Attack dogs on the loose!

The smear campaign has begun.

First perpetrator:  “Alamedans United,” the group funded by out-of-town labor unions and real-estate developers and dedicated to electing a slate of pro-labor, pro-development candidates to local offices.

First target:  Councilman Tony Daysog.

First beneficiary:  The Alameda firefighters’ union’s Council candidate, Teamster lawyer Malia Vella.

The brochure, which arrived in Alamedans’ mailboxes Thursday, seeks to portray Mr. Daysog as an enemy, and Ms. Vella as an ally, of Alameda seniors.

It is, to be blunt, a piece of crap.

The attack on Mr. Daysog alleges that he voted “AGAINST Alameda senior center serving the frail elderly, ignoring pleas from local seniors” on September 6, and “against establishing a new senior center” on the same day.  By repeating the phrase “senior center,” the brochure conjures up – deliberately, we’re sure – the Mastick Senior Center, which is run by the City and offers everything from daily hot lunches to weekly bingo games (and a lot more) to Alamedans aged 50 and over.  What a schmuck Mr. Daysog is, the reader is supposed to think, for voting against creating a new place for seniors like Mastick.

But that isn’t what he did at all.

There was no vote taken by Council on September 6 – or any other day – about whether to establish a new “senior center.”  The vote that occurred on September 6 was whether to allow a “senior assisted living facility” as a “permitted use” on a site zoned for commercial use in the Harbor Bay Business Park.  The Planning Board OK’d it, but the final decision belonged to Council.

The issue arose when a private developer, Pacific Union Land Investors LLC, applied to build a two-story, 105,500-square foot structure on the site.  The building would include individual private rooms with bathrooms for single memory-care residents as well as one- and two-bedroom units for senior couples.  It also would offer a “restaurant-style” dining area, 24-hour food service, a movie room, physical therapy, and a common living room.

A “senior center” this ain’t.  It’s a development project similar to Cardinal Point.

Mr. Daysog indeed did vote to reverse the decision declaring the proposed project to be a “permitted use.”  So did Mayor Trish Spencer and Vice Mayor Frank Matarrese.  A majority of the City’s elected officials thus overruled the Planning Board.

This vote, of course, didn’t sit well with the developer, and it outraged the Inner Ringers on the Planning Board.  Indeed, Board member David Burton, who didn’t even attend the meeting at which the Board granted approval, immediately penned a screed against Mr. Daysog for publication in the Alameda Journal.

And guess what?  One side of the “Alamedans United” brochure is devoted to a lengthy excerpt from Mr. Burton’s hit piece, complete with yellow highlighting.  (One wonders: Did Mr. Burton publish his piece to give “Alamedans United” something to use in an already planned anti-Daysog mailer?)

According to Mr. Burton – who, incidentally, is now recusing himself from any Planning Board discussions involving Encinal Terminals because of the business relationship between his employer and Tim Lewis Communities, having previously recused himself from items involving Site A at Alameda Point because of his employer’s business relationship with that developer – Mr. Daysog “turned his back on the Alameda seniors” by voting to overturn the Planning Board decision.  “How shameful!”

Give us a break.  If one reads the minutes – or watches the video – of the September 6 Council meeting – it is impossible to detect the anti-senior bias of which Mr. Burton and “Alamedans United” accuse Mr. Daysog.  To the contrary, the Councilman’s comments suggest that he voted not to permit the proposed use precisely out of concern for the interests of seniors.

For him, the problem was noise.  During the Council discussion, Mr. Daysog pressed the developer to state how close the site was to the “65-decibel contour line” defining the area most severely affected by noise from the Oakland airport.  (The Port of Oakland previously paid for sound insulation for homes located inside this line.)  When it came time to vote, noise was the principal reason – together with his concern that permitting the proposed use would violate prior agreements with the Port of Oakland – Mr. Daysog cited for his no vote.

The noise issue is a real one.  Don’t take our, or Mr. Daysog’s, word for it; look at the letter submitted to Council by Robyn G. Young, M.D., a Board-certified neurologist practicing in Alameda who is the former president of the California Neurological Society and the San Francisco Neurological Society.  (Disclosure:  Dr. Young is not active in local politics, but she is Jane Sullwold’s long-time neurologist.)

In her letter, Dr. Young cites a host of detrimental health effects on seniors from living at a project located so close to the airport even if noise levels remain below the 65-decibel level.  “It is not appropriate,” she concludes, “to place a community of compromised elderly individuals in a location with extreme noise, where residents would be subject to the effects of chronic recurrent noise at levels known to have adverse health consequences.”

If the unions and developers insist on accusing Mr. Daysog of anti-senior bias because he wants to protect seniors against excessive noise, they’ll have to take on Dr. Young.  Good luck.

Having falsely trashed Mr. Daysog, the “Alamedans United” brochure then disingenuously tries to build up Ms. Vella.

She “leads efforts to provide nutritional, hot meals to Alameda seniors,” the brochure claims.  In addition, she is “responsive to neighborhood concerns and OUR quality of life” and is “SUPPORTED by firefighters and senior advocates.”

The statement about being supported by firefighters is surely true, and Ms. Vella would be a rare candidate if she wasn’t “responsive” to “neighborhood concerns” (although we’re not quite sure what it means to be “responsive” to “OUR quality of life”).

But what about the rest of it?

The organization the Merry-Go-Round usually associates with providing “nutritional, hot meals” to Alameda seniors (and other Alamedans) is Alameda Meals on Wheels, which has been performing that service locally for 43 years.  But the “Alamedans United” brochure doesn’t cite any role played by Ms. Vella – even as a volunteer – with Alameda Meals on Wheels, and the organization’s website does not list her as either an officer or a director.

We also checked the website for Alameda County Meals on Wheels, which serves a broader geographic area.  Ms. Vella is not listed as an officer or director of that organization, either.

So if she’s truly “leading efforts” to provide meals for seniors, it must be through some other entity.

Who might that be?  Well, the “Alamedans United” brochure states that Ms. Vella “serves on the boards of Alameda Family Services and Spectrum Community Services.”

Of the two organizations, only one – Hayward-based Spectrum Community Services, Inc. – appears to offer services directed specifically to seniors.  (According to its website, Spectrum runs the senior lunch program at the Mastick Senior Center; it also operates a meals-on-wheels program for residents of Dublin, Livermore, Pleasanton and Sunol.)  The programs offered by Alameda Family Services, according to its website, consist of  “Head Start/Early Head Start,” “School-Based Health Centers,” “Family Support Services,” “Behavorial Health Care Services,” and “Dreamcatcher Homeless Youth Services.”

In any event, Ms. Vella’s credentials with these two organizations are rather slight.  The Spectrum website does not list her as a member of the organization’s Board of Directors at all, even though the page says it was updated on April 6.  Similarly, although the Alameda Family Services’ website does list Ms. Vella as a director, the most recent Form 990 filed by the organization with the Internal Revenue Service did not identify her as either an officer or director.  One can only infer she became an A.F.S. director after the tax year ended in June 2015.

We suppose it’s not unusual for an ambitious politician to angle a seat on a charity board in preparation for a run for office.  But voters shouldn’t assume that such a move reflects anything more than political expediency.

According to Form 496s filed Thursday, “Alamedans United” – a misnomer if there ever was one – appears to have spent more than $8,000 on the anti-Daysog, pro-Vella brochure.  But the labor/developer coalition still has plenty of cash in the bank.  Since our last report two weeks ago, “Alamedans United” raked in another $10,250 from labor PACs, including $10,000 from the national Teamsters’ union.  That brings the total to date to $56,750, of which $42,250 came from out-of-town unions and $10,000 from out-of-town real-estate developers.

And there are still almost four weeks to go until the election.  We wonder:  How many more hit pieces are the unions and developers planning?  And who will be the target(s)?  (Our bet:  Jennifer Roloff, unless polling done by “Alamedans United” shows that the Inner Ring’s acolytes in the blogosphere have impugned her character sufficiently already.)

We’re fairly sure Alamedans haven’t seen the last of the effluvia from the attack dogs.  We’ll have to keep our shovels at the ready for a while longer.


Harbor Bay Business Park senior assisted living project: 2016-06-22-staff-report-to-pb-re-harbor-bay-assisted-living-project2016-09-06-staff-report-re-harbor-bay-senior-assisted-living-project

Robyn G. Young, M.D. letter: robyn-young-letter-health-effects-of-noise-re-westmont

Alameda Family Services & Spectrum Community Services, Inc. I.R.S. filings: alameda-family-services-form-990spectrum-community-services-form-990

About Robert Sullwold

Partner, Sullwold & Hughes Specializes in investment litigation
This entry was posted in City Hall, Development and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

18 Responses to Attack dogs on the loose!

  1. Alan Pomeroy says:

    Thank you for the time you invest in keeping us informed.

  2. Steve Gerstle says:

    Malia Vella is a political fabrication. Perhaps she was born in Alameda, but she grew up in San Leandro and went to private school in Oakland (Bishop O’Dowd) and then private college in Massachusetts (Wellesley) . Evidence indicates that she moved to Alameda in 2013 from her hometown of San Leandro.

    Trying to discern the substance from the shadows, in spite of all the money being spent on her behalf, Tony Daysog is proving to be a rather difficult challenge. The money is being spent to back her up and tear down Tony Daysog. So, it is likely that Marilyn Ashcraft looks like a safe win and Lena Tam and Jennifer Rolloff are not competitive. (Unless their hit pieces come out tomorrow.) They have got to go after Tony. Did you know that Tony throws old ladies down flights of stairs? He also likes kicking dogs and cats. Probably spits on the American Flag in his spare time.

    Assisted living is big business. More and more of it is being run by private for-profit corporations. It isn’t the same as a skilled nursing facility and the monthly costs can top $6,000. It isn’t covered by Medicare.

  3. Dan says:

    Thank you Mr Sullword for keeping true Alamedans inform with facts not fiction. I always wonder why Malia Vella consistently mention that she is a native Alamedan born at Alameda Hospital as if that will resonate to true Alamedans(born and raised). I know many friends born at Alameda Hospital but never lived in Alameda. They live in San Leandro, San Lorenzo and Oakland all their lives. Are they considered native Alamedans? My four children were born at Merritt Hospital but lived in Alameda all their lives and graduated from Edision School, Lincoln Middle School and Alameda High School; will they be not considered native Alamedans? Steve Gerstle is correct to say that Vella is a fabrication; raised in San Leandro and I truly believe she is using Alameda as a stepping stone for her political career following her mentor Mr Bonta.

  4. Barbara James says:

    Thank you for another great and informative article.

  5. carol says:

    ◾Alameda MGR on this topic, is an excellent fact-checker. Mr. Daysog voted against a form of senior housing that was not permitted in that Administrative Professional zone. I am surprised that former & current Planning Board members either don’t know that or find it irrelevant. Senior housing is a residential use. This particular Westmont senior housing, even if it was permitted in that zone, is not for poor frail elderly. It is very expensive. You would have to be a very wealthy senior to buy in there. That is only one way in which this mailer is misleading.

    The second is the clear implication that Westmont is some sort of senior center like Mastick. It is nothing like Mastick. Mastick is free for all seniors, and benefits many poor and homeless ones. Seniors of all economic backgrounds mix at Mastick. Mastick provides great benefits to the community at large.

    Westmont would only be for the people who could afford to live there, and to bring profit to the developer. Not exactly a community resource. Daysog was correct in giving it the thumbs down.

    Thanks Steve Gerstle, for additional data showing Malia Vella’s tenuous-at-best connection to Alameda. Even the politico she worked for, Bill Quirk, doesn’t and has never represented Alameda. Why didn’t she run for City Council in some city in Quirk’s district?

  6. Marie Kane says:

    The Alameda City Council should ask for Mr. David Burton’s resignation from the Planning Board. His behavior on this issue has been completely out of line and inappropriate.

  7. Steve Gerstle says:

    Just got the attack dog robocall. Older woman’s voice saying that Tony Daysog voted against seniors and supported a fancy hotel while Malia Vella has been an advocate for seniors while Tony voted against a senior center.

  8. Gretchen Lipow says:

    It was bad enough when we had to swallow (choke) on Burton’s manipulative writing in the East Bay Times, BUT to see it repeated with ugly pictures (were these shots of Alamedans United?) in a mailer attacking Tony Daysog is a sick encore. Enough already! I echo Mare Kane’s words. Give us a full fledged voting member for the Alameda Planning Board.

  9. Jon Spangler says:

    In 2010, Tony Daysog promised Alamedans that he was a “new man” who would make better, wiser, and bolder decisions. I regret that many voters drank that cool-aid, because Daysog has not provided leadership on the City Council this time, either. (“Second verse, same as the first…”)

    We got the same long-winded, indecisive, and self-serving Tony Daysog this time around that we had back in 1998. He reads endless prepackaged explanations of his votes straight off of his laptop screen that reveal little about the issues and his votes lack foresight or courage. Except this time he has consistently sided with corporate landlords and given renters some extra stabs in the back.

    It is time for someone with more backbone, more compassion, and more vision than Tony Daysog. We need someone who is less self-serving, more decisive, and less hot air than the incumbent.
    At least renters know that Malia Vella will not ignore their concerns or stab them in the back…

    • richard94501 says:

      “Daysog has not provided leadership on the City Council this time, either.”

      Not that I think we need to spend $400,000 on a citywide transportation study, but if one of the resulting outcomes is a citywide shuttle system (which we could create without spending that much money – Emeryville has already done the hard work), Tony Daysog gets the credit. It was his idea for the mega study. That was leadership. You may not like where he’s leading, but it was an undeniable act of leadership. He convinced a council majority to spend $400,000 on a study. Someone can fact check, but I think that is the most money the city will have ever been spent on a study.

  10. richard94501 says:

    Would that the outrage of Mr. Burton and his shadowy friends be directed toward the lack of funding for the affordable family and senior projects at Alameda Point’s Site A. See following story “Houses, houses everywhere.”

    And I disagree that the mailer was “a piece of crap.” It was classic right wing spin machine, reminiscent of the rhetoric about the alleged “death panels” in President Obama’s healthcare plan.

    • carol says:

      I disagree that it was classic “right-wing” spin. It reminded me of that Left-Wing attack ad against Paul Ryan in 2011. The ad shows a look-a-like of Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pushing Granny in a wheelchair off a cliff, to symbolize what his proposal would do to frail seniors. Exactly the same tactic.

  11. It seemed too ridiculous to comment on in the original piece, but the “Alamedans United” hit piece also attacked Mr. Daysog for voting for an “enormous hotel” on Harbor Bay Isle. The implication was that Mr. Daysog preferred to cater to business interests rather than the needs of seniors.
    In case our readers care, Mr. Daysog actually joined Council members Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft and Jim Oddie to form a Council majority denying an appeal by the hotel workers’ union of a Planning Board decision to approve a 100-room hotel at the Harbor Bay Business Park. (Apparently, the hotel owner had refused to agree to hire only union workers). The Planning Board, on motion by Inner Ringleader John Knox White, had voted, 5-1, to approve the hotel project. Only Board member and UFCW Local 5 communications director Mike Henneberry dissented.
    So we suppose it’s fair to say that Mr. Daysog failed to take the pro-labor side on this issue, thus annoying the unions who are funding “Alamedans United.” But the same can be said of Council members Ashcraft and Oddie, who undoubtedly would be surprised to have their vote characterized as anti-senior.

  12. Steve Gerstle says:

    Another hit piece came out today on Tony Daysog. I believe that it was only sent to Democrats. It implies that he is a Republican. It features a glamour shot of Malia Vella and a troll photo of Tony Daysog. Malia Vella must be in real trouble if they are spending this kind of money to torpedo Tony.

    • David says:

      It’s not that Vella is necessarily in trouble. They are responding to what the polls tell them.

      The purposes of those telephone polls that solicit opinions on the various council candidates is to determine who to target with the attack mailers.

      If the poll shows [candidate x] to be the most favored/name recognition, that’s who they attack with the mailers.

      Note that Alameda firefighters have a history of this attack/smear approach going back at least to the 2010 election.

  13. Steve Gerstle says:

    Just got a call from Wilma Chan comparing Malia Vella to Hillary Clinton.

    Please don’t blame the dogs for the attacks; blame the dog owners.

  14. Bill Ingalls says:

    This hit piece is Trumpian.
    Enough said.

  15. Jon Spangler says:

    The real “piece of crap” was the promise that then-candidate Tony Daysog fed the voters in 2012, that he was somehow going to be more decisive, less long-winded, and provide real leadership on the City Council during his “second chance” than he had been in his first terms (when, unfortunately, I voted for him once).

    He still reads overblown, canned, and self-defensive justifications from his laptop at City Council meetings instead of being present (and accountable) in the moment. He does not seem capable of providing real leadership despite his professional expertise and his ability to do thorough research.

    The mailer from Alamedans United may have chosen its lead issues poorly for the mailers attacking Daysog, but his record does not justify allowing him to muck up our community decisions any longer. We need elected representatives who will show real leadership instead of supporting our dysfunctional mayor on the road to rack and ruin…

    Malia Vella and Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft are the best choices to provide real leadership and not prevarication on our City Council.

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