from multiple angles

OAKLAND | What the heck was going on here? Last Thursday, Mayor Libby Schaaf attended the launch party for SPUR, the urban planning think tank's new office in Oakland, and then things got strange.

Soon, Schaaf was rising to the rafters like a multi-platinum disco queen performing at the Grammy's. Twitter then lit up with multiple angles of Oakland's new mayor reaching new heights.

The welcome party also has a distinct tie to Schaaf. Her recently named chief of staff, Tomiquia Moss, served as community planning policy coordinator for SPUR.

It also appears that Schaaf is not averse to heights. During a post-election profile in San Francisco Magazine, the author noted Schaaf's ease for hanging over the ledge of the Tribune Tower to snap a selfie.

Meanwhile, where have you gone, Jean Quan?

Quirky road signs in Hayward overshadow sobering economic news

There were no funny road signs at City Hall when
a picketing city employee was nearly run over.
HAYWARD | The new road signs around Cal State East Bay in Hayward are bringing loads of positive attention to the often overlooked and self-described “heart of the bay.”

Not only did the local press eat up the new signs urging pedestrians to cross the street before posting to Facebook, but the national media has reached hard for the unique and confectionery nature of the story.

However, the publicity totally overshadowed a very serious development in Hayward.

Recall, Hayward city workers were sideswiped last year when the City Council voted to impose a five percent wage cut rather than negotiate with workers. Over 300 employees have been without a contract for nearly two years.

Hayward city officials say its finances are unstable with pensions and health care costs for current and retired employees outstripping revenues.

Amid the warm and fuzzy publicity over the quirky road signs came this sobering news:

“A major Bay Area-based transit bus maker is leaving Hayward, its home for almost 80 years, to take up residence in a massive manufacturing plant and corporate headquarters in Livermore,” the Daily Review reported Feb. 6.

The loss of Hayward bus manufacturer Gillig amounts to a stunning blow to the city’s already stagnant tax base and its inability to pay competitive wages to its city employees.

In addition, it is not entirely clear whether Hayward city officials did anything early on to dissuade Gillig from relocated to the Tri Valley area.

Curiously, the Daily Review’s coverage of Gillig’s move represents the only article on the subject. Meanwhile, nearly every local media service reported on the road signs story plus the multiplier effect of far-flung affiliates picking up the story across the country.

That being said, Hayward city employees probably wish there were creative road signs next to City Hall when an angry resident put a picketing city worker in the hospital after nearly running over him two years ago.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Haggerty re-elected to lead Alameda County Transportation Commission

Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty
PHOTO/Shane Bond
ALAMEDA COUNTY | With passage last November of Measure BB, the 30-year, $8 billion half-cent sales tax increase for transportation in the East Bay, the first round of project are slated to begin this summer.

On Friday, the Alameda County Transportation Commission, a group comprised of representatives from 14 Alameda County cities and six transit agencies, unanimously re-elected Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty as its chair.

Haggerty’s involvement in Measure BB’s has been credited with its success at the ballot box last November. "It is a great privilege to have the confidence and partnership of my colleagues and to guide Alameda CTC in meeting its commitment to deliver programs and projects outlined in our voter-approved transportation measures,” Haggerty said in a statement.

The commission also named Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan as its vice-chair. In the past, Kaplan has championed transportation issues in Oakland and the county.

Needing approval from two-thirds of voters last fall, Measure BB passed with 70.67 percent of the vote. Two years prior, a similar reauthorization of Measure B, a previous county transportation measure, which was due to expire, famously fell short of passage by just over 700 votes.

In the meantime, four Measure B-funded projects are due to open this year, according to the Alameda CTC. (Measure B is the predecessor to Measure BB.) They include the Interstate 580 Express Lanes in the Tri Valley; the Interstate 80 SMART Corridor; BART’s extension to Warm Springs in Fremont and the East Bay Greenway.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Amid flurry of climate change legislation, State Sen. Wieckowski to hold hearing on state, local preparedness

STATE LEGISLATURE | State Sen. Bob Wieckowski will convene an informational hearing later this month on the preparation of state and local agencies for the effects of climate change.

The announcement came on the heels of a package of legislation introduced in the State Senate Tuesday hoping to lower pollution in the state 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050; halving the use of gasoline and increasing by 50 percent the amount of electricity from renewable sources.

Wieckowski, who represents much of the East Bay in the 10th State Senate District, also serves as chair of the Senate Environmental Quality Committee. As an assembly member, Wieckowski was one of the early opponents of fracking in the state.

“For those who value fresh air, good health and a cleaner environment, turning back is not an option,” said Wieckowski. “We need to understand the impacts caused by extreme weather, severe droughts, more intense wildfires, rising sea levels and coastal erosion. California policy makers need to be adapting and putting plans in place today so we are more prepared for tomorrow.”

The Senate Environmental Quality Committee hearing is Feb. 25, 9:30 a.m. and streamed live at Calchannel.com.

San Leandro city manager to sign five-year contract; receive $22,500 bonus

San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata will
continue to give $20,000 of his salary to the 
police chief and assistant city manager.
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata is set to signed a new five-year contract worth $223,000 in annual salary. The San Leandro City Council is scheduled to approve the new contract at Monday night’s meeting.

City officials needed an extra few weeks to hammer out terms of Zapata’s new contract. Last month, it moved to extend Zapata’s expiring contract another six months while it wound down negotiations.

Zapata’s new contract calls for an annual base salary of $223,000, in addition to adjustments based on the Consumer Price Index. The figure is equal to what he first earned in 2012. However, he will receive a signing bonus of $22,500, according to a staff report, in recognition of his work over the past three years.

The lump sum payment, however, must be reimbursed to the city if Zapata leaves the position or is terminated with or without cause, said the report.

Before Zapata’s arrival from National City, Calif., San Leandro had been without a permanent city manager for nearly a year following the City Council’s decision not to renew former City Manager Stephen Hollister’s contract in late 2010.

Also included in the new deal is the continuation of a unique financial arrangement, beginning in January 2013, between Zapata and the city’s police chief and assistant city manager. Zapata will continue to forfeit $10,000 in pay to each employee through the end of 2017, according to the terms of his new contract. The move was intended to dissuade each of them from entertaining offers from competing cities.

The new deal, which runs through Jan. 30, 2020, also includes allowances for communication devices, gas and automobile insurance coverage, according to the report.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Report: Oakland councilmember used her office for personal gain

Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Two thousand fifteen has not been pleasant for new Oakland City Council President Lynette McElhaney.

First, a report in January found she may have been flipping homes in her West Oakland district through her personal non-profit at the same time she was lashing out against gentrification. Her taxes still haven't been paid, according to the East Bay Express, and until recently she had not filed campaign finance reports since last summer.

Now comes the biggest allegation yet that McElhaney used her office to block a proposed housing development next door to her home, said the Express.

McElhaney also benefited from an architect's whose firm is JRDV International, the same group working on the proposed Coliseum City stadium project.

From the Express:
Public records also show that an Oakland architect, who has contracts with the city worth millions of dollars, produced an alternative design for the planned housing project on Gibson McElhaney's behalf. The architect, Morten Jensen of JRDV Urban International, also personally appeared before the planning commission to support Gibson McElhaney's appeal of the housing project. However, Jensen did not bill the councilmember for his work, thereby raising questions as to whether Gibson McElhaney illegally accepted gifts from a government contractor.
McElhaney also enlisted the help of her staff members to push their opposition to the housing plan, according to the Express.

McElhaney nor her staff appear to be refuting the allegations, but the architect from JRDV suggested his work for the first-term council member was perfunctory and that he did not charge her for the work.
When asked if he produced the drawings for free, or whether he billed Gibson McElhaney or the planning department for the sketches, Jensen repeated that he was only acting as a private citizen, and that no one solicited him for the work. "You'd be surprised how fast someone like me can produce that. We just want to offer up something."
Oakland city officials have stayed quiet since the spate of bad press against McElhaney first surfaced. In addition, most ignored the allegations against McElhaney when they elevated her to council president last month. However, the most recent allegation is likely the most disconcerting of all and may have lasting ramifications.

Recall, in 2013, the City Council nearly censured Councilmember Desley Brooks for similar non-interference violations that appeared far less clear-cut than McElhaney's involvement with the development next to her home.

The last local official to be censured for using their office for personal gain was also in 2013 when the AC Transit Board of Directors admonished board member Joel Young for trading on closed session information to benefit the law firm he represents.

Privacy policy for Oakland surveillance center moving closer to reality

Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo: "Our right
to privacy is being challenged by the tools we carry,"
he said, including smartphones.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Since the initial unveiling of a controversial citywide surveillance hub in Oakland in 2013, opponents have long called for a definitive privacy policy to protect citizen’s rights. Although, the scope of the proposal, known as the Domain Awareness Center (DAC), was greatly diminished by the Oakland City Council last March, the absence of a definitive policy for its new mission persisted until Tuesday when the council’s Public Safety Committee gave unanimous approval to guidelines, among other things, affirming the right to privacy in Oakland and limiting data-sharing with outside agencies

The privacy policy was drafted by an ad hoc advisory group comprised of members from the Oakland Citizens Privacy Group, along with input from city staff. Brian Hofer, a member of the group, praised staff for their input and willingness over the past nine months to work collaborative manner. The spine of the policy came also came from the American Civil Liberties Union, said Hofer.

Councilmember Desley Brooks, the chair of the public safety committee, moved the agenda item by consensus Tuesday afternoon. A 30-day public comment period will follow, she said. “We truly want to get comment,” said Brooks, who also instructed staff to add language allowing city officials and council members access to the center upon activation during emergency situations.

The current proposal would require the formation of a permanent standing advisory committee to oversee the DAC and designates the city administrator as “internal privacy officer,” The city auditor will serve as compliance officer, according to the policy, and the Public Ethics Commission as ombudsman for complaints. Violation of the privacy policy would be punishable by a misdemeanor and fines. “This policy is designed to see that the DAC processes are transparent, presumes innocence, and protects all people's privacy and civil liberties,” according to the draft policy.

Access to information procured by DAC is limited to designated city and port employees on a “need to know basis,” in addition, to limits on sharing its data. “In order for DAC staff to provide DAC data to non-City of Oakland agencies there must be a warrant based upon probable cause, court order, or a written memorandum of understanding or contract approved by the City Council after enactment of this policy.”

The privacy policy will come back to the committee sometime in early April, added Brooks. If approved, the full council could receive the policy later that month.

If successful, the inclusion of definitive policy to protect residents from digital infringement of the privacy would be another success for advocates, some of which, also pressured the City Council last year to dramatically limit the DAC to only the port and not throughout Oakland.

The surveillance hub, originally planned to be outfitted with disparate data feeds, from security cameras at Oakland schools to city streets and various other state and federal agencies to protect the Port of Oakland, was limited last March 2014 to functions only dealing with the port. Funding for the original DAC came from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The Port of Oakland’s Board of Commissioners then pulled funding for the DAC last year even though its chief function only dealt with port security. Some Oakland council members appeared perplexed by the port’s decision. However, its staff noted the city remains the port’s first responder in cases of emergency.

"I’m very disappointed in the port commission’s decision to pullback funding that was previously promised for this operation,” said Councilmember Dan Kalb. “That decision is shameful in my opinion.”

Earlier, a port official told the committee its commissioners voted to “reprogram” its portion of federal funding of the DAC when the city council limited the proposal to the port last March. Instead, because the port already maintains additional security on its own, it would be better suited to focus on its own resources absent the far-reaching multi-agency DAC.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Hancock, Quirk lead public safety hearing on police and community trust

Assemblymember Bill Quirk
STATE LEGISLATURE | The public safety committee chairs of State Legislature, both representing the East Bay, said testimony Tuesday in Sacramento suggests scant information exists on the use of force by police officers in California, In addition, there is no accepted number of civilians killed by law enforcement each year in the state.

“We learned there are essentially no records of police use of force” said Hayward Assemblymember Quirk. “We have no records on the racial aspects of this. We have nothing.”

The day-long Joint Public Safety Committee on Law Enforcement and Community Trust featured expert testimony on compiling and building trust toward police with data and investigating police misconduct, among other topics.

State Sen. Loni Hancock
Quirk, the chair of the Assembly Public Safety Committee, said the hearing’s intent was to compile a set of facts on policing in the state and determine best practices for possible future legislation.

Quirk questioned whether the number of those killed in officer-involved shootings, often cited as around 400 each year, is actually somewhere around 1,000. "That's one thousand too many," he said."

State Sen. Loni Hancock said the panoply of differing standards and regulations among police departments across the state makes data on police abuse and race impossible to decipher. It may also warrant legislation to correct, she said.

Lawmakers in the East Bay and the entire state have participated in similar community forums over the past few months to deal with concerns over police brutality that were highlighted last fall in Ferguson, Mo. and Staten Island, N.Y.

Hancock chairs the State Senate Public Safety Committee and represents Oakland, Berkeley--communities were numerous protests have brought the issue to the forefront in the Bay Area.

“I've become convinced that unless we can build strong positive partnerships between police officers and the neighborhoods in which they work, we will not have true public safety,” said Hancock. “We will not have communities in which every person feels protected by the police, not afraid of the police.”

“Black lives matter. Police lives matter. All lives matter,” said Quirk during his opening statement. But, later in the hearing, some criticized the joint committee for the perception some of their comments toward law enforcement officials were too reverential, at one point, police were referred to as the “good guys.”

Later, Quirk told Alice Huffman, a state representative from the NAACP who offered testimony Tuesday afternoon, that it may be too late in the legislative calendar to offer a bill on the subject of police reform this year, but he welcomed their ideas, nonetheless. “If we can’t get to it this year, over the summer and fall, we can work on it,” said Quirk.

Huffman, added there is much interest in the capitol for such legislation.

Assemblymember Shirley Weber (D-San Diego) agreed and questioned whether the Legislature will have to the courage to pass meaningful police reforms this session. Weber then appeared to rebut Quirk’s comments.

“We can say the bills are coming late. But where there’s a will, there’s always a way,” said Weber. “I’m not going to hide behind deadlines and things like that because I know everybody’s got all these spot bills and everything and they can do a whole lot of magic with it, if they chose to.”

Friday, February 6, 2015

Glazer immediately takes hold of the narrative in special State Senate race

Just weeks after joining the SD7 special election, 
Steve Glazer is already grabbing the headlines.
STATE SENATE | DISTRICT 7 | Steve Glazer, a former consultant to Gov. Jerry Brown, failed to advance past the June primary last summer in the 16th Assembly District, but his return last month to seek Rep. Mark DeSaulnier’s vacated seat in the State Senate might seem very familiar to weary voters in Contra Costa County and Tri Valley in Alameda County.

During a forum in Lafayette Wednesday, Glazer used a nearly identical playbook of centrist policies that gained his campaign for the Assembly great attention, but ultimately returned a dismal third-place finish in the June Primary.

However, this time around Glazer’s opponents lack the ideological variety that exist in the race last year. There is no Republican of Catharine Baker’s ilk in this race, which could help Glazer in this moderate senate seat. In fact, the only Republican in the race, little-known Michaela Hertle, dropped out last week. However, her name will still appear on the Mar. 17 primary ballot.

Assemblymember Susan Bonilla and Joan Buchanan, also Democrats, have thus far shown little dissimilarity. Both have positioned their campaigns on a platform for improving education.

Susan Bonilla and Joan Buchanan at an 
endorsement meeting last month in Dublin.
Whether Glazer’s gameplan that yielded an unsatisfactory result last year works or not this spring is yet to be seen. But judging by Wednesday’s performance, he has successfully grabbed the narrative of the race in his favor.

Glazer labeled himself with a number of ideological descriptors, including “social progressive,” “pragmatic progressive,” “fiscal conservative” and “Jerry Brown Democrat.” Support from every niche group might be needed for victory.

In the meantime, Glazer’s platform has changed very little over the months. Banning BART strikes again took precedent. “I’m not anti-labor. I’m pro-rider,” said Glazer. He also pushed for state legislation to prohibit transit strikes.

When Bonilla raised the belief bargaining groups on both sides of the table should meet early and often, Glazer attempted to create daylight. “There wasn’t a single elected official who said this is wrong,” Glazer responded. “I’m hearing some revisionist history here tonight.”

Glazer also called for his opponents to offer their answers to often confidential union questionnaires each may have filled out. But, Bonilla had a stern retort ready. “I have something better than the campaign contribution challenge. I actually have a voting record,” said Bonilla.

On the governor’s high-speed rail project, all three Democrats questioned where funding will be found going forward.

On the Delta water tunnels project, the trio registered opposition with Buchanan stating, “It potentially will destroy the Delta” and would not produce a drop of water for the drought-plagued state.

Curiously, Glazer’s opposition to both Brown-backed initiatives came before he told the gathering in Lafayette one of his proudest achievements was helping get the governor elected in 2010. "I was being straight up about it," Glazer said in an interview. "There are things where he has shown some great leadership and things where we don't see eye to eye. He knows that."

Glazer’s call for linking together a broad coalition of voters in the 7th Senate District might face some difficulty from the left. When Glazer reiterated his endorsement of Republican Baker for the Assembly seat last fall over fellow Democrat Tim Sbranti, a number of people loudly hissed.

“I put it in this perspective: I’m the progressive,” Glazer said afterwards. “I’ve had a progressive agenda my whole life. The reason we’re having difficulties on other issues, whether it’s pensions or BART, the progressive vision is financial stability and if we don’t have that, you can’t do good in the world.”

Oro Loma board member Laython Landis opts for retirement after racist comments

With Landis' retirement next month, the Oro Loma
board will begin searching for his replacement.
ORO LOMA SANITARY DISTRICT | After repeated calls for his resignation following the use of a racial slur during a meeting last December, Oro Loma Sanitary District board member Laython Landis is instead choosing retirement, effective Mar. 30.

The Oro Loma Sanitary District made the announcement Friday afternoon ending a tumultuous few weeks for the normally understated low-level government body that represents 135,000 residents in Central Alameda County.

The board censured Landis, 88, for sexist and racist comments made in the past that reached its nadir in early December when he referred to the heavy rains that day with a racial slur. “It’s raining cats and dogs and n—ger babies,” he said during the committee meeting.

Last Wednesday, the board directed its counsel to ask permission from State Attorney General Kamala Harris’s office to sue Landis in an effort to prove his mentally capacity had diminished to the point he could not competently hold the office he has held for 42 years.

Numerous political groups had officially called for Landis’ ouster in recent weeks and pressure from his colleagues to resign may have taken a toll.

In a phone conversation Thursday afternoon, Landis told the East Bay Citizen he was contemplating an exit from the board when “a good friend” suggested, instead, he choose retirement over resignation.

That friend was former San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos.

“The word resignation was really holding him up,” said Santos. "Why should he have the stigma of resigning his seat? What he said obviously was not right, but you can't ignore what he's done in local politics over the past 60 years."

In fact, on three separate occasions during our conversation Thursday Landis quickly corrected me when I used the word resignation, instead of retirement.

He also suggested he would not notify the sanitary district of his intentions to leave the board for another 7-10 days, but instead, called its executive director Thursday evening to deliver the news.

As for the district board’s attempt to question his mental acuity, Landis responded, “Do I seem competent to you?” he asked. “Yes!”

The effective date for Landis’ retirement is also his birthday. “I’m going to be 89. I think it’s a good time to retire.”