Margarita Lacabe

Oct 092018

San Leandro, like many cities in the Bay Area, is in crisis.  About half of our community members are renters and skyrocketing rents are pushing them out of their homes, either displacing them out of the Bay Area or putting them on the streets.   This lack of community stability is affecting neighborhoods and schools, as the challenges of facing an ever-changing student population are significant.   Yet the City Council has done nothing to address this situation.   This is not surprising because the Rental Owners Association and landlords have poured money into the incumbents’ campaigns.

Lack of ethics and integrity is, indeed, a generalized problem in San Leandro city government.  The former City Manager, fearing that accusations of sexual harassment by the head of a local nonprofit would become public, sent out a rambling and utterly unprofessional letter to the press, in which he detailed how he’d have business meetings with his accuser in the front seat of her car and play ping-pong with a local lobbyist.  In the letter, he also discussed  the contents of private conversations with Council members.  Rather than fire him on the spot for unprofessional behavior, the Council put him on paid leave for months while he looked for a new job and and gave him  a $350K parting gift.

What San Leandro needs is progressive and ethical leadership, thus our recommendations below.  Note that San Leandro has ranked choice voting (RCV) for its Mayor and City Council races.

Jeromey Shafer

Mayor: #1 Jeromey Shafer, #2 Dan Dillman

Incumbent Pauline Cutter has been a disaster as Mayor of San Leandro.  She seems to have approached her job as a money-making scheme.  Early in her term, her daughter was hired by the City (with the approval of the City Manager) for a highly-paid position in the Parks and Recreation department – despite nepotism being explicitly forbidden by the Charter of the City of San Leandro.   Cutter would later defend the City Manager against sex harassment accusations, resist efforts to ask for his resignation after he wrote an unprofessional and incoherent public letter, and later vote to give him a $300K farewell gift on his way out.

Cutter has spent much of her time traveling at tax-payer expense, but she can’t point to any concrete accomplishments from her tenure.  The promise of San Leandro becoming a high tech center based on our fiberloop never materialized, and instead our industrial area is filled with warehouses that pay low wages.  Moreover, Cutter has supported police militarization and despite her promise that the counter-attack armored vehicle she voted to buy for the police would not be used on demonstrations, it’s been deployed twice for such purposes.  Cutter is a supporter of mass surveillance, including sharing this data with ICE.

Her opponent City Council member Benny Lee has basically the same record and positions.  He demonstrated his lack of ethics by taking large campaign contributions from a garbage company that was bidding  for a contract with the City of Oakland, and lobbied the neighboring City to award that contract to his contributor.  The competitor was based on San Leandro, so his move could have cost San Leandro $2 million.  Lee’s major “contribution” to San Leandro has been to propose honoring the genocidal Chinese government by flying its flag over City Council.  As Tibetans burn themselves to bring attention to their plight and a million Ughyurs are imprisoned in China, Lee’s loyalty seems to be foremost with the Chinese government.

Fortunately, San Leandro has another choice: Jeromey Shafer.  The co-founder of San Leandro for Bernie and leader of Our Revoution San Leandro, Shafer is intelligent, hard working, thoughtful and  unapologetically progressive.  He is committed to human rights and social justice.  If elected, he will champion rent-control in San Leandro and will take an innovative approach to solving our other social ills.  He will stop the militarization of our police forces and actually make the police department accountable to the city, not the other way around as it seems to be now.  He is running a clean money campaign, rejecting all funds from corporations and developers and limiting contributions to $99.   Shafer will also restore transparency and accountability and a sense of ethics to the office.  Really, San Leandro can do no better than to support him.

Dan Dillman is our second choice because, whatever his faults, he cares about San Leandro.

Eva Arce

Eva Arce

District 1: #1 Eva Arce, #2 Ken Pon

Incumbent Deborah Cox is another white-moderate who supports police militarization and mass surveillance and opposes rent-control. She drew controversy for not returning the financial contribution of a politician who used the “N” word in a public meeting.

Eva Arce, a newcomer to  politics, is a strong progressive who has seen her community fall apart by the Council’s regressive politics and wants to restore it.  She is a big supporter of rent control, police accountability and fixing potholes.  She is running a clean money campaign, rejecting all funds from corporations and developers and limiting contributions to $99.    She is an intelligent woman, who does her homework and will tackle issues with a fresh, yet progressive perspective.  She is just what we need in San Leandro.

Ken Pon is also a moderate, but to the left of Cox.  He opposes the militarization of police and favored marijuana dispensaries when Cox was ranting against them at City Council meetings.


Victor Aguilar

District 3: Victor Aguilar

School Board member Victor Aguilar was a progressive back when people didn’t want to admit to being progressive (his opponent, incumbent Lee Thomas, has never claimed himself as one).  He supports rent control, police accountability, clean money (he is not taking any corporate or developer money), and free speech.  As a commissioner, he refused to agree to the City Council’s demand that he forgo his first amendment rights and agree to no disparage the City Manager.

Incumbent Lee Thomas takes money from landlords and opposes rent controls while supporting police militarization.


District 5: Maxine Oliver-Benson (with reservations)

Both candidates are problematic.  Incumbent Corina Lopez supports police militarization and has done painfully little to bring accountability to the police and remained a supporter of the City Manager even after he showed himself to lack professionalism, but at least she may vote in favor of rent control if someone else brings it up to the table. She also was the impetus behind the sanctuary city declaration, but would not go a step further and make it an ordinance with some teeth – this allowed the Police Department to continue sharing data with the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, which in turn shared it with ICE.  Moreover, Lopez can be difficult to work with, she easily gets offended and needs to have her ego massaged lest she retaliate over perceived slights.

Her opponent, Maxine Oliver-Benson, is an African American woman who has spent her life in East Oakland as an activist.  She is corporate free and has many strong progressive values – she favors rent control and police accountability, for example, and is rejecting all money from corporations, developers and other special interests (unlike Lopez).  However, she supports increasing mass surveillance in San Leandro – which Lopez says she does not.

Find more progressive voter recommendations in Progressive California.

May 312018

SLPD officer Ryan Gill

This is Ryan Gill. He is a murderer.

In late December 2010, Gill shot to death Gwendolyn Killings, an African-American woman from Hayward. Killings was driving a car that had allegedly been reported stolen earlier in the day; Gill claimed he spotted it and chased it until it crashed just over the Oakland border. The passenger got out of the car and fled, he later died under mysterious circumstances. Gill and his partner got out of their car as well, while his partner half-way chased the passenger. Gill approached Killing’s stopped car and shot her several times.  Gill would later claim that he was afraid Killings would put the car in reverse and hit his partner. However, witnesses said the car was boxed in and couldn’t go anywhere and Killings may have been unconscious when she was shot.

DA Nancy O’Malley claimed the extra-judicial execution of Gwen Killings was justified.  This is the same claim she has made in every single case in which a police officer in Alameda County shot and killed an unarmed community member.  For Nancy O’Malley, there is no such a thing as an unjustified killing when the killer is a police officer.

Nancy O’Malley

Killing’s murder was not Ryan Gill’s first.  He had murdered a sleeping man some years before.   Gill and his partner entered the apartment of the victim while he was sleeping, woke him up and claim they were trying to restrain him when he struggled and tried to get Gill’s gun. Both Gill and his partner shot him. The City of Oakland settled the ensuing lawsuit. In another lawsuit settled by Oakland, Gill was accused of beating a man while arresting him. In a third incident, Gill walked out of a review board conduct hearing where he was to be questioned about a charge of falsely arresting a teenager after his partner ram a car into him.

It’s only a matter of time until Gill kills again – and O’Malley covers for him one more time.

May 072018

These are the recommendations of the editorial team of San Leandro Talk for the June 2018 elections.  They include state-wide and Alameda County offices.  The team is composed of progressive citizens who value integrity, experience, progressive values and vision on candidates for elective office.  Whenever possible, we try to recommend the most progressive, yet qualified, candidates and those who do not accept contributions from corporations or special interests.  For candidates beyond Alameda County, please check out the list of progressive, corporate-free candidates running in California.

Please note: Even if you don’t vote for anyone else in this election, please vote for Pamela Price for District Attorney.  See below for more.

Print & Take to the Polls

California Governor: Delaine Eastin
Corporate Free candidate

Being the governor of a state that has the fifth largest economy in the world is not for amateurs.  We need someone who has the experience and skills to do the job effectively, in addition the values to do it ethically.  Delaine Eastin fits both qualifications.  She has vast experience, having worked in the private sector as well as been a City Council member, a member of the California Legislature and California’s Superintendent of Public Instruction.  This means she has both legislative and executive experience in government as well as an understanding of how Sacramento works and how to get her agenda passed.  While she was Superintendent, California passed a law to reduce the student to teacher ratio, for instance (later abolished during the financial crisis).  Delaine has vision and the belief that government can actually undertake large social projects such as free preschool-college education, single payer health care and a climate change policy that includes banning fracking.  Unlike her opponents, she is not taking corporate donations and she is not in debt to any special interests that will curtail what she can do in office.  She is by far the best choice.

Lieutenant Governor: Gayle McLaughlin*
Corporate Free candidate. Also endorsed by Our Revolution

The lieutenant governor has two jobs: one is to seat in a myriad of commissions, from educational to environmental ones and the other is to be available to take the reigns of the state if the governor is unable to perform her duties.  Gayle McLaughlin is by far the most qualified person to do this.  Gayle has been both a city council member and Mayor of Richmond, a very diverse city in the Bay Area who saw both its crime rate and police brutality greatly reduced through policies that introduced community policing.  She has a history of successfully fighting Chevron, which has a refinery in the town.  She was previously endorsed by Bernie Sanders and was one of the earliest candidates to be endorsed by Our Revolution national.

Secretary of State:  Ruben Major* (with reservations)
Corporate Free candidate

There are no good candidates in this race.  Incumbent Alex Padilla made a mockery of the office, one which requires integrity and a perception of neutrality, by openly campaigning for Hillary Clinton during the primary.  Then, when thousands of voters throughout the state complained about voter irregularities, from having their party registration changed to having their names disappear altogether from the voter rolls, Padilla did nothing to investigate and fix whatever the problem was.  He definitely needs to go.  Unfortunately, all of the other candidates are problematic in their own ways.  We are going with Ruben Major because he at least has the background to get up to speed with the complexity of voting systems, seems to have firm progressive values and has the support of many Berniecrats.

Controller:  Mary Lou Finley* (protest vote)
Corporate Free candidate

Incumbent Betty Yee made her reputation as a progressive but, after taking money from law enforcement interests, she has moved to the right, putting her support behind candidates who support mass incarceration.  She has also advocated for regressive taxation, such as a “mechanics tax” that would mostly hurt people who cannot afford new cars and therefore have to have them repaired more frequently.  Yee doesn’t face strong opposition and she will be surely the top vote-getter in the June primary.  A vote for Mary Lou Finley, the Peace and Freedom candidate, is simply a protest vote against Yee’s anti-progressive positions.

Treasurer: Kevin Akin* (protest vote)
Corporate Free candidate.

Democrat Fiona Ma is the establishment candidate for this race, but she has taken large amounts of money from police interests and repaid them by putting her support behind candidates for local office who favor impunity for police brutality and mass incarceration.  While these issues are not directly connected to the position of Treasurer, they reflect a willingness to participate in pay-to-play politics and put her political career ahead of the community.  Kevin Akin, the Peace and Freedom candidate, is the only progressive on the race and therefore we recommend a protest vote in his favor.

Attorney General: Dave Jones (with reservations)

California is in deep need of criminal justice reform and we need an Attorney General who will make this a priority. We also need an AG that will put an end to impunity for police brutality and police killings and hold officers who commit human rights violations accountable.  The appointed incumbent has proven himself unwilling to do either.  Dave Jones is far more interested in doing it.  He also opposes the death penalty and has a history of standing up against special interests: as insurance commissioner he backed an initiative to limit the cost of health insurance.  However, recent information about potential conflicts of interests unearthed by the Green Party and

Insurance Commissioner: Asif Mahmood* (with reservations)
Corporate Free candidate.

Ricardo Lara is the establishment candidate in this race.  While he was one of the authors of the single payer bill introduced in the State Senate last year, he did little to make sure that the bill was actually passed.  Beyond this, we cannot recommend him due to his seemingly corrupt past activities and his reliance on corporate donations.  Asif Mahmood, the other Democrat running for Insurance Commissioner, is a medical doctor profoundly committed to enforcing the California laws that he claims insurance companies are circumventing to deny care to California patients, and to institute single-payer healthcare.  A Pakistan-born Muslim, he is particularly concerned with empowering women and female education.  Unfortunately, Dr. Mahmood does not have the experience to oversee one of the most important departments in the California government, though to his credit he recognizes this and says he’ll build a team of experts to help him in the job.   Indeed, the only candidate that has the experience to actually do the job is Steve Poizner, a former Republican now running as No Party Preference, who was Insurance Commissioner from 2008-2012. Poizner quit the job to run for governor in a far-right platform that denounced immigration.  He is now running on a platform of opposing single-payer healthcare.  This leaves Mahmood as the only real choice for progressives.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction: Lily Ploski*

There are serious problems with the two front runners in this race.  Marshal Tuck is a charter school executive, seemingly aiming to privatize our educational system even more.  Tony Thurmond seems more interested in political climbing that he is in on the well being of students.  That leaves as choices two newcomers, Steve Ireland, a parent, and Lily Plosky, an educational administrator and instructor (and also parent).  Of the two, Ploski is the better qualified for this position, with multiple degrees on education, including two Masters (one in Teaching and the other in Student Personnel Administration) and a Doctorate of Education.  In addition, she has broad experience working in community colleges, including as an instructor and as a dean.

Board of Equalization District 2: Write In None of the Above**

It’s seldom that we recommend that you don’t vote for any of the candidates in the ballot, but none of the candidates for Board of Equalization, District 2, deserve anyone’s votes.  Democratic State Senator Cathleen Galgiani gets a “D” grade from the Courage Campaign, which measures how legislators vote on progressive bills. San Francisco supervisor Malia Cohen, another Democrat, is a moderate, who has taken developer and AirBnb money and voted against measures that would maintain and increase affordable housing in SF.  She is vehemently opposed by the Berniecrats in her district.    Cupertino Mayor Barry Chang, another Democrat, was subject of a recall campaign due to his pay-to-play relationship with developers.  The final candidate, Mark Burns, is a Republican who does not seem to be actually running a campaign.   We recommend a writein vote of None of the Above.

US Senator: Pat Harris
Corporate Free candidate

There are a myriad of candidates for US Senate, including a few progressives.  Of these, Pat Harris stands out as having the best combination of experience, progressive values and personal skills to be a successful senator that can truly represent California.  As a very successful criminal defense and civil rights attorney with decades of experience, Harris understands how our system of justice is broken and what needs to be done to fix it.  He’s even written a book about it.  He is an old time progressive, who supports single payer healthcare, countrywide marijuana legalization, a pro-peace foreign policy and free college tuition, among other things.  He is very intelligent, has a deep understanding of policy and of the corrupt influence of corporate money.  While we are also impressed by David Hilderbrand  and are not opposed to progressive voting for him, we believe that Harris’ far wider experience makes him the best choice for this office.

US Representative District 13: Barbara Lee

Congresswoman Barbara Lee continues to represent her district well, standing up against war and militarization and for progressive issues.  This is a nobrainer vote.

US Representative District 15: Write in None of the Above**

Incumbent Eric Swalwell is more concerned with running for President in 2020 and attacking Trump that he is with representing his district.  He usually votes as told by Nancy Pelosi, though he sometimes crosses the aisle to vote with Trump in anti-civil liberties/anti-progressive legislation such as Kate’s Law and  the reauthorization of warrantless spying, as well as the gigantic defense budget.  He does not hold progressive values and does not deserve progressive votes.  Unfortunately, there are no other progressives in the race. We recommend a write in vote for None of the Above.

Ro Khanna

US Representative District 17: Ro Khanna
Corporate Free candidate.

In the two years since his first election, Ro Khanna has become the progressive voice in Congress, speaking truth to power.  From calling on the DNC to eliminate superdelegates, to speaking out against war and a militaristic foreign policy, to embracing single payer health care and working across the aisle for jobs in middle America, Khanna is the ideal of a progressive statesman that other candidates can aspire to.  A big thumbs up from our team.

California State Senator District 10: Write in None of the Above**

Incumbent Bob Wieckowski is what you can call an “establishment progressive”.  He will introduce progressive legislation, but will tug closely to the party’s leadership and ultimately do as he’s told.  For this reason, he ends up not fighting for the good bills he introduces and endorsing non-progressive candidates.   We recommend a protest vote for None of the Above.

Assembly District 15: Jovanka Beckles
Corporate Free candidate. Also endorsed by Our Revolution

There are a myriad of candidates running for AD 15, and only one really bad – Buffy Wicks, a political consultant who worked for both Obama and Hillary Clinton and who is backed by the corporate establishment of the Democratic Party.  Of the rest, Jovanka Beckles is by far the most experience, the most progressive, the most courageous and simply the best.  This is one candidate that we can endorse without any hesitation.

Beckles is a Panamanian immigrant, mental health worker and Chevron-fighting City Council member in Richmond.  There, she has worked tirelessly to bring in community policing and rent control and to fight Chevron for poisoning the air and paying unfair wages.  In response, Beckles has been subjected to intense harassment by homophobic community members and Council members and had Chevron spent millions trying to defeat her at the polls – it failed.  We need people with her integrity, her passion and even-temperedness and her vision in the California Assembly.  Beckles has been endorsed by Our Revolution National and was previously endorsed by Bernie Sanders himself.

Assembly District 16: Rebecca Bauer-Kahan

Bauer-Kahan is challenging incumbent Republican Catherine Baker, whose record of right-wing votes includes voting against overtime pay for farm workers.  Bauer-Kahan is an environmental lawyer, with progressive views on both economic issues and civil liberties.  She is intelligent and personable, and she may become a strong progressive voice in the Assembly.

Assembly District 18: Rob Bonta

Since a progressive slate for California Democratic Party were elected against his own slate, Rob Bonta has recognized that his district is far more progressive than he is and has moved to the left.  He has introduced progressive legislation such as a measure to reform the bail system and has become a strong supporter of single payer healthcare.  He deserves to be re-elected.
Assembly District 20: Write in None of the Above**

Bill Quirk is an inconsistent politician.  He has been good on issue of surveillance, and less good on issues of social justice.  He originally voted against mandating overtime pay for farm workers.  He gets a “B” rating from the Courage campaign, which is almost an F given how progressive his district is.  Moreover, despite his support of marijuana legalization, he has supported right-wing local candidates running against progressives. 
Assembly District 25: Write in None of the Above**

Kansen Chu has been a completely generic Assembly member for his district.  If he has any accomplishments, he hasn’t bothered to list them in specific terms.  Moreover, he is part of the party machine and endorses right-wing candidates, including pro-mass incarceration Alameda County DA Nancy O’Malley.  There is another Democrat running but she has not bothered to even put up a webpage.

Superior Court Judge #11: Karen Katz

Katz is a retired Alameda County public defender and someone who has compassion as well as a strong sense of justice.  We recommended her opponent, Tara Flannagan, a she first ran, but she has since been admonished by the state’s Commission on Judicial Performance for unethical behavior, after being caught trying to launder a campaign loan. Flannagan’s excuse was that she didn’t understand the law, which makes her particularly unsuitable for the position of judge.

County Board of Education Area 1: Joaquin Rivera (with reservations)

Rivera is a community college chemistry professor deeply involved in education, he served in the Berkeley School Board before serving in the County Board.  His opponent does not seem to have a background on education nor has made a case for why he should be elected.  We are recommending Rivera by default.

County Supervisor: Write in None of the Above**

None of our county supervisors have done enough to stop the Alameda County Sheriff from rounding up undocumented immigrants and turning them in to ICE, despite Alameda County being a sanctuary county.  Moreover, they have all endorsed Nancy O’Malley and her refusal to bring charges against any police officer who kills unarmed citizens. 
Assessor: John Weed
Corporate Free candidate

Four candidates are running for this race, but only one, John Weed, is a choice for progressives. James Johnson and Kevin Lopez both oppose modifying Prop 13 so that commercial properties can be assessed at their true market value.  Prop 13’s loophole which protects commercial properties in the same manner as residential properties has resulted in major corporations having a competitive advantage over newer smaller ventures and has resulted in billions of dollars of property taxes not assessed against them.   We are given pause by the large amount of financial contributions that Phong La has received, amounting to almost $200,000 – an immense amount for an assessor’s race.  Several of these contributions have been in the five figures, and come from both individuals and corporations.  As money in politics is never free, we are concerned about how La plans to repay such generosity by his contributors.  La, moreover, has endorsed Alameda DA Nancy O’Malley, thus telegraphing his lack of progressive principles.  That leaves John Weed, a retired Air Forces reserves colonel, with engineering and law degrees, who currently serves in the Alameda County Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board, as well as the Alameda County Water District Board. He has support from progressives who know his long career and have served with him in the Water Board, he supports an overhaul of Prop 13 that would assess taxes on commercial properties and he has experience with the Alameda county assessor’s office through his work in the appeals board. He is not accepting money from corporations and seems the only progressive choice in this race.

Auditor-Controller / Clerk-Recorder: Irella Blackwood

Write up to follow.


District Attorney: Pamela Price
Corporate Free candidate. Also endorsed by Our RevolutionFor residents of Alameda County, this is the most important race on the ballot.  Nowhere can you make more of a difference than by electing civil rights attorney Pamela Price as District Attorney.A county’s district attorney has literally life and death power over people in the county.  Not only can she chose to seek the death penalty in particular cases (which the incumbent has done), but by her policies she can encourage or discourage police brutality and killings.  The incumbent has chosen to NEVER charge a law enforcement officer who has killed a community member with a crime, even in cases where the victims were shot in the back or were killed while they were on the ground or restrained.  Indeed, over a hundred community members were killed while in custody while she has been DA, and she has excused all of their murders.   In return, O’Malley has received tens of thousands of dollars in contributions from police unions.  Recently, she accepted $10,000 from the Fremont police union while she investigated the killing of a pregnant teenager by Fremont police.  Needless to say, she found this killing justified, like all others.  Pamela Price is committed to prosecuting police brutality and not giving a murderer a pass simply because he is wearing a badge and fills her pockets.The incumbent has shown her commitment to mass incarceration, specially against people of color.  Currently, over 90% of people arrested by police in Alameda County are prosecuted, despite the fact that several Alameda County police departments are well known for racist and homophobic behavior that target members of oppressed communities. Here in San Leandro, Nancy O’Malley charged two men victims of a homophobic police sting of planning to have sex in a public bathroom, while the charges were dismissed and the City of San Leandro was faced to pay damages, the men were humiliated and traumatized by O’Malley’s illegal behavior.O’Malley, moreover, has a history of charging children, particularly children of color, as adults and denying them a second chance.  Until Price challenged her, she opposed bail reform and has supported ridiculously high bails, which have led to poor people having to stay in prison and often lose their jobs and even homes because they cannot afford to pay them.O’Malley has made her reputation on fighting sex trafficking, but she has looked away as Oakland police officers had sex and prostituted a teenager.  When the scandal forced her to charge them, she still managed to make sure they were mildly punished, at most, for their crimes.Pamela Price, meanwhile, has a life-long history of fighting for human rights. A brilliant lawyer, with degrees from Yale and UC Berkeley law, she is one of the very few black women to successfully argue a case before the US Supreme Court.  After working as a defense attorney, she went on to represent victims of gender and race discrimination as well as police violence.  She has a comprehensive plan to turn around the Alameda County District Attorney’s office so it serves as an institution of justice, not of racism.Even if you don’t vote for anyone else this election, please come out and vote for Pamela Price.Pamela Price has been endorsed by Our Revolution national.

Sheriff/Coroner: Write in None of the Above**

Alameda County has one of the most right-wing, racist and xenophobic sheriffs in the nation.  Not only is he a strong supporter of Jeff Sessions and the Trump administration.  Not only is he a racist that considers all Latinos potential criminals and is pround of turning them all into ICE, but he encourages police brutality and police militarization.  Ahern, moreover, is engaged in dirty dealings, including getting contributions from vendors to his police foundation and having the foundation hire his wife.  Everyone is too afraid to run against him, but no person of conscience can vote for him.

Ballot Measures:

Prop. 68 – Water/Parks Protection  YES
Prop. 69 – Restriction on Motor Vehicles Taxes/Fees  YES
Prop. 70 – Greenhouse Gas Reduction Reserve Fund NO
Prop. 71 – Ballot Measure Effective Date YES
Prop. 72 – Property Tax Exclusion for Rainwater Capture Systems YES

There seems to be pretty wide consensus among moderates and progressives about how to vote on these measures.  Rather than analyze them individually, we refer you to the Green Party Voting Guide that thoroughly discusses them.

Measure RM3 –  Regional Bay Area Traffic Relief Plan  NO

This measure will increase tolls on Bay Area bridges to $8 by 2025 to build transportation improvements.  Our concern is that tolls are regressive measures, as they are disproportionately hard on those with lower incomes.  With rising BART and bus fares, regional travel is becoming unaffordable for families and low-income workers, and it is unfair to burden them with the cost of transportation to the same level than those with far higher incomes.

Measure A – Alameda County Childcare and Early Education Sales Tax NO

The cause is good and the money is necessary. However, a sales tax is a regressive instrument which forces the poor to contribute a disproportionately higher percentage of their income than the rich.  We simply cannot keep putting the weight of our social programs on the poor themselves.

(*Note: Members of the California Democratic Party cannot publicly support non-Democratic candidates or recommend that voters vote against the endorsed candidate of the Democratic Party for state or national office, under threat of being removed from the CDP’s Central Committee  Therefore, neither the recommendation to vote for non-Democrats nor the recommendation to vote against endorsed Democrats in this guide should be understood as being supported by Margarita Lacabe nor any other CDP member in the SLT editorial team).

** Note 2: While a write-in vote of None of the Above won’t officially count, some registrars, including Alameda County, count all the write-in votes and compute them into the percentage of votes that a candidate receives. Thus, write-in votes serve as unofficial protest votes and a way of expressing displeasure with all the choices. You can write in whatever you want, but do cast a write-in vote (in the line following the listing of the candidates on the ballot).

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