Decision 2010: D-Day
The big news right now is a press conference city councilman and mayoral candidate Frank Matarrese held on the steps of City Hall on Tuesday. A few weeks back, Matarrese was the subject of a nasty four-question robocall that asked whether recipients of the call would vote for Matarrese who the call claimed, among other things, “allowing over 100,000 of our taxpayer dollars to target a female city council colleague at a time when our government services are being cut and schools are being closed for lack of funding.” (The council had no formal input in that decision.) A poll conducted by Magellan Strategies that was widely broadcast on the Web also showed Matarrese lagging behind dais-mates Doug deHaan and Marie Gilmore in the mayor’s race.
So who’s responsible? Matarrese thinks it’s SunCal. He said SunCal’s chief operating officer, Frank Faye, had threatened to sue the city if officials didn’t vote to extend SunCal’s stay on the Island, and that Faye also threatened to get involved in the election if things didn’t go SunCal’s way. Matarrese’s campaign also sent reporters press clippings showing SunCal had targeted an opponent on the Albuquerque City Council in a 2009 election. SunCal had hoped to build a new community on tens of thousands of acres there.
“Add it up,” Matarrese said.”There is big money that is trying to influence this election.”
“I’m the key to this. If they get rid of my vote, they’re back in the game,” he added. And he said he thinks there’s a possibility his fellow dais-mates could allow SunCal back into town, a notion they vehemently denied Tuesday.
“I can’t compete with this. And that’s the real story here, the manipulation of an election,” Matarrese said. He said his campaign has complained to the Public Utilities Commission, saying the calls broke the law because the pollsters didn’t say who was paying for them.
SunCal spokesman David Soyka said the company hasn’t sponsored any polls in connection with Alameda’s council and mayoral races. “We are not responsible for any polls,” Soyka said.
Soyka confirmed a meeting did take place between Faye and Matarrese and every other member of the council; when asked to confirm Matarrese’s version of the meeting, he would only say they discussed “the recommendations of (Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant) and indicated that her actions might put the city at risk.”
Soyka said the company’s current interest is Gallant; attorneys representing SunCal in the lawsuit they filed against the city put a quarter-page ad in The Desert Sun newspaper last week seeking dirt on Gallant’s past work history, as well as a website and a toll-free telephone line.
Campaign disclosures released Tuesday offered no obvious clues as to who is responsible for the polls.
Council and mayoral candidates contacted by The Island on Tuesday vehemently denied Matarrese’s claim that they’d bring SunCal back to town if elected and expressed disappointment over Matarrese’s claim (Matarrese conceded the claim was speculation).
“His claims about me are paranoid and wrong,” Gilmore said. “The SunCal experiment in Alameda is over. The only issue that remains is defending ourselves against SunCal’s lawsuits so that we can move on.”
Fellow mayoral candidate and former councilman Tony Daysog also said he wouldn’t let SunCal come back to town if elected, while Councilwoman Lena Tam, who is seen by many as the developer’s staunchest supporter on the council, said she will “vigorously fight” the company’s lawsuit. Council candidate Rob Bonta said he voted against Measure B, SunCal’s ballot measure, in February.
“I have absolutely no intention of allowing SunCal to come back as part of any litigation settlement or in any other way whatsoever,” Bonta said.
Mayor Beverly Johnson, who has also claimed SunCal is influencing the election, didn’t respond to a call seeking comment on the claim; deHaan, who a reporter called Monday for comment on claims SunCal was responsible for the polls, said he had “no idea” who was making the calls and suggested the reporter call Johnson and Matarrese.
Back to those disclosures: The first round of campaign contribution and expenditure reports for the November 2 election was due Tuesday, and the reports are available online. So far, Alameda’s king of campaign cash is council candidate Rob Bonta, who has taken in $48,831.20 for this race. Bonta, who has faced criticism for taking out-of-town donations – just $2,355 of the $14,355 in cash and in-kind contributions he has received since July came from Alameda residents – said he’s collected more money in town than any other candidate, and that his donations come from a “broad range” of community members, friends and neighbors (many of them fellow attorneys).
Lena Tam was next in the council money race, pulling in $26,278.30 to date, followed by Mayor Beverly Johnson who collected $22,518.16 (though the amount includes $13,682.81 from Johnson’s failed supervisorial bid and $3,746.42 from a “DBA” for her campaign). Planing Board president Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft listed contributions of $20,051, including $12,850 she contributed. (Jean Sweeney filed her form on time Tuesday, but it wasn’t online yet when a reporter checked Tuesday night.)
Jeff Mitchell raised $2,170, while council candidates Tracy Jensen and Adam Gillitt filed forms showing they’d raised and spent less than $1,000 so far.
On the mayoral front, Matarrese leads the cash dash with $36,029, followed by Gilmore, with $25,657. Daysog listed $9,050 in contributions, much of it from himself and his family. Mayoral candidate Kenny “The Clown” Kahn didn’t list contributions on his disclosure, and deHaan hadn’t filed a disclosure form by Tuesday’s deadline.
Big donors included Alameda’s firefighters, who gave $5,000 to Gilmore and another $2,500 to Tam, and Asian political godfather C.C. Yin, who gave $2,500 to Tam and $2,000 to Bonta. Oakland City Attorney John Russo gave $1,000 to Gilmore and $500 to Tam, while state Board of Equalization member (and Alameda resident) Betty Yee gave $500 to Tam and $250 to Bonta and Alameda County Superior Court Judge Delbert Gee (also an Alameda resident) gave $100 each to Tam and Ezzy Ashcraft.
Matarrese took in $5,000 from state Assemblyman Sandré Swanson, $3,000 from the Northern California Carpenters union and $3,200 from a local attorney whose firm represents labor unions and employees, while Gilmore got $2,500 from yacht merchant John Beery. Ezzy Ashcraft got $500 from West Bay Congresswoman Jackie Speier, while Bonta took $500 from West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon.
Tam’s donations include $1,000 from Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, $500 from the California Asian Police Officers Association, $500 from the local branch of the National Women’s Political Caucus – and $500 from Mayer Brown, a law firm that counts Robert Hertzberg as a partner. SunCal hired Hertzberg after they lost the Measure B election in an effort to repair relations with city officials.
Candidates have insisted they wouldn’t take contributions from developers, and the disclosures didn’t show any direct developer contributions (unless you count Johnson’s supervisorial campaign cash, which included $10,000 from Ron Cowan’s Harbor Bay Isle Associates).
The next round of disclosures is due October 21.
Fire fight: Meanwhile, Alameda’s firefighters are going after deHaan, sending out a letter that says deHaan has claimed to support public safety and redevelopment of the Alameda Theatre, Harbor Bay Isle and Business Park, Alameda Towne Centre and the Bridgeside shopping center. DeHaan, whose supporters picketed Fire Station One on Sunday, has hit back at the firefighters on his website, saying he’s never taken money from “special interest groups such as the Firefighters … Why? Because money has strings attached and we have a commitment to the community to be fair and equitable.”