Wednesday, December 16, 2009

It's Official - Fred Korematsu Campus

In 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared December 15th, then the one hundred and fifty years anniversary of the signing of the Bill of Rights, as Bill of Rights Day.

Less than a year later, Fred Korematsu was arrested in downtown San Leandro for being of Japanese ancestry and refusing to report to an internment camp.


Last night, December 15, 2009, the San Leandro School Board, in an unanimous decision, named the new 9th grade campus "San Leandro High School, Fred Korematsu Campus."


By honoring Fred Korematsu, the school board will inspire students of today and tomorrow that they should cherish and, if necessary, fight for their rights under our Constitution and Bill of Rights.


Thank you School Board Trustees and everyone that wrote the board or spoke in support of naming the new school after Korematsu, including last night San Leandro Lions Leroy Smith and Ray Keden.


Fred's wife Kathryn and daughter Karen came to the board meeting after the vote. It was a special moment. They thanked the school board for its action and the community for our support. "I hope my father's story will be an inspiration to high school kids," Karen said of her father, "because they need positive role models."

Monday, November 30, 2009

Leading Choice for Name of the 9th Grade Campus: Fred Korematsu

Fred Korematsu is the leading choice for the new 9th grade campus in San Leandro. As noted in the Daily Review, his name was nominated by 32 of 73 persons and groups that submitted nominations:

While President Obama received four nominations, Fred Korematsu far and away received the most with 32. Korematsu was a Japanese-American who refused to go to the internment camps during World War II and was convicted of disobeying an executive order. The conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court, but in 1998 President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his fight against racism and injustice.




Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Campaign for Mayor Kick-Off Party This Thursday

My campaign for Mayor of San Leandro commences with a kick-off party this Thursday, November 12th, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Zocalo Coffeehouse located at 645 Bancroft Avenue.  

I am gratified to already have strong support for my campaign. I look forward to seeing old and new friends and supporters at the kick-off party. Five years ago I ran for school board on a promise to solve the overcrowding at the high school. I delivered on my promise. When the new 9th grade campus opens next year, the overcrowding will be eliminated. Today, I am running for mayor to create a better San Leandro.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Fred Korematsu: A Worthy Name For The New 9th Grade Campus At San Leandro High School

The new 9th grade campus for San Leandro High School is being built one block from the main campus of the high school. When opened in the Fall of 2010, 700 freshman students will have their own school site and the overcrowding at San Leandro High School will be eliminated

Moreover, the new school creates the opportunity to concentrate resources and attention on 9th grade students. Ninth grade is a critical year for students. One or two failing grades can seriously jeopardize the likelihood the student will graduate and attend college. As explained in a Los Angeles Times article:
Freshman year can be a trying time. Teens are at a difficult age, on the bridge between childhood and young adulthood. Relationships are changing, bodies are maturing, and hormones are in overdrive. Parents sometimes become less involved in overseeing homework just as teens are being given greater responsibility in school. And they are leaving middle schools for high schools that can be as large as colleges and include students old enough to vote.
All this creates turmoil. Freshmen are more likely than upperclassmen to fail a class or be suspended. More than 30% of high school students quit before graduation, and in most states the greatest share of that loss occurs in ninth grade, according to a 2006 study by the nonprofit Editorial Projects in Education Research Center in Bethesda, Md.

The school board has decided to name the 9th grade campus. It will be "San Leandro High School, ___________ Campus." And the board has invited the community to submit nominations for the name.

I am glad the school board has adopted this approach. By naming the school, the school board is providing an opportunity for students and the community to participate in the creation of the new school. Moreover, selecting a name provides the opportunity to inspire students of today and tomorrow to achieve educational success and become active participants in our local community and democracy. As noted in survey by several educational researchers,
The names that school boards give to schools both reflect and shape civic values. They reflect values because naming a school after someone or something provides at least an implicit endorsement of the values that the name represents. And school names can shape values by providing educators with a teaching opportunity: teachers at a Lincoln Elementary, for example, can reference the school name to spark discussions of the evils of slavery and the benefits of preserving our union.
What criteria should the school board use in selecting a name for the new campus? The school district policy for naming facilities states that names may be any individual, living or deceased, who made outstanding contributions to the community, state, country or world.

The school can also be named after the geographic area in which the school is located. I hope such an approach will not be used as it would not serve the civic mission that naming a school after an individual offers.
Although this is not part of the policy, the school board could also consider, and I hope they will, additional factors such as whether the individual had a strong nexus to San Leandro and reflects the diversity of our community today. None of the persons the San Leandro schools have been named after had a connection with San Leandro as far as I am aware, and all were white persons.
There is only one person with a strong connection to San Leandro who made contributions of historical significance to our nation that immediately comes to my mind. He was also a person of color. His name was Fred Korematsu (1919 - 2005).
Korematsu was an American citizen, born in Oakland and worked at his parents flower nursery in San Leandro. In 1942, he was arrested for the crime of being of Japanese ancestry and refusing to report to authorities in order to be sent to an internment camp for the duration of World War II. As Korematsu explained in 2004,
In 1942, I was arrested and convicted for being a Japanese American trying to live here in the Bay Area. The day after my arrest a newspaper headline declared, "Jap Spy Arrested in San Leandro."

Of course, I was no spy. The government never charged me with being a spy. I was a U.S. citizen born and raised in Oakland. I even tried to enlist in the Coast Guard (they didn't take me because of my race). But my citizenship and my loyalty did not matter to the federal government. On Feb. 19, 1942, anyone of Japanese heritage was ordered excluded from the West Coast. I was charged and convicted of being a Japanese American living in an area in which all people of my ancestry had been ordered to be interned.

I fought my conviction at that time. My case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, but in 1944 my efforts to seek protection under the Constitution were rejected.After I was released in 1945, my criminal record continued to affect my life. It was hard to find work. I was considered to be a criminal. It took almost 40 years and the efforts of many people to reopen my case. In 1983, a federal court judge found that thegovernment had hidden evidence and lied to the Supreme Court during my appeal. The judge found that Japanese Americans were not the threat that the government publicly claimed. My criminal record was removed.
After the war, Korematsu returned to the East Bay, and was active in our community. He served twice as the President of the San Leandro Lions Club and was a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, San Francisco Bay Council. He often spoke to students about the Japanese American internment and inspire them to respect and cherish their civil rights. As reported in the May 14, 1994 edition of the San Leandro Times, Korematsu gave a lecture to students at San Leandro High School:
Korematsu said that students must be aggressive when they feel their constitutional rights have been violated. "any of you can be interned because of whom you resemble." Korematsu told the students they should be proud of their diversity. "Just because you look different doesn't mean you're not American."
In 1998, President Bill Clinton awarded Korematsu the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, saying,
In the long history of our country's constant search for justice, some names of ordinary citizens stand for millions of souls. Plessy, Brown, Parks . . . to that distinguished list, today we add the name of Fred Korematsu.
As noted by Tim Holmes, co-owner of Zocalo Coffeehouse in San Leandro, "Our history and his are quite inextricably linked." Holmes added: Korematsu "stands for something very important and inspiring. His is not a story of capitalism, or success in the traditional way, but a hero in the most important way . . . he was just an ordinary man who was wronged by our government and stood up for himself and then spent the rest of his life championing that cause for the sake of others."
For me, Korematsu was a true hero of the civil rights movement. While he lost his case in 1944, the reasoning of the dissenting justices in the opinion twenty years later became the majority view on the Supreme Court. The Korematsu decision was cited by Chief Justice Warren and others justices in one landmark civil rights case after another.
Naming the 9th grade campus after Korematsu will serve as an affirmation by the school board and our community that San Leandrans respect and value the civil rights of all persons and admire the determination Korematsu showed in standing up for his rights and that of all Americans not to be deprived of their liberty simply because of their race, ethnicity or national origin.
Nominations must be submitted in writing no later than November 18, 2009 via email to newcampus@sanleandro.k12.ca.us or mail to: Board of Education, 9th Grade Campus Naming. 14735 Juniper Street, San Leandro, CA 94579. Please include your contact information and use the following format:
____________ Campus.
Why the campus should be named this (150 words or less):
I will be submitting a nomination for Korematsu. I hope that you do as well.


Thursday, October 8, 2009

Working To Create A Better San Leandro


I care deeply for San Leandro. I have decided to run for mayor to work with the community to create a better San Leandro.


To achieve this, the city budget crisis first must be solved. Even though crime is widespread, the mayor and city council eliminated six police officer positions. Funding for senior services, school crossing guards, libraries and pools was also cut.


Despite these cuts, the city is actually spending more this fiscal year than last year, including millions in deficit spending. The city is rapidly burning through its reserves. Finance officials project $36.5 million in red ink over the next six years. If significant action is not taken, the city could be forced to declare bankruptcy.


In response, the mayor and city council are actively considering an increase in the sales tax, raising it a quarter cent to 10%. If approved, San Leandro would have the highest sales tax of any city in Northern California.


I have a better plan. I will restore San Leandro to fiscal health without raising taxes. I will stop the deficit spending by bringing expenses under control and operating city hall efficiently. As mayor, I will not take a salary until the city budget deficit is eliminated.


I will apply my knowledge and skills as an attorney and former small business owner to support small and large businesses in San Leandro, and bring new companies to our city, including ones in the rapidly growing green economy. This will provide quality jobs and generate revenue to rehire police officers, fully fund senior services, libraries and pools, fix our streets, and support our schools.


I will listen to the community and bring it into the process of finding constructive solutions to the challenges facing San Leandro. I will take a collaborative approach to governing. I will work with all council members to create a new culture of open and honest dialogue between city hall and the community.


As a parent and former school board trustee, I know strong schools make a strong city. I was at the forefront of the campaign to build the new 9th grade campus and performing arts center. I will form a real partnership between the city and both school districts.


I am an active member of the coalition to Save San Leandro Hospital. I am committed to keeping acute and emergency care at the hospital.


I pledge to always put the interests of the people of San Leandro first. Together, let's make San Leandro a clean and vibrant community with safe neighborhoods and high performing schools.


Very truly yours,

Stephen Cassidy


P.S. Please visit www.cassidyforsanleandro.com to learn more about my plans to improve San Leandro. There is a link to a community survey. Please share your views on the key issues facing our city.


For those on Facebook, please also join the group Stephen Cassidy for San Leandro Mayor at www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=149957097021

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Eat Out for Education In San Leandro

Here is a great way to help our local schools and restaurants: have lunch or dinner tomorrow at a restaurant in San Leandro to support San Leandro Education Foundation's first Eat Out for Education.

On the first Wednesday of each month, participating San Leandro restaurants (so far, Paradiso, CreAsian, Luke's, Chang's, and Little Namking) will give 10% of sales to SLED from patrons who present a SLED Eat Out for Education coupon.

In November, SLED reports that The Englander and a new restaurant, Boulevard Burgers - in the old Sonoma's space on MacArthur - will be participating.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Loss Of School Crossing Guards: A Failure To Prioritize Student Safety

In April, I wrote a letter to the San Leandro Times stating that our schools and city were facing an unprecedented budget crisis and they should work together to address their fiscal challenges. I asked that the city not make any budget cuts that would hurt our schools. In particular, I called for the mayor and city council to reject the city manager’s proposal to terminate all school crossing guards.

As we know, the mayor and city council proceeded to end the program. Why would the mayor and city council risk the safety of children and their parents? Why is there not a true partnership between our city and schools?

City officials claim the cuts were necessary because the city has a large deficit. That is essentially what San Leandro City Manager Steve Hollister stated to CBS 5 local news when questioned on the elimination of the program. Likewise, the San Leandro Times reported that Mayor Tony Santos says that there simply is no room in the budget for the crossing guard program: "We just don’t have the money to fund it."

It's true that the city budget is seriously out of balance. City officials are amassing millions in red ink, burning through reserves, and placing the fiscal solvency of the city in jeopardy. Yet, remarkably, despite eliminating crossing guards, cutting six police officer positions, and reducing funding for senior services, libraries and pools, the city is spending more this fiscal year than last year.

Yes, you read that right. Last year the city spent $77 million. This year’s budget calls for $78 million in spending. There is no fiscal discipline at city hall.

The adoption of the city budget is the result of series of political decisions by the mayor and city council based upon the priorities and values held by our elected officials. If the mayor and city council prioritized the safety of children, they could have kept school crossing guards. The program represented only 1/8th of one percent of the city’s general fund.

Other cuts could have made. Cancelling free health club memberships for city managers would have been a good place to have started. The mayor and city council should promptly bring back the crossing guards.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

2009 API Scores for San Leandro Schools

Based on the release of the 2009 STAR test results by the state, last month I predicted that the San Leandro Unified School District would fail to meet the proficiency standards set by the state under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) statute. As a result, the school district would be placed in the Program Improvement program.

Unfortunately, this has occurred. Yesterday, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell released California's 2008-09 Accountability Progress Report (APR), which provides results from the state accountability system as well as under NCLB. Among the new school districts in California placed within Program Improvement is San Leandro. No district wishes to be labeled a Program Improvement district as the program consists of a series of escalating sanctions for each year the district remains within the program.

San Leandro will not be leaving the program, absent a repeal or substantial revision of NCLB. In time, almost every school district in California will be in the program. This is because NLCB requires districts to obtain the unattainable by 2014 - 100% proficiency for all students in multiple subjects.

What is extremely confusing concerning test scores in California is that we have two school accountability systems, the state system which uses the Academic Performance Index (API) and the federal NCLB system. The systems are different:
The state accountability system is an index model that measures improvement in student achievement from one year to the next. Under the API system, schools are given credit for improving the overall performance of their students. School growth targets are set based upon the starting point of the school and are re-set each year depending on the level of growth each school site shows. The federal . . . system is often referred to as a "status" model because it rewards schools for the percent of students the school has scoring at the proficient or above level on state assessments. No matter where a school began, all schools are expected to meet the same target at the same time.

Many elementary schools in San Leandro showed great progress in their 2009 API scores, led by James Madison Elementary school which hit a record for San Leandro - an 854 API score. However, the high school API score fell by 10 points and Bancroft Middle School, after sharp progress last year, also dropped. As a result, the district's API growth in 2009 was only 2 points. This matched Hayward for the lowest growth by a district in the county (and one district, Newark, declined).

After strong API growth in 2007, San Leandro's API growth has been tepid. The 2008 gain was only 1 point. San Leandro's two year API growth of 3 points is the lowest of all unified school districts in Alameda County.

API Growth in Points for School Years 2007-08 and 2008-09:

Alameda City --- 20
Albany -------- 21
Berkeley ------- 24
Castro Valley --- 17
Dublin -------- 24
Emery -------- 49
Fremont ------ 26
Hayward ------ 16
Livermore ----- 27
New Haven ---- 19
Newark ------- 8
Oakland ------ 36
Piedmont ----- 10
Pleasanton ---- 12
San Leandro --- 3
San Lorenzo --- 25

Since the first release of STAR test results in 1999, San Leandro has compared itself to neighboring district San Lorenzo, and always scored above San Lorenzo. With San Lorenzo's strong growth over the past two years that is no longer the case. For 2009, San Lorenzo's overall API score is 724 compared to 717 for San Leandro.

Six years ago, San Leandro's API Growth score was 684, and San Lorenzo's score was 677. Thus, while both districts have made progress, San Lorenzo has had sharper gains. San Leandro improved by 33 points; San Lorenzo saw a 47 point gain. Or viewed differently, since 2003, San Leandro has gone from an 7 point advantage to a 7 point deficit compared to San Lorenzo, a 14 point change.

How did San Lorenzo do this? Both districts have highly qualified teachers who teach the same state approved curriculum. The demographics of both districts are similar. Looking at the performance of students by ethnic and racial group one sees this is where San Lorenzo has outperformed San Leandro:

API Growth in Points from 2003 to 2009
----------------- San Leandro -- San Lorenzo
African American ----- 34 ---------- 59
Asian ---------------- 40 ---------- 74
Latino ---------------- 42 ---------- 57
White ---------------- 46 ---------- 41

In particular, the largest ethnic group by far in both districts, Latinos, test at a higher level in San Lorenzo (690 API for 2009) than in San Leandro (667 API for 2009). The overall scores of African American students in both districts are almost the same, 660 in San Lorenzo and 661 in San Leandro for 2009.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

City Council Workshop on Major Building Projects Including Use of Measure WW Funds

Next Monday night, September 14th at 7 p.m., the City Council is hosting a work session on capitol improvement projects. The location is the Helen Lawrence South Offices Conference Room near the police department office.

Among the topics will be a review of the recommendations by the ad hoc Measure WW committee comprised of council members Joyce Starosciak, Michael Gregory and Diana Souza. They recommended that, of the $3.7 million San Leandro will receive under Measure WW, $2.4 million be used to help build a competitive pool at San Leandro 's Family Aquatic Center on Zelma Street in Washington Manor. The committee also recommeded that another $988,000 should go for picnic area renovations at Marina Park at the San Leandro Marina, and the remaining $250,000 be used for improving park pathways throughout San Leandro

Measure WW was a bond passed last November. Each city in Alameda County gets a slice of the money which can go for parks and recreational facilities. All San Leandrans are paying through their local property taxes the cost of WW projects.

The ad hoc committee of Starosciak, Gregory and Souza met behind closed doors with no input from the public. The city parks and recreation commission was not asked to offer its recommendations on the use of these funds.

Now is the time for the community to voice its views on how San Leandro's Measure WW funds should be spent.

My view is that if the city council decides to invest Measure WW funds in swimming pools in San Leandro, instead of building a new pool, the city should partner with the San Leandro Unified School District and jointly operate the competitive swimming pool at San Leandro High School.

The high school pool is in need of renovation. Money from Measure WW could be used and the cost would be substantially less than building a new pool. This would allow the city to stretch the dollars from Measure WW wider and undertake needed renovation work at many city parks.

Furthermore, the city has $4 to $6 million annual deficits for the next six years and is depleting all of its reserves. Our schools are facing another year of brutal cutbacks from the state. Earlier this year, the city council eliminated funding for school crossing guards and two of the three police officers assigned for the safety of our schools.

Now is not the time for the city to authorize new construction projects that will result in increased operating costs for the city. Any and all means the city and schools can partner together to reduce operating expenditures each would bare if they acted alone should be undertaken.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

San Leandro's Unsustainable City Budget

Yesterday, I attended a meeting of the San Leandro City Council Finance Committee. The committee consists of Mayor Santos and Councilmembers Prola and Gregory. Gregory was absent.

In short, if significant action is not taken, the city will burn through all of its reserves, including eventually reserves for natural disasters and other emergencies. By 2015, San Leandro could join the City of Vallejo in declaring bankruptcy.

Summary of Finance Committee Presentation

Perry Carter, the Interim Finance Director, gave an update on the budget. In analyzing a budget, you need to examine at least three years of data - the previous, current and next fiscal years. Carter first reported on the "preliminary actual" numbers for the fiscal year which just ended on June 30, 2009.

Illustrating how quickly the city finances collapsed last year, the original city budget for fiscal year 2008-09 assumed $76.2 million (hereafter simply "M") in revenues and $81.6 M in expenditures. The city began fiscal year 2008-09 with $19.2 M in reserves. Thus, it planned to use $5 M of its reserves to cover the deficit.

In April 2009, the city revised its budget - lowering revenues to $70.1 M and expenditures to $79.0 M.

As it turned out, based on the "preliminary actual" numbers, the city took in $71.0 M in revenue last fiscal year, and spent $77.6 M, a deficit of $6.5 M. The city loss for 2008-09 was less than what was projected in April 2009, but still higher than the deficit projected in the budget adopted in June 2008.

The city received an unexpected loan repayment of $1.5 M from Alameda County Industries in June 2009. This was a one time payment.

The ending balance for fiscal year 2008-09 is $15.1 M, of which $5 M has been locked away in a fund for natural disasters and other emergencies. That leaves a net ending fund balance of $10.1 M, which is $3.8 M higher than what Carter projected this amount would be in April 2009.

That is the good news. As I noted in June 2009,

The budget planned for next fiscal year 2009-10 is seriously flawed. It continues to draw on reserves and relies on unrealistic projections that tax receipts will increase. In the midst of the worse recession post World War II, the city is planning on a 4% gain in sales taxes and 3% growth in property taxes.

My criticism of the overly optimistic revenue increases in the city budget quickly proved accurate. The city is now projecting a 3% decrease in the sales tax revenue and a 2.5% decrease in the property tax revenue for the current fiscal year. Revenues are projected to come in at $74.0 M and expenditures will be $78.1 M, resulting in a $4.1 M deficit.

Carter provided a multi-year budget projection through 2014-15. The projections showed the city running a $4 M to $6 M deficit each year, with a $5.9 M deficit in 2014-15. The projected revenues in 2014-15 are $80.9 M and the expenditures are $86.9 M.

From July 1, 2009 to June 30, 2015, the cumulative total deficit is $35.6 M. Taking into account the city's ending fund balance of $10.1 M on June 30, 2009, the net deficit over the six years is $21.5 M.

The city council has taken limited steps to correct the imbalance, including the "golden handshake" to city employees to encourage their retirement. In July, staff reported that 14-16 eligible employees have accepted the "golden handshake." There will need to be more employees to retire for the program to have a significant impact on the budget. Plus, there are long term costs to providing retirement incentives to employees today.

The two primary sources of revenue for the city are the sales and property taxes. The multi-year budget projections assume the economy will turnaround in 2010-11 and start to grow strongly thereafter. From July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2015, the city is projecting the sales tax will grow by 18.5% and the property tax by 8%. If this strong rebound does not occur, the city structural deficit will expand.

The projections also assume salaries and employee benefits will grow from $39.8 M in 2009-10 to $45.7 M in 2014-15. The overall increase is $5.9 M or 14.8%.

The $5.9 M increase reflects a further escalation in the costs of employee benefits, including for health care and the pension plan (CalPERS). The projections also assume, starting in fiscal year 2013-14 and continuing in 2014-15, that employees will receive 3% annual increases in salaries. This fiscal year the police officers received a 4% raise (on top of a 4% pay raise last year). All other city employees received no salary increase in 2008-09.

In fiscal year 2011-12, due to the heavy losses by CalPERS in the stock market last year, the city's contributions to CalPERS will increase. By fiscal year 2014-15 the bill from CalPERS is projected to reach $11.2 M, or close to 15% of the general fund. The multi-year budget projections assume the city will continue to pay both the city's required contribution and the employees' contribution to CalPERS.

How is the city going to avoid financial disaster?

There was talk of mandatory furloughs for all employees. However, City Manager Steve Hollister did not present any plan. Any effort to address the budget crisis through furloughs, pay reductions, or changes to benefits appears to be moving forward, if at all, in slow motion.

There was considerable discussion of new tax measures. The city commissioned a poll of residents to gauge their support of a 1/4 cent sales tax hike or a landscape and lighting improvement district for the city. Hollister stated based on a preliminary review of the polling data that both options were "achievable." He added he plans on presenting the poll results at a city council meeting at the end of the month.

Comments on the Budget Presentation

1) Regardless of actions by the state and even if the economy turns around within two years and grows strongly thereafter, the city's budget will be in red by millions of dollars. The city council has adopted a series of budgets which have set the city on the path to bankruptcy unless significant corrective action is promptly taken.

2) I'm glad that the city is now using realistic sales and property tax revenue projections for this fiscal year. However, the reversal in revenue projections for this fiscal year makes me question the likelihood of strong revenue growth planned in the coming years.

3) Why is the city planning on a 6% pay increase (over two years) to all employees in the last two fiscal years of the multi-year budget projections when the city will still be in the red? That is like planning to buy a car on credit when you are already at the maximum on your credit cards and can not afford to make the minimum monthly payments. These pay increases expand the annual deficit from $4.6 M in fiscal year to 2012-13 to nearly $6 M in each of fiscal years 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Obviously the cost of living will not decrease over the next six years. Without a pay increase employees will suffer a real loss in income. Yet that then begs the question of why the city is not now imposing furlough days, opening up contracts and seeking give backs or reducing positions.

4) The mayor and city council's solution for the budget crisis appears to be new taxes. They are placing the solvency of the city in success at the ballot box. Their track record is decidedly mixed. City-sponsored parcel taxes to pay for emergency services failed in 2004 and 2008.

I appreciate that important services come at a price. I voted for the three city tax measures last November. But I will not support any new city taxes next year. I want value for my tax dollars and first a demonstration of fiscal discipline at city hall.

Despite the recession, the number of city employees earning over $100,000 annually keeps increasing. The city is spending $13 million more on the police department than in 2000, and we passed a tax measure last November for emergency services. Yet, we have less police officers protecting San Leandro today than nine years ago. We are down to only 88 police officers for a city of 85,000.

The solutions are not complicated. The city council should take a pay cut. Free health club memberships and other perks for managers need to be eliminated. To resolve the budget deficit, all city employees will have to make sacrifices. That will not occur if those at the top fail to lead by example.

Next, the city council needs to start asking questions it has ignored. For example, this year the city is paying over $10 million to CalPERS, the employee pension plan. Of that amount, $2.8 M is for contributions owed by employees. The city payments to CalPERS will escalate in the coming years.

I appreciate that offering pensions to employees helps attract and retain quality workers. Our city employees provide vital services and deserve good pensions. But in this economy and with $36.5 M in deficit spending over the next six years, it is time for city employees to start contributing to the cost of their pensions. If they do, they would still get a great deal. The city would be picking up over 70% of the bill from CalPERS. However, ending the city's payment of the employee contribution would have a tremendous positive impact on the city deficit, cutting it by more than 50%.

Finally, the mayor and city council must recognize that their primary duty is to the best interests of all San Leandrans and the community should be brought actively into the budget decision making process. Civic engagement is a two-way street. The city council should conduct community forums on the budget where the public can ask questions, offer input and receive answers from city staff.

That is what good government is all about - providing the means and opportunity for the public to have a say in critical decisions affecting the community.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

2009 San Leandro High School Exit Exam Test Results Released

The California High School Exit Exam is first given to students in 10th grade and covers two subjects: English language arts and math. The test is based on the California state standards, which define what students should be learning each year.

Students must pass the CAHSEE to graduate from high school. The goal is for all students to pass the test. The results below are for 10th grade students at San Leandro High Schoola nd nearby schools taking the test the first time.

The state average for English Language Arts was 79% in 2009, and it was 80% for Math.

---------------

San Leandro High School:

Scale: % passing
Grade 10
English Language Arts
78% (2009)
75% (2008)
78% (2007)
71% (2006)

Math
76% (2009)
79% (2008)
79% (2007)
78% (2006)

---------------

Arroyo High School

Scale: % passing
Grade 10
English Language Arts
84% (2009)
83% (2008)
83% (2007)
84% (2006)

Math
86% (2009)
79% (2008)
82% (2007)
83% (2006)

-------------------

San Lorenzo High School

Scale: % passing
Grade 10
English Language Arts
73% (2009)
69% (2008)
70% (2007)
70% (2006)

Math
71% (2009)
68% (2008)
66% (2007)
74% (2006)

-------------------

Castro Valley High School

Scale: % passing
Grade 10
English Language Arts
94% (2009)
95% (2008)
92% (2007)
94% (2006)

Math
94% (2009)
93% (2008)
90% (2007)
94% (2006)

--------------------

Mount Eden High School

Scale: % passing
Grade 10
English Language Arts
76% (2009)
77% (2008)
76% (2007)
72% (2006)

Math
77% (2009)
76% (2008)
71% (2007)
76% (2006)

------------------------

Hayward High School

Scale: % passing
Grade 10
English Language Arts
67% (2009)
75% (2008)
70% (2007)
66% (2006)

Math
66% (2009)
73% (2008)
65% (2007)
67% (2006)

-----------------------

Tennyson High School

Scale: % passing
Grade 10
English Language Arts
65% (2009)
68% (2008)
59% (2007)
64% (2006)

Math
63% (2009)
65% (2008)
62% (2007)
58% (2006)

What does passing the high school exit really mean and why is there such a disparity in schools within a few miles of San Leandro High School, even though all schools use the same curriculum approved by the state? Dan Martin, a veteran teacher at San Leandro High School, recently observed:

The great majority of the students who don’t pass the CAHSEE, especially in time for graduation, are more recently arrived English Learners and Special Education students. English Learners (ELs) are still in the process of acquiring sufficient English to pass the HSEE, especially the English section. While many of these ELs haven’t passed in English portion, many of them do pass the math section of the HSEE, so it isn’t that they aren’t trying, they just don’t have sufficient English vocabulary and comprehension to make sense of the extensive English section.

That said, it is important when looking at HSEE scores, and the political rhetoric about how wonderful the passage rates are, that “passing” requires getting an overall average score of 60%, or a D-, if this were a typical score in a high school classroom. That said, I’m happy that many 10th graders pass it the first time and get this graduation requirement completed, and most students pass it in time for graduation, but it’s not a measure of high academic achievement, which is lost in the local, statewide, and national political hoopla.

The one thing about these standardized testing regimens is that there is rarely any cost-benefit analysis conducted. Statewide and locally, there is a significant amount of time and money expended to get these results, money for support and intervention programs, time for repeated planning and administration of these tests throughout 10-12th grades, money to the testing companies for everything they produce and the scoring of the tests and distributing the results to districts and parents, and in the impact on student schedules of those who have to repeatedly take these tests.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hayashi's Bill Passes - A Defeat for Consumer Rights

Unfortunate news - the auto insurance industry was able to pick up a few more votes from Democrats in the State Senate to join with the Republicans and pass Hayashi's bill. Below is a message today from the Consumer Attorneys of California.
We go up against the insurance industry’s lobby every day. In the face of the industry’s seemingly limitless money and influence, we hold our own and then some most of the time. Despite our best efforts, the Senate on Friday narrowly approved legislation by East Bay Democrat Mary Hayashi that takes the side of the auto insurance industry against the consumer.

Hayashi’s bill would gut a consumer protection measure by Rep. Jackie Speier that was signed into law only a few years ago when Speier was in the state senate. Opposed by virtually every consumer group, including Consumer Attorneys of California, Hayashi’s AB 1200 would water down a prohibition barring insurers from “steering” consumers to the insurance company’s preferred auto body shops — shops that cut costs by installing knock-off and ill-fitting parts.

The bill had stalled two votes short of the majority earlier this week. But the insurance industry is powerful and its team of lobbyists managed to convince three more Democrats to take their side — Sen. Negrete McLeod, Sen. Curren Price and Sen. Rod Wright. To get an idea of what we’re up against, just two of the insurance companies backing the bill and their trade group, the Personal Insurance Federation of California, spent more than $812,000 on campaign donations and another $650,000 on lobbying in the first half of the year. We lost this vote. But we were proud to stand up for consumers and against the insurance industry — and we’d do it all over again.

The source of Hayashi's bill as noted in the legislative analyst's report is the Personal Insurance Federation of California.

What is the PIFC? It is the political lobby of the California insurance industry:
In 1989, two leading insurers in the state, Farmers Insurance Group and State Farm Mutual, formed the Personal Insurance Federation of California (PIFC) to serve as the principal advocate for the property-casualty insurance industry before the California Legislature. Today PIFC represents six insurance company groups and one national trade association which collectively provide more than half of the personal lines property and casualty insurance written in California.

These are the same folks that have fought every industry reform, including Prop. 103. They also have a PAC and Hayashi has taken $2,600 in contributions from it this year. Other insurance companies Hayashi has taken funds from this year include Allstate, Farmers Insurance Group, Liberty Mutual, and Mercury Insurance.

Update

Here is a link to a Los Angeles Times article on the bill and vote in State Senate.

Monday, August 24, 2009

"East Bay Democrat Mary Hayashi is carrying a bill for insurance companies at the expense of consumers."

"East Bay Democrat Mary Hayashi is carrying a bill for insurance companies at the expense of consumers," is the first sentence of an email message I received recently from the Consumer Attorneys of California, of which I am a member.

I took a look at the bill, AB 1200. As summarized in the State Senate analysis of the bill, AB 1200
Would significantly revise and recast California's auto repair anti-steering law duties, obligations and allowed conduct for insurance companies, relative to consumers and other parties in the claims settlement process, including 1) Eliminating an insurer's duty to provide a specified written notice of a consumers right to select an auto body shop, and 2) Eliminating a prohibition in current law on an insurer suggesting or recommending that the claimant select a different body shop after a consumer has indicated their body shop choice.

The bill is sponsored by State Farm and a host of other auto insurance companies. It has received stiff opposition from consumer groups.

AB 1200 would reverse current California law. California has an anti-steering law authored by then state senator Jackie Speier in Senate Bill 551. The law prohibits insurers from recommending repair shops unless the consumer has requested recommendations, or the insurer has informed the consumer in writing that the consumer has the right to choose a repair shop. A.B. 1200 overturns this prohibition and permits insurers to direct claimants to a list of auto body shops preferred by the insurance company.

What appears to be an expansion of choice for the consumer under AB 1200 is an illusion. What is never disclosed to the customer, and why SB 551 was necessary, is that insurance companies have agreements with the auto shops they refer customers to and which operate to the detriment of the consumer. As now U.S. Representative Speier recently wrote:
In 2003, while serving in the state Senate, I wrote the law that gives consumers the right to select the collision repair facility of their choice. This law was necessary because insurance companies routinely make deals with preferred shops to use cheaper used or "after-market" parts rather than parts made by the vehicle manufacturer. Sometimes the imitation parts work fine, but too often they don't fit the vehicle or are made of inferior metals and plastics. The law made it illegal for insurers to steer policy holders toward specific shops.

Most auto polices require the insurance company to pay for parts of "like kind and quality." However, auto insurance companies, if allowed, will not pay for fixing cars with auto parts produced by the original auto manufacturer. Instead, the insurance companies insist that auto repair shops, in exchange for receiving the referral, use lower priced, and lower quality, parts from third party manufacturers.

Speier added in her commentary:
Let's say that you are able to withstand your insurer's pressure tactics and demand that your body shop use factory parts. You still may not be protected. Because buried in many policies is a provision where the insurer reserves the right to use either factory or aftermarket parts, whichever is cheaper.

Hayashi has defended her bill claiming that "AB1200 has been subject to a disinformation campaign led by those who have a vested interest in not allowing insurers to discuss these options with their claimants."

That is not the case. One of the state's leading consumer organizations, the Consumer Federation of California, is opposed to Hayashi's bill:
California law protects policy holders from receiving what appears to be impartial advice, when they are actually being steered to insurer-preferred auto repair shops. Body shops in the insurer’s preferred network may be contractually obligated to perform an inferior scope of repair services to save the insurer money.

This can lead to costly re-repairs, and even to the voiding of factory warrantees. AB 1200 also contains legislative intent language that would apply the weak consumer protection standards of the bill to cases after January 1, 2010, regardless of the date of the violation of anti-steering law. Far from providing consumers with more information in order to make better informed choices, AB 1200 opens the door for unscrupulous insurers to provide one-sided and manipulative information, even after a policyholder has selected a repair shop, for the purpose of unduly influencing the policyholder to act in the insurer’s financial interest at the policyholder’s expense.

Likewise, California-based Consumer Watch is also opposed to AB 1200:
"California legislators were right to stop this kind of anti-consumer steering six years ago, and nothing has changed that would make the relationships between insurers and body shops any better for consumers," said Consumer Watchdog staff attorney Todd Foreman. "If anything, lawmakers should be adding consumer protections to the anti-steering law, not gutting the existing rules."

What is really at issue is money. The auto insurance companies can significantly boost their profits if they can steer consumers to auto shops that use cheap replacement parts for damaged cars. A hundred or two hundred dollars saved on each repair for every customer in California can amount to millions over the course of the year for State Farm and other auto insurers.

Hayashi's bill easily passed the Assembly. Hopefully, the State Senate will undertake a closer examination and reject the bill.

Update

Below is the vote on in the State Senate on AB 1200 on August 24, 2009. It needed 21 votes to pass and came up 2 votes short. The bulk of the support came from Reps. The progressive Bay Area Dems - Corbett, Hancock, Leno, etc. - all voted against it.

UNOFFICIAL BALLOT
MEASURE: AB 1200
AUTHOR: Hayashi
TOPIC: Motor vehicle insurance: direct repair progra
DATE: 08/24/2009
LOCATION: SEN. FLOOR
MOTION: Assembly 3rd Reading AB1200 Hayashi By Calderon
(AYES 19. NOES 17.) (FAIL)

AYES
****
Aanestad Ashburn Benoit Calderon Cedillo Cogdill Correa Cox Denham Dutton Harman Hollingsworth Huff Kehoe Runner Strickland Walters Wyland Yee

NOES
****
Alquist Corbett DeSaulnier Ducheny Florez Hancock Leno Liu Lowenthal Maldonado Negrete McLeod Oropeza Romero Simitian Steinberg Wiggins Wolk

ABSENT, ABSTAINING, OR NOT VOTING
*********************************
Padilla Pavley Price Wright

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

2009 San Leandro Schools STAR Test Scores And No Child Left Behind

San Leandro Unified School District students recorded modest improvements on the 2009 California Standardized Testing and Reporting (STAR) test compared to the 2008 results.

The summary report for 2009 showed that on the English-Language Arts test (Grades 2-11) 40.6% of students scored proficient or advanced, up from 37.4% in 2008. In mathematics, however, there was no improvement. 33.8% of students for Grades 2-7 were proficient or advanced in both 2008 and 2009. Certain schools at the elementary level showed significant progress.

However, the overall performance of San Leandro schools was less than the average scores for California and Alameda County students in 2009:

Alameda County
English-Language Arts: 54.9% Proficient or Advanced
Mathematics: 49.5% Proficient or Advanced

California
English-Language Arts: 49.9% Proficient or Advanced
Mathematics: 45.8% Proficient or Advanced


For San Leandro, the most significant aspect of the 2009 STAR test results is that the district no longer meets the proficiency standard set by California under the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) statute. As explained by EdSource, under NCLB the state:
sets annual benchmarks (called annual measurable objectives or AMOs) for the percentage of students in each California school and district who should be proficient in English and math. Schools are expected to achieve these benchmarks in order to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) toward a goal of 100% proficient in 2013-14. In 2007-08, the state's performance targets began to rise sharply; and under current NCLB rules, they will continue to do so until [they reach 100% proficiency by] 2013-14.

In addition to all students at each grade level meeting the proficiency standards, students within every racial/ethnic and socioeconomic subgroups must score "proficient" or better.

The AYP goal for unified school districts in California last year was about 35% proficient or advanced. In 2009, the number jumped to 45%. Even though San Leandro's English test scores improved, the district did not meet the 2009 proficiency standard of 45%, and showed no progress in standard math. Nor given the gradual progress of the district over the past six years on STAR tests, is there any realistic chance San Leandro will meet the proficiency standards for the current school year. The standards are 56% proficient or advanced for 2009-2010. The district would have to show a 16% increase in English Language Arts and 22% increase in mathematics. While in some years test scores at individual schools have jumped significantly, there have never been such gains districtwide.

Sadly, the media may report that San Leandro schools are "failing" under NCLB. There certainly is room for substantial improvement in San Leandro's test scores, particularly given the district falls under the average for test scores in Alameda County. We should expect the best of all students.

San Leandro Superintendent Christine Lim has focused much of her work on eliminating the achievement gap among students of different races and ethnic groups within the district. While I supported this work as a board member, I also sought to ensure that the district's top goal was high academic performance by all students. The latest test scores highlight that a substantial achievement gap exists between the performance of San Leandro students and students in other districts in the county.

However, the educational experience of our children should not be distorted by overwhelming pressure placed on teachers and principals to meet unattainable performance levels. When in human history have all students at every school been proficient in every subject? In March 2008, I wrote,
The federal government has intruded in education through the No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB establishes wholly unrealistic standards of performance for our public schools. When schools do not meet these standards, they are labeled failures, triggering a set of escalating sanctions ending in the conversion of our public schools into charter schools. Congress is debating whether to reauthorize NCLB. If Congress applied the same performance measurements to itself, Congress would receive an "F." The federal government should offer a helping hand to schools in need, not punitive sanctions.

NCLB is another example of the truth of the saying that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In time, every school district in California will be labeled a failure under the law, even districts such as Fremont and Pleasanton where students score in the 70% range or higher for proficiency in English. They will never achieve 100% proficiency - unless the state were to so water down the standards as to make them meaningless. As explained in a recent report by the Public Policy Institute of California:
NCLB requires that every student be proficient in math and English-language arts by 2013–14. In California, student proficiency rates have climbed steadily for several years. Yet California schools and districts will soon miss the mark, because NCLB’s timetable for proficiency growth is now climbing rapidly toward the 100 percent goal. Although average student test scores in California are at all-time highs in many subjects, nearly every school and school district in California will be labeled a failure within the next five years.

In the meantime, because San Leandro did not meet the proficiency standards under NCLB, the state may notify the district that it is in "Program Improvement." Program Improvement is the name for the sanctions under NCLB. It involves a succession of interventions that become more severe with each year that a district does not meet the proficiency rates. EdSource provides a summary of Program Improvement for school districts:

And as with schools in PI, consequences for districts (and county offices) in PI grow more serious over time:

The first year of PI is primarily a planning year, with the agency required to revise its existing plan for Title I dollars. In addition, 10% of Title I funds must be set aside for the staff’s professional development, and parents must be informed of the reasons for entering PI.

If the agency again fails to make AYP, it enters Year 2 and must implement its revised Title I plan. In addition, the California Department of Education is to provide technical assistance.

In Year 3, the district enters the “corrective action” phase, and the CDE must take one of the following actions:

* Defer programmatic funds or reduce administrative funds;
* Institute new curriculum and professional development for staff;
* Replace the district staff;
* Remove individual schools from district jurisdiction and arrange for governance;
* Appoint a trustee in place of the superintendent and school board; or
* Abolish or restructure the district.

Community Meeting on San Leandro Hospital: August 27th

"What’s Next for San Leandro Hospital?" is the title of town hall scheduled by State Senator Ellen Corbett. Her flyer asks:

Is a transfer of San Leandro Hospital to Sutter in the best interest of our community? What will this potential transfer mean to services at San Leandro Hospital?

The town hall will be on Thursday, August 27, 2009, at 6 p.m. at the San Leandro Main Library.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Schwarzenegger Eliminates Funding for Domestic Violence Shelters

As part of the budget, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger used his line item veto power to eliminate state funding for all domestic violence shelters in California. The cuts could lead to the closure of some shelters, particularly in rural areas. Where the shelter is operated by an organization with other funding sources, the shelter will likely remain open for the next year, but with reduced staffing and programs. Some shelters may be reduced to offering only emergency services.

In Alameda County, five shelters lost their funding, including a hit of $200,000 for San Leandro's shelter operated by Building Futures with Women and Children. As reported in the San Leandro Times,

Building Futures Executive Director Liz Varela said that the budget cuts will mean that the shelter won’t be able to take in as many people and that Building Futures may have to lay off employees. Building Future’s “Sister Me Home” shelter houses over 200 women and children each year and the state cuts will take $208,000 from the shelter’s $380,000 annual operation budget. The organization has a total annual budget of $2 million, including counseling and career services for 800 clients.

Varela said that shelters like “Sister Me Home” are often the only thing coming between victims and their abusers, and the state funding is vital, perhaps even life-saving. “Basically, over half of our funding is gone,” said Varela. “ And what is so devastating is that this particular money goes to the core of what we do: the safehouse for battered women. Cuts to that make everything else we do more fragile.”

Varela said that Building Futures will have to make across-the-board cuts to staff and programs. Most of the money was to have come from the state on July 1, the start of the fi scal year, and was delayed when the state budget was delayed. Now, it is not coming at all.

Peggy Combs, the Development & Operations Director of BFWC, also sent an email message to supporters of the organization that I've copied below:

Dear Friends and Supporters of Building Futures:

Because we know you are a strong supporter of Building Futures with Women and Children and you have a deep interest in our domestic violence programs, including our safe house shelter, we wanted you to know about the crushing budget cut we received last week when the Governor used his line item veto to wipe out completely the State’s funding for all 94 domestic violence shelters across the state.

As you will see in the attached press release from Building Futures, this means a cut of $208,000 this fiscal year for our safe house – our single largest funding contract for the entire agency. This funding was central to our safe house shelter budget, which overall is about $380,000 per year. Although this cut is about 10% of the agency’s budget for operating five sites and multiple programs, it is over half the budget for the safe house shelter.

Since this shelter is for women and children in immediate danger from their abusers, we do not have options like closing the shelter during the day or operating the shelter without 24-hour staffing. Instead, Building Futures plans to maintain our core shelter program by cutting back on some of the support services that are helping women to make positive transitions to lives and relationships without violence. Domestic violence support groups and other community-based programs will be curtailed in order to realign staff and funding resources with core support for clients in the safe house.

A second press release is attached that is being distributed by a coalition of all five domestic violence agencies in Alameda County , including Building Futures, which addresses our major concerns about the $1,000,000 loss this budget cut imposes on the five domestic violence shelters in this County.

Today there is an article in the SF Chronicle about the State’s cuts to domestic violence shelters across the state, and about what one legislator from San Francisco is proposing in new legislation that would provide some replacement funding for all the hard-hit shelters; here is the link to the article:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2009/08/05/BA76193RL1.DTL

If you have any questions or comments, please contact our Executive Director, Liz Varela , or me.

Meanwhile, please know how much all of us at Building Futures appreciate the many ways you and our “community of supporters” make our work possible with underserved women and children in crisis.

Peggy

Peggy Hynd Combs
Development & Operations Director
Building Futures with Women & Children
1395 Bancroft Avenue, San Leandro , CA 94577
(510) 357-0205 x106 * FAX (510) 357-0688
pcombs@bfwc.org
www.BFWC.org

Serving women and children in crisis to build futures free from homelessness and family violence.


Click here for a story on the impact of the funding cut for the domestic violence shelter for Contra Costa County.

Monday, July 27, 2009

San Leandro City Budget: Already $1 Million in the Red

Last week the San Leandro Times reported:
The city adopted it’s 2009- 2010 budget just last month, but new figures show revenue is already down another million dollars from what was projected just weeks ago. The initial budget had a projected cuts of $2.9 million happen this year. But recent sales tax figures were down by $455,000 and property tax was down $600,000, meaning the city’s budget is already off by over a million dollars.

In response, at a city council finance committee meeting, Mayor Santos wanted the state constitution amended:
Santos also said that he’d like to invoke the city’s charter, which states that the city can impose an increase in property taxes without a vote, but the state passed Prop. 13 in 1978, which caps the increases. Santos said that he’d like to see the state law changed and that, given the budget situation in Sacramento, now is the time to do it.

The continued and growing city defict comes as no suprise. As I noted last month,
The budget planned for next fiscal year 2009-10 is seriously flawed. It continues to draw on reserves and relies on unrealistic projections that tax receipts will increase. In the midst of the worse recession post World War II, the city is planning on a 4% gain in sales taxes and 3% growth in property taxes.

In a San Leandro Times report published on May 20, 2009, I criticized the city manager's proposed budget, which the city council subsequently adopted, predicting it soon become apparent the budget was unbalanced:
“You’ve got a budget that is dead on arrival because it is based on expectations that are un[realistic],” Cassidy said. . . . Cassidy [added] that, if the council approves the proposed budget, they will find themselves going back to the drawing board within weeks. “If they pass this budget, they will be doing the same thing Sacramento does and just passing it for the sake of passing it. They need to roll up their sleeves and make some decision based on sound fiscal sense or they will be back in July or August asking where the money is, because this revenue is not going to just appear.”

Even if the California economy were to quickly turnaround, and to date there is no sign of that occurring as the state unemployment rate continues to grow, the assessed value of properties in San Leandro, upon which property taxes are based, has dropped 4.3% for 2009-2010. Dan Borenstein of the Contra Costa Times stated in a recent column (which included a chart showing the decline in assessments for each city in Alameda and Contra Costa counties),
The economic hit of the housing downturn that struck property owners during the past two years is now whacking local governments with a vengeance, forcing cuts in everything from police and grounds maintenance to firefighting and library services. For years, local officials had figured that the state's unusual property tax assessment formulas, which protect property owners from volatile tax increases when the housing market surges, would also insulate local cities, counties and special districts from tax revenue declines if housing prices fell.

City managers and county administrators had assumed that, in a worst-case scenario, assessments, and the corresponding tax revenues, would only flatten. Last year, they saw signs that they were wrong. This year, reality is hitting them in the face. For the first time since the 1978 passage of Proposition 13, the landmark property tax-cutting initiative, the assessed value of the state's residential and commercial property is expected to decline.

In the spring, the state Legislative Analyst's Office internally forecast a 3.5 percent drop for the 2009-10 fiscal year. Now assessors across the state are starting to report their numbers and, indeed, the trend is unmistakable: Values are dropping. Contra Costa and Alameda counties this month reported their first declines since Prop. 13 passed. Contra Costa was off an average 7 percent and Alameda County about 3 percent.

Again, San Leandro's drop is 4.3%, 1.3% above the average decline for cities in Alameda County.

In the meantime, 110 city employees earned salaries over $100,000 in 2008, up from 78 employees in 2007. The Daily Review recently reported that despite its budget crisis, the City of San Leandro is paying "$38,250 annually to purchase computers and other equipment — which becomes the property of the employee — and fitness club memberships for 45 management and nine confidential employees."

If you increase your expenses while your income is dropping, you should not turn to the public for a bailout. City Hall must get its fiscal house in order before seeking any new taxes.

The city council needs to appreciate that the public sees waste, inefficiency and abuses as justifying their lack of confidence in government, and believe greater openness and accountability are needed. The public should be brought into the process of finding constructive solutions to the city's fiscal crisis.

If we can have a citizen’s commission to address the future of the shoreline, there should be a commission to examine the city’s current and long-term fiscal challenges. Such a commission was established in the City of Alameda. Otherwise, mistrust and cynicism of City Hall will increase, and vital programs and services for our community will continue to be cut.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Saving San Leandro Hospital 5: Write the Board of Supervisors

Next Tuesday, July 14th, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will be discussing the future of San Leandro Hospital. Prior to Tuesday, it is important that we contact the Supervisors and let them know that the planned closure of San Leandro Hospital by Sutter Health will have a significant, negative impact on public health in Alameda County.

Below is email message I sent today to the Supervisors. Please craft your own message or feel free to use the arguments I made in your message to the Supervisors.

The email addresses for the Supervisors are:

scott.haggerty@acgov.org; gail.steele@acgov.org; nate.miley@acgov.org; keith.carson@acgov.org; alice.lai-bitker@acgov.org; shawn.wilson@acgov.org; chris.gray@acgov.org; alison.lewis@acgov.org; seth.kaplan@acgov.org; rodney.brooks@acgov.org

I have been told that not all Supervisors read their email on a regular basis. Therefore, the list includes the chief of staff for each Supervisor.

Please forward this message onto friends and family across the county, and add your city to your message. It is important that the Supervisors see that residents throughout the county are concerned about this issue.

Now is the time to speak up and influence the decision of the Supervisors. Thank you for your support of San Leandro Hospital.

-----------------

Dear Supervisors:

San Leandro Hospital provides the primary acute care in San Leandro, a city of 80,000. The emergency room at the hospital annually serves over 25,000 patients from San Leandro, Oakland, Hayward and other communities.

As you are aware, Sutter Health operates San Leandro Hospital and has announced its intention to close the facility on September 30, 2009. Another healthcare provider, Prime Healthcare, has made a viable proposal to takeover San Leandro Hospital and continue acute care services. However, Sutter Health is refusing to cooperate.

Instead, Sutter Health is seeking to sell the facility to the Alameda County Medical Center (ACMC). ACMC, in turn, has stated its intention to close the emergency room at San Leandro Hospital and transfer the rehabilitation center currently at Fairmont Hospital to San Leandro Hospital.

Closure of San Leandro Hospital will have a sharp, negative impact on public health in San Leandro and across the county:

1) San Leandro Hospital employs over 500 persons who live throughout the county. The loss of these jobs would come at the worst possible time for our county economy. Unemployment in the county stands at nearly 12%, and the county government is facing an unprecedented fiscal crisis.

2) The loss of the emergency room at San Leandro Hospital increases the likelihood hospitals in Oakland, Castro Valley and Hayward will go on diversion at peak times, jeopardizing patient safety. When a heart attack or stroke occurs, every minute is precious. In turn, as acute service capacity is taxed in the middle of the county, a negative, ripple effect will be felt in areas to the north (Berkeley and Albany) and south (Newark, Union City and Fremont).

3) While to date most persons that contracted the swine flu have recovered, over 170 persons have died in the U.S., including two in Alameda County. The first wave of 1918 flu too caused few deaths. It was then followed by a different form of the virus that killed 50 million persons worldwide.

U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius has warned state and local officials to plan for the worst-case scenario of the virus reappearing with renewed strength this fall. If the swine flu should return in force, thousands of county residents will require hospitalization. Alameda County will need every hospital bed it has right at the time Sutter plans to close San Leandro Hospital.

Accordingly, I request that you keep San Leandro Hospital open. I recognize that Fairmont Hospital is need of a seismic retrofit. However, you should direct ACMC to either solve the earthquake safety issues at Fairmont Hospital or continue to operate the emergency room at San Leandro Hospital along with offering rehabilitation care. ACMC should not solve one problem by creating another.

Alternatively, you could direct ACMC to rescind its offer to Sutter Health and allow Prime Healthcare to negotiate with Sutter Health for transfer of operations at San Leandro Hospital.

Thank you for addressing this important public health issue for our county and ensuring that emergency and acute care at San Leandro Hospital continues.

Stephen Cassidy
San Leandro