Fremont’s City Hall chambers–not really much of a hall, really, nor a chambers–was packed Friday night to hear from mayoral candidates Mayor Bill Harrison and Vice Mayor Lily Mei. Growth, whether smart, dumb, or ravenous, is definitely on the minds of Fremonters this November. When Harrison, a first-term mayor, said he would not take a pledge against accepting campaign contributions from developers, members of the audience, presumably Mei supporters (she does not accept developer dollars), derisively laughed at him. Harrison appeared blindsided by the guffaws for a full minute while his challenger answered another question. But that wasn’t the only embarrassing moment Friday night. At the conclusion of the roughly 45-minute candidates forum, Harrison rose from his seat and turned to shake Mei’s hand, but instead she stayed seated and bent over, momentarily disappearing from the audience’s vantage point as Harrison stood awkwardly with his outstretched hand. When asked if Harrison thought Mei had dissed him on the dais, he said, “I thought so, but whatever.” Afterwards, Mei dismissed the diss. “It’s not like that.” She later explained that she was reaching down for the water bottle she placed under the desk. “Our water bottles were next to each other. I thought he was reaching for his,” she said. These types of incidents tend to occur whenever a sitting councilmember challenges an incumbent mayor. They also tend to spill out during City Council meetings, too.

Oakland Council President Lynette Gibson
McElhaney, right, with challenger Noni Session
during a forum in August.

GRAND JURY BIAS? Last week, the Oakland city administration received an extension to file a response to the Alameda County grand jury report released in June. The report basically reiterated scathing articles in the East Bay Express against Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney. The grand jury found McElhaney’s used her position for personal gain when she interfered with the zoning process for a proposed building next to her home. The grand jury said McElhaney’s actions were a conflict of interest and a violation of government ethics. Meanwhile, McElhaney is up for re-election this November against first-time candidate Noni Session, a well-known Oakland community activist. McElhaney should have no problem defeating Session, but incumbents are always a jittery bunch. A week ago, during the Alameda County Democratic Party’s endorsement meeting, some central committee members slammed the grand jury for exhibiting a bias toward McElhaney, in addition, to other black elected officials in recent years. One member, during the party’s deliberations for McElhaney’s race, said the process the Alameda County grand jury uses to choose which cases it pursues to tilted against minorities. The party ultimately endorsed McElhaney.


WHAT DIDN’T SWALWELL KNOW One of the main criticizes lodged by Eric Swalwell against Pete Stark four years ago was that the 40-year incumbent had become far too removed from the communities he represented. After Swalwell upset Stark, he embarked on a long and deliberate public relations effort to highlight his tireless travel from D.C. to the East Bay virtually every weekend. The idea was encapsulated within the posting of his penny loafers entering and exiting airplanes. Four years later, it appears Swalwell needs to spend far more time in Hayward. His support of disgraced Hayward Superintendent Stan Dobbs looked foolish even before the school district’s devastating report on his wrongdoings was released Sept. 15. That’s because a majority of what was found by the investigator was known to Hayward political insiders for quite some time. News of Dobbs’ handling of the Ray McDonald appearance at Tennyson High School and the print shop scandal involving a school board member’s City Council campaign was already public knowledge. Less so was the affair with the former school district employee and controversy over the Made in Hayward Foundation campaign that followed former Hayward Councilmember Olden Henson never getting paid for starting the non-profit. Aside from the conspiracy against a school board member alleged by Dobbs and the physical abuse, according to his former mistress, everything else in the report should have been known beforehand to Swalwell and his staff, that is, if they were somewhat in tune with the other the “other side of the hill” in Hayward. And when it comes to Hayward’s school board election this November, there is some belief (Dobbs, apparently, included) that if the right combination of the pro-Dobbs slate of candidates, now backed by Swalwell, win along with School Board Trustee Annette Walker, up for re-election, that Dobbs to conceivable return to his post after the election.


CLASS-LESS A grassroots organization named C.L.A.S.S. is offering a slate of three candidates to oppose the three school board incumbents. The tenor of the board has long been criticized, but oddly the political action committee leading the effort is bankrolled by the California Apartment Association and the Hayward Chamber of Commerce. What exactly is the message? Vote for these candidates who are backed by interests that effectively want the parents of Hayward school children to scramble just to afford rising rents and another group that wants to keep down wages? In addition, one of the main proponent of C.L.A.S.S. is Hayward Councilmember Sara Lamnin, a candidate who lost numerous council and school board races before getting elected two years ago on the strength of more than $100,000 in special interests backing from SEIU Local 1021. The intersection between the union and its rival, the California Apartment Association, is just another screwy development in Hayward. Meanwhile, during a recent endorsement meeting for the powerful Alameda Labor Council, one Hayward school board candidate named Wynn Grcich refused to sit next to embattled school trustee John Taylor, who was accused of misusing the district’s print shop for his recent City Council campaign. Grcich, who was also a council candidate in June, reportedly told the labor council she would not sit next to a “corrupt” individual like Taylor.

Rep. Eric Swalwell and Assemblymember
Catharine Baker last week.

HERE & THERE Almost $700,000 has been spent already in the 16th Assembly District by the Democratic and Republican state parties since June 30. The total also includes county committees from each party…Rep. Eric Swalwell supports Democrat Cheryl Cook-Kallio in the 16th Assembly District, but why did he appear last week on a panel in Pleasanton with Cook-Kallio’s opponent Republican Assemblymember Catharine Baker?… In Alameda, long-time incumbent City Treasurer Kevin Kennedy and City Auditor Kevin Kearney–“The Kevins”–are basically running as one against two challengers backed by the local public safety unions. Lawn signs featuring both candidates can be see around Alameda. While the commingling of campaigns is odd, it’s not illegal. That’s because Alameda does not have limits on campaign contributions. If so, there could be questions of whether the contributions are being used evenly by each candidate or benefiting one candidate over the other.