Black Muslim Bakery squandered job-training money

San Francisco Chronicle/August 8, 2007
By Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Rep. Barbara Lee of Oakland found themselves in the unwelcome spotlight this week over the letters of support they wrote on behalf of the notorious Your Black Muslim Bakery, but they aren't the only politicos who have supported the group over the years.

At the height of its power back in 1996, the splinter Muslim group - whose members were implicated in last week's slaying of newspaper editor Chauncey Bailey - got the city to approve an advance on a $1.2 million federal redevelopment loan to launch training program for health care jobs.

Within three months, the group had burned through $275,000 without turning out a single graduate.

They did, however, spend $650 a month to lease a Cadillac.

Another $44,000 supposedly went to consulting fees, $10,500 went for security and $7,500 for advertising on a local cable station, where then-leader Yusuf Bey had a weekly TV show.

When asked to explain what was going on, the Black Muslim Bakery cadre - in one of their typical tactics - marched in unison from the bakery to City Hall, then entered the council chambers like a precision drill team, lining up along the room's back walls.

They then asked for another $70,000 to keep the project going.

And they got it, with the council voting 6-2 to grant the funds - minus the money for the Cadillac.

"The message was very clear - we are watching you," said City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente, who cast one of the votes against the group's request.

The school never opened.

And the loan - one of several the council made that year to help disadvantaged businesses - was never repaid.

Split ticket: An initiative to eliminate California's winner-take-all rule for Electoral College votes in the presidential sweepstakes is quietly making its way toward the June ballot.

The initiative has Republicans salivating and Democrats nervous. Instead of the winner taking the entire prize, the state's critical 55 electoral votes would be divvied up among the top vote-getters in each congressional district.

"If this change is made, it will virtually guarantee that a Republican wins the White House in 2008," predicts Democrat consultant Chris Lahane, who is leading the fight against the initiative .

If approved by voters, the state would effectively be split in two - with half of California's votes going red and half going blue.

And in a close presidential race, that could be just enough to tip the election - potentially handing the Republicans the equivalent number of electoral votes of a state the size of Ohio or Florida.

"It would be the jackpot of the Electoral College in the West, and it would rearrange the way candidates campaign, spend their money and look at the whole country," said Democratic operative Steven Maviglio.

A group called Californians for Equal Representation is fronting the proposed initiative, which would need about a half million signatures to qualify - no easy task.

But the real muscle behind the plan is Tom Hiltachk - who until just last month was Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's campaign lawyer.

Also on board: Marty Wilson - the governor's longtime fundraiser.

Only two states - Maine and Nebraska - split their electoral votes. But initiative spokesman Kevin Eckery tells us it's an idea whose time has come.

"It means people are going to have to take time in California to win," he says. "Right now, we end up being the ATM machine."

And speaking of money machines, the campaign this week launched its fundraising drive.

As one might expect, the Democrats are loading up for a fight as well.

According to Lahane, Democratic Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer, along with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have agreed to lead the battle to halt the measure in its tracks.

All this for an initiative that hasn't even been officially announced.

Waterlogged: As if trying to solve Oakland's 80 homicides this year hasn't been hard enough, now the city's entire police homicide unit is working out of a conference room - at the Eastmont Mall police substation.

The move to East Oakland was prompted by a broken water heater that flooded the homicide unit's office a couple of weeks back, as well as several other offices at the downtown Police Administration Building.

A crew with experience from Hurrican Katrina has been brought in to clean up the mess, using giant humidifiers to dry out files and pulling up the old asbestos-covered floors.

A police insider tells us that the homicide cops will probably be out of their offices for at least another two to five weeks.

In the meantime, the Oakland slayings continue to soar - with eight new homicides reported since Bailey was gunned down in broad daylight Thursday.

And get this - the new temporary office only has one phone line.

Daly dose: Priming for his possible mayoral run, Supervisor Chris Daly had a heck of a debate with his colleagues Friday - a very, very vocal one, we're told.

With a 5 p.m. deadline looming, Daly was busy working the halls for the requisite four board signatures needed to qualify a proposal aimed at barring the mayor and supervisors from "engaging in sexual or romantic relationships" with employees under their supervision.

It was a not-so-subtle jab at Mayor Gavin Newsom, who a couple months back admitted to an affair last year with Ruby Rippey-Tourk, his commissions secretary and the wife of his then campaign manager, Alex Tourk.

From the sound of things, Daly's colleagues would have nothing to do with the rebel supervisor's latest ballot blast, leading to some sharp words.

But none was more public than Daly's parting words to Board President Aaron Peskin.

As Daly shot out Peskin's door, he was overheard yelling: "I can't believe you won't sign on to my measure to prevent the mayor from f-ing his secretary!" He even said it twice.

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