HAYWARD | ELECTION 2016 |
For years in Hayward, the school board has been labeled dysfunctional. More precisely, the real criticism is they fight too much. With a little more precision: they fight too much in public. The attack line is as bogus as it was nearly a decade ago. Disagreements among board and council members are actually the norm in the East Bay and everywhere. It doesn’t condone a lack of comity, but the Oakland City Council is routinely roiled in unkind words and backstabbing. Candidates for this Fall's Berkeley’s mayoral race often reference their city council meetings as the “Tuesday night circus.” Two weeks ago, elected officials in Alameda were seemingly feuding with each other all at once. Keep in mind, all three cities are also home to vibrant communities and a dynamic vision for the future. This doesn’t exist in Hayward.
A plan for the so-called Heart of the Bay has not existed in this decade for sure and began to disintegrate slowly under former Mayor Mike Sweeney. Harmony in Hayward means nothing gets done. The city’s problems have been blamed on the economy. Hayward’s representatives in Sacramento were the culprit too, according to Sweeney and others. Then the schools were the problem. He once estimated the poor quality of schools in Hayward might have cost homeowners about $100,000 in the value of their homes. Good schools, it was said, attract more homebuyers. More homebuyers mean more expensive homes. However, they also bring gentrification and greater difficulty for Hayward large Latino communities to keep pace.
When Hayward elected officials and self-described city leaders are talking about replacing not just the three incumbents on the school board this Nov. 8, but eventually the entire group in another two years, they’re not talking about students, their true aim is to remake Hayward into a bedroom community for the techies soon to be priced out of Oakland in the north and Silicon Valley to the south.
A FRONT FOR GENTRIFICATION
It’s why the group calling themselves CLASS is actually a front for the most powerful, most devious special interest group in the state, the California Apartment Association (CAA). Voters in other Bay Area cities preparing to vote on rent control initiatives next month are well aware of CAA and its various political action committees and local chapters. The landlords’ lobby has poured nearly $1 million into direct-mail pieces in places like Alameda, Richmond.
One of CAA’s point men in Hayward, Alameda and unincorporated Alameda County is a local real estate entrepreneur named Tom Silva. Though, primarily a San Leandro insider, when it comes to spreading campaign contributions around various candidates, Silva’s name is synonymous with business and real estate interests. Rule of thumb: If you’re a progressive candidate and Silva’s name shows up on a candidate’s campaign finance report, immediately vote for the other person. The Hayward Chamber of Commerce, another red flag for progressives, is also backing CLASS. Together, it appears the backers of CLASS intend to keep the parents of Hayward school children in a constant struggle to pay rising monthly rents at the same time keeping wages extremely low. Keep them down, then move them out of town.
Few did more to create disharmony in Hayward than
former City Manager Fran David, who gave $2,500
to do the same for the school board.
Yet, despite the chamber's utter incompetence over the years for fostering a credible business environment in Hayward, it nonetheless has been successful in keeping public officials under their thumb. Elections in Hayward over the years constantly lack any sense of sophistication and campaign contributions are scarce. Therefore the chances of candidates becoming beholden to members of the chamber and other business interests are high. There's a clear nexus between those funding Hayward CLASS and the past campaigns of several city councilmembers. In addition to the chamber's PAC, real estate and construction interests such as Varni Properties; Felson Companies, Inc.; Paul Martin of Martin Land Company and Associates, R. Zaballos and Sons construction; have spent thousands on Hayward CLASS. And what's in it for Robert Sakai, a Hayward attorney and landowner who specializes in real estate transactions? Does this aging city leader care about students or his own bottom line?
In addition, former Hayward City Manager Fran David added $2,500 of her own money to Hayward CLASS. David's participation is yet another red flag for progressives after she twisted the city council's arms to force upon city workers an illegal wage reduction two years ago. The contribution may be one reason why the Service Employees International Union Local 1021 decided to back the archenemy of Hayward CLASS, school board member Luis Reynoso, even though he used to be a Republican.
This is what makes this Fall’s school board race so important because it's really a battle of Hayward business interests and its City Council allies enriching themselves at the trough of the school district.
Hayward school board candidate Joe Ramos said it best during a council meeting last month. "Some people see the school district as a pot of gold and they want their piece." Keep in mind, the school district has a much larger annual budget than the city. And school board member Luis Reynoso is merely a nagging stumbling block for Hayward CLASS.
A Hayward school board press conference to
announce its findings against former
Superintendent Stan Dobbs.
The bold-face lie CLASS leaders now tell is their campaign this year was never about disgraced former Hayward Superintendent Stan “Data” Dobbs. Since the attack by Dobbs on two school board members in September 2015, the supe’s days appeared numbered. CLASS ramped up their efforts last Spring to keep Dobbs’ job. The refrain was yet again, this is why Reynoso, leader of the axing of Dobbs, needed to be replaced. Getting rid of Dobbs, Councilmember Francisco Zermeno repeatedly said, will hurt the school children. After Dobbs was fired and a school district investigation found the former superintendent had often flashed a violent temper and allegedly battered a former school district employee who was also his mistress, CLASS leaders pulled back. Councilmember Sara Lamnin said the group’s rationale was never about Dobbs.
But, in fact, this is all about Dobbs. Without him, the purging and resulting plan for the school board brought forth by CLASS is like a detailed game plan moving forward without its star quarterback. Time and again, Hayward business leaders and self-interested school employees lauded Dobbs for his administrative acumen, his marketing wizardry. The Hayward teachers’ union was so impressed by Dobbs that they strongly supported his hiring in 2013 even after a raft of blatantly anti-union comments he made while at the San Diego Unified School District. In short, Dobbs was a hired assassin. The fixer that former Hayward City Manager Jesus Armas was before I ran him out of town. But for the teachers’ union and for construction companies in the area, Dobbs delivered.
Over the year, demonstrations at school board and council meetings in favor of Dobbs and general opposition to some school board members have almost entirely featured business, special interests groups, teachers union reps and other school employees with financial skin in the game. For instance, ever wonder why a teacher from Contra Costa County would care so much about Hayward schools and whether Dobbs remained as superintendent? Yet public demonstrations, sometimes coordinated to occur when television cameras were present, seem to involve this outsider.
OUT OF THEIR CLASS
As for the candidates for three open seats on the school board. Not unlike Hayward elections in general, there are slim pickings. The three candidates recruited by CLASS are unacceptable. In fact, if this was the trio they chose, it makes you wonder what the leftovers looked like. Typically, voters should be wary of candidates who are recruited to run rather than seek the office on their personal desire for the job. On that note, former Chabot College president Robert Carlson already appears disinterested in the job even before the possibility of being elected. He’s looked tired at forums and offered very little other than general platitudes and the tried-and-true "The school board fights too much" schtick. Carlson is also part of the “Hayward Education Industrial Complex” following his ties to Chabot College. His connection to the power structure that has too long sapped Hayward of its promise and given it to favored insiders has to stop. For too long, Hayward insiders have pimped out brown and black students in favor pouring profits to special interests.
Daniel Goldstein, a Hayward planning commissioner, appears well-meaning, but oddly uninformed about how elected government operates, given his experience. Like Carlson, Goldstein questioned the veracity of the school district’s report on Dobbs and praised the character of the man accused of striking his mistress during an intimate moment. Comically, during the same forum Goldstein said one of his strengths is that he literally “reads fast.” If elected, Goldstein is going to take at least one year to get up to speed with the rest of the board. Same with the third CLASS candidate Todd Davis, although, he has shown some promise as a future leader in Hayward. Well-spoken, Davis plays the part of a politician, but like Goldstein, he may need some tutoring, if elected. For instance, Davis believed a previously approved school bond was actually funding from the state. Davis’s connection to CLASS comes from his mother Freddye Davis, head of the local NAACP. In addition, there’s this: What kind of branch of the NAACP openly advocates dismantling an elected body comprised entirely of minorities? The current Hayward school board consists of three African Americans, a Mexican American immigrant, and a Pacific Islander. And the NAACP wants to replace 40 percent of this group with two older white men?
As for the incumbents, school board member John Taylor has given up. He hasn’t even showed up for a meeting in the months after being caught for using school district resources for his city council campaign earlier this year. His contempt for the public is outrageous and his lack of remorse is a strong signal that, if re-elected, he will again use the school district for his own personal gain. Meanwhile, school board member Annette Walker may be one of the most blatantly dishonest elected officials south of Oakland. It’s beyond belief that Walker would tell reporters she was unaware the school board was about to vote on whether to fire Dobbs last month. The issue of Dobbs’ employment had been discussed by the board in closed session earlier that evening and was clearly about to resume following the open session. Yet, Walker tried to play both sides of the issue: placating Dobbs supporters while playing stupid about the decision the board was about to make that night. It’s that type of dishonesty that has been a hallmark of Walker and a scenario often privately described by her fellow board members. As far as the other candidates, they’re mere sideshows that have done a good job of shedding light on some of Hayward’s inherent sins. But then there’s school board member Luis Reynoso.
LIKE HIM OR LEAVE HIM
Sure, he’s combative and uncompromising at times; however, never has an opponent been able to attach some type of immorality to him. His methods for changing the culture of politics in Hayward could be more refined, but the supposed chaos he brings is merely the childish push back of a political system finally being held accountable for decades of corruption. Reynoso’s rhetoric risks the bottom line of Hayward’s business interests and their ability to suck money out of the school district and city. Why wouldn’t they want him out? But Reynoso also represents something very important and constantly overlooked in Hayward, Latinos in Hayward and their seemingly voiceless 40 percent of the city’s population. No other Latino elected official in Hayward speaks to this community. Losing Reynoso will be the first domino to drop leading to the type of housing unaffordability and gentrification issues seen all over the East Bay.
But in the end Reynoso might have the last laugh. After all the money and energy spent on defeating him, the outcome of the election may just come down to two seemingly innocuous elements: ballot placement and surname. Reynoso is placed among the top three choices on the ballot for the same number of open seats. He also has a Latino last name. As an indication that Hayward’s Latino communities are waking up ever so slightly from years of voter apathy, just look at the most recent Hayward City Council race last June. The top three vote-getters were Zermeno, Salinas and Marquez—all Mexican Americans.