A Progressive Alamedan

Various writings from a resident of Alameda regarding the political scene. The local perspective of local, state and national politics and a few other odds and ends of local concern. May not be particularly interesting to people outside of the Alameda area.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bicycling, Scootering, Skateboarding *is* a Crime

I am writing this post to encourage a thorough read of this morning's post on Stop Drop and Roll.

John's write-up just about says it all; I don't know if I do much more than just say "me too." I'm appalled that all five members of our city council: Beverly Johnson, Lena Tam, Gillmore, Frank Matarrese and Doug DeHaan, let something like this through.

I believe that a couple of these council members will be running for mayor in two years. Which one of these council members will stand up and say "Wait a minute, we made a mistake, let's work out a solution to our problem without throwing out the baby with the bath water."

UPDATE: The city council, the following week, reversed this. All is back to normal.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Election: Sad News for Measure H, Great News otherwise

It looks like Measure H has not quite reached the 2/3 majority to pass, unless the provisional ballots pull it over the top. I don't think I can give this any better treatment than Lauren Do already has. I hope that the silver lining around this dark cloud is that these results will motivate more Alamedans to get involved in politics at the state level and work on reforming the state's prop-13 taxation system that is strangling our state financially while the big corporations get huge tax breaks, and replacing our Governator with a leader who will be able to manage the finances of the world's seventh-largest economy.

UPDATE: Just to clarify, Measure H ended up passing by a razor-thin margin after all the absentee and provisional votes were counted.

In spite of the measure H results, I couldn't be more pleased with the other results around the state. It looks like Measure 98 has been defeated (and measure 99 passed); I know a lot of people who will be elated with these results.

The other big local news is that Loni Hancock has defeated Wilma Chan in the primary race (and in this district, it's a virtual guarantee of a win in November). I'm sorry, fellow Alamedans who really wanted another Alamedan to hold that seat. I hope you can accept the results and unite behind Hancock in November. I know it will be hard to get behind her because of all the intensely negative campaigning by the Chan campaign — it must seem like we just elected Satan. Believe me, we didn't — we elected a progressive hero.

On the other side of the bay, Mark Leno trounced Carole Midgen and Joe Nation. This is also great news for progressives. Mark has passed some wonderful legislation. (He's also introduced some other wonderful legislation that was held up by Don Perata as a political move). I think he'll be a great replacement for Midgen.

Dennis Hayashi easily took the Superior Court judicial office. Most of us won't see any direct impact of this decision, of course, but I think we will have a sound judge in that office.

My only other disappointment — partial, at least, was the results of the race for the Democratic Central Committee in the 14th and 16th assembly districts. Here in the 16th, it looks like mostly the incumbents and "mainstreamers" won. Kathy Neal, Jon Stuart, Howard Egerman are the incumbents; the others, Darleen Brooks, Bonnie Wheatley, and Sharon A. Ball I don't know much about but at least they don't appear to be LaRouche types. In the neighboring 14th district, our Grassroots Progressives group had a partial victory, with grassroots incumbent Karen Weinstein the top vote-getter with Ces Rosales and Edie Irons making the top six — Congratulations! Incumbents Elizabeth Echols, Beverly Greene, and Maggie Gee were the other winners there. In this low-information race — you would be pressed to know who any of these people are unless you were canvassed by them or you had some personal connection or insider knowledge — the incumbents have a huge advantage. (It seems that people tend to vote for the incumbent lacking any other information.) I think that Edie and Ces were able to break through that barrier because they were tireless campaigners and have large personal networks. I just wish that there were some way for the average voters to find out about these office-seekers in future elections.

Well, it's time to take a breather everybody, because November's election is not that far away, and the battle is just heating up. The Presidential Election is Obama's to lose — and I think he could very easily lose if Democrats continue to be so cocky and divided — and there will be other battles at the local and statewide level as well.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Yet Another Election Day. Please Vote Anyhow!

I just returned home from a fairly long vacation, and It appeared that a dump truck had deposited several trees' worth of pamphlets into my mail slot. I guess that means the election is ... uh.... today!

Thanks to California for having an early presidential primary (see how much good that did us!) we have three elections this year. Today is bound to be the least-attended election in a while due to (1) the lack of Obama on the ballot, and (2) voter fatigue/disgust.

Please vote anyhow. If you don't vote, then our future is decided by other people.

Obviously, the most contentious race is the race for State Senate. I'll get to that in a minute. But let me review some of the other items first.

The big local issue is Measure H. The clever sign showing two school-kids about to walk off a crumbling walkway sums it up just right — we need to pass this to make up for a huge budget shortfall thanks to our infamous governor. I hope the naysayers writing letters to the editor of the local papers are just a vocal super-minority. Please vote Yes on H.

The only statewide propositions are 98 and 99, both ostensibly about "eminent domain." I predict that they will both lose due to voter confusion, but from everything I have been able to tell, 99 is the "good" one and 98 is the "bad" (a.k.a. benefitting large corporations) one. 99 is backed by Sierra Club, League of Women Voters, Gray Panthers, California League of Conservation Voters, and many other respected groups. And These same groups oppose Prop 98. Please vote for 99, and more importantly, don't let 98 pass.

Superior Court Judge: I have never known whom to vote for in these races, but I've seen 3 out of the 4 candidates speak at a meeting of the Alameda Democratic Club, and I was very impressed with Dennis Hayashi (who got the endorsement of that group). He really stood out head-and-shoulders above the other candidates. He'll easily get my vote and I can easily recommend him based on that (albeit limited) picture.

Democratic Central Committee will be on your ballot only if you are actually registered as a Democrat (not if you are an independent and you request a Democratic Ballot). 99% of people have no idea who any of these people are — but I do now, and now so will you! This is the place where the 'grassroots' can have an impact on the direction of the California Democratic Party, which is, well, doing OK in some aspects but filled with insiders making policy, finances and procedures that really need some transparency, and so forth. I've been working with a group of people from our district (Alameda/Oakland/Piedmont) and the neighboring district to the North of us, and there is a good group of active Democrats like myself who are all running to try to steer this ship in a more active, progressive direction. They have organized a website GrassrootsProgressives.org which has info. The folks in this group from our district, whom I know and respect and trust, are Mark Briggs and Sumi Paranjape. If you really want to help also prevent the wingnut LaRouche supporters from being elected — they tend to run in great numbers and rely on voter ignorance to get a few elected — you may want to cast your votes for this unofficial slate that many Alamedans are recommending: Mark Briggs, Sumi Paranjape, Jim Oddie, Wayne Nishioka, and Howard Egerman.

State Senate: This has been a horrible, contentious race that will probably keep regular voters away from the polls in droves due to the bad taste in their mouths. This is really a shame. I've been supporting Hancock for a while, which seems to have really, really upset a lot of people in Alameda. The emotions have risen so high on this one that I'm afraid that I have been made a pariah in certain local political circles. But, I have to call it as I sees it, and time and time again I see that many Alamedans are blinded by their allegiance to Wilma Chan because she is an Alamedan. I know I'm at least partially right because this has raised a lot of hackles when I've brought it up. And yet one of the boldest pieces of campaign literature I got points out that this is the biggest reason to vote for Chan — that she's an Alamedan, and that somehow this is more important than other factors.

I've been paying a lot of attention to how people form political loyalties. Perhaps because it took me a long time to find a preferred presidential candidate, and the candidate I preferred is no longer in the running, I've been observing how people (myself included), once they latch on to a candidate, find it hard to consider other candidates. Everything is filtered through those loyalties — to me, it seems very similar to "Framing" of issues that George Lakoff has famously brought to life in his recent political books.

I think that these loyalties are possibly as strong in our State Senate race as they have been in the Presidential primary battle. Looking at the emails being circulated by Chan supporters and Hancock supporters, you would think that the candidates were 180 degrees apart on everything, as if it were the most liberal Democrat and the most conservative Republican on the ballot.

Sorry to burst everybody's bubble, but this is just not the case. Both Chan and Hancock have beeen excellent legislators. Both have been effective. Both have worked on Important Issues. Both have passed a lot of bills. Both are progressive. Both are good people. Either, if elected, would represent us well.

So if you take away all the negative crap, what's left? Do you vote for somebody just because they are from your same home-town and so they are more likely to take Alameda-specific issues seriously? Or is there something else?

I've decided to support Hancock because of the grandness of the issues that she has taken on. Especially the "Clean Money " issue; Hancock is a hero among progressives like myself all over the State of California for this. Clean money has been described as the mother of all issues — if we can get corporate influence largely out of our elections in California, as they have done is several other states, the battleground changes significantly. No other legislator has taken this on, and thanks to Hancock, this corporate-defying bill passed the assembly. We need a fighter in the state senate if this bill is going to continue to gain traction. Oh, and Hancock's work on AB32 has been phenomenal; it has to do with an issue that some like to call Global Warming.

Our state, our country, and our world are in big trouble, and we need to take on the biggest issues around. Not just passing little laws that regulate this-and-that; I'm talking about making California — seventh biggest economy in the world — show some leadership in the world when it comes to taking on the corporate interests that have hijacked everything in our lives. Our district — perhaps the most progressive district in the state, which goes south from Richmond and out East to Livermore, is a big district, and this district needs a big-picture, heroic, fighting, visionary. That person is Loni Hancock.

If Chan wins, we'll have a good legislator representing us in Sacramento. (I refuse to stoop so low as to get negative!) But if Hancock wins, we will have an awesome legislator representing us in Sacramento!