Monday, March 30, 2015

Race and equity department proposal to be debated during coming budget talks

Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo, far left, at a meeting of the Life Enrichment Committee, says his colleague, Desley Brooks' plan for a department of race and equity adds more bureaucracy to its city government. PHOTO/Steven Tavares
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | A proposal by Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks to create a new city department on race and equity will be part of the city’s likely contentious budget process set to begin in early May.

Brooks pulled the plan from a vote by the Oakland City Council Life Enrichment Committee last Tuesday and instead, successfully motioned the proposed Department of Race and Equity be discussed during the yet-unscheduled first budget hearing in May. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf plans to unveil her budget proposal on April 30.

The reason for the change in tactics? Brooks said she didn’t have the votes for passing the proposal to the full council on Mar. 31.

“I understand how to count votes. I understand how to move items forward. I’ve been here long enough that I’ve learned some things,” said Brooks. “I’ve used the process as far as I can take it right now." Discussing the proposal within the context of budget negotiations, at this point, is a better strategy, she added.

A city staff report estimates the cost of running the new department, consisting of three employees and operating expenses, is around $520,000 annually. King County, Washington, which includes Seattle, and Portland have similar city departments entrusted with monitoring inequities surrounding race, age and the poor.

Even though every member of the Life Enrichment Committee voiced strong support for ridding Oakland of the racial and economic disparities that exist, a few were skeptical.

Councilmember Noel Gallo, the only committee member to vote against moving the item to the budget process, agreed with the underlining reasons for the new department, but opposed additional bureaucracy. Five governmental bodies already provide some of the services detailed in Brooks’ proposal, said Gallo.

“The question is I can give you a department. I can give you a department on top of another department,” he said. In addition, said Gallo, staff and city funding has already been allocated to fighting inequity and without much success. “Creating another department is not the answer.”

A brief give-and-take between Brooks and Gallo ensued with both poised to rebut each other’s statements. The tone was set by an earlier statement by Brooks asserting the council’s two Latinos—Gallo and Guillen—were not on board with her plan. “It amazing that I can sit on a panel with other people of color and they just don’t get it,” said Brooks.

Later, Gallo shot back, “There was nothing that was ever keeping us from working together. We do have a minority council. We’ve had it for years. You can’t blame the white man for that one.”

In the coming months, the Oakland City Council will likely juggle a large budget deficit while also negotiating with all nine of its public employees unions. Carving out more than $520,000 a year for a new city bureaucracy may be an uphill battle, despite the city administrator's office showing support for the plan. There’s also question whether Brooks can cobble together enough votes for the proposal to pass.

In addition to disagreements with Gallo, and in a lesser sense, Guillen, during last Tuesday’s committee meeting, its chair, Councilmember Anne Campbell Washington believed Brooks was pushing back at her despite a relatively benign statement involving the need for all members of the community to feel connected to the proposal. “I don’t want our conversation here to be viewed as us disagreeing,” said Campbell Washington, “because I actually believe we’re on the same page.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

Supervisor Nate Miley wants anti-vaxxers to have a choice

Alameda County supervisors approved a 
resolution favoring a controversial state
senate bill opposed by anti-vaxxers.
ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | If you squinted your eyes at Tuesday’s Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting, you just might have mistaken Supervisor Nate Miley for a libertarian from the Central Valley.

Miley, who rarely shies away from a robust debate, opposed a board resolution supporting a State Senate bill (SB 277) by State Sen. Richard Pan that would remove the “personal belief” exemption from mandatory vaccinations. East Bay State Sen. Bob Wieckowski is a co-author.

“I think the government is intruding too much,” said Miley, who wondered why the issue was even before the board Tuesday morning.

Supervisor Nate Miley said a family member
is autistic due to vaccinations.
A groundswell of opposition from some parents against vaccinating their children for fears it causes ailments such as autism has grown in popular culture. The group is sometimes referred to as "anti-vaxxers." Doctors, though, say there is no correlation between vaccinations and autism.

Miley also revealed a belief his nephew is autistic because of childhood vaccinations. Miley, though, said he was vaccinated long ago. “I’m not philosophically opposed to it, but I do think parents should have the ability to opt-out of it” said Miley. “But, I think this is too Draconian.”

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan said she supports the senate bill and reiterated mandatory vaccinations have long been the law in the state and patients can still receive exemptions if a physician finds the vaccines will adversely affect the child's health.

The Board of Supervisors ultimately approved support for the bill, currently in a state senate committee, 4-1, with Miley voting no.

After 9-point primary drubbing, East Bay Progressives rush to support Bonilla

Alameda County proved a weak link for Susan
Bonilla's state senate campaign.
STATE SENATE | 7TH DISTRICT | Following Democrat Steve Glazer’s surprisingly strong electoral performance two weeks ago in the 7th State Senate District primary, the party’s more liberal wing is quickly pulling out all the stops to limit his momentum before the May 19 runoff.

Some of the biggest names in East Bay politics have already endorsed Susan Bonilla, who finished nine points behind Glazer in the Mar. 17 primary.

Rep. Eric Swalwell has endorsed Bonilla, as did her primary election opponent Joan Buchanan. Former state lawmakers Ellen Corbett and Nancy Skinner also announce support for Bonilla, in addition, to Assemblymember Bill Quirk, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern and former Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, who topped Glazer last June in the 16th Assembly District primary.

Rep. Eric Swalwell said Bonilla represents
the best choice for families in the district.
The Diablo Valley Democratic Club and Tri Valley Democratic Club also lined up in for Bonilla, who currently represents Concord's 14th Assembly District.

In perhaps a prelude to the stark messaging progressives and labor unions may employ in the next two months against the centrist Glazer, Tri Valley Democratic Club President Ellis Goldberg called him "a menace who would frack the legislature by injecting divisiveness into the Democratic Caucus,”

Goldberg, a well-known activist in the Alameda County Democratic Party, added, "Glazer is not just interested in the senate seat, he will be instrumental in undermining the effectiveness of the Democratic majority. He also represents a strategy by the Chamber of Commerce of electing Democrats in name only by dividing segments of the party. If this strategy works in SD7 as it has in other places in the state, the Chamber will continue to fund the strategy. The strategy is a threat to the California Democratic Party.”

The prevalence of support from Alameda County-based officials is likely by design. Although Bonilla finished second overall, her campaign registered abysmal numbers in Alameda County. Just over 14 percent of voters in Alameda County backed Bonilla. The total amounted to a fourth place finish in the county and, more troublesome, less support than the Republican candidate who had previously dropped out of the race.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

AC Transit GM resigns a day before meeting to discuss his job performance

AC Transit GM David Armijo offered his 
resignation Thursday, effective today.
AC TRANSIT | AC Transit General Manager David Armijo abruptly resigned Thursday after leading the day-to-day operations of the East Bay transit authority for three years.

A special meeting of the AC Transit Board of Directors scheduled for Friday was cancelled soon after Armijo resigned. There was widespread speculation Thursday afternoon that the seven-member board was going to fire Armijo on Friday.

AC Transit Board Director Elsa Ortiz said Friday’s special meeting was intended to discuss Armijo’s annual job evaluation. “We were going to discuss the evaluation and figure out what we wanted to do,” said Ortiz, “and then we found out he submitted his resignation.”

Ortiz declined to comment on the possible reasons for Armijo’s abrupt resignation, but added, “We wish him the best.”


Already the worst in Alameda County, will San Leandro’s roads improve with additional revenues?

San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter says
the city will keep its promise to fix its roads with
additional sales tax revenues.
SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | Last fall, San Leandro officials said the passage of Measure HH, a new 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase would, among other things, help fund the rehabilitation of its roads, already graded as the worst in Alameda County. Voters responded and easily passed the measure, which replaced another, quarter-cent sales tax measure due to expire in three years.

“We made a promise to the community… and we’re keeping the promise as soon as we are able to,” San Leandro Mayor Pauline Russo Cutter said Monday.

However, the rocky roads and problems with potholes in San Leandro may continue to be short-term headaches for residents and visitors. That’s because money potentially budgeted toward road rehabilitation and street sealing is far less than the amount the city estimates it will cost just to maintain roads in their current condition.

The estimated cost of replacing asphalt surfacing in order to achieve the status quo is $6 million, according to a city staff report presented Monday night to the City Council. However, the proposed two-year budget only allocates $2.3 million in 2015-16 and almost $6 million in 2016-17.

One of the reasons for small expenditure for road rehabilitation over the next fiscal year is due to its reliance on proceeds from Measure HH and the county-wide transportation tax, Measure BB. Both were passed by voters last November, but a lag time exists between the state collecting the additional revenue and allocating it to cities and counties starting this April, said Finance Director David Baum.

But, in both years, $1 million in Measure HH tax revenue is proposed for rehabbing and overlaying San Leandro streets. In 2016-17, most of the increase in funding—still only meeting the goal of keeping the streets in their current poor condition—is due to Measure BB funds rising from $510,000 in 2015-16 to nearly $1.3 million the next fiscal year.

The same situation exists with budgeting for annual street sealing of roads, the less costly method of filling new cracks in asphalt with a spidery web of sealer or a thin layer of black slurry is typically a preventative measure. Just to maintain its current status will cost $1.5 million a year, according to Monday’s report.

Yet, only $1 million is proposed for the project in 2015-16, partially derived from Measure B funding (the predecessor to Measure BB) and vehicle registration fees. The next year, like the budget for road rehabilitation, the proposed expenditure only meets the minimum requirement. In addition, proposed allocations for sidewalk repair projects also fall well short of the estimated costs, according to the report.

In an interview, Cutter said she realizes some residents might feel betrayed by the proposed budget for street improvements, but the under-budgeting during the next fiscal year is exacerbated by the fact the expected revenues from Measure HH and Measure BB are not a full-years worth. She added the budget outlined Monday night is far more intricate and does not give a full picture of the city’s plans for roads next year. “I don’t think like an engineer,” Cutter said of the proposal. She plans to soon ask city staff for a more detailed budget picture when it comes to roads.

Swalwell praises Hayward bus maker--the one that's leaving the city behind

CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Was it too soon? Last week, the 15th Congressional District's social media maven, Rep. Eric Swalwell, tweeted photos of his visit to Hayward's bus manufacturer Gillig. The company also builds buses for AC Transit.

However, it won't building buses in Hayward for much longer.

Earlier this year, Gillig jilted Hayward for better digs and an expansion in Livermore (still within the 15th District).

The parting of ways was less than amicable if you ask officials in Hayward, who felt the company decided to move on without giving City Hall a chance to make their case.

Rep. Barbara Lee and Progressive Caucus push for the 'People's Budget'

CONGRESS | 13TH DISTRICT | The Congressional Progressive Caucus calls its proposed budget, the “People’s Budget.” On the House floor Monday, East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee called it a “moral budget.”

“Make no mistake, the People’s Budget, does what the House Republican budget does not,” said Lee, also a co-chair for the Progressive Caucus. “It works for American families and not special interests, defense contractors or the One Percent.”

The alternative budget proposal reads like a progressive’s holiday wish list with increased funding for education, a public option for Obamacare and tax credits for low and middle class workers. It also seeks steep cuts to defense spending.

But, as has been reported, the progressive proposal also costs $3 trillion more than the Republican plan.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

San Leandro talks of paying down unfunded debt with new revenues

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | The uncertain economic times of year’s past appear in the rearviewmirror in San Leandro. “Things are on a significant uptick in San Leandro,” said City Manager Chris Zapata during a budget work session Monday night. The city’s proposed two-year budget estimates a $6 million surplus during the next fiscal year beginning in July and another $4.3 million in 2016-17.

The expected higher revenues, which top $95 million next fiscal year, are bolstered by the half-cent sales tax increase passed by San Leandro voters last November. Measure HH, builds upon the previous quarter-cent sales measure, approved in 2010, that many in the San Leandro say kept the city financially afloat during the Great Recession.

The sales tax bump is expected add up to $10 million in new revenue, said Finance Director David Baum, however, San Leandro will not see the full benefit of the windfall until next year, he added, because the new sales tax revenue is not allocated by the state to the city until next month.

Nonetheless, San Leandro’s increasingly positive economic situation is being fueled by the additional sales tax, much of it derived from big-ticket items at some of the San Leandro’s big box retailers like Costco and Home Depot, in addition, to new car purchases. Forty percent of San Leandro’s estimated revenue is derived from the sales tax, said Baum.

In addition, said Baum, there other positives contained in the city’s economic outlook. Unemployment dipped below six percent after topping over nine percent in 2012. Median home prices are up 10 percent to over $450,000 and the city’s credit rating was bumped from A+ to AA-, the first increase in 15 years, and one of the highest in the state, said Baum.

While the additional revenue can help San Leandro replace and build upon years of cuts to staff and infrastructure, Zapata warned the slowly booming state and national economy could bust, therefore, making the city’s reliance on sales tax receipts problematic in a poor economy.

“It’s is extremely important that you understand this is a good thing, but could be a bad thing in a volatile economy.” said Zapata. “History does repeat itself and the economy can take a swoon.” The impetus for some of the large tax receipts from items like automobiles and home improvements, added Baum, is the prevalence of low interest rates. Talk of the U.S. Treasury Department raising rates from zero in the near future could temper some of those purchases and somewhat lower the city’s sales tax revenue, said Baum.

Now that the San Leandro City Council has some money to play with, the question becomes how will spread it around a city most regional observers believe is on the upswing after investments in a downtown fiber-optics loop has attracting data and tech-based manufacturing to the city.

The general consensus of the City Council Monday night suggests a desire to shift some of the additional revenues toward paying down San Leandro’s overall unfunded liabilities, which total $157.8 million and represent $11.1 million for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

Councilmember Jim Prola said in a interview, the city has the opportunity to pay more than the full amount on unfunded liabilities. “That has to be a high-priority,” he said. Mayor Pauline Cutter agreed. Making just the requirement payment isn’t sufficient, said Cutter. “[The balance is] not going down and might not even go down if we pay our full share.” Councilmember Corina Lopez also advocated for excess revenue be shifted to paying down pension and other retirement costs, in addition, to investment in promoting the city’s burgeoning business scene.

The suggestion to lessen the financial stress of employee benefit costs with increased revenues might be music to the ears to San Leandro’s public employee groups, all of which begin labor negotiations with the city this year.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

County joins Coliseum ENA, but warn against use of public money

ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | If last Friday’s approval by the Oakland City Council of a new exclusive negotiating agreement with Alameda County and the Coliseum City developer felt like politicians spiking the ball, then today's Alameda County Board of Supervisors meeting brought the fiscal uncertainty of the sprawling project back to reality. No public subsidy, said county supervisors, who, nonetheless, joined the new three-party agreement.

"I don't support use of any public money on this enterprise," said Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson. Although the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to approve the six-month extension of the current ENA, due to lapse on April 21, four of the five supervisors voiced strong opposition to the use of taxpayers’ money for funding a significant portion of the proposed sports, retail, and housing development.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley made it clear during Tuesday afternoon’s meeting that any funding proposal by Floyd Kephart and his development group must not rely on “wholesale” use of public funds. Miley warned there would be “pushback” if Kephart’s New City Development does not finance most of the project.

Last Friday, Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney employed the metaphor of prospective lovers to described early negotiations with Kephart’s group. “We’re not dating, but we sure like this guy,” she said.

However, Miley, also a member of the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, has noted a reluctance by Kephart to limit exposure to taxpayers’ money for the project. Miley has also advocated recently for retrofitting O.co Coliseum for football at roughly half of the more than $1 billion estimated to construct a new home for the Oakland Raiders.

Carson was more blunt, saying that while he supports entering into talks with the city and developer, he is opposed to any use of public funds, including the potential for the city and county to fund a portion of the project by selling the land at the Coliseum Complex. “Sport is not our primary role,” said Carson, while noting the county’s primary mission is that of a safety net for the county’s children, seniors, and the poor.

Alameda County Supervisors Wilma Chan and Richard Valle also urged for limited use of public funds. “The challenge is how to do without the expenditure of public dollars,” said Chan. The project, though, added Chan, represents an opportunity for job creation and affordable housing.

The one supervisor who, instead, focused on Coliseum City’s potential was Scott Haggerty. After bantering with the small group of Raiders fans in the audience, Haggerty recounted a previous business trip to Baltimore and seeing how a football and baseball stadium helped transform the city.

“This is the first step in turning this city into a world-class city,” said Haggerty. He also slammed former Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for allegedly hindering past efforts to move along the stadium questions in Oakland. “Nobody was opening the door for the county,” said Haggerty, who believes the current mayor and new city council have been far more collaborative with county officials.

In a separate item, county supervisors also agreed to enter into a $200,000 contract to appraise the value of the Coliseum property in its current condition, along with an appraisal of the property with two new stadiums, hotels, retail, and housing — as proposed in Coliseum City plan.

In addition, the Oakland City Council Community and Economic Development Committee approved the Coliseum Area Specific Plan and Environmental Impact Report. The issue heads to the full council next Tuesday, March 31. And earlier in the day, the council’s Finance and Management Committee directed city staff to seek a fixed interest bond rate on Oracle Arena’s $79 million in debt remaining from its remodel. The city and county were unable to obtain a letter of credit from a financial institution and risk paying a higher debt service.


ON THE AGENDA: Oakland discusses ordinance on dept of race; improving police recruitment

Councilmember Noel Gallo wants to reaffirm 
all complaints against OPD be heard by the
Citizens' Police Review Board.
Oakland City Council Committees
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, first floor
Tuesday, Mar. 24, 2015, starts at 9:30 a.m.
Twitter hashtag: #oakmtg

FINANCE & MANAGEMENT COMMITTEE A rather large agenda (11 items) features Oracle Arena debt and the onset of labor negotiations with city employee groups. Earlier this month, the Oakland-Alameda County Joint Powers Authority reported the debt on Oracle Arena's remodel failed to attract a letter of credit from a financial institution. Instead, to avoid higher interest rates, the city and county must seek to refinance the original $140 million worth of bonds issued in 1996 with a fixed rate. The arena's outstanding debt is currently $79.7 million...All nine of Oakland's bargaining units (represented by five unions) are due to begin labor negotiations this spring. On the agenda is a $150,000 contract with labor consultanting firm Renne Sloan Holtzman Sakai LLP through February 2016. All contracts are due to expire June 30. (Starts at 9:30 a.m. Committee members: Annie Campbell Washington, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Abel Guillén; Dan Kalb (chair).

PUBLIC WORKS COMMITTEE Sewers are on the docket. One item seeks to award a $1.3 million contract for trenches and another $5.9 million to rehab sewers at West Grand Avenue between Wood Street and San Pablo Avenue; 20th Street between Broadway and Harrison Street. (Starts at 11:30 a.m. Committee members: Noel Gallo, Dan Kalb, Larry Reid, Rebecca Kaplan (chair)

COMMUNITY & ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT The often news-making committee will receive a report detailing housing foreclosure data in Oakland and the quarterly report on the Oakland Army Base project. CED Committee will also discuss the Coliseum Area Specific Plan and Environmental Impact Report approved earlier this month by the city's Planning Commission. (Starts at 1:30 p.m. Committee members: Annie Campbell Washington, Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Rebecca Kaplan, Larry Reid (chair).

LIFE ENRICHMENT COMMITTEE Councilmember Desley Brooks' anticipated ordinance creating a city department of race and equity will be heard Tuesday. Brooks hopes to create the department by December 2015. (Starts at 4 p.m. Committee members: Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo, Abel Guillén, Annie Campbell Washington (chair.).

PUBLIC SAFETY COMMITTEE Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney leads an ad-hoc Working Group on Police Recruitment. The committee will also receive a report on the recruitment, retention of African American police officers at the Oakland Police Department, in addition, to rates of attrition. The Oakland City Council already weighed-in on consolidating all complaints against OPD to the Citizens' Police Review Board. Councilmember Noel Gallo is seeking to reaffirm the council's direction. (Starts at 6 p.m. Committee members: Noel Gallo, Abel Guillén, Dan Kalb, Desley Brooks (chair)

Monday, March 23, 2015

ON THE AGENDA: Alameda County Supes tackle Coliseum City ENA; realignment

Alameda County will spend $200,000 to appraise
Coliseum property if it becomes Coliseum City.
Alameda County Board of Supervisors Meeting
1221 Oak Street, Oakland, Calif.
Tuesday, Mar. 24, 10:45 a.m.
Twitter hashtag: #alcomtg

COLISEUM CITY ENA Item 51: The Oakland City Council already approved last week the six month extension of a Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with Coliseum City developer New City Development, LLC., now it’s the Alameda County Board of Supervisors’ turn. The Coliseum Complex is jointly owned and operated by the city of Oakland and Alameda County. While the approval by the Oakland City Council was oddly triumphal for a deal without any financial information included, the Board of Supervisors have a way of putting a damper on such enthusiasm. Time, though, is running out and it will be interesting whether the board follows Oakland’s performance last week with their own positive note. At this specific point, a perception of progress and unity from Oakland might be all the NFL is looking for as it looks to potentially relocate up to two franchises to Los Angeles.

COLISEUM APPRAISAL Item 25: The board will also approve a $200,000 contract to Walnut Creek firm, CBRE, to appraise the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum Complex in the event the property become what is known as Coliseum City, containing a new football stadium, ballpark, current Oracle Arena, along with housing an retail. The report should be completed in about a month, says a staff report.

REALIGNMENT BUDGET PROPOSAL Item 16.1: Supervisor Keith Carson’s proposal to allocate 50 percent of the county’s allotment of AB 109 realignment state funding to community-based organization to aid the formerly incarcerated with re-entry is again up for discussion. Although, the proposal boosts the amount of money budgeted to re-entry, a raucous group of advocates shutdown the board meeting earlier this month—the same hearing Carson unveiled his proposal. In the past, critics have charged the Board of Supervisors with being too generous with AB 109 funding budgeted to the Alameda County Sheriff. Expect, a long line of public speakers on the subject.

MOBILE HOMES RENT MORATORIUM Item 17: Another discussion highlighted earlier this month returns. The adoption of a moratorium for suspending any rent increases on mobile home parks in unincorporated Alameda County would be in effect for 90 days while the county and park owners study the issue.

POMP AND CIRCUMSTANCE Supervisor Scott Haggerty will proclaim Mar. 24 as “Diabetes Alert Day in Alameda County" and this week as “Agricultural Week in Alameda County.” Supervisor Wilma Chan will proclaim March as “International Women’s Month.”

Board President Scott Haggerty (District 1, first elected in 1996, term ends 2016); Supervisor Richard Valle (District 2, first elected 2014; term ends 2018); Supervisor Wilma Chan (District 3, first elected 1994-2000, re-elected 2010; term ends 2018); Supervisor Nate Miley (District 4, first elected 2000, term ends 2016); Supervisor Keith Carson (District 5, first elected 1992, terms ends 2016).

ON THE AGENDA: San Leandro has a positive budget outlook

San Leandro City Council Preview
835 East 14th Street
Monday, Mar. 23, 2015, 7 p.m.
Twitter hashtag: #slmtg

POSITIVE ECONOMIC NEWS Monday's work session should likely set the tone for San Leandro's budget season and it appears good. Except, typically cautious finance directors will never be caught acting so ebullient. The biggest takeaway, according to San Leandro Finance Director David Baum, the city's budget should have operating revenue of more than $95 million, which translates to a surplus of $6 million during fiscal year 2015-16. 

In comparison, San Leandro barely operated in the black during the previous fiscal year. However, among East Bay cities, San Leandro's economic picture has routinely looked far more rosy than others during and after the Great Recession.

Baum's presentation to the City Council Monday night will also detail other looming factors within the city budget. They include labor negotiations with its bargaining units and perennial attention to the state of San Leandro's roads and continuing to set aside revenue to repair or rebuild them. Over the past few years, San Leandro's roads have languished as some of the worst in Alameda County.

WHAT IT MEANS In other cities positive economic news arriving during pending labor negotiations like San Leandro, typically sees a city administration downplaying the news. This often happens in neighboring Hayward, so keep an eye on whether or not this occurs in San Leandro. The good bet says no. In addition to the healthy economic news, the words is out that the city is a growing incubator for small, technical business opportunities. And if you're a member of this very young City Council (four of the seven have been in office just three months), there is ample room for making a big difference politically in San Leandro.

Since Monday's meeting is solely a work session, no commendations or awards are scheduled. However, the City Council will take a walking tour of six newly-installed utility boxes adorned with art on Tuesday, Mar. 24. They will gather at the corner of Chumalia/Hays and East 14th Streets at 6 p.m.

Mar. 16, the San Leandro City Council discussed a public/private partnership for broadband extension in the downtown and free Wi-Fi. The council also approved its goals for 2015. >>>WATCH IT HERE>>>Next meeting: Monday, April 6, 7 p.m.

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). 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Alameda County set to join ENA extension with Coliseum City developer

COLISEUM CITY | The Oakland City Council will vote on extending its current Exclusive Negotiating Agreement with the developer group seeking to build Coliseum City during a special meeting Friday morning. However, as opposed to a recent extension with the group, the new agreement now includes Alameda County.

The three-party ENA will replace the current pact scheduled to expire April 21 and last six months, according to an Oakland city council report. The deal can also be extended another six months.

"The ENA will allow for the Developer to conduct further market analysis and propose a series of equity public/private finance deal structures, as well as continue with on-going negotiations over possible development of the Coliseum Complex and the City property with a new Oakland Raiders stadium and a new Oakland Athletics ballpark, along with related parking facilities, as well as other commercial and residential development," the report said.

The Alameda County Board of Supervisors are scheduled to vote on the ENA during their next regular meeting on Mar. 24.

The county's interests in being included in the ENA with the city and New City Development, headed by Southern California businessman, Floyd Kephart, has been slowly building. Following a meeting of the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority on Feb. 20, Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley hinted the county would eventually join the ENA.

County and city officials have recently stressed the need for all parties involved in keeping its sports franchises in the East Bay to work in a more cohesive manner. A recent plan unveiled by the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers to jointly build a new stadium in Carson, suggested to many local officials that time may be running out.

Last month, the Raiders agreed to a new one-year lease to play at O.co Coliseum through the end of the next football season and staying in Oakland is their primary focus, despite the proposed Carson site.

Meanwhile, the latest extension retains the right for all parties, including the Raiders and Oakland Athletics to entertaining their own proposals for new stadiums outside of the ENA, the report said.

In addition, the Oakland City Council Community and Economic Development Committee will consider at a meeting also scheduled for Mar. 24, the Environmental Impact Report recently approved last week by the city's Planning Commission. If approved, the EIR could go before the full City Council on Mar. 31.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

John Russo to Alameda's mayor: 'I need you to get control of the chamber'

A quiet mayhem has often highlighted recent council meetings in Alameda. Blogger Lauren Do captured one such scene in this video that precipitates a shocking admonishment of Mayor Trish Spencer by City Manager John Russo.

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Oakland City Hall is no longer the epicenter of visible government dysfunction in the East Bay. It's new home many now be in Alameda.

The Island's recently elected mayor, suffice to say, is having a rough go of it over the past few months. At times, Mayor Trish Herrera Spencer has appeared hesitant in presiding over council meetings, while showing a stubborn streak, on other occasions, that may only be dividing the City Council.

For instance, earlier this month, council members began questioning the mayor's insistence she be able to explain her votes after the fact. The method is highly unusual, in most part, since elected officials usually choose to explain their positions as a pretext to how they will vote on a particular item. Spencer, though, explained this is how it was done during her time on the school board.

But, increasingly, Councilmembers Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and, specifically, Jim Oddie, have appeared exasperated by Spencer's handling of city business. When Spencer suggested Tuesday night that the city should rely on social media to search for a permanent city manager to replace the out-going John Russo, Ashcraft cracked, this isn't the school board.

Recently, Oddie pulled off a highly passive aggressive knock against Spencer's slow-growth agenda when he specifically asked the city attorney whether limiting growth at areas of the island, like Alameda Point, could potentially be illegal. The question was a pointed jab at Spencer, who sat quietly during the exchange, as was the prolonged answer by the city attorney essentially agreeing with Oddie.

Alameda Firefighters Union President Jeff Del Bono, known for bombastic comments, also publicly blasted Spencer two weeks ago for voting against a new fire station.

Lauren Do, the author of Blogging Bayport Alameda, captured the mayhem recently at the Alameda City Hall chambers. In a two-minute video (see above), Do highlighted one of Spencer's legion of very proactive supporters appearing to interfere with the running of a council meeting on Mar. 3.

In the clip, Spencer leaves her seat and begins to move toward the city clerk's desk. Ashcraft then reacts incredulously to the extra-curriculars and exclaims, "Hello?" Others at the dais also turned their attention toward the mini-scene on the left.

Keep in mind, Spencer's razor-thin upset victory over Marie Gilmore last November was due to a tremendous grassroots effort. However, the same group of residents have often interjected themselves in the running of meetings in the past.

Russo, who rests below the City Council in the chain of command, it should be noted here, had enough and called the move by the Spencer surrogate, "inappropriate." He then unleashed a shocking admonishment of the mayor. "Madame Mayor, I need you to get control of the chamber," said Russo.

A cooling off period seemed in order, so Ashcraft asked for a five-minute break. "Do we need a motion to do that, or, no?" asked Spencer.

Assembly speaker's gravy train comes to Bonta's 18th District

ASSEMBLY | 18TH DISTRICT | It’s doubtful many in the 18th District know Toni Atkins is the speaker of the State Assembly. For the uninitiated, ostensibly, she is Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s boss in the Legislature (of course, excluding his ultimate boss—us.)

So, what do you do when the boss needs help from one of her most ambitious underlings? You throw an expensive fundraiser for her undetermined State Senate campaign, that’s what!

Bonta, along with East Bay Assemblymembers Bill Quirk and Tony Thurmond, is hosting a $4,200-per-person fundraiser Wednesday night at the Alameda home of Gray Harris, the co-president of the Alameda Democratic Club, who also has ties to the local teachers association and firefighters union.

Not surprisingly, a number of local firefighters groups are co-hosting the event, including those in Alameda, Oakland, Hayward, San Francisco and Fremont.

However, if you don’t have the cash to max out your donation to join “Team Toni,” additional levels of support range from $2,500 to $100.

Although it’s clear to most that Bonta has his eyes on rising to the top of the Democratic leadership in Sacramento, what makes this fundraiser different is nobody knows exactly when Atkins will attempt the jump to the upper house of the Legislature.

For instance, contributions to tonight’s soiree are made payable to “Atkins for Senate 2020.” Atkins is termed out of the San Diego seat in 2016, but the path is somewhat blocked by Democrats in the Senate.

Left to its own accord, the Senate seat isn’t open until 2020, but that doesn’t mean the cash being raised by Atkins in places like Alameda, in the meantime, won’t be used to shower contributions on other Democrats in the Assembly, or prospective candidates.

Bonta, himself, is already quite adept at raising significant amounts of money for the Democratic leadership. In addition, he holds a seat that does not require the even-year job of getting re-elected. In essence, everything Bonta raises for himself and others, is gravy, a condiment unlikely to be served at tonight’s gathering.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Glazer wins SD7 special election; will face Bonilla in May runoff

STATE SENATE | 7TH DISTRICT | Voters in the 7th State Senate District, at least the few who participated in Tuesday's special election, gave centrist Democrat Steve Glazer a seven-point win over Assemblymember Susan Bonilla. Since no candidate attained a majority of the vote, the campaigns will reload and meet again in the May 19 runoff.

The result suggest the state senate district not only reacted positively to Steve Glazer's centrist platform, but also issued a rebuke to an apparent behind-the-scenes move by labor to undermine his campaign.

A labor-backed independent expenditure committee named the Asian American Small Business PAC made waves in recent weeks for spending over $100,000 to support the lone Republican in the race, while also opposing Glazer's campaign.


The scheme, once exposed, seemed to have backfired on labor, who vehemently oppose Glazer for his stance against public transit strikes like those that occurred with BART in 2013.

With all of the precincts reporting in both Contra Costa and Alameda Counties, Glazer lead the five-person field with 32.8 percent of the vote. Glazer easily topped the field in both counties. "It was a good night tonight," said Glazer's Facebook page. "We are headed to the runoff on May 19th!"

Bonilla held off former Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, both Democrats, for the second spot with 24.9 percent. Although, Bonilla more than held her own in the much larger portion of the district within Contra Costa County, she finished a distant fourth in Alameda County and behind a candidate who dropped out the race last month.

Buchanan, who may have been more well-known to a slight majority of voters finished with 22.6 percent.

Republican Michaela Hertle returned a strong showing Tuesday night, especially since she dropped out of the race last month and endorsed Glazer's campaign. Hertle earned a fourth place finish with 17 percent of the vote. Democrat Terry Kremin garnered 2.8 percent of the vote.

Voter turnout, which had become a positive development in this special election, failed to generate much interest on Election Day. In both counties combined, participation was just 20 percent of registered voters, which count nearly 488,000. In Alameda County, for instance, just over three percent of voters cast a ballot on Tuesday.


7th District..............................VOTES....PCT
Steve Glazer.............................37,664   33.7%
Susan Bonilla............................27,728   24.8%
Joan Buchanan............................25,147   22.5%
Michaela Hertle..........................18,008   16.1%
Terry Kremin..............................3,175    2.8%
Write-in..................................  355    0.3%
*including Contra Costa County

Alameda County/Contra Costa County........VOTES....PCT
Total Registration......................487,495
Vote-By-Mail Ballots Cast*.............. 18,443   0.00%
Election Day Ballots Cast*..............  3,736   0.00%
Total Ballots Cast......................111,722  22.92%
*including Alameda County only.
**unofficial results updated through Monday, Mar. 23.

Miley believes Raiders could ‘buy into’ his plan to renovate the Coliseum

OAKLAND COLISEUM | Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley has recently pushed a proposal to save taxpayers’ money by renovating O.co Coliseum as a football-only facility instead of constructing a new stadium likely to cost more than $1 billion. Getting the Oakland Raiders and the NFL on board with such a plan is questionable.

But Miley, who also sits on the Coliseum Joint Powers Authority, told a Los Angeles radio station he believes Raiders owner Mark Davis would “buy into” a renovation of the stadium, provided the city and county can finally come together with a unified plan.

Both the Raiders and the NFL have publicly acknowledge a strong preference for a building new stadium and have pledged roughly $300 million toward its construction. Financing the rest of the costs has proven problematic.

Miley told sports radio host Fred Roggin of KFWB, the renovation, which he estimates could cost roughly $500 million might come to fruition “if we get everybody on a critical path.” Miley also noted the Coliseum Authority’s unique governing structure which includes the Oakland City Council and Alameda County Board of Supervisors represents “a lot of moving parts.”

In the past, critics of the drive for new stadium plans in Oakland have pointed to this byzantine process as a reason for the perceived inaction by officials in the East Bay.

A feasibility study for a possible renovation by the county is in the offing, said Miley. However, he has not seen any concepts or plans for remodeling the Coliseum. Similarly to his recent Op-Ed, Miley referred to local renovations of Memorial Stadium in Berkeley and Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto as templates for the Coliseum.

Alameda County DA Nancy O'Malley eyeing state attorney general post, if open

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley
ALAMEDA COUNTY | Sources from the county level to Sacramento say Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley is moving herself into position to be the next state attorney general, if the office is open next year.

If State Attorney General Kamala Harris successfully wins the U.S. Senate race next year to replace the retiring Sen. Barbara Boxer, Gov. Jerry Brown would then make an appointment to fill the remaining two years on Harris' term.

As it currently stands, Harris is the prohibitive favorite in an increasingly shrinking field of possible Senate candidates.

Other politicians have either opened 2018 campaign accounts for attorney general or, like O'Malley, are aggressively accessing the political landscape for the pending opening.

Former State Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett opened a 2018 campaign account for state attorney general last week. Whether or not the account is merely a repository for leftover campaign contributions is unclear. Former Democratic legislators Lou Correa and Dario Frommer have done the same, according to finance records.

In addition, State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is said to have great interest in the attorney general's office and former State Senate Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg is another name often included in the mix of potential candidates. Anne Gust Brown, the governor's wife, could even be named as a caretaker appointment to ensure a clean slate of candidates for 2018.

O'Malley's rumored interest in statewide office is bolstered by a view she has moved to raise her profile recently beginning with the roll out of an initiative to focus on human trafficking in Oakland, along with an emphasis on prosecuting johns rather than sex workers.

Insiders are also quick to note O'Malley's prominence at a recent press conference announcing the arrest of 16 gang members last week in East Oakland. And last month, when O'Malley appeared before the Oakland City Council, her physical appearance could be described as noticeably refreshed.

For O'Malley, an appointment is likely her only path to the attorney general's office. Since being appointed district attorney in 2009, O'Malley has never ran a campaign in a contested election. O'Malley ran unopposed during elections in 2010 and 2014.

SD7 Special Election Primary Preview: Can Glazer Reach The Top Two?

State Senate District 7 candidates: Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, former Assembymember Joan Buchanan and Assemblymember Susan Bonilla.
MEET THE CANDIDATES As an assemblymember, Susan Bonilla already represents almost half of the voters in the State Senate's 7th District. The former high school teacher and Contra Costa County supervisor has the endorsement of the Democratic Party and the former holder of the seat, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier. Bonilla is also the favorite of labor unions, although, not entirely. Joan Buchanan, also a Democrat, represented the 16th Assembly District until she was termed out last December. Buchanan's name I.D. is much greater in the southern half of the state senate district and, more importantly, the area with a slight majority of voters. Buchanan's campaign often touts this demographic advantage. Colleagues and long-time advocates in the Tri Valley often label Buchanan as a public servant with a taste for the wonky aspects of legislation. Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer, the third of four Democrats in the race, hopes to avenge a very similar campaign he lost during last year's 16th Assembly District race. Glazer finished third in the June primary after deftly stoking the dissatisfaction among voters over BART strikes. The stance, however, made him public enemy number one to labor unions. This time around, Glazer hopes his centrist platforms will push him through to the top two general election on May 19. Democrat Terry Kremin is a scientist and Republican Michaela Hertle dropped out the race in February and endorsed Glazer.

One of two mailers from a labor-backed IE
telling Republicans to vote for the candidate
who dropped out of the race in February.
WHAT’S THE BEEF Just like the Assembly race, a focus on the issues has been lacking. In fact, the top three Democrats agree on many of the issues facing the Legislature. They are against fracking and the delta water tunnels. The trio also cites financing flaws for the state high-speed rail project and stand for expanding state funding for higher education. However, the subject that greatly divides Bonilla and Buchanan from Glazer is labor. The issue also risks to splinter the Democratic Party as labor-backed independent expenditure committees spend considerable resources on defeating a fellow Democrat for the second time in the last nine months, or, at the very least, push the more labor-friendly Bonilla and Buchanan to the general election. Money is not only flowing to individual campaigns, but also from special interest groups. By Election Day, the amount of money spent by IEs will top $2.5 million. Notably, the push by unions to undercut Glazer's support among conservatives after endorsement of the Republican Hertle by an IE typically funded by labor for Asian American Democrats, might rub voters the wrong way. The key to the primary appears to rest on how Republicans and independents and moderate Democrats react to the controversy and whether they are aware Hertle is no longer in the race, even though her name still appears on the ballot.

PAST RESULTS 2012 June Primary: 1. Mark DeSaulnier (D) 91,224 (57.0%) 2. Mark Meuser (R) 68,730 (43.0%). 2012 General Election: 1. DeSaulnier (D) 229,105 (61.5%) 2. Meuser (R) 143,707 (38.5%).

VOTER REGISTRATION Democratic 210,970 (43.6%) Republican 103,854 (28.7%) 3. No Party Preference 106,268 (22.0%) American Independent 13,654 (2.8%) Libertarian 3,053 (0.6%) Green Party 2,020 (0.4%).

CAMPAIGN FINANCE (Through Feb 28): Bonilla $181,535 cash remaining, $480,901 received; Buchanan $111,248 cash remaining, $284,005 receiving; Glazer $94,918 cash remaining, $213,685 received; Hertle, no report; Kremin, no report.

OUTLOOK There are some many interesting angles to take into account here. Either Bonilla or Buchanan will finish in the top two, but likely not both after the controversies in the race. Vote-by-mail data showing Republicans sending in their ballots at higher rates than Democrats suggests they are energized. It's unlikely this group is being stirred up by the Republican who had zero name I.D., no money and dropped out the race a month ago. Furthermore, if Republicans are being pushed to Glazer, independent are probably, too. Might even moderate Democrats be enticed by Glazer in this environment? It's also important to note, the 15-point voter registration advantage Democrats hold over Republicans is not as wide as it seems since the 7th District is hardly the bastion of progressive politics, although there are some strongholds. So, if Glazer advances, who does he face in May? If you ask Democrats in Sacramento, they will likely say, Bonilla. But, that support may be derived from her incumbency and the fact her colleagues are averse from criticizing one of their own. At the local level, you more often hear predictions for Buchanan. It's tough to say which group is correct. However, the argument Buchanan is more well-known to voters in a majority of the state senate district seems as plausible as any. Another thing to remember: while turnout is higher than expected for a special election, it's still likely to be very low in the grand scheme of things. Low turnout elections often brings strange results. If, indeed, Glazer is in the mix, you can guarantee another onslaught of special interests money pouring in to support and greatly oppose, is candidacy.

PREDICTION 1. Buchanan 2. Glazer 3. Bonilla 4. Hertle 5. Kremin

Monday, March 16, 2015

Laython Landis, official under fire for boorish behavior, to attend final meeting

Laython Landis' last meeting is Tuesday.
ORO LOMA SANITARY DISTRICT | Over the last decade, the Oro Loma Sanitary District has kept a low profile. Elected board members stayed out of trouble and, most importantly, kept sewer and recycling rates low.

The five-member board representing San Lorenzo and parts of San Leandro and unincorporated Alameda County lost their anonymity last December when long-time member Laython Landis inexplicably uttered the n-word during a committee meeting.

He was later censured by the board, not only for the comment, but a host of undisclosed transgressions. His colleagues also stripped him his committee assignments.

After numerous and increasingly vocal calls for Landis' ouster, he announced his retirement last month from the board after more than four decades of service. On Tuesday, Landis will attend his last meeting as a board member.

Earlier this month, the Oro Loma board decided to appoint Landis' replacement rather than deferring to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors or a special election. According to Oro Loma staff, such an election would have cost more than $500,000.

A two-person ad hoc committee was also approved and includes Board President Tim Becker and new member Shelia Young. Notice of an opening on the board will be posted Mar. 23 and application due on April 12, according to the staff report. Qualified applicant will be invited to address the board at the April 21 meeting.

A new member could be appointed during the board's scheduled meeting on May 5, according to the staff report.

Oakland's city clerk pushes for government transparency while her unexpected popularily rises

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The chambers of the Oakland City Council can be a very rough place. Public bickering between council members and full-throated soliloquies by angry residents are commonplace. At times, the difference between debating an ordinance and lobbing ordnance is difficult to discern. But, amid the swirling hurricane, seating in a sea of tranquility is City Clerk LaTonda Simmons, perhaps the most popular person at City Hall.

There were no obvious indications of Simmons’ growing fan appreciation club, but Simmons said she began to notice hints that she had a small but loyal following in Oakland after a blog posting by Oakland resident Tonya Love. The posting aimed to detail what a city clerk actually does, but it also conveyed great appreciation.

Love, who often live-tweets Oakland City Council meetings using the popular #oakmtg hashtag, encouraged Simmons to start her own Twitter account. It was on the social media platform that Simmons saw for herself the effusive praise coming from the Twitterverse. “I appreciate it, but I really don’t get it, because it’s not like it’s The LaTonda Show; I’m just the city clerk at the city council meeting.”

“She got on Twitter, and she became really responsive,” said Love, who also credits Simmons with helping her organize last year’s successful #oakmtg mayoral candidate forum. “Her ability to communicate and willingness to respond are really why she’s admired. A lot of the time you don’t get that from people in government.”

It’s also Simmons’ passion for the job and sense of humor that caught Love’s attention. “I think I’m down-to-earth. I joke a lot. My family thinks it’s hilarious how serious I am at work. They’re like, ‘Do they know who they have up there?’”...


What does Don do for Alameda?

Former State Senate Pro Tem Don Perata is making
a good living in his second career as a lobbyist.
ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | Following Don Perata’s unsuccessful bid in 2010 to be Oakland’s next mayor, one of the East Bay’s political giants was out of the game. But, like many well-connected politicians before him, he turned to a lucrative career in lobbying. The relationships built over the span of four decades are now currency for Perata. Since registering as a lobbyist in 2013, Perata has quickly earned more than $600,000.

The California Infill Builders Federation has retained Perata’s services, as have the health-care firm Ramsell Corporation and Intelligent Sign Network, LLC, both in Oakland, along with rail operator SSA Marine, among others. Yet the city of Alameda stands as the biggest client of Perata Consulting, LLC.

In 2013, the Alameda City Council broadened Perata’s portfolio when it approved a one-year $90,000 contract for the services of his firm, which appears to be a one-man shop consisting only of the man both lovingly and derisively known as “The Don.” Last December, the council approved a three-year extension of his contract, worth an additional $270,000.

A majority of the issues now on his plate appear to be extensions of the previous year’s work, including road improvements, funding for tsunami preparedness, and pushing through Oakland traffic mitigations designed to reduce congestion of the Webster-Posey Tube. Lobbying for additional ferries to the island will be Perata’s top focus this year, according to the scope of services he provided the city in December. Perata has a long history of favoring an expansion of aquatic transportation, even though it is the least cost-effective form of major Bay Area transportation.

Perata’s ties to Alameda are well known. He grew up on the island and cut his teeth in local politics during the fight in the early 1970s to limit housing construction. As his career blossomed as an Alameda County supervisor and State Senate Pro Tem leader, Perata was no stranger to controversy. A lengthy five-year FBI investigation into Perata’s business dealings ultimately produced no criminal charges, but the stigma sullied his image. Later, a number of ethics violations involving campaign finances tainted his image further, and suggestions arose questioning Perata’s allegiance to his closest allies.

Some in Oakland also howled in late 2013 when Perata led one of his newest clients, the Oakland Raiders, on a tour of the vacant Concord Naval Weapons Station as a possible site for a new stadium. This came at a time when city and county officials were actively working on a plan to build a new venue for the team in Oakland.

However, Perata’s past never surfaced during council discussions over his consulting contract in 2013, or last December, and city officials speak of him in glowing terms.

“Don delivers,” Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog said with a smile. “I’m unapologetic about having Don as a lobbyist, given his extensive contacts.”...


Campaign Notes: John Fisher, A's co-owner, maxes out donation to Glazer

STATE SENATE | 7TH DISTRICT | John Fisher, the co-owner of the Oakland Athletics, contributed $4,200 to the campaign of Steve Glazer. The donation was posted Monday, along with maxed out contributions from his wife, Laura Fisher, and the matriarch of the family, Doris Fisher, which founded clothier, Gap. Fisher's political leanings, typically point to the right. Fisher is a strong supporter of charter schools and is a member of the board for the KIPP Foundation. And, as the East Bay Express recently reported, Fisher has curious ties to Gov. Jerry Brown through the state's lumber industry. In addition to owning the A's, along with Lew Wollf, since 2005, Fisher currently heads Pisces, Inc., a financial management company.


ALMOST GO TIME On Primary Eve, the number of voters in SD7 returning vote-by-mail ballots is better than the 2014 June primary, but slightly less than the recent November General Election, according to Political Data, Inc., a non-partisan polling company. More than 83,000 voters have returned ballots before Tuesday's primary. The number is about 10,000 less than returns last November, but much greater than the 67,000 who participated in the June primary last summer. Republican voters are still sending in their ballots at a high rate than Democrats, according to Political Data, Inc. Democrats hold a 15-point advantage in registration over Republicans, but voters registered as No Party Preference make up 22 percent of the electorate. This turn of events points to Glazer advancing to the almost certain to occur May 19 general election. However, don't forget about those heading to the polls Tuesday, too.

PROGRAM NOTES I'll be on KPFA's (94.1 FM) morning program Upfront this Tuesday to talk about the State Senate special election. Program starts at 7 a.m.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Campaign Notes: State Senate 7th District Special Election

STATE SENATE | 7TH DISTRICT | There are four mostly moderate Democrats running in a state senate district race with an electorate typically a tad left of center. That's just too much for the Alameda County Republican Party. On Friday, the local grandees decided against endorsing one of the candidates after the lone GOP challenger called it quits in early February. "There is no Republican running for that seat, there are only four Democrats, and we as Republicans are not in the business of endorsing Democrats," said the local party's Facebook page.

GAS MONEY In recent elections, Chevron's imprimatur has spelled electoral disaster for candidates receiving their contributions. Understandably, elections in Richmond have been affected by Chevron's special interest money in local election. But, recall, Chevron is headquartered in San Ramon, which is in SD7. On Friday, Chevron posted a $4,200 late contribution to Joan Buchanan's campaign, according finance records. Buchanan wasn't the only one, though. Assemblymember Susan Bonilla also received $4,200 from Chevron Friday and another $1,000 from Phillips 66.

GOLD STARS The California Teachers Association has been very active in the primary for Buchanan, their endorsed candidate. The California Federation of Teachers added their late endorsement on Thursday. The group represents 120,000 teachers and school employees in the state.

GLAZER'S GLEE If the key to Steve Glazer's chances of finishing in the top two is playing the victim, labor is giving him plenty to work with. The Service Employees International Union Local 1021, which represents BART employees, poured $25,000 into the IE strongly opposing Glazer. Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015 was also fortified Feb. 26 with an additional $25,000 from SEIU Local 1021. Glazer made light-hearted note of the contribution Friday on Twitter:

Shady state senate campaign tricks has ties to teachers' union

Joan Buchanan's state senate was endorsed by the 
California Teachers Association. 
STATE SENATE | 7TH DISTRICT | Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters has been to many political rodeos in California. In a column Monday, Walters laid out a very cynical, but truthful view of the campaign shenanigans taking center stage in next week's special election primary in the 7th State Senate District. Campaigns viewed as front runners have often tried to surreptitiously help weaker candidates usurp stronger challengers, wrote Walters.
The tactic is based on a theory that a substantial number of voters aren’t really paying attention and can be fooled into voting a certain way. But, one wonders, will it work in the 7th district, where the voters are mostly upper-middle class suburbanites? It’s getting heavy media attention in the district and could backfire on Bonilla. 
The CTA's IE contributed the Asian American Small
Business PAC in February, but the expenditure didn't
show up until last week.
It's becoming clear that voters in this district, who typically have higher than average turnout, in fact, are paying attention and are also energized during this odd year special election.

However, the sense outside interests are meddling in the district's state senate race, could alternately affect Democrat Joan Buchanan, as well. Conventional wisdom says the push to marginalize Glazer helps Bonilla, but it more likely helps Buchanan.

Two special interests entities are driving the perceived chicanery in this primary race: the labor-backed Asian American Small Business PAC and an Independent Expenditure committee (IE) calling itself Working Families Opposing Glazer for Senate 2015. Both have ties directly to Buchanan, according to finance records.

First, the California Teachers Association endorsed Buchanan in late January. Last Thursday, a $35,000 contribution was posted to the Working Families Opposing Glazer IE by the teachers' union. The next day, the California Teachers Association IE spent $145,000 for a radio advertisement supporting Buchanan.

Notably, a $40,000 contribution from the California Teachers Association's IE was reported on their most recent campaign finance report, through Feb. 28, to the Asian American Small Business PAC. The group raised attention recently when it spent over $100,000 to support the Republican who had already dropped out the race and opposed Glazer's campaign. However, the contribution is absent from the Asian American Small Business PAC's report.

The CTA also has a certain history with centrist Democrat Steve Glazer from last year's 16th District Assembly race. The teachers' union fought vigorously to successfully force Glazer out the top two last fall. However, the narrative created by Glazer in June helped defeat CTA's preferred candidate, Tim Sbranti.

Further down the line, Democrats may be playing with fire in the outer East Bay. They bucked trends and elected Republican Assemblymember Catharine Baker for a reason and it wasn't because they enjoyed behind-the-scenes political maneuvering.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

SD7: East Bay voters take part in yet another rough and tumble election

14th District Assemblymember Susan Bonilla 
and former 16th District Assemblymember 
Joan Buchanan at a forum in January.
STATE SENATE | 7TH DISTRICT | Last fall, voters in Contra Costa and Alameda counties endured one of the most aggressive, expensive, and odd Assembly races in California. Labor unions clashed with conservative groups; independent expenditure committees poured millions of dollars into the contest; and a moderate Democratic candidate decided to endorse the Republican contender rather than his fellow party member.

But just four months after Republican Catharine Baker won the 16th Assembly District race, portions of the same geographic area in the East Bay are embroiled in yet another bruising and costly — and strange — campaign: the March 17 special election primary for the state Senate's 7th District. The top two finishers in the primary will square off in May to replace Mark DeSaulnier, who won a seat in Congress last fall, replacing longtime Congressmember George Miller.

Republican Michaela Hertle, featured in this
controversial mailer sent by a labor-backed IE,
could be the key to the election's outcome.
The three main candidates in the race — Assemblymember Susan Bonilla, former Assemblymember Joan Buchanan, and Orinda Mayor Steve Glazer — are all Democrats and have received nearly $1 million in total donations since the beginning of the year. In addition, the amount of unregulated independent expenditure dollars is expected to top $2 million during the primary alone.

Surprisingly, though, money may not be the prevailing factor in the March 17 primary. Instead, the race may hinge on the fact that the lone Republican candidate who qualified for the ballot dropped out of the race and endorsed the centrist Glazer. (It was Glazer who endorsed the Republican Baker in last November's election, rather than her competitor, Democrat Tim Sbranti.) In a state senate district in which Democrats hold a fifteen-point registration advantage over Republicans, but one-fifth of the electorate identifies as independent, which way GOP voters break on Election Day could decide the outcome.