"My Word" in the Journal
I was disappointed to see no mention in last week's Alameda Journal of the abominable restriction of First Amendment free speech rights at the Mayor's Fourth of July Parade.
Yes, the as-yet-unsubstantiated attack by the acting city manager on Councilmember Lena Tam is certainly newsworthy, but in my opinion the "real" scandal going on is the abuse of power that somebody — we don't know exactly who — is wielding in order to stifle political opposition in the upcoming mayoral and City Council race.
A memorandum written by Alameda City Attorney Teresa Highsmith effectively banned candidates Rob Bonta and Tony Daysog from announcing their candidacies for city offices in the parade. Other groups such as the Alameda Democratic Club were prevented from any advocacy for the upcoming November election. (Pretty ironic that these restrictions took place on the day in which we celebrate our American freedoms, isn't it?)
Mayor Bev Johnson claimed in a television interview that the parade committee directed Highsmith to produce this letter. Does this mean that any 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization can now direct the city attorney to do its bidding? I called the City Attorney's Office twice to get confirmation of Johnson's statement, but my calls have been unreturned. Parade committee chair Barbara Price, in an e-mail to me, denied that the committee had the authority to make such a request and that somebody else directed the ruling.
Regardless of who instigated the ruling, it goes against Alameda's city charter, which states that the city attorney "shall not commence any action without permission of the council or written instruction of the city manager.
I confirmed with the city clerk's office that there was no written communication from the city manager or record in the City Council minutes of such a request being made.
This sounds to me, layman that I am, that the city attorney violated the city charter and acted at least unethically, if not illegally, in producing this letter.
And who is directing the city attorney to do their bidding? Could the acting city manager, or any member of the City Council, stand to gain anything by preventing nonincumbent candidates for council or mayor from declaring their candidacy in front of thousands of Alamedans?
I call upon the city attorney to tell us how she was directed to issue the memorandum, and I ask the Journal to do some digging as well. "Paradegate" is the real scandal happening in Alameda, and it reflects poorly on us a city until the responsible parties are exposed.