A’s Ballpark Legislation Passes Legislative Committee 

Meanwhile, Oakland council holds off on tax increase and pioneering San Leandro mayor dies.

click to enlarge The proposed ballpark at Howard Terminal passed a legislative hearing.

Photo courtesy of The Oakland A's

The proposed ballpark at Howard Terminal passed a legislative hearing.

Like an early season extra-inning baseball game, A's fans waited all afternoon for an opportunity to show their support for an Assembly bill that could stitch together a crazy quilt of land trust issues for the proposed Howard Terminal ballpark

It wasn't a walk-off victory just yet, but the Assembly Natural Resources Committee Monday evening moved the bill introduced by Assemblymember Rob Bonta, as the city, Port of Oakland, and other jurisdictions begin laying the groundwork for regulatory approval of the privately financed waterfront ballpark. Following the 7-0 shutout, the bill moves next to the Assembly Local Government Committee.

"This project means a great deal to Oakland and the East Bay," Bonta said. "It's not only about baseball. AB1191 is vital to keeping the A's rooted in Oakland."

The bill hopes to stitch together a "patchwork" of wetlands, filled-in former tidelands, and title uncertainties at the Howard Terminal site, which is just west of Jack London Square. The issue of maintaining local governmental oversight appeared to be crucial to some members of the Natural Resources Committee, based on their comments Monday.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and A's President Dave Kaval briefly addressed the Assembly committee in support of the legislation. A long line of supporters clad in A's green and gold also offered encouragement.

But an equal-sized group of union members who work at the port, stated opposition to the bill, asserting a ballpark and housing would undermine the working port and ultimately mean a loss of jobs.

Another piece of legislation associated with the proposed Howard Terminal ballpark comes to the State Senate Governance and Finance Committee on Wednesday. Senate Bill 293, authored by East Bay State Sen. Nancy Skinner would allow the city of Oakland to establish an infrastructure financing plan for the ballpark waterfront district and later the issuance of bonds.

Meanwhile, Phil Matier reported in the San Francisco Chronicle that the A's have a deal to purchase the county's share of the Coliseum complex for $85 million.

Oakland City Council votes to hold off on Measure AA tax revenues

Fearing an uncertain legal fight and that Oakland voters might become further disillusioned with their city government, the Oakland City Council voted against collecting the Measure AA parcel tax — at least, for this year.

Measure AA was a voter-initiated ballot measure that proposed a $198 parcel tax to fund early education programs in Oakland. More than 62 percent of voters backed the initiative, but ballot information given to voters said the tax measure required a two-thirds majority for passage.

However, based on a new legal theory that the measure possibly only required a bare majority vote, the Oakland City Council voted last December to certify the election and direct the city administration to validate the result. However, after housing industry advocate Greg McConnell sued the city, the council voted in closed session April 2 to refrain from collecting the parcel tax.

Supporters for collecting the tax cite a recent state Supreme Court ruling that ballot initiatives, such as Measure AA, which gained inclusion on the ballot through a signature-gathering campaign, require a simple majority of support.

Opponents question whether the petition to qualify for the ballot was truly driven by voter since the measure was largely facilitated and funded by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf's campaign

Any decision by the courts on Measure AA's efficacy could take up to 2-3 years before being determined. Oakland City Council President Rebecca Kaplan, instead, urged for the council to monitor the case in the courts over the next year while also eyeing a potential do-over of the ballot measure campaign in time for the March 2020 primary election, at the earliest. A majority of the council agreed. The vote was 5-2, with Councilmembers Larry Reid and Dan Kalb voting against. Councilmember Lynette McElhaney remains on bereavement leave.

Meanwhile, assemblymember Rob Bonta said he could introduce a bill to ask the state to waive the remainder of the Oakland Unified School District's $100 million loan, but he won't because it doesn't have a chance of succeeding. "I like to introduce bills that pass, he said. 

Reid and Gallo support bill aiming to stop sideshows

A few days after a weekend sideshow in Oakland resulted in a transport truck and an A.C. Transit bus being set on fire, Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid said the city must support an Assembly bill that will further criminalize participation in the dangerous impromptu sideshows occurring on city streets.

"The sideshow is something that is getting completely out of control," Reid during last Tuesday's Oakland City Council meeting. "It is time for this council to fight hard for this piece of legislation."

Assembly Bill 410, introduced by Southern California Assemblymemer Adrin Nazarian last February, seeks to punish those who participate in sideshows with a misdemeanor and a $10,000 fine. In addition, their vehicles could be impounded for 30 days. A second violation would bring a felony and a $25,000 fine.

Councilmember Noel Gallo, who has long denounced the sideshows that often proliferate in his Fruitvale district, said he will testify in support of the bill at the April 23 Assembly Public Safety Committee in Sacramento.

Despite Gallo working with community leaders to limit the sideshows, they have gravitated from the neighborhoods to business corridors, he said. In the past sideshows were typically organized under the cover of night, but some are happening in broad daylight during weekend afternoons. "We're just waiting for one of those cars to get out of control and hurt many bystanders," he said.

Former San Leandro Mayor sought to break city's bonds of segregation

Tony Santos, a former San Leandro mayor, stalwart progressive and friend of labor, who lead the once-segregated city toward a more equally diverse future, died last week at the age of 86. He had been in declining health for months and passed away at his San Leandro home of over 50 years.

Santos goes down in San Leandro history as one of its longest-serving elected officials, serving 18 years as a mayor and councilmember. He served two stints on the San Leandro City Council, representing his West San Leandro district for two terms from 1984-1992. He returned to the council in 2000 and served six years before winning election to mayor in 2006.

He will be remembered for helping the city to get past its ugly past as a whites-only enclave that the 1970 U.S. Census found to include just a hand full of African-American families. Decades of racism fueled collusion among white homeowners and real estate agents effectively blocking most African-Americans from the ability to buy a home in San Leandro. "When people in San Leandro wanted to keep it the way it was, Tony was active in ending restrictive covenants," said San Leandro political consultant Charles Gilcrest.

"There was an Old San Leandro that wanted to keep people out," said Vice Mayor Corina Lopez, who got her first shot in local government through Santos. "Tony was against that."

He also was respected within the city's burgeoning Asian American community as a strong early supporter of Councilmember Benny Lee, who would later become the city's first-ever Asian-American elected official in 2012.

Councilmember Corina Lopez sug­gested naming a park in his memory. If the committee determines renaming a park or placing a monument at one, Grover Cleveland park on O'Donnell Avenue, near Costco, has been mentioned as a possibility. Santos had participated in the park's creation.

San Leandro: Rosy fiscal outlook includes small budget surplus next year

A new financial consultant, a good economy in San Leandro, and a little bit of old-fashioned belt-tightening is bringing a small surplus to the city of San Leandro for the upcoming fiscal year, according to an early budget presentation to the City Council Monday night.

San Leandro Finance Director David Baum projects the city will have a $48,000 surplus on a $117 million operating budget when the new fiscal year begins on July 1. San Leandro dipping slightly into the black to start the fiscal year may not seem impressive, said City Manager Jeff Kay, but the news is far better than recently worries of an $8 million deficit.

"Eight million dollars in not much more than a year swinging from the negative to the positive is not small on a $117 million budget. That's a huge swing and that's very positive," said Kay.

In Other News ...

Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo said Home Depot sent him a letter indicating they would close stores in his district and another in Emeryville if growing homeless encampments are not controlled, The E'Ville Eye reported. ... Oakland officials voted to fill in cuts made recently by the Oakland Unified School District for restorative justice programs, foster care managers, and libraries, KTVU reported. ... Oakland Housing Chief Michelle Byrd is leaving her post. NBC Bay Area reports she was fired. The department has faced criticism for lax enforcement of the city's eviction regulations. ... The Alameda County District Attorney's Office released documents under the state's new police accountability records law on eight former police officers, which include instances of sexual assault and dishonesty, the East Bay Times and KQED reported. ... The Berkeley Symphony Orchestra named Joseph Young, 37, as its next music director, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. ... The last Oakland Raiders game ever to be played in Oakland could be Dec. 15 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Sports Illustrated reported that the Raiders have the "most unfair" schedule in the league. ...

Three hedge funds are reaping the benefits of buying 45 million shares of PG&E stock last January when its price dropped to $6 a share amid talks the utility was planning to declare bankruptcy. Now the price has jumped to $24 and the hedge funds have gained $700 million from the transaction, the Wall Street Journal reported. ... PG&E asked state regulators to approve a plan to increase utility bills for California customers by about $20 a month. ... The crumbling Richmond-San Rafael Bridge has about a decade of use before it needs to be replaced, a Metropolitan Transportation Commission representative told the Mercury News. ... Big Soda registered another super-sized victory in the state Legislature after downing a third proposed bill over the last month to limit access to sugary drinks.

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