News & Notes 

Oaklanders won't be bribed; Alameda wants a bigger say; Kaiser and the state trade blows; Jerry Brown has pointy ears.

Field of pipe dreams: It's looking increasingly unlikely that a downtown ballpark for the A's will ever get built. On May 21, the Oakland City Council voted 5-3 to go ahead with a housing development on the twelve-acre site that consultants had pegged as ideal for a new stadium. But even before the council threw ballpark backers that wicked curve, Oakland's most prominent A's fan, City Manager Robert Bobb, quietly commissioned a poll to see if Oaklanders would back a ballpark ballot measure. City Hall insiders who have seen the unreleased data say things don't look too promising for the park.

The survey also tested what kind of incentives could be thrown in to win voter support -- options included renovating the historic Fox Theater and building affordable housing. But with the nightmare of the Raiders deal still fresh in taxpayers' minds, it appears Oaklanders are loath to see public funds (up to $187 million, according to the latest figures) dumped into a stadium, with or without theaters and low-rent apartments to sweeten the pot.

Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, a vocal critic of the Bobbpark, says he heard about the poll, but he doesn't need one to tell him how voters feel. "A majority of Oakland residents will not support tax dollars going into a new stadium," he says.

Bobb didn't ask the mayor or council for permission -- nor was it required, since the $10,000 poll was privately funded. But the city manager disputes that the results are as bad as rumored. He suggests waiting until the pollster, Evans McDonough of Berkeley, formally reports its findings to the council.

Welcome to Fantasy Island: Last week we reported how a team of artists who won an Oakland competition to redesign the I-880 underpass at Broadway had to cool their heels for two and a half years before the city council finally let the project proceed. Now an Alameda Councilman wants to put those heels back in the freezer. Last Wednesday, Tony Daysog shot off a letter to Alameda City Manager Jim Flint regarding the underpass. "This is a major intersection from which Alameda residents and workers enter Alameda via the Webster Tube. In effect, the art has the potential of being a signature visual for Alameda," he wrote, asking that Flint consult Caltrans officials on the matter. "I believe that, as a small token of our evolving partnership in regards to traffic and transit planning, Oakland and Caltrans officials must solicit our input and approval for whatever art is placed near the entryway into the Webster Tube."

It is for cases like this that 7 Days reserves the following expression: "D'oh."

Greed is good ... until you're caught: With little fanfare, Oakland's federal courthouse recently hosted the sentencing for Enrique Perusquia, one of the greatest white-collar criminals of our time. On May 23, an impeccably dressed Perusquia was sentenced to six years in prison and ordered to pay restitution of $68 million to his victims after the former broker for PaineWebber and Lehman Brothers pleaded guilty to securities fraud.

Over the course of eight years, prosecutors say, Perusquia steered millions of his clients' money into fledgling gold-mining companies in return for cash kickbacks from their CEOs. When the investments soured, Perusquia was accused of forging account statements for his clients into a good-news read. In January, he was fined a record $429 million by a New York Stock Exchange arbitration panel that ruled he committed "fraud, forgery, breach of fiduciary duty, embezzlement, self-dealing, and other heinous acts."

"But in truth and fairness," wrote Perusquia's lawyers in preparation for his Oakland sentencing, "there is a very human and very tragic side of this story which has never been told." Perusquia's lawyers say the broker was guilty only of making bad investments and then, pride be damned, "hiding the disastrous results from his clients."

Perusquia is scheduled to return to Oakland July 22 to turn himself over to US marshals. From there, he'll be delivered to a "Federal Prison Camp" in Nellis, Nevada.

Adios, Con Juan. We hardly knew ye.

ER, or Quincy?: Just how much power does California's two-year-old Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) have over the state's HMOs? The new watchdog's authority was recently tested in a legal battle that pitted it against the Oakland-based Kaiser Foundation Health Plan over charges stemming from the 1996 death of San Leandro resident Margaret Utterback ("Critical Condition," January 16). The DMHC had levied an unprecedented $1.1 million fine against Kaiser, charging that the health plan's systematic failures prevented Utterback from getting prompt medical attention that could have saved her life. Kaiser fought back, arguing that the department had overstepped its bounds, and that the complaints fell under the jurisdiction of the California Medical Board. The case reached a turning point last week when Oakland-based state administrative law judge Michael Cohn issued a lengthy ruling that rejected all of the state's claims but one: He agreed that Kaiser had not acted quickly enough on its own grievance policy procedures. He also slashed the fine to $25,000.

Cohn ruled that the role of the Department of Managed Care is to regulate patients' access to care and the overall HMO system, not to micromanage specific medical care decisions. Kaiser officials did not return calls seeking comment, but department officials and Utterback's family are clearly unhappy. If allowed to stand, they say, Cohn's ruling would reduce the department to a toothless agency that could do no more than insure the financial solvency of health plans. "He ruled that a single death does not constitute a violation worthy of penalty," says Terry Preston, one of Utterback's daughters. "So how many people have to die before it does?"

If those sound like fighting words, they should. The DMHC, it turns out, maintains override authority, and has literally stamped the word "rejected" on Cohn's ruling. It has turned the case over to an independent hearing officer, who has a hundred days to render a new decision and possibly adjust the fine. DMHC director Daniel Zingale says the decision to overturn Cohn's ruling reflects the state's commitment to patient advocacy; he maintains that the department has authority in the Utterback case because it is about flaws in the way Kaiser delivers services to its enrollees. "We understand that our jurisdiction is over the system, but the way you identify system failures is by how it affects actual patients," Zingale says.

Jerry Brown, Trekkie: Poor Jerry. Here Oakland's mayor tries to get all hip and wired, and people insist on making fun of him. Hizzoner recently went live with his new personal Web site, Jerrybrown.org, complete with an animated intro slogan: Protect the Earth, Explore the Universe, Serve the People. The first and third bits we get, but Explore the Universe? Maybe he should introduce a measure that would force the City Council to dress in sleek bodysuits: Beam up Brunner and Spees, Mr. Wan. Ignacio says the dilithium crystals won't hold out much longer.

Local satire site Lieutenant Kijé promptly nominated Jerry's new site for that antithesis of a Webby: the Daily Sucker award from Websitesthatsuck.com. Lo and behold, Jerry won the dubious honor last Tuesday, prompting waves of geeky commentary. "Is it my imagination, or do only a fraction of the menu rollovers work?" asks one critic. "Does the site even check for the presence of Flash?" pules another. "No. And you don't even get past the intro if you have JavaScript turned off."On the other hand, since it won the Daily Sucker, Jerry's site has enjoyed a minor traffic blitz, from around 450 to well over 1,000 hits. As they say in PR, there's no such thing as bad press.

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