As a growing number of California votes, I get an absentee ballot but I wait until election day to fill it out and drop it at the polls. That way I can be sure I have as much information as possible before I cast my ballot. This also gives me time to discuss my choices with others, and do some more deeper thinking. Inevitably, this leads to changing my mind in a few races. That’s the case with the San Leandro City Council District 3 race. I am now recommending the following voter order:
First Choice: Allen Schoenfeld
Second Choice: Victor Aguilar
Third Choice: Lee Thomas
FIRST CHOICE: ALLEN SCHOENFELD
Allen Schoenfeld cannot win this race if only because he did not submit a ballot statement.
Truth be told, Schoenfeld probably shouldn’t win either. He has no experience in City government, has only recently started attending City meetings, and is unfamiliar both with the issues and the system. Without that basis of knowledge, he would be able to do little more than rubber stamp what is put in front of him. He might surprise me, but I doubt he would make a particularly good City Council member.
Allen, however, is a good man who clearly cares for his community and for human beings. He also has maintained a clear anti-police militarization stance since he joined the raise. His views don’t seem to be as politically driven as community driven, “what’s the point of spending money on things we don’t need and don’t help us?,” seems to be his attitude. A vote for him, in my view, is a protest vote against police militarization. He will be eliminated after the first round, so anyone trying to make that point should choose him first.
SECOND CHOICE: VICTOR AGUILAR
The race for District 3 is really between Victor Aguilar and Lee Thomas. Thomas’ success is almost guaranteed. He has the better name, the better ballot designation and the better candidate statement. Still, I believe that we should vote for the best candidate, not the most popular one.
I originally recommended voting for Lee Thomas as a first choice because Thomas is the most knowledgeable and competent candidate on this race (see below for more on this). Victor Aguilar has not been following what has been happening at City Hall and he seems to have very little understanding of the issues that are facing this city. For example, he seemed to be unaware of the long battle to save San Leandro Hospital.
Moreover, at the time I wrote my original recommendation, I was unsure about what his political views were. He had not yet responded to the candidate questionnaire I sent out, and none of his answers at the candidate fora showed a clear liberal bent. This has changed. He has completed the questionnaire, did not back away from the more difficult questions, and he has made it clear he supports civil liberties and the right to privacy, and opposes the militarization of the police department and the diversion of classroom funds to pay for police officers.
My concerns about Aguilar’s inexperience persist. However, practically speaking, it’s unlikely he would get elected unless there is a significant swing to the left by the electorate. In that case, it’s likely that at least one the other liberal candidates – Mike Katz-Lacabe, Mia Ousley and Dan Dillman – would be elected, so that the pressures on Aguilar as the sole liberal member wouldn’t be so overwhelming.
Ultimately, I have said publicly that if you oppose police militarization, you need to vote for those candidates who do as well. I must follow my own advice and choose Aguilar before Thomas. If we are not willing to take a chance to get what we really want – a freer and more just society -, then we will never get it.
THIRD CHOICE: LEE THOMAS
Lee Thomas is a great guy. He works as a director of youth programs at the YMCA, and he clearly cares about children. He has been involved in San Leandro’s civic life for a long time, including a stint in the Human Services Commission and later in the Board of Zoning Adjustments. I have seen Lee in action at BZA meetings and he asks intelligent questions which show that he’s done the background reading and has thought about the issues before him. I’ve met with him to discuss his race and I found him to be amenable to new ideas, looking forward to collaboration, and endowed with strong problem-solving skills. Lee was the first candidate to return the San Leandro Talk/Nextdoor questionnaire, though he didn’t complete it. He regularly attends City Council meetings – at least, I’ve seen him at them many times – and he got the endorsement of the Oakland Tribune.
In some ways his views are very progressive, he rejects warrantless searches of private property (which, unfortunately, the City Hall as a body approved of) and he believes the City needs to do a much better job of bringing after-school activities.
However, he has much more conservative views on other issues. He opposes medical marijuana dispensaries but he is not opposed to the school district diverting money from classrooms to police and he has not taken firm positions against either the use of mass surveillance in San Leandro or the acquisition of the armored personnel carrier. He serves in the the Police Chief’s Advisory Board, where he has not challenged the Police Chief on her overreaching policies, and has been endorsed by the Police Union.
I think he will do a good job in San Leandro, but if no other liberal candidates are elected – and that’s a strong possibility – I don’t think he’ll be rocking the boat.