Oakland’s Top 10 Exciting New Candidates!

“something is wrong. Since everyone knows we are in a polarizing period of intense political change, it’s not a good thing to have the local party “settle” for status quo seeking candidates that rank and file activists do not support. Some of the candidates below did receive the party’s blessing, most did not.”

Many of us check our twitter in the morning only to find out that the Whitest of White Houses has nominated another racist, misogynist liar to a post he’s the least qualified to hold. On top of that you can sometimes despair that even your local branch of the download (6)Democratic Party can do the right thing but hey, there’s good news all around us if we only look. With the campaigns of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, not to mention Stacey Abrams and Beto O’Rourke’s-a new energized Democratic Party could arise-one that not only rejects Trump’s GOP but also asserts real progressive values.

Well, whadya know we’ve got some dynamic challengers right here in Estuary City and they’re mostly women of color who either have deep community track records or are busy building them now.  20180919_133549

But first, in reference to the crack I made about our local Dems who have no excuse not to be as progressive as the cities and county they rep, last week that party endorsed many moderate, middle-of-the-road incumbents who wouldn’t recognize an emergency situation…..unless it was a threat to their re-election–so I went on a facebook rant about the party’s elected membership, of which I am one, and demanded that folks join me in the good fight for accountable leadership (you know the kind that doesn’t jam people into garden sheds?)

Well, my rant resulted in some cool people beginning to consider a run for that labyrinthine bureaucracy packed in a bunch of nesting boxes we comically refer to as the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC). Here’s a partial list, John Jones III, Debra Grabelle, Wendy Bloom, Tonya Love, Kim Carter Martinez, Jessamyn Sabbag, Alvina Wong, Jenn Tran, Lailan Sandra Huen, Gary Jimenez, Carroll Fife, and more, [please be sure to bug them for me.]

Here’s how it works–each slate runs only in their assembly district. Mine is the 18th, Wendy’s for instance is the 15th. You would run a mini campaign since you will appear on the regular primary ballot of a presidential year and begin to attend the Committee meetings the following January. Your slate has to raise money for campaign lit and mailings and you are expected to appear before various organizations, mostly Dem clubs for endorsements. You will also want to appeal to your assembly member to endorse your slate. The slate for the 18th AD also requires members from Alameda and San Leandro besides Oakland and the 15th AD slate should have Oakland, Berkeley, and El Cerrito/Richmond all the way to Hercules, residents included. But what does the ACDCC do?

What is the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC) and What the Heck Does It do?

In a nutshell, this Committee is the local arm of the California Democratic Party. It supports its local clubs (sometimes), it passes resolutions to alert our state and federal reps on issues of importance. In addition the Committee also offers training sessions to candidates and registers voters. But, the most obvious task we have is endorsing local candidates and measures. When the Committee votes, it’s the final word on who gets to wear the party’s official label in the next election.

The Committee tends to reward incumbents and discourage challengers which is not always a bad thing, but when committee members are pressured to stick with party regulars and back room dealing becomes the only way to accomplish that, it means something is wrong. Since everyone knows we are in a polarizing period of intense political change, it’s not a good thing to have the local party “settle” for status quo seeking candidates that rank and file activists do not support. Some of the candidates below did receive the party’s blessing, most did not.

New Candidates for Oakland in November:

1. Clarissa Doutherd-Candidate for school board in district 4–I don’t even know how to pronounce her last name but the first time I heard her speak and respond to  cropped-clarissa-doutherd-new-headshot-color-512-pxwquestions, the room broke out in spontaneous applause after her presentation. It’s not that her rhetoric soars, it’s that it is so grounded in experience, in compassion and in solutions for Oakland parents who have despaired of anyone listening to their concerns. After years of OUSD officials disrespecting its parents, teachers, and students, this is a candidate ready to hear them, then translate them into action.  https://clarissaforoaklandschools.com/

2. Nikki Bas-Candidate for district 2, Oakland City Council–I haven’t known Nikki as long as others who have worked side-by-side with her on issues like reducing diesel  Resized_20180912_122438_4211fumes at the Port of Oakland, increasing the minimum wage for our low income workers and demanding good jobs for all our folks, but her courage and toughness (not phony tough/cute as the current mayor depicts herself) means that our council would add  a fighter who is honest about the stands she has taken and the decisions she’ll make.  I have to add, most of the parents in our neighborhood came out early for her because they were already familiar with her collaborative style and concern for working families throughout Oakland.   http://www.nikki4oakland.com/

3. & 4. Sheng Thao and Nayeli Maxson-Sorry I keep lumping these two together since they are quite different women but I am stunned by City Council District 4′s good luck in having these options for their 1st and 2nd rank votes. Sheng has navigated the shores of surviving as an immigrant and a domestic abuse victim in a society not known for compassion for either and secured a place where her son can thrive and she can represent this community.   https://www.shengforoakland.com/  https://nayeliforoakland.com/

And Nayeli is an innovative leader with a even tempered style that belies its strength. Unlike her former boss she will be able to accept criticism as an opportunity to develop new solutions. Both of these candidates are grounded in real life experiences.

Pamela Harris and Sheng Thao and Nayeli

5. Pamela Harris-City Council District 4-This area of Oakland has been blessed with a surfeit of smart, well-rounded women candidates. As an entrepreneur and a member of the LGBTQ community in Oakland, Pamela is just starting out in local politics but she has places to go and people to meet. She’s a comer for the Dem Party with one caveat that she keep a respectful distance from the moderates who seek to maintain control over the system.  https://www.pamharris4oakland.com/

7. Cindi Reiss-Candidate for Peralta College Trustee– Every time Cindi opens her mouth to talk about what our local community colleges need, she blows away the competition beyond that even of the incumbent. As faculty at another district, she has been a member of the local and state academic senate so understands the issues and will be a quick study for the solutions. I predict that other trustees will soon be looking to her for leadership.  https://www.cindireiss2018.com/    39105861_420420581698080_5483025507148627968_o

8. Mya Whitaker for Council District 6 and Corean Todd-Candidate for Peralta  IMG_2018-09-19_12-52-26College Trustee- share the 8th place. Mya is a newcomer who can convey the conditions in her central Oakland district like no one else while Corean is very new to politics but not to leadership and struggle. Corean has worked with Clarissa at Parent Voices and is a union steward. Mya was a member of the Citizen Police Review Board before it was disbanded in favor an independent commission and has specific solutions for better community/police relations.  [Honorable Mentions for D6 Candidates-Loren Taylor, Natasha Middleton, and Marlo Rodriguez.]   https://whitakerforoakland.nationbuilder.com/  https://coreantoddforperalta2018.com/

9. & 10. Last but not least or technically new to local politics- The top challengers to the incumbent mayor – Cat Brooks and Pamela Price-are nevertheless exciting candidates in their approaches to the mayor’s race and their visions for the city. We hope they will work out a tag team approach that can take the Jerry Brown machine out and put in as Cat says “the people’s program.” https://www.catbrooksforoakland.com/  /www.pamelaprice4mayor.com

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Towards a New City Council in Turbulent Times

As I wrote in The Oakland We Knew and the Mayor’s Race, if your vision of Oakland is not one that mimics the hollowing out of our city a la San Francisco…if your vision is one of a thriving town that includes working families, immigrants and the sons and daughters of those Black and Brown folks who have been marginalized while struggling to live and work in the city they were raised in, then you may have to delve deep into city politics before you vote in the fall city council races. I have done some of that work for you so here goes:

City Council District 2-Nikki Fortunato Bas

I will admit that I’m one of a small group that urged our current council member to run last time around. So I consider Abel a friend albeit not as close a one as then. He is a nice moderate man who likes being able to obtain improvements like better lighting for a park. I think he would be a good assistant city manager but he is not a leader and certainly not one we can look to to bring us through turbulent times. His approach is to bolster the mayor whoever he or she may be and follow their lead.

Here are some of the areas in which he let us down:

  • During negotiations with the council to put Measure JJ on the ballot, which offers better and clearer protections for renters, at a time when more and more are living in the streets or leaving, Abel would not consider supporting it until the mayor had agreed and after it was watered down. He was brought along, seemingly kicking and screaming.
  • During the budget struggle of 2016 a number of community groups built a coalition to propose  a people’s budget. They had hoped to use more of the general fund for the needs of undeserved neighborhoods beyond policing (which is of course necessary but claims the lion’s share of the budget at this time, largely because of  unrestrained overtime, settlements for police abuse cases and the continuing expense of the monitor, because OPD has not adequately dealt with the racial profiling issue-just watch the dog chase its tail, sigh.)
  • Ultimately, Abel joined with the group supporting the mayor’s budget and as chair of that meeting, using a parliamentary slight-of-hand, passed the budget by dropping a firefighter academy, an illegal dumping pick-up crew, and a street paving crew.
  • After the minimum wage law was passed, labor groups [the same labor and community groups who worked to get Abel elected] asked for a small fund to help spread the word about the law so that local businesses would fairly follow it and the city could enforce it but our council member was loathe to vote for it until, once again, the mayor agreed to support it.
  • There are other instances where CM Guillen let down the working people who got him on the council-not supporting settling with the unions until after an unnecessary strike was held, not supporting the Chinatown Coalition when it negotiated with developers for community benefits and initially trying to block placing Measure LL, the police commission on the ballot, instead proposing a toothless alternative along with Annie Campbell Washington.
  • Finally, I would be expected to bring up the sad community process over the 12th Street parcel but I don’t think it is fair to put all the blame on Abel in this instance.

Nikki’s Track Record

Nikki headed up the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy before taking the job as Executive Director of the partnership for Working Families. As EBASE’s CEO she successfully fought for Oakland’s Minimum Wage campaign, to reduce diesel emissions at the Port of Oakland while working up a plan to provide more of the jobs from the Port for Oaklanders all while she was active in her daughter’s girl scout troop.  download (5)

When she was just starting out, she received the Mario Savio Young Activist Award for her work organizing garment workers and in 2012, the San Francisco Chronicle recognized her as a social justice Changemaker. More recently she was honored by Oakland Rising, a local umbrella organization that pulls together many non-profits to fight for our working families. She has the track record to stand up to powerful interests and to lead in changing times.

As Jessamyn Sabbag of Oakland Rising and a former Guillen supporter says, “Nikki has a proven track record – in fact, she’s accomplished more as a civilian in the last four years than Guillen has as an elected official.  We hope you’ll seriously consider supporting Nikki Fortunato Bas for D2 city council.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=4&v=7K2rxlGjFPk

http://www.nikki4oakland.com/

City Council District 4 Ranking-Nayeli Maxson, Sheng Thao, Pamela Harris

Pamela-Harris-Shang-Thao-Nayelli-Maxon

For those of us concerned about the direction Oakland has taken to force its historic residents out of the city and to usher in all the new wonderful businesses without protecting those who strove without the means to establish them, Annie Campbell Washington was a disappointment.

Ms. Washington seemed to routinely vote for developers’ demands and the police union’s positions but could not support the other unions who get the city’s work done when they asked to be made right after givebacks during the Recession. So when she announced her retirement from politics, we saw this as an opportunity to support a council member who would fight for working families, defying special interests and even sometimes opposing the mayor.

Many interesting candidates have signed up to take on the challenge and three smart powerful women have emerged in the lead. Here’s my ranking: Nayeli Maxson, Sheng Thao, Pamela Harris

Nayeli is known to D4 residents as a former staffer for Annie Campbell Washington. I got to know her when she led the effort to find someone to run against Sheriff Ahern, this guy, https://www.sfchronicle.com/crime/article/Video-reveals-Alameda-County-sheriff-s-office-13170239.php. Unfortunately we were unable to get someone who met the requirements to take a chance on challenging this well-heeled and powerful elected official, but Nayeli proved her progressive bona fides to me then and since. You may have noticed that the mayor and CM Washington are supporting a businessman from Montclair, someone who admits it will take a while for him to get up to speed on the issues confronting the town. I can only glean from that that the mayor does not share the vision of Oakland that Nayeli wants for her young family.

Nayeli has the policy chops to put together legislation that can offer relief to working families and is strongly in favor of affordable housing having suffered through eviction  as a child in SF. And, at the Block by Block Organizing Network, BBBON, she was the only candidate who vowed not to take contributions from the police union. As the current director of the Alliance for Community Development, she knows how to encourage entrepreneurship in our undeserved communities. Jobs are important but the days of the gold watch after decades of employment are over and many of us will at some point, try entrepreneurship. Her organization helps provide the tools and she can show Oakland how to make it work.   https://nayeliforoakland.com/

Sheng Thao runs a very close second for me. As Rebecca Kaplan’s chief-of-staff, she has strengthened the focus of the sometimes mercurial council member’s office and assisted her in passing progressive legislation. Sheng has worked with electeds and constituents from around the city and other government agencies. She has developed budget expertise, no small thing when this administration pleads poverty whenever community members demand services.   https://www.shengforoakland.com/

As a daughter of Vietnam War refugees, a single mom who put herself through college after fleeing an abusive partner, she is one tough cookie. Sheng has the sole endorsement of the Alameda Labor Council and Assembly Member Bonta. So long as these two women are in your top two, you can’t go wrong.

Pamela Harris is a Democratic Party activist who has been a documentary filmmaker, a non-profit director, and earned a Mildred Parish Massey Legacy Award from Congresswoman Barbara Lee. In addition to being a delegate to the local Democratic Party, she was a board member of the Stonewall Democratic Club. Her platform is as progressive as Nayeli”s and Sheng’s but in a recent forum, she also spoke of statewide issues, over which she has more experience. Although she has less knowledge of city issues and the machinations of the city council, she would also be a tough force for progressive change if elected.  https://www.pamharris4oakland.com/

District 6-No Endorsement

First, please read this blog from an observer and regular speaker to the Oakland City Council. Not only does he make a point about CM Guillen’s original inclination to vote against the proposal for the E. 12th parcel, but he does a good job documenting the bias against Ms. Brooks in the press.

https://hyphenatedrepublic.wordpress.com/2018/05/17/the-united-front-against-desley-brooks/

Here’s the thing with our Miss Brooks, as one wag told me, “she’s been a thorn in the side of every mayor.” If you haven’t spent time in East Oakland, you might not know the depth of distrust that folks there have with government. No, it’s not of the my-street-didn’t-get-adequately-cleaned-last-week type. It’s of the we have no grocery stores, we have crime but the police treat us all like criminals and our streets never get cleaned, in fact our streets are full of everyone else’s trash and our kids aren’t safe in the park–kind of distrust. Most folks in East Oakland don’t complain (until the East Oakland Congress of Neighborhoods, the East Oakland Collective, etc, came along) because they don’t believe it will get them what they need since no one in city hall seems to care.

So along comes a council member who says, I’ll get you a new teen center and I won’t care whose toes I step on, I’ll make sure you can use your parks by offering free concerts there every summer, and I’ll fight for your share of the city’s funds, that’s what Desley means to some residents of District 6 and she has delivered.

No, it’s still not paradise but that is not for want of her passion and hard work. And more from CM BRooks-I’ll fight to fund jobs programs with the public funds from projects in which the jobless were left out. This fight, which did not get the necessary votes to go forward, was billed by the media as some sort of misuse of funds. Really, using public funding of city projects to prepare city workers to get some of the jobs provided by those funds, is misuse? Depends on the level of unemployment in your neighborhood, I guess.

But to others, she’s the Council Member who snaps at them if they disagree with her or can’t get their call returned (BTW, some of our “best” CMs have difficulty returning those calls) or she’s the council member whose attitude and actions embarrass them.

But please do not talk to me about her corruption since you haven’t proved your case. I have never seen Desley do something for her own enrichment rather for the benefit of her community. I know she lost a lawsuit and I may be wrong but I believe it was an ugly argument that got out of hand. I will never see the smart and tough Elaine Brown as a frail elder and probably neither does she, which might have been part of the problem.

Ms. Brooks does not always take the progressive position (which rankles even more when she condescends to others) but when she does she wields a powerful argument, not just in its vehemence but in its logic and knowledge of city processes. CM Brooks, CM Kaplan and CM Gallo often form a united front on tough issues. Maybe some folks want to see that front crumble, because given the array of candidates running against her, I believe it would; and we would be left to the good graces of a mayor who doesn’t know much about East Oakland.

I think Loren Taylor is a fine man from a good family, rooted in Oakland. His office would be welcoming to all. Natasha Middleton is a policy wonk with some interesting ideas who has put in the work, and Marlo Rodriguez also seems to be a good person, willing to learn. (Loren is heavily supported by the mayor and Natasha seems to have garnered some level of endorsement also as she once worked for her.) But, sorry, folks, it won’t do to replace the tough and often obnoxious Ms. Brooks with any of them. An acquiescent council under any mayor is not a pretty sight.

So why don’t I just endorse her? I’d like to, but I can’t condone the way she treats others or her forays into demagoguery. But those who endorse her purely for her policy positions or because East Oakland needs a strong defender, have to admit that her need to go for the jugular when she’s crossed just the slightest bit, is a painful thing to watch and often renders her ineffective. It’s a shame too, because she’s smart as a whip, brave as a charging bull, and in possession of the institutional memory we need at a time when we seem to be losing our way. So the good voters of Central East Oakland will have to sort it out but I hope they will evaluate the choices thoroughly before they decide.

School Board

I have been less involved with the politics of OUSD than I once was, I think I just found it too sad. But I do endorse Shanthi Gonzales who I believe has the chops and the trust of her community to propose a plan to help us get out of the latest budget disaster that once again threatens our schools.

Aimee Eng is running unopposed in D2 and was a disappointment initially but she seems to have stepped up so here’s to more of that.

Clarissa Doutherd

The incumbent Nina Senn is not running for reelection. Gary Yee, former board member and former superintendent, was on the board during the state takeover and did not prove to be a dynamic force for local control. He is seen as the charter school supporter in this race but that may not be completely fair However, I could not recommend him as a returning board member at this critical time.

But Clarissa Doutherd for District 4 is a revelation. The first time I heard her was at the BBBON endorsement meeting and she got a huge round of applause after she finished speaking  http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/06/15/parent-leader-clarissa-doutherd-campaigns-school-board-district-4/  . I hope that after she’s done cleaning up OUSD, she runs for higher office. As Executive Director of Parent Voices Oakland, she’s got the smarts, the compassion and the vision to bring everyone together to fight for our kids.  I’m glad to end this blog of tough choices with a hearty endorsement and a video or two.

 

 

 

The Oakland We Knew and the Mayor’s Race

 

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Libby Schaaf’s Record

It’s hard to know how seriously Oakland folks will take this contest at a time when we are glued to twitter trying to understand the circus in Washington, but local politics are also a reflection of broader issues coming home to roost.

Libby Schaaf was a local apparatchik for a number of party politicians before she was elected to a single term on the council. She then ran what a pundit described as a “stealth campaign” for mayor. While everyone was busy blaming Jean Quan for all our ills and taking pot shots at Rebecca Kaplan, Libby Schaaf was tooling around town making goo goo eyes at reporters about her Oaklandish cred. [That was some ish alright.] After she released her secret weapon, an endorsement by Governor Jerry Brown, she turned out to be the top vote getter in that Ranked Choice Voting surprise.

Now almost 4 years later, we areexperiencing a human disaster like none we’ve seen in our 152 history. Thousands of Oaklanders are living in squalor on the streets and whole neighborhoods have been destabilized by gentrification. Of course, Ms. Schaaf cannot be blamed for the sudden rise in homelessness but the level of indifference she’s shown to these conditions, has been, until very recently, stunning.  920x1240

https://draketalkoakland.com/2017/07/10/oakland-city-council-must-heed-the-homeless-advocacy-working-group/

To add incompetence to neglect this administration managed to misplace $2.2 million  desperately needed  anti-displacement funds granted by the state. Eventually, they found them but still had trouble distributing them in a timely manner. Meanwhile tent cities continued to proliferate.  http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/05/31/oakland-allocated-2-2-million-prevent-evictions-mayors-staff-failed-spend-money/  https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2018/05/22/oakland-failed-to-spend-22-million-on-anti-displacement-and-homeless-assistance

Yes, she’s raised private funds for tough sheds, probably an improvement on tents, and that’s nice. But when activists of the Homeless Advocacy Working Group, HAWG, offered a list of solutions, I wouldn’t say they were shown the door but just left to sit in the waiting room.  Meanwhile, the mayor created another highly paid position in her office to deal with the problems hiring Darin Ranelletti, Policy Director for Housing Security, phew, I feel better already.

https://www.eastbaytimes.com/2018/03/15/oakland-creates-new-policy-director-position-to-deal-with-housing-crisis/

She spent her first day as mayor hanging out with police officers, because she felt their morale needed boosting and then was blindsided when it came out that they had been engaging in a sex trafficking operation. When it was also discovered that the department had been involved in cover-up after shameless cover-up, her administration did issue a loud slap on the wrist. Her next response to this crisis in confidence was to attempt to limit the independence of the proposed charter amendment that set up a Police Commission.

It turns out that her negotiation style is classic my-way-or-the-highway. When she demanded the power to appoint almost half of the commissioners, no compromise was brooked . I have to add that neither she nor her city administrator nor the city attorney have stopped trying to put obstacles in the path of a truly independent police commission even after the voters overwhelmingly supported it.

There have been a number of disasters and scandals during this administration’s first three years but little has stuck to Schaaf given the mostly positive press she garners locally and nationally–the Ghostship Fire, the cover-up of the new police chief’s images (7)complicity in an ICE raid in West Oakland, at least 4 police shootings in one summer, not to mention the accelerated exodus of native Oaklanders, especially Black Oaklanders from the Town. Additionally, this mayor has managed to look like a hero against the Jeff Sessions anti-immigrant onslaught while doing nothing to ensure our city’s sanctuary policy is upheld. She even told a group of immigrants fighting to maintain their Temporary Protected Status in the US who have started a nationwide bus tour to call attention to their plight that she was too busy to meet with them.  https://consortiumnews.com/2018/08/15/journey-for-justice-caravan-launches-cross-country-trek/

My Ranked Recommendations- 1) Cat Brooks, 2) Pamela Price, 3) Saied Karamooz.

Many people know Cat Brooks as a firebrand speaking at the city council and leading a march to the police department but she has a warm side that shows itself to friends and family and that includes all of the marginalized folks who are being ignored or actively pushed out of Oakland. She is an artist/performer besides being an activist on almost every issue and she has amassed a volunteer army who share her inclusive vision of Oakland. Her campaign is a positive force in Oakland politics. crowd+shothttps://www.catbrooksforoakland.com/  “That’s what this campaign is about. It’s about putting the people into the halls of power and collectively creating a new way of governance that is people driven and people-centered.”

Pamela Price, as many of you know, ran a tough campaign for district attorney. She did well in Oakland, although this race is a completely different one. I championed her  against Nancy O’Malley and think it’s a good thing that she has jumped into this race too. “We must fight injustice and income inequality in Oakland. We must house the homeless and ensure that we protect and enhance the safety and quality of life in our  Pamela_attorney-e1485730265186neighborhoods. We must reach deep inside ourselves and unite behind bold solutions while moving everyone in this City forward. We must “lift as we climb.”

https://www.pamelaprice4mayor.com/meetpamela

Saied Karamooz is a businessman who became active in Oakland politics a few years ago. At the time he seemed to me to be someone who took potshots at what others were doing but I see him differently now. He helped us get the Police Commission, Measure LL, on the ballot, helped pass it and has worked doggedly with the Coalition for Police Accountability [which cannot endorse in any campaign] to fight to maintain its independence. He is a member of  the otherwise ineffective Green Party but has worked with the Oakland Justice Coalition as well as other local advocates.  “I have been active in various progressive causes, such as Police Accountability, Fight for 15, Stop Urban Shield, Renter Protection, Public Bank, and No Coal in Oakland.” Saied-Headshot-e1517086595811

https://everyonesmayor.org/bio/

 

RCV–the Anti-gentrification Tool:

If the campaigns above work together in the Ranked Choice Voting system, there’s a chance we can beat the incumbent (that means ranking everyone but the incumbent in almost any order.) Why is that so important? No, I don’t think that Libby Schaaf is a terrible mayor. No, the potholes are not her fault or even the fault of her predecessor–but if you’re concerned about them–please don’t vote to repeal the gas tax since it’s our best chance to fund road repair and replacement.

Oakland is teetering on a precipice. It may even be too late to pull it back and while I don’t think Ms. Schaaf has done it on purpose, we could easily go the way of San Francisco. That city where I once lived, is no longer home to artists, working families or indeed families in general. In fact SF is a city with the fewest children of any metropolitan area in the US. It’s Black population which once mirrored that of the country and was significant in its cultural life-is now half of that and rapidly shrinking. San Francisco’s rep as a cauldron for activism, creativity and movements for progressive change exists only in nostalgia for the old city that once welcomed everyone in.

We all see where Oakland is going and we’re happy about new businesses opening up, an uptick in nightlife we haven’t seen since WWII, with cranes towering over the downtown and uptown. But it shouldn’t be necessary to harass and evict the people who have lived, worked and raised their families in this city and did so without grocery stores, restaurants or the availability of the capital to fund them.

Admittedly it’s a difficult task to find ways to provide it in a time of deregulation and soaring greed when the federal government long ago ceased funding any significant levels of housing affordable to the middle class much less the poor. It takes an administration that allocates available tax dollars wisely, monitors the funds carefully and actively seeks out creative urban planning ideas.

Contrast this with a city government in which neighborhood groups like the Chinatown Coalition must raise thousands of dollars to appeal planning decisions that give developers valuable height, density, and parking variances in exchange for next to no community benefits. The Chinatown Coalition fought for affordable housing within these giant projects in addition to space for small local businesses and indigenous art communities. But the Planning Department under this administration has still not recognized or utilized community benefits mandates in their process.

https://draketalkoakland.com/2016/12/14/help-wanted-an-oakland-planning-director-for-equitable-development/

With the leadership of this mayor and the current council members in Districts 2, 4, and 3, developers are actively discouraged from listening to community needs, the planning department ignores community demands and the budget is earmarked to fund everything but housing, services for the homeless, clean-up crews, recreation centers, and libraries especially in our economically struggling districts. They have been left to fend for themselves while public land is sold away to charter school corporations and elite programs.   http://www.oaklandpost.org/2018/07/13/council-delays-decision-selling-public-land-build-charter-school/

Oakland scored 33.5% on a study called the Equity Indicator Report. For all this mayor’s focus on police, Oakland’s poorer communities rate the lowest in the city for public safety according to this report.  https://www.kqed.org/news/11680162/new-report-shows-oakland-scores-low-for-racial-equity

The question now is what is your vision of Oakland? Is it the watered down Jerry Brown version where tech bros rule downtown, the uptown all the way to Temescal-whatever that means-“Construction cranes dot the downtown skyline, and scaffolding-shrouded towers march down Broadway into Temescal”-not to mention the Lake, Fruitvale and beyond?  [https://extras.mercurynews.com/oaklandboom/ ]

Should Fruitvale and West Oakland be rebuilt as bedroom communities for one demographic, whose folks will definitely buy artisanal coffee and drink green smoothies a la Blindspotting, but where will the rest of us go who struggled through the days images (1)where the easternmost coffee shop was the Coffee Mill on Grand Avenue, crime was high and storefront churches kept kids fed in the summertime. Should we have to leave because the goodies of the “sharing culture” don’t accrue to us? Should our kids have to move to Sacramento, Oregon, or, I dunno, Ohio because we just don’t fit the new vision? This is our chance, maybe our last one, to select a more inclusive mayor, one who knows and even cares where Willie Wilkins Park in East Oakland is and how it serves our families. We can do this.   http://oaklandschaafted.com/#how%20long

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My 2018 Primary Recommendations & a Look Foward to November

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Vote Dan Kalb AD 15, Pamela Price DA, & Write-in N.O. Confidence for Sheriff

You got your ballot in the mail and your handbook before that and wow, this is another fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. With an open seat in Berkeley/Oakland/Richmond for state assembly and our current governor being termed out from his last incarnation, we have lots of folks to study and TV ads to avoid.

So let’s tackle the governor’s race first. Like most Californians, or most voters, I don’t know any of these guys and gals too well. At least the current governator was once our mayor and though I didn’t much like him, I had some idea what he’d do. Scratch that, with Jerry you’re never sure of anything.

The once flamboyant Governor Moonbeam has turned into Gov Scrooge and it’s well known by all our legislators that if we want more money for programs for kids and housing for the bottom, say, 75% of us, we’ll have to wait for the next boss in Sacramento.

Governor-Delaine Eastin

Gavin Newsom had sucked all the air out of the room until two billionaire charter school proponents, Eli Broad and Reed Hastings, started pumping billions into the race for Antonio Villaraigosa. Having met him once and found him to be a bit sleezy and a lot opportunistic, I would take Gavin over him if those were the only choices.

However, despite Newsom’s image as the brave guy who promoted marriage equality, I remember when San Francisco was on the brink of total gentrification from a wonderful pastiche of cultures and revolutionary instincts to the stultifying center of finance and tech bros it seems to be today, and Newsom presided over that change, encouraging it all the way. Oakland is there now and woe to us if we don’t heed the warning signs.

So my choice was between State Treasurer John Chiang and former Schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin.  Delaine has all the right instincts and when I saw her at Oakland’s rally to repeal Costa Hawkins law which prohibits many municipalities from passing renter protections,  I gave her my vote. You should too.

Lieutenant Governor-Gayle McLaughlin

I am not excited about this race but most voters never are. The only obvious reason to run is to be the next in line for governor. I had thought to endorse Ed Hernandez and then looked at his list of supporters-I was very impressed that he has all the union support but then noticed that that included all the police unions and that worries me. It’s already very difficult to get police reform bills passed, and I doubt he would oppose anything police unions support.

Gayle McLaughlin has operated in the tiny crucible that is Richmond politics where Chevron is the obvious villain to be opposed and most who do, come out looking like heroes. I find her naive and not as grounded as I would like but I will vote for her in lieu of the establishment candidates. BTW, if you notice the inundation of your airwaves with Kounalakis ads, look her up. She is a developer who is the daughter of a developer who has spent her life being appointed to high profile commissions. Don’t let the Obama imprimatur cloud your weepy eyes.

US Senator-Kevin De Leon

State Senator De Leon is responsible for most of the progressive legislation which got through the legislature this year as he was the Senator Pro Tem who pushed and organized the resistance including defining us as a sanctuary state. Now that Senator Feinstein has managed to portray herself as a staunch supporter of the Resistance and, given her millions in campaign cash, Kevin may have little chance but we should look for him to lead our state in some other capacity soon.

Congress-Barbara Lee Speaks for Me-as always

CA Secretary of State-?

I’m sure there are folks who can tell you why or why not to continue to support the incumbent, Alex Padilla, but I could find little or no information on that race. It looks like Padilla is guaranteed a return to that office.

Also, the Wellstone Voting Rights Task Force, for complicated reasons, is voting no endorsement in this race.

Betty Yee for Controller and Malia Cohen for State Board of Equalization.

Attorney General-Xavier Becerra

Ok, so I changed horses in mid-season. My club, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, had heartily endorsed Dave Jones for Insurance Commissioner and feted him with a celebratory dinner. I got many calls from him and finally decided to endorse him before the California Democratic Convention back in February.

But then I got more info from someone who worked as an attorney in that department under both Garamendi and Jones. Describing Jones as insurance commissioner,”Jones could have pursued a pro-consumer agenda, like John Garamendi. But instead he was as passive as he could possibly be. He didn’t even bother to replace people who were in positions subject to his appointment. He just left the Republican holdovers to keep doing whatever they were doing (he didn’t seem to know or care).”

And more specifically as a reference to Jones’ environmental platform, “But where he has real power to help consumers–by making insurance companies treat policyholders fairly–he’s pathetically timid.
Here’s an example I {former employee} know about:  the insurance commissioner has the authority to disapprove all health insurance contracts (policies). There are department lawyers who review every word to make sure it complies with the law.
There was a huge backlog of these policies (the insurers could use them until and unless they were disapproved).  While literally thousands of these policies were sitting without review the laws changed and included more consumer protections. I tried to get those policies disapproved, since they clearly no longer were valid.
But the policies were being used by insurance companies and Dave Jones didn’t want to upset them. So he ordered that they all be approved, even though they all violated the law.”
I’ve heard that Jones was weak on money bail reform while Becerra was not. So I am now endorsing AG Becerra. Maybe Jerry managed to do something right.
Tony Thurmond for Superintendent of Schools-very important!
Now to the fun down ballot stuff. It often seems like throwing darts at your handbook would work just fine which leads me to believe that some of these positions should be appointed rather than elected as they are based on professional credentials that few have and even fewer may desire. But here we go:
Assessor-James Johnson
I can’t say I know a lot about this office though I suspect it’s one that shouldn’t be based on political expertise. I have a recommendation from a progressive friend who has worked with him that Johnson does indeed know the work of this office and is highly competent to carry it on. She is concerned about that the next assessor see the job as important and not just as a political stepping stone so I’m going with that.
Auditor-Controller-Irella Blackwood
Ok, I’ll admit to knowing little about what this office does too but it seems very important. One of the reasons I chose Irella was that during a forum she mentioned why she would present more transparent reports than her opponent Melissa Wilk, who already works in the county auditor’s office, is currently doing. Of course, promises are cheap and we’ll have to see but it is a concept her opponent did not push.
They both have great endorsements but Blackwood’s includes Ann-Marie Hogan while Wilk’s includes Sheriff Ahern who is being targeted by civil rights groups demanding his department be audited for why spending is going up for county jails while prisoner numbers are falling.
I’m sure they would both be fine auditor’s but I want to see this office removed from the sheriff’s influence.
County Board of Supervisors- Wilma Chan-this incumbent has quietly led the fight against the worst of the Trump crimes here in Alameda County.
District Attorney-Pamela Price
I’m happy to note that since I endorsed her, George Soros has followed my lead, LOL and pumped some money into mailers to elect her and other progressives into the office most responsible for mass incarceration of Black and Brown youth.
I’ve written more extensively about this endorsement here – https://draketalkoakland.com/tag/pamela-price/

And I will just add that while Nancy O’Malley has accomplished good things in the past, she is a traditional DA and the times call for innovation and a focus on dismantling mass incarceration. Whatever happens we should be grateful to Candidate Price for taking this on.

Sheriff-Write-In–N.O. Confidence

As I detailed in the blog above, there was a search for someone to run against this sheriff with the necessary law enforcement background but no one took that on despite our coalition’s effort. Since then, some of us have been beating the bushes to find a write-in candidate who would not be required to have the law enforcement certification but would be the antithesis of what most California sheriffs have become,  gung-ho supporters of the Trump anti-immigration policies and purveyors of the abuses of the mass incarceration state. Because they are elected independently, they act with impunity and little can be done to restrain their most negative impulses.

We still have until May 22nd to find a write-in candidate who embodies what real public safety would look like, a California where everyone is encouraged to watch out for each other without imposing their biases on them and where all feel free to come forward and ask for help in times of need. That person must be a registered voter in the county and be willing to obtain 20 signatures to prove it. That’s it, sign up!

But if as likely, no one steps forward-ideally a POC who works in the re-entry, anti-violence or public health field-then we will promote a campaign for everyone to write in the well known anti-sheriff candidate (gluten free of course) N.O. Confidence, who uses the pronoun “they.

State Assembly AD 18-Rob Bonta

Assembly Member Bonta is running unopposed probably because he is one of the hardest working folks in that body and is one of our reps who ushered in the resistance against the regime in DC while also fighting for affordable housing, renter protections, and money bail reform. That’s just a sliver of the issues he is taking on. Show him your support.

State Assembly AD 15-Dan Kalb

This is an open seat in a wide-open race. We have a well-heeled candidate, Buffy Wicks, whom almost no one knows and who has’t lived here for long but due to the Obama nostalgia and piles of cash, has a good chance of getting in the top 2 of our weird primary system.

Wicks is also not a supporter of the repeal of Costa Hawkins which would allow municipalities to enact renter protections on some of the units not now affected by any protections, and she is quite willing to take contributions from the charter school industry. Outside of those pivotal issues, she might be a fine rep but I have nothing to base that on. She worked in the Obama administration but I have no way to know what her real contribution was.

My candidate, Dan Kalb, is widely acknowledged to be the most likely to write successful legislative initiatives in the legislature. His expertise ranges from environmental experience to fighting for affordable housing through knowledge of and a willingness to enact police reform. He is a principled politician who will not make promises he can’t keep.

So now I have to add that I like Jovanka Beckles and Cheryl Sudduth. I keep scratching my head wondering why CNA, the nurses’s union, declined to support Beckles in favor of a political neophyte when they might have put Jovanka over the top. Maybe it’ll still happen, we’ll see. In terms of Cheryl, I am really impressed by the number of issues she is involved in, particularly the layers of sanctuary she reps, and the passion with which she addresses them.

Judge Superior Court-Karen Katz

When Tara Flanagan ran she made a big splash and was a very visible and able politician. But since then she has disappointed those who closely watch trials as more law and order, especially for Black defendants, than was hoped for when elected.

Karen Katz has spent her life as a public defender and is running because she says, “we are all safer when justice is administered fairly.” I have no idea if she has a chance to beat a sitting judge, actually that is probably unlikely, but given some of what I have heard about Judge Flanagan’s court, it’s worth a try.

Propositions-County & Regional

RM3-NO

This measure raises the tolls on the Bay Bridge over the next few years to fund a hodgepodge of projects which claim to be public transit oriented but list to the side of ferry boats while stalling out on your daily AC Transit route leaving you stranded as you bike, albeit in better lanes, to the BART where your wait might be a couple of minutes shorter or not, depending on where you live. As one wag said, these are projects inspired by a transit agency that recently moved to the west bay at great expense but wants East Bay drivers to fund far flung transit and highway improvements to traffic nightmares wrought by Silicon Valley. Why must we continue to pay for all their sins?

The worst part about this mishegoss of a measure is that once these tolls are implemented, there will be no place left to go for funding by transit agencies which are still cleaning up the crumbs left by this mess.

As Jack Kurzweil, one of the founders of the Wellstone Club says, “The projects are not presented as part of a grand plan to address the future transportation needs of the Bay Area.  That’s because there is no such grand plan.  Consequently, there is little basis upon which to evaluate the choice of projects.  They are parts without a whole.  The Bay Area needs a transportation vision that makes sense.”

County Measure A-Childcare-Yes

Although it’s a small increase to the sales tax, the type of tax I rarely favor, we can handle this to fund something as desperately needed as good childcare. I recently bought shoes in Santa Monica and their sales tax is higher-yet I saw lots of shoppers there so go ahead and vote for this.

City of Oakland Measure D-Libraries-Yes

This is a relatively small increase in property tax, $75, but it will have a big impact especially for children for whom their local library branch is a sanctuary and the 30% whose school libraries have been shuttered. With this tax, library hours can be increased as well as the services they supply.

By the way, as some of you may know, adult education was wiped out in Oakland over the last decade and the library is one of the remaining spaces which provides adult literacy classes. And if, like me, you’re a kindle user, the library is a great place to get your ebooks too and the librarians are quite helpful in getting you signed up.

Prop 68-Yes-Park bonds

Prop 69-Yes-funds for Transportation to be spent on Transportation-Duh

Prop 70-NO, no,no-Don’t hobble the Legislature waiting on Republican votes for these projects

A Word about the Upcoming Mayoral & Council Contests

As many of Oaklanders look forward to the fall 2018 elections to remove some of the Trump stain, we also have to take stock of our city. We see the cranes all over the downtown and the crowds at the Lake. We have a plethora of renowned restaurants to choose from when we go out–and all this is good.

But  we may be becoming inured to the ever growing empire of tents, the daily displacement of families & couch surfing youth; at the same time as many of our 1920’s cottages turn into million dollar homes, more and more of us live in unspeakable and highly visible squalor on our streets. And others band together in older homes and apartments hoping that when they go out to work, they don’t get attacked and deported by agents of a xenophobic and lawless regime in Washington.

Our neighbor San Francisco now has the lowest percentages of families of any city in the country. Are we on the verge of becoming the same kind of city as that, cleansed of  its Black leaders, its Latino entrepreneurs, its artists and writers, its Bohemian youth, those who struggle and yearn for justice and new ways of living?

We are in the last moments when the way out of that reductionist and ultimately bleak future is clear–reelecting the folks who have tinkered with small solutions and toyed with our fears while so many go quietly away from us, is not the answer. Just as we’re doing on the national scene, we must allow our creative and compassionate ideas to flow and design the Oakland we have always dreamed of. That means we must stop looking for someone to blame and start proposing bold even outlandish solutions, then join with others to make them happen. Si se puede.

PS. Don’t be fooled by those who denounce the regime in Washington while doing little for the least of these in our hometown. Watch what they do, not what they say.

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