January 20, 2010

City of San Leandro Pays Out $405,000 to Settle Four Lawsuits

During the San Leandro City Council meeting on January 19, 2010, San Leandro Assistant City Attorney Richard Pio Roda announced that four lawsuits had been settled for a total for $405,000. The lawsuits were filed by Christina Tiletile, Taiwo Pena-Hornung, Kamilah Jackson, all former San Leandro police officers, and Amanda Kerr, a former records clerk.

The lawsuits, originally filed in August 2009, alleged that the plaintiffs faced discrimination and harassment because they were women. San Leandro police officer DeWayne Stancill was specifically named as a defendant in the lawsuits as well. Stancill is also the biological father of Dwayne M. Stancill, who was accused in the murder of San Leandro High School student Greg Ballard, Jr. in 2007.

The statement read by the Assistant City Attorney included the following:

"As part of the settlement, the parties agree that the City and Kamilah Jackson, Amanda Kerr, Taiwo Pena-Hornung and Christina Tiletile settle the lawsuits brought against the City of San Leandro, J. DeWayne Stancill and other named defendants. The parties emphasize there were unfortunate misunderstandings that may have led to ill-considered allegations that they now regret, and for which they apologize."

Three other lawsuits filed by San Leandro police officers Ann O'Callaghan, Cathy Pickard, and Deborah Trujillo have not yet been settled. In addition, San Leandro police officer DeWayne Stancill, who was accused of calling one of the women "babe" or "baby" and making comments about the womens' breasts, has filed a lawsuit against the City of San Leandro. The cases were previously discussed at the City Council's December 7, 2009, meeting.

The complete report from closed session follows:

Assistant City Attorney Richard Pio Roda reported that in the closed session held earlier this evening, the City Council, by a vote of 5-0 (Councilmember Souza and Mayor Santos absent) disposed by settlement agreement the following claims:

Christina Tiletile v. City of San Leandro, et al., sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation claims, in the amount of $295,000

Taiwo Pena-Hornung v. City of San Leandro, et al., sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation claims, in the amount of $50,000

Kamilah Jackson v. City of San Leandro, et al., sexual harassment, gender discrimination and retaliation claims, in the amount of $25,000

Amanda Kerr v. City of San Leandro, et al., sexual harassment, gender discrimination, retaliation, Bane Act and false imprisonment claims, in the amount of $35,000

As part of the settlement, the parties agree that the City and Kamilah Jackson, Amanda Kerr, Taiwo Pena-Hornung and Christina Tiletile settle the lawsuits brought against the City of San Leandro, J. DeWayne Stancill and other named defendants. The parties emphasize there were unfortunate misunderstandings that may have led to ill-considered allegations that they now regret, and for which they apologize.

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City Council Approves Ranked Choice Voting - Election is Nov. 2, 2010

The San Leandro City Council approved ranked choice voting (also known as instant runoff voting) 5 - 2 at its meeting on January 19, 2010. This means that the election for San Leandro City Council will be held in November 2010 and not in June, as in the past two elections.

Fourteen people spoke in favor of ranked choice voting before the City Council voted, including representatives from Common Cause, the League of Women Voters, Black Women Organized for Political Action, and New America Foundation. Nobody spoke against it.

Vice Mayor Starosciak and Councilmember Bill Stephens voted against ranked choice voting, with Stephens stating that the additional cost was too much given "a budget that's hemorrhaging." Councilmember Diana Souza said she supported the "theory of IRV [instant runoff voting]," spent the next two minutes giving arguments against ranked choice voting, and then voted to support it.

The City Council voted unanimously to accept the recommendations of the Recreation and Parks Commission to use the $3.7 million in Measure WW funds on ten projects that were chosen during two community meetings:

  • Toyon Park Play Equipment
  • Marina Park - Group Picnic Areas
  • Par Course Improvements
  • Marina Park Irrigation Improvements
  • Marina Dog Park (cheaper option)
  • San Leandro Ball Park Locker/Restroom Refurbishment
  • Stenzel Park Drainage Project
  • Bleachers at the Pacific Sports Complex
  • Resurface Skate Park with concrete
  • Resurface park pathways

During the City Council discussion, Souza made arguments against going forward with the recommendations of the Recreation and Parks Commission for more than three minutes, but voted to approve them.

With a November election, City Manager Steve Hollister stated that any proposed revenue increase would be on the same ballot as the City Council election. As pointed out by Stephen Cassidy during his comments, the City Council must now come up with a plan to balance the City's budget without a revenue increase in June.

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January 17, 2010

City Council Decides Ranked Choice Voting and Measure WW Funds on Tuesday

The San Leandro City Council will decide at its meeting on January 19, 2010, whether to join Oakland and Berkeley by adopting ranked choice voting (also known as instant runoff voting). The other big agenda item is whether to accept the recommendations put forward by the Recreation and Parks Commission for the use of nearly $4 million in Measure WW funds.

Ranked choice voting enables candidates to be elected by majority vote without holding costly runoff elections (see here for an explanation). Runoff elections have cost the City of San Leandro nearly $200,000 since 2005. Although it will cost more initially ($52,000 more this year, according to a staff report), ranked choice voting will become cheaper than the current runoff system by 2014 and continue to save money into the future.

On the question of whether ranked choice voting does not confirm to the City's charter, the City Attorney said that, "it is possible that under a rank choice voting system the number of votes that the winning candidate receives may be less than a majority of the number of actual voters who participated in the election. Such a result is consistent with and does not conflict with the City Charter because under a rank choice voting system the winning candidate who receives a majority of "votes cast" for that office in a particular round (1, 2, or 3) will have received fifty percent (50%) plus one of the continuing ballots that contained the votes cast for that office."

After California Secretary of State Debra Bowen approved Alameda County's system in December 2009, Oakland adopted ranked choice voting on January 5, and Berkeley is likely to adopt it as well in late January or early February 2010. According to an article in the Berkeley Daily Planet, the Berkeley City Manager has sent a letter to the San Leandro City Council "indicating that Berkeley is prepared is move forward with IRV in November 2010."

The City Council will also decide how to spend nearly $4 million it received as its share from the Measure WW East Bay Parks bond passed in November 2008. Mayor Tony Santos established an ad-hoc committee chaired by Vice Mayor Joyce Starosciak with Michael Gregory and Diana Souza. After meeting three times and with no public input, the ad-hoc committee recommended that most of the funds be used for a competitive lap pool at Washington Manor Aquatic Center. When it became clear that the recommendations didn't have the support of a majority of the City Council, the Recreation and Parks Commission was tasked with coming up with recommendation. After two community meetings, the recommendations from the public were brought forward to and accepted by the Commission. Those recommendations are:

  • Toyon Park Play Equipment

  • Marina Park - Group Picnic Areas

  • Par Course Improvements

  • Marina Park Irrigation Improvements

  • Marina Dog Park (cheaper option)

  • San Leandro Ball Park Locker/Restroom Refurbishment

  • Stenzel Park Drainage Project

  • Bleachers at the Pacific Sports Complex

  • Resurface Skate Park with concrete

  • Resurface park pathways

The City Council meeting will be held at 7pm on January 19, 2010, at 835 E. 14th Street in San Leandro. For the complete agenda, click here.

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January 15, 2010

Most Popular 2009 Movie Rentals in San Leandro

According to data from Netflix published by the New York Times, the most popular movies rented in 2009 in San Leandro were The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Changeling, and Slumdog Millionaire. These three movies topped the list of rentals for San Leandro zip codes 94577, 94578, and 94579.

Other movies that made the top ten movie rentals for 2009 were Doubt, Seven Pounds, and Gran Torino. Milk, Twilight, and Burn After Reading made the top ten list in 94577 and 94578, but not in 94579.

The complete list of top ten rentals for each zip code can be seen after the break.

Zip Code: 94577

  1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

  2. Changeling

  3. Slumdog Millionaire

  4. Milk

  5. Doubt

  6. Gran Torino

  7. Seven Pounds

  8. Burn After Reading

  9. Twilight

  10. The Wrestler

Zip Code: 94578

  1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

  2. Changeling

  3. Slumdog Millionaire

  4. Twilight

  5. Seven Pounds

  6. Doubt

  7. Body of Lies

  8. Gran Torino

  9. Milk

  10. Burn After Reading

Zip Code: 94579

  1. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

  2. Changeling

  3. Slumdog Millionaire

  4. Body of Lies

  5. Gran Torino

  6. Doubt

  7. Eagle Eye

  8. Seven Pounds

  9. Valkyrie

  10. Righteous Kills

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January 14, 2010

Help Re-Design San Leandro's Siempre Verde Park

Siempe Verde Park - image from City of San Leandro web site

The City of San Leandro is encouraging anyone interested in Siempre Verde Park to attend a series of community meetings in January and February as part of an opportunity to receive a state grant that could fund a complete re-design of the park.

The Statewide Park Development and Community Revitalization Program of 2008 created a competitive grant program totaling $368 million for under-served California communities. The City of San Leandro intends to submit a grant application for Siempre Verde by the March 1, 2010 deadline. Siempre Verde was chosen based on its location in a densely populated area with small amounts of park space.

Input from the community meetings could result in a complete re-design of the entire park or major modifications such as replacing the bathrooms, re-doing the fields, or essentially anything within reason that comes out of the four community meetings.

The community meetings will be held as follows:

  • Wednesday January 20, 2010, from 7 to 8:30pm
  • Saturday, January 23, 2010, from 10 to 11:30am
  • Thursday, January 28, 2010, from 7 to 9pm
  • Wednesday, February 3, 2010, from 7 to 8:30pm

The first two meetings will provide background information and seek community input on what works at the park, what doesn't, and what is desired. The third meeting will take the input from the first meeting to come up with possible designs and the last meeting will present designs to the Recreation and Parks Commission.

All of the meetings will take place at the City Hall South Offices Conference Room at 999 E. 14th St., located behind the California Conservatory Theater.

More information is available from the City web site, including English and Spanish fliers.

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January 13, 2010

Alice Lai-Bitker's State of District 3 Report on Feb. 4, 2010

Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker will present her 6th annual State of District 3 Report to the Community on Thursday, February 4, 2010.

According to a flier for the event, the report will include the following:

  • Financial forecast and the impact of the state budget deficit on county programs
  • neighborhood revitalization and economic development
  • community health and resiliency initiatives
  • 2010 priorities and goals

The talk is scheduled for 6:30 to 7:30pm at the Lecture Hall of the San Leandro Library. The San Leandro Library is located at 300 Estudillo Avenue in San Leandro.

Attendees should RSVP to Jerl Laws at (510) 272-6693. Those unable to attend can watch it at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/state-of-the-district

Lai-Bitker recently announced she would not seek re-election, so this will be her last annual report.

District 3 includes San Leandro, Alameda, San Lorenzo, Ashland, Hillcrest Knolls and the Fruitvale, San Antonio, Chinatown portions of Chinatown portions of Oakland.

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Cindy Cathey Unanimously Appointed San Leandro's Interim Superintendent

The San Leandro School Board unanimously appointed Cindy Cathey as Interim Superintendent, effective January 19, 2010, at its meeting on January 12, 2010. Cathey has served as Assistant Superintendent of Educational Services since 2005. She succeeds Christine Lim, who served as Superintendent since 2003.

Cathey has previously served as a teacher, Assistant Principal and Principal of Wilson Elementary at San Leandro Unified School District.

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January 9, 2010

San Leandro's Best Theater

Best Theater ad

In 1973, the California History Center published "Saga of San Leandro," a 70-page history of San Leandro funded by the San Francisco Federal Savings and Loan Association [now part of Citibank] and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Citibank is one of the current occupants of the Best Building at 1300 E. 14th Street.

Below is an excerpt about the Best Theater, which was built by Daniel Best in 1911, and was located at what is now E. 14th St. just south of Estudillo Avenue. The excerpt was written by Terry Sinclair and appears on pages 46-48 of "Saga of San Leandro."

The Best Theater

Soon after the completion of the Best Building, on September 25, 1911, Daniel Best once again hired architect W. H. Weeks to draw specifications for Best's new theater. The new theater was to be built on his property on Hayward Avenue, which at the time was occupied by A. J. King. Work was to commence on the new theater building after Mr. King vacated the premises. This was to be the second movie theater in town which ran silent films." A theatrical syndicate conducting vaudeville and motion picture shows, to the accompaniment of a nickelodeon or an organ, took a lease on the new building for a term of years (not specified)." "Though he rented the theater, Daniel always paid the admission price to see the movies. It was operated in 1912 by Mr. Bridges, serving as manager; and reports claim that his son Lloyd Bridges, who later entered the acting profession, may have been a frequent visitor."

Normally, the number of reels shown per movie numbered between four and seven. In the earlier days of the theater, a different movie played each day of the week. By 1914, one movie or a small number of movies played each week. The heyday of the Best Theater was probably before the war, when the local residents could afford to be entertained.

Typical movies that appeared were:

"David Copperfield"
"Peg o' the Movies" (acclaimed at the time to be the greatest picture ever produced by Edison)
"Uncle Tom's Cabin"
"A Picture of Bull Fights"

In April of 1912, under the management of a Mr. Peterson, the Best Theater staged "Ybur the Great, Queen of Handcuffs." "Ybur" was acclaimed to be a "genius" in removing any set of handcuffs from her wrists, but she, also performed many other mysterious feats which reportedly kept the audiences guessing for weeks. "On July 19, 1913, Edison's first moving and talking picture was shown at the Best Theater. This was the first time this movie, or any of its type, had been shown in the state of California."

Daniel Best's Theater was also used for other purposes than showing movies. For instance, on May 4, 1912, there was a political rally in support of Teddy Roosevelt. The principle speakers were Medill McCormick, of Chicago and Senator John W. Stetson, of Oakland. "Mr. McCormick was one of the National managers for Col. Roosevelt. State Senator Stetson, was President of the California State Roosevelt League, and he had managed the campaign for the former President in California. Music and movies were featured along with the rally. Because of the limited space in the theater, at the time of the rally, only adults were admitted with no charge."

During the summer of 1914, along with the normal entertainment, the theater was the site of local benefits. Two known benefits were held, one for the San Leandro Junior Baseball team and another for the Boy Scouts. "The theater was also used for preliminary voting in local elections. How it worked was first a card of each candidate was flashed on the screen and the amount of applause each candidate received determined the voters favorite. This type of community action was often thought of as "lots of fun."

Added attractions, such as free gifts, often helped business at the Best Theater. One evening the theater advertised as ladies night, it was to give away six electric irons. A normal attraction, especially for children, was free ice cream. One movie, Jack London's "Valley of the Moon," was of exceptional interest to the people of San Leandro, since some of the scenes were shot near the eastern limits of the town."

The price of admission varied as to what movie was showing, but normally the cost was fifteen cents for reserved seats, ten cents for adults, and five cents for children. The Best theater had many managers in its day. After Mr. Bridges left the theater, F. Holliday took over the management in 1914. By 1915, a new man named Arvidson became manager. But no matter who managed the theater, the advertisements basically stayed the same. Normally when a new movie was to appear, the Reporter ran a complete description of the movie, including the number of scenes, the number of people in the movie, where the movie had played, and who staged the movie, including a brief outline of the text of the story.

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January 5, 2010

Alice Lai-Bitker Won't Seek Re-Election in 2010

Alameda County District 3 Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker announced today that she will not seek re-election in 2010. Lai-Bitker represents San Leandro, Alameda, San Lorenzo, and parts of Oakland, Ashland, and unincorporated Alameda County.

Lai-Bitker was appointed District 3 Supervisor in 2000 as the anointed successor to Wilma Chan. Lai-Bitker won election to the seat in 2002 and re-election in 2006.

Possible successors include her current Chief of Staff, Shawn Wilson, who is reportedly already seeking endorsements, former San Leandro Mayor Shelia Young, who lost to Lai-Bitker in 2006, current Alameda Mayor Beverly Johnson, and, ironically, Wilma Chan, who ran for Don Perata's Senate seat and lost in June 2008.

The complete text of the press release is below.

Third Supervisorial District ● County of Alameda

Representing the communities of Alameda, San Leandro, San Lorenzo, portions of Ashland, and the Chinatown and Fruitvale Areas of Oakland

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE CONTACT: Shawn Wilson

January 5, 2010 510-272-6693

COUNTY SUPERVISOR ALICE LAI-BITKER NOT TO SEEK RE-ELECTION

Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker announced today she will not seek another term as County Supervisor in 2010. Currently the President of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, she has represented District 3 since December, 2000.

Lai-Bitker has been a strong advocate for children, working families and seniors. She has fought for access of health care for the uninsured, championed increased services for sexually abused children and domestic violence victims. The Supervisor has committed to making government work by initiating projects and programs that provide services in a more efficient, fiscally responsible and streamlined way, such as in the area of eligibility of health insurance and mental health services for at-risk youth.

Supervisor Lai-Bitker has worked tirelessly to promote new economic development for San Lorenzo and will continue to work on these projects while winding down her very successful tenure on the Board.

"I am honored to have served the County and District 3 for the last nine years," Lai-Bitker said. “By the time I complete my term, it will be a decade of service." "I have been part of a great many things that have happened in the County. It's been a real privilege, but it's time to move on and allow someone else the opportunity to serve. I look forward to working with my successor to fully implement the many programs that I have started over the years."

Supervisor Alice Lai- Bitker chairs the Board's Health Committee, Unincorporated Committee, and serves on the Social Services Committee. On the regional level, she chairs the Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority, serves on the Bay Conservation and Development Commission, co-chairs the Oakland Airport Community Noise Forum, and serves on the Board of Bay Area Partnership.

Alice Lai-Bitker represents District 3, which includes Alameda, San Leandro, parts of Oakland, and the unincorporated communities of San Lorenzo, Hillcrest Knoll and part of Ashland.

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January 4, 2010

What is Ranked Choice Voting?

On January 19, 2010, the San Leandro City Council will decide whether to adopt instant runoff, also known as ranked choice voting. But what, exactly, is ranked choice voting (RCV)?

Ranked choice voting allows a candidate to receive a majority of the vote (50% + 1) without holding a separate runoff election.

In a ranked choice election, a voter can choose a first, second, and third choice for each office. If no candidate achieves a majority of the vote, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. For anybody who voted for the candidate with the fewest votes, their second choice votes are distributed to the other candidates. When there are only three candidates, that's all there is to it.

With more than three candidates, the process is repeated for the candidate that received the second fewest number of votes and the process is repeated again until a candidate receives a majority of the vote. If the voter's second choice candidate is eliminated, the voter's third choice is counted.

A sample ballot may look like this:

rcv_sample_ballot_small.jpg

Runoffs Cost Money

Currently, San Leandro voters vote for candidates in June of the election year and a runoff is held in November if neither candidate receives more than 50% of the vote. Each of these runoff elections costs money for the City and for the candidates. The 2004 runoff election (held in Feb. 2005) cost the City an additional $117,874, the 2006 runoff election cost an additional $47,625, and the 2008 runoff election cost an additional $29,348.

RCV Will Cost More Initially

Initially, an election using ranked choice voting will cost more than a traditional election, even with a runoff. These additional costs include one-time costs for additional poll workers, the City's share of the voting upgrade, and voter education. The additional cost for 2010 is estimated at $45,000. However, by 2014, use of ranked choice voting would be cheaper than traditional elections and these cost savings would continue into the future.

November Elections mean more voters

More people vote in November general elections. Statistics from elections in San Leandro bear this out. In June 2008, 10,587 people voted in the District 2 City Council race. However in November 2008, 26,776 people voted in the runoff election between Ursula Reed and Linda Perry, more than twice the number of voters. Since November 2008 might be considered an anomaly, let's take a look at the District 4 City Council race in November 2004, in which 24,349 people voted. Only 13,369 people in the February 2005 runoff election between Joyce Starosciak and Mike Mahoney, nearly 50% less. In this election, the winner received less votes in the February runoff than her opponent did in the November election.

RCV Faces Hurdles and Objections

RCV has also has some substantial hurdles, mainly in the ability of officials to educate voters. In current elections, some voters don't vote in all of the races or spoil their ballots in a number of ways. Voters who choose the same candidate as their second and third choice or don't mark a second and third choice at all will find that their vote goes uncounted if their first choice candidate is eliminated. Similarly, in a large field of candidates, a voter whose choices are eliminated will also find that their vote doesn't count.

With RCV, it is possible that the winning candidate may not receive more than 50% of the total votes cast in a close election. This can happen when there are more than three candidates in a given race and some of the ballots are exhausted, meaning that all three choices of a given voter have been eliminated. This is precisely what happened during a mock election held by City staff with six candidates and 20 votes. After two of the ballots were exhausted, the winner of the election received a total of 10 votes out of 18 ballots. While 10 is not more than 50% of the original votes cast, it is more than 50% of the non-exhausted ballots.

Candidates Who Won With Less than 50% of the Vote

San Leandro moved to the current system in 2000 after elections in which the winner secured less than 50% of the vote. In 1998, Shelia Young became Mayor with just 43.5% of the vote and Glenda Nardine became a Councilmember with just 36.4% of the vote. Four years earlier, Ellen Corbett became Mayor with 37.8% of the vote. As a response to these results, San Leandro voters approved Measure F in November 2000, which required candidates to receive a majority of the vote in order to be declared the winner of an election.

Oakland Likely to Approve RCV

On December 4, 2009, California Secretary of State Debra Bowen gave administrative approval to Alameda County's RCV system, allowing it to be used in 2010. The City of Oakland will likely approve the use of RCV at its January 6, 2010, meeting, especially given the recent legal opinion of the City's Attorney, stating that the City must implement RCV. According to the San Leandro City Clerk, February 1, 2010, is the last date for the City Council to call for a June election or change the City's election date.

Update: The Oakland City Council approved RCV at its meeting on January 5, 2010, by a vote of 6-2.

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Peggy Combs Withdraws from District 5 City Council Race

Just three months after getting into the race for San Leandro's District 5 City Council seat, Peggy Combs has announced that she is withdrawing from the race. Her exit helps San Leandro School Board trustee Pauline Cutter, whom Combs has endorsed, and who has greater name recognition than the other remaining candidate, Corina Lopez.

In a statement emailed to supporters, Combs wrote, "While I deeply regret disappointing those who have been so generous with their time, energy, support and counsel, this decision is the best one for me and my family at this time." She concluded her statement, "I certainly plan to remain active (and vocal!) in the community, through the Recreation and & Parks Commission, the Shoreline Citizens Advisory Committee, and in any other ways that help to benefit the San Leandro community."

Combs serves on the Recreation and Parks Commission and was Chair last year. She also serves as Vice-Chair of the Shoreline Citizens Advisory Committee.

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