By Steven Tavares
@eastbaycitizen on twitter

Within most every controversy lies a common thread sometimes lead to wholly unexpected views of the same issue. The East Bay is steeped in layers and a slight provocation last week by Chabot College toward the proposed Russell City power plant brought a new angle to long-running feuds between Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi and Senate Majority Leader Ellen Corbett.

May 5 was a busy day at Chabot College. Not only was the community college celebrating Cinco de Mayo, but a noon rally and walking demonstration was planned from the campus to the site of the nearby natural gas-fired power plant proposed by Calpine. Later that afternoon, Corbett was scheduled to discuss local and state issues at the college by invitation of the political science department. Corbett is a former Chabot College professor.

The San Leandro state senator, though, cancelled the engagement at the last minute because of a conflicting state budget hearing, but some believe Corbett was reticent over flyers promoting the Calpine demonstration along with a belief the speaking engagement would become a discussion on the power plant over other matters. The event was described beforehand as a two-hour event beginning with roughly 20 minutes of remarks by Corbett.

Corbett said Friday she called to confirm the speaking engagement one day before, but was later advised by a Chabot professor to reconsider because of a belief the appearance would veer into unrelated subjects other than the state budget and higher education. The senator did not disclose any specifics of the possible disruption, but said she nonetheless intended to keep the appointment before the professor pushed further to cancel. Corbett said she instead stayed in Sacramento until the evening to work on the forthcoming May revise of the state budget.

The nearly decade-long issue of placing the Russell Center Energy Center on the Hayward shoreline just over a mile away from the large community college has recently raised in profile since the chancellor of the college openly defied the city and county in standing firm against the power plant on the grounds it put the health of the campus’ 20,000 student at risk. The city and Calpine say the potential pollution emitted from the plant will be negligible.

For her part, Corbett’s involvement in the power plant issue has been on the periphery. Observers say her participation no greater or less than any other local politician, but they also see the silent hand of Hayashi in the current dust-up. Interestingly enough there are some important connections between the leadership of Chabot College, Hayashi and the Calpine controversy.

Chabot College Chancellor Joel Kinnamon is the partner of Hayashi’s well-tailored district director Chris Parman. A few years ago, after taking their vows before then-San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom, the nuptials were infamously trumpeted by Hayashi’s office by press release, while some claim Kinnamon often introduced Parman as his nephew.

While Hayashi has gone out of her way to stay neutral on the power plant issue, her aide recently said she has taken no stance either way, sources say she is supportive of Kinnamon and the college and may be looking at the big picture in terms of her political future.

It is quite typical of the assemblywoman, who is known to have a highly vindictive streak, to deploy lieutenants against her political enemies, many say. Often times she appears to be a lonely island among local leaders with the amount private vitriol against her ranging from some of the most salacious comments around town to questions of her mental health. While Corbett and her office notoriously clam up in response to Hayashi’s actions, the two Sacramento lawmakers are nowhere close to a unified team when district concerns travel north up the interstate.

Last year, the a bill regarding the Eden Township Healthcare District and San Leandro Hospital failed to pass in committee when Hayashi, one of its co-sponsored, failed to vote. Hayashi claimed her competing bill was better, but it too languished. In addition, rumors of Hayashi coveting Corbett’s senate seat heated up before last June’s primary and there are invariably questions of whether both would ever jump into the long-awaited free-for-all known as the aftermath of Rep. Pete Stark congressional seat. In that case, Corbett’s cancellation last week may have been no more than the state senator averting a potential land mine for use by Hayashi at some later date.