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Grand Jury Keeps Eye On Public’s Interest PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 July 2014 11:17

Watchdog jury finds fault with water rate increase, hospital

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

The Alameda County Civil Grand Jury recently made its annual report, finding fault with how water rates were raised, among other conclusions.

The Grand Jury acts as a watchdog and investigates various public authorities, then releases a report each summer.

Each year the grand jury convenes to look into anything from the board of education, to county welfare programs, to the deal that brought the Raiders back to Oakland.

This year, the grand jury’s major findings included that the East Bay Municipal Utilities District did not adequately explain why it needed water rake hikes that totaled almost 20 percent and that a local hospital district was in violation of the Brown Act.

There are 21 volunteer jurors who serve for a year. Currently, two jurors are from San Leandro.

The 2013-2014 jury consulted with Deputy District Attorney Robert Warren this year, who said that many people aren’t aware of how the Grand Jury functions.

“The law basically states that the Grand Jury can examine any local public authority,” said Warren. “The jury meets and develops a report and each report then goes to the Superior Court and to the public agency, who then must respond within 90 days.”

After the response, it’s up to the agency or its governing board whether to act on the grand jury’s recommendations.

The grand jury’s duties include bookkeeping for public expenditures and non-profits that work with the county, the inspection of conditions of jails, and looking into any charges of misconduct by public officials and employees.

“It’s up to the grand jury what they want to discuss each year,” said Warren. “We often get tips from the public or anonymous tips as to what should be looked into.”

Here’s a summary of some of the jury’s findings for the 2013-2014 session:

• The East Bay Municipal Utilities District was “not sufficiently transparent in its efforts to justify the recent rate increase to the public.” The Grand Jury said that EBMUD should have explained the need for the rate hike better and televised their public meetings.

• The Grand Jury found that the Washington Hospital Health Care District violated the Brown Act by failing to be transparent in public meetings and not making meeting packets available to the public or report matters discussed in closed session.

The jury also found that the district had a potential conflict of interest wherein district funds were awarded to a non-profit organization that employed the district CEO’s spouse.

“Despite numerous public complaints over the years concerning the district’s lack of openness, it continues to fall short of its obligation to the public to conduct business in an open and transparent manner, as befitting a public agency,” the grand jury wrote.

• The Grand Jury surveyed each city in the county as well as other public agencies about  employee benefits and pensions and whether the cities’ pension funds were fully funded.

City pensions are run by CalPERS, which invests in the stock market. All current retirees have their pensions funded, but CalPERS depends on the stock market going up to fund the retirement of current employees.

San Leandro reported that 74.3 percent is funded, which would be the value of investment assets if they were sold today at market rate.

The City of Dublin reported that they were 85 percent funded, Alameda County employees’ pensions are 73.9 percent funded, and AC Transit pensions are 62. 8 percent funded currently.

Your Pension Is Just Fine... Until the Stock Market Flips Over

The way CalPERS works, the public would be on the hook to fund the difference if the stock market fell though, since pensions are guaranteed.

Each city reported that they were making the required contributions to CalPERS. The jury made no recommendation to change these policies

• A tip from the public said that the Alameda County Library system was spending too much money on employee travel expenses, but the grand jury looked at the cost and said it was justified.

• The City of Oakland needs a more solid definition of towing policies and more oversight and better record keeping on how and why vehicles are towed, the jury said.

• The City of Oakland also needs to improve its tree clipping policy and billing for fire protection. The city has potentially lost $1.4 million in un-recovered fees and fines from fire abatement in addition to the potential fire danger.

The full Grand Jury report and information about serving on the jury or leaving a tip for the jury to investigate is available at www.alameda.courts.ca.gov.

 

 
Two People Injured in Ashland Fire PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 July 2014 11:16

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

Two people were hospitalized after a fire in Ashland late last Thursday.

The blaze began just after 1 a.m. in an apartment on 159th Avenue, according to Aisha Knowles, Alameda Fire Department spokeswoman.

The fire was put out within minutes, but a man who lived there suffered from first, second, and third degree burns.

The man was taken to the burn unit at St. Francis Memorial hospital in San Francisco.  A woman who lived there was taken to Eden Hospital for smoke inhalation. Both are expected to recover. The fire department didn’t have the names of the two people hurt in the fire.

Knowles said that the fire started from something on the kitchen stove. No other apartments in the building were damaged.

A cat and a dog were also injured. The animals were given oxygen by firefighters at the scene, Knowles said.

The dog was found under a burning staircase inside the home and the cat was found with the aid of a thermal imaging camera just outside of the house.

The fire department received a donation of special oxygen masks that fit on pets several years ago and used them to resuscitate the animals, who were then taken to a veterinary hospital.

 

 
Sailor: Marina Can Survive, But City Hall Says, Not Quite PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 July 2014 11:11

071714n3

PHOTO BY AMY SYLVESTRI

Dwight Pitcaithley, who has a sailboat at the San Leandro Marina, has a plan to make the marina profitable, but all the slips would have to be filled and the berthing fees would have to be raised.

By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times

A San Leandro resident and boat owner says he has a plan to make the marina a viable harbor that could continue to allow boats in and out to the Bay.

And the city says it’s listening to any ideas, but that a lot of financial hurdles still stand in the way.

Dwight Pitcaithley says he wants the public to vote on the future of the harbor rather than leave it in the hands of the City Council. He says that a ferry service and increased berth fees could keep the harbor up and running.

For years, the fate of the marina harbor has been up in the air, despite public forums and citizens advisory council meetings.

The city’s current plan is to allow the marina harbor to silt up to its natural state as a mud flat. Eventually no boats will be able to come in or out and a boardwalk will be built with kayak rentals and other amenities.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy agrees with Pitcaithley that a public vote would indicate that most people want the harbor open, but that the real issue is not a matter of public opinion, but of harsh financial realities.

“If there were a vote about whether we support the marina, it would probably be unanimously ‘yes,’” said Cassidy, “But there must be funding and that’s the hard part.”

Cassidy says he’s willing to listen to any plan to keep the harbor open, but also acknowledges that it is unlikely.

“It’s my understanding that the marina is not financially self-sustaining,” said Cassidy. “There are possibilities to keep it open, for instance if (congressional) earmarks began again, the first thing I would do is ask for one. But it’s not likely. If we dredge, what do you cut in response? We don’t have an unlimited budget.”

The city used to receive federal aid to dredge a channel, but it doesn’t get that anymore. It would cost $10 million to $15 million a decade to continue to dredge.

But Pitcaithley says that if all the berths at the marina were occupied at 100 percent capacity, and if berth costs were raised, the marina could pay for the dredging and be in the black by $5 million in 14 years.

Pitcaithley also says a ferry service could operate out of the San Leandro marina, bringing in commuter dollars.

But Cassidy says that the Bay Area Water Transportation Network has been clear that they are not interested in a ferry operating out of San Leandro.

Cassidy says the city did a poll asking voters if they would support a dredging tax and less than 50 percent responded in favor. A two-thirds majority would be needed to pass such a tax.

Pitcaithley’s plan and other topics related to the harbor will be discussed in detail at a special City Council workshop on July 28 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

 

 
SLPD Welcomes New Cops PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 July 2014 10:58

071714n4071714n5The San Leandro Police Department recently hired two new cops. Officer Marco Becerra (left) comes to San Leandro from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department where he worked for two years. Previously, Becerra was an SLPD Explorer and attended Chabot College. He currently lives in San Lorenzo.

Officer Paul Lemmons (right) also comes to San Leandro from the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Department where he worked for six years. Lemmons graduated from Los Positas College with an Associates Degree and currently lives in Livermore.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE SLPD

 
DA Fines Rite Aid for Pharmacy Policy PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Thursday, 17 July 2014 10:57

Alameda County District Attorney Nancy E. O’Malley announced recently that the Office’s Consumer and Environmental Protection Division, along with Riverside and San Diego District Attorneys’ Offices and the California State Board of Pharmacy, has settled a $498,250 lawsuit against the owners of the Rite Aid pharmacy chain in California.

The civil complain alleges that California Rite Aid pharmacists frequently failed to comply fully with the pharmacy board’s rules requiring personal pharmacist consultations when prescription drug customers receive new prescriptions or new dosages of existing prescriptions.

Under the terms of the judgment, which was entered without admission of liability, Rite Aid is permanently enjoined to comply properly with California’s standards regarding consulting all patients.

Rite Aid also agreed to pay agency investigative costs of $78,250 and civil penalties totaling $420,000. Alameda County will receive one-third, or $140,000, of those civil penalties and $18,500 of the costs.

 

 
Building Futures Collects Backpacks So Kids Can Start School Off Right PDF  | Print |  E-mail
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Thursday, 17 July 2014 10:55

071714n6With the new school year quickly approaching, Building Futures with Women and Children is having its 2014 Back to School Drive.

The goal is to provide 75 children served at its shelters and housing  programs with the tools they need to get a strong start this school year.

Give vulnerable children a fresh start to the school year with a backpack of the essentials they will need for school.

The drive begins on July 16 and ends Aug. 15.  School begins early this year, so all supplies must be turned in by Aug. 15 to ensure that the children can be ready for the first day of school.

The greatest need is for backpacks, but general supplies such as pencils, pens, markers, paper, binders, and notebooks are needed.

Drop off the supplies at the  Building Futures with Women and Children’s administrative offices at 1395 Bancroft Ave. in San Leanrdo.

Also, San Leandro City Councilmember Diana Souza and Councilmember Ursula Reed have once more pledged their support for the drive and will have collections bins at the Manor Branch Library, 1241 Manor Blvd.; Floresta Dental Plaza, 579 Floresta Blvd.; and Ward Chiropractic Wellness, 433 Callan St., Suite 104.

CAPTION: Joi Wilson and Alison Watson of Community Health Center Network are collecting backpacks for school children in the shelter.

PHOTO  COURTESY OF BUILDING FUTURES


 
City Asks for Public Feedback on Future of SL Housing PDF  | Print |  E-mail
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 15:55

The City of San Leandro is hosting a meeting to gather public opinions on housing needs and population growth.

A special meeting will be held Wednesday, July 30 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Senior Community Center, 13909 East 14th Street.

The Association of Bay Area Governments has projected that San Leandro will add 22,000 residents, 7,200 homes, and 13,000 new jobs over the next 25 years.

San Leandro hasn’t experienced growth of that magnitude in more than 30 years.

The meeting will be a discussion about how and where San Leandro may best be able to absorb such growth.

The city says it wants to hear from San Leandrans in general on the topic of housing and also want  the public to offer feed-back on these three questions:

• What steps can the City take to encourage the development of new housing for all income groups in the future?

• How can San Leandro conserve and maintain the quality of its existing housing stock, including older homes and apartments?

• Are there populations in the City with special housing needs, and how can these needs be met more effectively?

By law, all cities in the Bay Area must adopt a new long-term housing plan by January 31, 2015.

In addition to this townhall  meeting specifically devoted to the housing update, there will be public hearings on the housing plan at future Planning Commission and City Council meetings later this year.

There also will be at least four similar community meetings held over the next 12 months addressing other topics such as land use and transportation.

For more information, or if translation services or reasonable accommodations for physically disabled persons should be needed at the meeting, call Tom Liao,  the city’s deputy community development director, at 577-6003 or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Liao asks that people who need accommodation contact him at least 48 hours prior to the meeting.

 

 

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