October 21, 2011

Friends of the Library Gift Shop Team Wins Trivia Bee

From left to right, Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Trivia Bee winners Saul Schultheis-Gerry, Max Gerry, Michael Gerry, and Councilmembers Jim Prola and Diana Souza

In the end, the Friends of the Library Gift Shop team came up with the name of Netflix's short-lived DVD spinoff (Qwikster) to win Project Literacy's 18th Annual Trivia Bee after a three-way tie. The San Leandro Garden Club took second, followed by the Alameda County Firefighters. Last year's winners, former San Leandro City Manager John Jermanis' family, did not field a team this year,

As in past years, Alameda County Superior Court Judge Robert Kurtz read questions for the first round and Leslie Frates, a San Leandro resident and former professor at Cal State East Bay who has appeared on the television quiz show Jeopardy 14 times, read questions for the second and third rounds. Kathy Kurtz served as the official time keeper. Students from San Leandro High School acted as scorekeepers for each of the thirty teams.

In addition to the Trivia Bee, a raffle featured an Apple iPad, Disneyland tickets, and dozens of other prizes from local businesses and individuals. Funds raised by the Trivia Bee help Project Literacy to provide literacy services to more than 200 adults and 1,500 kids each year.

Thirty teams competed in the annual fundraiser that brings in more than $10,000 each year for Project Literacy. Teams included businesses like State Roofing Systems, California Conservatory Theater, San Leandro Players, the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce, and the San Leandro Police Officers Association.

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October 20, 2011

San Leandro Police Announce the Arrest of Triple Homicide Suspect

San Leandro Police Sergeant Ted Henderson announces the arrest of Paul Arthur Stevenson, 20, a suspect in a triple homicide at 2661 Alvarado Street in San Leandro on October 2, 2011. The three people killed were Leneasha Northington, 16, a student at San Leandro High School; Joshua Alford, 23, of Oakland; and Shanice Kiel, 19, of San Francisco.

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October 17, 2011

Brian Copeland Gets His Day in San Leandro

In 1972, when Brian Copeland was eight, his family moved from Oakland to San Leandro, California, hoping for a better life. At the time, San Leandro was 99.4 percent white, known nationwide as a racist enclave. This reputation was confirmed almost immediately: Brian got his first look at the inside of a cop car, for being a black kid walking to the park with a baseball bat. That story became the basis for "Not a Genuine Black Man," his solo show that began at The Marsh theater in 2004 and the last performance was more than seven years later at the Marsh Arts Center in Berkeley last month.

Thirty-nine years later, San Leandro Mayor Stephen Cassidy proclaimed October 19, 2011, as Brian Copeland day, honoring him as an ambassador of San Leandro. The text of the proclamation:

WHEREAS, Brian Copeland moved to San Leandro with his family as a small child and has remained a resident, proclaiming "San Leandro is my home town"; and

WHEREAS, Brian Copeland attained celebrity for his work in the news media, as a comedian, and most notably for authoring a poignant book about growing up in San Leandro during a time of discrimination and racism which grew into his highly successful one-man play, "Not A Genuine Black Man"; and

WHEREAS, in telling his story, Brian Copeland has become an ambassador for San Leandro, and demonstrates how one can overcome adversity, how neighbors can become friends, and the change that has occurred within San Leandro communities; and

WHEREAS, for more than twenty years, Brian Copeland has been a champion of the Davis Street Family Resource Center, supporting its programs and services in many ways, most notably by raising thousands of dollars every year for the children's nutrition program to ensure that preschool children in the Center's programs have a hot and nutritious breakfast; and

WHEREAS, Brian Copeland's philanthropy and celebrity have brought acclaim and honor to this community.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Stephen H. Cassidy, Mayor of the City of San Leandro, on behalf of the City Council, do hereby proudly proclaim October 19,2011 as "BRIAN COPELAND DAY" in San Leandro.

Copeland's new solo play, "The Waiting Period," will preview at San Francisco's Marsh Theater in November and will open in January. Copeland also is the host of the talk show 7LIVE weekdays at 3pm.

Brian Copeland and son Casey
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October 12, 2011

San Leandro's Second Coffee with the Cops Focuses on Online Information and Recent Incidents

Tuesday morning, San Leandro Police held the second "Coffee with the Cops" meeting with about 15 community members and 11 police officers in a banquet room at Dick's Restaurant.

After a brief introduction by San Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli, Officer Pete Ballew stated that the $2.4 million COPS grant that San Leandro received in 2010 enabled the hiring of five former San Jose Police officers who were in the process of being trained. This enabled the department to add a bicycle officer , a school resource officer, and two more tactical officers. The COPS grant funds five police officers for three years and requires that San Leandro pays for the fourth year, estimated at $800,000. Ballew noted that the citizen police academy, which always has a waiting list, starts again in March and applications are accepted in December and January. The first teen police academy was launched this summer and had 16 graduates.

Officer Tim DeGrano was next up with a presentation about information available from the police department website. DeGrano explained CodeRed, a service from Emergency Communications Network that allows the police department to "record, send and track personalized messages to thousands of citizens in minutes." DeGrano recounted a use of CodeRed that enabled the capture of a suspect that had fled from police into the Bay-O-Vista neighborhood.

Next DeGrano showed off the new daily log web page that displays the daily dispatch log which includes most police responses since September 12, 2011. Incidents involving domestic violence, sexual assaults, medical responses, and incidents involving children are not included in the daily logs. Each day's log can be downloaded in PDF or Excel format.

DeGrano noted that San Leandro has a full service police department and will respond to barking dog and burglar alarm calls, unlike many cities. When asked if the police should be called for copper thefts, even when unsure of the date of the theft, DeGrano responded, "Absolutely," because there may still be evidence or may be indicative of a pattern.

Certain crime information can also be reported online, but DeGrano noted that crimes that include a suspect should be called in to the police department and not reported online.

When a business owner asked about whether lights should be left on at her business on E. 14th St., DeGrano said that some prefer to leave lights on while others close up everything to hide what they have. DeGrano asked that anyone who has a cash register empty out the cash register in a way that is visible.

DeGrano encouraged the audience to call the police, even for something like speeding cars, because officers may see the speeding cars just by happening to be in the right place in the right time. Officer Rick De Costa noted that one dispatcher will be on the phone taking a report while the other dispatcher is already sending out information to officers.

Spagnoli noted that there are seven beats throughout San Leandro and there are 7 to 15 officers patrolling San Leandro at any given time of day. According to Spagnoli, there are currently 89 officers, including the Police Chief, captains, lieutenants, and sergeants, a dozen detectives and investigators, three officers assigned to the schools, and two crime prevention and community outreach officers.

Officer Doug Calcagno presented a summary of the incident in which Darnell Hutchinson died after being restrained and tased by four San Leandro Police officers outside of Nations on October 9, 2011. Calcagno noted that "The four officers involved in it happen to be probably four of the nicest officers we have in our department." Calcagno summarized the triple homicide that occurred after a party on October 2, 2011, and noted that San Leandro Police are dealing with similar issues that face Oakland when it comes to trust of the police: the unwillingness of people to come forward with information.

Finally, Calcagno summarized the theft and car chase that resulted in the death of two suspects and major injuries to a third suspect involved in a theft from FoodMax.

One resident complimented the police and then said, "I think too many people try to make Oscar Grant a hero when he was nothing but a thug and the cops are getting a bad rap." Calcagno noted that nearby incidents in Oakland and other places reflect on all police departments.

Spagnoli responded to a question about the length of administrative leave by noting that the length of the leave is determined on a case-by-case basis. The administrative leave to ensure that the officers were mentally fit and have been appropriately debriefed.

Spagnoli went on to address questions she has received about tasers. She stated that, "Tasers are a best practice" and noted that tasers can be used to gain control of a suspect when "you can't gain compliance in another way. There's a fallacy out there that tasers kill people and actually, if you read every report that anybody has been killed associated with a taser, is tasers have not been the primary cause of death in any case. Taser International, the company that puts that out, is very active in defending their use of that equipment." According to Spagnoli, the taser can be used with or without darts. "And it's [an] effective tool, really, to maintain control of somebody who is not complying with peace officer's requests." Spagnoli added, the taser "comes in one speed and you can choose anywhere between one and five seconds, meaning it stops after X amount of seconds."

When asked about dealing with mentally ill people, Spagnoli said that there are specially-trained officers who deal with an estimated 1,000 police calls involving mentally ill people.

The next question involved gang activity in San Leandro, which Officer Neil Goodman described as a generational problem with two gangs, Davis Street Locos and Manor Dro Boys splitting San Leandro into north and south at Marina Boulevard. A shooting two years ago at McKinley Elementary involved the Davis Street Locos and resulted in a sentence of 22 years for the shooter because of gang enhancements to the sentence. Goodman said that kids begin in gangs between the ages of 12 and 14 and that the police are working on a diversion program.

The last question was about funding for more police officers and Spagnoli noted that funding at the state and federal level was drying up. Spagnoli said that they were working on a police foundation to raise money for specific programs and to talk to Officer Ballew for more information.

The next Coffee with the Cops is scheduled for November 8, 2011, from 8 to 9am at the Marina Inn, located at 68 Monarch Bay Drive.

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October 10, 2011

Corbett Begins Fundraising for 2014 Congressional Campaign

corbett_oktoberfest_thumb.png After filing paperwork to run for the 15th Congressional District seat on September 13, 2011, California State Senator and former San Leandro Mayor Ellen Corbett will hold her first fundraiser later this month for her 2014 campaign. Corbett has previously served in the California Assembly and will be termed out of the California Senate in 2014.

Representative Pete Stark has said he will run for the 15th Congressional District seat in 2012. Stark faces a challenge from Dublin Vice Mayor Eric Swalwell in 2012, who had raised $70,000 as of October 10, according to the Mercury News.

As of August 1, 2011, Corbett filed paperwork showing that she had more $300,000 in two campaign accounts, which she can transfer over to her Congressional campaign account. This gives her a huge head start over former Obama administration official Ro Khanna, who also plans on running for the 15th Congressional District seat in 2014.

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October 9, 2011

City of San Leandro Looks to Go Paperless with Apple iPads

ipad2.jpg The San Leandro City Council may soon be reviewing agendas and backup documentation on Apple iPads, if plans discussed at the September 29, 2011, meeting of the Rules and Communications Committee come to fruition.

The iPads are part of a paperless agenda initiative that could reduce printing costs and save staff time, which includes delivery of printed and bound booklets that contain the agenda and backup information to the homes of members of the City Council.

According to information presented by City of San Leandro Information Technology Manager Rayan Fowler, the initial proposal calls for iPads to be purchased for all members of the City Council (7), City Manager's Office (4), department heads (7), and two for technical support staff.

Although the initial proposal called for 3G-enabled iPads, Mayor Stephen Cassidy was skeptical of the need for 3G and especially the added initial and ongoing costs. A 3G-enabled iPad costs $130 more (26%) than a standard 16GB iPad, according to Apple's web site and up to $9,122 in annual costs for unlimited data service, which could be reduced to $6,480 for limited data service. The estimated cost of $880 for each 16GB iPad2 includes 3G, an extra adapter, insurance in case they are dropped and iAnnotate software. That cost could be reduced to $750 each without 3G and to $650 if refurbished iPads were purchased, based on prices from Apple. The total estimated cost for the 20 iPads is $17,600. Additional costs include purchase of additional wireless access points to improve or add wireless access at City buildings, estimated at $4,959.50.

At the Sep. 29 meeting of the Rules and Communications Committee, Councilmember Ursula Reed expressed a desire to have 3G-enabled iPads so that they could be used to access information, anywhere, such as BART or conferences. Reed added, "If you don't have 3G, then it almost defeats the purpose...if I didn't have 3G, it would be pointless because I could just sit in front of a computer at home." Cassidy noted that the City already pays for cell phones for council members and council members could also use their $175 monthly technology allowance. Section 1.3.120 of San Leandro's Administrative Code states that council members "may be reimbursed for expenses incurred for Internet E-Mail Provider service, Fax Machine telephone line service, Cell Phone service (City business only), Electronic Datebook service, and like expenses." Prola wanted to make the switch to a paperless agenda voluntary and said that there was no reason for the council packets to be delivered to council members' homes. Since the City would continue to print a limited number of bound copies of the agenda and backup material, Prola asked that council members have the option of continue to receive the printed version.

Savings from changing to a paperless agenda are estimated at $2,500 annually for printing agenda books and $10,000 annually by eliminating a copier lease, though that wouldn't happen until the lease expires in October 2012.

Advantages of the new system cited by staff include the ability to include color images and larger documents, better utilization of a new electronic agenda system, Legistar, that was recently implemented and using 100,000 less sheets of paper each year. Legistar is a product of Granicus, the company that provides live audio streaming and archiving of City Council meetings.

Six copies of the complete agenda and backup material would continue to be printed for the main and branch libraries, council meeting, and city manager's office.

The City of Hayward want paperless in November 2010, which included purchase of iPads for its council members. Redwood City expects to save $30,000 annually, but restricted use of email and text messages on the devices out of concerns that they could be used to circumvent the California Public Records Act. The City of Lynwood, California, estimates it will save $6,000 annually after switching to iPads in August 2010. Other cities that are moving to iPads include Burbank, Sacramento, and Wildomar in California, Columbia, Missouri, Bluffton, South Carolina, Fredericksburg, Virginia, Coral Springs, Florida, and Williamsburg, Virginia.

Members of the committee did not agree on a recommendation to the City Council and the issue will be discussed at the October meeting of the Rules and Communications Committee.

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October 6, 2011

Conceptual Animation of Proposed Swim Center at San Leandro High School

The animation showing the proposed swim center at San Leandro High School was produced by WLC Architects. The swim center renovations are funded as part of Measure M, a $50.1 million bond approved by voters in November 2010.

According to information posted by WLC Architects, the animation was produced in Google Sketchup, modified and rendered in Autodesk 3ds Max, and composited in Adobe After Effects.

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October 5, 2011

San Leandro City Council Adopts Partial Polystyrene Ban

At its October 3, 2011, meeting, the San Leandro City Council took the final step in approval of a partial ban on polystyrene food packaging in San Leandro. Although Councilmember Diana Souza had voted against the ban at the September 19, 2011 City Council meeting, saying that "we're moving too fast," Souza changed her mind and supported adoption of the ordinance banning styrene. Councilmember Joyce Starosciak, who abstained from the Sept. 19 vote, also abstained from the Oct. 3 vote.

The ban covers "any establishment that prepares and packages prepared food or beverages within the City for public consumption on or off its premises including supermarkets grocery stores delicatessens restaurants sales outlets shops cafeterias mobile food preparation trucks caterers and roadside stands The ordinance also applies to the City of San Leandro and its facilities including vendors who provide food services in City facilities and at City-sponsored events." It does not apply to retail sales of polystyrene food ware, such as cups and plates, nor does it apply to pre-packaged food brought into San Leandro or pre-packaged food prepared in San Leandro for sale outside of the City.

The ban will take effect November 1, 2012, to give businesses time to use up existing inventory and find suitable alternatives.

According to the staff report, the styrene ban is modeled on Hayward's ordinance. Similar bans are already in place in Alameda, Albany, Berkeley, Emeryville, Fremont, Hayward and Oakland. Like San Leandro, the bans do not apply to retail sales of polystyrene food ware.

At the September 19 meeting, speakers against the ban included Mike and Cheryl Miraglia of Miraglia Catering, a certified green company that doesn't use polystyrene, Dave Johnson of the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce, and Tim Holmes of Zocalo Coffeehouse. Johnson called the ordinance bad legislation towards a worthy goal while Holmes supports a ban, but said that the ordinance was not a ban, because it didn't apply to retail sales of polystyrene food ware. Other opponents who contacted the City Council to oppose the ban included the California Restaurant Association and the owners of Porky's Pizza Palace.

Speakers in support of the ban at the September 19 meeting included Miriam Gordon of Clean Water Action, Mario Juarez with the Sierra Club, Christopher Chin with COARE (Center for Oceanic Awareness, Research, and Education), and local residents Carrie Spector, Sarah Marxer, Don Franke, Mark and Laura Stout, Walden Smith with 4-H Green Teens, and Jack Pretsky. Eight local residents also contacted the City Council prior to the meeting to indicate their support for the ban.

Councilmember Jim Prola has been outspoken in his support of the ban, stating, "We should have done this yesterday...How much of a neurotoxin should a child have?"

Starosciak's initial comments appeared supportive of the ban: "We all want a healthy community. And so it's really important that we are focused on helping maintain a healthy environment in San Leandro. And this proposed ordinance puts a dent in some of the bad stuff that polystyrene does in our community." Starosciak then listed some things that the City Council has done that she believes have negatively impacted local businesses: the sales tax increase, increased sewer treatment fees, cost-of-living adjustments to business license fees, 911 taxes, paramedic taxes, reduced permit counter hours, restrictions on smoking, parking, and signage, and reduced financial support for the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce. Some of these, like the increased sales tax, business license fees, 911 fees, and paramedic fees, Starosciak supported. Starosciak abstained from the vote on increasing the sewer treatment fees last year.

After Starosciak noted that "I do think it's a good idea to help the environment wherever we can," she also said that the City Council is negatively affecting businesses repeatedly and then abstained during the vote.

Before the vote, Mayor Stephen Cassidy stated that he supports the ban and believes "that this is desirable policy." Cassidy compared the current use of polystyrene to the use of lead by the Romans, which led to poisoning.

At the October 3, 2011, meeting all of the speakers supported the polystyrene ban, including Carrie Spector, who said that she didn't believe that the ban went far enough. Leah Scheibe spoke in favor of the ban and wants San Leandro to become a leader in sustainability by banning plastic bags and adopting more stringent energy efficiency requirements. Mario Juarez of the Sierra Club spoke again as well and local resident Mia Ousley reiterated styrene's damaging health effects.

Souza stated that she voted against ban previously not because she's against it but because she thinks that the City should have worked with businesses and not alienate them. She then voted in favor of the ban, which passed 6 to 0 with Starosciak abstaining.

The next environmental ordinance likely to face San Leandro is a ban on plastic bags, which is being considered by StopWaste.org (the Alameda County Waste Management Authority and Recycling Board operating as one public agency).

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October 3, 2011

US Supreme Court Declines to Hear City of San Leandro's Appeal

The U.S. Supreme Court announced on October 3, 2011, that it has declined to hear an appeal of the Faith Fellowship case against the City of San Leandro. The decision represents a blow to the City of San Leandro and Professor Marci Hamilton, who had hoped that the Supreme Court would take on the case and potentially reverse the decision of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. This means that the decision of the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on February 15, 2011, stands, and the case can proceed to trial.

For the City of San Leandro, this means either a potentially lengthy and costly trial or an expensive settlement. The decision is a boost for Faith Fellowship and the Pacific Justice Institute, which is providing free legal services to Faith Fellowship. In a press release issued on October 3, 2011, Pacific Justice Institute President Brad Dacus said, "We are gratified that the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed to stand the favorable decision we won at the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. That decision strikes an important balance between both the legitimate goals of city planners and the fundamental rights of religious congregations to exist and be treated fairly in the zoning process."

In May 2011, Faith Fellowship claimed it had lost $3.7 million to date and will likely want at least that amount as part of any judgement or settlement.

The lawsuit came about as a result of the church's desire to relocate to a larger facility in 2006. The church bought a parcel of land, hoping that the City of San Leandro would rezone the property so that it could be used as a church. When the City didn't rezone the property, the church sued under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA), which requires that municipalities not create a substantial burden on land use by religious entities.

Hamilton, who prepared the appeal to the US Supreme Court, had been hopeful that the Court would want to clarify the issues raised in this case. Hamilton did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Update: In a press release issued October 4, 2011, the City of San Leandro stated, "The Church will have the burden of proving that the City's denial of its application to re-zone the property, subsequent to its purchase, constituted a substantial burden on religious exercise."

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