Oakland City Hall-Winchester Mystery House or Wonderland?

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Yesterday I attended a city council meeting-the Committee on Economic Development, CED-to discuss putting the renters’ protections initiative on the November ballot. The meeting lasted over 2 and half hours without seeming to come a conclusion. I signed up to speak online before I left home but didn’t get a chance to utter a word. The end “result” of that meeting was so byzantine, confused, and unwieldy that the city council members didn’t seem to understand it any more than I did.

images  City Hall has become the Winchester Mystery House of government-you enter not knowing when you’ll get out-but having wasted hours trying to find a door that leads to anywhere, you fall back out of its ornate gates, worn-out and discouraged if mildly entertained.

Maybe it’s more like Through the Looking Glass with Alice– whose face and name changes with the day, the committee meeting, the issue. That’s one of the most frustrating things about our “new” city council, they’re a bit like a side dish that doesn’t gel, a recipe missing an ingredient or two or a cake that falls flat just when you think it’s ready to be eaten. 7e86a1deb9fc267058115d3eaa3f5bd31book36

We’re 51 days into the 90 Day Moratorium-Sorry about all those silly analogies, because I just can’t figure out why all these smart, seemingly progressive, well-educated (the Goldman School of Public Policy got some splainin to do) relatively young folks can’t quite get anything done that really needs doing.

So yesterday both sides of the renters’ protection initiative spent most of their time in offering sad anecdotes to the their opposing narratives. But, at least the renters group had some heavy hitters like the woman from Tenants Together who explained that the City was wrong in calculating the cost of the initiative, should it pass. Since complaints will be reduced given the increased protections, there would be fewer hearings than now, thus lower expenses.

Margaretta Lin compared other cities with similar protections demonstrating how we lagged behind policy-wise, and James Vann said that the organizations involved in this measure are willing to negotiate with the council and mayor if they seek some changes before offering it on the ballot. The overall thrust was that the measure should shift the burden of proof from the tenants, many of whom are too scared too file, to the landlords for whom this is a business and filing is not as burdensome and-the measure actually states that landlords are to be guaranteed a fair return.

Poorly advised by EBRHA-But the small landlords, most of whom were women, thought that 1) the council was actually passing the initiative not merely offering it as a ballot measure which would then have to be voted on by the whole city and 2) they would not be able to obtain a needed increase/fair return for items like higher garbage and water costs. Since the East Bay Rental Housing Association, EBRHA, brought them there and fed them these lines, I suggest these small landlords get their money back since none of that is true.

2book5These landlords are able to not only recoup their expenses and charge the tenants for 70% (note 70% is more than half, a lot more) of the cost of any capital improvements they choose to make-not to mention the tax write-offs–but under the new measure, they would still be allowed to request increases if utilities or other costs go up significantly. To paraphrase James Vann, we all know that there are good landlords and good tenants, bad landlords and bad tenants, but right now, the bad seem to be changing our city radically and not all to the good.

My unheard statement-Let’s continue to negotiate a measure that all can live with but that lightens the landlords’ thumbs on the scales of justice and provides some hope to Oakland’s long suffering renters, especially those who have raised their families here and live in fear of being torn from their homes like refugees after a natural disaster.

Another thing, how about them SRO’s-I would also have asked what is being done to stop the closing of all our SROs and where the additional tent cities can be sited that will be needed if the existing SROs are allowed to go the way of fresh water salmon, the whipsnake and corral reefs-come to think of it, those may be faring better than low-income renters these days.

CM Rebecca Kaplan tried to get the CED Committee to commit to allowing a discussion of the actual measure by the full council at some time in the near future. I think she may have succeeded in spite of Chair Larry Reid throwing up his hands in exhaustion after wasting time arguing with some affordable housing folk over who should get to speak when.

Chair Reid was attempting to be fair but it didn’t come out quite that way. Audience members got the shouties  after being shut down which is quite different from smashy-smashy but seems to have the same effect on CM Reid.

When I noticed that our young city attorney seemed to have sprouted a giant hat while he was busy explaining away any attempt at clarity the CMs were mumbling about, I figured I had probably eaten the wrong kind of cookie. I made my escape, and as you can see, the only thing I remember was that it was another Tuesday in Wonderland. Time to take a nap. Maybe I’ll wake up and it’ll all make sense.


Actual photo of the city attorney on Tuesday

Pamela’s Primary Voter Guide for the 18th AD

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If you live in Assembly Member Rob Bonta‘s district (he’s on your ballot so you’ll know) then these recommendations apply to you and your particular choices. Many of these choices overlap the assembly district but since a few don’t, I’ll stick to this part of the Central and East Oakland/Alameda/San Leandro electoral district.

First, remember that you can still register or reregister if you want to vote in the Democratic Primary, that is, in order to vote for Bernie, you have to be a Dem or a Decline to State but not a member of another party such as the American Independent Party-which is a right wing creation-not the designation for a non-party voter. You have until May 23rd!

Yes vote for Bernie if you want to see a real change in the party, at least at the top.But, in my opinion fighting for good government on the local level is the way we truly build change. The Republicans learned this years ago, and despite rumors of their demise, the old Mark Twain phrase, that party controls many statehouses, state legislatures, and the Congress by working their way up-not down. This is no small thing! It is why voters’ rights and access to birth control  are disappearing in many states and, affordable housing and transportation budgets have been whittled to nothing while student debt bankrupts the young.

So please join me in learning about local elections and get active in local politics. There’s always more to do but it can get complicated. I’ll start with the California Senate race in Senate District 9. Here we have the choice of two good candidates, three actually, including the almost unknown Katherine Welch but with just enough of a difference in vision to be important in our day-to-day lives-which is where we live them, after all.

Vote for Sandre Swanson

Sandre Swanson, Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro’s previous assembly member was termed out and replaced by Rob Bonta-Rob is running for reelection-who, along with Congresswoman Barbara Lee-she’s also on the ballot and the choice of over 80% of us-Assembly Member Tony Thurmond, and current State Senator Loni Hancock have endorsed him in his run for State Senate as Loni Hancock is now termed out.

Sandre bucked the established Democratic party and the governor who wanted to cut social programs like Healthy Children and eliminate Redevelopment-which the guv managed to do- and which has greatly exacerbated our housing crisis. Nancy has also done a lot of good work but we have to make a choice here–Skinner is well funded and has the support of Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf which tells me something about their competing visions.

Sandre wrested local control back from the state for our school district, has fought to end the scourge of sexual slavery/trafficking of young girls in California, Oakland particularly, and established the Men and Boys of Color Commission which traveled the state gathering community info and putting it to use to create legislation to help these young men. There’s more-Sandre is principled, progressive and will not back down to the party establishment. I’m voting for him.

Vote Bonta

I’m voting for Rob while pushing him to support tougher laws on police transparency and accountability, because I appreciate his hard work fighting for programs for children who need services that were rolled back by the governor. Both Rob and Tony Thurmond are working to bring benefits to marginalized communities but are often stymied by business Dems and a very frugal governor.

The big state race seems to be a foregone conclusion. Senator Barbara Boxer is retiring and despite the long list of candidates for US Senate, Kamala Harris is the favorite. She has all the right stuff, good connections, extensive credentials, a career as a top law enforcement officer and movie star looks-which we know count even if they shouldn’t. I just have a little trouble consistently electing prosecutors who use the right lingo about criminal justice reform with very few specifics. I need specifics so I’m treading water on this race hoping to get some specific info thrown my way before proceeding to her anointment.

Vote for Carson and Miley

Keith Carson and Nate Miley are running for their supervisorial districts as incumbents. Both should get reelected. Carson is a prince among politicians who works quietly for the various constituencies in his district, listens to their needs and responds accordingly. Miley has his faults, one of them being his inability to deal with criticism. I have had my differences with him in the past but recognize the amount of time he puts in for his constituents and his penchant toward innovative solutions. His opponent has no experience relative to his ambition, believing he should start at the top without grappling with the contentious issues a supervisor faces.

Judicial Races

Now to the judges. There are three judicial races which is an unusual number for one election. I can only suggest you follow the endorsements on their web pages if you have not attended any endorsement meetings. Since I have attended a few, I have a set of suggestions rather than recommended candidates.

Jennifer Madden who’s running for Superior Court has been actively campaigning which cannot be said for Jonathon Van Ee. Jennifer has been endorsed by the Alameda Labor Council, the County Democratic Party and the  John George Democratic Club, among others. It’s true she is a prosecutor but she heads the Human Exploitation and Trafficking Unit (H.E.A.T.) and supervises H.E.A.T Watch, a 5 point strategy to combat Human Trafficking. I attended a panel discussion that BBBON, the Block by Block Organizing Network held a couple of years ago on how girls in Oakland are affected by this modern day slave trade and was impressed by her work. So I’m endorsing her. See  https://maddenforjudge2016.com/ for more info. Vote Madden.

In the other contested Superior Court case, there seem to be some good candidates: Scott Jackson, David Lim and Barbara Thomas. I’ve seen Scott Jackson at three endorsement meetings and Lim and Thomas at one each.

The Alameda Labor Council has endorsed Lim, who as a council member in San Mateo helped google bus drivers unionize, while Supervisors Carson and Miley have endorsed Jackson. Both have been prosecutors so that’s a wash. However, Jackson trumpets his social justice beliefs and given how few Black judges there are in a system bent on incarcerating young Black people,that is something. Bottom line, there are 2 good candidates to choose from.

Democratic Central Committee for the 18th AD

I am running on a slate of candidates for these positions. We are all volunteers who represent the local Democratic Party. If you are not registered as a Democrat, you will not see this ballot though you may still vote in the presidential primary. You have until May 23rd to register as a Dem for this primary and can do so online http://www.acgov.org/rov/registration.htm .http://www.acgov.org/rov/registration.htm

As Central Committee members, we promote voter registration, we endorse both candidates and issues, and pass our policy ideas along to the state party in the form of resolutions. If a local candidate has been endorsed by the state party, that is us.

Given that Alameda County is one of the most progressive counties in the country, we should have an activist party that pushes the state toward more progressive solutions but that is not always so. Please consider joining, or visiting or running for one of these offices in the future.

I am a member of this body and am running again. As the local politics coordinator for the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club and the political action chair for the Block by Block Organizing Network, BBBON, I have been very active in the struggle for affordable housing and the fight to bring an independent police commission to the City of Oakland.

Besides working for tougher renter protections (please sign the petition for the initiative proposed by the Oakland Tenants Union and ACCE, ) my next project will be working to repeal the Costa Hawkins Act which restricts any kind of renter protections on units built in the last couple of decades and into the future.

You will hear more about this next push (repeal of Costa Hawkins) in the near future. If we do not build more affordable housing while protecting those who live and work in California now, we will ultimately damage the long term economic viability of our state.

These folks are also on the slate that Rob Bonta has endorsed (also Nate Miley, Keith Carson and Abel Guillen) and while we may differ in some areas, overall we are working together to strengthen the progressive direction of our state-Robin Torello, Jim Oddie, Howard Egerman, Malcolm Amado Uno, Linda Perry, Diana Prola, Marlon McWilson (also running for County Board of Ed,) and Corina Lopez. Our entire slate has also been endorsed by the Alameda Labor Council, ALC.

My personal endorsements include-the East Bay Women’s Political Caucus, Black Women Organized for Political Action, the Asian Pacific American Democratic Caucus, the John George Democratic Club, and of course, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.


Yes on Measure AA-our bay needs us and wetlands are not only important to the critters who live there but as a buttress against sea level rise. It’s $12 a year, folks, so while it may not be a perfect measure, it’s damn good.

Prop 50

No.This was written after some high profile cases of corruption involving state legislators surfaced. It will do little if anything to prevent that while it damages the almost forgotten tenet that you are innocent until proven guilty. It will win but I’m not voting for it.

I’ll be happy to hear your suggestion, differences, additions. Please feel free to comment!

One more thing, if someone darkens your door promoting their candidate or issue, or, heaven forfend, t calls you on your own little phone, please thank them for volunteering to promote democracy, don’t yell at them for violating your privacy or interrupting the game. You might even join them next time.






Open Letter to Hillary Re College for All


And Hope over Nope

“Now personally, I don’t want to be paying for Donald Trump to send his kids and grandkids to college,” she said. “I want to pay to send your kids and grandkids to college.”

Yes, Hillary, I would be willing to pay for Donald Trump to send his kids and grandkids  to college-through my taxes and yours-albeit yours should be at a considerably higher percentage than mine! 2016-05-07 12.22.25 (640x360)

Yesterday Hillary came to the Town, Oakland that is, and I dropped by outside to see what was going on. One friend was standing outside with a handmade sign containing a list of complaints against our presumptive nominee and a few young folk were chanting “Bernie,”and I mean a few, five or six. I heard someone got thrown out for some kind of heckling but altogether, judging from the selfies, a good time was had by most. 2016-05-06 15.10.37 (387x640)

Local reporter and father of the darling Silas-who was featured in a photo in the pages of our paper formerly known as last week-Matt Artz covered her comments. She took a hit at Bernie once again since he has a viable campaign operation for the California primary-when and where I will cast my vote for him for the last time.

Now, let me state again to the chagrin of my most purest of friends, that I will vote for the woman when November comes (but not in the June primary–Bernie !) I may even find myself campaigning for her but I wish she would stop making it so damn hard!

Ok, here I won’t go into her hawkish bona fides, perhaps the most horrendous part of her record, most recently in Honduras, murder capital of the world, in no small part thanks to us, the US. I admit that I try to not read all the lurid details of her dealings with corporations, I don’t blame her for husband’s love of mass incarceration, etc, because I believe all the Republicans, not just Trump, are evil and promote cruelty towards anyone who hasn’t been lucky or  who doesn’t look like them-I need to be able to vote for her.

I’m honestly so frustrated with these tirades against the so-called far left ideas of Bernie’s that I’m reduced to sputtering. But I’ll give it a try.

Dear Hillary,

I’m a single mom whose kids attended public school all their lives. They struggled with a barely funded system where everyone tries to get into the right elementary school, you know what I mean, the ones in the white neighborhoods whose parents can afford amenities like a school counselor or librarian (now even having a school library is a privilege not a right.)

They both went away to HBCUs, you know, historically Black universities and colleges, but you knew that acronym right? I paid for housing and living much as I could though I’ve never even made what is now considered median wage-still working at 69 btw–but they took out loans and I took out loans. My son went to law school, looks like he’ll be paying them back the rest of his life.

I came to California when it had truly free higher ed which has been gone since Reagan, of course, but unlike many countries that didn’t include rent and food and living in California was never cheap.

So let me explain something-In case you’ve noticed California still has a rep as a place of innovation and forward thinking due in no small part to our once free higher education guarantees. There was no means test for those guarantees. And why would there be?

Do we have a means test, in other words, a sliding scale of charges for our K-12 program? Our public libraries? Well do we? When  you drive on the highway, have we instituted a sliding scale cause Donald Trump can afford to pay?

How about social security? Many have argued that it should include a means test and that wealthier people don’t deserve it? Do you think for one minute that social security would have survived if it were just for the poor?

So here’s the first problem I see with your plan. In our country where white supremacy informs all our decisions, including who is the deserving poor and that resentment trickles down to all in need-college assistance for the poor would be ill-funded and subject to immediate defunding at the first sign of distress. Americans would resent it because someone they didn’t like might get it. They would resent it because they got it and it would be seen as a handout, charity, a dirty word in our society since its founding.

Of course, a college funding program would also preclude free egalitarian universities where everyone is on a equal footing which would look something like our public schools are supposed to look. So that’s truly utopian, I guess, though some countries seem to have those kinds of schools where no matter your color or parents’ level of income, you get a k through 12 school that’s clean and safe and all decked out with the latest books, computers, and unleaded paint, etc. But that’s the subject of a whole other column, er, letter.

That leads me to another little thing, why would you seek to lead the Democratic Party, a party you claim is against all that Trump and those other nasty little men the Republicans put in office, promote a mean-spirited plan that pits us against Trump’s grandchildren? How Trumpian is that?! What if Trumps’ kids decided not to pay for their children’s education, should we punish them for that?  Once again , how-trickle-down-resentment, how Trumpian is that?

It’s quite one thing to use the anger many of us (including me) have against the 1% to attack their plans to make all our lives harder. And it’s another thing to assert that free higher ed is some far out idea that only silly people believe in despite the fact that many countries, even those not overly wealthy, provide it and healthcare and childcare-when you know how doable it is!! As Secretary of State, you did travel a bit, am I right?

Is it because you don’t think you can convince Americans that paying taxes for something you can see and use instead of weaponry and bank bailouts is just too much work.? Or is it a cynical ploy to make Bernie appear less pragmatic than you? But free public university and college education is the best way to build a future for our kids, it’s a viable economic plan. You, who have details on the tips of your fingers, can certainly make a case for higher ed for all.

Maybe the problem is that your class doesn’t want its taxes raised so that my class of folks can attend college without bankrupting our future, maybe they want us indebted and servile forever. I hope that’s not it, but I have to consider that. It’s also true that poor people are more generous than the rich-watch them tip and give to panhandlers if you don’t believe it.

Bottom line, Hillary, you won’t inspire the young or their parents by telling us we can’t do what we want for our children because someone elses children might benefit too. Just stop it. That’s not the kind of world we want.

We want a larger vision, not a shrunken one. We want a better world, not a slightly improved one. As someone else put it, we want Hope not Nope.I know I need to vote for you in the fall—so stop making it so damn hard!

Oh,by the way, Happy Mother’s Day!



Another Mother for Hope