Sunday, August 31, 2008

San Leandro City Council Approves Ballot Measures

The Pioneer Sports Editor

The San Leandro City Council overwhelmingly approved a police services parcel tax be added to the November ballot and increase revenue as citizens grapple with higher incidents of crime and a faltering economy.

The parcel tax, if passed, would add $2.3 million to the city’s dwindling coffers and would apply to both residential and commercial properties.

Under the plan approved by the council, the average single-family dwelling would pay $48 per year for the next three years.

The perception that crime in the city has been on the upswing for much of Mayor Tony Santos first year in office has been a hot-button issue.

Santos caused a firestorm of criticism when he stated in February that crime statistics refuted the fears of many in the community that their quality of the life was suffering.

Many on the council July 28 expressed compassion for the public safety in their support for the measure.

“When I walking door-to-door, people told me they wanted more beat officers,” said Jim Prola, “It’s inexcusable to have six officers for seven beats during the night.”

“We have crime and what are we going to do about it?” said Councilman Michael Gregory, “We have a duty to protect the people.

Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak, who abstained on the vote, said her constituents cautioned against adding a new tax on the heels of a likely economic recession.

An informal polling of her district communicated to her that “times were not good for taxes.”
Starosciak added, “The people are asking for more police, this tax does not add more police.”
San Leandro Police Chief Dale Attarian said the parcel will not add more officers, but will allow the police department to continue to fund the previous hiring of two new officers and add a crime prevention officer,.

Attarian cautioned that if the measure fails, the city would have to revert to deficit spending and possibly begin cutting positions in the department.

The police services parcel tax was not the city’s first attempt this year at raising revenue through taxation.

Earlier in the year, the San Leandro Unified School District initially considered proposing a similar parcel tax, but ultimately decided against its feasibility in the current economic climate.

San Leandro City Manager John Jermanis said the city allowed the school district first crack at exploring a parcel tax with the belief that two tax initiatives would both fail.

“I remain unconvinced that with the downturn in the economy and that the school district concluded their own parcel tax would not carry that we are being hopeful and sanguine and not right-minded,” said Vice Mayor Bill Stephen, who was the lone vote against adopting the ballot measure.

San Leandro resident and former city council candidate, Lou Filipovich, believes that such a tax will trickle down to residents other than property owners.

“Renters are the first ones who will get hurt,” said Filipovich, “Do you think a rental owner will pay this? It’s the renters who will foot the bill.”

In addition to the police parcel tax, the council also approved adding two ballot measures that will seek to secure two sources of revenue generating nearly $5.5 million per year.

The Utility Users’ Tax and 911 Fee are both mired in legal battles over their legality and could possibly be struck down, therefore, denying the city much-needed revenue.

The State Supreme Court may take up the 911 fee case this year after numerous California municipalities including Stockton, Ventura and Union City approved their inclusion to city budgets.

Proponents argue the fee constitutes a tax without the public’s vote.

Both fees would be secured by this measure in the event their current legality is overturned.
Proponents have strongly cautioned both measures would not increase taxes.

Charles Gilcrest, a candidate for the city council’s second district this November, told the council that the key to the measures passing lies in better communicating its value to the public.

“We are not asking them to raise the tax,” said Gilcrest, “As a fee, you could raise it anytime you want. As a tax, you can’t raise it without the voters. This is about voter empowerment.”

Saturday, August 30, 2008

The Mother Of All Ironies; Gustav Near Big Easy


Despite what the Republican National Committee might think, the name Gustav is not a Swedish derivation for Katrina. It does mean the “staff of God” and for a party so enslaved by the Heavenly powers, the swirling storm aimed at New Orleans can be nothing by God's reckoning.

It is totally the height of irony that a large scale hurricane would move towards the Crescent City and marshal in the same worries and precautions such as evacuating the city two days before the GOP opens its own lovefest in the Twin Cities thousands of miles away.

Reports that the RNC would postpone the convention for hurricane Gustav seem implausible and logistically impossible. A rainout of an event when the climate of a faraway city is the cause is both laughable and a ominous sign of how weak the party actually views itself.

If, indeed, the United States is in the midst of a decades long decline, the handling of hurricane Katrina will occupy of a stinging point in the minds of historians for centuries.

With such stories coming into sharp relief, how can McCain run from the failed policies of President Bush? Do we even need the stark reminders of the tragedy of Katrina to recall that the government nearly let New Orleans die, if it isn't still of life support, anyway.

Do we need to read about another soldier being killed in Iraq to remember that McCain favors continuing the most dangerous foreign policy decision in modern American history.

Postponing the convention on account of a storm thousands of miles away is foolish, the signs of disrepair of in plain sight of every American. Just drive down the street. Pass a gas station and try to remember the last time you filled your gas tank.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Suddenly Working Women Become Campaign Issue

Dick Cheney eats babies. Sarah Palin has contempt for motherhood.

Within hours of Sen. John McCain tabbing the Alaskan governor as his vice presidential pick attacks from progressive female commentators have already risen from the din of the punditocracy.

The issue: Palin has a four-month infant born with Down Syndrome. She infamously returned to the governor's office three days after giving birth and now begins her precipitous climb from the Wasila City Council to vice president in just ten years.

Kim Stagliano, a contributor to the Huffington Post, who herself has three children with autism, finds herself struggling with the role of working women and their families.

I believe in a woman's right to any career she desires. Yet as a mother of kids whose needs have taken precedence over my career for over a decade, I know the realities of special needs parenting. And I find myself asking a question that makes me feel like Donna Reed: Once you've chosen to have five children, and your infant has special needs, who needs you more, your family or your job? And if I can ask this touchy, old fashioned question, I wonder if conservatives will warm to a woman willing to make such a profound family sacrifice.

This issue, supremely destined to be pursued on programs like The View and Oprah, are at the heart of McCain's hugely risky choice of Palin.

It could work fabulously with the dialogue benefitting McCain's apparently tack towards Hillary Clinton supporters, but it could also come at the expense of working class men who might view the issue through the glasses of contempt for professional women.

It's a gamble that McCain has invariably analyzed with the metrics showing a net profit of votes over Palin and an unwillingness of those same working cllass men to vote for a black man.

McCain's Choice In Palin Shows Panic


Sarah Palin was hardly the under the radar vice presidential pick that the New York Times and will have you believe.

Her appeal of youth, strong socially conservative views and proximity to energy issues in the vast Alaskan wilderness made her a dark horse candidate.

Was Palin the right pick? It depends on your foresight.

The choice of Palin out of relative obscurity is a brilliant very short term move. It takes the spotlight away from what many are initially calling one of the most brilliant convention speeches in American history by Barack Obama and moves towards another historic moment--the first female veep choice in GOP history.

The choice of a unknown, especially in the internet age, is a smart marketing move. Assuredly, Palin has been googled extensively and her webpage has been bombarded. The natural question of 'who is she?' quickly become an exercise in interactive politics.

There are huge problems, though, with McCain's choice that shines a light on his present frame of mind. Palin's state is one of the epicenters of controversial energy policies that McCain hopes to exploit, except she strongly supports a huge natural gas pipelines through her state that McCain opposes.

Did the McCain camp view Obama's choice of Joe Biden as significantly shoring up his perceived lack of experience that they surrendered the point by picking an even more inexperienced politician in Palin?

The issue surrounding McCain that his campaign is choosing to neglect is age. He apparently feels that he relatively advanced age (for a presidential candidate) is such a non-issue that the electorate will not take the extra step in their collective minds to pose the question: Is Palin ready to take his place and more importantly, would America be interested in an overly experienced vice president a la Dick Cheney to run the levers of power in Washington during a Palin administration?

What this pick does not do is make a particularly hard play for Hillary Clinton supporters. Illinois congressmen Rahm Emmanuel is completely correct when he told The New York Times the only similarities between the two is gender. It's inconceivable that a female Clinton supporter would possiblly be interested in an anti-abortion, evangelical Christian. Their hard feelings only run so deep.

One thing is for sure, the upcoming vice presidential debate between the viscereal Biden and the woman once named "Sarah Barracuda" for her tenacious high school basketball style should be political pugilism at its best.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Cal State East Bay Soccer Suffers Ugly Duck Status

The Pioneer Sports Editor

Forgive Jair Fory for feeling like Sisyphus.

Instead of carrying a boulder up a hill only to watch it roll back down, the Cal State East Bay men’s soccer coach is dribbling a soccer ball with same fate as the mythic ancient Greek.

Without a set roster less than week before the season, unavailable practice fields and a key performer from last season’s squad academically ineligible, the preseason has not been kind to Pioneers soccer.

“It’s very frustrating. They want a team, but how can I have a team without having them tryout first?” said Fory, “It’s like we’re going forward three steps and two back.”

Tensions between the men’s soccer team and the athletic department began to heat up when a notable returning starter from last season was deemed ineligible last Friday.

A discrepancy in the player’s transcripts was discovered precipitating his ineligibility.

Fory placed blame on the athletic program saying, “It’s their job to keep track.”

CSUEB Athletic Director Debby DeAngelis says an investigation is currently underway and hopes to have the issue resolved before the team opens its season Aug. 29 in Spokane, Wash.

Failure to monitor an athlete’s academic progress raises questions as to how the program will handle similar issues in the future when participation in Division II increases the amount of oversight needed for awarding scholarships.

“We’re on probation now for Division II, right?” said Fory, “If we can’t handle this, what if they put off allowing us in Division II?”

Last Monday, Fory held a tryout for over 40 new and returning players.

He says he will need to cut the roster to under 25 before opening the season.

His frustration increased when the planned two-a-day practice at Pioneers Stadium was moved to the upper soccer field primarily used by the women’s soccer team when the pitch was unmowed and without field stripes.

To make matters worse an inoperatible riding lawnmower was left on the playing surface making any practice time a possible liability for the university.

Said Fory, “It’s my first day of practice and I don’t have a field to practice. DeAngelis said a work order to the Facilities Department was sent weeks in advance, yet only the upper soccer field typically used by the women’s team was prepared.

Women’s Head Soccer Coach, Amy Geracie, whose squad also practiced last Monday, said field management has never been a problem in the past.

“This is just a one-time occurrence,” she said.

“It’s a stressful time of year for any coach,” said DeAngelis, “He’s got more people than he can keep, so he has to make some fairly quick evaluations and decisions.”

The perception that the Pioneers men’s soccer is the ugly stepchild of CSUEB has been pervasive for a few seasons said senior defender, Jordan Ferrell.

“There’s been a lot things I’ve seen here,” said Ferrell, “We do seem like the neglected program down here.”

While he admits that players on almost every team have qualms with the program’s treatment, his stories usually trump all others.

“I know people on a lot of the other teams here and they all think they get screwed, but when I tell them my stories they usually agree ours are worse,” said Ferrell.

Ferrell describes numerous instances over the years of sprinklers inexplicably interrupting practices and rumbling lawnmowers and tractors making communication on the field negligible.

He also said a team-organized practice on the CSUEB field this summer was broken up the university police.

“We’re not asking for Division I treatment, but we should be treated like intercollegiate athletes, at least,” said Ferrell.

DeAngelis said she was not aware with discontent on the soccer team and offered an open-door policy.

“I make a big point of saying, ‘If there’s something that needs to be fixed, I need to know about it,’” said DeAngelis, “I can’t fix what I don’t know is broken.”

DeAngelis says she has repeatedly offered Ferrell, who also participates in the student government and was a major student proponent for Division II, a spot on the Student Athletics’ Council.

On the pitch, Fory was impressed by two possible additions to the team in freshman Manuel Cardenas, an athletic defender who he calls a “smart tactical player” and junior transfer Chris Prado, a left back from Stockton.

Fory tried out Cardenas at sweeper Monday, a position the coach says needs to be filled and indicated he performed well.

A team-wide dearth of fitness, though, seems to have plagued some returning players according to Fory.

“I was kind of surprised about some of the guys who played before,” said Fory, “I think they’re not—flat out—in shape. That’s going to be a major problem.”

If the team is to succeed this season, the onus is going to be on the players to reach their potential.

“It’s shows commitment, especially coming from the guys from previous years,” said Fory, “It’s up to the athlete on what type of commitment they want to have. They know what the expectations are and if they fail those targets, it’s their own fault.”

Thursday, August 14, 2008

CSUEB Athletic Budget May Not Be Enough


The Pioneer Sports Editor

The University has contended its plan to move the athletic program to Division II would increase the school’s visibility and encourage campus pride—if only our teams are competitive.

According to budget data compiled by the U.S. Department of Education via the Equity In Athletics Disclosure Act (EIADA), the extra $1.5 million the athletic program would receive through a student fee increase would only place Cal State, East Bay seventh out of 12 California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) schools.

CSUEB Athletics Director Debby DeAngelis projects the 2009 budget—the first year the Pioneers will compete in the CCAA—to be roughly $3.2 million, ranking above San Francisco State, Stanislaus State, Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Monterey Bay, CSU Dominguez Hills and CSU San Bernardino.

“What we said is that we want to be in the top half. Four schools will still have a larger total budget than we do,” said DeAngelis, “The commitment to put us in the top half is being met”
In fact, six schools operated during the 2006-07 school year with a budget greater than CSUEB plans to compete with in 2009.

Sonoma State leads all CCAA schools with a budget last year of nearly $4.4 million and includes one of the nation’s top Division II baseball programs.

They are followed by U.C. San Diego at $4.0 million, Chico State at $3.9 million, Humboldt State at $3.8 million and CSU Los Angeles at $3.7 million.

In addition, DeAngelis said the athletic program will be split from the Department of Kinesiology by 2009. Currently, only 40 percent of coach’s salaries are reflected in the CSUEB budget.
By 2009, the entire coaching expenditure will be solely reflected on the athletic program’s budget, making the current $1.9 million the school reported to the EIADA to be less than it actually seems.

Bill Fusco, the director of athletics at Sonoma State said that salaries and benefits are a huge part of an athletics budget. He said 70 percent of his budget is allocated to coaches.

“The cost of operating an NCAA Division II program really depends on the costs of salaries and benefits of the coaches and administrative staff,” said Fusco.

He believes a Division II program can be competitive on a budget of $2.8-$3 million, not including scholarships.

Sonoma State raised scholarship money solely through fundraising as oppose to the student fee increase used at CSUEB.

“The phrase we use in athletics is a ‘level playing field’. Are we putting ourselves were we have the facilities and the resources and money is just part of it,” said DeAngelis, “Are we funded well enough to level the playing field so that on any given day we can win that game? I think we are.”
DeAngelis said the university is looking to upgrade facilities for the soccer teams and softball.

She also hopes to upgrade the campus swimming pool from 25 yards to the standard 50 meters.

A greater emphasis on wins and losses may ultimately become a larger factor on campus with the move to Division II.

“We’re going into a conference that is extremely successful in Division II. If we can be successful in the conference, we’ll probably be successful in Division II,” said DeAngelis, “We have to get to the point we’re we can compete. I have faith that we have the coaches who can do that and initially we can put the resources in place for that to happen.”

DeAngelis also indicated that coaches are held accountable for maintaining, at least, a .500 winning percentage and that criteria will continue.

With the basic premise that competing in Division II needs to equate to winning, what if the planned budget fails to produce results?

While confidence is high, DeAngelis did not rule out the need to possibly raise student fees in the future or some other type of increased revenue.

“It will be huge if the university continues to grow the way we think it will. That way there would be more money available with more students,” said DeAngelis, “It’s conceivable that we could look for ways to generate more money.”