Monday, August 31, 2015

LISTEN! East Bay Citizen Show with special guests Robert Gammon; Dr. Death

East Bay Express Editor-in-Chief Robert Gammon
and Raiders superfan Dr. Death.
EPISODE 5 | A very eclectic podcast this week. East Bay Express Editor-in-Chief Robert Gammon and I discuss the growing use of police body cameras in the East Bay and elsewhere. Specifically, the issue of when or if the public ever sees footage captured on tape when it potentially shows police misconduct.

Later in the show comes a change of pace. The silver and black face-painted Raiders superfan, Dr. Death, stops by to chat about his rise as one of the Black Hole's menagerie of character to City of Oakland and Alameda County insider. In addition, we discuss the impression held by some that the local media's coverage of Oakland's stadium saga is often misaligned with reality.

And briefly, in the news, the state of Oakland's poor roads and sidewalks put my on the Disabled List this week. I'll tell you why I won't sue the city and what I want in return.

Friday, August 28, 2015

City Hall Insider: City Council notes from around the East Bay, Sept. 1

ALAMEDA/Sept 1, 7 p.m.
Environmental protection; hotel appeal; new housing

WETLAND MITIGATION Two areas at Alameda Point have been identified for a potential Wetland Mitigation Bank that could bring the city millions in new revenues, said a staff report. Nearly 158 acres of wetlands near the Oakland Estuary and around 12 acres of shoreline at Seaplane Lagoon could be cleaned and conserved by selling credits to developers in the market for environmental requirements by other regulatory agencies, said the report. Supply for these type of mitigation projects is low. Shoreline south of the Bay Bridge is currently using the process, as is Redwood City, and soon, Newark, said the report. The city believes such a plan could yield one credit for developers for around $450,000 an acre. It is also noteworthy that the proposed sites are rare for this type of project, the report said. “Tearing up concrete and creating a new wetland, as would be done in both the City’s sites, is rare in an urban environment.”

HARBOR BAY HOTEL APPEAL In Alameda, the council will hear an appeal of a recent decision by the city’s planning commission approving a 100-room hotel at 2350 Harbor Bay Parkway in Bay Farm. The opinion, handed down on July 13, was appealed 10 days later by the labor union UNITEHERE! Local 2850. Later, the same day, Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer called for a hearing over the appeal. Specifically, the union believes the project lacks sufficient parking. A condition set forth by the planning condition requires the applicant to procure 43 off-site parking spaces, but it “does not solve this problem,” the union said, in its appeal, “because it does not require the parking spaces to be close enough to the hotel to be practical as overflow parking." The hotel project should not be exempt for in-fill development under the California Environmental Quality Act, the union also asserts. City staff is recommending the City Council uphold the planning commission’s decision.

APPROVAL FOR 52-UNIT HOUSING PROJECT A set of warehouses on nearly three acres at 2100 Clement is set become 52 units of townhomes and a park. The City Council will discuss approval of the project Tuesday night .ENTIRE COUNCIL AGENDA

FREMONT/Sept 1, 7 p.m.
Response to grand jury report over city emails

I.T. SOLUTIONS In June, the City of Fremont’s government email archiving system was slammed in an Alameda County grand jury report. The report faulted the city for deleting some unflagged government emails after just 30 days. It also admonished the city for leaving the onus on city workers to decide whether or not emails were archived or left unchecked and automatically deleted after a month. On Tuesday night, city’s I.T. Department will offer the City Council its five-year strategic plan. Included is a pledge to find a solutions to the email archiving problem by the end of this year, said a city staff report. Another notable I.T.-related issue—installation of 10 surveillance cameras around freeway entry points around Fremont—is slated to begin in later this month, said staff. The controversial item was unanimously approved by the council in July. In addition, the city is studying the feasibility of constructing citywide broadband and Wi-Fi in Fremont. The project could be city-owned and operated, said the report, and is expected to be incorporated into the new downtown area plan. ENTIRE COUNCIL AGENDA

East Bay's congressional choir boy is offering tickets to see the Pope in D.C.

Rep. Eric Swalwell
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Rep. Eric Swalwell’s Tea Party supporters always thought Pete Stark was the anti-Christ. Now they have a chance to thank the Holy Savior’s earthly representative in person for their angelic cherub of a congressman.

Swalwell’s congressional office is offering free tickets to his Fifteenth Congressional District constituents to watch a simulcast of the Pope Francis’ Sept. 24 address to Congress on the West Lawn. But you have to apply by Aug. 31 for the random drawing.

But hold on, you’re going to have to pay for all the Swalwelling on your own. “Ticket holders are responsible for their own transportation to and from Washington, DC, lodging, and other trip expenses.” And don’t try scalping your tickets, either.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Assembly passes bullhook ban similar to Oakland ordinance passed last year

The bullhooks will be gone from circus in
California starting in 2018.
ASSEMBLY | It appears the Oakland City Council is a trend-setter, at least, when it comes to eliminating the gruesome use of the bullhook to control circus elephants.

The State Assembly Thursday approved a bill that would ban circuses performing in California from using bullhooks, a small poker-like implement with a sharp point attached to one end.

Senate Bill 716, if approved by the State Senate, would prohibit bullhooks by 2018. Thursday's vote in the Assembly was 59-7.

Last year, the Oakland City Council passed its own ordinance banning bullhooks at circus performance within city limits. The legislation, first carried by then council member Libby Schaaf, however, begins in late 2017.

The ordinance was approved 5-2 with Councilmembers Larry Reid and Desley Brooks voting no; Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney abstained.

Oakland's push against bullhooks followed a ban in Los Angeles and appeared to have been the circus entertainment industry's last stand for bullhooks in California.

Soon after Oakland's ordinance was approved last December, Feld Entertainment, which owns the popular Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey Circus, announced it would phase out the use of elephants as circus performers by 2018.

Bonta’s medical cannabis bill is gutted in committee, but lives another day

Assemblymember Rob Bonta
ASSEMBLY | 18TH DISTRICT | An Assembly bill regulating medical cannabis in the state once called “historic” by its sponsors was gutted Thursday afternoon, but it’s ultimate fate is yet to be decided.

Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta’s Assembly Bill 266 was amended by the State Senate Appropriations Committee to read “It is the intention of the state legislature to regulate medical marijuana.”

The statement for eventually placing strong regulations the fast-growing medical cannabis industry is far less than AB 266 intends to accomplish, but the move Thursday more than hints the Legislature hopes to return to the subject before the end of the legislative year next week.

Thursday was the deadline for bills such as Bonta’s AB 266 to move forward or be shelved for the session. The Senate Appropriations move merely kept the legislation alive for another day.

The possibility remains AB 266 along with other medical cannabis-related bills may be knitted into legislation that can be signed by Gov. Jerry Brown sometime in September.

LISTEN to Assemblymember Rob Bonta talk about AB 266 on the East Bay Citizen Show podcast:

Richmond progressives warn of fraudulent rent control petition

A Richmond resident and member of the Service Employees International Union describes her interaction with a petitioner seeking to repeal the city's rent control ordinance.

RICHMOND CITY COUNCIL | The Richmond Progressive Alliance say a petition purporting to support the City Council’s recent rent control ordinance is actually a ruse aiming to undercut the position.

"This petition will not support rent control, and the groups working to stabilize rents in Richmond do not endorse it,” said members of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, including Councilmembers Gayle McLaughlin, Jovanka Beckles and Eduardo Martinez.

In a statement Thursday, the group said it believes some paid canvassers are offering residents misleading statements about the petition, such as asserting it supports Richmond’s rent control ordinance approved in July.

At least half of the petition’s signatures may have been procured under misleading circumstances, said the PRA.

The decision to enact rent control in Richmond was first such case in the Bay Area in over a generation and also bolstered Richmond’s claim as the new epicenter of progressive governance in the East Bay.

The vote in late July also sparked harsh words by opponents of the ordinance, including Richmond Mayor Tom Butt.

But the PRA says the petition’s true intention is to suspend the City Council’s decision until at least November 2016, “during which landlords will be free to unfairly raise rents and evict tenants without just cause.”

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Desley Brooks blocked me on Twitter and you could be next!

Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks will
block you from her Twitter feed and the reasons
might never be clear.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | Oakland Councilmember Desley Brooks is on Twitter, but she is hardly the most profound user of the social media tool. Most of her posts are merely links to activity from her Facebook page. But, apparently any mention of Brooks deemed hostile by the long-time council member will get you blocked from her feed. The practice could be illegal and more likely unethical.

The issue of public officials indiscriminately blocking users from their Twitter feed came to light last week when a blogger highlighted the pitfalls of elected officials ostensibly cutting off communication to some constituents while keeping the lines open for others. A public records request for frequency of some officials for blocking users found the practice is widespread.

A similar request for every member of the Oakland City Council and city auditor is not complete, but Brooks’ office reported they were unable to match any records to the request. The response led to a number of Oakland Twitter users to share their own experiences with being blocked by Brooks, a public official notorious for her bruising, in-your-face personality, not only in Oakland, but across the entire East Bay political landscape.

Count me as being blocked by Brooks. However, I have long been a critic of her acerbic style. I’m also not one of her constituents. But like other users blocked by Brooks, it’s not clear what precipitated the move. I’ve been critical of Brooks divisive rhetoric often, including the fear she has instilled in other officials from outside of Oakland.

Maybe she blocked me because I asserted her tactic to escape almost being censured two years ago amounted to self-serving and corrosive race-baiting. Maybe she didn’t like my reporting about her City Council opponent last year who surprisingly was out-trash-talking Brooks, the most famous trash-talker of all.

By the end of the campaign, though, Brooks seemed delightful when she drove me around East Oakland last September for a story I wrote for the East Bay Express on her re-election campaign. Somewhere down the line, she apparently broke up with me and, if recollection serves me, blocked me from her Twitter feed a second time.

Monday, August 24, 2015

LISTEN! East Bay Citizen Show with special guest SF Chronicle political writer Carla Marinucci

Carla Marinucci
EPISODE 4 | The presidential season is already in full gear. The San Francisco Chronicle's senior political writer Carla Marinucci sits down in Oakland to talk about Donald Trump's chances, along with a survey of the entire field.

Also, we chat about potentially the biggest race in the Bay Area in 2016, the congressional rematch between Rep. Mike Honda and Ro Khanna.

And, of course, you will never escape two poltical reporters bitching about the lack of access given by elected officials to the media. We do a lot of that on the East Bay's only weekly political podcast, The East Bay Citizen Show.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Oakland looking at 'three-pronged path' for new Raiders, Athletics stadiums

COLISEUM | With a Friday deadline for Coliseum City developer Floyd Kephart to present his final financial proposal to city and county leaders, Oakland’s point-person on the project, Assistant City Administrator Claudia Cappio signaled today that other options are also being pursued for stadiums to house the Raiders and Athletics. “We’re still working on what I believe will be a very serious offer in the near term to both sports stadiums in order to keep them here,” Cappio said at a press conference Friday afternoon in front of Oakland City Hall.

The exclusive negotiating agreement (ENA) that the city and Alameda County officials signed last year with Kephart’s group is due to expire on September 24.

Cappio described stadium discussions with both Raiders and Athletics officials in positive terms. “There is honesty and forthrightness at both sides of the table,” she said.

As stated in the ENA, Oakland and Alameda County are able to explore alternative proposals to Kephart’s Coliseum City plan and they appear to be acting on that right. When asked by a reporter whether the city is studying a separate proposal, Cappio said, “I’m looking at all my options in order to fully inform my decision.” She viewed the stadium situation as a “three-pronged path” that includes the Raiders, the Athletics, and Kephart’s proposal....


Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson and his $111,000 campaign account

Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson
ALAMEDA COUNTY | During the first half of the year, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson received just $1,000 in campaign contributions, measly, by most standards. The easily countable list of donations included $250 from Assemblymember Tony Thurmond and $100 from Oakland Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney. The longest-serving member of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, however, is sitting on more than $111,000 in campaign reserves, according finance reports.

So, what does a sitting supervisor who hasn’t faced credible competition in over two decades need such campaign largess?

Often times, entrenched public officials, like many on the Board of Supervisors, can spread their wealth and power by giving large donations to the local Democratic machine or down ballot candidates. Carson has done this in the past. His colleagues on the board have participated in the same sort of generosity.

But, Carson’s campaign reserve, by far the largest among the Board of Supervisors, could also come in handy if the local political winds swerve the right way.

If Rep. Barbara Lee’s Thirteenth Congressional District is open over the next few years, Carson will likely lead the list of potential successors.

The last time Carson sought higher office he finished third in the 1998 primary for the State Senate seat later won by Don Perata.

In recent years, his rhetoric on issues such as civil rights have shown a more statesman-like bent more befitting a speech delivered on the House floor than the oratory heard at county supervisors meetings.

Of course, $100,000 is nowhere close enough to run a strong congressional race, but it can go a long way toward seeding one and showing potential donors you have a nice head start. Supervisor Wilma Chan seeded her State Senate campaign coffers with $72,000 transferred last spring from her supervisorial account.

And, similar to Carson’s past electoral experience, he does appear likely to face a strong challenge for re-election to his seat next June. Therefore, little of his cash will be spent. Yet, Carson, if interested in seeking a move to Congress, has one major stumbling block in his way. Lee doesn’t appear ready to be going anywhere and If she did, others might have the same inclination.

One name always connected to Lee’s seat is Assemblymember Rob Bonta. Some even suggest Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and just about every other official in the Oakland-Berkeley area.

Sandre Swanson’s latest fundraising totals are a concern

Sandre Swanson, Wilma Chan and Nancy Skinner
STATE SENATE | DISTRICT 9 | Sandre Swanson could have a big money problem in next year’s likely hard-fought June primary next year in the Ninth State Senate District.

The early endorsement of his campaign by State Sen. Loni Hancock—the current holder of the seat who is termed out next year—and Assemblymember Rob Bonta were huge for Swanson. This week, the most popular elected official in the East Bay, Rep. Barbara Lee added her name to Swanson's endorsement list.

It's the type of early signal to donors that Swanson will be the candidate the Democratic Party will fall behind. Nancy Skinner and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan also have strong cases for the party’s support, too.

Aside from the recent Lee endorsement, it appears the trio of big names backing Swanson, starting with Bonta's on June 17 has failed to energize donors. Excluding the large transfers of cash by Skinner and Chan from previous campaign accounts, Swanson still trailed in the amount of money he raised during the first half of 2015.

An analysis of fundraising following Swanson's three big endorsements in mid-June, the announcement show no bump in financial support, at least, not on the most current reports,ending June 30. During the two weeks following, Swanson raised $30,550, just less than one-third of his entire $95,200 in fundraising.

Skinner, however, raised $66,470 during the same two week period. In addition, the haul was comprised of 131 donors, most of which were small donors, averaging around $500 per contribution. Down the line, the prevalence of small donors backing Skinner means she may have the ability to continue tapping into this well of support since most of her contributors are nowhere near the $4,200 maximum for the current election cycle.

Campaign finance reports released earlier this month already showed Swanson’s fundraising trailing both his opponents, including a nearly $900,000 money disadvantage with Skinner.

Chan also outraised Swanson during the same two week period in late June, raising $44,039. Among the large donors were two of Chan's colleagues from the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. The campaign account for Supervisor Richard Valle contributed $4,200 to Chan's state senate campaign and Supervisor Scott Haggerty pitched in another $1,000.

Another view of the significant early rollout of endorsements might now suggest his campaign intended to mask this inherent fundraising disadvantage.

Endorsers having to later eat their early imprimaturs for a candidate happen often. Progressives in 2011 jumped on Joel Young’s campaign for the Eighteenth Assembly District because of his union connections and his early entrance into the race that would later involved Bonta and Abel Guillen.

Like this race in the Ninth District, three strong Democrats exist, but in this case, the trio all jumped in early. However, what occurred is Progressives eventually dropped their backing for Young and either backed Bonta, Guillen or both in June 2012. There are signs this could happen to Swanson next year.

It will be quite telling how the Alameda County Democrats swings when Swanson, Skinner and Chan make their cases early next year for the all-important party endorsement for June. At this point, it’s a good bet the three factions split the vote and none receive the endorsement. In addition, it’s likely unions and other political groups do the same and endorse all three.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Assemblyman Quirk, a former nuclear weapons analyst, favors Iran deal

Assemblymember Bill Quirk on nuclear weapons
in Iran: "I they want to...They can do it anytime."
ASSEMBLY | 20TH DISTRICT | Twentieth Assembly District member Bill Quirk’s former career as a nuclear physicist has long been noted going as far back as his time as a Hayward council member.

With Washington nearing debate over the Iran nuclear deal brokered by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Quirk has some expertise in foreign nuclear weapons projects. 

During this week’s East Bay Citizen Show podcast, he revealed past experience studying Iran’s nuclear capabilities.

“If we deny this agreement, we just leave it open for them to have a nuclear weapon,” said Quirk, who represents Hayward, the Tri Cities and Castro Valley.

Iranian scientists are trained within country, added Quirk. “They have the knowledge. They have missiles. In fact, the only way we can get them to stop is get them to agree to stop.”

Based analysis he once compiled as a weapons inspector, civilian leadership in Iran has little taste for nuclear weapons, while the Iranian military likely does.

“What we have are the ayatollahs are our friends," said Quirk. "The ayatollahs have felt it is immoral to have nuclear weapons, or for that matter, chemical weapons. So they have the balance of power. We want an agreement that solidifies that balance of power because there is no way to stop them. If they want to, they have the capability. They can do it anytime.”


Monday, August 17, 2015

More on Swalwell's peculiar presidential endorsement: It's 'meaningless'

Rep. Eric Swalwell
CONGRESS | 15TH DISTRICT | Noted congressional elections expert Stuart Rothenberg is also scratching his head over Rep. Eric Swalwell’s endorsement of presidential candidate Martin O’Malley.

Two weeks ago, I raised the idea that the announcement, from Swalwell’s standpoint, was a ploy to get him face time on the national level. Similarly, Swalwell used the same tactic earlier this year when he inserted his name on the long list of potential candidates to replace Sen. Barbara Boxer.

Swalwell, an Iowa native, even gave a speech there touting O’Malley. Rothenberg, though, in a column for Roll Call with the mocking title, “Stop the Presses: O’Malley Nabs Swalwell Endorsement,” looks at the even from another angle.
The O’Malley folks must know the Swalwell endorsement is meaningless in the grand scheme of things. They aren’t stupid. So why did they ask for it and why did they distribute it? 
I really don’t know. I’d guess the former governor’s staff has to do something to make it seem as if their candidate is gaining support, and the folks in the press, political and fundraising departments have to keep busy, especially if they are being paid. 
Press folks, in particular, do stuff that is a huge waste of time. Most of the emails campaigns send around to reporters accomplish little or nothing, but that doesn’t stop them from sending them out. So the O’Malley folks probably are doing things like sending out the Swalwell endorsement email because somewhere along the way they learned that’s the sort of thing they are expected to do. 
I’m sure that Swalwell, who defeated veteran Democratic Rep. Pete Stark in 2012, has a long and promising career ahead of him. His loyalty to O’Malley is noteworthy. But this endorsement is so unimportant in the Democratic race that I wouldn’t be writing about it if this wasn’t August of the off year. Maybe it’s all that the O’Malley campaign has.
The view from Rothenberg’s perspective shows just how little a fish Swalwell really is in Washington. And despite, the reverential press coverage Swalwell often enjoys in the Bay Area, his political backing has already shown to be near worthless.

Recall, Swalwell’s official endorsement last year of a reactionary candidate for Castro Valley’s admittedly meaningless sanitary district. It should have been a major boost to his candidacy. In the Fifteenth District, however, a sitting U.S. congressman’s endorsement won’t get you much. The candidate finished dead last.

Barbara Lee says Sandre’s for me!

Sandre Swanson and Rep. Barbara Lee
PHOTO/Swanson campaign
STATE SENATE | 9TH DISTRICT | In the likely contentious primary next June for the East Bay’s Ninth State Senate District next year, Democratic loyalties will be split and feelings will be hurt, but Rep. Barbara Lee is not standing above the fray. On Monday, Lee endorsed Sandre Swanson’s campaign for the open state senate seat.

Democrats across the East Bay might not be as certain, though, with two more strong progressives also in the race, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan and former Assemblymember Nancy Skinner. San Pablo Vice Mayor Rich Kinney, a Republican, is the fourth candidate expected to run for the seat.

Local elected Democratic officials, though, have flocked early to Swanson’s campaign. In addition to Lee, East Bay Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond officially backed Swanson, as did, current State Sen. Loni Hancock.

In a statement, Swanson’s campaign noted sitting congress members rarely weigh-in on competitive Democratic primaries, which is typically the norm.

But despite the raft of high-profile endorsements, they have not yet transferred into fundraising strength for Swanson. During the first half of 2015, Swanson raised $96,800, which trailed both Chan and Skinner.

Overall cash on hand, meanwhile, tells an even more daunting story for Swanson after both his main challengers transferred large amounts of cash from previous campaign accounts. When it comes to money in the bank, Swanson’s $80,387 is vastly overshadowed by Skinner’s $925,176.

LISTEN! East Bay Citizen Show with special guest Assemblymember Bill Quirk

Assemblymember Bill Quirk
EPISODE 3 | To some Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk may be one of the most misunderstood officials in the East Bay. But,in fact, he is one of the most interesting. This week, Quirk weighs in on the recent finale of The Bachelorette, pot legalization and the Iran nuclear deal now being debated in Congress, among other topics, including some bills he carried in the Assembly this year.

Quirk is expert on many things, including love, but, as a retired physicist, he once worked for the U.S. government on foreign nuclear weapons projects. On the program, he lays out his thoughts on the deal made to halt nuclear proliferation in Iran.

In the news this week, the issue of a new stadium in Oakland for the Raiders is moving at a glacial pace, but city and county officials shouldn't be blamed for the inaction.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Miley won't add new member to his hand-picked Castro Valley oversight committee

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley
CASTRO VALLEY | Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley ostensibly is the end-all, be-all when it comes to members serving on unincorporated Castro Valley's Municipal Advisory Council (MAC).

The seven-member committee is chosen by Miley and is Castro Valley de facto government, although it holds little power and merely advises the supervisor, but the issue of appointments to the committee could loom as a campaign issue for Miley in 2016.

Miley added two member earlier this spring--Castro Valley businessman Chuck Moore, who held a fundraiser for Miley shortly after his appointment, and Janet Everson--but held off filling the MAC's third open seat.

According to Castro Valley Matters, Miley will not fill the seat and will re-open the application process some time after Labor Day.

Two applicants interviewed for the open seat last Monday. Former Castro Valley school board member Linda Tangren, a contributor to Miley's supervisorial campaign, and Michael Baldwin, a local activist who is part of a group that has urged Miley to make the MAC an elected position, made their cases. A third finalist, Mark Peterson, removed his name from consideration for the appointment shortly before the Monday evening public interview process.

No reason for given for Miley declining to choose either candidate. Overall, 16 people initially sought one of the three open seats.

In addition, there had previously been concern over the appointment process which, in the past, had been held behind closed doors. Castro Valley activists had pushed for a more open public process. Later, Miley relented.

However, there was disagreement over how the interviews were conducted. In addition, to Miley, questions were posed by two sitting members of the MAC appointed by Miley. Incidentally, both, Cheryl Miraglia and Marc Crawford, are also donors to Miley's campaign.

Although, the Castro Valley MAC is only a county advisory board that creates few ripples in the grand scheme of things in Alameda County, the disenchantment may loom large in 2016 with Miley up for re-election. Read here in another post from Castro Valley Matters that lays out the insurgency's gripes against Miley and county leaders.

In addition, most believe part of the impetus, if not inspiration, for talk of putting a term limits initiative for the county supervisors on the June ballot is focused around Miley.

Some East Bay political operatives believe the eastern portion of Miley's Oakland-centric district--primarily Castro Valley and the strip that includes Pleasanton--is his soft underbelly ready to be exploited by a well-financed opponent. That is, if one materializes in the next month or so.

Barbara Lee measuring drapes at U.S. embassy in Cuba, just in case?

Rep. Barbara Lee will attend Friday's flag-raising
at U.S. Embassy in Havana.
CONGRESS | 13TH DISTRICT | East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee is attending Friday’s historic raising of the U.S. flag over its embassy in Havana. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, business leaders and other lawmakers will attend the ceremony.

But while it’s not exactly surprising Lee is part of the delegation following decades of activism over ending the Cold War era economic embargo against Cuba, rumors of her interest in being named ambassador have long been connected to her.

“While this delegation and the opening of an American embassy in Cuba is an important step forward, more work remains to end more than five decades of failed policy between the U.S. and Cuba,” Lee said in a statement Thursday.

Congress must act now to remove the remaining barriers to normalized relations including lifting the travel ban and ending the failed embargo. These Cold War relics must be repealed as we chart a new path forward between our two nations.”

Quite a few scenarios would have to break in Lee’s favor before might even be considered ambassador to Cuba, namely, whether a Democrat succeeds President Obama in the White House next year.

If the time frame were pushed back earlier in Obama’s administration, the odds might be better for Lee’s appointment. Then there is the question of whether Lee, one of the most liberal and high-profile members of Congress, can win Senate confirmation. Lee’s politics is often lampooned by right-leaning web sites and news organization.

Nevertheless, the possibility of Lee moving on to greater things would have dramatic ramifications on East Bay politics, likely triggering a similarly massive reshuffling of local offices that followed Lee’s rise in 1998 to replace Ron Dellums.

Four special elections and runoffs ensued over the next year. Don Perata won Lee’s State Senate seat; Audie Bock won Perata’s Assembly seat. Each was hard fought and voter fatigue was palpable.

If Lee were to move on or chose retirement in the middle of her term, a similar Game of Thrones might follow resulting in a congressional election; elections for the Assembly, Board of Supervisors and another election if the bottom feeder of the group is a current public official.

Sound fun?

Monday, August 10, 2015

LISTEN! East Bay Citizen Show with special guest Ro Khanna

Ro Khanna
EPISODE 2 | Seventeenth Congressional District candidate Ro Khanna is making another attempt at unseating Rep. Mike Honda. This week he lays out his strategy for making up the nearly four point spread from last year's November election. He also talks about the moment he decided to launch a rematch in 2016. Khanna is also getting married this month and he reveals his secret campaign weapon--his fiancee. Also Alameda County's One Percent--DA Nancy O'Malley and the Board of Supervisors--faced a tough couple of weeks. Are they feeling the heat?

LISTEN ON EBCitizen.com

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Tough week for public safety in Hayward: Fallen officer; stumbling fire chief

Hayward Fire Chief Garrett Contreras
HAYWARD | Last week, the Hayward Police Department bid farewell to Sgt. Scott Lunger, who was killed by a suspect during a traffic stop.

On Tuesday, Hayward's public safety community was rocked again when it was reported Hayward Fire Chief Garrett Contreras was suspended for drinking on the job earlier this year.

Contreras, however, will keep his job, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

In the report detailing the investigation into Contreras’ actions, Hayward City Manager Fran David wrote, “This conduct is not what I expect from a chief,” she continued, “Your failure of leadership has embarrassed the city and your department and violates the very command and control structure on which your operations depend.”

Hayward City Manager Fran David suspended
Contreras for drinking on the job earlier this year.
Contreras, according to David, drove city vehicles while consuming alcohol on at least four occasions, was belligerent in public during a golf tournament, and threatened, while intoxicated, the employment of a Hayward firefighter.

In addition, while on-call, Contreras once failed to respond to a “significant” fire in Hayward while he was imbibing alcohol.

The report also stated Contreras was previously admonished by David for his conduct in 2013.

In the report, Contreras was apologetic and David apparently deemed the gesture was genuine. According to the Chronicle, David’s reasoning for keeping Contreras on the job was his honesty during the investigation.

Contreras is barred from taking city vehicles home for year, said the Chronicle, prohibited from drinking alcohol while in uniform.

Alameda County prosecutor accused of conspiring with Leland Yee in FBI's 'Shrimp Boy' case

Alameda County prosecutor Sharmin Bock.
ALAMEDA COUNTY | An Alameda County prosecutor conspired with State Sen. Leland Yee to circumvent campaign finance law in the infamous racketeering case involving Yee and Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow. The comments were captured on F.B.I. wiretaps, according to a motion Tuesday by Chow for dismissal of his indictment for selective prosecution.

The motion also alleges San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and San Francisco London Breed and others accepted bribes and entered into pay-for-play schemes in the F.B.I sting revealed two years ago.

Chow’s attorney asserts the information was gleaned during the discovery stage. Chow’s motion charges, despite their findings, the F.B.I. did nothing to pursue the allegations against each, including Alameda County prosecutor Sharmin Bock.

According to the motion, Bock was also given an “unexplainable pass” from scrutiny for her actions. “She was picked up on the wiretap on multiple occasions conspiring with Leland Yee to exchange donations to defeat campaign finance limits while she was running for District Attorney. She remains unindicted and, in fact, she is still a prosecutor. One of the unindicted parties stated “If you need some help in Alameda, we can use her you know. She is a fucking DA.”

The connection between San Francisco and East Bay politics is clear with Bock. She unsuccessfully ran for San Francisco district attorney in 2011. She is also one of the more well-known prosecutors in Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s office.

The F.B.I. investigation was known in the past to have crossed over to the East Bay. The probe focused on Oakland Councilmembers Larry Reid and Lynette Gibson McElhaney, according to a report. One undercover agent posing as a businessman interested in investing in Oakland was ferried around the city by Reid. No charges were ever filed.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Skinner, Chan post big fundraising figures padded by former campaign accounts

Former Democratic Assemblymemebers Sandre
Swanson, Wilma Chan and Nancy Skinner are all
vying for SD9 next year.
STATE SENATE | CAMPAIGN FINANCE | Nancy Skinner is sitting on a pile of cash. Just a year away from a titanic Democratic tussle in next June’s primary for the Ninth State Senate District, Skinner’s campaign reported $925,176 in cash on hand, according to finance reports released this week.

Skinner, a former member of the Assembly from Berkeley, holds nearly six times the amount of campaign cash as her nearest opponent, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan. Also a former assembly member, Chan reported $160,659 in cash during the first half of this year.

Sandre Swanson, yet another former Democratic assembly member from the East Bay, reported $80,387 in cash banked during the period ending June 30. Over $13,000 in cash was carried over from before the start of the year.

San Pablo Vice Mayor Rich Kinney is
so far the only Republican in the race.
San Pablo Vice Mayor Rich Kinney reported $5,830 in contributions this year, but also spent nearly as much, $5,078, and has $752 cash on hand. Kinney, a Republican, finished fourth in the Fifteenth Assembly District primary last year won by Tony Thurmond.

However, Skinner’s fundraising numbers are greatly enhanced from a noticeably head start in the money race for next year. Skinner entered the year with $395,816 in fundraising. Then, in March, her campaign transferred another $435,278 in contributions left over from Skinner’s 2012 Assembly account. What is left over is $94,082 in new contributions covering January 1 to June 30. Skinner also reported expenditures of $41,174.

During the same period, Chan raised $202,100 in contributions and spent $44,371. But, like Skinner, Chan’s totals are padded by $72,500 transferred from her 2014 supervisorial account. Chan’s real amount of contributions for the six-month period is $129,600. Swanson reported $96,800 in contributions, while spending $37,187.

Skinner’s inherent money lead undoubtedly puts her campaign in a strong position to advance to the top two open primary in November 2016, but it’s never a certainty. Former Assemblymember Mary Hayashi entered last year’s campaign in the Tenth State Senate District race with Bob Wieckowski maintaining roughly the same campaign finance figures as Skinner. Hayashi’s personal troubles notwithstanding, she failed to make the November election.

The early fundraising results also reflect Skinner and Chan’s reputations as solid fundraisers. In addition, they may also hint at uncertainty among East Bay Democrats over Swanson’s health. Since leaving the Assembly in 2011, Swanson is often seen walking with the aid of a cane. Nevertheless, Swanson touts the strong endorsements of Ninth District seat holder State Sen. Loni Hancock and Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond.

Republican East Bay Assemblymember Catharine Baker posts strong first-half fundraising numbers

Assemblymember Catharine Baker
ASSEMBLY | CAMPAIGN FINANCE | Republican Assemblymember Catharine Baker raised more than $427,000 during the first half on this year. Baker, who is the lone local Republican member of the Legislature, nearly outpaced the rest of the East Bay Assembly caucus in campaign finance reports released by the Secretary of State’s office.

Most view Baker’s re-election in the Sixteenth District could be the only contested Assembly race next year. However, Democrats in the district spread over Contra Costa County and the Tri Valley in Alameda County are having difficulty identifying a liberal candidate to challenge Baker, who easily beat Democrat Tim Sbranti last November. Her impressive fundraising prowess, also seen in her
2014 campaign, may further dissuade Democrats.

Baker spent $127,798 during the reporting period covering January 1 to June 30. Her campaign holds $328,363 in cash on hand, according to campaign finance reports.

Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta continued his history of posting high campaign fundraising numbers. Bonta, who also represents San Leandro and Alameda, reported $530,975 in contributions, in addition, to $175,798 in expenditures through June 30. Meanwhile, Bonta, who was elected in 2012, has banked $796,320 in cash on hand. A strong challenger is not likely next year.

Assemblymember Bill Quirk
Similarly, Hayward Assemblymember Bill Quirk will likely not be challenged next year. Quirk received $167,995 in contributions this year and spent $39,995 during the same six month period. Although much of Quirk’s two prior Assembly campaign were self-financed, his cash on hand sits at $133,765.

Another member of the 2014 freshman class of Assembly members, Tony Thurmond from Richmond’s Fifteenth District, posted strong fundraising numbers. Thurmond received $290,669 in contributions this year and spent nearly a third of the total with $97,607 in expenditures. Thurmond banked $204,771 in cash, according to finance reports.

East Bay Citizen Show with special guest Assemblymember Rob Bonta

EPISODE 1 |Eighteenth Assembly District member Rob Bonta sits down for an interview at Rock Wall Winery at Alameda Point. He spoke about his medical cannabis dispensary bill, legislation for Oakland, his favorite Oakland A's player and his future in politics. Later in the show, we look at the three-ring circus surrounding Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer following her infamous "white rice" incident with dignitaries from the Philippines and the head-scratching that followed

Read more at the East Bay Citizen Show website.