Showing posts from 2018

San Leandro's Restriction On Speech Of City Commissioners Unprecedented And Wrong

On July 6, 2018, the City mailed a legal document to all San Leandro commissioners requiring that they sign the document by July 13, 2018, attesting to their acknowledgement that they are contractually obligated to never "demean or besmirch the reputation" of Mr. Zapata.  Failure to sign this document will result in their "forfeiture" from office as a commissioner. The Mayor and City Council have made a serious mistake in placing a restriction on the speech of all City employees and City Commissioners in the course of reaching an agreement with former City Manager Chris Zapata for his departure in exchange for a payment of $350,000. Presumably the Mayor and City Council acted on the poor advice of the City Attorney.  But the decision is their responsibility. The Mayor and City Council have caused great stress and anxiety for all City Commissioners - who give freely of their time for the betterment of the community. [Disclosure: My wife is a commissioner. She refus…

Amend San Leandro Cannabis Ordinance To Allow Adult Recreational Sales

I have advocated that San Leandro amend its cannabis ordinance to allow the dispensaries licensed in San Leandro to sell cannabis to adults for recreational use. Presently the ordinance limits sales to solely persons with a medical authorization card. Unless you possess such a card, you will not be able to walk into a cannabis dispensary in San Leandro and purchase any product. At least one dispensary, the Davis Street Wellness Center, and possibly a second cannabis dispensary will open in San Leandro later this year. [Disclosure: I work for a company whose CEO is the primary owner of the Davis Street Wellness Center.] There are several reasons why I support this amendment to the local ordinance. The principal one is the sale of cannabis to adults for recreational purposes is now legal under state law. There is no need for any adult to spend $50-$80 a year to obtain a medical marijuana card. Consequently, there is no reason why sales to adults should remain restricted in local cities t…

"Says It’s Time for City Manager To Move On"

Below is a letter in today's San Leandro Times from San Leandran Al Frates whom I know personally and hold in high regard. I agree with Al's point. In my opinion, San Leandro City Manager's grossly unprofessional and retaliatory conduct following the accusation of sexual harassment made against him warrants his departure from City Hall. Says It’s Time for City Manager To Move On Editor: I’ve lived in San Leandro for 54 years. Built Washington Manor’s Foster’s Freeze in 1964, Alan’s Coffee Shop in 1969. We raised six children here. I first met Rose Padilla Johnson 27 years ago at 1190 Davis Street (Homer Richardson’s Church). Since then, Rose has helped the poor, the needy and pre-school children at five school sites. Rose has a $15 million budget to run the clinic. She raises most of their money from state and federal grants, foundations, local businesses, Eden Township and our city. Rose is marvelous in raising money for the Davis Street Family Resource Center for the wor…

Trump's Cruelty Reaches New Level

While this blog is focused on San Leandro, I must express my outrage that President Trump is elevating cruelty to a mass level in America to serve his perceived political interests. His policy of separating children from their parents who have been detained for entering the US without documentation is causing irreparable harm to these children and extreme stress and anxiety to the parents.  He combines this cruelty with outright lying and deception by claiming this new policy was forced upon him by the Democrats. Walter Shaub had aptly stated: “Citing deterrence as a basis for the atrocities at the border is an admission that the goal is terror. Citing Romans 13 is to emulate the German Nazis, slaveholders and South Africa’s supporters of apartheid. This is reminiscent of the Japanese internment camps we set up in WWII.”  
For context: “President Trump has calculated that he will gain political leverage in congressional negotiations by continuing to enforce a policy he claims to hate — …

Comment on City of San Leandro Plans for Parcel Tax in November 2018

I support tax measures that enhance public services and programs as long as I am confident the money will be well spent - which requires at a minimum that the public agency is currently managing its budget well.
Accordingly, I am opposed to the hasty and ill-planned effort by the City of San Leandro to place a parcel tax measure on the November 2018 ballot.The City is running a significant budget deficit due to exploding pension costs for public safety workers.Any funds raised in the new tax will be used to backfill this deficit and not address the cause of the City budget deficit nor result in any sustained, enhanced services for our community. Moreover, the San Leandro school district's parcel tax is expiring in June 2018. The district is managing its funds well.Renewing its parcel tax is vital for the continued success of our schools.If the City Council places its own parcel tax on the same ballot as the school parcel tax, the City Council will likely cause both measures to …

A Parcel Tax for San Leandro Schools

I support a measure that would raise revenue for our local public schools to lower class sizes. California has some of the most overcrowded classrooms in the nation. Large classes are an obstacle to student achievement and cause stress for teachers leading to greater teacher turnover and less young persons entering the profession.  The school district's current $39 annual parcel tax expires on June 30, 2018.  Here is a recent letter to the San Leandro Times from the local teachers' union President Jon Sherr on this topic: There has been a quiet renaissance in the San Leandro public schools over the last 5 years.The changes have been numerous and when taken as a whole, dramatic.  A partial list includes: increased Advanced Placement enrollment leading to a recent award by College Board naming SLHS a national leader (San Leandro Times, April 12), SAT testing for all high school juniors, ongoing improvements to each school’s facilities, teacher-led staff development, the mainten…

San Leandro Budget Presentation Tonight

Tonight, Apr. 9th, 7pm at San Leandro City Hall, City Budget Director will provide budget update. What's unstated in the presentation is City is running such high annual deficits that it is on target to burn through all of its reserves - including $5 million set aside in case of a natural disaster - in less than 5 years. This is occurring despite a strong local economy and City annual revenues reaching an all time high level of over $110 million.

Opposition to SB 827: Radical Change & Anti-Democratic

California Senate Bill 827 pending in the Legislature seeks to address a serious concern (the housing crisis) in a fundamentally undemocratic manner that will disrupt the lives of countless Californians. 

Here is a video of my comments concerning the bill before the San Leandro City Council on March 19, 2018, asking that they place on a future agenda consideration of a resolution in opposition to the bill. If you agree with me, please write the and ask that they oppose the bill.

#SB827 effectively rezones millions of properties across California including hundreds if not thousands of homes in San Leandro including in the Farrelly Pond, Best Manor, Cherry Wood, Broadmoor, Estudillo Estates, Assumption Parish, Upper and Lower Bal, Halcyon Foothill, and Floresta Gardens neighborhoods.  

If you live in a home on a parcel designated for single family homes that is a certain proximity (1/2 mile in general) to a BART station or any AC Transit bus stop where the bus co…

Self-Driving Cars Are Safe Until They Encounter The Unexpected (Which Should Be Expected)

I don't understand why police officials rush to make a statement not based on the facts. 

On Monday, the day after the fatal Uber crash in Arizona, Sylvia Moir, the police chief, told reporters that from her viewing of the video, it appeared that neither the driver nor the self-driving car were at fault. "It’s very clear it would have been difficult to avoid this collision in any kind of mode,” Moir stated. "The driver said it was like a flash, the person walked out in front of them." We were led to believe the victim entered the roadway suddenly right before the collision. Now we learn that (1) the victim was in the roadway already when struck, (2) the victim could be seen from a considerable distance before she was struck, (3) the driver in the Uber self-driving car was not acting as a backup, e.g. she was not looking at the road, (4) the Uber vehicle neither slowed down nor tried to swerve to avoid the collision.  The car's technology - video, radar & other…

Florida School Shooting: Translating Anger Into Action

The Florida shooting has left me so angry and upset with our President, Congress and society as a whole. We value the right to bear arms to such an extent that it is perfectly lawful for individuals to own military grade weapons that have one purpose only: kill scores of people in just a few minutes. 
What has also affected me is having a daughter who is a freshman in high school. Five of the victims were 14-year old girls like my daughter. I can't imagine the grief, sorrow and rage all of the parents of the victims must be experiencing. 
As Mayor, after the elementary school massacre in Newton, Connecticut in 2012, I joined with over 700 other Mayors in calling for Congress to pass legislation to take high capacity rifles and ammunition magazines off our streets. That did not obviously occur. I plan on channeling my outrage into donating to Democratic candidates for Congress this Fall and supporting gun control advocacy groups.

San Leandro's Pension Crisis

Rapidly increasing employee pension costs pose a grave threat to San Leandro's solvency. Absent action by the City Council, programs and service we rely upon for our safety and quality of life in San Leandro will suffer significant budget cuts in as little as four years, and only get worse thereafter. Despite the booming local economy and recently adopted tax measures, the City budget is in the red with no end in sight for the deficit spending. By Fiscal Year 2021-2022, current projections show the City will have exhausted its reserves for economic uncertainties even if the economy continues to expand. I outlined solutions that must be undertaken to avoid the impending fiscal disaster on February 13, 2018, at a City Council work session. You can view my comments on YouTube.

The entire work session can be viewed at Here is a copy of the San Leandro Times article on the issue: City Unprepared for Loomin…

Thoughts on Florida Shooting & Active Shooter Police Excercises

Seeing photos of the victims of the Florida school shooting is heart wrenching. My heart goes out to the families and friends of the loved ones who died. Such beautiful young people taken away by the act of one person, obviously troubled and obviously equipped with a military-grade weapon that no civilian in our society needs or should possess.
What happened in Florida reminded me that the San Leandro Police Department, 5 years, ago conducted a major active shooter exercise at San Leandro High School in coordination with the school district, Alameda County Fire Department and Paramedics Plus. Subsequently, the police department undertook a similar exercise at the Bayfair Mall.
I had advocated that the police department undertake mock active shooter exercises. At the time, some in the community criticized me for supporting these exercises because, they claimed, these were such rare events that it was a waste of city money to train for them.
Today, mass killings have sadly become p…

Spend Valentine's Day At A Community Broadband Workshop

Tonight there is a Community Broadband Workshop at 6:00 PM at the Main Library (Lecture Hall): 300 Estudillo Avenue.

Yes, the City is paying a considerable amount of money to a consultant to develop a broadband strategy and the City and consultant chose Valentine's Day to hold one of the workshops. Could they have picked a worse night if they wanted strong community input.It's been my view that the City Council doesn't need a consultant to tell them what they already should know: We want Lit San Leandro - ultra high speed and affordable broadband - extended to our residential neighborhoods.

Leaving that all aside,below are the details on this project:

"In 2011, the City of San Leandro executed a License Agreement with San Leandro Dark Fiber to build a fiber optic network specifically to advance the City’s economic goals. On the heels of the Great Recession, the priority was to ensure that San Leandro businesses would have access to state of the art telecommunications inf…

San Leandro Facing New Fiscal Crisis

Next Tuesday evening (2/13 at 7 pm at City Hall) is an important meeting concerning our City’s solvency and the services we as San Leandrans rely upon. CalPERS officials are coming to San Leandro to provide the City Council an update on pension benefit costs. Some may say this is equivalent to the wolf providing an update on the status of the chicken coop. Despite the inherent self-interest of CalPERS officials to downplay the severe fiscal threat San Leandro is facing from rising pension costs, I am hopeful that the City Council will be provided accurate information and ask demanding questions. Why is the presentation important? The City Council last year approved a two-year budget that included an operating deficit for the first time since San Leandro emerged from the Greet Recession. San Leandro is having to draw down reserves to cover its deficit which stands at $8.2 million this and next fiscal year. The good news is the City’s reserves for economic uncertainty are strong, st…

An Important San Leandro City Council Meeting On Monday, Feb. 5th, 7 pm

This message was posted on NextDoor by San Leandro resident Aaron Bukofzer:

"This coming Monday, February 5th, the San Leandro City Council will be holding a meeting at which they will be discussing a process for updating and improving the Zoning Code. Many of us from the community believe that we now have an opportunity to close some of the loopholes created by the prior Zoning Code amendments in 2016. We want to make sure that future development is of an appropriate scale that complies with the intent of the 2016 amendments that were enacted with substantial public input. To that end, we've met with with members of the City Council in recent weeks. Also, on Jan 8th, we attended the City Council meeting and raised three issues during the public comments section. Evan Adams spoke about ambiguities in the General Plan that could be interpreted as saying that all P-zoned properties should be consider "Downtown mixed use". Evan pointed out the absurdity of this int…

San Leandro Should Authorize Its Dispensaries To Sell Adult/Recreational Cannabis

On the topic of San Leandro finances, the City is counting on taxes from cannabis dispensaries to help it fill its brand new annual deficit. The City is projecting $1 million in 2018-19 from its new dispensaries.  This would be helpful - but would not close the City's fiscal hole as the deficit may be as large as $7 million over the next two years. Moreover, as I have been working in the cannabis industry since last Fall, I have a specialized knowledge of many of the issues facing cannabis businesses.  I shared this information recently with the City Finance Director and City Council. In short, I stated the City should exercise extreme caution in its cannabis tax revenue projections. I gave two reasons:  1) Although the City has authorized 3 dispensary licenses.  Only two operators - Davis Street Wellness Center and Blum San Leandro - appear likely to be opening in 2018. I have no idea if and when the first city licensee, Harborside San Leandro, will open. 2) The legalization of …

San Leandro City Budget Turns From Black To Red

Despite a booming local economy, a $5 million general fund surplus when I left office, and overseeing the Yes on Measure HH campaign that resulted in a $10 million boast in sales tax revenue in fiscal year 2015-16, the City of San Leandro is now running multi-million dollar deficits with no end in sight. 

How could this occur? Exploding employee pension costs is the prime reason. Employee salary and benefit costs jumped $7 million from fiscal year 2016-17 to the current fiscal year.
Mayor Cutter and City Council needed to continue to make progress on employee pension costs in labor negotiations and didn’t. These photos are from San Leandro Finance Director David Baum’s presentation at the city planning retreat on January 20, 2018.  Here is a link to presentation powerpoint.

Here is an article on the San Leandro budget deficit from the San Leandro Times:

City Budget Forecast:  In the Red
San Leandro Times, February 1, 2018

The City of San Leandro’s unfunded pension costs have doubled in the …

Statement Concerning San Leandro City Manager

Here is my statement on the sexual harassment and abuse of power allegations made against San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata:

It saddens me to say the following as I know and worked closely with City Manager Chris Zapata for three years:  The Mayor and City Council must place him on administrative leave.  I say this not because Rose Johnson, the longstanding director of the Davis Street Family Resource Center, has alleged that the City Manager sought to use his power over City resources to pressure her into a sexual relationship.  I do not claim to know if this allegation is truthful.   
What I do know is that last week the City Manager issued a 23-page, single-spaced memorandum severely criticizing Rose Johnson and those he blames for the allegations made against him.
The appropriate action for the City Manager would have been to issue a short statement denying the allegations and pledging full cooperation with the City’s internal investigation.  Instead, the City Manager issued a ra…

The Future of Our City: City Council Planning Session

This Saturday, January 20th, the San Leandro City Council is holding its annual planning session at the San Leandro Senior Community Center, located at 13909 East 14th Street, from 8:30 a.m. until approximately 2:00 p.m. The meeting will include opportunities for public comments and questions.

Why is this meeting important? For two reasons: (1) the City Finance Director provides a multi-year forecast on the city budget and (2) the City Council sets goals and priorities for our local government for the coming year and beyond. If we want to influence what issues our local elected officials should address, Saturday is the time to speak up.

In addition, the budget update is extremely important. Neighboring cities have reported that despite rising revenues they expect to run deficits in the coming years due to continuing increases in pension and retiree health care costs.

San Leandro has been running a budget surplus the past several years. That all may be about to change (or already…

What is the core measure of leadership by a Mayor & City Council?

Timely resolving significant community problems is my answer. Last night the San Leandro City Council had the opportunity to address a significant community concern pertaining to a zoning matter that affects not only the Estudillo Estates neighborhood but also the Broadmoor, the Manor and South San Leandro. Instead of taking clear and decisive action, the City Council deferred to staff to develop a proposed course of action without any set timeline or a defined process. One Council member voiced concern that taking any other action would be "micro managing staff." Accordingly, I sent the following message to the Mayor and City Council today: Dear Mayor and City’s council - Timely addressing significant community concerns is not micro managing staff. Rather it is the essence of leadership. You are given political power to solve problems and lead our community. That requires decisiveness. That requires setting priorities for staff and even disagreeing with staff on some oc…

Need for Independent Appraisal in Sale of City-owned Properties

I sent the following message to the Mayor and City Council today concerning the need for independent appraisal prior to the sale of any City owned properties, including property along the San Leandro shoreline for the proposed Cal Coast development:
I see the City Council has several properties under discussion for transfer/sale in closed session agenda today.
3.A. Closed session pursuant to California Government Code section 54956.8: CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATORS Property: Alameda County APN 075 0209 001 00 Agency negotiator: Cynthia Battenberg, Community Development Director Negotiating parties: Wells Fargo Bank Under negotiation: Price and Terms of Payment City of San Leandro
3.B. CONFERENCE WITH REAL PROPERTY NEGOTIATORS Properties: Alameda County APNs 079A 0475 009 04, 079A 0590 001 07, 079A 0590 001 05, 079A 0590 003 00, 079A 0590 002 00, 079A 0590 004 00, 080G 0900 004 01 Agency negotiator: Cynthia Battenberg, Community Development Director Negotiating Parties: Cal-…