Union City puts sales tax measure on November ballot

UNION CITY — Residents this fall will be asked to renew a four-year-old sales tax that pays for city services.

The half-cent sales tax, which Union City voters passed in 2010, will expire April 1 next year unless voters pass the extension, City Manager Larry Cheeves said.

The tax generates nearly $4.5 million each year and helps pay for police, firefighters, street maintenance and other essential services.

The five-member City Council last Tuesday put the measure on the November ballot.

It would need the support of 50 percent plus one of those voting to pass. At least 62 percent of Union City voters likely would approve the extension, according to a telephone survey three months ago. Voter support rose to 70 percent when those surveyed were informed that the money would be spent on public safety and other essential city services, consultants said.

Union City’s current total sales tax is 9.5 percent, city leaders said.


Fremont moves to create new downtown’s ‘Main Street’

FREMONT — As a contractor prepares work on lengthening the downtown’s key roadway to a vibrant downtown, city leaders have announced plans to celebrate its groundbreaking.

The city will pay Goodfellow Top Grade Construction nearly $6 million to extend Capitol Avenue, which Fremont leaders envision as the new downtown’s “Main Street.”

Meantime, Fremont is finalizing details on using eminent domain to acquire a commercial building that must be torn down to make way for the project, city leaders said.

“The case is still chugging along, and we expect to have possession of the building later this month,” said City Attorney Harvey Levine.

The street extension will begin in August and is expected to be done next spring, said Fremont City Engineer Norm Hughes.

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Newark Unified accepts superintendent’s resignation as community step up criticism of school board

NEWARK — A hot summer of deep divisions between school board members and some Newark residents might grow hotter now that long-shot hopes of keeping Superintendent Dave Marken on the job have been officially dashed.

Ever since Marken announced in late May that he would leave his post in the fall, board meetings have been dominated by angry, jeering parents and district employees lashing out at a school board whose critics say willfully forced out a popular and effective superintendent.

The furor began when Marken apparently became unwilling to put up with board interference in his administration of the district. Nearly two months later, the controversy has not gone away.

“Despite your public claims, it is obvious that you are not acting in the best interests of the school district and the students whom you claim to care about,” said Richard Nikssarian, co-president of the Newark Teachers Association. “You continue to play games with people, and the community will not continue to stand for it.”

Marken has sat stone-faced through the stormy meetings, during which trustees were at first apologetic but since have begun to fight back.

His only overt reaction was — at the request of parents — to ask that trustees extend his departure date by three months. The board instead on Thursday accepted his resignation, effective Sept. 30.

The trustees also will pay a consultant about $21,500 to search for a new district leader.

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Union City planning commissioners fined for laundering council race contributions

UNION CITY — Two Union City planning commissioners have been fined for laundering campaign contributions during the 2010 City Council race.

Gurnam “Gary” Singh and Jo Ann Lew violated state law when they contributed money to Singh’s election committee in the name of other people, the Fair Political Practices Commission has ruled.

Singh and Lew, treasurer of the Gary Singh for City Council 2010 committee, waived their rights to a hearing and agreed to pay a $15,000 fine, the agency said in a ruling posted online Monday.

“These violations denied the public of information regarding the true source of Gary Singh’s financial support, during the time when he was running for … City Council,” the agency stated in its ruling.

Singh, a Union City planning commissioner for the past eight years, lost his 2010 bid for City Council, finishing fourth with about 14.5 percent of the vote.

He declined to comment on the fine Tuesday, saying he was too busy at work to discuss it.

Lew, the Planning Commission’s current chair, could not be reached for comment

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Union City considers extending sales tax

‘Tis the season for new taxes, it seems.

UNION CITY — The city may ask residents to renew a 4-year-old sales tax that has generated millions of dollars for the city.

Without the extension, a half-cent sales tax Union City voters passed in 2010 will expire April 1 next year, city leaders said. The tax pays for police, firefighters, libraries, street maintenance and other essential services, city leaders said.

Union City expects to spend 80 percent of this year’s $45.4 million general fund budget on public safety and public works, according to a city budget report.

“The idea is that the tax makes us nearly $4.5 million per year, and we need that money to maintain current services,” City Manager Larry Cheeves said.

As voters are asked again to help fill financial gaps, city leaders pledge that they are doing all they can to improve Union City’s budget.

The City Council on Tuesday will discuss the tax, which city staffers recommend putting on the ballot. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. at City Hall.

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Newark considering closing “crime-plagued” motel

The motel’s co-owner says reports of crime are overblown, but Newark leaders and police say it’s been a chronic problem. The Planning Commission will consider the issue Wednesday night. 

NEWARK — As a crime-plagued motel continues straining limited police resources, city leaders are taking steps to shut it down.

While the motel’s co-owner says reports of crime at the E-Z 8 Motel have been overblown, city staffers describe it as a haven for gangsters and other criminals. The Newark Planning Commission has scheduled a special meeting Wednesday to consider putting it out of business.

“The operation of this motel is injurious and detrimental to the public health,” City Attorney David Benoun said Friday. “It’s in the interest of our citizens that this issue be addressed.”

Motel co-owner Jerry Cannon says the city’s accusations are untrue and that crime at the Newark motel has dropped significantly since 2010.

“We think it’s a safe place to stay,” Cannon said in a phone interview. “We have been communicating with the city as recently as Friday afternoon, and we’re confident we can reach an agreement before the commission’s meeting.

City staffers paint a different picture of the 141-room motel at 5555 Cedar Court, next to Interstate 880 and Cedar Boulevard.

The motel has seen serious crimes, including murder, sexual assault, gang violence, arson, prostitution and vandalism, police said. It also has been a hotbed of illegal street drug use and sales, police said.

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Walnut Avenue to close from 10pm Friday-6am Saturday

FREMONT — A stretch of Walnut Avenue will close between late Friday night and early Saturday morning as crews continue to build a bridge across the road, as part of BART’s Warm Springs extension project.

From 10 p.m. Friday to 6 a.m. Saturday, crews will close Walnut Avenue between Civic Center Drive and BART Way. Motorists are asked to detour toward Mowry Avenue.

A bridge is being built across Walnut Avenue to link the existing BART line with a newly constructed subway, according to BART.

For more information, call BART at 510-413-2060 or email bartwarmspringsextension@bart.gov.


Fremont spending $300,000 on surveillance cameras, license plate readers

FREMONT — The city will install dozens of cameras and license-plate readers throughout Fremont, aiming to deter and to identify criminals coming into the city from other areas.

City Council members on Tuesday allocated $300,000 for the program sought by the Police Department, shrugging off speakers who warned of a creeping loss of privacy.

“This whole notion that cameras are bad and privacy is good is overly simplistic,” said Councilwoman Anu Natarajan. “The prevalence of iPhones and Facebook and constantly being in touch with each other makes camera privacy a nonissue.”

Most of Fremont’s burglaries are committed by people living in other communities, said police Chief Richard Lucero. Cameras will be placed at 12 intersections near city limits to capture information on vehicles entering and exiting town, he said.

In a six-month period from late 2012 to early 2013, 46 people were convicted of burglaries, police said, and 39 of them — about 85 percent — lived outside Fremont.

The strategy of monitoring motorists near city limits has been adopted by other Bay Area communities, such as Piedmont, which installed license-plate readers and cameras last fall.

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Fremont HARB to reconsider historic building’s fate Thursday

HARB will hear this item again at 7:30pm tonight (Thursday) at the Sisters of the Holy Family, at 159 Washington Blvd.

FREMONT — The city will consider again the fate of a historic building that Fremont leaders want to sell because they say several renovations have eroded its historical significance.

The Historical Architectural Review Board on Thursday will hear the results of new architectural study that states the 2,447-square-foot building “does not retain sufficient integrity” to be considered a landmark.

The building’s future has been the center of a 5-year-long community debate.

Tri-City historians put the building — a two-story, wood-frame structure at 43327 Mission Blvd. — on the Fremont Register of Historic Resources in 1970.

But city staffers say that restoring the building to its original form would be cost-prohibitive and selling it would better serve taxpayers.

In contrast, local historians say that Fremont must improve at preserving its history and saving the structure would be a good start.

The Historical Architectural Review Board meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, in Multipurpose Room, at The Sisters of the Holy Family, 159 Washington Blvd.

Contact Chris De Benedetti at 510-353-7011. Follow him at Twitter.com/cdebenedetti.


Fremont nonprofit group fined $25,000 for laundering contributions in 2008 mayoral race

FREMONT — A state agency has fined a nonprofit group $25,000 after discovering it had laundered campaign contributions to a Fremont mayoral candidate six years ago.

The Fair Political Practices Commission announced Monday that leaders of the Wisdom Culture and Education Organization, which offers courses in Chinese language and customs, made five illegal donations to ex-Councilman Steve Cho’s unsuccessful 2008 mayoral bid.

The Fremont organization’s leaders have agreed to pay the maximum fine for violating campaign law by making candidate contributions in the name of another person, according to the state agency decision.

“Making a contribution in another person’s name is one of the most serious types of violations … because it denies the public information about where a candidate receives his or her financial support,” the agency stated in its ruling.

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