Gift Time

Every April, city councilmembers, commissioners, and some city employees have to fill out forms  stating their economic interests and any gifts they’ve gotten during the past calendar year.

Last’s year’s was more interesting.

For one, Councilmember Sue Chan and Mayor Bob Wasserman reported no gifts. Last year, the mayor got truffles, champagne — even a scanner.

On Aug 30, Councilmembers Bob Wieckowski and Bill Harrison went to an A’s game courtesy of Assemblyman Alberto Torrico. The triumvirate must have been good luck. The A’s won late 3-2. I wonder if they stayed till the end.

On Nov. 21, Wieckowski and Harrison were guests of KB Homes at a Warriors game. The home team lost that one.

As for Harrison, he also reported  $250 from SMG (a company that manages arenas) for Disney on Ice tickets in both March and October; $150 from the Chamber of Commerce for wine garden tickets; and $250 from Malcolm Pirnie Inc., and environmental engineering consulting firm that has done business with the water district.

Moving along …

Anu Natarajan reported a gift from the Chamber of Commerce for its wine tent at the Fremont Festival of the Arts; $50 for the Festival of India Banquet; $60 for the FSNC(?) Banquet and $60 for two tickets to the Nutcracker from the Fremont Symphony, which was begging for money last year.

Bob Wieckowski: $200 bike rental from the Bicycle Garage, $160 for a Bay East Association of Realtors reception, $250 from Flash Electronics for, from what I can gather, Chinese Art Education; $75 for a NUMMI reception; $300 worth of needlepoint art from his big city-sponsored trip to China, and $80 Warrior tickets from Fox Sports Network.


Newark Unified’s response to “Swine” flu

We’ll have a story  in tomorrow’s paper about how local school districts are reacting to the Swine flu, but here is a bit of info for those who live in Newark. Superintendent Kevin Harrigan sent notes to district employee and parents this week addressing the issue. 

In a nut shell, the note to employees states that school activities will continue as normal unless a confirmed case comes from the area. If that happens, then the district will work with county health officials to determine if school closures are needed. (View note to staff HERE) (.doc)

The note to parents also addresses the issue, but urges parents to to keep their children at home if they exhibit flu-like symptoms. (View note to parents HERE) (.pdf)  (Spanish/Espanol version is HERE) (.pdf)

Newark Unified is also going to use it’s Web site to distribute information.


NewPark Mall gets an arcade

Looks like within the last two weeks NewPark Mall has welcomed a new client — “Tilt” arcade. It’s a rather small location, but it’s toward the south end of the mall on the bottom floor, close to the former Mervyns.

A friend of mine who grew up in Fremont said there used to be an arcade at the mall — he seems to remember it also being called “Tilt” — but I’m not sure if this is the same. There used to be a “Tilt” at Vallco Mall (now known as Cupertino Square) in Cuptertino, but it was much bigger.


Glenmoor and Mission Ranch

monster houseI never feel more out of place in Fremont than when the City Council debates whether large two-story homes should be allowed in the Glenmoor and Mission Ranch neighborhoods.

On one side are residents who want to protect the architectural integrity of single-story tract homes. Opposing them are people who want to build bigger houses so they can live with their mothers.

I come from a land of staircases and retirement homes. For me, the so-called “monster home” debate is like going to a sports bar and having my friends argue over whether to watch gymnastics or synchronized swimming.

Here’s a quick refresher. Residents in both neighborhoods came to the city two years ago concerned that new folks were tearing down ranches to build much bigger homes that ruined the feel of the the neighborhood and cut down on their sun and privacy.

The people building the bigger houses, most of whom are Asian immigrants, said they needed the extra space because they had their parents and children all under the same roof.

Continue Reading


A less sanguine take on NUMMI

This comes from the web site gminsidernews.com. I don’t know how valid it is. There are no named sources,  but here is what it wrote about NUMMI:

GM’s Stake in NUMMI, Fremont, CA (TBA?)Reports are out this afternoon that GM is going to try to build another product at the Toyota joint-venture plant, but GMI sources say otherwise. According to our sources, GM’s first priority in talks with Toyota is going to be to get out of the JV entirely, but if they are unable to get out of the JV with Toyota they will elect to build a non-Pontiac product there. Currently the NUMMI plant builds the Pontiac Vibe, which is based on the Toyota Corolla platform. GMI was also told that if GM ends up in bankruptcy, the NUMMI JV will be part of “BadGM” in the split of the company.


Click here for the web site.


Fremont cracks down on head shops


UPDATE: I was wrong. The council approved the head shop 5-0.

In about an hour, the City Council will decide whether or not to allow a new head shop in the Irvington district. The Planning Commission had refused to grant the prospective business owners a permit because head shops sell stuff like glass pipes that are used to smoke pot.

The permit battle led City Hall to determine whether regular old smoke shops were also selling the stuff without a special head shop permit.

Guess what? They were.

It turns out Fremont effectively has eight head shops, only one of which legally sells the glass pipes and other paraphernalia legally. The Devil’s Workshop in Niles opened shop before the city passed its head shop ordinance. All of the others are out of compliance.

The city has alerted five of them that they must apply for a head shop permit to continue selling the merchandise. Two of them must stop selling altogether because they are in areas not zoned for head shops.

The violators were:
Cigarette Discounters, 34245 Fremont Blvd.
Mike Smoke Shop, 35766 Fremont Blvd.
Rocky Smoke Shop, 39471 Fremont Blvd.
Fremont Smoke Shop, 40796 Fremont Blvd.
Wonderland Smoke Shop, which is at Fremont and Chapel
Smoke Zone, 46699 Mission Blvd.
Underground Smoke Shop, 3633 Thornton Blvd.

If Fremont hadn’t surveyed its smoke shops, it would have been vulnerable to the argument that it was playing tough with potential head shop owners who wanted to play by the rules, while turning a blind eye as other stores sold the stuff without a permit.

My guess is that this ends up giving the council a little extra cover to keep that prospective head shop from opening in Irvington. We’ll find out soon enough.


`Brave’ Bank robber charged in federal court

Remember the cases about a year ago in which a man wearing an Atlanta Braves baseball cap was robbing banks and check cashing business in the East and South Bay to payoff gambling debts? Maybe you remember this picture?

Well, the man suspected of those crimes has been charged in federal court. Court records show Shaun Shinkyu Kim, A 27-year-old Fremont man, has been charged with a dozen crimes, all of which are a variation of robbery.

In all, authorities believe the man stole almost $58,000 during the six month stretch. In most of the heists only a few thousands dollars were stolen. But in the last one, June 10, 2008, the robbery suspect made off with more than $18,000.





Pension Costs

Last year Fremont spent more than $18 million on employee pension contributions. That is a lot more than it spent back in the 1990s when the stock market was good. 

At that time stock market returns were so flush that cities, including Fremont, decided to offer employees more generous pension benefits.

Since then, however, the market has tanked twice. Now cities have to contribute a lot more to the state retirement system to cover their employee pension obligations.

Fremont’s pension contribution rates are currently 29 percent for police and fire and 18 percent for everybody else.

That means that if a police officer makes a base salary of $100,000, the city pays an extra $29,000 a year toward his or her pension. The police officer would pay $9,000, which is 9 percent of salary.

For a non-sworn employee making $100,000, the city pays $18,000 a year and the employee pays $8,000.

The city pays more for police and fire because they have more lucrative pension benefits.

Back in the late 1990s, the pension rates were in the single digits. In a couple of years they are expected to climb above 30 percent for police and fire. The state pension system anticipates annual returns of nearly 8 percent. Last year it lost about 27 percent.