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Militarization of Police Divides City Candidates PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 15:45

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

You know a mayoral candidate is interesting when the crowd asks him to prove his leadership skills and he begins his answer with “Well, when I was in jail...”

Dan Dillman did just that at a candidates forum at the Main Library last Thursday. Over the summer, Dillman spent several weeks at Santa Rita Jail for assaulting a police officer. He said he was just trying to protect an employee and the plainclothes cops never identified themselves.

“I had all the different gangs sitting with me at what I called the ‘Jesus table,’” said Dillman. “We prayed and played cards. If I can bring together the different gangs in prison, I can bring together the City Council.”

Dillman is facing off against Pauline Cutter and Diana Souza for the mayor’s seat. The candidates for the District 1, 3, and 5 City Council seats also answered questions from the public on topics ranging from the San Leandro police department’s desire for an armored vehicle to the Measure HH sales tax increase.

Most candidates were firmly against the police having the armored vehicle, with more than one candidate saying it meant the militarization of the force.

Deborah Cox in District 1 said she would need to ask the police why they needed it before making a decision.

District 5 candidate Corina Lopez and mayoral candidate Souza were the only two to say they firmly support the police purchasing the vehicle.

District 1 candidate Mike Katz-Lacabe asked the other candidates the question –  what is a recent City Council decision that you have not agreed with?

District 3 candidate Allen Schoenfeld said he is not in favor of red light cameras and his opponent Lee Thomas citied the city’s chicken and bee keeping policy, saying it set a dangerous precedent in allowing police to come onto people’s property without warrants.

Lopez said she disagreed with the council’s proposal that the Chinese flag be raised at City Hall and fellow District 5 candidate Mia Ousely said she didn’t like the elimination of written minutes at City Council meetings.

Mayoral candidate Souza said she voted in favor of keeping a policy that would allow the raising of all national flags, including the Chinese flag, and her opponent Pauline Cutter said she was against it.

On HH, the proposed 30-year half-cent sales tax extension and increase, the group was spilt.

Cox, Ousley, and Lopez were the strongest supporters of HH.

Anderson and Aguilar equivocated, saying the tax would be good for the city but 30 years is a long time.

Katz-Lacabe and accountant Ken Pon were both against it, as was Schoenfeld who said “It’s going to hurt low-income families.”

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 4. The races are all ranked choice voting, so voters can choose a first, second, and third choice candidate in each race.

 

 
City Mailer: Information or Campaign Literature? PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 15:44

By Jim Knowles • San Leandro Times

City Hall sent out an “Information” flier on Measure HH that looks a lot like a campaign piece.

The glossy, 4-page mailer features photos of firemen and police saving lives and children immersed in wonderful stories at the library.

It’s all under the heading, “Information About Measure HH,” the half a percent local sales tax on the ballot. The key word is “information,” because the public’s money can’t be used for campaigning. A government publication can only be used for information.

So, is the flier a campaign piece or is it just information?

“It’s absolutely informational,” said City Attorney Richard Pio Roda. “There are a number of ways a public agency can inform the public that’s unbiased and absolutely legal.”

The city staff made the flier and Pio Roda said that he reviewed it to make sure everything was kosher.

“It’s vetted by staff and myself,” Pio Roda said. “I took a careful read to make sure it complies with the law as it currently stands. I’ve done a lot of analysis to make sure what’s presented is factual within what a city may do.”

It’s hard to nail down where the line is between information that’s unbiased and information that advocates. The laws are constantly changing on the question. It’s been challenged in court, since it’s not always cut and dry.

A few San Leandro voters have said the information on the flier is the same as you would find on a pro-HH flier, that you can present information that’s true but you can also pick just the facts that support the measure.

And some say it’s simply misleading.

A letter from City Manager Chris Zapata appears on the front page of the flier that reads, “Measure HH extends San Leandro’s local voter-approved sales tax at the half cent rate...” That refers to Measure Z, the quarter percent sales tax. But the flier doesn’t say that it raises the rate from a quarter to a half percent, as well as adding 30 years to the “temporary emergency” Measure Z.

“They appear to have spent great effort to find words that would trick the voters into not understanding that they are doubling the tax, and the tax would not expire if the voters did not approve HH,” said Justin Jelincic of San Leandro. “The Measure Z tax would not expire this year if we did not approve HH.”

Measure HH would replace Measure Z if it passes. But if it doesn’t pass, Measure Z would still continue until 2018.

The next page of the flier lists the services HH would fund: 911 response times, library programs, police patrols, crossing guards, road repair, etc. But these aren’t extra expenses. These are the things that people pay their taxes for in the first place.

The flier omits information such as salaries, pensions and employee benefits, a few sizable segments of the city budget that are rising.

The flier then says that all the Measure HH funds will stay local and not go to Sacramento. That’s certainly true. It’s a local tax.

The overall impression of the flier is that it’s a campaign mailer, Jelincic said.

“It’s a campaign piece, not an informational flier,” he said.

 

 
Congressional Candidates Square Off in San Lorenzo PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 15:38

102314n3By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

Republican Hugh Bussell and Democrat Eric Swalwell faced off in a Congressional candidates forum in San Lorenzo last week, with Bussell taking a more aggressive stance than incumbent Swalwell.

Swalwell committed a gaffe when asked about his environmental policy when he gave an obviously canned answer.

“When I look out on the children here tonight, I wonder what kind of planet we are leaving them,” said Swalwell.

Only problem? There were no children in the room, which drew a few laughs from the crowd.

Otherwise, the two men gave mostly unsurprising answers during the League of Women Voters’ forum last Wednesday at the San Lorenzo Village Homes Association, though Bussell often was more animated in his answers, often emphasizing that he is not a career politician.

“This isn’t something I’m going to be doing for the next 40 years like the last guy who held this seat,” said Bussell, referring to Pete Stark and possibly to Swalwell’s potential future. “I’ve been out there working the same way you have. I’m a businessman. Washington doesn’t need more lawyers.”

Bussell is a former teacher and current tech worker. He was laid off two years ago and says he knows the struggle of trying to find a new career in middle age.

102314n2Swalwell is a former assistant district attorney and Dublin City Councilman.

In the June primary, Republican Bussell took about 25 percent of the vote in a district that is about 25 percent Republican. His challenge has always been to expand his voter base.

When asked what is the most pressing issue facing Congress today, Swalwell said continued economic growth.

Bussell agreed that a “good, solid economy is vital.”

Asked if troops should be sent to fight ISIS on the ground, Bussell said that troops were withdrawn from the Middle East prematurely to begin with.

“The real question is, ‘Why were they pulled out in the first place?’ That was a huge mistake,” said Bussell. “They left a power vacuum.”

Swalwell said that ISIS is a serious threat and that he recently traveled to the Middle East himself to consult there and he thinks America should be cautious with policy there. He said he supports strategic airstrikes, but not a ground attack that could get U.S. troops mired in years of warfare.

“ISIS is a great threat,” said Swalwell. “I went over there to meet with leaders. However, we should not forget the mistakes of 2003.”

When asked about the current trend toward the militarization of local police forces, both candidates came out against the use of armored vehicles and other military tactics.

“There are areas in the country where police are out-gunned and out-manned,” said Bussell. But he added that he has seen circumstances where police have used armored vehicles to serve warrants on minor things like student loan collection, unnecessarily escalating circumstances and creating violence.

Swalwell agreed, saying police militarization has been on the minds of many since the shooting of an unarmed man by a police officer and the subsequent riots this summer in Ferguson, Missouri.

“We owe it to every person in this country to do everything we can to hold law enforcement officers to a high standard,” said Swalwell. “Armored tank-like vehicles do not serve local police departments very well and hurt (public) perception.”

On the topic of “Obamacare,” the candidates were decidedly split, with Swalwell a major proponent, citing his work in Congress to help get the health care plan in place.

“I support the Affordable Care Act,” said Swalwell, “It is not perfect, but let’s mend it, not end it.”

Bussell is not a fan of the government health care plan.

“How did we get in this mess?” Bussell asked the crowd of around 100. “Why should I have to talk to Mr. Swalwell about my health insurance? Do I talk to him about my car insurance?”

Bussell called Obamacare “a huge intrusion” into the relationship between patients and doctors and said he didn’t even really want to see insurance tied in with people’s jobs let alone with the government.

The forum was moderated by former San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young, who made jokes and instituted a policy of asking the candidates to remain standing after finishing every other comment, as the person who answered last one question would be answering first on the next question.

Both men often naturally just sat down after finishing, causing confusion and Young to lose her place several times.

In closing, the two Congressional hopefuls said that they would do their best to represent District 15 – which includes parts of unincorporated San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, Pleasanton, Dublin, San Ramon, Hayward, and Livermore.

Swalwell said he would continue to shuttle between Washington D.C. and home nearly every weekend. He said that he has logged over 435,000 miles commuting coast-to-coast in order to keep in touch with his constituency.

“I ask you to send me back to Washington D.C. to serve the community that I grew up in,” said Swalwell. He said that he not only puts in the time and miles, but makes an effort to serve the under-served, including veterans, students, seniors, and women.

“I show up and I stand up,” said Swalwell.

Bussell promised to be a different, independent voice, without ties to big business or traditional politics.

“My goal is to be in Congress working for you and to get the government out of what they don’t need to be involved in,” said Bussell.

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 4. Visit www.acgov.org/rov to see a sample ballot..

CAPTION 1: Hugh Bussell

CAPTION 2: Eric Swalwell


 
Politicians Visit SL Tech Center PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 15:36

102314n4

PHOTO COURTESY OF THE CITY OF SAN LEANDRO

Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congressional Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer recently joined Major Stephen Cassidy for a tour of the GATE, what the city is calling San Leandro’s new center of innovation. The GATE is located on the second floor of the Westgate shopping center which has recently become home to unique community of manufacturer, technical innovators and artists leading the way in 21st century manufacturing, including Type A Machines, a 3-D printer manufacturing company. Above, Hoyer addressed the crowd while Cassidy (right) and GATE entrepreneurs looked on.


 
Grant for Cops Leaves School District With $1.7 Million Bill PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 15:32

102314n5By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

Earlier this month, the San Leandro police department announced that they had been given a four-year, $500,000 federal grant to pay for officers to work in city schools.

But the announcement failed to mention that the grant does not cover the entire cost of the officers and the school district must come up with an additional $1.7 million to pay for the officers.

The school district says they will have a difficult time coming up with the cash and it will mean cutting student programs and services.

The grant pays for less than one-third of the total cost of hiring four officers.

And because the police department does not put rookie officers in schools, the new officers would work generally in the department and veteran officers would be assigned to work at the schools.

The school also employe private security guards which cost “significantly less,” than cops, according to school board trustee Mike katz-Lacabe.

In addition to the security guards, the school district is currently patrolled by two officers who are paid for by the city.

The city was going to stop paying for those officers when the grant money kicked in.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, assistant superintendent Rosanna Mucetti asked that the city help the district pay for the officers.

Mucetti said school cops are  important to the district but also  said  budgeting for the officers would mean major cuts elsewhere the district’s finances.

“Safety is really important to us,” said Mucetti. “But the money is diverted from the classroom. It could potentially fund resources for students.

The school district would have to some up with about  $345,000 the first year, $369,000 the second year, $413,00 the third year, and $565,000 the fourth year of the grant.

Teachers’ union president Jon Sherr said that the school officers are important and good for students, but he said that paying for police is a city concern, not a district responsibility.

“We love our resource officers and can’t live without them,” said Sherr. “But I’m very concerned about this grant. I believe that policing is the responsibility of the city. The way I see it, our kids are subsidizing San Leandro police officers. It’s a big hit to the district.”

Katz-Lacabe also spoke at Monday’s meeting, saying the district would be hurt by paying for the officers.

“It’s a lot of money, $1.7 million,” said Katz-Lacabe. “I am philosophically opposed to the school district paying for police officers. I think that this is a poor use of school district funds.”

Mayor Stephen Cassidy directed the city manager and school superintendent to talk and see if something could be worked out.

Cassidy said that everyone wants more officers and that he was glad San Leandro won a highly competitive grant, but added that the city needs “to contemplate more carefully the division of cost.”

“We were paying for the two officers currently in schools, is it appropriate for the city to say, ‘It’s over, bye?’ The students in our schools are our constituents as well,” said Cassidy.

The city has until Dec. 24 to decided whether they will accept the grant and hire more officers.

CAPTION: The SLPD could be swearing in more officers if their grant money works out.

TIMES FILE PHOTO


 
City to Host Meeting on San Leandro’s Future PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 15:31

Two public meetings will be held on San Leandro’s future growth and development.

• Thursday, Oct. 23, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the San Leandro Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14th St.

• Tuesday, Oct. 28 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Marina Community Center, 15301 Wicks Boulevard.

The meetings are part of the City of San Leandro’s General Plan Update, a 2-year effort designed to guide long-range growth and development in San Leandro over the next 20 years. Key elements to be discussed include land use, transportation, and recreation/open space.

Both meetings will follow the same agenda and include the same materials.  The meetings will include a short presentation, followed by audience comments on a variety of topics, from the “look and feel” of San Leandro, to issues such as climate change, traffic congestion, density and building heights, shopping choices, and the quality of parks and city services.

Interactive exhibits and displays will be provided, and city staff will be on hand to answer questions.  Light snacks will be served.

San Leandro is expected to add more than 7,000 new homes and 13,000 new jobs by 2040, and the General Plan document will guide where and how that growth will take place. At the meetings, residents can share ideas about how the city can adapt to these trends and influence what the city will look like in 20 years.

State law requires every city to adopt a General Plan document in order to lay out policies for land use, transportation, housing, conservation, safety, open space, and noise.

Over the past six months, the City of San Leandro has focused on updating the “Housing Element” portion of the General Plan, which by law must be submitted to the state by January 31, 2015. The entire General Plan updated is expected to be completed in early 2016.

 

 
Governor Signs DA’s Rape Kit Backlog Bill PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014 15:30

Governor Jerry Brown recently signed legislation aimed at eliminating California’s current backlog of untested rape kits and preventing the possibility of future backlogs.

AB 1517 was authored by Assembly member Nancy Skinner and co-sponsored by both Alameda County District Attorney Nancy  O’Malley and the California Coalition Against Sexual Assault.

It brings justice to victims of sexual assault by ensuring that DNA evidence collected during sexual assault examinations is tested in a timely manner.

Communities throughout the state and nation currently face a backlog of untested rape kits.

Currently, there are more than 1,900 untested rape kits in Alameda County alone.

The new law says that police should give labs the kits within 20 days and process and submit them to the  national DNA database to check for matches within 120 days.

 

 

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