November 2016 Oakland Voters’ Guide

img_20161004_182731-2

The presidential election is still getting almost all of the coverage, but in our state, county and city lots of important issues are getting decided so please focus in for a bit. With Measures JJ, LL, HH and county Measure A1, we have some options that can make life a little easier-it’s only the start of meeting the needs of Oakland’s residents but it’s a good start.

So, let’s briefly discuss the presidential election. I believe Hillary will win in a landslide; and given the ugliness of the Trump campaign [and I wrote this prior to the Trump sex predator tapes], it’s the only thing that can keep me sane and not ashamed to be an American.

imagesI have to believe that we will reject an openly bigoted, hateful man if only because he’s such a liar and a bad businessman/conman more than that he courts neo-Nazis. I hope everyone will get out and vote for Hillary even as we prepare to organize against some of her policies as soon as January. But make no mistake, the ugly forces that the Trump campaign has unleashed will still be here. How those forces will manifest is too frightening to conjecture but they will and we have to be prepared.

Here in Oakland, gentrification is changing our city so rapidly it’s hard to keep up.
But given the reactionary mood of our country, I hope we don’t stop welcoming the folks who come here because they want to participate in our culture of diversity and resistance.

OAKLAND MEASURES

Measure JJ  Yes  Yes  Yes  protectoaklandrenters-jj-11x17

What we can do is protect those folks who are struggling to remain in this community by voting for Measure JJ. It’s the Renters’ Protection Act and though it doesn’t include everything that the Citywide Displacement Network had wanted, it does flip the script and puts the burden of justifying rent hikes above the cost of living onto the landlords who will be forced to keep a lid on exorbitant increases.

It doesn’t affect everyone, however as renter’s protections do not apply to newer buildings. While it expands “just cause” eviction rights to thousands, thousands will remain unprotected. Sadly, people are being evicted as I write this but come January, if we vote for JJ, some neighborhoods may be stabilized and many lives will be made measurably better.

Measure LL Yes  Yes  Yes   yesonll_gray

The Oakland Police Department has been under federal monitoring for 13 years and it was expected that under Chief Sean Whent, the Negotiated Settlement Agreement would have been completed by now. The federal monitoring has cost the city $30 million as of last year and lawsuits against OPD have cost another $70 million, at least. But due to the bombshell revelations of corruption-the sex trafficking of a minor and documented abuse of at least one underage female-the whole process of reform has been cast into doubt.

The Coalition for Police Accountability which put forth the independent Police Commission charter change, saw the ongoing problems as systemic and realized that reform would have to start in how the department was administered by city officials. The group, of which I’m a member, has been working on a fix for at least 2 years. In fact, we attempted to get this charter change on the ballot in 2014 but only Council Member Noel Gallo, then chair of Public Safety, would champion it.

The Measure which is now supported by the entire City Council and the Mayor will establish the strongest commission in the country, have the power to impose discipline on officers, determine some police policies, and direct the search for a police chief in the future. But beyond that, it opens up the workings of the most expensive department in the city to residents. Wouldn’t you like to know how half of your general fund monies are spent?

Measure HH   Yes   Yes  oaksodatax_logo

The soda tax is not a grocery tax. The fact that you’ve gotten so many glossy fliers full of these lies should tip you off to how much profit the sugar beverage industry expects to lose if more of these measures pass. But the explosion in diabetes among the young, not to mention obesity and tooth decay has become hard to ignore. This tax has been proven to work [http://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2016/08/23/491104093/berkeleys-soda-tax-appears-to-cut-consumption-of-sugary-drinks]. Now we just need some healthier options for folks in neighborhoods too often served only by corner stores.

Measure KK   Yes

This is a gigantic bond-$600 million-to fix lots of infrastructure ills that have been building up in Oakland since the Great Recession and before including the gas tax grab by the governor so that our road repairs and replacements are close to 100 years behind.

This measure is being billed as anti-displacement bond but that is a little misleading. One sixth of the bond-$100 million- would be used to rehabilitate housing and keep people on the verge of displacement in their homes, possibly building some new housing. The bulk of it-$350 million-would go to repairing and repaving our streets and sidewalks plus bike lanes, our wonderful public stairs, etc. Since the city is ignoring dangerous sidewalks on Lakeshore as I write this, they must expect that it will pass. I hope someone doesn’t break their neck before that [update-one of them was finally fixed.]

I haven’t personally decided if I can vote for it. It’s not that we don’t need it, but there are lots of things we need-employment programs, summer jobs for kids-but looking at the long term charges, gives me a little pause as I hope to retire some day. Whether you vote for this or not will largely be determined by your pocketbook . However, it may fairly be said that postponing these fixes will cost more in the long run. Check it out for yourself and decide http://www.spur.org/news/2016-09-13/taking-care-basic-needs-support-measure-kk-oakland-infrastructure-bond.

Measure II  Yes

This measure simply allows the city to lease its land long term, up to 99 years, rather than sell it to developers so that it remains in the public domain but also encourages developers to invest in a project a la 12th Street which, unfortunately, has been sold away, rather than leased.

County Measures

Measure A1   Yes  Yes  Yes  2016-10-09-01-13-05

This county bond will provide more affordable housing to Oaklanders than is contained in Measure KK & at a lower cost so it is very important that we all support it. It spreads the cost of building affordable housing around the county as it also provides housing throughout it. In addition to building rental housing, it will provide loans to seniors, etc, who may need adaptive improvements to stay in their homes, first time buyer programs for middle and low income families, and investment in future affordable development. http://acgov.org/cda/hcd/documents/AlCo-HousingBondFactSheet.pdf

It totals $580 million in bonds which may put it at odds with the city measure in some folks minds. I rank A1 as the most important bond proposal on the ballot but I ask you to consider also supporting KK, since they actually pay for different but very real needs. Both will require 2/3rds approval to pass.

Measure C1 for AC Transit  Yes  Yes  Yes

This measure extends the existing parcel tax for AC Transit but does not raise your taxes. AC Transit is the only public transit we have that actually serves folks who have no other way to get to work, school and shopping. It has received less than its share of transit funding for too long. We must continue to fund this need.

AC Transit At-Large-Christian Peeples

No one knows transit, any kind, like Chris and he uses transit exclusively even with his cane. When Summit Bank removed a bus stop near the hospital, Chris came to the bank with the members of ACCE’s Riders for Tranist Justice to protest and challenge their assumptions about bus riders. Return Chris Peoples to the board.

Measure RR for BART upgrades  Yes  Yes

BART was a premier transit system for a couple of decades but that time is long gone-as a former train operator, I remember it well. This bond is needed to get us back up to speed or at least not slow the system down any more than we’ve seen or experienced, track upgrades and earthquake safety are among the items it will pay for.

I just have to say that one of the reasons that this bond has received less than positive responses should be laid at the feet of the BART board-no, not because they gave away too much to the unions–but because they drove the system to a devastating strike that brought us anti-working family legislators like Steve Glazer of Orinda who has made his bones by trashing union workers.

Now Rebecca Saltzman, who was completely clueless when the board doubled down on pressing the union to give up more wages and benefits than they had voluntarily given up during the Recession, and even more clueless towards Black Lives Matter demonstrators, is being opposed by a Glazer-type candidate from Orinda. We should support her against this onslaught of anti-working class folks from over the hills but let’s not forget she was one of the board members who gave us this situation and the backlash against BART in the first place.

If voting for Ms. Saltzman leaves a bad taste in your mouth, you can make up for it by also voting for Lateefah Simon for BART, District7 https://www.lateefahforbart.com/.  Correction: of course, you can only vote for one in whose district you live.

State Propositions

We all know the list is so long that many California voters may not make it through it but I have some favorites. Please vote to abolish the Death Penalty-Yes on Prop 62, extend the top tier income tax-Yes on Prop 55, fairness for non-violent felons and youth offenders-Yes on Prop 57, and to maintain the ban on plastic bags-Yes On Prop 67. There are many other worthy props but go to Wellstoneclub.org for more info on them.

US Congress-Barbara Lee

She speaks for me and the overwhelming majority of Congressional District 13. There is no one else like her even though lots of folks seem to be getting in line. But take it easy, she’s not going anywhere for a long time.

California State Senate-Sandre Swanson

Endorsed by Congresswoman Lee, Assembly Members Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond, he is a fighter for Oakland and our particular needs. He doesn’t always do what party bosses say but he knows what is best for our district and would be the only Black Senator from Northern California. He stands for old-fashioned integrity-and is a no excuses legislator-vote for Sandre Swanson for Senate!

18th Assembly District-Rob Bonta

Running unopposed, Rob has worked hard for children and working families in our district and the state and will be reelected.

Oakland City Council Races

Now the choices narrow but the issues do not. The Oakland City Council is set up for possible turnover every 2 years with even and odd numbered districts running at opposite intervals. The At-Large seat is up along with the odd numbered districts, Disricts 1, 3, 5, and 7.

District 1-Dan Kalb

In District 1 the choice is easy. While Kevin Corbett comes from a well-known political family, he himself seems to be a throwback of some sort-he cannot bring himself to support innovative solutions to the crises in affordable housing or corrupt policing.

So Dan Kalb will win overwhelmingly and should. Despite some complaints about his style, deemed as arrogant and detached, he has engaged in the heaviest lifting on the city council. He led the way on the fight against coal trains rumbling through Oakland, hiring an expert himself to research the issue, he spent hours with our Coalition for Police Accountability going over our petition to establish a police commission with real power and came up with the measure now on the ballot, and was the first council member to recognize the crisis for renters, writing early ordinances to protect them. He proposed the first one while Mayor Schaaf was still on the council. Unfortunately, she successfully watered much of it down but it has still been able to protect tenants from the worst abuses.

Kalb’s work for tenants has been overshadowed by what Council Member At-Large Kaplan has managed to get on the ballot for this election, Measure JJ. But Kalb also successfully passed an ordinance to prevent landlords from gold-plating improvements in their buildings in order to jack up rents and ultimately push out tenants. As he has a strong moral center and a work ethic to match, this blogger just wishes he’d be more willing to rock the boat and push a critical agenda including challenging the mayor more often. But I admit that may be a bridge too far.

District 3-Noni Session

Lynette Gibson McElhaney came to the council in the last election in which she was, according to her own words, the “only adult in the room.” But she had no real base in Oakland as she had spent her career working in Richmond.

This blogger admits that she seems to have built a sufficient base to win this election. She manages to stay folksy and down home to the folks in West Oakland while courting developers and Chamber of Commerce types in the downtown. She straddles both worlds in an almost schizophrenic way, and for a long time I thought she just didn’t know where she stood herself.

Ms. McElhaney initially opposed Measure FF, but to be fair, most of the CMs oppposed it at the time, since there were no carve-outs for small businesses or for summer jobs for youth. She did support it being placed on the ballot so I was mistaken in my original post which I am correcting here. As Council President she affirmed the city’s actions to restrict attendance at city council meetings which a judge had to overturn [I have no knowledge where the decision originated, city administrator, mayor’s office?]  On the other hand, she was responsible for a more progressive budget being passed than the one given to her by the Mayor.

So, even though I believe that some of the complaints against her are overblown or just wrong-there’s no evidence that she herself is a house flipper-Noni Session is the true innovator and progressive candidate for this seat.

Ms. Session is a West Oakland native with deep roots in the district. She is also a highly thoughtful person, an academic-which cuts both ways in politics-and is committed to protecting her neighbors against a corrupt police department and predatory developers who seek to make big bucks while ignoring community needs. If she had begun to campaign a year earlier, her chances would be much better than they look now. As it is, the very complaints made against the incumbent may propel her back to the council presidency or at least the D3 seat.

District 5-Noel Gallo

In the Fruitvale/Glenview district Noel Gallo is the clear choice. He came in as a long time school board member and a law’n order guy, but he has risen to the crises which surround Oaklanders and threaten to pick them off one family at a time. He has fought for affordable housing and shaken his support in the police union, OPOA, to the point that they, apparently along with the Mayor, are running a candidate against him.

If the city council is represented by the characters in the Wizard of OZ , which admittedly works only in a narrow comparison, Noel is the beating heart of Oakland. While he still download-4supports the police and many in his district need protection (real protection, including from sexual trafficking, sigh,) he heard the refrain from community groups that this department cannot work for its residents without real oversight and championed it [Measure LL.]

He has made points about how the affordable housing crisis affects our neighbors by noting how it affects his own family and therefore, the Oakland family. He fought for affordable housing on the 12th Street project and supported Measure JJ early on. He has joined with CM Brooks to support a proposal that marginalized Oaklanders receive a significant return from the growing marijuana business.

Viola Gonzales is a nice person who has worked in many non-profits. In some ways, she is the opposite of Mr. Gallo. She is a successful bureaucrat who is unwilling to take positions on the issues of the day–housing and policing. She has received funds from the police union, OPOA, and would probably be a dependable vote for the Mayor’s proposals.

It’s understandable that the Mayor would want CMs who are always willing to see things her way, but it makes for better “checks and balances”when a mayor has some thoughtful opposition on the council–and that leads us to the At-Large race.

At-large-Rebecca Kaplan

Rebecca Kaplan is running for a 3rd term for this city-wide office but this is the first time that her political career is in jeopardy. Her first two terms could have been characterized as seeking popularity rather than taking tough positions on the issues. But now as she faces a fight for her political life against a candidate with deep pockets-thanks to the Jerry Brown/Schaaf machine-she seems to have gathered her courage to take on the issues that are at the crux of Oakland’s crises-housing and policing. To be fair she undertook this work before Moore made her entrance into the race.

She’s also developed an interest in taking charge of neighborhood issues with citywide implications not resolved by the district CM. For instance, she shepherded the return of a bus stop in D3’s uptown that affected Summit Hospital patients, especially older and disabled riders, who depended on a stop that was removed by the mayor’s administration at the request of a local banker.

One of her opponents is Bruce (No Relation to Jean) Quan, a former civil rights attorney who recently moved back to California from China. He was instrumental in securing Chinese funding for the giant project that was languishing at the Brooklyn Basin and is close to Chinatown social justice organizations. He also walks weekly with neighbors in the Ceasefire program who are trying to secure their streets. But he is relatively unknown outside of those neighborhoods and has little chance for a good showing much less a win.

Ms. Kaplan‘s real challenge comes from the Brown/Schaaf machine in its effort to secure an influential seat more amenable to development and top down politics.The affable Peggy Moore seems an unlikely machine candidate and, indeed, she denies that she is, even going so far as to say that she wasn’t able to get much done working in the mayor’s office.

Moore‘s campaign is run by well-known operative, Ace Smith. He describes himself as a, “30-year veteran of state and national politics and has directed winning campaigns from district attorney to president. With deep experience on the West Coast, he specializes in high-stakes political, governmental and public affairs campaigns.”

His campaigns are expensive, and seemingly willing to use questionable tactics like sending out a push poll implying that Congresswoman Lee endorsed Moore. Lee’s office has now sent out at least 3 press advisories stating that they have not and will not. Ms. Moore, is someone I consider a personal friend, but not someone who has shown much in the way of policy chops, is calling herself a community organizer but a better description would be political operative.

Kaplan herself wrote Measure JJ, an important renter protection proposition, has supported Measure LL for an independent Police Commission and fought the mayor’s uncompromising position that she be granted as many appointments on that body as she demanded. We hope that Ms. Kaplan will stay in the fight for the soul of Oakland. She is an able competitor and we need her.

District 7-Nehanda Imara

Larry Reid will have been on the council for 20 years come January and while he has accomplishments to show, notably, the East Oakland Sports Complex and the new and improved Foothill Square-thank you also to Jean Quan and Sheryl Walton-he most often accedes to whoever is in the mayor’s office and often seems on the verge of retiring. In any case, at twenty years, it’s time for turnover-but realistically that probably won’t happen.

Nehanda Imara is the East Oakland organizer for Communities for a Better Environment and  teaches an Environmental Justice course at Merritt College [which she designed], where she trains the next generation of environmental advocates and activists, hence her endorsement by the Sierra Club. Check out  http://www.cbecal.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/Nehanda-Imara-Oaklands-mother-of-environmental-justice.pdf  “Nehanda has been an environmentalist and powerful advocate for environmental justice for more than thirty years.” Regardless of the winner of this particular race, we hope Ms. Imara‘s influence will continue to build in District 7.

School District 1-Don MaCleay

Jody London has all the right answers and once vowed to stop the proliferation of charter schools but seems to have become another who has learned to follow the superintendent’s lead whoever he is and wherever he leads. I have serious reservations about Don MaCleay’s campaign but I’m glad to see a Green running to build the party locally and not from the top down, that is, like Jill Stein’s nonsensical run for the White House. Now, if only the Greens would have the good sense to support Measure LL, a necessary first step to police reform.

School District 5-1)Roseann Torres, 2) Mike Hutchinson

This district has been targeted by the folks at GO, Great Oakland Schools, which promotes charters over public schools. There are whole books on that subject but the bottom line is that at this point, there are almost no measures of accountability for how charters recruit or expel students, how they spend their funds, and more-but their proliferation does reduce funding to public schools and creams the best students out of neighborhood schools.

Rosie was once naive about charters but she has learned and taken some tough votes. As a result, she is now targeted by a well-funded campaign from the pro-charter folks. She has built a good rapport with the parents in her district and developed a sense of the power of the board vs. acquiescing to the administration on every issue.

Mike Hutchinson has been a lifelong student of how OUSD functions (or doesn’t function.) He is a leader in the field of public schools vs. charters and deserves a vote for his dedication to the Oakland school community.  However, the incumbent has a better chance of holding her seat vs the GO folks onslaught. Vote Rosie no. 1 and Mike no. 2. Don’t let the GO folks split the ticket and win.

School District 7-Chris Jackson

Chris is a long time organizer for ACCE and now works with the Private Industry Council helping young people find employment. He has been endorsed by almost everyone-the local Democratic Party, The Wellstone Club, Block by Block (BBBON,) The Labor Council, the Oakland Justice Coalition, and OEA for starters. He still faces a well-funded incumbent-however-he has a chance to win and he has been walking the district for many months.

School District 3-1) Kharyshi Wiginton 2) Ben Lang

Incumbent Jumoke Hinton-Hodge has never met a charter school she didn’t like. Additionally, she has been an uncritical champion year after year of whoever the current superintendent is and everything his administration is attempting to foist on parents, teachers and students in this district. It’s time for her to be replaced.

Kharyshi Wiginton is a dancer and educator who runs a program for West Oakland youth. She knows the importance of full services for children who may come to school with few of their needs met and she knows what it takes to meet them. She has been endorsed by the local Democratic Party, the Oakland Justice Coalition, OEA, and the Labor Council. Ben Lang, a former teacher, who also has a good grasp of the problems in OUSD should get the no. 2 spot.

Peralta Board-Karen Weinstein

Ms. Weinstein has long worked for women and the needs of marginalized people. She will be a good representative for the student body at our community colleges.

Superior Court Judge-Scott Jackson

During the primaries I recommended Scott Jackson as one of the choices for this post. He is now running against Barbara Thomas. He has been endorsed by most of the local Democratic clubs, the local party and well-respected judges like Gordon Baranco. He is the best candidate for the job.

East Bay Regional Park District 2-Dee Rosario

It’s going to be difficult to fill the shoes of anyone like John Sutter, an icon in the Open Space movement and a board member since 1996. but Dee Rosario has the background and knowledge to follow John when he retires this year. He was a park ranger and then supervisor for 37 years and has been endorsed by the Sierra Club in addition to other important endorsements. He’s got the kind of experience our park district needs.

If you didn’t find a race in this guide, it’s probably because the incumbent has little opposition. However, for more info, check these sites-wellstoneclub.org, the League of Women Voters’ site-votersedge.org/ca, the John George Democratic Club  http://jgdc.org/

Vote like your life depends on it and then make sure your representatives hear from you early and often. Thanks for all you do!

IMG_20161009_001129 (1).jpg

A Common Sense Primer for Candidates and Newly Electeds in Oakland and Beyond

000ywc_wordle

We’re in the midst of the silly season, the heartless fall festival of campaigns, consultants, pundits, endorsement battles and, oh yes, the candidates themselves, trying to find a way to survive it all. Someone recently said, a good campaign consultant should study marketing, not poli sci, so true. It’s the Gotcha Season!

Make friends with the media, that means reporters, editors, photographers and bloggers.

1)So here’s some basic advice from an old hand at local politics.Yeah, I know with 24 hour social media and in an atmosphere where a candidate for president gets excoriated for being off line for 90 minutes, it all seems local and there’s some truth to that. But, again, first off, make friends with the media, that means reporters, editors, photographers and bloggers.

If you suspect that they have already stereotyped you or taken a dislike based on your race, gender, political leaning or just your inability to smile for 2 or 3 hours straight, your instincts may be right.

In fact, they probably are-all the more reason to woo them. Pretend they are puppies or babies or your mother-in-law (okay maybe not that) just coo gently and share a not too intimate but just intimate enough anecdote so they know you’re human and that they’re in on the joke.

Do not make enemies of the press or ignore their importance now if you hope to have a political future. I have seen it happen again and again and so have you. Your grandmom was right about first impressions, you can’t make them later.

Having grown up with a mom in the biz, I happen to enjoy working with reporters. And remember, they’ve been downsized too and have to do the work of many nowadays. Make it easy for them and they will bless you.

And whatever you do once in office, don’t run complaining to a reporter you haven’t thanked twice or given at least one scoop to. Don’t demand a retraction, just give an appropriate reaction. You’ve developed a relationship so you might say-more in sorrow than in anger, why, my friend?

Do you have an  elevator pitch? Are you ready with a soundbite?

2)Why are you running? Can you explain it to your teenage daughter? Ok, maybe that’s too hard but do you have an  elevator pitch, a sales talk that keeps the door from being slammed in your face? If not, why do I care?

And, if you’re running against an incumbent, why should I even bother to consider you if you can’t differentiate yourself from the guy or gal I already know, and though I may dislike her, I know what he cares about, what they can do for me. So practice that 30 second, 1 or 2 minute blurb in the mirror or use your phone to record it and get ready with a soundbite or two that a voter or a reporter can take away from any meeting with you.

3)How’s your voice? Don’t talk down in your chest, no froggy throat, don’t talk softly or engage in uptalk (mostly a woman thing-always questioning ourselves). It goes without saying-cut out the ums and yaknows-or does it?

Stand up and speak with authority but warmth. As we’ve learned, all this is double edged for women, be authoritative but not a know-it-all. Smile but don’t seem flirtatious, sigh.

You’re not writing a bureaucratic how-to manual, just make it punchy and easy to take in in say, 8 seconds.

You may have a lot of knowledge of the intricacies of say, the budget or the park department, but no one wants to see the engine, they just wanna know that you can drive the machine. And, for all you helpful friends, writing campaign pieces before the consultant gets hired. No, you’re not writing a bureaucratic how-to manual, just make it punchy and easy to take in in say, 8 seconds. Yeah, I said that.

What are you going to do for me and when are you going to do it?

Here’s the thing, voters may be wowed by your knowledge and some voters will be able to glean that you know something about what your are proposing to do–BTW, I’m not one to suggest pivoting away from tough questions because that’s dishonest and I hate that-a surprising number will not be able to tell. The bottom line for voters is always-what are you going to do for me and when are you going to do it. Make sure you’ve told them, and they can go home and tell their roommate, spouse or doggie pal (elevator pitch.)

Every teacher learns how to read her classroom, so read your audience-eyes glazing over, move on or punch it up a bit.

What’s your plan for the animal shelter/rescue/dog park?

3b) So yeah, everybody loves their kids and you’re here to make it better for the little ones but remember-between the cost of rent and the cost of college these days-lots of the little ones are dogs, cats, ferrets, whatever, what’s your plan for the animal shelter/rescue/dog park. Do you have a picture with your pet?

4)Learn to delegate BUT, the first calls for endorsements are yours to make. If it’s someone you really need, absolutely don’t delegate. I thought everyone knew this but, no, they don’t. Sorry to tell you, but even a great fundraiser will order you to make the big money calls and lots of the smaller ones (Yeah, they’re the boss on that.)

5)Oh, endorsements, they’re so important. Actually, not really. Now some are very useful. In these parts, it’s Barbara Lee’s. Get to know her Advisory Committee members, nuff said. And BTW, don’t make up any endorsements you don’t have.

Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list.

6)But, all the clubs and organizations out there can’t win it for you, they won’t probably give all the time, money or volunteers they sorta promised you. If a voter is in that organization, ok, that works for them. So make the rounds but don’t freak out about it. Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list. Wait let me say it again-Door-to-door is what can win it for you. It should be on the top of your list.

Ok, now you’ve won, you’ve got a pile of debt, you’re exhausted, your family is done with you and your neighbors are wondering what they should call you.

7)First, thank everyone by name who did anything you know about in your campaign. As soon as you’re done thanking them and not before, start asking them to help you pay off your debt OR ask them to volunteer to help set up your office depending on their skill set, wallet.

8)You’ll need an advisory committee and maybe a kitchen cabinet too. While it may sound like work, it’s like making preparations for a trip and this experience is just that-trippy. So while your volunteers are still happy that they got you in office (cause they did, without them you wouldn’t have made it) ask them to join your advisory group, transitional or permanent, whatever. Get someone to head up your office volunteers now. Ask her yourself and make sure he knows how much you rely on them, etc.

You will find that once you are in office, you will be loved by some, hated by some, avoided by others, but most of your constituents will NOT hang on your every decision. They will however, hone in on your every mistake, perceived mistake (perception is reality in politics, it’s a law of nature) or faux pas. Maybe I should have mentioned this item first but you knew this wasn’t for the faint of heart, the lazy or those lacking in ego.

You, of course, want to make bold decisions, take us in a new direction, invent the cure for cancer, uh, got carried away there but you will too. Then you find out that no one knows what the problem really is and why they should care or that the solution eludes you and the 200,000 people who came before you or it is made at the county, state, federal, or cosmic level.

If you didn’t have a kitchen cabinet, you need one now.

9)So now you learn that even bold decisions that can work, can have some effect and– those that can get another 4 or however many votes needed, may piss off a lot of folks. So here’s what you do-get your advisory committee to hold neighborhood hearings-of course you’re there but you’re listening. If you didn’t have a kitchen cabinet-your most trusted advisors who love you but won’t take your shit-you need one now. Cause they have your back but will also give it to you, right between the eyes when you least want to hear it.

You’ve made that decision, moved ahead on that project, you’ve even invited your harshest critic in the press into your office for a picnic lunch with you, just you,  to explain why you did it and why you need his/her/their help to get the word out there.

If you do good constituent work and your folks feel looked after, you can take practically any position you want.

10)Now, it’s time to remember that your constituent work is the most important work you can do. If you came into office as a policy wonk who was gonna reorganize the world or just your town, start with the problems in the neighborhoods that you can fix. If you do good constituent work and your folks feel looked after, you can take practically any position you want.

Here’s where your volunteer coordinator pays off as she wields the phones in your office with knowledgeable neighbors who can make sure everyone’s questions got answered, their problems got to the right person or the issues got reported to you and at least acknowledged-acknowledgement, it’s what everyone wants, what everyone needs.

If you got elected to an office with staff…

11)And one more thing. If you got elected to an office with staff, unlike, say, the school board (then see item 8) make sure to hire staff that complement you and each other. No, no, I don’t mean they say, “you must’ve lost weight, you look great,” nice though that is.

If you’re a wonky guy or gal, it’s tempting to hire a know-it-all just like you but don’t. Now you need that people person who remembers everyone’s name or at least is willing to chat folks up when you don’t feel like it. But if you’re a warm-hearted soul with no mind for details, then hire the wonky know-it-all to help you with complicated policy, don’t shy away from it because of your discomfort.

Remember not to make them mirror images of you.

Just make sure your office is well-rounded, yes the genders, ethnicities, and neighborhoods/districts should be considered first.Not only should your office reflect your constituents, it should reflect your potential constituents, but just remember not to make them mirror images of you. Too much of a good thing, etc..

Now, go out and make us all proud and don’t forget where you came from or you’ll be back there sooner than you think.

yesonll_gray

Pamela’s Primary Voter Guide for the 18th AD

2016-05-19 11.38.59 (1)
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.

Measures

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Oakland’s Mayor Jean Quan:The Problem with Being First

Mayor Quan with friends at Chabot event

Mayor Quan with friends at Chabot event


Addendum: After reading this to my daughter, she felt that I should add that she has never heard the “N” word used as much as she has since Obama became president and it seems to me that the pervasiveness of our endemic racism and sexism have been exposed with these firsts-first Black president, first woman-of-color mayor. But should we tolerate the social sickness that often seems about to overwhelm and drown out any progress we thought we’d made?

It’s always tough being a trailblazer. Ask Hilary Clinton or Geraldine Ferraro, oh yeah, all we need to do is remind ourselves that no woman has yet gotten elected to the highest post in our democracy. But we do have some female governors and mayors. Oakland only recently elected its first woman mayor who is also an Asian-American, the tough and resilient Jean Quan.
If you don’t know how tough she is, you probably haven’t met her. You might gather from the frown she gets when she is concentrating on something, that she’s troubled, but you’d probably be wrong. As the newscasters who gathered in front of her house, including a KRON reporter who followed her home after her recent accident and then knocked on the Huen-Quan door at 6:45 in the morning the next day, found out. She greeted the crowd with a smile, saying, “Wow, I hope all of you will be coming to the city budget discussion, too.”
This all happened after she had been hit on the side rear of her city-owned car and spun around in the street, but that was nothing compared to the spin KRON news reporters tried to put on the mayor’s reputation after reporting the other driver’s story first.
I admit, I wasn’t there so I can’t say what happened although there are witnesses who disagree. But having been hit a couple of years ago where the damage to my vehicle made it obvious that I was traveling in my lane while the other driver crossed into me, I know how long the investigative process can take. It was almost a year before I got my deductible back.
However, the fact that some of the news media decreed without any evidence that the mayor had not only blown a red light, she had done it because she was on her cell phone, like the little girl in the Exorcist, my head is still spinning. But what made me almost throw up was the response from some of our “liberal, progressive” folks in the Bay.
[I acknowledge that there is a photo of the mayor talking on her phone while driving and she did get convicted at another point of rolling through a right hand turn, hence not coming to a full stop at the light. So have I-so we must be partners in crime-I guess! The usefulness of red light cameras is in dispute but they are now a fact of life in California that we must all deal with.
However, having a violation on your record does not mean that every time you are in an accident, it should be assumed that you caused it, should it? How fair is that or does fairness have nothing to do with it?]
But what startled me the most were the comments of the folks who posted on KQED’s Facebook page after the incident and some of the other Facebook responses I saw. Now, I know better than to read the online comments to newspaper articles which are invariably written by anonymous angry assholes and not a few racists.
On Facebook, though, I had come to expect a little more reserve if not basic good manners. Did I think we were a bit more concerned about political correctness, that is, not categorizing people or their actions based on stereotypes or bigotry?As an aside, I can’t tell you how many friends made cracks about Asian drivers when they heard….
Perhaps I thought that in the same space where people sign petitions on the correct treatment of wolves and dairy cows, the first Asian-American woman mayor might merit some demonstration of human decency so I was shocked when I read some of the publicly posted commentary there. I will list some of the more egregious comments which were interspersed with others like, “how is this even news” or “I don’t like Quan but come’on, it was an accident.”
Warning, some of this is hard to read for those of us who thought people at least knew better when it comes to the ugliest kind of sexism, the rankest anti-Chinese bigotry or the viciousness of folks who just hate politicians and easily paint them all as corrupt and useless-running for office has become another of those jobs that most Americans think are beneath them, how sad.
After reading these, I felt sick at heart. I started to write this blog but I thought, why bring all this bad stuff back up. Then I talked to my daughter, a young biracial person, who makes her way as a pretty and petite Black woman in the business world, quite successfully, I might add; but not without the experiencing the denigrations that her gender and her race elicit in our world.
She said to me, “I used to think things were getting better for People of Color but now I think they are getting worse. Mom, you’ve got to call them out for their double standard and bullying behavior cause that’s what it is.”
Here’s another point brought up by the responses-on the one hand, most folks believe that the mayor is driven around in style with a police escort, as many city mayors are. On the other hand, they complain that she should not have even a nice car to drive to her many activities. So which is it or do we even care about the facts? Almost everyone in Oakland knows that this mayor is on the go from morning til late at night, weekdays, weekends, and holidays included, and I have never known any other Oakland mayor who did not have a city car and driver.
Both city council members and the mayor get a car allowance; but for the first half of her term, you could see Jean Quan’s little old Prius in the mayor’s spot at city hall. When Mayor Quan started personally bringing groups of investors to our city for projects that she has spearheaded and government agency folks who are working with us, it became obvious that she needed a larger, less-used city car to chauffeur them around with herself of course, as chauffuer.
It’s up to the city council to budget a driver for this busy mayor, but we expect her to do it all. Is this once again because she’s a woman so that multi-tasking, like housework, is the norm expected of her along with having the smallest mayoral staff of any recent mayor?!
Back to the comments, I am going to list some of the ones that astonished me along with a few that were milder with the names as posted since the comments were known to be public at the time and are still up.
I want you to tell me how some of these are anything but hateful and painful to those of us who either share our mayor’s gender or racial characteristics or just care about common decency and civility. Does being a public official mean all bets are off?
Here are a few of the “choice” comments on the KQED facebook page-

John Orrock: Busted bitch
Mike Silveira: cant stand this bitch…..
Richard Ponce Jr. Lier!
Juan Manuel Quiros Raffo: China pendeja!!
Victoria Lambino: Uhhh, she’s in trouble now!
Eduardo Lara: sum ting wong! lol !
Cindy Merical Cano: Fire her lying ass.
Michael Giluso: I’m more concerned that she has a Government Issued Lexus SUV. Isn’t a Honda Accord sufficient?
Carlos Nochez, JR.: If there ever was a woman worthy of the term “cunt” Jean Quan is it.
Michael Manjarrez: Get over it people, seriously.
Patricia Garlitos: Looks just as Guilty as all the other drivers who do this.
Hmm maybe the shot was taken After the incident – who in their right mind would catch this action shot.
Michael Giluso: I had that same model, 2010 Lexus SUV 450H Hybrid and I can say, it has STANDARD bluetooth. She’s probably too stupid to figure out how to set it up.
Eileen McSorley: What a loser.
Fernando Monterey: Of course everyone is lying. She said she was not on the phone, so you are all lying! (If senator McCain can say it why not her)
Misty Gandee: i dont know that much about her but she seems unfazed by her bad behavour& to the person whining abour ppl speaking their mind, grow up

No, Ms. Gandee, I don’t think I want to grow up if it means accepting this kind of bad behavior.

Saying Goodbye to the Oakland City Council while Reading Pogo on a Clear Afternoon

images

In the next week the Oakland City Council will see a rare makeover as three long time council members exit the stage and 2 new faces take their places with one well-known local politician moving into the other. Jane Brunner, Nancy Nadel, and Ignacio de la Fuente, will be moving on while Lynette McElhaney, Dan Kalb, and former school board member Noel Gallo will be seated.

Much has already been written about the responsibilities and obstacles they will confront in fulfilling their promises to renew the city and remake the fractious city council. Top among them are crime and violence, police reform, and desperately needed public works along with the possibility of a transformative change in our local and regional economy with new development at the port.

But, little has been written about the legacy of the three outgoing council members, which is considerable despite the fractious board of more recent memory. I remember when all of these folks were elected; and while I may not recall all their specific accomplishments, I will long remember what they added to our little burg. And, I want them and you, curious readers, to know what some of those overarching themes were and why they need to be remembered and honored.

I came to work for the city council as the chief of staff for Nate Miley in 1991. He was considered the first  reform council member after years of the  Lionel Wilson-led council, Lionel himself a ground-breaker, as a judge and our first Black mayor. Former Assembly Member Elihu Harris had replaced Wilson during that campaign-an interesting story in itself (check it out online if you dare).

Harris disappointed many by seeming to pick up where Wilson left off. He and the majority of the council were seen as overly influenced by the downtown White business elite that dominated the previous Republican administrations. One refrain I remember from Harris and his cohorts was that Oakland was not going to build more affordable housing because too many folks moved here to take advantage of that, as if buses were dropping people off from Castro Valley to live in run down apartments, rather than that long-time residents still needed decent, affordable housing (which is not limited to projects.)

This is not to denigrate some of the Harris administration achievements, many of which were put in place before Jerry was inaugurated, and were credited to his mayoralty. In fact that old council was also influenced by activists members like Council Member Mary Moore who fought with the powers that be to protect the neighborhood interests. But, by the time Mary left and John Russo took her place, she had begun to be viewed as a NIMBY; and the reform-minded Russo then honed his power along with his generation’s local developers like Phil Tagami.

Someone ought to write a book about Mr. Tagami, by the way, a man many of us watched grow into a powerful and sometimes reviled figure in Oakland politics and the development community. He’s a truly fascinating character whether you like what he does and how he does it, or not.

After Miley was elected came Mr. De La Fuente and Sheila Jordan who spun off from the school board to the council then to the county Department of Ed where she has since built a small empire. As an aside, for all those budding politicos considering a run for the school board, Sheila, then Jean Quan, and now Noel Gallo were able to move to the council from 2nd Avenue. While it may seem that becoming a school trustee is often entree into the next level of elected office, it’s just as often a dead end for political careers. Running the schools is an almost completely thankless task.

So from Ms. Jordan, the seat then turned over to her close friend, Jane Brunner, while Nancy Nadel moved into what has been called the West Oakland seat; but which now finds most of it voters in the Adams point and Lake Merritt areas. Ignacio De La Fuente  was elected to represent the Fruitvale district in 1992 and was the powerful president of the city council for 10 years of that two decades. This council set about changing the face of Oakland politics and bringing  their strong social justice bonafides with them.

Prior to this “reform” council being elected, Wilson Riles Jr. was considered the “conscience of the council”. When Mr. Riles left to run the American Friends Service Committee, Nancy Nadel took that title and remained the only one of the new members-particularly after Mr. Russo was elected-to stand completely outside the heavily-financed camp of Don Perata followers.

Despite the heavy influence of Don Perata who ran a lobbying firm known as Perata Engineering-the guy who engineered the Raiders deal along with our long term taxpayer obligations to  the Silver and Black-these council members pushed their own progressive agendas.

Notably, Brunner and Nadel, having grown up in low-income housing in New York City, have always been promoters of affordable housing for those who have long lived and struggled in Oakland.

Nadel who has the most interesting background in a membership of folks whose own stories could be made into successful miniseries, has a masters in geoscience, has worked as an artist, a teacher, and an environmentalist, and now heads her own sustainable boutique chocolate company.

She has led the struggle to develop restorative justice and violence prevention as a public health issue, and worked to implement groundbreaking programs to reintegrate former prisoners into the community.

Nancy can be counted on to look at ways that sustainable industries can be developed regionally, youth and their needs can be explored and resources can be found to demand underserved populations be offered real solutions to better their lives.

Jane has always been a union stalwart, a neighborhood mediator, and budget negotiator. Her negotiating talents have been prodigious even as others pushed for jobs programs that often resulted in little, she worked on the details that made them come alive (along with her former colleague, Jean Quan, a behind the scenes council negotiator without whom many successful ballot measures and inter-jurisdictional programs would not have passed.)

Jane presided over district town halls and folks from all over Oakland attended her D1 meetings to learn about and deliberate on the issues of the day facing Oakland. Only Mayor Jean Quan, of all the mayors in my memory, have promoted and organized similar but citywide town halls. I hope that new and long term council members will still consider adding these regular constituent check-in sessions to their agendas.

As a union lawyer, Jane Brunner, has advocated for local, union-strong jobs, that is, jobs with benefits and protections against unscrupulous employers and for affirmative action for Oaklanders who have traditionally been kept out of the equation. Council Member Desley Brooks has more recently assumed that mantle. Now it is her turn to develop a coalition to carry on that tradition with the new council members.

Now we come to Ignacio De La Fuente, who I once considered an ally and still consider a colleague. He came to office as the first Mexican immigrant to sit on the Oakland Council. He has maintained his cultural connections and roots in a district with a successful Latino- based business and retail district. Two of his most significant accomplishments are the redesign of the old Montgomery Ward building into the Cesar Chavez Education Center and the completion of the Fruitvale BART station project.

Believe it or not, I have worked more closely with Mr. De La Fuente than I have with Ms. Nadel and Ms. Brunner though I have always admired their tough work ethic and creative, progressive solutions.

As a council aide to Nate Miley, De La Fuente was the one who helped us shepherd through Miley’s ground breaking legislation to curb crime around liquor stores as alcohol industry lobbyists circled like vultures and our legislation looked like it could not pass. I watched while Ignacio challenged the  police department’s budget busting excesses. I also remember when he tried hard to pass a local hire requirement for the police department that was undone by the California courts.

While De la Fuente has long had a knee-jerk reaction against environmentalism; because of concerns that it would hurt job growth-and an autocratic and rule-bending style of leadership-personally, he is always good-humored and self-deprecating. He has never shown offense at my outspoken criticism.

Nancy Nadel retired and has already moved on, but her innovative approaches to our problems will be missed. Jane seems to have ridden herself out of town on a rail, and Ignacio couldn’t wait to spend his stockpile of campaign funds on a useless crusade of silly attacks.

Somehow that didn’t surprise me.  He had always hoped to be mayor, and he still seems to be the only one who doesn’t know that can never happen. When he watched a colleague and former close ally who came to the council later than he did, take that job with no money and little high level support, the bitterness fairly dripped off of him until even some of his allies could not stomach his campaign of naysaying and demagoguery against the administration. It could be said that it was reminiscent of the Republican approach to making government work.

Jane could have run a campaign describing the innovations she might very well have promoted as city attorney but with the able assistance of Larry Tramutola- another special Oakland character- she slid into an attack mode from which she never recovered.

This council changing-of-the-guard could be a tale of good intentions lost due to corruption, or opportunism, or simple convenience, but I think, like everything, it’s more complicated than that.

Public servants, and, make no mistake, these are public servants who have worked overtime for what they believe in, are elected by us (all 3 were repeatedly reelected), then trained by all of us. Yes, it’s difficult to run a work-a-day life and stay informed on politics even  the local kind. But, it is a requirement of good government that folks not only vote but keep abreast of the issues they care about and continue to learn and demand what they want from their electeds in the context of what is possible.

Politicians are a little like puppies. You need both a rolled up newspaper and a bag of treats to train them to heel long enough to understand what you want. I frequently chat with folks I meet asking them how they think Oakland is doing.  They often comment on the failures of the mayor and the city council (any mayor, any city council), the police department, etc. When asked what they would do, the answers quite often range from the impossible to the absurd. It is disturbing and appalling how little many of our most well-educated citizens know about how government works.

So on the day after this new year has started, I wanted to memorialize the hard work and the sometimes magnificent accomplishments of this previous board of long-time activists.

I’d also like to welcome the newly elected and soon-to-be-reviled, incoming city council. Before you post that nasty comment in the paper, or denounce a new initiative, take a look in the mirror, remembering the wise words of that sage, Pogo. We have met the enemy and he is us.

Props, Candidates, & Commentary

I should be walking a precinct today for one of my favorite candidates, but I seem to have injured my back or pulled a muscle. Now I have more sympathy for folks who are slowed or even stopped by lower back pain, but I’m hoping I can still make myself useful by putting down some thoughts on our local political choices.

To start off, we have lots of propositions and lots of pros and cons already. In my Democratic club we’ve continued debating some of them even after we made our recommendations and mailed them out.

It’s a testament to the complexity of making legislation, organizing our state and local budgets, and designing a constitution by the initiative process-well, it’s a mess. Voters have much less time to devote to deciphering them than legislators do and probably less inclination to make them their daily priority.

Then we have the voter equivalent of lobbyists-campaign consultants well versed in the art of advertising. But once these props get on the ballot, often by way of millionaires or corporations, we have to take them seriously.

You can find lots of organizations recommending the right way to vote based on your interest group. I check out many sources before deciding-including the local papers, labor unions, blogs (Tonya Love’s Lovehealthandadvocacy.com is just one of them), and the local Dem clubs to sort these out.

Here are my thumbnail recommendations:

Prop 30-Yes-Flawed but extremely important to stabilizing, if temporarily, our budget and our school system, some progressive taxes combined with some regressive ones but a necessary fix until we are willing to look at Prop 13 with a clear eye.

Prop 31-No-Another crazy scheme to hamstring the Legislature from making budgets in the guise of cleaning up the mess, gives the governor the ability to change or eliminate programs which the Leg voted to spend money on if he doesn’t think we can afford it. It is a constitutional amendment.

Prop 32-Hell No-It prohibits unions from collecting political donations and contributing to candidates while claiming to do the same for corporations which will still fund political campaigns the way they always did. It might as well be called the “Defund the Democratic Party Act” since it eliminates practically the only source of funding that is not from corporations and CEOs.

Prop 33-Stupid No- Aren’t we tired of Mercury Insurance yet? They should be tired of trying to fool us into voting away our right to some kind of control over car insurance costs. Geesh.

Prop 34-Yes-Repeal the death penalty with all its pitfalls-economic and racial injustice and ridiculous waste of public monies. If you were standing outside of San Quentin while they slowly murdered Stanley Tookie Williams like I was, well, please support this.

Prop 35-No-No, it’s not a no-brainer, it’s a mess of an initiative (or is that redundant)? It just adds another layer of people who will be locked away or not allowed to be part of society who may not be traffickers while not punishing other types of exploitation and does not support the victims. There is a law on the books which needs to be funded that supports the victims. See
http://www.psmag.com/legal-affairs/prop-35-case-act-undermines-victims-rights-48314/

Prop 36-Yes-Duh, this is a no-brainer. Stop spending our limited dollars on jailing people who have not committed violent crimes rather than educating them. Now if we could just end the war on drugs.

Prop 37-Yes-GMO Labels-In spite of all the ads and the blather that it’s not perfect, it’s just a label and might be the beginning of healthy eating or at least a step in that direction. Something civilized countries are already doing.

Prop 38-No-Munger Initiative-There’s lots of theories on how 30 and 38 affect each other. I’m voting no on 38 and encouraging a strong vote for 30 which goes into effect immediately and pays for more than just K-12 education.

Prop 39-Yes-according to the LA times of October 10, 2012, “Prop. 39 would end tax giveaway, raise $1 billion for California” which was granted by Schwarzenegger and the Dems in the Leg during some crazy backroom deal session. End that now.

Prop 40-Yes-In this case yes means nothing changes but if we forget and vote no; everything changes and we have to do redistricting again to the tune of mucho bucks. Even the Repubs who put this on the ballot have abandoned it but remember that, in the perverse language of “initiative speak”, yes is no, kind of.

Prop A1-Yes. We’ve had lots of arguments on our Wellstone Democratic Club listserve on what the zoo needs or what they’ll do with the funds but most ultimately believe that the kids of Oakland will get lots of benefits from a well-kept, nationally recognized zoo with happy animals. It’s a deal at $12 a year!

Transportation Measure B1-Yes-It will double the sales tax that funds transportation improvements including roads, buses, and BART, but it will keep the cost of tickets for seniors, youth, and disabled affordable.

Local Races:

Oakland City Attorney-Barbara Parker is the only candidate who is qualified to run this large public law office. She is even-handed and objective and has been doing the job ably. Ignore the sturm und drang of Larry Tramutola’s protestations on behalf of Jane Brunner. They only serve to embarrass her record for doing good stuff as a legislator.

D1-Rank your votes-Dan Kalb, Richard Raya, and Don Link in whichever order you choose but that is mine.

D3-No order but for now I pick Nyeisha, Alex , or Lynette/Sean. I know that’s chicken shit but it’s as close as I could get to deciding. Since I don’t live there, I don’t have to make 3 of those choices.

D5-Lots of controversy about Mario and some of it worries me, but I choose change over same old, same old. And, for school board-Mike Hutchinson-strong leadership and real change.

D7-Sheryl Walton is running a strong campaign and you should be out walking for her now. District 7 deserves leadership that gets out of the office and shows up where and when you need them.

At Large Rebecca Kaplan- There is no reason to replace a progressive representative for this seat with a 20 year veteran who spends his time blocking change while encouraging vitriol on the Oakland City Council. Retire Mr. de la Fuente now.

18th Assembly District-Abel Guillen is the guy we need to go to Sacramento and keep track of what Oakland students need. He has both a strong education and finance background. Vote Abel. His office is at 19th Street and Broadway, phone banking and precinct walking continue.

My Limited Time Voter Recommendations for Oakland, 2012

Pamela Drake’s Limited Time Recommendations for Oakland city offices:

I’m calling my recommendations “limited time” because they may expire as more information emerges. Many of the races in Oakland are for open seats, and many candidates who are running have little or no experience in public office, and it is close to impossible to predict how they will react under the pressures and perils of office. Whether a person has the temperament to be a good public servant is a difficult thing to gauge.

And, some candidates who seem personally attuned to neighborhood activism, nevertheless, do not seem to be moored to any kind of overall analysis that might hint at what they will do in a given political battle. Additionally, since I am writing this piece to persuade a Democratic Party audience, I will not be considering the candidacy of Greens, some of whom may offer a viable alternative.

District 1

Dan Kalb is my number 1 pick for this seat. Dan was recently the California Policy Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists and has been a policy wonk and environmental advocate his entire life. He is a steady, rational guy who deliberates before making decisions. He may seem a little stiff in person but seems to have a solid political perspective that is dependably progressive. Dan had good detailed answers for most of our questionnaire but slid around answering the questions about gang injunctions or curfews which are hot topics in Oakland right now.

Don Link is a local hero to many in District 1 and my number 2 pick for this office. He helped organize the very first Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council in Oakland for his district and has been very active in everything from crime prevention to planting trees in the flatlands neighborhood where he lives.

Don also promoted the establishment of a Police Commission for the City of Oakland which might have given us a way to bring transparency and public engagement to policing practices in Oakland. However, much as I personally like Don (it is said that the more you get to know him, the more you like and respect him), his platform is not as progressive as I would like. I do not personally believe that gang injunctions are constitutional whether or not the current court allows them. Moreover, their effectiveness is only proven in that they may move the problem from one neighborhood to the next. Don supports the injunctions and a youth curfew.

Youth curfews seem to be selling an idea that has nothing to do with the problem it seeks to cure. Youth under eighteen are much less likely to be involved in criminal activities than young adults between the ages of 18 and 25. It does nothing to protect or prevent that group from criminal activities.

Youth under 18 are more likely to suffer from or commit assaults between the after school hours, that is 3 to 6 PM. These are the hours that they are most unsupervised. Of course, children should not be out on the streets at all hours of the night, but arresting them may only put them on a course to a long record. Besides that, where would we find the extra police to pick them up if we did institute this policy; and given OPD’s history around our youth, this concept seems fraught with danger.

Amy Lemley is a more recent entry into the Oakland political scene but she comes with powerful politicians’ support and has raised the most money. She is the director of the John Burton Foundation for Children without Homes and was reportedly recruited to run by Libby Schaaf and Council Member Pat Kernighan. She is married to Justin Horner who was formerly Jane Brunner’s policy director.

Amy has lots of good policy development experience and is on the Measure Y board but otherwise we know little of her local involvement. Check out her questionnaire for more info. She would be an able council member, but whether she would enable CM Schaaf to form a somewhat conservative block of votes on the council is a concern to me (Both Libby and Pat voted to approve the payment of rogue cops punitive damages).

Richard Raya is the policy director of California Forward. He has had lots of top notch budget crafting experience and is a very approachable guy-well liked in his flatlands neighborhood. He is also connected, through his job at California Forward to Prop 31, a distinctly California backward approach to solving our state budget woes. It would strengthen the miserable 2/3’s vote requirement and allow any governor to slash programs while also allowing local authorities to circumvent hard-won regulations in our state such as CEQA. (http://www.sfgate.com/opinion/openforum/article/Against-Prop-31-Reform-is-a-Trojan-horse-3770566.php)

Raya also skirts the questions of policing policies including number 14 which asks if these candidates would have voted to have the taxpayers cover the costs of punitive damages for cops who have done some really bad stuff for which the judge assigned them the blame. Five council members voted to hold us responsible rather than the bad cops.

Please check all Oakland CC candidates for their answers or non-answers to this question. The City paid out over $800 k for resulting lawsuits but the judge apparently thought the officers themselves should shoulder some of the responsibility. (http://www.insidebayarea.com/oaklandtribune/localnews/ci_20895350/oakland-council-votes-pay-police-officers-fine)

Craig Brandt, who I believe is an Oakland attorney, has also filed papers and filled out a questionnaire with Wellstone but I can find no sign of a credible campaign.

District 3

Nancy Nadel is retiring from the council so this is another open seat with a multitude of candidates all of whom have some sort of experience relevant to this position but none of whom has any experience in public office.

First off, I will give you Nancy’s recommendations since she is a public official in whom the Wellstone Club has always put their trust. CM Nadel has ranked Alex Miller-Cole number 1, Nyeisha DeWitt, number 2, and Damon Eaves who seems to have dropped out as of this writing, number 3.

Sean Sullivan

CM Nadel did not rank Sean Sullivan who should be the frontrunner in this race as he has been running for four years. He ran against Nadel the last time around with the Chamber of Commerce’s blessing. Sean is the former director of Covenant House, a sanctuary for homeless youth in Oakland and has served on so many boards in Oakland, it would take too long to list them. He has also promoted a cause close to my heart which spawned a huge controversy over a little park where people and their dogs could hang out together near Lake Merritt.

Many consider him to be pro-development which is probably the issue which has garnered him the most support and the most opposition. He has been endorsed by CM Pat Kernighan and has the most campaign funding.

Nyeisha de Witt

Nyeisha has an interesting story in that she did not graduate from high school, was in show business, then returned to school, ultimately getting her Phd in Education at the University of San Francisco. She is also a mother of three and according to her website, she is “the Program Director of Citywide Dropout Prevention at Oakland’s Promise Alliance.  Nyeisha was recently featured on the California Forward website as a “Forward Thinker ”.  In 2010, she was recognized as a Hometown Hero in Oakland, by Comcast and ANG Newsgroup.”

Nyeisha was ranked Nancy Nadel’s number 2 choice and is well-liked by many with strong and deep ties to Oakland. However, perusing her questionnaire I was shocked to find that she opposes any changes to Prop 13 including charging more for commercial properties than this proposition currently calls for.

Alex Miller-Cole

Alex is an active West Oaklander who is the chair of the San Pablo Corridor working on cleaning and beautifying neighborhoods and public safety issues. He also has an interesting story that resonates for Oaklanders. He came here illegally from Mexico, recently gaining his citizenship. He was an interior decorator in the 90’s and became a small developer and landlord in the last few years. He rehabs home in his own neighborhood in West Oakland.

Alex is a real neighborhood activist who works closely with some former Occupy Oakland folks to clean areas and parks all over West Oakland. While he is known as a can-do kind of guy, he is weak in policy development and may not have an overall grasp on some of the issues facing Oakland. However, he is CM Nadel’s number 1 choice.

Lynette McElhaney

Lynette has been the Executive Director of the East Bay Neighborhood Housing Services in Richmond for almost a decade. She has been quoted in local journals on ways to prevent the foreclosure crisis and is a real presence at D3 debates and forums. People are impressed with her knowledge and delivery but are concerned that she is better grounded in Richmond than Oakland.

Whether she wins or not, she has proven herself as an able candidate for the future.

Derrick Muhammed

Derrick is an attorney and a longshoreman with the ILWU at the Port of Oakland. He was raised in Oakland and lost a brother to violence here. He is a rising political activist, but this run may be a bit premature for him as he has not honed his positions and his campaign apparatus is weak. However, he would be a strong voice for unions.

DISTRICT 5

Ignacio de la Fuente is not running for the seat he has held for 20 years in order to run for the At-Large seat against Rebecca Kaplan.

Noel Gallo has been on the school board for 20 years. He was on the board during the devastating budget crisis that plunged us into state receivership and out again. He has listened to constituents and board members but shown little leadership during that time, and he shocked many of us when he endorsed Don Perata for mayor. He is a very nice and approachable person but we have seen no new initiatives from him while in office.

Mario Juarez is a successful local realtor in the Fruitvale. He has also been a Democratic Party activist on the local county committee leading volunteers to register new citizens as new voters in the Party. I have endorsed his candidacy for new leadership in District 5.

DISTRICT 7

Sheryl Walton is running a credible campaign against another long time council member Larry Reid. CM Reid is rarely seen in his district and has had no new ideas on public safety other than the same tired refrain of giving the police more power. He has become increasingly difficult to work with, denouncing other council members and the mayor publicly. As council president he has done little to bring the council together to solve their pressing problems.

Sheryl Walton is a public health specialist who has worked as an organizer to improve the well-being of neighborhoods throughout the Bay Area over the last 30 years. She is a public health specialist. From 2004 to 2009 Sheryl was the lead organizer for Oakland’s City-County Neighborhood Initiative, which according to her website, “established both violence prevention programs and a mechanism for Sobrante Park community members, organizations, and schools to make positive and long-standing changes in their neighborhood.”

She is an active member of her flatlands community and is running a real grassroots campaign against the good ole boy network which is attempting to close ranks against her. I wholeheartedly endorse her.

AT LARGE

Rebecca Kaplan has been a breath of fresh air in this seat and was expected to run unopposed as she is bright and progressive. Now she has two opponents, one who is well-financed and well known. Ignacio de la Fuente, with over a $100k war chest, is looking to defeat her and then go after Mayor Quan in her next term.

Kaplan has some weaknesses in that she is seen as someone who will not stand and fight but rather duck out of uncomfortable situations and is not a big fundraiser. She told me that she will be taking on citywide issues this time around, such as reducing crime around problem liquor stores and more jobs through transportation funding. She has been working hard to bring in campaign funds. She has my strong endorsement.

Carol Lee Tolbert

Carol was a former school board member and runs a non-profit involving youth in civic engagement in North Oakland. She’s an active citizen in her neighborhood but is a recent entrant to this race.

Ignacio de la Fuente

He was thought to be a progressive reformer when he first ran for District 5 twenty years ago. He was the president of the city council for many years and tried to reform the police department in some ways; but there are persistent rumors of political corruption which swirl around him and his district. Now he is trying to develop a reputation as a born-again law and order politician who did little for public safety as his own district sank into a danger zone.

CITY ATTORNEY

We have had only one elected city attorney and many public officials think it was a mistake to make this an elected position, because they will say that politics should not play such a large part in making legal decisions when protecting the city’s interest.

My conclusion plays that argument down the middle. Politics does influence everything in government decisions; but if you are looking for a non-partisan player for this important job, no one will handle it more professionally than Barbara Parker who was appointed to the job last fall. In fairness she has been doing the job for years but not getting credit for it. She is a Harvard educated attorney who has shown that she can run a very large, diverse department of attorneys and clerical staff. She is independent but not in an “in your face” manner.

Jane has been a reliable council member, sometimes progressive, sometimes not so much. She is a good policy/big picture thinker but has never run a large office like the city attorney’s. Although she might be able to do that job well, we already have someone who has shown that she can.

Jane did vote to cover the costs of the two rogue cops who publicly strip searched two young men and whom the judge meant to slap on the wrist with punitive damages. Given the difficulty we are in with the community and the Feds because some members of our police department do not want to abide by the law, it strikes the wrong note with both for the city to assume the consequences for these officers.

We have had one council member turned city attorney already. That council member had difficulty restraining his policy-making tendencies in the office. I have endorsed Barbara Parker for the job she is already ably doing.

School Board Candidates

D1

Jody London, the incumbent, is running against Thearse Pecot who is a Santa Fe parent. Santa Fe Elementary School is one of the 5 schools being closed, an issue which may presently be in the courts. Santa Fe is problematic because there is no other elementary school within walking distance for the neighborhood kids who attend it, and many of the parents do not have cars.

Jody has also been criticized by the parents of the Kaiser Elementary for not meeting with them when their school was in danger of being closed. However, she still has a good overall reputation on the board and in that neighborhood.

D3

Richard Fuentes is the policy analyst for CM Ignacio de la Fuente and is running for school board in the district where he lives. He seems to be running a credible campaign.

D5

Two of the candidates for Noel Gallo’s position have turned in questionnaires to Wellstone. Rosie Torres is fairly well-known in the Fruitvale. She is a criminal defense lawyer who has her own practice. He daughter attends public school, but I’m not sure she has had much experience with education issues other than that. She is likable and credible.

Michael Hutchinson on the other hand, has a lifetime of public school experience just growing up with his mom, a long time Oakland school teacher and OEA activist. He has worked for after school programs and struggled with those communities to keep those schools open.

While I like Rosie, I think that Mike Hutchinson has the potential to be a real leader on the school board so I am endorsing him. Our board has gone along with the superintendent’s program with nary a peep of protest.

This board has never gone out to the Oakland community and offered leadership or alternatives to austerity. They have not challenged the administration’s assumptions, promises, or budget numbers. They have watched while the administration demonized the teachers’ union and imposed a contract. The district is also not meeting the requirements of state law to use 55% of their funding in the classroom. It’s time for a real change on the school board.

Abel Guillen for Assembly

The Wellstone Club is already a strong supporter of Abel. He is our progressive Oakland candidate with experience on budgeting, finance, and a real passion for education. Don’t forget to get out and campaign for him.