Campaign Mailer Watch: Bob Wieckowski

owlMost of you guys got Wieckowski’s “Give our economy a JOLT” mailer earlier this month.

In it he makes several claims:

  • Creating thousands of local middle class jobs
  • Attracting high-tech companies to our region
  • Establishing job training programs and workforce development
  • Hiring more police and firefighters

Below the image are excerpts from a Q&A I did the the Fremont Councilman, in which he explains the basis for the claims. Spoiler Alert: Fremont this year is budgeting fewer police and fire department employees than the summer before Wieckowski joined the council.

Warning!!! This is going to be a long post. If you’re not into politics scroll way down for cute Chihuahua photos:


TCB: Explain how you created “thousands of middle class jobs”

Wieckowski: “The BART Extension. If we look at the BART extension I think we can agree that those are good middle class jobs.” And the Grade Separation … That was during my entire time in office.”

“I think that that’s legitimate for a city council member to claim that, ‘I did that.'” … “Once the City Council approves it, you have ownership of it. I think you take ownership of it if it’s a catastrophe, but if it’s a success you take ownership of that as well … I think the public sector does create jobs.”

TCB: Should you take the blame for jobs lost by the NUMMI closure?

Wieckowski: “I don’t take the blame for NUMMI. … (mentions that city under Gus Morrison lobbied for the Prius to be built in Fremont) … It’s not like this city hasn’t been active.  If a private landowner decides he doesn’t want to do it….”

TCB: Using your criteria for creating jobs, couldn’t I claim to have created thousands of jobs by voting in favor of a state infrastructure bond measure — that bond money goes toward hiring people?

Wieckowski: “You’re reaching. As an elected official I have control over how (money) is spent. That sets me apart from citizens. You don’t have any authority to direct how that money would be spent as a citizen other than to approve this much money being raised.”

TCB: Couldn’t Garrett Yee also claim to have created thousands of jobs with the new Ohlone campus in Newark?

Wieckowski: Garrett was running for election when they had the bond (that paid for the new campus).” He didn’t get sworn in until the same time that the Ohlone bond was approved. I would agree with that (giving Yee credit for creating jobs), if Garrett had been on the Ohlone board and voted to put the measure on the ballot…”

“I think John Weed (a longer-serving Ohlone board member) could say (he’s) responsible for thousands of jobs.”

TCB: Name some of the high-tech companies you’ve attracted to our region?

Wieckowski: “There’s a whole list of new companies that have come in. I think I (pause) My claim to attracting them is creating the environment in Fremont that we want to be green.”

(He’s saying that by pushing for sustainable policies like the Styrofoam ban, he’s creating a climate that attracts green tech companies to Fremont)

He added about the mailer:

“It’s a propaganda piece. I’m taking liberties with my use of action words.”

TCB: Explain how you established job training programs.

Wieckowski: “I participated with Kennedy High School (on setting up their Green Academy). I didn’t do much (except for going there) and showing my support. Now they have something. I’ve just been friendly with them.”

TCB: Explain how you’ve hired more police and firefighters:

Wieckowski: (He says that he’s asked the city to give him the precise figures on sworn officers from when he took office in Dec. 2004 and now.

Note: I don’t have those figures. I do know that the eight new police positions authorized by the council in mid-2007 were never filled. I also know that according to this year’s city budget, Police Department staffing is budgeted for 287 full-time equivalent employees. In the 2004/2005 budget, It was 299 FTE’s — a decrease of 12.

As for fire, The department is budgeted for 152 FTEs this year. In 2004-2005, it was 153 — a decrease of one.

More Notes:

  • Wieckowski pointed to grants for the future Sabercat Park and the Grimmer Greenbelt (his creation) to back up the claim that “he’s also secured millions of dollars to create new parks and recreational opportunities.”
  • He noted that he was the council’s point person on transportation issues and funding to back up the claims that he “created jobs” and “helped secure over $200 million for local projects including a BART extension.”
  • He’s saying that his participation in the city’s trade mission to China helped retain jobs for employees at two Chinese-owned companies doing business in Fremont.  Wieckowski volunteered to be the council’s representative after Mayor Wasserman backed out because of a social obligation. Councilmember Cho threw a fit over the mayor not going and refused to go, and the vice mayor at the time, Bill Harrison, also declined to attend.


  • Obviously Wieckowski’s polling shows that jobs are the big issue. The problem is that if every elected official overseeing taxpayer money can individually take credit for spending that money in a way that creates jobs, then job creation is not such a unique skill.
  • Another problem is that the mailer’s interpretation of job creation could be so different from that of most voters, many of them who get this piece might just scratch their heads and wonder if Wieckowski has spent the past six years as president of Google or the general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party.
  • The irony is that of Fremont’s five council members, Wieckowski might have the best claim to an independent record in the three years I’ve been covering things. Obviously you need three votes to do anything, but it’s hard to imagine the council banning Styrofoam food packaging without Wieckowski and it’s hard to imagine there being any hope for a Children’s Natural History Museum without him either. I asked him about that. He answered by mentioning his effort four years ago for a permanent Hayward Fault exhibit at Central Park. “It’s hard to get that on a flier,” he said.
  • This might be the last edition of Campaign Mailer Watch. It’s 9:16 on a Saturday night. Not good. This should have been my Lady Gaga hour.



Fremont City Council Diary

Last night I did a live blog of the council meeting. Since it’s now a day old, I’ve reversed the order so it reads chronologically. Highlights were a union contract squabble, a dig at Union City and “cutting edge” traffic analysis.

7 p.m. — The chamber is full and very purple. SEIU union members are here to say they won’t sign their no-raise contract unless the get assurances that top management folks won’t get raises, while they’re stuck with nada. They want what’s called a “me too” clause. If management gets a raise, they would too.

I arrived just in time to hear the SEIU fight song. It’s sad that other unions have better songs and chants than the my union, the Newspaper Guild. In our defense, we don’t wear purple and we have super cool shop steward pins. I have two pins — one for each member of my shop.

7:19 — Nina Moore of the Chamber of Commerce just stopped by to tease me for my poor council attendance of late.  I took it like a man and complimented her shoes. A former colleague of mine would have called them spunky.

7:20 — Irvington man says bad traffic issues. Lots of skidding and trouble with Kirby’s, he says. They want speed bumps or signage.

7:25 — SEIU got in their two cents about their contract. They left chanting “What do we want? We want a contract.” I’ll ask Diaz why the city won’t commit to no raises for top management. Chamber is now almost empty. Ishan Shah is here. So is Dirk Lorenz and Nina Moore.

7:45 — It’s time to talk about the downtown (Midtown) and consultants. Continue Reading


Festival of India will have a parade

Last year, organizers had to cancel the big parade and turn a pretty Bollywood start from a “Grand Marshall” to a “Guest of Honor.”

But this year the parade will be back. It’s scheduled for noon, Aug. 16 down Liberty Avenue. I’ll be away, so I won’t get to enjoy it like I did Fremont Festival of the Arts Sunday. It was good, but I think they need a wind chime quota next year. Way too many of those.

Also, does anyone actually buy those wooden blocks with silly sayings carved into them? I saw a purple one that read “Girl (noun) a giggle wrapped in sunlight.”

I felt like I was trapped in Jaime Richards column.


Developer gets frustrated with Fremont City Council

I wrote a short story in today’s paper about Fremont council members giving  Blake Hunt Ventures a third shot at developing the vacant city-owned lot at Thornton Avenue and Fremont Boulevard.

I didn’t have room to include anything of Brad Blake criticizing city council members for not having a consistent vision for the site:

Here is some of what he said:

One of the things I think this project has suffered from is there really isn’t clear direction from the city as far as what they want …

You tell us what you want and whether you want us and we’ll respond to that. And if you don’t want us to do the project … were happy to walk away and spend our time with cities that want us…

We’re happy to work with the staff on coming up up with various different project concepts but they need direction from you on what you want because I don’t think that’s clear right now.

It’s frustrating for us .. to sit here and effectively be what  I think is criticized…

Blake is right. The council has been divided on Centerville since I started covering it. Bob Wieckowski and Anu Natarajan both want high-density housing; Bill Harrison and Bob Wasserman would rather just have retail.

But what Blake didn’t say is that if the council actually agreed on what they wanted for the site, they would have jettisoned him back to Danville months ago.

Blake got a foothold in Centerville by being the only developer to promise a retail development — music to the ears of Harrison, Wasserman and former Councilman Steve Cho. But when Blake couldn’t deliver a supermarket, he did a 180 and proposed tall buildings with lots of housing and some retail, which is what Natarajan and Wieckowski wanted from the start and the others were willing to accept to end the embarrassment of failing to get anything done on the site.

If the council knew what it wanted, it would never have agreed to two polar opposite proposals from the same developer — neither of which panned out.

Now there isn’t much housing or retail planned, but at least it’ll be cheaper to build.


Cop, firefighter pay roughly doubled over 15 years

I took a look at some of Fremont’s employee contracts going back through the years. One thing to note: Fremont uses several cities as a benchmark to determine if police and firefighters are being adequately compensated.

Fremont looks to pay an average of the top five cities in the group. All of the benchmark cities are in the immediate Bay Area except one. That one would also be the only one to have gone bankrupt: Vallejo.

It’s been 16 years since public safety officers went without a raise. During this time, their salaries have outpaced inflation. And their pension benefits have become much more generous. More on that later.

In 1994, a starting Fremont firefighter made 3,144 a month or $37,728

This year, firefighter starts out at just over $6,365 per month or $76,384

In 1994, a rookie cop made a base salary of $3,686 per month or $44,232

This year, a rookie cop starts out at just over $6,742 per month or $80,906 per year


Fremont salaries grew faster than revenue

Fremont’s union contracts expire at the end of the month. Negotiations are underway.  Two years ago, police and fire got 6 percent annual raises for two years and most other employees got 4 percent for two years.

This is far from perfect since I have salary data for calendar years and budget data for fiscal years, which start July 1.  But ….

In 2006, Fremont spent $86,953,044 on employee compensation. That doesn’t include funding pensions.

In 2008, Fremont spent $99,083,465 on employee compensation. A total increase of about $12 million.

From July 1 2006 to June 30 2007, the city had $122,960,000 in general fund revenue.

From July 1 2008 to June 30, 2009, the city estimates it will have had $127,357,000 in general fund revenue. A total increase of about $4.4 million.


Dutra v. Torrico Round 3

John Dutra says he likes Alberto Torrico, and he’s certainly donated to his his successor’s Assembly campaigns, but they sure seem to have trouble agreeing on local races.

Two years ago in Newark, Dutra, and his building industry buddies, backed Al Huezo; while Torrico, and his union buddies, backed Sharlene Saria-Mansfield. Huezo won.

Same thing last year in Fremont’s council race. Dutra backed Sue Chan, Torrico backed his aide Trisha Tahmasbi. Chan won.

Now with the Assembly. Dutra will support Yee. Wieckowski, who shares a legal office with Torrico, will have the incumbent’s support.

Who will Fremont’s council endorse? Harrison and Wasserman have already endorsed Wieckowski. Best guess is  Natarajan also goes for Wieckowski, while Chan endorses Yee.


First Specter, then Haggerty?

Got an e-mail yesterday from someone who said that Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who represents most of Fremont, had switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democrat.

Not true, said an aide when I called up Haggerty’s office.

“So, is he going to switch parties?” I asked.

“He’s thinking about it,” the aide said.

Haggerty hasn’t returned a call I made yesterday.


Party-line vote for non-partisan office

I know no one cares about the water board, but I still think this is interesting. The board is supposed to be non-partisan, but, of course, nothing is non-partisan. Among the candidates to replace Art Lampert, are Steve Cho, Fremont’s most successful Republican, and Paul Sethy, an active Democratic party member.

Here’s how the vote went down on Thursday among the four board members who have to agree on an appointee.  Not surprisingly, Weed and Koehler are Democrats, while Huang and Gunther are Republicans.

Weed            Koller                Huang                 Gunther
Sethy                        1                      1                       3                             3
Cho                           3                     3                        1                            1
Reynolds                  2                     2                        2                             2
The result was a tie. They’ll try to break the deadlock tomorrow. If they can’t do it, I’m told the decision goes to the Board of Supervisors, which surely would choose a Democrat.

Best of ???

bestoffremontI’m reading The Fremont Bulletin’s Best of Fremont 2009 edition from a couple of weeks ago. We used to do something similar. It was a great way to butter up folks and generate ads. But really, who needs ads?

While the old Argus Best of the Tri-Cities edition included reporter contributions (Anyone remember where was the Best Place to Avoid Councilmember Anu Natarajan in 2006?) the Bulletin just does a reader poll.

Some of these are spot on. Others show just how much folks around here love the big chains.

Take the first category: Best Bakery. The winner was Vienna Bakery & Cafe. That’s great, but how did an honorable mention go to Costco.

For Best Coffee, Mission Coffee was the winner, which is reasonable. But somehow Bay Street and Suju’s didn’t even get an honorable mention, while Starbucks did.

Best Desserts in a Restaurant: PF Chang’s China Bistro. How does a city with so many Chinese people even have this place? You wouldn’t find a Pizza Hut or Olive Garden in Bensonhurst.

Best Burrito: Chipotle   —  You shouldn’t be allowed to live in California if you think Chipotle has the best burrito. Sell me your house for $100,000 and move to Manitoba.

Best Bar: The Elephant Bar — Something tells me they don’t have shuffleboard. Mojo’s does, but it only got an honorable mention.

Best Pharmacy: Kaiser Medical Center  — This beat out Hallers, Fremont’s only independent pharmacy.

Best Doctor: Dr. Gorsulowsky  —  Two problems with this choice. One, they didn’t give his first name. Two, he’s a dermatologist. Shouldn’t the best doctor in town do something more important than unclog pores and lance warts?

There were a lot of legit winners: Dale Hardware, Regan’s Nursery, Lloyd’s Doughnut Kitchen, Salang Pass, Shalimar, Bob’s, and, of course, Country Way.

Still, McDonald’s won honorable mention for best kids’ restaurant. Not good.

BTW: The best place to avoid Anu Natarajan in 2006 was the Washington Township Men’s Club.