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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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,  https://pamelaspage.com/tag/police-corruption/

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.

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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.  https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2017/11/22/activists-call-for-audit-of-sheriff-ahern

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.  https://www.facebook.com/NewSheriffAC/

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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.

https://oaklandnorth.net/2018/02/09/activists-bring-concerns-about-jail-conditions-to-alameda-county-supervisors/

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)