Thursday, 28 August 2014 14:51
Oakland hires grassroots firm over giant Waste Management
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
Earlier this month, the Oakland City Council awarded a $1 billion contract to California Waste Solutions, choosing them over current contractor Waste Management to collect garbage in Oakland.
The decision could end up costing the City of San Leandro millions in lost fees from the Davis Street Transfer Station.
San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy sent a letter to the Oakland City Council urging them to choose Waste Management.
“The Waste Management contract is important to the city of San Leandro,” said Cassidy.
About 40 percent of the garbage and recyclable material handled at the Davis Street facility come from Oakland. San Leandro receives about half a million annually in “host fees” from Waste Management based on how much garbage is processed, according to Waste Management spokesman David Tucker.
The city would begin losing that revenue when the new Oakland contract goes into effect next year. Waste Management was also in the early stages of planning a multi-million dollar expansion of the facility that is no longer likely to happen, because there won’t be refuse from Oakland, Tucker said.
California Waste Solutions previously focused most of its business on recycling and has never held a city garbage contract and doesn’t have a processing facility like the Davis Street center. They plan on building one at the former Oakland Army base and use facilities in Oakland and Livermore until that is completed.
Tucker says that Waste Management has now field a lawsuit against the City of Oakland, asking an Alameda County Superior Court judge to overturn the Oakland City Council’s decision and reopen the bidding process.
The court has 30 days to decide whether to hear the lawsuit and then Oakland will have 30 days to respond to it, Tucker said.
In the lawsuit, Waste Management argues that Oakland unfairly rejected their bid and allowed California Waste Solutions a second bid during the bargaining process.
Further complicating matters, San Leandro City Councilman Benny Lee spoke to the Oakland City Council, urging them to pick California Waste Solutions, despite the financial impact on San Leandro.
Cassidy said that he was upset that Lee would take that stance and also that Lee gave the Oakland City Council the impression that he was speaking in his capacity as a San Leandro representative and not just for himself.
Lee did not return calls for comment, but when he spoke in front of the Oakland council he identified himself as vice mayor of San Leandro and said he supported California Waste Solutions because they were a local East Bay business. Waste Management is based in Texas.
California Waste Solutions is owned by the Duong family, who came to America from Vietnam in 1981 and quickly grew their business.
According to the company website, the family came to San Francisco with just the shirts on their backs and limited English. They began collecting cardboard to make money. By 1992, they secured a curbside recycling contract from Oakland and expanded from there. Today, in addition to recycling and garbage services, the company also brokers recycled material internationally and they have over 200 employees.
The Duong family has ties with members of both the Oakland and San Leandro City Councils.
On her campaign website for her current run for mayor, San Leandro City Councilwoman Diana Souza posed for a picture with California Waste Solutions director Andy Duong, who recently hosted a fundraiser in her honor.
And Oakland City Councilman Larry Reid is the godfather to three children in the Duong family, according to news reports.
Cassidy said that the loss of Waste Management business will be extremely detrimental to San Leandro and he hopes that the decision can be overturned.
“We are talking the loss of millions of dollars,” said Cassidy “It a huge, huge issue.”
Thursday, 28 August 2014 14:48
By Jim Knowles • San Leandro Times
Nic Morrow is now performing at a grocery store near you.
Morrow takes the stage five days a week. People just line up to see his show.
The jovial workingman hits the stage at his checkout aisle at the Grocery Outlet on East 14th Street in San Leandro five days a week. Once he gets on a roll, there’s no stopping him.
Morrow talks, he jokes, he sings. He used to perform card tricks but that became too distracting, so he had to cut that routine from his act.
But the main reason that Morrow is so popular at the store is that he just enjoys talking to people.
“It’s kind of a personal thing,” said Morrow as he rang up groceries. “People exchange recipes with you. We talk about our kids. It’s more than a grocery store. It’s a social hub.”
Morrow walks the three miles to work most days from his home in Oakland. He and his wife have four kids, one grown and the other three still at home.
He says the store owner Benny Tiapon has given him the freedom to be himself, something he didn’t have at his first job in the grocery business at an Albertson’s in Oakland.
“He’s the best store owner I ever had, friendly, down to earth. He’s given me the freedom to do what I do here.”
When the mood strikes, Morrow breaks out into song. His tunes are often from Disney movies, “kid-friendly” as he puts it.
Of course, it’s not all singing and dancing.
One time, some guys tried to run away with a whole cart of stolen groceries.
“They came barreling down aisle 2 with a truck waiting for them right outside,” Morrow said. “They dropped most of it, so they only got away with a few items.”
Another time armed robbers burst in one night and one robber went behind Morrow and stuck a gun in his back.
Morrow credits his time at the Albertson’s in Oakland with giving him experience in robberies to keep calm.
“This wasn’t my first rodeo,” he said.
Afterward, Morrow wanted to comfort the other employees, because he says after it’s over is when it sinks in. That’s when you start shaking.
His friends recognized him on TV when they showed the video of the robbery. Morrow could be seen wearing the scarf that his wife made for him.
“My daughter said it was a magic scarf and it would protect me,” Morrow said. “Later she said, ‘See, daddy, I was right.’”
Morrow wants to make a little more money so he’s getting a life insurance license so he can have a second job. Not that he plans to leave the grocery business.
“It’s not a lot of money but it’s steady,” Morrow said.
To Morrow, the experience of seeing people every day at the grocery store can’t be beat.
“Prices change, lots of things change,” Morrow said. “But it’s the human experience and how you’re remembered. To me, that’s everything.”
CAPTION: Grocery store checker Nic Morrow keeps his customers entertained at the Grocery Outlet on East 14th Street.
PHOTO BY JIM KNOWLES
Thursday, 28 August 2014 14:45
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
Accountant Ken Pon is running for the City Council seat in District 1 and says he has the experience and love of San Leandro necessary to serve the city well.
Pon says that it is his record of public service that sets him apart from his fellow District 1 opponents, David Anderson, Deborah Cox, and Mike Katz-Lacabe.
Pon has served eight years on the school board, 25 years on his homeowners’ association board, 20 years in the San Leandro Downtown Association, and also several years with the Asian Community Cultural Association and San Leandro Sports foundation. He says you won’t find another candidate more in tune with San Leandro than him.
“I have lived, worked, and played in San Leandro for over 30 years,” said Pon, echoing the city’s motto. “I’ve always been interested in governing in San Leandro and helping the city get where it is going.”
Pon, 64, says he was a supporter of current District 1 trustee Michael Gregory, who is being termed out of office. Pon says he thinks Gregory did a good job and that he’d like to expand on those accomplishments.
“I’ll build on what he has done,” said Pon. “I think we still need to work a lot on basic services. For one, we need to fix our residential streets, which are in bad shape. Frankly, they are pretty messy”
Pon says that the proposed Measure Z sales tax increase and extension might be a way to get the streets fixed, but it’s not a silver bullet.
He says he is uneasy with the proposed 30-year term of the tax and also says that increased sales, not sales tax, is likely the key to improving economics in the city.
“That’s a long extension and I have some misgivings, I’d need to do more consideration before voting on it,” said Pon. “Sales tax is one way to get money, but I’d rather see more sales, more business in the city.”
To that end, Pon said he’d like to further the city’s current efforts to attract tech businesses. He also says that having “millennials” – young people under 35 – come to live in the city and start families is important.
Pon said that to do so, the new marina development with hotels and entertainment is important, as are downtown pubs and restaurants, designed to keep young people entertained.
Pon says that, if elected, he’ll work on creating a pedestrian-friendly downtown, part of an overall move to attract more people to spend time in San Leandro.
“I’d like this city to become a local destination to eat and shop,” said Pon. “Over the past 30 years, I’ve walked the talk. I served this community and did what I wanted to do. People can see I have a good track record of leadership and can make San Leandro shine.”
Thursday, 28 August 2014 14:40
PHOTO COURTESY OF THE SLUSD
Chin-Bendib (left) received a commendation from school board president Diana Prola (right) and the rest of the board for being named Association of California School Administrators Business Administrator of the Year.
Associate Superintendent Song Chin-Bendib is leaving the San Leandro School District to take a position with the Piedmont Unified School District, as was announced earlier this month.
Superintendent Dr. Mike McLaughlin praised Chin-Bendib, saying that she has served the district well. “During lean times, she has managed over $200 million in school facilities projects,” McLaughlin said.
Chin-Bendib joined the district in 2007, during one of the roughest economic periods public education has experienced, McLauglin said.
Thursday, 28 August 2014 14:39
You never know when the “big one,” or even a minor quake, is going to hit, so it’s always good to be as prepared as possible.
In the wake of the 6.1 magnitude earthquake that struck American Canyon early Sunday morning, the American Red Cross has put out some tips to help the public prepare in the event of an earthquake.
• Become aware of fire evacuation and earthquake safety plans for all of the buildings you occupy regularly.
• Pick safe places in each room of your home, workplace and/or school. A safe place could be under a piece of furniture or against an interior wall away from windows, bookcases or tall furniture that could fall on you.
• Practice “drop, cover and hold on” in each safe place. If you do not have sturdy furniture to hold on to, sit on the floor next to an interior wall and cover your head and neck with your arms.
• Keep a flashlight and sturdy shoes by each person’s bed in case the earthquake strikes in the middle of the night.
• Make sure your home is securely anchored to its foundation.
• Bolt and brace water heaters and gas appliances to wall studs.
• Bolt bookcases, china cabinets and other tall furniture to wall studs.
• Hang heavy items, such as pictures and mirrors, away from beds, couches and anywhere people sleep or sit.
• Brace overhead light fixtures.
• Install strong latches or bolts on cabinets. Large or heavy items should be closest to the floor.
• Learn how to shut off the gas valves in your home and keep a wrench handy for that purpose.
• Learn about your area’s seismic building standards and land use codes before you begin new construction. Keep and maintain an emergency supplies kit in an easy-to-access location.
Vsit redcross.com or text “GETQUAKE to 90999.
Thursday, 28 August 2014 14:35
By Amy Sylvestri • San Leandro Times
MedShare, an organization that brings medical supplies to people in need all over the world, is looking for local volunteers to help send aid to Africa, especially in light of the recent Ebola outbreak.
One of MedShare’s three national facilities is located in San Leandro, the others are in New York and Atlanta. The organization touts itself as “bridging the gap between surplus and need.” They collect unused medical supplies and equipment from manufacturers, hospitals and doctors’ offices and send them where they are needed in the developing world.
Last year, MedShare shipped more than 950 40-foot tractor-trailer sized containers to 95 different countries and territories.
Currently, MedShare is looking to send help and supplies to Sierra Leone, in light of the recent Ebola outbreak as well as that nation’s poor resources available for infants and pregnant women.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 500 cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Sierra Leone, with 252 deaths reported since May. The CDC calls Sierra Leone’s public health infrastructure “severely strained.” MedShare plans to send supplies to help fight the outbreak.
“There is such a tremendous need in Sierra Leone,” said MedShare volunteer Fran Jurcso. “In general of course, but especially now with the Ebola outbreak.”
In addition to general supplies, MedShare is also sending incubators, baby warmers and other maternal and infant health supplies. Sierra Leone currently has one of the highest maternal mortality rates, 1 in 21 compared to 1 in 1,800 in the United States, according to the World Health Organization.
Their goal is to raise $25,000 by October 25 – the cost of shipping a container full of donated supplies from the Port of Oakland to Freetown, Sierra Leone, a distance of 6,900 miles.
MedShare is also looking for people to volunteer to sort and pack supplies, which are then shipped off. They can have over 40 volunteers a day at from all over the Bay Area their warehouse at peak times, Jursco said.
“The volunteer experience is wonderful, you meet a lot of caring people and it’s just nice to do something good and make a commitment,” said Jursco.
The organization fills its volunteer sessions online – to sign up to volunteer please go to www.medshare.org/volunteer and scroll down to choose the “Become a volunteer in Northern California” tab. On the next page choose “Sign Up” and follow the steps to create a volunteer registration.
MedShare runs 3-hour volunteer sorting sessions at their headquarters at 2937 Alvarado Street, scheduled Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to noon, or 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
If you would like to organize a group of five or more volunteers, email volunteer program coordinator, Ashley Gee (
) with an estimate of the number of volunteers in your group, a preferred and alternative date, and preferred time – 9 a.m. to noon or 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
CAPTION: MedShare is a nationwide organization that brings medical supplies to people in need. The San Leandro facility is looking for volunteers to package supplies to aid Sierra Leone.
PHOTO BY AMY SYLVESTRI