My Primary Endorsements-Price, Kalb & a Surprise Write-In

The California Primary is still months away but for local activists, it’s been super heated since last fall. Many Democratic clubs and other activist organizations held their endorsement meetings weeks ago. But for most voters the difficulty of choosing from ten candidates for the state legislature’s 15th Assembly District-North Oakland, and the hills down through Joaquin Miller Park up to Berkeley and Richmond including Hercules- is expected to be a bit overwhelming.  21271272_2033593886872018_3753374795767531301_n

Two things make this primary on the local level exciting. One is that current Assembly Member Tony Thurmond has decided to run for State Superintendent of Schools (go Tony, yes, that is an endorsement) so it’s an open seat which always stirs the pot of local electeds and wannabes alike.

The DA’s Race-Pamela Price   Pamela_attorney-e1485730265186

No one can remember the last time the District Attorney of Alameda County, any district attorney, was in a contested race. Tom Orloff ran the DA’s office unopposed from 1994 to 2009 and Nancy O’Malley was appointed to fill out his term after which she has run unopposed until now.

Civil Rights attorney Pamela Price has stepped forward and is running a serious campaign. She has significant activist support but O’Malley has most of the establishment endorsements.

As the first woman DA in our county, Nancy O’Malley still gets high marks for being  proactive on domestic violence and human trafficking, but in every other way she has followed the traditional prosecutorial path.

O’Malley opposed the passage of Prop 47, an initiative that keeps petty criminals out of jail where they often become hardened criminals. Price favors looking at the effect the DA’s office has on those who are most often shuttled into the prison pipeline and kept there and how that can be changed.

Price also believes that police should be held accountable when they violate the law rather than honor the traditional prosecutor’s cosy relationship with law enforcement. This is especially important in Alameda County given the many layers of corruption which the Celeste Guap case (or law-enforcement-sexploitation syndrome) unearthed across Bay area police departments.

Price also opposes the DA’s traditional overcharging of defendants in order to wring a plea bargain out of those who have few resources and little understanding of the criminal justice system. As a result 95% of cases are settled this way and guilt or innocence had little to do with it. Here’s a description of that system from Price’s own blog including a look at how parts of the Guap case were handled. It’s a good read,

If that weren’t enough to convince you that it’s time to elect a district attorney and one who will see the job in a new way, let me tell you about some of the answers the current DA gave at the Wellstone Club endorsement meeting. She said 1) she didn’t believe in charging youth as adults, and 2) she doesn’t charge demonstrators who engage in civil disobedience as criminals. Neither of those have been true although it’s possible she has rethought her past decisions.

Please check out this comprehensive article, particularly the last third.  You will probably remember something of this disturbing story. It taught me all I needed to know about this DA’s understanding of the other Oakland, the one where folks don’t get the choice of private schools, good jobs, and artisanal cooking oil.



And I’m sure you remember the Black Lives Matter demonstrators who stopped BART riders heading to SF for a couple of hours one Black Friday, to make a point about the “inconvenience” of dealing with a justice system that locks Black youth away as a matter of course or refuses to hold police accountable for any level of brutality. Ms. O’Malley wanted to charge these folks (who might’ve been called pranksters under different-colored circumstances) with serious crimes but was talked out of it by powerful community pressure.

So while we often focus on our Republican sheriff for his Trumpian policies, the DA’s office has more to do with implementing mass incarceration than the sheriff. If you want to staunch the flow of poor Black and Brown people into the prison pipeline, we need a DA who really stands behind that goal.

15th Assembly District-Dan Kalb  

The open seat vacated by Tony Thurmond has produced a plethora of progressive candidates, some with long track records of legislative achievement and some who’ve just begun their electoral climb but are hoping to jump ahead a few steps.

Rather than discuss them all, cause who has that kind of time, I’ll share my reasoning for endorsing District 1 Oakland City Council Member Dan Kalb.


In 2016 Oaklanders overwhelmingly voted for Measure LL which is a charter change (something city administrators and some council members still haven’t wrapped their heads around, but that’s a subject for another time) that gives us an independent police commission with the power to implement discipline over officers.

That charter change would have never made it to the ballot without the courage and hours of hard work and analysis that Dan Kalb put into it. There were other CMs who stuck their necks out, notably Noel Gallo and also Rebecca Kaplan but without Dan’s shepherding it through a complex process, it would not have gotten there.

Dan also put all the resources of his office behind the fact finding that led the City  to  29oakland-master768 (1)reject trainload after trainload of coal chugging through Oakland. He has taken the right positions on renter protections and affordable housing and many other progressive issues although he doesn’t get the credit he deserves because he does sweat the small stuff and can appear as a bit of a know-it-all at times (yeah, I know that’s an understatement.)

I appreciate the progressive positions that Jovanka Beckles has taken as part of the Richmond Progressive Alliance and think she’s a very attractive candidate. But Dan has had to design strong positions on a council amid perpetually shifting alliances and no clear enemy. He has created a path through thoughtful if sometimes studious verging on prissy analysis, still when he gets there he sticks to it-he’s more of a legislator than he is a politician.When Dan says he supports a position he’s taken, it’s principled one and that character trait should garner the respect of many of the diverse voters of the 15th AD.

Dan will fight for our environment, constitutional policing, and housing for all-among some of the things he has learned to champion in Oakland-and I trust his ability to develop well-thought-out positions on the other problems that confront our troubled state.

Sheriff, Write-in N.O. Confidence 

Last fall a number of folks in various progressive organizations came together to find a candidate who could could run a serious campaign against long time Republican Sheriff Gregory Ahern, someone who embodies the Trump White House in deep blue Alameda County.

We called it the New Sheriff in Town Coalition but we ran into problems finding a candidate who would run against a sheriff with a huge war chest and lots of name recognition; it’s the kind of campaign that would likely prove career ending to many a law enforcement professional.

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As of now Sheriff Ahern who invented the Urban Shield Law Enforcement Festival and Extravaganza that would put any military parade to shame and turned emergency preparedness into a celebration of militarized policing against domestic dissent, has no opponent.

Recently against a back drop of lawsuits by prisoner rights organizations and community forums led by the Interfaith Council of Alameda County in support of sanctuary for immigrants and refugees, I attended a hearing with Prisoners United. I heard too many harrowing stories of regular folks ensnared by an inhumane system that this sheriff gladly administers in as repressive a way as he can get away with. The final straw was hearing that persons awaiting trial may get their hour for their phone calls (to family or attorneys) granted in the middle of the night and that they are allowed a clean jumpsuit only once a week while 11% are regularly left in administrative segregation or solitary confinement for seemingly arbitrary reasons.

So some of us have come together to find a write-in candidate and found the perfect sort-of-person, the gender non-conforming negation of everything this Jefferson-Beauregard-Sessions-loving lawman stands for and to top it off, our candidate has recently immigrated to this county from another astral dimension, an actual alien if you will. Let me introduce Mx N.O. Confidence who is eminently qualified to be a write-in candidate.

They, Mx. NO Confidence, believe that ICE should not be able to hunt those who act on the supposed American creed, to offer refuge and opportunity for all who seek it, nor to deny basic human rights to people awaiting fair hearings in our jails while being forced to wear dirty underwear and languish in isolation for long periods. We are awaiting a word from the county registrar on how likely it will be that our friend from another dimension’s write-in vote will be counted but, whatever, it’s still a better choice than the alternative. download (1)


Oprah & My Endorsement for the 15th AD Primary

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There are nine candidates running to replace Tony Thurmond, current Assemblyman of the North Oakland/Berkeley/Richmond District in the state assembly since he has decided to run for State Superintendent of Schools rather than continue in the Assembly.

Most of these candidates are not household names, although it may be argued that most assembly reps are fairly unknown even to their constituents. Go on–ask the next 4 people you meet who their state rep is, either assembly or state senate. I’ll bet if 1 in 4 can name them, your friends can be classified as political activists.


Most folks can tell you that Oprah may (or may not) be considering a run against Trump or Pence or Ryan or Hatch or Tillerson or the monster from the Upside Down… Liberal women and many men are excited at the prospect of an actual self-made billionaire who is also a Black woman that white women might actually switch racist allegiances for while my lefty friends are freaking out over another celebrity presidency. Lighten up folks, it was just one speech, one heart melting, tear inducing vision of justice and compassion and a way forward out of despair…sigh. Anyway, I only brought it up to trick you into reading this blog.

The Nameless Faceless Masses…

For the 15th AD are in no particular order, really, none:


Among these I’d give Buffy, Dan, Jovanka and Judy top mentions as the candidates most likely to succeed– and I bet you never heard of Buffy but that’s how big time endorsements and piles of cash work. Two of these hopefuls have to get through the June primary after which they will run against each other in November for the spot in Sacramento.

I have my faves but I still need to see a little more from these folks to make my decision, as much as my decision matters, unless it can help  you make yours. But first you have to know my criteria. Here some of them are—

Costa Hawkins Repeal or will you support cities being able to protect renters?

That’s the gist of a 1995 law that outlawed local municipalities being able to enact renter protections on single family homes and units built since at least 1995 which also allows vacancy decontrol-where the landlord pushes you out so they can raise the rent. A huge percentage of renters in Oakland are threatened with displacement daily based on this law.

Assembly Members Bonta [hint:many of my readers may live in his district] and Chiu are sponsoring the repeal of this regressive law. It doesn’t mean protections will then be enacted but it no longer prevents them from becoming law.

Hearing in Sac on Thursday

So if you want my undying love and maybe even my endorsement-which translates to a vote in the local Democratic Party-show up for the hearing, this Thursday, January 11th, 9 am at the State Capitol, maybe even speak in favor but the least you can do is endorse it, AB 1506.

Beyond renter protections what additional ways/revenues will you propose to increase all levels of affordable housing? This is an issue of desperate importance to most Bay Area folks and probably to most Californians. so be prepared with solutions.

Make it Fair California/ Close the Corporate Loophole, etc

These have been the names/branding of the movement to reform Prop 13 which ended up benefiting corporations more than homeowners and shrinking the budget for schools and roads, etc, permanently.

“Make It Fair closes the $9 billion commercial property tax loophole by assessing under-valued commercial properties at their actual value. This creates a level playing field among businesses and ends the unfair advantage given to big corporations. Make It Fair guarantees Prop 13 remains in effect with no changes for homeowners, residential renters and farmers. This is only about changing the commercial property tax loophole.”

You gotta support it and tell me how you’re going to help it pass-requiring  a ballot measure-since it could result in at least $9 billion added to the state treasury. Given the new GOP tax law that will really hurt California, this is more important than ever.

Criminal Justice Reform-Who’s watching the “Protect & Serve” Crowd

It’s time to repeal the Copley Decision in which “the court ruled that police disciplinary hearings are closed — and the public has no right to learn about allegations of police misconduct, even when they are aired in a civil service commission.” Rather than lead as we have done in other policy areas, California has lagged behind most other states since 2006 in our ability to police the police.

The Copley Decision has not even gotten a fair hearing by legislators as they are afraid to challenge police unions on the basic rights of the policed, especially the overpoliced. Will you stand up to this special interest group?

Ferguson Report & California

I have seen a willingness of the current legislature to reform the kind of punitive measures that the DOJ’s Ferguson Report documents, “The city’s practices are shaped by revenue rather than by public safety needs.”

But we still use revenue enhancement to guide criminal justice laws in our state and local governments rather than making the criminal code less punitive to poor people where the infraction is less a public safety threat than a bureaucratic means to filling government coffers. And that reminds me, will you vote to end money bail as proposed in SB 10, It didn’t make it through the last legislative session so may come back with a new number designation but please tell me you can vote for it or campaign for it right now?

Healthcare for All is more than voting for SB 562

If you’ve read the controversy on the stalled California healthcare overhaul, you might agree that it’s a multi step process and may have to be carried out in increments rather than one fell swoop. Our system is a hodgepodge, some of which works for a segment of the population, much of which leaves large swaths out. But we know from the first years of Obamacare that confusion breeds fear and we need as smooth a transition to full coverage as we can get.

So tell me how you will attack that need and what steps might see us through to our ultimate goal of healthcare for all? I really don’t want to hear simplistic notions of an easy answer to please the crowd. I wanna know you understand some of the complexities of switching out of private, federal and state coverage without leaving folks behind. It is doable so how will you do it?

You may be tired of reading cause you are running a campaign, dialing for dollars, hiring consultants, filling out lengthy questionnaires, and finding someone to go out for your dry cleaning so I’ll list some of my other “demands” just in case you care:

Full support for SB 100 and a return to local control in regulating air pollution from refineries, transparency for charter schools with a goal of ending the privatization of our public school system, a return to the Higher Ed Master Plan, a way to end any kind of support for private prisons, a bill of rights for immigration detainees, sigh, so much more. Now tell me your priorities…


Pamela A Drake, local Democrat  download (9)

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This is Recy Taylor, if you don’t know who she was, google her.


Tell the Oakland City Council Tonight–ReFund Oakland

Guest blog by Margaretta Lin, Executive Director of the Dellums Institute for Social Justice and  former Oakland Deputy City Administrator–includes specific asks of the City Council during its final budget talks. Please forward to your CMs and sign up to speak on Item 13!


On Monday, June 26th, the Oakland City Council will determine whether Oakland’s new homeless epidemic will continue to surge. The Mayor’s budget allocated no funds for anti-displacement and homeless prevention, other than for the City’s Rent Adjustment Program, which does not advocate on the behalf of individual tenants.  By allocating only a small housing pot for housing, the Council President’s proposed budget pits the needs of tenants facing evictions against the homeless.

The vast majority of Oakland residents identify anti-displacement and homelessness as their top priority.  Yet the Council President’s proposed budget only allocates $1.77 million over 2 years for anti-displacement—less than the budget proposal for the City of Berkeley, with ¼ of Oakland’s population!  None of Oakland’s $1.163 BILLION in General Funds is being proposed for anti-displacement or homeless services.

Contact Oakland Council Members NOW and ask them to represent Oakland residents’ valuesFUND ANTI-DISPLACEMENT AND HOMELESS PREVENTION!


Council President Larry Reid, District 7, 510.238.7529, CM Dan Kalb, District 1, 510.238.7001,


CM Abel Guillen, District 2, 510.238.7002,


CM Lynette McElhaney, District 3, 510.238.7003,


CM Annie Campbell-Washington, District 4, 510.238.7004,


CM Noel Gallo, District 5, 510.238.7005,


CM Desley Brooks, District 6, 510.238.7006,


CM Rebecca Kaplan, At Large, 510.238.7308,


Oakland has lost over 36,000 African Americans—26%–since 2000, a bigger decline than major cities like San Francisco and DC.  The homeless rate has increased by 39% in 2 years as median rents increased by 54%.  70% of low-income tenants going through legal evictions have no lawyer and 3,000 tenants have limited access to housing counseling.

Oakland developed a model anti-displacement safety net with proven strategies of coordinated housing counseling, legal services, and emergency housing funds for low-income tenants and elderly homeowners.  City quarterly reports showed that INVESTING IN PREVENTION WORKS to keep people in their homes and out of homelessness.

The problem has been that the City provided limited funds since there are no dedicated funding sources for anti-displacement and homeless prevention strategies.

Let’s turn the tide on Oakland’s displacement and new homeless epidemic and invest in preventing more human suffering.  That’s how we’ll build an equitable and inclusive Oakland for All!  Please contact the Oakland City Council!!


November 2016 Oakland Voters’ Guide


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.


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 []. 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

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.

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  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 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  “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, the League of Women Voters’, the John George Democratic Club

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

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Thank You Oakland City Government!


I know the headline of this blog is shocking-and if you’re one of those people who believes government can’t do anything right-you might want to stop now. To paraphrase a friend-intelligent and radical young leader, Dannette Lambert, I believe in government-it gives us things like schools, hospitals, healthcare and-regulations against harm.

I’ve written a lot on the current Oakland City Council, that they can’t build coalitions, that they don’t want to step out and lead. I’m not rescinding those critiques, not yet. They are overall a moderate group but they have heard the roar of our communities and coalitions for change-well, you’d have to be deaf not to but-wait!

Wait-I’m doing it again when I want to thank them for stepping out of their comfort zones to struggle around the police accountability measure, ultimately placing a really unique proposal for the voters to decide on this November’s ballot.[PS.the measures for renters’ protections are no chopped liver either-they are real change.]

Time to Correct the Record-

Last night quite a few folks denounced the measure and said they wouldn’t support it because they found it deficient. Some of their conclusions were correct and some were incorrect but I can’t agree that it won’t make some people’s lives better because it will. It may even save some lives and that counts as worthy of doing to me and the folks I’m working with.

Some of us have been in so many meetings with council members in the last couple of weeks that perhaps we were a bit shell shocked last night after the roller coaster ride of change, compromise, and confusion. We forgot how much we won and why it is so important.

Writing and Researching the Measure-

We should have acknowledged the importance of the moment and spent more time thanking everyone involved so let’s do it now. I especially want to thank the folks who researched and wrote this unique measure, by which I mean the Coalition’s version-Larry White, an attorney and more recent arrival to Oakland, of course Rashidah Grinage, Mary Vail, long time police accountability stalwart, Paula Hawthorn MOBN member, Susan Shawl Wellstone and CPRB member, Nate Dewart of Black Men/White Men (in addition to writing and posting the petition!), and Saied Karamooz.

More thank yous

Jason Pfeifle did yeoman’s graphic and web work along with Sandra Tasic, quite pregnant at the time. Joel Tena contributed heavily to messaging. Len Raphael was our financial wiz who along with Jose Luis Fuentes set up our official organization with the state. Allene Warren, Ann Janks, and Sheryl Walton worked hard to recruit other organizations and to relay the nuances to them. Carroll Fife supported us with the Oakland Justice Coalition as did April Thomas, Nicole Dean, and Deb Avery , and Millie Cleveland(Cat Brooks was there for us also but I believe she is unable to support the current iteration.) Tonya Love is a communications’ treasure in her own right.

Josie Camacho, head of the Alameda Labor Council, joined SEIU leaders Gabriel Haaland, Gary Jimenez and Rachel Richman-Local 21- who worked long hours to help us make this right with Labor with special notice to their union, Local 1021, long time Coalition members who showed up en masse to speak at council meetings.

As for me I want to acknowledge the tremendous support the Coalition and I personally received from The Block By Block  Organizing Network and the Wellstone Democratic Club-so many members, in addition to those listed above showed up to every  council meeting and waited hours to speak-Sharon Rose, Floyd Huen, Margaret Cunningham, Gen Katz, Mike Davis, Rich Johnson, Kit Vaq, Cathy Leonard, Eileen Benevides, Jean Quan, and Berkeleyite Jack Kurzweil-Wellstone also funded snacks for all participants at the council meetings-no small thing. Sorry, if this list is too long but that’s how it’s done in coalition work. There will be many not listed and for that I’m sorry, truly.

Brief summary of what this measure will do from Ms. Grinage-

“This proposal changes the City Charter, transferring the authority to impose discipline on police officers from the City Administrator (who reports to the Mayor) to a Police Commission made up of Oakland residents. This is a fundamental change in power.

The Commission will also be able to influence policies and practices that will include the issues raised by video footage of incidents, privacy and surveillance, use of force, racial profiling, and so on. They will be able to make recommendations on the budget request submitted by the Police Department to make sure that resources are used in a way that is consistent with the priorities of the community.

The investigative agency director does have access to the personnel records of officers accused of misconduct and can take that history into account when deciding on appropriate discipline. These are all major shifts.

As Larry White said, “I think a lot of confusion was caused by the format of the text that was voted on.  There were two sections (g). One was the deleted text.  Both were in gray and if you didn’t look closely you might think that all of it was in strikethrough. In fact only the second (g) was deleted text.”

More from Mr. White-“The Agency Director will have access to the personnel records but can only share them as permitted by law. As a practical matter, this is access. The disciplinary part was not struck in the final version. One big thing is that the City Administrator’s role as final arbiter of discipline is eliminated.”

Just the beginning

More from Rashidah Grinage, “This proposal is more than good, but it is not everything we had envisioned. That being said, as we know, every journey begins with a single step. This is a journey to justice for those who have suffered the abuses of the Oakland Police Department for decades, and the Police Commission will be one giant step in this journey.

We are not dismayed and we are not discouraged: we are committed to continuing to challenge the City to alter its relationship with the OPOA so that further changes can be implemented without facing a Court battle. So, for those who seek justice, join us, let’s get this Commission established, and let’s continue with the work that lies ahead!”

The City Council Struggles to Find Consensus-

Council Member Noel Gallo came out early to support the community-driven measure, a surprise, as he had always been seen as a law’n order CM, but he has a big heart and uses it to listen to his constituents. Then Dan Kalb got involved and threw himself and his staffer, Oliver Luby, into it with hours and hours of researching, checking and rechecking what would work and what would get him the votes to put it on the ballot. Without their attention to detail, this measure wouldn’t have made it onto the agenda much less the ballot.

Other CMs who had been skeptical but then began to meet assiduously-Rebecca Kaplan threw herself into it. Annie Campbell Washington went line by line working on what each one meant and how to clarify it. Abel Guillen checked in frequently and Lynette McElhaney held numerous workshops with our folks, eventually becoming a co-sponsor. Desley Brooks lent us her expertise and unique voice from her position as chair of Public Safety, and Larry Reid, long time police advocate, welcomed us into his office, too.

City Attorney Barbara Parker may have gotten a bad rap in a previous blog, as we understand she personally AND her staff worked long and hard on the details. We’re not even sure she did advise removing the pivotal provisions at all. To be honest, our sessions included- confusion, a little back-biting, and yes, some shouting matches as we made our way up and down the halls of city power. But ultimately, everyone including Mayor Schaaf, supported our efforts in some way. Thank You!

Driving home after the vote at 11:30 pm, I couldn’t help but imagine our CMs as characters from the Wizard of Oz. You can decide for yourselves who is which character hmm. And sometimes I think, we the residents who love Oakland so passionately, are both Dorothy and the Wiz, trying to find our way home all the while hiding behind a curtain of our own inability to move ahead together. Maybe we won’t make it to the Emerald City but we can and shall build a better Oakland.

Join the now!


Policing Oakland, California, What Is to Be Done?


Please come to the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club on Thursday, June 23rd, 7pm, at Humanist Hall for a discussion on forming independent police commissions in Oakland and Berkeley.

It’s not a surprise that Oakland finds itself in the middle of a new police scandal-we’re becoming a bit jaded to the police-chief-musical-chairs situation. But, even those of us who’ve been working on police accountability for years, are shocked and chagrined by what is being revealed about our costly department. We had thought they were on the road to reform, albeit, a rocky, circuitous road filled with breakdowns but it turns out-the changes were only superficial.–ca

The Horror Story Unfolds

It was horrifying enough to find out about that a young woman had been trafficked as a teenager and then passed around by officers and commanders, but let us not forget the number of police killings that took place in Oakland last summer-death being so much more final.

And, it’s a measure of the low bar we hold police departments to in this country that so few Oaklanders took notice of this abrupt return to homicidal behavior. Still I had felt hopeful that Chief Whent was doing the best possible job in a department with a tradition of murder and brutality. He seemed to be turning it around and the change was noted by other government agencies. By all accounts, at some point he began to give up and things took many turns for the worse.

Now we find out that OPD was just another piece in the puzzle of Bay area police corruption. The fact that it seems to be the largest piece of a disgusting mess, is embarrassing not just to the mayor and council but to all of us. Now comes the reckoning and, even though I didn’t give Mayor Schaaf any of my votes, I appreciate her recent admission that civilian oversight is needed.

Next Steps

The first step is almost in place. If you read this space, you will already be aware that a coalition of organizations and individuals has been researching and designing a unique model of civilian oversight, an independent police commission unlike any others. The proposal has been reworked and tweaked by City Council Members Kalb and Gallo.

Then on June 14th the proposal passed through the Public Safety Committee led by Councilwoman Desley Brooks and is on its way to being heard by the full council where we must garner five votes to get it on the ballot. The full council hearing is set for July 5th and we believe it will be prepared for the ballot shortly afterwards. At that point we will mount a campaign for the fall and will need volunteers and funding. Keep checking for more information and to donate after the 5th.

Truth and Reconciliation

In the wake of almost daily revelations, the Anti-Police Terror Project has proposed that Oakland establish a version of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission [] and this is a brilliant and quite necessary part of a change in how our community is policed. While APTP has yet to detail its proposal, nothing less than a full process of bearing witness by the entire Oakland community will begin to turn around the horrendous situation we find ourselves in.

It is tempting to throw up our hands and declare that nothing can be done but with Oakland’s history of innovation combined with its story of resistance, we can once again become the models in how change is accomplished.

My first thoughts about this process would include 1) community groups writing the rules, choosing the sites throughout the city, and being charged with how the process unfolds while, 2) the City would pay for any costs incurred by the commission including a large publicity campaign-while not attempting to take ownership of the process.

Oaklanders have spent years, indeed generations, dealing with police brutality, corruption and neglect and it has left a deep residue which damages every aspect of self-government. Indeed distrust, fear and hatred of our most expensive department lies at the heart of distrust and disengagement with local democracy. Our residents need a safe space to tell their stories and finally be heard by those who injured them and by officials who have chosen not to believe them or to consider their concerns in their day-to-day governing of our city.

Many town halls have been held and many times few have come to testify to the truth of their experiences at the hands of those who are expected to “protect and serve.” That’s why it’s so important that these sessions be held where neighbors feel safe to share, including and especially, in our schools.

We await further description by APTP and other organizations working with them  and hope that city officials realize that this process cannot wait long to take shape. Hopelessness can easily defeat the impetus for change-we can’t afford that any longer.

Finally-Shine a Light on the California Legislature

Noted attorney Jim Chanin, who is one of the attorneys who brought suit against the Oakland Police Department over the Riders very serious violations of suspects’ rights (planting evidence and beating suspects, particularly Black men in West Oakland where these officers were assigned)that resulted in a Negotiated Settlement Agreement still in effectand unfinished 13 years later, told the general meeting of the Wellstone Democratic Club that California is the most conservative state in the country in regards to police transparency and accountability, behind place like Texas.

He reminded us that the revelations concerning the officer who shot a little boy, Tamir Rice, in Cleveland who, it was revealed in the press,  had been rejected by another department as unfit, would never see the light of day in California due to legislation and court decisions that our legislature still refuses to reverse.

Since the scandal of police corruption and abuse of a minor has erupted in Oakland, we have been reading that the mayor can’t reveal much about the offending officers due to state law-well, those laws do not exist in many other states.

Here’s a good review of how we got here, written by one of the reporters who has exposed many of the details of these on-going scandals, Ali Winston, in ColorLines, five years ago!

Recently State Senator Mark Leno tried to reverse the damage done to public accountability by the Copley Decision and the so-called Police Officers Bill of Rights. He was unsuccessful and you can read more in today’s East Bay Times,

We have yet to see support to overturn these rulings by our East Bay legislators. It’s important that we ask  Assembly Members Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond where they stand on this-state senate candidates Swanson and Skinner have both said they would support overturning Copley and possibly reconsidering the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights, but so far only Senator Leno has been a reliable champion for transparency and accountability.

While police operate in Oakland as they do in the rest of California, with impunity and often disregard for the real safety of our citizens, we will continue to hide ugly corruption and ignore vicious behavior. In a democracy, we should should demand better. We know the next steps, do we have the will to see them through?

Press Advisory Independent Police Commission Ballot Measure


Press Advisory

Independent Police Commission Ballot Measure-Sponsored by Oakland City Council Members Kalb and Gallo, Goes to Public Safety Committee on Tuesday


Oakland, CA– Oakland Council Members Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo will join the Coalition for Police Accountability [] at a press event, Tuesday, June 14th, at 12:30 pm on the steps of Oakland City Hall. Council Member Kalb, a member of the Public Safety Committee where the measure will be unveiled at 4 pm, said, “We are bringing this community-vetted measure to the ballot to enhance the process for structural reform–reform that cannot come soon enough to OPD. We must assure the public that we are responding to the problems and challenges within OPD with a proposal that is not mere window dressing-setting up an independent Police Commission with real authority-along with effective reforms in the police discipline process to make it more just.”

Council Member Gallo, also a sponsor of the measure and member of the Public Safety Committee added, “My job is to listen to the community I represent and get them what they need. I’m proud of our work with the coalition.”

Berkeley City Council Member Jesse Arreguin will attend the press conference and noted that “We will be voting on a similar proposal Tuesday night at the Berkeley Council meeting.”

A partial list of Oakland community leaders joining the elected officials to speak at the press conference is as follows: Linda Handy, Peralta Trustee, Ben McBride, Director of City Team Oakland and Clergy with PICO, CA, Gwen Hardy with PUEBLO, Carroll Fife, Oakland Alliance, Marilyn Lawson and Allene Warren, Block By Block Organizing Network, Sokhom Mao, former CPRB member, Anne Weills, the National Lawyers Guild, Pastor George Cummings, Imani Church, civil rights attorney Walter Riley, and Trish Gorham of the Oakland Education Association.

The next step in the Oakland process is to push the measure forward to a full council discussion in time to place the initiative on the November ballot. For more information and updates, see

Contact: Pamela Drake,

Rashidah Grinage,




We Want Real Police Reform, Not Faux Fixes


The Coalition for Police Accountability, a group of community organizations, individuals, and unions [] for police reform, has been working with Oakland City Council Members Dan Kalb, Noel Gallo, and Rebecca Kaplan for months on a measure developed by the coalition over two plus years through research with experts throughout the country, to set up a police commission that is truly independent of political influence while providing community engagement in police policies and transparency in police discipline.

The hard work of these council members has sharpened the work of the coalition and we are very grateful for their leadership.

More recently, Council Members Guillen, Campbell Washington and Reid wrote a separate initiative, and presented it to the coalition last week. Their measure would put the mayor squarely in charge of police accountability and reduce the role of a “commission” to a rubber stamp of the new “independent police monitor”, an additional city administrator hired directly by the mayor and responsible only to the mayor. This new “commission” would have a role similar to the existing Citizen Police Review Board, which despite its best intentions, can do little to discipline any “bad apples”, much less influence police policies.

The measure sponsored by Kalb, Gallo and Kaplan institutes a commission two steps removed from political influence with the power to discipline officers, hire and fire the chief, and research and develop policies on public safety issues and police operations.

In contrast the Guillen/Washington/Reid approach would have the mayor and council directly appoint the “commission” and stipulates that they come from certain professions such as human resources, and surprise, law enforcement. The Citizens’ Police Review Board, weak as it now is, is composed of Oaklanders from all walks of life. Of course, this new “commission” would have no power so perhaps its composition is irrelevant.

There are programmatic elements in the Guillen/Washington approach that the coalition would be willing to include in [enabling legislation for ]the charter change measure, and we are considering those in the lead up to next week’s committee meeting. We cannot, however, compromise the structure of an independent body, a position which has been reaffirmed by three council members.

After 13 years, $30 million in oversight, over $65 million more in lawsuits, it’s time for a serious attempt at reform. Every city that has experienced the kinds of problems Oakland has been through, is now looking to institute a less political, more citizen-oriented approach whereas some of our CMs seem to want to go backwards.

In fact the City of Berkeley has scheduled a review of our measure to consider whether it would work for them and San Francisco is also looking at ways to strengthen the independence of their existing commission. Our next Wellstone Democratic Club meeting on June 23rd, discussion starting about 7:15pm, will focus on these three efforts.

The Coalition for Police Accountability’s measure sponsored by CMs Kalb, Gallo, and Kaplan can be placed on the November ballot by the Oakland City Council. Please sign onto our letter if you would like to see that happen: you can send the letter yourself, call or email your council members to ask that they join the above progressive members on this vote, notify me that you wish to sign, or respond directly to this blog. Pamela But do it soon.

Both measures come before the Public Safety Committee at 4 pm on Tuesday, June 14th  where Chair Desley Brooks will give them a hearing and add her comments-press conference at 11:45 am in front of City Hall in advance of the meeting.



Dear Council Member____________

Oakland has spent more than 30 million dollars monitoring the Negotiated Settlement Agreement over the Oakland Police Department since 2003 and over 65 million dollars on wrongful death and police brutality lawsuits. How many affordable housing units or police academies could those funds have provided for our city?

As you know, a group of concerned citizens and [30] organizations, known as the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition including the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, the League of Women Voters, SEIU Local 1021, ACCE, the Oakland Alliance, and the Block by Block Organizing Network have discussed the need for a truly independent police commission that could be set up when the current federal oversight ends. The Coalition has researched existing versions, interviewed attorneys, police specialists and sitting commissioners in other cities and come up with a unique new model of police oversight.

Since an independent commission requires a charter change and a citywide election, we are requesting that you join with Council Members Kalb, Gallo, and Kaplan to put this carefully wrought measure on the November ballot rather than substituting a weaker ordinance that does not provide true citizen accountability. A measure that continues to give the mayor or a city administrator the option of declining to impose discipline, for instance, would restrict true police department reform and leave us open for more abuse and additional lawsuits in the future.

This is a good government measure that provides transparency and real community engagement with police operations for all Oakland residents. As progressives, we expect no less from our representatives. We hope you will join with progressive council colleagues to place it on the ballot.



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


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 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

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.