Margarita Lacabe

Nov 042014

5.0.2A last minute reminder: please vote to retain all the appellate and Supreme Court judges.

Some of them may be too liberal for you, some too conservative for me. But judicial independence requires that judges not be punished with removal just because they made rulings we disagree with – as long as those rulings are still legally legitimate.

For example, there is a movement to remove the California Supreme Court justices who voted against allowing Prop 49 in the ballot. Prop 49 would have asked whether the US Congress should pass an amendment nullifying Citizens United, and the CA Legislature should ratify such amendment. The CA Supreme Court ordered to take it off the ballot, until they have a full hearing on the matter, because, given that the California constitution does not make provisions for advisory questions, there is a likelihood that the proposition would be found unconstitutional.

Whether you agree or disagree with that decision, the point is that it was a legitimate one. There is a big question of law here, and judges often take it maddeningly slowly when the questions are very important.

Removing a judge over that decision is crazy. Judicial review exists exactly because sometimes legislative bodies – and voters – get it wrong. If we do away with judges who tell us we were wrong, we might as well do away with judicial review altogether.

I don’t think judges should be elected in the first place, but they certainly should not be voted out unless they are corrupt, incompetent or guilty of misconduct.

While nobody has made any such accusations against any of the Court of Appeals or Supreme Court justices in the current ballot, sometimes you do find judges that need to be voted out.  That seems to be clearly the case with San Jose judge Diane Ritchie.  She is considered so incompetent that she doesn’t even know when she’s being unethical (hint: asking a lawyer with a case before you for a political contribution is not cool, neither is asking a criminal defendant for his phone number to go out in a date). She doesn’t know the law, she doesn’t know court procedure, she can’t understand pleadings, she is such a disaster that she got challenged by both a prosecutor and a defense attorney.  That judge needs to go, but she is the exception that proves the rule.  Ritchie, btw, was originally elected, rather than appointed by the Governor.

Let’s keep our powers separate and our courts clean and retain all the judges, whether we agree with their rulings or not.


Nov 022014

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

Allen Schoenfeld

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.

More on Allen Schoenfeld: Candidate QuestionnaireSmart Voter, SL Times profile

Victor Aguilar

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.

More on Victor Aguilar: candidate questionnairecandidate statement, Smart Voter, Facebook page, SL Times profile

Lee Thomas

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.

More on Lee Thomas: candidate questionnaire, candidate statement, Smart Voter, website, Facebook, APAC questionnaire, SL Times profile: , tweeter: @LeeThomas94578

Nov 022014

I find deciding who to vote for agency boards to be particularly difficult.  I don’t usually pay close attention to the issues on those boards, and its not always clear what set of skills candidates need to bring to the position.  I have thus relied heavily on the Green Party’s recommendations for these transportation positions.

AC Transit

At-Large: Dollene Jones

Dollene Jones

Dollene Jones

Joel Young, the incumbent for this seat, should not be re-elected.  Not only did he have a nasty domestic abuse scandal which derailed his campaign for Assembly two years ago, but he was caught taking confidential AC Transit information for use in his private practice as a lawyer.  That’s the type of unethical behavior that we should not condone on our elected officials.

Alas, he’s been good to a segment of Labor and they are backing him.  This support was enough to scare off strong potential challengers.  Of the two left, Dollene Jones is the best choice.

To make this determination, I’m piggybacking on the Green Party, which issued a very valuable Voter Guide that spells out the reasons for their recommendations. Often they are much more thorough than mine.  They recommend Jones because she is a retired bus driver who lives and breathes buses. She goes to meetings, she knows the system, and while her overall knowledge may be limited, it’s ampler than her opponent.  She, the Green Party predicts, is the candidate least likely to do harm.  I am not endorsing her, but I’m voting for her.

Ward 4: Murphy McCalley

For this recommendation I’m once again relying on the Green Party’s Voter Guide.  They say that while the incumbent tries hard, he doesn’t have the background in transportation issues to make independent decisions, and thus he follows other members of the Council, who don’t necessarily know better.  Murphy McCalley is a retired transportation professional with the expertise and passion for buses needed to professionalize the Board.

Ward 5: Jeff Davis

Here, I am relying completely on the judgement of the Green Party’s Voter Guide.  They found his responses to their questionnaire to be the most succinct and knowledgeable.


District 4: No Recommendation

It have a hard time making a recommendation for this race as neither candidate has much to offer. Alas, District 4 covers part of San Leandro so I feel a responsibility to say something about it.

The incumbent, Robert Raburn, angered labor by supporting management’s sometimes outright dirty negotiation techniques that led to the BART strike last year.  He has also shown very little interest in the San Leandro portion of his district. He did attend the Transportation forum a few weeks ago, but there he dismissed the very legitimate concerns of San Leandrans worried about the elimination of one of the parking lots by the downtown BART station.  That’s not the type of representation one wants.

Lena Tam, meanwhile, has not been impressed by her performance at the Alameda City Council.   She has sided with the Police on most issues, supported the acquisition of an armored vehicle and the retention of data from license plate scanners.  Civil liberties violations have been a recurring problem at BART, and I fear Tam will not fall on the right side of that debate.

Her strong ties to the Democratic party establishment, and Rob Bonta in particular, makes me weary that she will put politics before policy.  She has also failed to reach out to Leandro residents and did not attend the San Leandro Transportation forum a few weeks back.

Ultimately, I’m glad I don’t have to vote in that race.

Nov 012014


Five candidates, including two incumbents, are running for three seats in the Oro Loma Sanitary District Board.  This covers part of San Leandro, but not the part where I live.  I thought about not making any recommendations in this race because the issues are pretty complex.

On the one hand, Oro Loma seems to be doing quite well.  The Board gets re-elected time and time again.  On the other hand, all the members are older white men.  One of the incumbents running, Howard Kerr, is a very conservative 91-years-old.  Among the non-incumbents there is another middle-age white man, Dan Walters, an older white woman, former Mayor Shelia Young, and a Nigerian American accountant who is also running for School Board.  Either of the last two would bring some diversity to the Board.  But is diversity what one needs in a sanitary district board? Or is it technical knowledge and familiarity with the work?  And if it’s the latter, should Kerr’s political ideas come into play?

Originally, I decided to not make any recommendations on this race.  I don’t have to vote, so I don’t really have to make up my mind.  But then I realized I wasn’t being entirely fair.  Because if I did have to vote, even if I didn’t know who my second and third votes would go, my first one would be for Dan Walters.

Dan Walters is pretty cool guy.  He is a chemical engineer, but also a policy wonk.  His political philosophy has a strong conservative/libertarian bent, and yet he is profoundly concerned with social issues.  He is very involved in Boy Scouts, for example.  Though we don’t share many political views or personality traits, I have a lot of respect for Dan.  He is intelligent – the type of person who “gets” what you are talking about -, he has a very logical mind, he is honest, he tries to be a good person.  He is willing to look at problems and issues from different perspectives. He is willing to listen.  And he loves garbage.  As a young kid, he toured a water treatment plan and has since been in love with waste management engineering. He is not running out of any political ambition, he thinks he will have fun being in this particular board.  And I think he will.

Moreover, he has actually been following the issues, he knows all about technical and policy requirements.  Truth be told, I had to stop him from going into detail.

In any case, he is really the right guy for this particular job.  If you can, vote for him.

Nov 012014
Len Raphael

Len Raphael

I am endorsing Len Raphael for Oakland City Auditor. Len is quirky, he is passionate, he is willing to take risks and many people are unhappy about his political actions. Perhaps trying to recall Jeanne Quan wasn’t the smartest political move, but he stood for what he believed was best for Oakland.

And, unlike his opponent, Len knows Oakland well. He’s been paying attention carefully as to what happens at City Hall, understands the financial situation of the city, and has a clue as to what agencies are in greatest need of auditing. As a CPA and former auditor himself, he knows how to go about it as well.  He has read Oakland’s budgets, he knows where the hidden problems lie.

His opponent, a Republican until the day she filed to run for Auditor (and yet, somehow she got the Alameda County Democratic Party endorsement), is a nice lady but she has not paid attention to what’s going in the city.  She could not name any agencies that needed to be audited and had no actual plans about what she’d do if elected.

Len Raphael is the smart choice for Oakland Auditor and I encourage you to vote for him.