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-project; 2016-09-06-staff-report-re-harbor-bay-senior-assisted-living-project
Robyn G. Young, M.D. letter: robyn-young-letter-health-effects-of-noise-re-westmont