Lucrative city advertizing contract coming up for bid

BidUp for bid is Palo Alto Weekly’s lucrative 3 year advertisement contract, valued at $450,000.00, and who currently monopolizes the city’s’ legal advertisements set to expire on June 30th.

This lucrative contract actually expired on December 31th 2012, but was extended through what has been described as a number of reprieves also known as a, “service order” modifications and ultimately, “a six month extension was granted as allowed under City procedures” to the Weekly through June 30th 2013, as explained in an email communication received from David Ramberg Assistant Director of Administrative Services for the City of Palo Alto and through our initial California Public Records Act requests. (CPRA)

Reeks of a subsidy

In an editorial written by Dave Price of the Daily Post “bad idea newspapers” bitterly referred  to this contract as “Corporate Welfare” in which he describes that the city of Palo Alto was fundamentally “subsiding some news organization” namely the Weekly. We tend to agree.

The Post goes on to describe “Honest competition” leading some to suggest the the Weekly some how engaged in illegal activities to win this contract.

Price goes on and on to complain; the “Council decided to pay the Weekly as much as $450,000 over the next three years for legal notices and other advertising. We could understand if the city were to spend a few thousand dollars with the Weekly, but a six-digit figure reeks of a subsidy”.

Government subsidy Lifeline

Financial life preserverMany have called the Weekly’s contract a lifeline and infusion of fresh cash to support bludgeoning payroll and other operating expenses.

The Weekly was rumored to be teetering on the brink of bankruptcy.

So in light of what appeared to be a government sponsored bailout of nearly a half million dollars, fueled further concerns and speculations of questionable back door wheeling and dealing. A half a million dollars is a lot of money. In fact, shortly after being awarded this lucrative contract the Weekly moved into their new facilities.

On the matter of “Honest competition” as far as it concerns the Daily Post? “we don’t want a handout or subsidy.”

But we sure in the hell beleive the Daily Post would love to get a piece of this money pie. And we further believe their planning on doing so. It would only make for good business to break up the current monopoly, and ad fair competition into the legal lucrative advertising market place.

Weekly receiving questionable preferential treatment over other Newspapers

The Palo Alto Weekly has been selected because it is the only local newspaper which is adjudicated to run legal advertisements in Palo Alto.

Neither of the other two local newspapers, the Palo Alto Daily News and The Daily Post, are adjudicated to run Legal Advertisements in Palo Alto.

The Palo Alto Weekly has a large circulation in and around Palo Alto. It is delivered to all Palo Alto households, with a distribution covering the mid-Peninsula area San Francisco. In addition the Palo Alto Weekly is a free weekly publication whose target audience is the local community.”

When we presented our California Public Records Request to the city of Palo Alto for all related documents including contract information, the contract and its discovered language was not initially provided. It was only after contacting Mr. Ramberg that he directed us to a newly found city procurement link.

Honest competition and the city’s legal position or loophole

News RacksPerhaps we will never learn the true motives behind the city’s choice for the Weekly.  Only because both the Palo Alto Daily News and The Daily Post have a rather large targeted audience and a wide city distribution of ugly unsightly newspaper racks which litter our city streets.

What it boiled down to was that neither newspaper was adjudicated, in other words, sanctioned by an earlier petition from the Weekly and argued in a court of law pronouncing the Weekly through decree that they were a “newspaper of general circulation” under Government Code Section 6000-6008.

We don’t know if the Weekly provide with there proposal, a copy of there mandated petition  and decree to the city of Palo Alto or if the city even asked for one. But, we would like to see it because once again, this document was not provide originally and it should have been a part of this legal binding contract.

On the balance sheet we have no idea how this past lucrative contract contributed to the Weekly’s bottom line on profitability, but apparently it’s not enough. We recall front page announcements for solicitation, ‘Support Local Journalism’ and the launching of a ‘community membership campaign’.

As to the total number of legal announcements and city advertizements publish by the Weekly remains to be seen on the previous 3 years and we will continually up-date this story as new information is forthcoming.

Newspaper publishing may be on the verge of extinction

However, with the advent of the internet, print newspaper ads just may become a thing of the past. The demands for print ads are in crisis. “The public policy blog of the American Enterprise Institute” calls newspaper advertising business in a Free Fall and at their lowest since 1950.

We would be surprised if the Daily Post or the Daily News failed in acquiring this coveted legal document proclaiming them a “newspaper of general circulation” and in hand, if and when they submit their bids.

Were precluded from taking any part in the upcoming bidding wars do to a legal “blanket order” recorded directive issued from City of Palo Alto Attorney Molly Stump barring us from participating in any fair competition.

Defense to bare all about naked Menlo Park cop

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAny time a criminal case that was investigated by Menlo Park police officer Jeffrey Vasquez goes to court, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said prosecutors will tell the defense about Vasquez’s arrest with a prostitute in 2011.

Yesterday, a defense attorney in a domestic violence trial wanted to call Vazquez as a witness, but Judge Beth Freeman said that she found no relevance in Vasquez’s testimony and said the defense couldn’t put him on the stand.

Vincent Lamont Golson, 48, is on trial on charges of domestic violence against a former girlfriend and allegedly attacking her new boyfriend.

Wagstaffe said his office told the defense about Vasquez’s arrest, and said that anytime Vasquez is called upon as a witness, the prosecution will make the same disclosure.

Vasquez was arrested in February 2011 after Sunnyvale police found him naked on his knees in the bathroom of a Sunnyvale motel room with a prostitute wearing catsuit. He was on duty at the time as a detective who handled sex offenses.

He was arrested by Sunnyvale police along with Natalie Ramirez, 32, a known prostitute with prior drug convictions. Criminal charges against Vasquez were dropped after the arresting officer was unable to testify due to an illness in the family.

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen said his office made a mistake by not attempting to refile charges against him. Memo Park police fired Vasquez, but he did get his job back and $188,000 in back pay as a result of binding arbitration.

The Daily Post Today
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Community Planning Session for Heart and Home Collaborative

You’re invited!

The Heart and Home Collaborative is having a community planning session this Saturday!

Who: All are welcome!
What: Community Planning Session
Where: The Sanctuary, University Church, 1611 Stanford Ave, Palo Alto, CA
When: This Saturday, June 8, 2013, 3:30–5:30pm
Why: To better incorporate the expertise and opinions of community members in a few specific aspects of our organization and planned women’s shelter.

Write with questions or comments to info@hhcollab.org.

What’s new pussycat? Woah, Woah

How naked cop, got job back

An attorney who represents Jeffrey Vasquez, the police officer who was found naked with a hooker wearing a catsuit in a Sunnyvale motel room, has broken the silence in the puzzling saga by posting an opinion piece online in which he details how the former detective got his job back and $188,000 in back pay.

Sean Howell, who represented Vasquez, accused the Menlo Park Police Department of breaking the law during its investigation into the matter.

In the commentary, Howell alleges numerous violations on the part of former police chief Bryan Roberts now retired Cmdr. Lacey Burt, such as secretly recording conversations and revealing confidential information about Vasquez.

Because Menlo Park still uses binding arbitration for employee disputes, Vazquez’s case was heard by an arbitrator who ruled that the veteran cope could not only keep his job, but that he was entitled to $188,000 in back pay.

With binding arbitration, an employee facing the disciplinary a matter can opt to have an independent arbitrator decide the outcome, all the while keeping the matter hidden from the public. The results are final and cannot be appealed by either party.

How said the arbitrator ruled that Menlo Park and investigators failed to prove the allegations against Vasquez by a “clear and convincing ” standard, which is a much lower standard than “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which is required for a criminal conviction.

He said the arbitrator ruled that the actions of Roberts and Burt were criminal.

“After a hearing in we which we exposed numerous due process violations committed by former Police Chief Bryan Roberts, a commander, and the lead internal affairs investigator, Arbitrator James Margolin issued findings that the department violated Vasquez’s right to due process…,” Howell wrote the opinion piece, which is posted on the Peace Officers Research Association of California’s website.

Menlo Park police spokeswoman Nicole Aker said the department could not comment on employee matters, but City Attorney  Bill McClure said Howell’s characterization of the department’s actions as criminal was not accurate.

“The city has always complied with court interpretations and rulings on how to conduct internal affairs investigations,” McClure told the Post. McClure said that he was confident that if a judge were to review the investigation, no wrongdoing would be found.

Charges dropped

Vasquez was arrested in February 2011 after he was found naked on his knees in the bathroom of a Sunnyvale motel room with a prostitute. He was on duty at the time. Vasquez was arrested by Sunnyvale police along with 32-year old Natalia Ramirez, a known prostitute with prior drug convictions.

Criminal charges against Vasquez were dropped after the arresting officer was unable to testify due to an illness in the family. Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen later said his office “made a mistake “by not attempting to refile charges against him.

The investigation and subsequent hearing against Vasquez took more than a year with a final ruling released on Aug. 30, 2012.

Most of the details of the case, including the arbitrator’s name and findings, have been kept secret until Howell broke the silence. Howell never mentions in his commentary that Vasquez was arrested with a prostitute.

Sunnyvale pushed on police report

Howell said Cmdr. Bert, who is now retired, was found to have broken federal law when an interview was recorded without permission and when investigators revealed confidential details of the case to a witness.

“During the course of the investigation, the investigator disclosed Detective Vasquez’s confidential information to at least one witness in an attempt to prompt the witness to provide specific information the investigators sought,” Howell wrote. He said such an action can be a misdemeanor.

At arbitration, a Sunnyvale police officer testified he was not planning on completing a crime report until he was ordered to do so by his supervisor nearly two weeks later.

Howell said then Menlo Park Police Chief Bryan Roberts asked the Sunnyvale Police Department to write the report, which Howell said violated state law.

“Chief Roberts” actions to request another Police Department generate a crime report to use as evidence against Vasquez… is in violation of… due process,” Howell wrote.

Vasquez was given his job back in either September or October of last year. The city has refused to give an exact date of his reinstatement.

The Daily Post Today
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DA Rosen Can’t Find The Evidence

rosen trainAs reported in several media outlets, murder charges have been dropped against Lukis Anderson who had been implicated in the killing of Raveesh “Ravi” Kumra based upon DNA evidence.

Unfortunately no one in mainstream media is asking the most pertinent question, what would have happened to Mr. Anderson had he not had a rock solid alibi placing him some place else?

Mr. Anderson was at Valley Medical Center incapacitated from 0.40% blood-alcohol poisoning prior to, during and after the crime which occurred at the Kumras’ Monte Sereno home.

Here’s a scenario for you. In stead of ending up at the hospital let’s say that Mr. Anderson passes out in an alleyway. What happens to him then? How does he beat DNA evidence that is incriminating him of a murder especially when he is referred to as a “transient” in order to minimize his value as a human being under the law and reduce his integrity based upon his economic status?

Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen’s staff allowed eyewitness testimony to trump DNA evidence. Would eyewitness testimony provided from two homeless people been given the same credibility and weight that DDA Kevin Smith has given to hospital staff?

If Mr. Anderson fights the charge he probably gets convicted and sent to prison for life. If Anderson accepts a plea deal utilized by the prosecution to coerce a false confession he does 25 years to life with the possibility of parole.

And why does Mr. Anderson go to prison, because the prosecution’s job is not to reveal the truth but to put on the best prosecution possible even if it means withholding evidence that would be beneficial to the accused.

Why did it take four months for the Jeff Rosen’s staff to figure out that Mr. Anderson could not have been at the crime scene but at the county hospital during the commission of the crime? Four months that Mr. Anderson was locked up denied access to the very hospital that had the evidence which proved his innocence.

As one can see, it is quite easy to convict people of crimes they did not commit if the objective is not to reveal the truth.

Sen. Jerry Hill to speak at strip club

Déjà Vu Showgirls
Déjà Vu Showgirls

State Sen. Jerry Hill, who represents the mid-Peninsula, will hold a press conference at a strip club near Sacramento this morning, asking the Legislation for more transparency when it comes to business is receiving tax breaks.

Wants more openness about tax breaks, like the one this club got

Hill, D-San Mateo, and state Sen. Anthony Cannella, R-Ceres, will be at Déjà Vu Showgirls in Rancho Cordova, a fully nude strip club that has received thousands of dollars in tax credits from state government.

According to Hills office, strip clubs would claim up to $37,000 in tax credit for each worker hired, even when they don’t create new jobs.

That’s more than the servers, waitresses and sales clerks earn in one neat year at the club, according to a press release from Hill.

“With a large, showgirl stable housing over 80+ curvaceous stage performers, this capital city locale lights-up the night with parties that are never forgotten,” The club’s website says. “And with a club capacity of over 150 reveling patrons, the party train keeps moving.”

The club got it’s tax credit from the California Enterprise Zone program and Hill  introduced Senate Bill 434 to let taxpayers know where their money is going.

The legislation would establish a database to let the public know which companies get the tax breaks and how many jobs they’ve created.

The program was set up in 1984 to create jobs to low-income communities. Gold club Centerfold in Rancho Cordova is another club that’s used the program for tax credit.

A manager at Déjà Vu told post yesterday they will not be participating in today’s press conference.

The clubs owner told Hill’s office that he did not see the tax credit but was approached by tax consultants who got a piece of pie.

Greg Munks. Photo courtesy of the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office
Greg Munks. Photo courtesy of the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office

As a side-note to this story, it is allegedly rumored that San Mateo County Sheriff Gregory Monks will be providing Hill with escort service and protection.

The Daily Post Today
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The Asphalt Jungle, Cubberley Community Center, The city under the city!

asphalt_jungleWe can’t imagine any of the actors having starred in this once famous movie becoming homeless and impoverished. I believe it would be safe to say that those associated with the movie industry are gainfully employed with movie gross receipts reported at an all time high.

The picture is quite different for a disturbing number of California unemployed, that number now topples over 1 Million.

Although claims are being made were on the road to recovery, with a drop in unemployment on a national level, and a solid boon recently reported in financial circles, has causes many to give way to a much needed sigh of relief.

However, left in the wake of what has been described as the worst depression in modern times, many, many continue to find themselves without a traditional place to reside. Having lost their jobs, homes and their savings accounts has forced countless numbers of unemployed families and others to look beyond an already heavily taxed social service system for subsidized housing assistance.

Faced with savings accounts depleted and no other emergency back-up recovery system in place and a dismal economic forecast despite favorable predictions, its now becoming a matter of the “survival of the fittest”. Survival, quite often means finding oneself and or whole families living on the streets across America, living in cars in what some have defined as living in an Asphalt Jungle.

A tent with a view
A tent with a view

A subculture known as vehicle dwellers. “The city under the city”. The exact number of vehicle dwellers nationally is unknown. However, here in Palo Alto, the number hovers around 100 as previously reported in the Wall Street Journal.

Living on the the streets of Palo Alto has been a thorny issue for years prompting one local newspaper to address the problem head-on in its editorial by Jay Thorwaldson; “It’s long past time to ban ‘vehicle dwelling'” and of recent, the editorial written by Dave Price of the Daily Post; Cubberley Shelter.

In our opinion, both editorials gave rise, not to the plight of the disenfranchised or unemployed but to a seemly conscious biased attitude of, “not in our neighborhood” driving home the point further by stating; “Palo Alto has a right, and responsibility, to protect the quality of life in its neighborhoods” All to reminiscent of the media’s bigotry displayed during the 20’s directed towards African-Americans and other minorities.

Disturbing is Palo Alto’s city council’s actions being planned against the homeless vehicle dwellers and in many ways no different today. Including the powerful words of Henry Dodson, the president of the Colored Citizens Club of Palo Alto saying;

“Shame on a race that…holds in its hands the wealth of the continent and yet, not only refuses to lift his less fortunate fellow man…but seeks through humiliating, illegal ordinances and discrimination to sink him to the lowest depths of ignorance and vice”.

The fact is, people need a safe place to live, to reside, even if it’s temporarily in their cars or otherwise.

Life in The Asphalt Jungle

Located on Middlefield Road, The Palo Alto Cubberley Community Center has become that safe haven or oasis for approximately 18 vehicle and shopping cart dwellers that occupy the rear parking lots and hallways on any given night according to Alfredo Padeilla from Monterrey Mexico who has lived on the Cubberley campus for the past 18 months hoping to locate long lost relatives.

Alfredo Padeilla
Alfredo Padeilla

I asked Alfredo what life has become for him while living in this small city within a city. For the most part, living on campus is “uneventful” he stated, he’s happy and he feels his basic needs of food, shelter and clothing are cared for.

But, more importantly he feels safe. And in the 18 months living on campus he hasn’t witnessed any crime or violence. He did mention the Armories, which are used for temporary housing will be closing at the end of March. So he expects to see an increase in campus population. BTW Mr. Padeilla holds a BS degree in Anthropology.

I interviewed Adam Howard, supervisor for the City of Palo Alto who currently manages the Cubberley Community Center to describe his observations and concerns of life for homeless on campus and what he feels to be the real pressing issues. “Mental health”; he stated, “We just don’t have the proper services available to care for them”.

Aside from the occasional complaint of people sleeping in the front doorways or human waste found occasionally on the hallways, life on campus is like any other small city. Its status quo. When asked if he was aware of reported drug or alcohol related problems on campus, he was aware of police being called out, but not aware of the exact numbers.

Reported crime on campus

According to an email received from Lt. Zach Perron, media spokesperson for the Palo Alto police department, outlines some interesting statics on the number of police calls for service on the Cubberely campus.

He states;  “In 2012, the police department responded to 173 calls for service at Cubberley Community Center.  In 2011, that number was 200.

In 2010, that number was 210. Those numbers include any call for service at 4000 Middlefield Road (i.e., suspicious people, medical calls, missing people, theft reports, auto burglaries, etc.), either in one of the buildings or in one of the parking lots, to which a police officer or animal control officer responded.”

Our officers will respond to calls of suspected criminal activity at Cubberley (like we will do anywhere in town, of course) and only take appropriate enforcement action if a municipal code or state law is being violated.  Every call is evaluated on a case-by-case basis with the information available to the officers on scene.”

For the moment vehicle dwellers will remain

Vehicle Habitation
Vehicle Habitation

The city of Palo Alto for the moment is the only city that does not prohibit vehicle dwellers from sleeping in their cars. In fact, Palo Alto vehicle dwellers received a reprieve to a planned proposal which would outright ban vehicle dwellers from inhabiting our streets.  City council voted against the proposal by the Policy and Services Committee in a vote 3 to 1 back in November of last year.

However, the uncertainty and future of this ban still remains unclear.  Lt. Perron further adds; “Since any proposed vehicle habitation ordinance is still under consideration from City Council based in part on input from City staff, there is currently no municipal code in effect that prohibits anyone from sleeping in their vehicle overnight anywhere in Palo Alto.”

So for the moment, it’s a wait and see, based on community input, and the police we may add, which will determine the continued fate of; “The Asphalt Jungle-Cubberley Community Center-The city under the city!”