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.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

A Must-Read: BART Board Candidate Forum Recap, Part 1

A great chance to watch the three candidates for BART Board, district 4, answer questions. The commentary comes to the same conclusions that I have ... and that you will probably too!

Check it out here.

The video of the BART board being raked over the coals by Oakland City Councilwoman Desley Brooks for their inaction on the 2009 BART shooting — and incumbent Carole Ward Allen throwing a hissy fit and walking out during the scolding is astonishing. It's worth excerpting here.

Why would anybody want this kind of "leadership" of BART?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Finishing up the ballot

This morning I actually filled out my ballot. (So robots, feel free to stop calling now, OK?)

I've already posted my recommendations on the propositions, BART Board (Robert Raburn), the Alameda offices, and the state/regional offices.

There are a few races that I haven't covered yet, so I'll post my thoughts here. I don't have such strong feelings, so I'll link to some other endorsements in a few cases.

First off, I recommend Victoria Kolakowski for Superior Court Judge. I'm not sure what happened to her campaign since the June primary when she won the plurality but not a needed majority. Her competitor Creighton seems to be running a strong campaign, at least here in Alameda, so I don't know how she will fare. Anyhow, I saw her and her (at the time) two competitors speak at a forum before the June primary, and I was very impressed by her … and not that impressed by the others. She is extremely smart, experienced, and progressive. She garnered the Democratic Club endorsement, and mine as well. Some people I know are pointing out how her election would be historic in the LGBT community, but that kind of thinking doesn't really carry much weight for me — I really prefer the best person for the job, not a token. Anyhow, I think she's our best choice. Read more about her in the Living in the O endorsements. The Alameda County Green Party has a good write-up on her as well; in spite of my earlier criticism for the Alameda branch's write-ups, I think that their research on the race was thorough and well-written. [PDF download; see page 15.)

Regarding the Judicial Yes/No votes: I have not heard about any controversial choices this time around, so if you have the time, it should be OK to vote Yes. Or, leave it blank and let others decide.

Alameda School Board: Since i am not that familiar with the School District, I am going to just go with the recommendations of most of the local Democrats on this one; I'm voting for Sherratt and Mike McMahon. I know Mike and consider him to be an asset to the school board (as well as the Alameda Democratic Club, where he serves as treasurer).

AC Transit: I can recommend Elsa Ortiz; she's been an asset to AC Transit since she joined the board a few years ago. I don't know much about Joel Young, but he did get the City of Alameda Democratic Club endorsement.

For the Hospital Board, I was quite impressed by Stewart Chen, and only somewhat with Leah Williams, when I heard them at a recent forum. (Those two got the Democratic Club endorsement.) I want to warn about Elliot Gorelick: This is a candidate who wants to close down the hospital instead of making improvements. He has a chip on his shoulder the size of Rhode Island. While I would entertain a sunset of the hospital district, I — and I"m sure you — don't want to see the hospital itself close!

Be sure to turn page 2 of your ballot over, and vote for Measure F. It's easy to miss!

And if you are mailing in your ballot, put your 78 cents postage on the envelope!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Non-Political: Amazing Halloween Front Yard

Apologies for venturing into the purely non-political realm (though the previous post did a bit of that) but this was too cool not so share.

Be sure to swing by the place on Santa Clara Ave. that is just a bit West from Willow Avenue some evening as soon as you can (before any weather or "hey you kids off my lawn" damage gets done) — There is the most amazing Halloween yard display I have ever seen. You need to stay a few minutes to soak in all of the subtleties; it is not just a static display, but moving and, in one case, somewhat interactive.

It's cool during the day, but amazing when it's dark.

Trust me — don't miss this.

Here's a preview (click to enlarge); it came out amazingly well for a non-photographer like me!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Signs of the Times

On a school-pickup errand this afternoon, I happened to bike by a house that I think somebody mentioned in the comments of Lauren Do's blog.

Somebody who can't make up their mind? Or perhaps they are happy with any of the above? How will the person who lives here vote?

Further along on my trip, I got a good shot of the Halloween signs in the window at the USA Kung Fu Studio on Park Street:

Update: Found this Flickr Set of the signs around town. The last one is probably the scariest! :-)

Slideshow for your convenience:

78-cent, Triple Postage Required, Unless...

Just a friendly reminder prompted by a tweet: The ballot weighs more than one ounce, so you will need double postage (78 cents or more) for mailing back your ballot.

However, I should note that if you are voting for Meg Whitman as Governor, you do not need any postage, thanks to a generous ($32 Million!) donation to the California Postal Commission by the Whitman campaign. Just write "Whitman" in the place where your stamp should go.

Remember, this offer is valid only for Whitman voters. All others, be sure to use 78¢ or more.

And, thanks to the generosity of the Fiorina campaign, voters who choose Carly over Barbara Boxer will be express-counted, which means that you can return your ballot up to one week after the normal receipt deadline. If you are voting for Fiorina, just mail in your ballot between November 3 and November 8, 2010.

Voters for Barbara Boxer, however, must send in their ballot early enough to be received by Election Day, November 2. So pop it in the mail by Friday the 29th to be safe.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Now for the Propositions

I'm getting near the end of my set of posts with my recommendations, including State Offices, BART Board, and Alameda Mayor/City Council. Now it's time to talk about the California Propositions.

When reading this, you might want to take a look at Courage Campaign's handy chart showing how various left-leaning groups have endorsed. Not a lot of discord, actually.

YES on 19: Tax and Regulate Cannabis. Unfortunately a lot of political groups are "neutral" on this issue, like it's some sort of political hot potato and they don't want anybody to paint them as being pot-heads. That's really unfortunate; however apparently the measure is polling fairly well, so it has a chance. If you have read anything (e.g. Reefer Madness about the California Prison system and the underground economy behind Cannabis, you would see that ending this modern-day "Prohibition" would have a huge number of benefits. Not, it's not going to make more people smoke weed, just as ending prohibition of alcohol didn't create a nation of alcoholics. Without the Democratic Party backing this, and plenty of conservatives opposing it because they are, well, conservative, we're going to need every vote we can muster up to get this to pass — I hope yours. http://yes19.org/

NO on 20: More Redistricting change. This is a complex issue, but let's take a quick look at who supports it. Good ol' Republican Party, the big-business-supporting California Chamber of Commerce, and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers association. Who opposes it? The League of Women Voters (LWV), CA Democratic Party, and many more if you look at the chart linked above. http://www.noprop20.org/

YES on 21: Vehicle surcharge to find state parks. A no-brainer for me! http://www.yesforstateparks.com/

NO/Undecided on 22. Prohibits the State from Taking Funds Used for Transportation or Local Government Projects and Services. The CA Democratic Party endorsed a NO; but TransForm (a local group I respect) is neutral. Here's their analysis: http://j.mp/bB1IR5 "Living in the O" gave it a Yes. Usually when something isn't a strong YES, I'll go with a NO, so we can try again and make it right.

Update: I had misplaced this additional information about 22 from a friend, so I'll insert it here. She linked to an article calling it a "power grab" by California redevelopment agencies and to an editorial by a former Orange County supervisor and wrote:
I'm a strong NO. I've followed redevelopment closely in Fremont and what I see is that it's a slush fund the local politicos use to reward their favorites and build their pet projects (which are often sports stadiums). Local redevelopment is an increasing drain on the State's General Fund and the only big pool of tax dollars left, so the State and the local governments are fighting over it. The State wants to give it to the schools to reduce the State's daily attendance funding obligations, the local governments want to keep it to use for their own (always pro-development and frequently corrupt) purposes.

NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO ... Where was I? Oh yeah, HELL NO on 23. Just about every environmental and political group that I have any respect for is emphatically saying NO on this. Sierra Club, the Dem Party, the LWV, etc. This basically suspends air pollution control laws and pollution reporting requirements. http://Factson23.com

YES on 24. OK, I just barely understand this: Repeals Recent Legislation That Would Allow Businesses to Carry Back Losses, Share Tax Credits, and Use a Sales-Based Income Calculation. Apparently it plugs a lot of loopholes that big corporations are using to reduce their taxes — and I'm in favor of corporations paying their fair share. The progressive groups give this the thumbs-up, across the board, so I'm satisfied.

YES on 25. This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart. Remember the times over the last few years when the state legislator couldn't pass a budget? The Democrats were trying to keep services running; the minority Republicans were happy to shut down the state government, so they would hold out for all kinds of ridiculous concessions. Well, this proposition is only half of what we need to solve our state budget being held hostage by "we don't care what happens to the state budget" Republicans. There was a much better ballot measure submitted that didn't make the cut. Oh well. This will help a bit, though. It gives the legislator majority rule (not minority tyranny) for passing a budget.

NO on 26: Yikes, this is almost the opposite of 25. This is called the "polluter protection" proposition. Democrats, Sierra Club, LWV, etc. all oppose it. http://www.stoppolluterprotection.com/

YES on 27. This is the other half of the confusing Prop 20. It would eliminate the redistricting commission that was formed a few years ago, which I was against -- and has basically been a joke. So I'm certainly for the elimination of it.

I hope this has been of some use!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

What about the State Offices?

Unless you quickly sent in your ballot already, you are probably still puzzling over the many propositions and other state-wide races. For what it's worth, I thought I would offer my perspective on a batch of those items.

For the state-wide offices, I'm pretty happy with the Democrats on the ballot, so it wouldn't bother me if you were to just look at the partisan slate and vote that way. However, that's a pretty mindless approach, and I do have some more specific opinions, so I'll touch on a few of them.

Jerry Brown, for Governor, is not my favorite politician, and I wouldn't call him progressive. But he is certainly seasoned, and experienced. The alternative, Meg Whitman, is a frightening prospect. I wouldn't want to dilute Brown's chances of preventing her from getting the job, so its Brown all the way.

Debra Bowen, running for re-election as Secretary of State. The chief of our voting systems, I have been a big fan of hers ever since she was running for the office in the June primaries four years ago. She is more dedicated to fair elections than anybody I have ever seen; the exact opposite of the Secretaries of State that made Florida famous in 2000 and Ohio famous in 2004. She has done a great job in the last four years and absolutely deserves another round. (Personally, I'd like to see her as Governor someday!)

Kamala Harris has been my strong choice for Attorney General ever since I got familiar with her at the California Democratic Convention in Los Angeles earlier this year. Really amazing person. I highly recommend her book Smart on Crime as well. I look forward to seeing what she can accomplish.

Dave Jones is running for Insurance Commissioner. I first met Jones — currently an assembly member representing the Sacramento area — several years ago, and I've followed his career since then. He is truly a progressive, and a really charismatic leader. I think he'll be great at this job.

Betty Yee, up for re-election in the State Board of Equalization, is another real progressive that I've known and admired over the last few years. Not that it matters, but she lives in Alameda now!

Anyhow, the Democrats have a good line-up in this year's election. And let's not forget Barbara Boxer, who is, like brown, against another pay-for-your-election rich CEO multimillionaire, for Senate. I've seen her stand up for what's right when no other senator would. While I'd rather have another Senator instead of Feinstein, I firmly stand behind Boxer for another term in the Senate.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Local Green Party Tainted by Conservative Endorsements

As I research the ballot propositions and candidates when it gets close to an election, I like to look at the endorsements from a number of groups and political parties on all sides of the political spectrum. If a group that I like is in favor of a candidate or issue, then that helps build my case on the positive side. Conversely, if a group that I tend to disagree with is on one side, then I'm likely to find myself on the other.

Considering myself progressive, I am always interested in seeing how the Green Party (at the State or local level) has analyzed the issues. It's a progressive party, though I prefer to try to make the Democratic Party more progressive from the inside, rather than promote never-in-a-million-years candidates. (If ranked choice voting is able to spread more, maybe we can truly vote on our principles without "throwing away our vote." But that's for another discussion.)

I was pleased to see the endorsements from the Alameda County Green Party (PDF download) recently become available. There are some thoughtful analyses of the state propositions; their endorsement of Robert Raburn (for BART board) and Victoria Kolakowski, whom I support for Judge, are good reads as well.

But then, take a look at their endorsements in the Alameda races! The Greens have turned into Conservatives!

They advocate Doug DeHaan, Jean Sweeney, and (weakly) Beverly Johnson.

Sorry, did I make a mistake? Was I looking at the endorsements for the Republican Party?

No, you heard it right.

It's clear that whoever is contributing the opinions of the Alameda election is firmly planted in the SunCal-Paranoia mindset. The endorsement article begins:
There are two outstanding candidates in the Alameda city election. The critical issue is to prevent developers SunCal/DE Shaw from returning from the near dead and funding candidates who will go against the 85 percent of the voters who rejected the developer takeover.

So that's it? This is all that is election is about? Not the city budget? Not the lack of leadership? Not the back-room dealings in City Hall? Not the terrible state of our school district funding? Not transportation? Not abuses of power by city staff? Not wasteful witch-hunts?

The article continues:
There are two candidates who stand out for a positive plan for a green Point that would benefit Alameda. They are Jean Sweeney (for City Council) a community activist, and Doug de Haan (presently on the Council, now candidate for Mayor). Steady, honest and trustworthy: they have done their research and have taken the correct stand since day one.

Honest, Trustworthy, I won't deny — I have known the Sweeneys for years and they are nice people as long as you don't disagree with them, and I would trust them to stick to their beliefs. But saying DeHaan is "steady" is going too far. I remember when he was against the theatre (a point that had its merits) but then he changed his approach after the project was a success, taking credit for it! There's a difference between changing your mind (which, despite those who like to use the term "flip-flop," is legitimate if somebody can admit they have learned and re-evaluated something) and going for 1984-style "We have always been at war with Eurasia" history-changing. That is not "taking the correct stand since day one."

This gets fun:
Regarding a second City Council candidate to be considered? It’s hard to call but we must say for city council vote “no” on Lena Tam and Izzy Ashcraft as the developer candidates. Bev Johnson, now terming out as mayor but eligible for council, is now independent of SunCal, hav- ing realized the highly risky plan. She would be our next choice. Bonta is a bit of a puzzle as he had been regarded as a Lena Tam protege. However when Tam was suspected of passing secrets to the developer and violating the Brown Act with majority emails, he distanced himself from her, and claims he voted again the SunCal plan.

Hmm, "Izzy?" You would think that with Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft involved in community service, saving the library, the hospital board, and the planning board for over a decade, the author would know how to spell a candidate's name right. Or perhaps the author, like former Blogger Don Roberts, was having a bit a flash back to his years as a schoolboy, when it was fashionable to make fun of people's names.

And check out the passive-agressive approach to just smearing Lena Tam's name with innuendo and then for no good reason, associating Rob Bonta with that same smear. Perhaps if the author had gotten to know Rob over the last few years as I have, or even read some of his statements, Bonta wouldn't be as much of a puzzle.

The larger Green Party is probably completely unaware that their local branch has been taken over by conservatives, much in the way that some branches of the Democratic Party have been partially infiltrated by supporters of Lyndon LaRouche. (I know several former Green party members who have given up on the local chapter, and joined the Democratic Party and the Alameda Democratic Club.)

So enjoy and pay attention to the green's endorsements for non-Alameda issues, but consider the party "tainted" when it comes to local politics.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

DeHaan Supporters Display Sour Grapes, Paranoia

This afternoon, Mayoral candidate Doug DeHaan and a few dozen of his supporters rallied in front of the fire station, apparently to protest a number of things that they didn't like, such as some kind of supposed manipulation by SunCal of the Alameda Firefighters.

Showing signs proclaiming "Go Home SunCal" and "Dirty Politics", the rally marks a turning point for DeHaan's campaign, switching into "negative campaigning" mode.

I am guessing that the original intent of the rally was to protest against the firefighters' union for their endorsement of Marie Gilmore. Of course, I'm sure that if DeHaan's campaign were to get such a prime endorsement, they would proudly display it on their supporters page. That's one of the big functions of unions — they endorse candidates that they think will do a good job. (In fact, apparently they endorsed Gilmore despite her clearly telling them that she was vehemently opposed to one of their pet issues!)

So if this was the idea behind the rally, it's just a case of sour grapes.

Judging by the crew that assembled and the signs they carried, though, it seems that these particular supporters of DeHaan are more interested in showing off their paranoia about SunCal. Really pathetic, guys.

Perennial City Council Candidate Ash Jones showed off his sign, apparently he thinks that the election is being "cooked" somehow.

I'm sure that this group assembled to get some attention. However, I think that mostly what they are going to get from this stunt is backblow.

I think that DeHaan is a good person, even if I don't agree with his passive-agressive political tendencies — thus I can't support him for Mayor. I'm guessing that he was convinced by political consultants that this would be a good idea for his campaign. Hint: It isn't.

Naturally, there were no signs protesting the shenanigans at City Hall such as the phantom client of the City Attorney that had her proclaim the Fourth of July Parade as being an inappropriate venue for free speech, or the thousands of dollars spent on political witch-hunts. DeHaan has not spoken out about these major problems with our current city government; I certainly wouldn't expect him to start now!

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Endorsement: Robert Raburn for BART board

Most people in Alameda are talking about the race for Mayor and City Council, and are probably wondering a bit about the plethora of state propositions. Little attention is being paid to the "bottom of the ballot" races.There is one race that I have some very strong feelings about: the race for the BART director that represents Alameda (and part of Oakland).

As Alamedans, we have a love-hate relationship with BART. So close, and yet so far! And you might have heard about the current BART leadership's work on a $500 MILLION Oakland Airport extension -- that will drop people off in a parking lot rather than the terminal.

The leadership of BART is out of touch. Even though they lost $70 Million dollars in Federal funds for civil rights violations, they are still going ahead with this boondoggle project.

This is outrageous. We need to send our current BART director, incumbent Carole Ward Allen, packing.

Fortunately, we have a WONDERFUL candidate who is running against her:

ROBERT RABURN is somebody whom I have known for over ten years, and I have nothing but the highest respect for him.

Robert has been a tireless transportation advocate and expert from his Ph. D. training through his recent activism, working with me and Lucy over the years in his capacity in the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. He was instrumental in getting the bike station and the parking garage at Fruitvale BART, both of which I have found invaluable whenever I head over to San Francisco. He's also been involved in the Alameda County Congestion Management Agency, helped replace the "world's shortest freeway" in Oakland, and chaired the Measure B Citizens Watchdog Committee.

Robert is the kind of guy who shakes things up and gets things done. He has gotten unanimous endorsement from the Sierra Club, and has lately been racking up endorsements from the City of Alameda Democratic Club (of which I am a member) and other clubs in the area.

Ward Allen and several of the other BART incumbents seem to be interested in laughable attempts to get re-elected by, for instance, lowering fares temporarily right before an election.

I hope you have a few minutes to watch this panel sponsored by the League of Women Voters. I found the incumbent to be oblivious to the current problems of BART and its misguided direction; other challenger Rivera had a few nice ideas but was light on specifics; Raburn, on the other hand, showed his understanding and expertise over and over in his answers.

Here are some profiles about the three candidates, and an article about the several challengers in the Bay Area trying to "Change Culture at BART."

I hope that you will vote for Robert in the upcoming election. And be sure to talk to your friends and neighbors about the BART race. In a low-information, bottom-of-the-ballot race, many voters tend to just vote for the incumbent. We can't let this happen this year.

If you, too, believe that we need a significant change, and you are sufficiently impressed by Robert Raburn's approach, feel free to contact me (see the info at the top of this blog page) and I will personally deliver a lovely sign for decorating your front yard!