Blogging Bayport Alameda

February 20, 2014

Measure of a man

Filed under: Alameda, City Council — Lauren Do @ 6:00 am

I have to say that I’m a bit surprised at the visceral reaction that some people have had to the Stewart Chen news.   Compared to the very quiet reaction to the news that the City doesn’t have to pay one red cent to Ann Marie Gallant and I have to say it’s all very puzzling.  I guess scandalous past actions are so much more newsworthy than frivolous lawsuits.   And people had so much to say before she filed a lawsuit and during the lawsuit itself, but I guess not upon its conclusion.  *shrug*  While I’m not going to say that what Stewart Chen did is not a big deal or that he is some innocent lamb, on the other hand the hand wringing and the need to continue to punish him for his alleged crimes is a bit much.

I guess what I am troubled by the fact that no one seems to care that Stewart Chen is a marginal elected official, but rather that this incident is the one thing for which he should be judged for the rest of his life.  It sort of flies in the face of the idea that one can have made mistakes, paid their dues to society for said mistakes, and then dedicate their lives to paying penance for those mistakes by doing good works.   In no way that I’m saying that person is Stewart Chen, but on the other hand he hasn’t been arrested for anything in those 20 years — that we know about, but I’m sure that people have started digging — and it appears that he has done what the vast majority of us haven’t which is give back through volunteering in the community in which he lives.   So why the need to continue to flog him over this incident? I mean, I guess you could come from the position that once a criminal always a criminal, but that seems to be a pretty cynical way to live life.

I also find it odd that I have to be the one to defend him — although Tom S. did as well but it seems to have gotten buried — since I never supported him as a candidate and did not vote for him.   But perhaps that maybe why I can look at the situation a little more objectively since I haven’t been betrayed by him as a supporter and/or voter.

It’s fine to get upset over the incident, be shocked about it, be ashamed and embarrassed for him, and be angry at him for lying by omission.  But to chalk this 20 year old incident as some sort of permanent moral failing on his part is overly judgmental as I’m sure there are incidents in all our lives going back decades that we would all be happy to keep buried in some proverbial closet.  Just because yours hasn’t seen the light of day or may never see the light of day doesn’t mean that you hold some sort of moral and ethical superiority over the next guy, just means that no one cares enough to try to dig it out and expose it.

I will point out that even though some are trying to suggest that perhaps Stewart Chen’s list of supporters was fabricated — I’m sure it was not — that list was pretty diverse in that it really cut across all factions in this City, which should have spoke volumes as to the type of politicians he is.  Based on no real environmental creds he received the endorsement of the Sierra Club because he essentially said everything that the Sierra Club wanted to hear.   He received the endorsement of the teachers’ union by pulling his endorsement from Niel Tam.

As I mentioned before, if people decide not to vote for Stewart Chen in the next election, I hope it will be because his record as a City Council member and his record while campaigning is lackluster and disappointing as opposed to some 20 years old plea bargain that he struck.  That is what people should be concerned about when voting for a candidate not sordid little personal details that can be dredged up.



  1. Some errors can be forgotten, some cannot.

    I wouldn’t give a damn if he cheated on his wife or snorted coke or liked the Red Sox or any other such personal failing, but corruption from an elected leader cannot be tolerated or forgiven. Politicians control a lot of money and our trust in their financial stewardship must be 100%, because if it’s not, then it’s zero per cent.

    Money is a red line that cannot be crossed.

    Comment by dave — February 20, 2014 @ 6:27 am

  2. Hmmm. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” There are not many of us who are qualified to even pick up a stone much less cast it. If something that happened 20 years ago, after which the man has led a blameless life fits the naysayers narrative of “all politicians are corrupt”, then they will forget their own failings in their eagerness to judge him in accordance with their beliefs. I agree with Lauren – stick to the analysis of his performance as a community leader and elected official and make your decision as to his worth as a candidate accordingly.

    Comment by Kate Quick,. — February 20, 2014 @ 7:24 am

  3. What is the word that describes someone who casts plenty of stones, yet admonishes others to cast none?

    Comment by dave — February 20, 2014 @ 7:41 am

  4. Went back and looked through the comments about Stewart Chen. Those doing the most flogging are those without names.

    Comment by Tom Schweich — February 20, 2014 @ 7:42 am

  5. I am happy about the Ann Marie Gallant verdict . She really didn’t have a case “interim” means temporary and she knew up front it might be only for 90 days maybe more and I am happy that the city went after her for reimbursement of legal cost.

    I believe people are upset as dave said because of the type of crime…and he still hasn’t admitted it to the public that he did it. He blames his lawyer. The past always stays with you until you take responsibility for it and move on. I have mistakes in my life and I was not a victim. For instance the Idaho congress man who got caught soliciting sex in a public bathroom was a crime against himself…but insurance fraud is a crime which effects everyone…through insurance rates, medical cost. Admit to those you hurt and that is the public and people can move forward. He did plead guilty but now he is saying it wasn’t his fault but his attorneys. He didn’t admit to not doing the crime but that given another attorney he may have gotten off for lack of evidence. Sometimes in relationships it is best to be upfront and say I did it, I am guilty, I am sorry…if you keep things hidden there are always repercussions. That is what we are seeing now. I am sure there are a lot of divorces based on this scenario.

    Comment by Joe — February 20, 2014 @ 7:58 am

  6. Honesty is the best policy 🙂

    Comment by Joe — February 20, 2014 @ 8:04 am

  7. Here is something Lauren said in her post that all might agree is relevant: “He received the endorsement of the teachers’ union by pulling his endorsement from Niel Tam.”

    Comment by 2014 Is an Election Year — February 20, 2014 @ 8:23 am

  8. There is a contingent of folks whose reality system is based on the belief that local government is evil. Always. Thus when anything comes up that may support that belief, they jump up and down screaming, but when anything (like frivolous lawsuits) detracts from that belief system, it is much easier to ignore it than to say “gee, I was wrong, I’m glad I was able to rethink my position.”

    As for Stewart Chen, I agree he doesn’t add much to the council discussions, I also agree that what he did 20 years ago isn’t as important as what he is doing now, however, his response in the alamedan didn’t impress me, particularly his contention that he was an unwitting and unknowing participant. That reminds me of all the athletes denying steroid use because they didn’t know what the doctor was putting in them. Those denials have rarely held up. Thus I can excuse his actions of 20 years ago, but his denials of last week make me think he is still lacking in good moral judgement.

    Comment by notadave — February 20, 2014 @ 9:04 am

  9. POST) “I have to say that I’m a bit surprised at the visceral reaction that some people have had to the Stewart Chen news. Compared to the very quiet reaction to the news that the City doesn’t have to pay one red cent to Ann Marie Gallant and I have to say it’s all very puzzling.”

    Puzzling? The two situations have no comparison in terms of ethics or trust. Why didn’t Mr. Chen disclose his past when he ran for the Health Care Board or the City Council? That’s certainly not puzzling; he wouldn’t have won. What did AMG do to deserve equal ‘visceral reaction’? Sue the city, BFD that’s so oh hum it’s the normal separation procedure for high level positions in this city.

    Since Mr. Chen chose not to disclose his past criminal conviction, he should resign his current position and run for the same office next election. That would be an ethical procedure. AMG can just go away.

    Comment by Jack R — February 20, 2014 @ 10:20 am

  10. From The Alamedan: “Tragedies like Bell, CA don’t happen overnight. If Bell city officials had been identified early in their careers for what they are, Bell wouldn’t be in the shape it is in today.” Lauren, you have put too much weight on misdemeanor vs felony; and absolutely no weight on the type of crime. To quote from many ALJs: “The passage of time does not automatically establish rehabilitation. Such rehabilitation must be demonstrated through documented efforts & a clear change in attitude”. [LA ALJ Julie Cabos-Owen, OAH Case # 2011040189 (Dr. Lavi)]. It used to be [maybe it still is] that if a doc fraudulently billed Medicare/Medicaid, they could be banned from participating in Medicare for life. Medical records, even from a chiropractor, follow the patient & are relied upon by other health care providers. Would you want for yourself a doctor whom you knew had pled Guilty [not even “no contest”] to falsifying medical records? Would you trust the medical records he prepared for you? After 20 years, Chen still isn’t even admitting he did something wrong.

    Most people commenting realize that it is how long & how profoundly your crime affects others that determines its severity, not what you pled to to get it off the court docket. It would have been much easier to overlook narcotics possession or, as someone else said; “robbing a grocery store” as a one-time screw-up.

    From my perspective, joining lots of community organizations is what many doctors & lawyers do as “practice builders”. But then there are always some people who just fell off the Alameda turnip truck who can’t see that…

    Comment by vigi — February 20, 2014 @ 12:02 pm

  11. BTW, how about those USA Ice Dancers, Meryl & Charlie? I thought Lauren liked the Olympics?

    Comment by vigi — February 20, 2014 @ 12:06 pm

  12. I agree with Jack. I think most people expected the Gallant thing to go the way it did especially after what happened with the fire chief. They all sue. Most lose. As for Chen, politicians are always held accountable for things in their past even their relatives’ past is dragged into the light. When Laura Bush was 17, she ran a stop sign and killed the man in the vehicle she hit.. Thirty-seven years later it was headline news.Right or wrong, relevant or not, this is the way politics works and always has. We humans love us some dirty laundry. Sometimes, it hurts them, sometimes it doesn’t. Lena Tam got re-elected. So did Marion Barry. Thomas Eagleton had to drop his vice presidential nomination because it was revealed he had been treated for depression. It all depends on how popular the person is and who their friends are for the most part. That and how their “sin” is perceived to be a factor in how they would govern.

    Comment by Denise Shelton — February 20, 2014 @ 1:38 pm

  13. We hold those we elect to political office to a higher standard because they will have to exhibit good judgement in making decisions that will affect all of us. Mr. Chen did not show good judgement, then or now as he pleads the role of being a “victim”. How do you vote for someone whose judgement you question?

    Comment by Nancy Hird — February 20, 2014 @ 3:04 pm

  14. Bottom line: Chen must admit he did something wrong. Otherwise, how do we know he knows right FROM wrong? Ask any judge; that is the standard.

    Comment by vigi — February 20, 2014 @ 3:28 pm

  15. In fact, I’m shocked that a mother who is raising 2 children is the author of this blog post. You sound as deluded as Chen. THey aren’t alleged crimes..they really happened, he pled guilty not no contest. Don’t you know the difference & what are you teaching your kids?

    Comment by vigi — February 20, 2014 @ 3:49 pm

  16. 15. maybe he was not offered a deal to plead ” no contest”. On the other hand somebody posted the following “Witnesses who testified before the grand jury said they would sometimes show up at Chen’s office, sign in and then leave without receiving treatment;” Pretty damning, though if those witnesses were in on the scam as it sounds they were, how trustworthy are they? According to Chen ,m the plea deal was just that. I think you are naive vigi if you think everybody who pleads in our justice system is actually guilty. I’m inclined to think he did it, but I don’t see much point in taking a definitive position on that. And I like notdave’s athlete on steroid analogy in 8.

    9. as for Gallant Jack, she didn’t come here heralding her own history as somebody who had sued other Cities and maybe had a habit it, did she?. You think if she had she would have been hired? Her employment history doesn’t pass the smell test either. Since I never defended her I have no reason to be contrite, and I’m not surprised by the verdict.

    As for Chen, if his record doesn’t prohibit him from running for re-election , let the voters decide. I wasn’t going to vote for the guy anyhow, but when I heard about his pandering to teachers union by withdrawing his endorsement of Neil Tam, I crossed him off for good. And even though I support organized labor and teachers, I was not thrilled with teachers union for endorsing somebody who would pull that kind of shit.

    Comment by MI — February 20, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

  17. Virgi, you show bad judgment. Lauren is an excellent mother. She may have different opinions then you do but that is what she is teaching her kids to think for themselves. virgi you sort of went overboard this time. Everyone has opinions and she posted hers and it doesn’t have anything to do with her family. She is highly educated, devoted, smart, caring, and looks at circumstances before making an opinion, Virgi, what have you done? If people didn’t have different opinions we wouldn’t question what we have…is that what you want? I have seen Lauren on the streets with her kids and husband, she is so much more dedicated to them than this blog. This blog shouldn’t be about her personal life but about what she posted. What she is teaching her kids is to think for themselves, be their own person, stand up for what the believe, When her kids grow up with opinions of their own they will have a proud mother and father standing behind them…even if they don’t have the same opinion.

    Comment by Joe — February 20, 2014 @ 5:07 pm

  18. 17: You cannot judge someone from seeing them on the streets with their family. Even crooks have families. I have no idea how educated she is, or in what, because I have never found it referenced in her blog. But there are very highly educated people who are sorely lacking in integrity & ethics. All I know about Lauren is what she posts in this blog. She minimizes or just denies wrongdoing by people she likes, whether she has a basis for doing so or not. On the other hand, she goes vindictively overboard against people she doesn’t like [Gallant], even if that person doesn’t affect her directly. Her unaccountable “opinions” are often complete distortions of the truth. Truth is not an opinion. I think much of what is wrong with society at large is the inability of more & more people to distinguish right from wrong. Children have to get their moral compass from somewhere. I would not advise anyone to let their children read this blog as though it was a “news source”, without a disclaimer.

    You are entitled to your opinion, of course, but I think there is something wrong with emphasizing arbitrary enforcement of a 25 mph speed limit yet dismissing a conviction for fraud as irrelevant to the background of an elected official.

    MI: I’m not looking at the whole justice system, just as it applies to my profession. Although we are different kinds, Chen calls himself a Doctor. I have been getting the California Medical Boards “Hot Sheet” by email for years, & I have read literally hundreds of cases of disciplined unprofessional conduct. I am absolutely not naïve on this subject; & I do hope to educate others, since obviously many folks are unclear on the concepts, including Mr. Chen himself.

    Whether you agree or not, we ALL have to live under the Rule of Law, as defined by our US & California Constitutions [they do have some significant differences worth noting]. I’m pretty sure a witness who Perjures themselves before a Grand Jury is threatened with jail time. It’s not at all the same as an anonymous complaint or police informant.

    I don’t think you can talk about Gallant, or anyone else who wasn’t charged with & convicted of a crime, in the same breath.

    Comment by vigi — February 21, 2014 @ 11:15 am

  19. Great! Let’s take over Lauren’s blog to speculate on the quality of her mothering …

    Comment by Tom Schweich — February 21, 2014 @ 12:47 pm

  20. I just had a gruesome thought that vigi might be my doctor. Where do you practice, Dr. vigi?

    Comment by BC — February 21, 2014 @ 12:56 pm

  21. Was Vigi as critical or “vindictively overboard against” David Howard when he was arrested for beating his wife?

    Comment by BarbaraK — February 21, 2014 @ 4:29 pm

  22. I think the issue here is “how to we assess Mr. Chen’s character and record of service in light of these revelations?” , not Vigi’s or Mr. Howard’s or Lauren’s character. Can we all stick to that?

    Comment by Kate Quick,. — February 22, 2014 @ 11:14 am

  23. Vigi just showed his character of measurer of a man… If he doesn’t like or agree with the blog…why is he constantly on it. I have know Lauren before she had kids, and before she started this blog. She writes what she thinks or believes…whether you agree or disagree is up to each person. If you don’t like it start your own blog. Her blog originally was about Bayport but it expanded way beyond that. It probably takes quite a bit of time to chose a subject and write on it everyday. I have some complaints about Bayport so I wish her blog was still about Bayport.

    I can actually read people very well in person but not so well by what they write, math and science I excel in, but English, grammar, and putting things down on paper I don’t. My personal goal which I started years ago it to write at least 2 letters to our representative a year expressing my opinion. The reason behind that is I don’t think you should complain if you don’t say something. I think if Mr. Chen is he was forthright wouldn’t be under scrutiny now. Maybe he wouldn’t have gotten elected but if he would have just said I made a mistake 20 years ago instead of denying it people would be a lot more forgiving.

    Comment by Joe — February 22, 2014 @ 4:12 pm

  24. barbaraK: I am a victim of domestic violence, for which my ex-husbands wages are still garnished. If Mr. Howard wasn’t convicted, it isn’t appropriate to comment. but if that had been Chen’s problem, it stiil wouldn’t be worthy of discussion, because it isn’t substantially related to the function of an elected official. Fraud is!

    Comment by vigi — February 23, 2014 @ 1:30 pm

  25. I was on the fence about Mr. Chen. And then I read his response to the allegations. It was his RESPONSE that made me think the man is definitely guilty and corrupt. He made the whole thing out to say that HE was the victim, and just a naive, unwitting participant in a huge fraud ring. Yeah, right..

    Comment by Big Johnson — February 24, 2014 @ 9:45 am

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