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Friday, October 30, 2015

Oakland's commitment to not using public money for a new football stadium

View of O.co Coliseum from the parking lot.
OAKLAND | Under the NFL’s bylaws, franchises that want to relocate to another city must first allow fans to have their voices heard. The practice of the NFL, however, when it comes to building costly stadiums, is to leverage fans’ fears about a team leaving to pressure municipalities into funding stadium construction with taxpayers’ money. However, if NFL executives on Thursday night at Oakland’s Paramount Theatre were expecting citizens of Raider Nation to provide that leverage, and help pressure Oakland city officials into such a deal, they must be sorely disappointed.

Raiders’ super fan Ray Perez, aka “Dr. Death,” may have best summed up the night when he told team owner Mark Davis: “When I want a house built, I don’t ask the City of Oakland to give me a check.”

Although Davis never directly asked for public money at last night’s event, it seemed clear that he wants it — and needs it. The Raiders are proposing to build a $900 million stadium at the Coliseum, but only have identified $500 million in private funds to get the job done. “We need help from the community as well to get something that our fans and the NFL can be proud of,” said Davis. “We don’t have that right now. We’ve been trying for at least the past six years, every day, hundreds of hours, people in this organization trying to get something done.” He later added, “It could be done in Oakland if everybody pulls together.”

But during the three-hour town hall, there was barely any reference made by fans of using public funding to help close the Raiders’ $400 million funding gap. Instead, many of those decked out in silver and black had alternative funding proposals for Eric Grubman, the NFL’s point man in the race by three franchises, including the Raiders, St. Louis Rams, and San Diego Chargers, to move to the long-vacant Los Angeles market.

A few fans proposed to crowdsource funding for a new stadium. Grubman called the idea “awesome,” but kindly dismissed it. “I don't think it would be fair for us to ask you to do that," he told a speaker. Another asked whether ownership of the team could be divvied up in public stocks and sold to fans, an ownership structure used by the NFL’s Green Bay Packers.

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That time Barbara Lee and Paul Ryan tussled over race

Rep. Barbara Lee and new Republican House
Speaker Paul Ryan have history.
CONGRESS | DISTRICT 13 | “I congratulate Paul Ryan on his election as Speaker of the House today," East Bay Rep. Barbara Lee said Thursday of the new Republican House leader.

In the statement, Lee encouraged Ryan to act against an Authorization of Military Force (AUMF), in Iraq and Afghanistan, currently on the speaker's desk. Lee famously voted against the first AUMF in Afghanistan following the 9/11 attacks.

But, while she was gracious in her congratulation of Ryan to succeed Rep. John Boehner, the two have politically tussled in the past. In March 2014, Lee seized upon comments made by Ryan asserting absent black fathers were to blame for some "inner city" ills.

“We have got this tailspin of culture, in our inner cities in particular," Ryan said at the time, "of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning to value the culture of work, so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.”

Lee shot back that Ryan's comments about poverty were a "thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let’s be clear, when Mr. Ryan says 'inner city,' when he says, 'culture,' these are simply code words for what he really means: 'black.'"

Ryan reacted incredulously to Lee's comments. “This has nothing to do whatsoever with race," said Ryan. "It never even occurred to me.”

Nevertheless, history aside, few can imagine Lee--one of the most progressive members of Congress--and Ryan, a devout fiscal conservative, will ever see eye-to-eye.

Oakland's Noel Gallo was thinking about quitting his council seat next year

After initial reservations, Oakland Councilmember
Noel Gallo says he's now in it to win it in 2016.
OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | 2016 | One of the oddest pieces of political chatter over the past few months in Oakland went like this: Councilmember Noel Gallo was planning to quit after just one term in office. The rumor, no matter how ridiculous it seemed at first glance, began to grow feverishly among City Hall politicos.

Preceding Wednesday night’s state of the city speech by Mayor Libby Schaaf, numerous City Hall insiders expressed certainty that Gallo was out of the race for 2016. And it turns out there was a good reason for why Oakland’s political class was sure that the Fruitvale district councilmember was going to retire.

Gallo said Wednesday that he was seriously thinking about not seeking reelection and broached the subject with some community members. However, he has now decided that he will run again for the District Five seat. “Man, it’s frustrating being on this council,” Gallo said while wearing a Raiders T-shirt over his dress shirt. In the past few weeks, Gallo said he changed his mind about quitting. “I’m running for sure,” he said...

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Schaaf highlights crime reduction, fixing housing crunch in first state of the city

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf delivers her first state of the city Wednesday night at the City Council chambers.
OAKLAND | STATE OF THE CITY | Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf entered the City Council chambers for her first State of the City address Wednesday evening with a drum line beat blaring behind. The first-term mayor’s flair for showmanship is well-known, but as the last 10 months will attest, despite clear positives in Oakland, anything can still go sideways at a moment’s notice. Like, say, a malfunctioning microphone. “Nobody said that this would be easy,” Schaaf deadpanned to the packed City Council chambers. The remark could also refer to Oakland’s rebirth.

While the city is a hot market for investors, Schaaf noted continued fear among residents, highlighted by 71 murders this year and worries the very character of Oakland is at risk as long-time residents are displaced by new ones awash in tech riches. Schaaf’s speech was heavy on tamping down crime and solving the city's housing crisis. However, she made no mention of the Raiders and Athletics and their fruitless bids to finance new stadiums in Oakland.

In the 38 minute speech, often featuring soaring rhetoric, Schaaf said, “There is a buzz about Oakland right now and it’s not just a feeling.” Economic indicators such as unemployment are down while job creation is up, she explained. “While we celebrate this moment of progress and prosperity, we must have the discipline and the honesty to look into and behind these numbers to make sure that there is progress for all and that the prosperity is shared equitably.” Unemployment numbers sit at 5.3 percent overall, said Schaaf, but still fluctuate greatly around the city based on factors such as race and education.

“The numbers show that Oakland is getting safer,” said Schaaf, highlighted by three straight years of double-digits drops in shootings, including 200 fewer people wounded by gunfire over the past year. Residential burglaries and home robberies are also down. “I’m not going to sugarcoat the state of safety in Oakland,” she said, but more of the shootings were fatal, including 71 murders this year. “I cannot celebrate improvements while overall the level of fear and harm in this community remain unacceptably high.”

Schaaf later noted the murder of 27-year-old community artist Antonio Ramos, who was killed Sept. 29 while painting a peace mural in Oakland. Schaaf said her goal is on track to grow the police department from the current 735 officer to 820 by 2017. A community safety plan was promised for the end of this year, she added.

Later, with the words Black Lives Matter prominently displayed behind her, Schaaf said Oakland has been nationally praised for the city’s move toward greater transparency following over a decade of federal oversight for police misconduct. Several well-known critics of Schaaf and the police department in Oakland erupted on social media after seeing the backdrop and the mayor’s comments. A number of peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters focused on the plight of black women earlier this year were arrested by OPD. The incident led to numerous protests in the weeks that followed and included a controversial night-time curfew for protesting in the streets.

Regarding the housing crisis, Schaaf said preventing displacement of existing residents is her highest priority. “Oakland has an affordability crisis,” said Schaaf. "Oaklanders are getting priced out of their own hometown.” Schaaf’s new housing cabinet will bring an implementation and funding plan for the city’s housing equity roadmap sometime in early 2016, said Schaaf. In addition, 1,300 new housing units are expected to be built this year with more than 30 percent set aside for affordable housing, she said, along 15,000 units of housing already in the pipeline. Meanwhile, the city must also focus on other types of housing, she said. “We must learn the cautionary lesson from San Francisco and not discourage market-rate housing. Every new unit relieves pressure from our tight housing market,” Schaaf said before taking a dig at Donald Trump. “We can’t build a wall around Oakland and we wouldn’t want to. In fact, that sounds a little bit like a presidential candidate.”

What Schaaf didn’t mention during the address was also notable. Aside from a celebratory acknowledgment of the Golden State Warriors NBA championship last summer, Schaaf made no mention to the tenuous stadium situations involving the Oakland Raiders and Athletics. NFL executives will visit Oakland Thursday night for a town hall at the Paramount Theater to discuss the Raiders future in Oakland as the team actively seeks relocation to Southern California. Schaaf is expected to attend the meeting. Following the State of the City, Councilmember Noel Gallo said he believes there is still hope to keep the team in town. “She should have brought the issue up tonight,” said Gallo. “We need to do everything possible to communicate that the Raiders and Athletics are important. Just as a courtesy she should have brought them up.”

Bay Area transportation, planning agencies set early stages for merger

MTC chair said the decision to override its Executive
Director Steve Heminger's (pictured) plan is not a 
knock against the proposal.
MTC-ABAG MERGER | Steve Heminger, the executive director of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) said his staff pleaded against him showing a rather ominous circle graph comparing the agency’s $945 million annual budget versus the relatively minuscule $27 million operating budget of the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG), a group which until Wednesday was at his mercy. “We’re like the Death Star,” Heminger said of the graphical representation, “and ABAG is the rebel planet fighting for freedom.”

The remark may have been tone-deaf, but not entirely surprising for an executive who’s personality is described as “snarky” by his most friendly supporters and an absolute jerk, to say the least, by his enemies. One Oakland elected official called Heminger’s plan to withhold funding for the ABAG as “heavy-handed” if they did not acquiesce to MTC’s wishes to absorb 13 of their planners under the guise of a long-sought merger of the two agencies.

Most elected officials believe a full merger is a prudent move given the number of redundancies inherent in each body and the opportunity to cut costs. MTC and ABAG are also both set to soon move into new digs in San Francisco, which also caused significant rancor, in part, because of its hefty $256 million price tag. Funding for the purchase and remodeling of the building comes from bridge toll receipts.

Alameda County Supervisor
Scott Haggerty says failure to
merge will be fault of MTC/ABAG.
However, Heminger likely overreached by rushing to grab ABAG’s planners now while MTC thinks about a proper merger later. Even during Wednesday’s four-hour discussion Heminger maintained his stance that the so-called “integration” of planners should be the initial step before studying the efficacy of a full merger. But, following a spate of negative press and an up swell of resistance from public officials around the Bay Area, in addition, to labor union, changes to the proposal was offered and unanimously approved by the MTC Wednesday afternoon.

The new plan calls for MTC and ABAG to jointly fund and seek a consultant to analyze a possible merger beginning in July 2016. Several MTC representatives such as Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty expressed surprise by the respectful tone of Wednesday’s hearing. Comity could be fleeting, though, as discord among officials on both the MTC and ABAG boards has been noteworthy over this issue, but also historical. The sheer size and diversity of nine Bay Area counties involved in these agencies typically causes each agency problems. Smaller cities grumble over the power of larger ones and outer Bay Area counties, particularly north of Alameda and San Francisco Counties share far less progressive values. On another level, many smaller cities fear crossing Heminger and his dictatorial edicts, several sources said Wednesday. “They’re scared Heminger will take away funding for their transportation projects,” a source said of smaller municipalities.

Most admit not knowing exactly how a combined MTC/ABAG would look like. While MTC is a statutory agency obviously focused on transportation, including the new Bay Bridge debacle, ABAG is a voluntary quasi-political body with an emphasis on land-use planning. It is within the context of Plan Bay Area, the 30-year regional planning initiative that the agencies strongly intersect. You can’t plan for the influx of new Bay Area residents over the next three decades without the happy marriage of high-density housing and much-improved access to transportation. Heminger gambling with the very early stage planning studies for Plan Bay Area by withholding funding for ABAG was very disconcerting for some public officials I spoke with Wednesday.

The level of concern appears to have miraculously burned off over the past eight days following the Oakland City Council’s resolution to oppose what they termed as Heminger’s “hostile takeover” bid of ABAG. Earlier in the morning Wednesday, ABAG’s executive council unanimously approved the new language later approved by MTC. Deeming the vote a historic day for the transportation commission, Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates said the initial MTC proposal may not have been the best, but the public and elected officials improved upon it. San Francisco Supervisor David Campos, who was recognized for lobbying SEIU Local 1021 to support the new proposal, said, a lack of trust is inherent between MTC and ABAG, but collaboration is needed to make the merger happen. “I don’t think we have a choice if you believe in regional government,” said Campos.

Two failed attempts at a merger over the years already lay in the wake of  MTC and ABAG. “Before the discussion was no—hell no!” said Supervisor Haggerty. “It’s our fault if this merger does not happen.”

Oakland City Council opposed MTC-ABAG 'hostile takover' because Schaaf would have voted for it, says Kaplan

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf is the city's 
representative on MTC.
MTC-ABAG | The proposed merger of two influential regional  agencies has been likened by some as a hostile takeover. The quickly drawn up merger by Steve Heminger, the head of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, to pull 15 or more union planners from the nine-county planning agency known as the Association of Bay Area Governments has also been called a power-grab by others.

That’s because MTC is the agency that collects and redirects state and federal funding to ABAG and Heminger is, in effect, holding the money hostage to force the partial merger. Heminger has said the proposal will save money.

Steve Heminger, executive director of MTC, is
being criticized for moving too quickly with plans
to partially merge the agency with ABAG.
But, last week, Oakland Councilmember Dan Kalb added to the clamor by calling the move a “heavy-handed effort” by MTC, while union officials from SEIU Local 1021 say MTC’s gambit is a “union-busting move” that will affect between 15-22 union planners and the pensions of more than 150 retirees.

Critics of the merger also say it risks slowing early planning for ABAG's much-debated Plan Bay Area, a 30-year planning initiative that seeks to promote higher density housing and other land-use solutions to make room for the Bay Area's expected population boom and limit climate change.

However, there was one other aspect of the resolution that went unnoticed, a clause directing Mayor Libby Schaaf, Oakland’s representative on the MTC to vote against the plan.

Oakland Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan says the impetus for this section of the resolution was because Schaaf had previously voiced public support for the plan. Kaplan, Kalb and Councilmember Desley Brooks initially hatched the general idea of showing council opposition to Heminger’s plan. “I kept hearing from people she was in favor of it,” Kaplan said of Schaaf and the MTC merger proposal, including a speech the mayor gave recently to local mayors describing the plans merits..

Kaplan later confirmed with the Oakland city attorney’s office that the council has legal standing to dictate Schaaf’s vote, which could occur at this Wednesday morning MTC meeting in Oakland. “What MTC is doing combines the worst in union-busting with undermining regional planning,” added Kaplan.

During the Oct. 20 Oakland council meeting, Kalb alluded to the possible disconnect between Schaaf and the council as it pertains to MTC’s near future. After hammering out new language for the resolution with Schaaf’s office, Kalb said, “I’m not saying, or would I suggest, that we agreed to everything the mayor wanted.” He then added, there “might be one big disagreement.”

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Jean Quan is thinking about a comeback

Jean Quan, right, as a council member in 2011
at a protest for Oscar Grant. Insiders says she's
thinking about a return to the council in 2016.
OAKLAND | 2016 | Granted, it's early. But Oakland's 2016 election season is quietly taking shape and surprisingly loaded with intrigue, including the possible return of ex-Oakland Mayor Jean Quan to vie for Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan's At-Large council seat and a potential challenge to Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney by former longtime West Oakland Councilmember Nancy Nadel.

In addition, veteran Councilmember Larry Reid may retire next year and there could be a rush to fill his East Oakland's District Seven seat. Also, former Oakland mayoral candidate Bryan Parker is set to give Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley his strongest challenger yet, making him the most credible threat to a sitting county supervisor in more than two decades.

Speculation about whether Quan might take on Kaplan in 2016 began almost immediately after the pair finished third and second last year, respectively, in the Oakland mayoral campaign behind Libby Schaaf. A stat often offered by Quan supporters is the 1,100-first-place-vote advantage that Quan had over Kaplan in that race. However, Kaplan ended up in second place after the ranked-choice tabulations, thereby indicating that she has stronger overall support among city voters.

Other 2014 mayoral candidates may also be eyeing a chance to challenge Kaplan. Parker said some community groups urged him to run for the At-Large council seat. And Joe Tuman, who finished fifth in the 2014 mayoral race, may consider a run as well. But Kaplan appears to be taking Quan's potential challenge the most seriously, sources said. In an interview, Kaplan said she's focusing on the many challenges facing the city. "It's not just about her," Kaplan said of Quan. "It's about all the work to be done in Oakland."

For Kaplan, facing a reelection battle against a former colleague with extensive experience is nothing new. In 2012, Kaplan soundly defeated former Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente for the At-Large seat. "This situation is not particularly shocking given what happened last time and voters are going to have to make a decision on where we are as a city," said Kaplan. "We have a major housing crisis and someone has to do something about it."

A close supporter of Quan's previous campaigns said the former mayor's interest in the At-Large seat is due in part to a perception that Kaplan is not hardworking. "I think Jean would be happy if this made Rebecca be more productive," the supporter said, adding that "Jean still thinks she has something to offer city government."...

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San Lorenzo school administrator called cops to break up teachers' union meeting

San Leandro elected officials speaking at a rally 
Oct. 20 in support of San Lorenzo teachers.
PHOTO/SLEA 
SAN LORENZO | The labor dispute between San Lorenzo teachers and the school district is getting tense by the day.

In recent days, the push by teachers for higher wages and increased benefits is being met with harsh tactics by school district administrators.

Last week a San Lorenzo High School assistant principal summoned police to break up a lunch time union meeting.

Video below of the encounter has been viewed more than 280,000 on Facebook.


Although there were a few of us recording all the same footage in my classroom, this particular video credit goes out to Gina Spiers.I am reading comments on the shares which is a bit like following the game telephone in some cases. TO BE CLEAR: We are within our rights to have a meeting on campus without prior district approval, during our off-duty time. This was a violation on the part of the district. Article XXVII - Association Rights1. The Association shall have the right of access at reasonable times to areas in which employee's work, the right to use institutional bulletin boards, district mail, mailboxes, e-mail and the right to use institutional facilities at reasonable times for the purpose of meetings concerned with the exercise of the rights guaranteed under this Agreement.2. Authorized representatives of the Association shall be permitted to transact official Association business on school property at reasonable times as long as it does not interfere with the performance of regular duties of unit members.7. The District shall allow brief announcements of meetings in district news bulletins upon timely request.8. Association meetings called at any school are open only to members of the Association and/or members of the bargaining unit.
Posted by Amy Bellamy on Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Following the incident with teachers and sheriffs deputies, the San Lorenzo Education Association union said it filed an unfair labor practice charge withe Public Employment Relations Board on Oct. 23 against the school district.

The classroom confrontation on Oct. 20 occurred just hours before more than 600 teachers demonstrated in front of the school district's offices. San Lorenzo teachers are  the lowest paid in Alameda County, says the union.

More than a week earlier, the teachers' union declared an impasse in negotiations. A mediation session between teachers and the school administration is scheduled for Oct. 30, said the union.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Nurses' union endorsement brings adrenaline shot to Swanson's campaign

Cowboy up! Swanson picked up support Monday from
the powerful California Nurses Association.
STATE SENATE | DISTRICT 9 | The California Nurses Association's political support is similar to the level of care a patient might experience in the hospital. If you treat the nurses with kindness, you might get an extra cup of apples sauce on your dinner tray. Treat them badly and expect your bed pan to overflow.

The California Nurses Association (CNA) think Ninth District State Senate candidate Sandre Swanson is the former.

In the high-profile East Bay June primary also featuring Nancy Skinner, the nurses union is giving a life line to Swanson. His campaign announced the union's crucial endorsement in a statement Monday.

Clearly, Big Labor is falling toward Swanson's campaign and all indications show he will need all the financial heft that comes with it. The union's extra resources will go far in lessening Skinner's distinct initial fundraising advantage that through the end of last June showed the former Democratic assembly member with more than $925,000 in the bank. The total is more than eight times Swanson's campaign coffers, through the mid-year reporting period.

Most observers, however, believe Skinner's money advantage will decrease over time, in part, because of Swanson's union support. The California School Employees Association previously announced support for Swanson, as have the local Teamsters Joint Council 7, in addition, to the district's current slate of state legislators.

In addition, the pie available for Democrats got bigger last month when Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, another former Democratic assembly member. dropped out of the race, citing an inability to compete on the fundraising front all the way to the November general election.

Oakland education advocate Katherine Welch is also a candidate, as is Republican San Pablo Vice Mayor Rich Kinney.

City Hall Insider: agenda notes from around the East Bay, Oct. 27-29

OAKLAND/Oct. 27-28
Open house at City Hall; sparse committee schedule

STATE OF THE CITY Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf will give a 2015 State of the City address (starts at 5:45 p.m.) as part of a City Hall Open House that begins at 4-7 p.m. In a short video, Schaaf says you can tour City Hall, get acquainted with city services and even pay a parking ticket! Following the address residents will be able to attend discussions on how to improve the city.

SHORT COMMITTEE SCHEDULE Except for early morning Oakland City Council Finance and Management Committee, the usual slate of meetings are all canceled. The Rules Committee, however, is still set for Thursday, 9:45 a.m.

NFL TOWN HALL/
Oct. 29, 7 p.m.
L.A. sideshow comes to Oakland's Paramount

BLACK HOLE A reporter with strong contacts with the National Football League told me recently that the choice of the Paramount Theater for its town hall on the future of the Oakland Raiders in the city was helped by the fact its seat are bolted to the floor. That might give you some idea for what’s in store for the league when it allows residents and fans to vent about keeping the Raiders in Oakland. Similar town halls are being held by the NFL in St. Louis and San Diego, the other franchises involved in the triumvirate with eyes on moving to Los Angeles. Meanwhile, the administration in Oakland recently hired a noted stadium consultant following the trap door Coliseum City cheerleader Floyd Kephart fell through along with his plan for two stadiums, hotel and retail at the current Coliseum property. The situation is tenuous, but most observers see the Raiders future less likely in Los Angeles than the other two teams, but the (autumn) winds can change in a heartbeat with this story.

HAYWARD/Oct. 27, 7 p.m.
City still short on cash for youth center

YOUTH CENTER MOU The South Hayward Youth and Family Center proposed for Tennyson Road was first publicly discussed last July. On Tuesday, the council will hear an update on the proposal that will officially include the city, Alameda County and the Hayward Area Recreation and Park District. A Memorandum of Understanding between the three parties was signed Oct 15, along with a governance structure. But major problems still exist before shovels are in the ground. The proposed building will cost an estimated $26 million, but only $16 million is currently accounted for, including a grant from Kaiser Permanente and funding brought to the table by Alameda County Supervisor Richard Valle. And the City of Hayward says it doesn’t have money for construction or operating the center after completion. Operations are estimated to be between $3 million to 8 million annually, says a city staff report. Upside: the dollars and cents portion of the project is virtually unchanged, but the entities involved in its future have put their interests in writing. READ ENTIRE AGENDA

SAN LEANDRO/
Oct. 29, 6:30 p.m.
Final plan for two-city creek trail expected by 2017

SAN LEANDRO CREEK TRAIL The San Leandro Creek runs east-west from Lake Chabot to the Oakland Estuary. A proposed pedestrian and bike trail that would run along the borders of San Leandro and Oakland and include both cities will begin public outreach Thursday at the San Leandro Library, 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Funding for the planning stages of the walkway comes from a $201,510 state Department of Transportation grant received by the city last year. The trail would be over four miles long and follow San Leandro Creek from Lake Chabot to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Regional Shoreline Park on Doolittle Drive. A final plan for the trail is expected by Summer 2017. MORE ON THE PROJECT

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Berkeley Councilmember Arreguin to run for mayor

Berkeley Councilmember Jesse Arreguin
BERKELEY | MAYOR | His Facebook page may have spilled the beans earlier this week, but Berkeley Councilmember Jesse Arreguin made it official Thursday--he's running for mayor.

Arreguin, who represents District Four on the Berkeley City Council, says the city's growing affordability gap as the city's most pressing challenge.

“We need a Berkeley that works for everyone,” said Arreguin in a statement announcing his candidacy. “That’s why I’m running for Mayor. As I’ve done on the City Council and throughout my career, I’ll bring our city together and get results, so Berkeley moves forward and carries on our tradition of strong progressive leadership.”

Most recognize Arreguin as the city council's most progressive member. However, in recent years, Berkeley's traditional standing as the most liberal cities in the country has been eclipsed regionally by nearby Richmond and Oakland.

Fellow Berkeley Councilmember Laurie Capitelli is also a potential challenger for the November 2016 election. Long-time Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates is not likely to seek re-election next year.

Oakland to borrow Portland employee to start new Dept. of Race and Equity

OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | The head of Portland's Office of Equity and Human Rights may be coming to Oakland to help establish its own similar department, but only for a few months, according to The Oregonian.

The Oakland City Council Rules Committee on Thursday scheduled an agenda item for Nov. 3 to approve the three-month temporary hiring of Dante James, who has led Portland's equity department since its inception in 2012.

James, who is the sister of former KPIX news anchor Dana King, would retain his position in Portland, said the report, but Oakland would assume James' salary while he works to set up the new department, in addition, to advising the city on hiring its first director.

James earns over $147,000 a year, according to the report, making him one of the highest paid employees in Portland city government.

Earlier this year, Councilmember Desley Brooks proposed the creation of Oakland's first department dedicated to achieving racial and social equity in the city. The department was approved during the June budget season with the end of the year targeted for its debut.

It is also no surprise Oakland city leaders are reaching out to Portland for guidance. Brooks often recognized the city, along with King County, Washington as inspiration for her proposal.

At last a plan to fight rising rents in Alameda, but it falls short, says group

Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog is proposing
a 45-day moratorium on rent hikes over 10 percent.
ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | For more than a year, tenant activists in Alameda have routinely described horror stories of residents, including low-income people and seniors, being displaced by exorbitant rent increases of up to 50 percent. This week, Alameda Councilmember Tony Daysog unveiled a proposal to enact a 45-day moratorium on rent increases of more than 10 percent.

Daysog’s proposal is set to be reviewed early next month at a special meeting dedicated to the rent crisis. It's the first concrete proposal to ease the burden on renters, which account for just over half of the residents in Alameda.

In Daysog’s detailed six-page proposal, he stressed his initial goal is to stop excessively high rent increases and to “adopt legislation meant to begin to cool the rental market down immediately upon adoption.” Daysog is also recommending an additional ordinance to stop mass evictions at a single building. His plan would require landlords to pay two times the fair market rate to the evictees plus $1,000. A relocation fee, Daysog believes, will serve as a deterrent for landlords to rapidly increase rents.

The moratorium proposal, however, doesn’t go nearly far enough, according to members of the quickly growing renters advocacy group, the Alameda Renters Coalition. “Ten percent a year is apparently okay in his book,” said Catherine Paulding, a five-year renter in Alameda who is also the coalition’s lead organizer. “You can guarantee everybody is going to get a 10 percent increase. They would be getting permission from the city council.”

“A 10 percent cap during the moratorium is just DOA,” added John Klein, an Alameda resident and member of the renters coalition steering committee. The group has consistently asked for a tougher moratorium on rents as a precursor to adopting rent control in Alameda. But, the latter idea has been met coolly by some members of the city council who worry that such an ordinance would be overly restrictive and counterproductive.

Tenants have been frustrated by the fact that the council has not taken action at a time when renters are being displaced from their homes. Since September 2014, it has been the council’s position to compile relevant data showing whether a housing crisis truly exists in Alameda before taking legislative action. A long-promised city report on the effects of rising rents on the island was scheduled to be released in December, but will be offered at the special meeting set for November 4, said Councilmember Jim Oddie...

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Alco Supervisor Nate Miley to Muslim activist: 'Do you think terrorism exists?'

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley
ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley said implicit bias definitely exists when it comes to law enforcement suspecting some Muslims of terrorist activities. Moments later, the excitable District Four supervisor asked a surveillance opponent, who is Muslim, "Do you think terrorism exists?"

Miley directed the question to Mohamad Shehk, a communication director for Critical Resistance, a group dedicated to eliminating the prison industrial complex. Shehk was a public speaker who addressed the Alameda County Board of Supervisors last week on the issue of federal funding for anti-terrorism in the county, including Urban Shield, the regional terrorist preparedness gathering held annually in Pleasanton.

"I think the way in which we view terrorism is greatly over-exaggerated,” said Shehk.

“You didn’t answer the question, but you do think that it exists?" said Miley. "You’re just saying it’s over-exaggerated. Thank you. All I’m saying is people need to be prepared for it. Thank you. You answered the question.”

But, Shehk continued. "If you can answer me the last time we had a terrorist attack in Alameda County versus the last time we’ve had police killings?”

“Point!” Miley interrupted. "That’s the point.”

In an interview, Shehk said the question was odd and offensive. "He completely dismissed the way in which the war on terror itself has been the greatest terrorism of the past decade, claiming the lives of over a million Muslims across the globe," said Shehk. "Not to mention the profiling, surveillance, and policing practices that have been used not only against Muslims here in the U.S., but against Black and Brown people more generally, particularly post-9/11.

"The constructed threats to public safety of the Muslim 'terrorist,' just as with the Latino 'illegal immigrant' and the Black 'criminal,' is how programs like Urban Shield justify themselves, providing the state more tools and tactics to target and control our communities."

Before the exchange, Miley offered strong support for law enforcement and specifically Urban Shield. “I do think Urban Shield is something that is appropriate for Alameda County and for the the Sheriff's Department," he said. "Reasonable people are going to disagree on that and I don’t mind being on the side that says public safety is extremely important. It’s extremely important and those folks who don’t share that, I respect them, but I have a different opinion.”

LISTEN! East Bay Citizen Show with special guest Kevin Dowling



Kevin Dowling served on the Hayward City Council
for 12 years; ran for county supervisor in 2010.
EPISODE 10 | The June Primary is just around the corner and this is the time of the year when prospective campaigns begin forming their teams and begin strategizing for next spring. Under the radar for June is a big race for four seats on the Hayward City Council.

The field in Hayward is quickly growing--possibly up to the seven candidates thus far. Former Hayward Councilman Kevin Dowling helps break down the June at-large race, along with the recent suspension of Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan's suspension of her State Senate campaign--also another big June race.

Later, I take a look at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors just because nobody else will, along with the odd testimony on cell phone surveillance offered last week by Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley.

Download and subscribe to the East Bay Citizen Show on iTunes, Stitcher or listen on EBCitizen.com. New episodes every Monday! Follow @EBCShow on Twitter

Friday, October 16, 2015

City Hall Insider: agenda notes from around the East Bay, Oct. 19-20

OAKLAND/Oct. 20, 5:30 p.m.
Coal update; Schaaf's State of the City Oct. 28

COAL’S SLOW BURN The promised Oct. 20 update on the lengthy list of questions and comments posed by residents will likely include something to effect of “We’re working on it.” Recall, nearly 700 speaker cards were turned in for the Sept. 21 special Oakland City Council meeting on the proposed transport of coal through the currently under construction large bulk terminal at the former Oakland Army Base. The City Administrator’s Office boiled down the queries to 18 questions. A city staff report, however, suggests it won’t have any definitive answers on the legality and potential steps to stop coal traveling through Oakland until the end of the year. That’s about right, since the council direction last month was to begin steps toward a potential prohibition of coal, if desired, by the first week of December.

MTC/ABAG MERGER Oakland is preparing to step into the brewing conflict between the Bay Area regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s (MTC) desire to merge with the regional land use body known as the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). In a resolution Tuesday, the city is calling on MTC to not hold up funding for ABAG projects as a bargaining chip for merging the regional government bodies. It should be noted only ABAG has expressed land use powers and one notable project, Plan Bay Area, a 30-year regional land blueprint, could be harmed by the dust up and merger. Plan Bay Area was approved despite vehemently opposition by conservative and Tea Party groups who disliked the transit-oriented and high-density housing aspects of the proposal. Cities like Oakland worry funding uncertainties for analysis and studies related to Plan Bay Area could stymie the project. The resolution also directs Oakland’s representative on MTC to vote against their merger plans. That person is Mayor Libby Schaaf.

STATE OF THE CITY You might assume Mayor Schaaf thinks her first 10 months in office have been successful since she is already offering a State of the City address scheduled for the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 28. The speech is part of an open house at City Hall that starts at 4 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. In a memo to the City Council, Schaaf’s office says the speech will focus on “how we are meeting the goal of making this a more vibrant and equitable city that is growing responsibly.” Be prepared for Uber’s recent move to Downtown Oakland to be strongly highlighted. More details will be offered during Tuesday night’s council meeting.

SAN LEANDRO/Oct. 19-20, 7 p.m.
Asset forfeiture allocation; minimum wage bump coming?

ASSET SEIZURE SPENDING SPREE The San Leandro Police Department has $170,000 in asset forfeiture funds, proceeds resulting from the confiscation of various items involved in an alleged crime. Law enforcement opponents loudly criticized police efforts to use what they view as ill-gotten gains for furthering their power. In this case, SLPD says it will use $80,000 to replace bullet proof vests for SWAT; $40,000 for furniture and field equipment; $25,000 for rifles and related uses; $15,000 for police equipment or “unanticipated consulting service needs; and $10,000 for community outreach materials.

MINIMUM WAGE TALKS In yet another example of San Leandro’s City Council showing a more progressive slant, its Finance Committee will begin a discussion on raising the minimum wage. (The meeting is Tuesday, Oct. 20, 5 p.m. at City Hall.) No details are available on any proposal, but recall voters in Oakland last November approved a ballot measure increasing the minimum wage to $12.25 an hour. Statewide, the minimum hourly wage is scheduled to increase to $10 next year and a labor-backed ballot initiative proposing it rise to $15 by 2021 is in the petition-gathering stage. For context, though, San Leandro has a living wage ordinance on the books for companies doing business with the city’s government that is set at $14.57 an hour or $13.07 if health benefits are included.

ALAMEDA/Oct. 20, 7 p.m.
Commercial uses at Alameda Point; ballot measures for '16

NEW STRATEGY FOR ALAMEDA POINT More than a year ago, developers voiced uncertainty about the commercial enterprise district portion of the Alameda Point development. With the mixed-used residential portion, known as Site A, clearly moving forward, Alameda city staff wants to offer a new strategy for the Enterprise District, formerly named as Site B. Among the suggestions are reissuing a Request for Qualifications (RFQ); restarting negotiations with two previous developers deemed by the city to be finalists for the project; or focusing their efforts not on seeking developers for the Enterprise District, but concentrating on major commercial businesses.

2016 TAX MEASURES Like many other municipalities, Alameda is examining the possibility of placing revenue-generating tax measures on the 2016 ballot. Two chances are afforded such an opportunity next year--June primary or November general election). On Tuesday, the City Council will hear discussions about four potential ballot measures. They include increasing the Utility Users Tax, currently at 7.5 percent; raising the sales tax from 9.5 percent; and/or bumping the Transient Occupancy Tax from 10 percent or scrapping it and forming a Tourism Business Improvement District. A parcel tax for maintaining city parks is also a potential route for adding extra revenue. Floating all four or even more than one is probably unlikely. Keep in mind, the Alameda Unified School District is also planning a high-profile parcel tax for the November 2016 ballot. Subsequently, polling would come next and the city manager’s office expects its cost should not exceed $32,000.

Alameda has the coolest school board member in the East Bay

Newly-appointed Alameda School Trustee Gray Harris.
ALAMEDA SCHOOL BOARD | Alameda’s newest school board member is striking at first glance. With a set of evenly placed tattoos from her shoulders to her elbows and two-toned shocks of blond and copper hair, Gray Harris draws attention. During an interview at a Park Street coffee shop in September, patrons often glanced up from the computers to catch a glimpse of the statuesque school board member recently appointed to replace the late Niel Tam. “The look,” as she calls it, represents individuality and a timeline of her personal history.

Most like her tattoos, she said, but some are critical of her distinctive look—an assemblage of stars each with differing portraits, including a vintage car, a mermaid, and a drawing of her mother as a cowgirl. Some people tell her, “ ‘You shouldn’t look like this, if you’re going to be on the school board.’ I’m like, why? I don’t understand, as long as you take your job seriously and are professional about it, it shouldn’t matter.”

Harris’ body art is also a way to express herself, she said, along with being a library of the memories associated with her tattoos.

It can also be advantageous for Harris in the typically staid world of school board politics. “People can be dismissive of women,” Harris said. “Why does Hillary Clinton have to wear those weird suits? Because she’s a female candidate, and if she just dresses like whatever, she wouldn’t have a chance. There’s this idea of how women should be, and I don’t think it’s true.” She believes her look can be intimidating to some. “If I wasn’t confident and didn’t have my own thing going on, I think it would be easy for some people to discount me. I use it to my advantage.”

Those who understand the local dynamics of Alameda politics know not to discount Harris and her extensive resumé. Few people have their political ducks in better order than Harris. It’s a background with ties to the local Democratic Party apparatus, Alameda Assemblymember Rob Bonta, and various powerful unions that make her formidable, not only as a school board candidate but also as a higher officeholder one day. On that matter, Harris said she is focused only on the school board and campaigning for re-election next year. Her appointment fills out the remaining year of Tam’s term.

But it’s not hard to extrapolate the fundraising power and access to campaign foot soldiers she could tap, thanks to a stint as Alameda Education Association union president and through leadership with the statewide California Teachers Association. For the past two years, Harris has also served as co-president of the Alameda Democratic Club. And there is another connection that rankles some of Alameda’s more moderate-to-conservative residents: Harris is also romantically connected to firebrand Alameda firefighter’s union president Jeff Del Bono. It’s a fact that anti-union voices derisively cite as Harris literally being in bed with the unions...

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN ALAMEDA MAGAZINE

Thursday, October 15, 2015

DA O'Malley has difficulty understanding how cellphone surveillance device works

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley
struggled this week with how one controversial
surveillance device actually works.
ALCO BOARD OF SUPERVISORS | Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley denied surveillance equipment that mimics a cell tower to surreptitiously monitor bulk cellphone data does any of that before later conceding ignorance about its capabilities.

O'Malley made the statement in reference to the device known as a Stingray this week during questioning by the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. The Sheriff's Department is asking the board to approve $113,000 for an upgrade to the Stingray equipment allowing it to function with 4G cell phone networks.

Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley said he had previously met with privacy advocates who registered opposition to the upgrade. This led Miley to ask O'Malley if law enforcement can also gain access to other cell phones?

The Stingray can be used by police to monitor cell 
phones by mimicking a cell tower.Opponents say
it captures bulk phone data from innocent people.
“No, you cannot not," O'Malley answered.

Brian Hofer, an Oakland resident and an author of two digital surveillance policies in Oakland, was exasperated by O'Malley's testimony. "I'm unbelievably alarmed by the responses to your questions, Supervisor Miley. that I just heard," said Hofer. "They were were flat-out factually incorrect. He added, unequivocally, the Stingray equipment can intercept communications from third-party cell phones and knowledge of this capability is common.

Later, O'Malley was called back for questioning and described a meeting with a representative from Harris Corporation, the manufacturer of the hardware. "He showed me what the equipment will do what we're requesting," said O'Malley. "So, I don't know if it has the capacity to do more but I'm telling you that the way we're using it is what I told you and not any more than that."

O'Malley added any use of the Stingray would only occur in all cases after a warrant is issued. A policy for its use has been drafted, said O'Malley, but not vetted by the Board of Supervisors or available for the public consumption.

The board made no decision on the allocation until early December, at the earliest, even though the possibility exists the federal grant will not be available after the end of this year. In this event, Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan suggested the county coffers could be used, instead.

LISTEN HERE for audio and commentary on DA Nancy O'Malley's comments to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors on the East Bay Citizen Show podcast.

Monday, October 12, 2015

City Hall Insider: agenda notes from around the East Bay, Oct. 13

ALAMEDA COUNTY BOARD OF SUPES/Oct. 13, 10:30 a.m.
Stingray returns for vote; Paramedics Plus bailout

STINGRAY CONTINUED Two weeks ago, without any discussion, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors continued a controversial proposed allocation of $113,419 to upgrade its controversial Electronic Surveillance Telephone Tracking Technology; more commonly refer to as Stingray. The device, manufactured by Harris Corporation, mimics a cell phone tower and tricks users' mobile phone data and calls to it. Funding for the Stingray upgrade comes from a 2014 regional Urban Area Securities Initiative federal grant worth $6.3 million. Within the grant is $180,000 allocated for the Stingray retrofit. The American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California registered strong opposition toward the agenda item on Sept. 29 “The request for this intrusive device should not be approved without greater public input and a thorough cost-benefit analysis,” said Linda Lye, an attorney for ACLUNC.

PARAMEDICS PLUS BAILOUT In late July, Paramedics Plus, the county’s emergency ambulance transport vendor, said they needed a $4 million infusion of cash to offset its losses. On Tuesday, the board will consider an amendment to Paramedics Plus’ contract that deletes the vendor’s 90-day walkaway provision and the county’s exclusive five-year extension provision, said a staff report. It also extends the contract another six months through April 2017 at no additional cost to the county. In exchange, the county will pay Paramedics Plus a one-time $4 million payment in two installments and will not increase the county’s net costs.

SUPPORT FOR SPLIT ROLL? Even though state Sen. Loni Hancock’s proposed constitution amendment to reform Proposition 13 was unsuccessful during the most recent legislative session, the Board of Supervisors could weigh-in on the proposal Tuesday, if and when it resurfaces in Sacramento, maybe as early as next year. SCA-5 did not pass out of a State Senate committee last September and the Alameda County Assessor recommends the board take no position or oppose Hancock’s amendment. The amendment would generally tax commercial properties at full market value while decreasing the burden on homeowners. “This legislation as currently written is administratively burdensome and would jeopardize county revenue,” the assessor said in a staff report. The county's Personnel, Administration and Legislation Committee previously issued support for SCA-5. ENTIRE AGENDA HERE.

OAKLAND COMMITTEES/
Oct. 13, starts 9:30 a.m.
Major changes to Budget Advisory Committee

BUDGET ADVISORY COMMISSION Oakland city staff is asking the city council to make sweeping changes to the Budget Advisory Commission. Among the changes recommended is making the commission’s formation as part of a city ordinance instead of a resolution. Instead of council members making appointments to the commission, the power would rest with the mayor’s office using recommendations from “various elected officials.” The length of each term would increase from two to three years for “continuity of membership” and expiration of terms would be moved from the Spring to Oct. 1.

ARMY BASE PROJECT UPDATE Fifty percent of the public improvement project is complete, says a staff report on progress of the Oakland Army Base project construction to be heard Tuesday afternoon in the Oakland City Council Community and Economic Development Committee. In addition, a vast majority of the 12 milestones and phases for the project are projected to be complete before their original completion dates, said the report. Hiring goals are also above projections with more than half being local hires, more than 22 percent being local apprentices and nearly 55 percent of workers labeled “disadvantaged.” The benchmark was slated for 25 percent. As far as on the job safety, just three recordable incidents have been reported.

HAYWARD/Oct. 13/7 p.m.
Utility Users Tax could come before voters next year

CITY TAX SURVEY The Hayward City Council will commission a community input and feedback survey at a cost of $31,000. The survey to be conducted by Godbe Research will seek the top issues confronting Hayward residents and organize them by rank. The survey's function also appears to gauge voter enthusiasm for placing a Utility Users Tax on the 2016 primary ballot. Hayward does not current have such as tax. Under the research firms proposal, the survey would be a hybrid telephone and web-based poll. The 15-20 minute survey hopes to yield data from 500-600 registered voters.


Susan Bonilla will not challenge Steve Glazer to a state Senate rematch next year

Steve Glazer defeated Susan Bonilla in the
hard-fought SD7 race last May by 10 points.
STATE SENATE | DISTRICT 7 | Nearly five months after Susan Bonilla fell short in a grueling and often acrimonious intraparty special election against Steve Glazer in the Seventh State Senate District, she announced Monday she will not mount another campaign for the seat next year.

Glazer, who defeated Bonilla in May, is serving the remaining two years of Rep. Mark DeSaulnier’s term in the state Senate. Bonilla is termed out of her Fourteenth Assembly District seat at the end of 2016.

In a letter to supporters Monday Bonilla strongly alluded to the brutal tenor of the race earlier this year.

“I believe our efforts are best spent in uniting our collective voices to help achieve a better quality of life for our entire community. Having our community experience a negative and divisive election based on lies, personal attacks, and defamation of character is harmful and damaging for our community. Running for Public Office should always be focused on a debate of ideas and values that will help our community and not tear us apart, she wrote.

"Therefore, in order to ensure that all of our collective efforts remain focused on building a stronger foundation for the next generation of families, I am announcing that I will not run for State Senate in 2016.”

The special general election last spring included more than $7 million worth of independent expenditure committee spending. The outlay went far in filling voters mailboxes with an enormous number of campaign attack mailers. One district voter posted on Twitter a photo of his inches-thick collection of mailers that resembled a department store mail catalog.

Without Bonilla in the race next year, there appears to be no credible opponent on the radar to face Glazer next June. Most believed Bonilla was the most likely candidate to cause Glazer concern. Some East Bay political observers felt Bonilla’s chances in 2016 would be bolstered by a more liberal set of voters participating in the 2016 fall presidential election.

In the letter, Bonilla adds she will continue to advocate for education, health care and consumer protection through the remaining year in office. Following the end of the current legislative season, only two other members of the entire State Legislature had more bills signed by Gov. Jerry Brown than Bonilla’s 14.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Harbor Bay residents declare victory after Alameda council rebuffs developer's plan

ALAMEDA CITY COUNCIL | A long-simmering dispute among Bay Farm residents in Alameda and the developer of the Harbor Bay Isle development was made clearer Wednesday when the City Council reaffirmed its existing general plan; boosting the argument of residents and blocking for now any new homes on the waterfront property now featuring an aging health club.

Since 2013, Harbor Bay Isle Associate has sought to replace the waterfront health club located near the San Leandro/Alameda bridge with up to 80 high-end homes. However, the proposal was withdrawn in March 2014. The developer is also seeking to rebuild and modernize the health club on North Loop Road.

A proposed new address for the health club will indeed occur despite the council decision, said Marshall Wallace, an attorney for Harbor Bay Isle Associates. But the health club portion of the proposal was not on the agenda at Wednesday night’s special meeting. Instead, the city went to the somewhat unusual path of making an advisory decision on the current health club property of Packet Landing Road, despite the absence of any official proposal to change its general plan. The current health club is zoned for commercial use, not for residential homes.

There has been some fear by the city that public officials stating an opinion of the Harbor Bay Isle plan before it is received could pose questions of bias down the line. “I would encourage us to be cautious in what we say,” said Alameda Mayor Trish Spencer.

But, the rift between Harbor Bay residents and developer Ron Cowan continues to grow. Some residents have taken to placing handwritten stickers around the city saying “Stop Ron Cowan” and a war of letters to the editor and blog postings has exacerbated the tenor of discourse on the island. “I wince when I hear a community at war,” said Councilmember Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft. “We’re Alameda.” Nevertheless, the large turnout featured supporters of the developer’s plan clad in blue t-shirts, while opponents donned red with buttons that read, “No rezone.”

The council agreed with the red shirts Wednesday night. “I don’t find at this point in time any criteria to change general plan,” said Ashcraft. The sentiment was reiterated by the rest of the council. Spencer, though, offered no opinion on the plan and voted to abstain. Councilmember Jim Oddie initially said he leaned toward abstaining, but later voted to reaffirm the current zoning. “Our residents need affordable housing,” said Oddie. “That's what we should focus our efforts.”

He then urged Harbor Bay residents against celebrating the council’s decision. “I want to be careful not to raise expectations,” said Oddie. It’s within the developer’s right to simply shutter the health club and move it across Bay Farm, he added. And doing so could also adversely affect home prices in the neighborhood.

“It was a good night but it’s a very fluid situation and things could change tomorrow,” said Tim Coffey, a Harbor Bay homeowner who led the push back against rezoning the health club for additional housing.

“I think the city council said tonight is if you don’t have an application out why should we even consider changing the zoning for you?” said Coffey. Earlier in the meeting Wednesday, Harbor Bay Isle Associate’s attorney raised the possibility of a constructing a convention center at the site.

Coffey disregarded the potential for the developer to seek building anything other than homes at the current health club site. “I would be more worried if [Harbor Bay Isle Associates] had a history of building anything other than homes. They build homes. That’s what they do. That’s why this isn’t about a club.”

Brown signs medical marijuana bill; Bonta declares ‘new era’ for state dispensaries

ASSEMBLY | 18TH DISTRICT | Oakland Assemblymember Rob Bonta may have just become the godfather of medical marijuana regulation in the state. Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation adding regulations to medical marijuana dispensaries nearly 20 years after voters approve its legality in California. The bill, a cobbling of several regulatory bills, is viewed as being led by Bonta.

“Today ushers in a new era for California,” said Bonta following Friday’s approval, which is actually three separate pieces of legislation.

For the bustling medical marijuana industry, the new law could mean procuring up to 17 new licenses. The bevy of new regulations include the packaging and potency of medical marijuana, among many other restrictions, in addition, to a limit to how many dispensaries a person can legally own.

Local municipalities will also retain the power to determine whether or not to allow dispensaries
within their borders, a key component of Bonta’s Assembly Bill 266.

Bonta, in a statement, said the state Legislature must continue to lead on the issue of medical marijuana. Additional leadership may be required very soon on a slightly different front next year. A push to ask voters to legalize recreational use of marijuana in 2016 is almost a certainty.

Former Oakland mayoral candidate Bryan Parker's game plan for East Oakland

Bryan Parker, center, helped Castlemont High's 
football team raise $14,000 for new uniforms.
OAKLAND | On a blustery late afternoon at Oakland’s Castlemont High School in July, members of the football team’s receiving corps ran play after play. “Thirty-two-in!” called out former Oakland mayoral candidate Bryan Parker. The play, a simple 10-yard slant route toward the teeth of imaginary defenders, can be intimidating in real life, and in this moment caught the receiver out of position. “Why are you there?” Parker asked the disconsolate young man, who pounded his fist to the ball.

The Castlemont Knights have long been just as downtrodden on the field as the depressed area surrounding the East Oakland school. A group, including Parker, is hoping to rebuild pride in the school and the community through efforts to build up the football program while also instilling confidence in the young men on the field.

On the surface, the team’s set of uniforms were worn, mended haphazardly, and generally raggedy. The scoreboard is temperamental; during Castlemont’s first game this season, players and fans were left to guess how many yards were needed for a first down and what quarter it was. Castlemont’s artificial turf is degrading; its long plastic blades are matted and frayed, and feel more like thick carpet than an approximation of real grass.

But these problems are cosmetic compared to the fact that many of Castlemont’s players are underprivileged. Castlemont head football coach Edward Washington, a star cornerback for the Knights a decade ago, said some players would pull him to the side and ask, “Coach, I don’t have any food at the house; could you come through for me?” Other times they would ask to borrow a dollar here and there for snacks or a soda, he said.

Castlemont clearly needed help. Washington, in his second year as head coach, earns only a one-time $1,700 stipend to coach the team, nowhere near enough to put back into the team. Attracting talented football players to Castlemont is also a hard sell because of its location.

Castlemont’s enrollment should be around 1,500 to 2,000 students but is 500. “How do I bring up a football team if everything is against me?” Washington asked.

Enter Parker and others.

In late 2013, as Parker ramped up his campaign for Oakland mayor with house parties and fundraisers, Washington was drawn to Parker and attended an event. The subject of Castlemont football’s plight and Washington’s plan to turn it around intrigued Parker. He then offered to help raise money for the cause.

“The only thing is,” Washington told Parker, “if you help out, you have to be consistent, because these kids are used to inconsistency in their lives.”

READ THE ENTIRE ARTICLE IN OAKLAND MAGAZINE

Skinner campaign offered ‘birthday kisses’ for $2,500; 'love' for $100

Nancy Skinner, right, with Wilma Chan, who 
dropped out of the SD9 race last week.
STATE SENATE | DISTRICT 9 | Nancy Skinner celebrated her birthday this week and like many politicians nowadays the milestone is a perfect opportunity for fundraising.

But, Skinner was offering a little more than usual, like very expensive birthday kisses in exchange for campaign cash.

Skinner, the former Berkeley assemblymember, is vying for a return to Sacramento in next year’s Ninth State Senate District race, also including Sandre Swanson, San Pablo Vice Mayor Rich Kinney and education advocate Katherine Welch.

Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan last week abruptly dropped out of the race due to a poor outlook for attracting campaign contributions.

Chan concluded she could not raise the enough money to compete with Swanson, who may be able to tap labor and Skinner who already has $925,000 in the bank, mostly from her former Assembly account.

Meanwhile, Skinner’s fundraiser was not cheap and, of course, with a birthday theme. For a $2,500 donation to Skinner’s campaign you received “birthday kisses” and $1,000 got you “birthday hugs,” according to the invitation. “Birthday well wishes” cost $500, while $250 was worth a “birthday cake.”

And who says, “Can’t buy me love”? Not Skinner. She’s charging $100 for “birthday love.”