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Should schools teach, perform religious songs?

Margarita Lacabe, whose husband is San Leandro school board President Mike Katz-Lacabe, wants sacred music to be removed from elementary school music studies or school programs. We’ve been getting lots of letters and calls. Sound off here.

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And it’s tasty, too

San Leandro’s Ghirardellli Chocolate has won a Libby Award (for liberation) for the best vegan chocolate from PETA2, the world’s largest youth animal rights organization. The group is an offshoot of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Teenagers and young adults voted the company’s semi-sweet chocolate chips the winner in Web balloting last year.

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Heading east for the ‘Bama Bash

San Leandrans Sergio Perez and Sarah O’Neal Rush are heading to Washington, D.C., to join millions of others anxious to share in the excitement of the Barack Obama inauguration.

Perez, 17, is taking a few days off from classes at San Leandro High School — where he is a junior — to join three family members for the six-day trip. Perez left Thursday on a flight to Philadelphia; he’ll take a train from there to Virginia, where his family has rented a cabin. They’ll get up early each day to take the train 1 1/2 hours to the capital and sightsee. Then, on Tuesday — inauguration day — Perez expects to be riding the rails by 3 a.m., so he and his family can reach the capital by 5 a.m.

”What an experience,” he said.

Sarah O’Neal Rush is the great-granddaughter of Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee University, and the first African American to dine in the White House at the invitation of President Theodore Roosevelt in 1901. Rush has written about her great-grandfather, and her family legacy. Rush will be the guest of Congresswoman Diane Watson, D-Los Angeles, her first cousin.

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Get out those shopping shoes

On Wednesday, add one more store — in San Leandro — to Wal-Mart’s estimated 33 superstores, 139 discount and general merchandise stores, 36 Sam’s clubs and seven distribution centers in California.

At 120,186 square feet, the new Wal-Mart at 15555 Hesperian Blvd. — next to an In N Out Burger, just off Interstate 880 — falls in the discount and general merchandise store size. Superstores size in at 185,000 square feet and larger.

Three other Wal-Marts are within two to nine miles, and all also off I-880: at the Westgate Shopping Center on Davis Street in San Leandro; on Hegenberger Road in Oakland; and off Alvarado-Niles Road in Union City.

Do you plan to shop at the new Wal-Mart store? What other types of retail stores and businesses should San Leandro try to attract?

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Barack’s bash to cost San Leandro

San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos isn’t going to President-elect Barack Obama’s inauguration, but democracy’s version of a coronation next week in the nation’s capital still is costing the city several hundred dollars.

From Jan. 17 to 19, Santos is attending the annual winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in — you guessed it — Washington, D.C. In December, Santos made his conference reservations for three nights at the Capital Hilton, the conference headquarters, for just over $200 a night.

Then, two weeks ago, Santos’s secretary got a call from the conference. The Capital Hilton was needed for inaugural guests. San Leandro’s top elected official, along with other mayors, will have to spend their last night on Jan. 18 at L’Enfant Plaza Hotel — at $500 a night, Santos said (somewhat indignantly) last week.

So Santos, who just was named to the conference’s Census Committee, is coming home as planned Jan. 19, the day before the inauguration. Rooms for the event, even if they could be found, are priced in the stratosphere, Santos noted. No inaugural tickets are available, and Santos said he might find himself standing in the cold a mile from the Capitol building, where the ceremony will be held. And, getting a plane home during the two to three days following the ceremony could be iffy at best, he added.

But, look at it this way, mayor. L’Enfant Plaza is giving you — and the city’s pocketbook — a deal. While the L’Enfant Plaza Web site on Monday showed all rooms are booked, last week there still were vacancies for Jan. 18: at $799 for the night, plus $115.86 tax, for a total of $914.86.

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If you can’t go to one Capital…

Can’t make it to the nation’s capital for the Obama-Biden inauguration? Then turn on the television to next Tuesday’s ceremony while tapping out an application on your laptop or computer for fellowships in California’s state capital of Sacramento.

State Sen. Ellen Corbett, D-San Leandro, is publicizing two programs that have application deadlines of Feb. 25.

The Senate Fellows program offers 18 college graduates the chance to become Senate staff members for 11 months, starting next October. The program is open to anyone who is at least 20 years old and will have graduated from a university or four-year college by next Sept. 1. For an application form and information, visit www.sen.ca.gov/ftp/sen/fellows_home.

The California Judicial Administration Fellowship program is open to 10 people who will be assigned to various courts in Sacramento, San Francisco and Los Angeles, while simultaneously enrolled as graduate students at California State University, Sacramento. Applicants must be at least 20 years old and have earned a bachelor’s degree by next Sept. 1. Graduate, post-graduate and mid-career applicants are welcome, Corbett said. For information, visit www.csus.edu/calst/judicial.

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Cities ready to boogie, if feds download funds

San Leandro and Hayward are early birds in the hunt for federal economic stimulus funds.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors went to Capitol Hill on Monday with 11,391 “ready to go” projects from 427 cities, including ones from the Cherry City (San Leandro) and the Zucchini City (Hayward). The projects total $73 billion, and would jumpstart 847,641 construction and project support jobs nationally in 2009 and 2010.

San Leandro’s $20.5 million proposal would create 155 jobs. The projects, their cost and the numbers of jobs include: citywide handicapped ramp improvements, $600,000, 10; senior center construction, $10 million, 60; water pollution control plan co-generation project construction, $4.6 million, 32; streets reconstruction, $2.5 million, 30; and improvements to the city’s sewer system, $2.8 million, 23.

Hayward, a bigger city, isn’t hesitating to ask for more money. Its $135 million list of projects would create 1,730 jobs. Projects, their cost, and number of jobs are: Hayward Executive Airport hangar construction, $6.5 million, 120; airport underpass roadway, $22 million, 250; pedestrian bridge over Union Pacific Railroad to link homes and Centennial Park in the Burbank cannery area, $2.5 million, 80; new main library, $30 million, 300; replacement of 150 traffic controllers, $1.5 million, 40; street light replacement program, $8 million, 150; improvements to waste-water treatment plant, $8 million, 200; new dispatch and records management system for police and fire departments, $3.5 million, 40; new Fire Station 7, $10 million, 100; street and drainage system improvements, $10 milllion, 100; and citywide road pavement replacement, including reconstruction of some streets, $33 million, 350.

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Does Fido need place to frolic at San Leandro Marina?

A San Leandro shoreline dog park hasn’t been on the fast track. But the concept has made slow and steady progress during the past 18 months as the Four Paws Society worked with the city’s Recreation and Park Commission on a $491,000 plan that seemed likely to go to the City Council for approval early next year.

Now, the 1.3-acre park plan seems likely to go on the back burner, as the result of other ideas and projects pitched Tuesday by a San Leandro City Council committee.

Do you think San Leandro needs a dog park? Why? And, if not at the marina, where?