Too cute


Union City police recovered this Yorkie that had been stolen the day before from a locked car in Union Landing. We’ll have  the story in Saturday’s paper. The dog is so small and cute, it makes me miss my cat.



You may have read it here first. Fremont has a nationally ranked firefighter combat team. As part of my old duties as Sunday reporter, I covered the big Fremont competition twice, including last year when the Fremont team won it.

They were ranked #1 in the country after that, but they didn’t fare so well at the World Championships later on in Vegas.

Now, with a new season upon them, the team is holding a Tequila tasting fundraiser at 6 p.m. March 19 at La Pinata. For just $40 (It’s $45 at the door) you can dine with Fremont’s bravest, and, the press release says, learn about the culture and heritage of fine Mexican distilled spirits…” Sounds like quite the natural high.

Call 510-795-2244 for tickets.

 There are a lot of good guys and hard workers on the team, but for full disclosure, they’re not exactly hurting for cash.

The two top performers made a combined $277,400 in 2006.

Here’s some highlights from last year’s challenge. I especially like the lone comment.



Sikh Temple and buses

Both a member of the Sikh Temple and a temple neighbor sent me AC Transit’s latest missive on the Route 99 controversy. The Temple had lobbied the city and bus agency for more than a year to reroute a bus line to better serve the temple, only to find that the nearby residents didn’t want big buses rumbling down their narrow streets.

As previously reported, a new proposal — which a Temple leader says is a reasonable compromise, and neighbors think is just more pandering to the Temple — is slated to go into effect this June.

Meanwhile the bus controversy seems to be playing a role in the Temple’s board of director’s election scheduled for March 9. There are four factions gunning for five seats on the board of directors, and it seems, the ruling faction has split in two.

One member of the breakaway slate said the split occurred in part because they think the temple’s top dog, Ram Singh, is a hothead and that his temper made a bad situation with the neighbors much worse than it needed to be.

The Gurdwara election is scheduled for March 9. In prior elections, the police had to be sent in to provide security and the League of Women Voters were ordered to observe the proceedings. The police say they will be on hand. Hopefully, it’ll be a little more mellow this time around.


Bon Voyage Bullet Train?

Republicans beware: Alberto Torrico is mad as hell, and, with just one term left in the Assembly, he’s not going to take it anymore. The Assemblyman from Newark talked pretty tough at a Wednesday budget forum he sponsored. He said he won’t vote for a budget that is balanced only by cutting services. You can read more about it in Friday’s Argus.

Torrico also said he won’t be stumping for a $10 billion bond on the November ballot to continue development of the high-speed rail line. California doesn’t have money right now for bullet trains, he said.

More Torrico news: He’s submitted a bill, AB2586, that would double the amount of time tenants living in foreclosed rental units have to move. Unless they live in a city with rent control, renters generally have 30 days to leave their homes. The State Senate defeated a similar bill by State Sen. Don Perata, D-Alameda.


Con Game

I forgot to mention the only juicy thing at Tuesday’s council meeting: Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman going off on Union City Mayor Mark Green.

Usually it’s the other way around.

Green is perpetually annoyed with Wasserman and Fremont for opposing Green’s prized, but underfunded, Dumbarton Rail project. If it’s ever built, it would establish a rail link over the Bay from Union City to Redwood City, and secure Union City’s BART station as a Bay Area transit hub.

Wasserman never misses a chance to call it a huge waste of money. He only has eyes for extending BART to San Jose, which, to be fair, several regional transit planners also think is a big waste of money.

Anyway, Green apparently wasn’t happy that the latest countywide long-term transportation plan has designated $160 million for BART to Warm Springs ($60 million of which is part of Fremont’s share of the state funds) and nothing for Dumbarton Rail. The previous plan, which is updated every four years, had $14.8 million for Dumbarton, and Green didn’t want that cut even if the project remains on hold the designation turns out to be purely symbolic, Councilmember Bob Wieckowski reported to the council.

So a deal was reached in which Union City and Newark designated $4.4 million of their funds to the project, which will run through both cities, and BART,  AC Transit and Fremont designated the rest of the $14.8 million. It essentially meant that road improvement projects at Auto Mall Parkway and Mission San Jose would be designated to get $9 million instead of $10 million in the long-term plan, Wieckowski said.

Wasserman wasn’t having it.

“This is another con game by Mark Green,” the mayor said. “This has gone on and on and on. Now he’s conned you (Wieckowski) out of $10 million.

Wieckowski responded that it was just $2 million, and that it was merely a symbolic gesture since the long-term funding plan is revised every four years.

Wasserman replied: “It’s not a symbolic gesture when you give away money.”

When Wieckowski also said that Green had called the meeting hastily, so he didn’t have time to discuss it beforehand, Wasserman replied, “That’s the way he does it; That’s the way he does it.”


Fremont Council Update

The Fremont City Council convened for more than three hours last night.  Ugh! Here are some highlights for the 210,965 of you who weren’t in attendance or watching online. 

Railroad Quiet Zones – The council approved $90,000 to stop trains from blowing their horns when traversing the Stevenson Boulevard crossing and to look into doing the same at Nursery Avenue.

Dedicated Tri-City Beat commenter Bill Spicer reiterated his opinion that quiet zones are a big waste of money.

More on this in Thursday’s paper.

The council talked housing policies, mainly the prospect of  allowing more low-income and high-density housing. The proposed locations for high density housing (i.e. much taller buildings)  would be near the current BART station and proposed BART stations in Irvington and Warm Springs, as well as on major thoroughfares.

Fremont’s estimated to have 249,300 residents in 2030.

A new law requires Fremont to zone a section of the city where emergency shelters, transitional and supportive housing would be allowed by right (meaning city officials couldn’t stop it, even if they think it belongs in Hayward). No council member Tuesday proposed where to put the homeless services zone. Smart folks.

Councilmember Bob Wieckowski talked for what seemed like a half-hour, maybe longer, about affordable housing. He wants taller buildings and more housing even if it blocks views. “If you want to see the hills, walk 15 feet to the side and look at the hills,” he said.


If these walls could talk

As I sit here at the Hayward Hall of Justice waiting for the jury to return a verdict in the murder trial of Jose Beteta, the man charged with killing a Union City man during an attempted robbery in December 2004, I’ve had the good fortune to hear some very interesting conversations. Some of them were supposed to be private, but when your speaking loudly in the crowded halls of a courthouse, the privacy argument goes right out the window. But this got me thinking about some of the more amusing and obnoxious things I heard and experienced while covering court cases over the last few years.
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Dress up

WARNING!!! This post has no local relevance whatsoever.

As I’ve hinted at before, I’m no Obamamaniac. But, I don’t get the uproar (either his campaign’s or the right wing conspiracists’) over a photograph of him dressed like a Somali elder. Here it is, courtesy of the AP:

It is mildly interesting that Obama allegedly didn’t want to be photographed with Gavin Newsom because the SF mayor is seen as too pro-gay, but was willing to pose with a turban. Nevertheless, politicians play dress up all the time when on location.

Take President Bush, for instance. Here he is with good buddies Russian President Putin and former Chinese President Jiang during a visit to China.

And here’s Bush and Putin at it again. This time in Vietnam, of all places, with Jiang’s successor, President Hu:
dress5.jpgPhoto is from Getty Images.


The Fremont Triplets

If all of the demographic studies about newspaper readers are correct, none of you watch MTV. I sure don’t. I don’t even have cable.

But I do have a girlfriend with a DVD player and a weakness for trashy TV, so this weekend I watched reruns of My Super Sweet Sixteen — MTV’s show about rich girls and their over-the-top sweet sixteen parties.

Maybe you’ve heard, but one show was about triplets from Fremont — The Bettencourt girls, Washington High Class of 2006. Go Huskies.

What interested me wasn’t so much the girls, but how MTV chose to present Fremont, or in this case, ignore it.

When one of the triplets said they lived in Fremont, MTV showed a palm tree-lined street for about a millisecond. Then, without pausing for a breath, the triplet said that Fremont was close to San Francisco, and MTV showed several seconds of trolley cars.

I laughed, but I also kind of thought Fremont was getting disrespected. It would be akin to Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff renaming his team The Anyplace but Fremont A’s of Fremont.

I bring this up because I’m under orders to find a new Union City picture for the top of this blog. My boss isn’t a fan of the drive-in movie sign because the theater’s been closed for more than a decade.

He proposed replacing it with a picture of Union Landing – that big shopping center with the Wal-Mart – but I’m not too keen on the suggestion. Surely, something says “Union City” better than its biggest sales tax generator.

But what?

The veterans’ memorial at Charles Kennedy Park?
The gazebo at Old Alvarado/Cesar Chavez Park?
The new sports center?
A flock of geese?

We’re also not married to the pictures we have representing Fremont (The Mission) and Newark(the big pool).

I almost never beg for comments, but I’m really curious to know what place or physical structure you guys think best represents your cities. Please let me know.

BTW, just in case you were curious, here’s a picture of the triplets, courtesy of my new favorite station, MTV.


Quiet, please

Looks like Fremont is moving ahead on railroad quiet zones. If you remember from last year, the city is looking into ways to stop trains from blowing their horns as they pass through Fremont’s 11 at-grade crossings.

Unfortunately for people who live near those crossings, erecting the necessary safety measures (medians and crossing arms) at every crossing would cost $4.5 million _ money the city doesn’t have.

So the plan is to phase in quiet zones with the crossings at Stevenson Boulevard and Nursery Avenue getting top priority. Stevenson has all of the necessary safety infrastructure in place, so it’s the cheapest. Nursery would require a lot of infrastructure improvements, so it would be a test case to see how negotiations would go with federal regulators regarding safety measures and Union Pacific regarding how much liability the city would have to assume for the trains to stop blowing their horns. The outcome of those negotiations will probably determine whether the city can move ahead with establishing quiet zones.

Here’s the city’s proposed quiet zone priority list:

1) Stevenson
2) Blacow
3) Shinn
4) Nursery (It is leapfrogging Blacow and Shinn in part because it gives the city a chance to work with federal officials on clarifying the use of medians as a qualified safety measure)
5) Kato
6) Fremont, Maple and Dusterberry (They’re so close they are counted as a group)
7) Clarke
8) Walnut
9) Warren (Not ranked, since it eventually be grade-separated)

Expect more details in Tuesday’s paper.