Margarita Lacabe

Oct 272016
 

how-to-be-an-informed-voter
Every year, I publish a Progressive Voters’ Guide to elections in Alameda County.  But SLT’s guide is just one of several voters guide and endorsement lists you can use. Here is a little guide to the other voter guides and endorsement lists, with my thoughts about them.  Please let me know of other local guides you know.

Green Voter Guide

This is a publication of the Green Party of Alameda County.  Very few Greens run for office, so most of the candidates the Greens recommend are progressive Democrats.  I like that they do their homework on them, sending comprehensive questionnaires for candidates to complete – which they then make public. And I like that they explain their choices.  What I don’t like about this guide is that it’s mostly concentrated in the northern part of Alameda County, though this time they endorsed one candidate running for Fremont City Council.

East Bay Express Endorsements

The East Bay Express is a progressive publication and they usually endorse progressive candidates.  However, the value of their recommendations is very much based on who is doing the endorsement – which they specify in their guide with the initials of the reporter making them.  Unlike other publications, the Express does not interview all the candidates in the races they endorse.   I put a lot of value on endorsements by Darwin BondGraham, an award-winning investigative reporter who has written profusely about corruption in Oakland.  While I don’t always agree with the Express’ new editor Nick Miller, I’ve been quite impressed by the quality of his writing and I have a lot of respect for his opinions.  On the other hand, I would be inclined to vote against anyone Steven Tavares recommends – as he favors those who talk to him and demonizes those who ignore him – and Azucena Rasilla’s arguments fail to impress.  Like the Green Party, the Express concentrates its endorsements on the northern part of Alameda county (but also includes southern Contra Costa county)

Eat Bay Times Endorsements

The East Bay Times interviews all candidates they endorse, usually candidates for the same race are interviewed together.  They’ve posted videos of a few of their interviews and they are pretty brutal. Candidates are asked intricate questions about the state of their city’s or district’s finances, and grilled on how they will tackle unfunded liabilities.  Generally, the candidate that has the deepest understanding of their agency’s budget and overall financial situation, and who makes the right noises about fiscal responsibility, gets the endorsement.  The EBT thus ends up endorsing ultra-progressive candidates as well as moderates and conservatives.   They provide explanations as for their endorsements as well and they cover the whole county!

Bloggers

In addition to myself, some bloggers have started publishing their own voter guides.  Often they are not for the whole county, but they can be useful if you live in the city or district in question.  Do you know of other bloggers with recommendations? Please let me know about them!

Pamela Drake’s Oakland Voter Guide

Pamela is a strong progressive and a member of the ACDCC.  I have a lot of respect for her and I take her recommendations seriously, even if I don’t always agree.

Less Useful Endorsement Lists

These lists are less useful as they usually don’t contain explanations of what the endorsement is based on.

Democratic Party Endorsements

The Democratic Party produces a list of endorsed candidates and measures with no explanation as to the basis for the endorsement. As an actual member of the central committee that makes these endorsements, I do not have much trust on these endorsements myself.

Democratic Club Endorsements

There are a bunch of regional or identity-based Democratic clubs in Alameda County which also endorse candidates.  The only club whose endorsement I find valuable is Wellstone Democratic Club, which takes a lot of time and care with their endorsements and usually gives them to the most progressive candidate.  Other clubs are often populated by people who work in politics or who are planning to run themselves, and their endorsements seem to be less ideological and more self-serving.   In addition, candidates seeking a club’s endorsement can get their supporters to join the club some time in advance and vote in that endorsement.   Clubs also don’t tend to give much of an explanation for their endorsements.

Labor

Both the Alameda Labor Council – an umbrella organization representing most local unions – and individual unions endorse in political races.  Labor’s endorsement is particularly priced as it comes with money and volunteers.  As you can expect, unions tend to endorse those candidates whom they believe will do them the greatest good – either because they believe they are most likely to get elected and because they want to get in their good side, or because they think they will vote their way if elected.   Sometimes that means people who support project labor agreements and raising the minimum, which are good. But sometimes it means people who are just in favor of unchecked development – as that creates construction jobs.

Police and Fire unions endorsements usually go to candidates who want to expand the budget of these departments, increase salaries and pensions and not hold them accountable. Teachers’ unions endorsements go to candidates who promise to support teachers vs. the administration, including in salary negotiations.

Other Organizations

There are a few other organizations that endorse in Alameda County, but I’ve not been greatly impressed by the quality of their endorsements.

Sierra Club

The endorsement of the Sierra Club sounds good, so smart kingmakers have joined it in order to install the endorsement upon their preferred candidates.  Often times these are candidates that show very little environmental concerns.  I pretty much ignore this endorsement.

Evolve

Evolve is a progressive organization that sends questionnaires to a myriad of candidates statewide and endorse based on them.  The questionnaires are simple ” agree/disagree”  questions.  Their endorsement should tell you that the candidate is not a right-wing nut, but it’s otherwise fairly easy to get.

Politicians

Politicians endorse candidates who

  1. they have a prior personal or political relationship with
  2. have endorsed them when they, themselves, were running
  3. they believe are likely to win their race, and thus provide them with a valuable reciprocal endorsement in the future
  4. have another practical reason for endorsing (e.g. a colleague asked them to, is of the same ethnic group, etc.)

There are some exceptions for politicians who endorse candidates based on their personal qualities or political ideology, but generally giving an endorsement is as strategic as receiving one.

Slate Mailers

These are mailers that bear names such as “The Coalition for Literacy,” “The Cops Guide”, “California Latino Voters’ Guide” and so forth. They are commercial mailers, made up by for-profit corporations, and candidates pay to have their name included. In most of them an asterisk by the name of the candidate indicates they’ve paid to be in it.

Candidates go for these because they are afraid that if they don’t, then their opponents will. The best thing to do with these is send them straight to the trash.  I’ve written a whole blog post about these, if you want to learn more about them.

Oct 182016
 

voteThese are my recommendations on how to vote on State and Local Propositions in Alameda County. Italics signify that I’m less sure about that recommendation. Comments are welcomed.  Please also check out my Progressive Voter Guide to Candidates running in Alameda County.

STATE & COUNTY PROPOSITIONS

Quick Guide

  • 51 = No
  • 52 = Yes
  • 53 = No
  • 54 = Yes
  • 55 =Yes
  • 56 = No
  • 57 = Yes
  • 58 = No
  • 59 = Yes
  • 60 = No
  • 61 = Yes
  • 62 = Yes
  • 63 = No
  • 64 = Yes
  • 65 = No
  • 66 = No
  • 67 = Yes
  • A1 = No

Proposition 51, School Bonds: No

This is a huge $9 billion bond measure that will fall upon our children to pay back.  What concerns me is that $1 billion of the funds will go to pay for charter schools and that the rest of the funds will not be distributed based on need but based on who applies first – a system that benefits large, well-off districts with full-time grant writers.  The Express and the Green Party have recommended voting against this measure and I’m planning to do so as well – I have no doubt that there will be another similar measure in a future ballot, as these seem to cycle through every couple of elections.

Proposition 52, Medi-Cal fees: Yes

In California, hospitals that want to accept Medi-Cal patients, must pay a fee to the state.  This fee is supposed to help cover the state’s own responsibility for matching federal Medi-caid funds, but some of the money has been diverted to the general fund.  This proposition will ensure that it all goes to pay for Medi-Cal or other health benefits for low income people.  Pretty much every newspaper and party supports it and it has no credible opposition – so I’m voting for it.

Proposition 53, Voter Approval for Most Bonds: No

Currently, the California Constitution does not require that voters approve bonds for projects, if the bonds are to be repaid by user fees rather than tax revenue. This measure would expand the requirement for voter approval for bonds of $2 billion and greater paid back by user fees.  This will basically add another layer of bureaucracy and increase the costs of building such projects, needlessly. Our legislators should be let to make some decisions on their own.  This measure is opposed by the Democratic, Green and Peace and Freedom Party as well as the Express and other papers. It’s supported by Republicans and Libertarians.  I hesitated on this proposition as it could be used to kill the aqueducts that will drain the delta to water central California, but we really should let legislators legislate.

Proposition 54, Transparency in Sacramento: Yes

This measure is a no brainer. It will require that bills be posted online 72 hours prior to voting, it will require that the Legislature record its proceedings and post them online within 24 hours and will allow any citizen to record legislative proceedings.  Basically, it brings a little bit more transparency to the Legislature, in line with what is done by most City Councils.  The proposition is supported by the Green Party and most newspaper. It’s opposed by the Democratic Party because it would prevent last minute backroom deals and – they claim – because recording of legislative procedures could end up in campaign attack ads.  Which only makes you wonder what exactly goes on during such proceedings. So this is a huge YES for me.

Proposition 55, Extending Prop 30: Yes

California schools were in crisis just a few years ago until the Prop 30, the “millionaires tax” was passed to give them much needed funding. Prop 30 expires in 2018 and this measure will extend it for 12 more years. Another easy yes.

Proposition 56, Cigarette Tax: No

I’m usually against all sales taxes, as they are recessive and needlessly hurt the poor.  That’s particularly true of cigarette taxes.  I hesitated because the higher price of cigarettes does seem to help stop young people from taking on smoking in the first place.  Still, for people who are addicted, the higher price may mean the difference between feeding their kids or not – and I can’t just accept that.

Proposition 57, Parole for Non-violent Offender and Changes for Minors Tried as Adults: Yes

This proposition will do three things: 1) Allow non-violent offenders who have done their time for their main offense with good behavior, to get automatic parole, 2) allow non-violent offenders to earn credits for good behavior and earning an education that would lead to an early parole and 3) allow judges, rather than prosecutors, to decide whether minors should be tried as adults.  These are three great ideas.  We need to reduce overcrowding in jails and non-violent offenders should have an incentive for behaving in prison.  Most importantly, prosecutors should not be deciding whether they try children as adults. Children should be tried as children because they are children.  Prosecutors have an incentive to get the maximum sentence, while hopefully judges can be more rational.

Proposition 58, Bilingual Education: No

For me, this is a very personal proposition. My siblings and I came to America as children speaking very little English.  I was able to take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and while I never got rid of my accent, and I still have problems with my prepositions, I was able to become fairly fluent in English fairly quickly.  My siblings, on the other hand, were put into so-called bilingual classes conducted purely in Spanish.  Even though they were younger than me, and therefore it should have been easier for them to learn English, it actually took them much longer to do so and they ended up with accents thicker than mine.  My younger sister never learned to speak English grammatically.  In High School, I had classmates in my ESL classes who had been in the US for many years and had even been born here – but had not learned English because they had been in bilingual education in elementary school.  This should not be surprising.  The best way to learn a language is through immersion – that’s how languages are taught in college and at the most prestigious language schools.

My youngest sister was born in the US and grew up speaking Spanish.  When my mother went to enroll her in school, she had to fight to keep her away from bilingual education classes.  She was successful, and my sister learned English perfectly – but I fear what the consequences would have been if my mother had not been as resolute in her stance.

Prop 227 stopped bilingual education in part because of xenophobic concerns, but in part because it was failing a large part of the student population.  Prop 58 brings bilingual education back, without fixing any of the problems that there were previously.  Under 58, schools will be able to put students in classes conducted in Spanish without their parents’ consent, and thus prevent them from learning English quickly.  I don’t want what happened to my siblings to happen to other kids.  Speaking English correctly and without an accent open many doors, let’s not shut them.

Proposition 59, Overturn Citizens United: Yes

This proposition is basically an affirmation that California voters oppose the Citizens United decision and a challenge for Californian legislators to bring up a constitutional amendment to reverse the decision.   I’m the biggest free speech defender out there, but as long as speech and money are fungible, we will leave in a plutocracy, not a democracy.  We deserve better.

Proposition 60, Condoms in Adult Films: No

This is a ridiculous proposition. It not only mandates that adult film stars wear condoms during sex acts, but it incentivizes citizens to watch porn movies, hoping to catch actors not wearing condoms, so they can sue the producers and keep part of the fine.  Yes, it’s that absurd. It’s an easy “no”.

Proposition 61, Price Control on Prescription Drugs: Yes

Another easy “yes”.  This proposition would require state agencies that pay for prescription drugs (mainly Medi-Cal and CalPers) to not pay prices higher than those paid by the Veterans Administration – the agency that negotiates the lowest drug prices.  Pharmaceutical companies have spent over $100 million to fight this measure, which tells you we should pass it.

Proposition 62, Abolish Death Penalty: Yes

Basically, it abolishes the death penalty and replaces it with life in prison without parole.  That may not be ideal for progressives, but we need to take this one step at the time.

Proposition 63, Gun Control: No

Where you fall on this should be based on where you fall on gun control.  This proposition ads a lot of new restrictions on guns, that would make it almost impossible for hobbyists to do target shooting. For example, before you buy ammunition, you have to get a license and pass a background check – which is sort of ridiculous if you are the sort of person who borrows a gun once a year to go target shooting.

Criminals, meanwhile, can go to Nevada and buy whatever they want.

Proposition 64, Marijuana Legalization: Yes

This proposition is by no means perfect.  It decriminalizes marijuana for adults 21 and over, but keeps it criminalized for 18 to 21 year olds, for no good reason whatsoever. It also apparently supports big businesses vs mom & pop operations.  But it’s better than the alternative and we should vote for it.

Proposition 65, Redirecting Grocery Bag Fees: No

This proposition would direct the fees charged for paper bags at grocery stores go to some fund.  Apparently it was put on the ballot by the plastic bag industry to mess with environmentalists. Let’s not play their game.

Proposition 66, Speed Up the Death Penalty: No

This would eliminate safety procedures and appeals by people sentenced to death, and make it more likely that innocent people will be executed.  It’s really disgusting to see this on the ballot.

Proposition 67, Plastic Bag Prohibition: Yes

This proposition would keep state law prohibiting stores from giving disposable plastic bags to customers.  It’s, literally, a mixed bag. Plastic bag bans lead to fewer plastic bags being used, but more paper bags – which require more water to produce, and lead to a release of more greenhouse gases when disposed.  But the ban does reduce litter, and I’m inclined to vote for it.

A1, Affordable Housing Bonds: No

Update: This measure will provide money to build thousands of affordable housing units in Alameda County. It will cost $40-$70 a year per household. I was originally in favor of this measure, but after hearing Supervisor Wilma Chan speak about this measure (which she initiated) I’m leaning against it. Part of the money is going to be used to give middle-income first-time home buyers (those making a combined salary of $130K or less) interest free home loans.  My concern about this is twofold.  On on the one hand, it seems to me that these government subsidies will just push up the price of homes: the subsidies will push more people to enter the market, competing for the same homes and pushing the prices up.   On the other hand, these loan subsidies will be given on a first-come, first-served basis, which I fear will work against people who are less plugged-into the system, while helping those with better connections.

The bond also includes funds to build affordable housing, and my concern here is that these will be spent to build low-income multi-unit housing projects, which work to stigmatize residents and isolate them from the community at large.  Bond money will be distributed through cities, and I know that I definitely don’t trust my city government to do a thoughtful job of that.

DISTRICTS

C1, AC Transit District Parcel Tax Extension: Yes

This extends a $96/year parcel tax to continue funding AC Transit.  Public transit is a key component on any climate change initiative and we need to continue to support it.

RR, BART Bond: Yes

If you are only going to vote for one tax measure this year, make it this one.  It allows BART to issue $3.5 billion in bonds – a huge amount of money by any measure, though it’ll be only about $2/$100K assessed value -, but it will allow BART to repair crumbling infrastructure and get a new train management system, which will allow it to run more trains (the current system is at its limit of how many trains can operate at the same time).   BART is at capacity during commute times now, so adding more trains is essential.

ALAMEDA

B1, School Parcel Tax Extension: Yes

Alameda has some of the best schools in the Bay Area because its citizens are willing to pay for them.  This is an extension of the existeing 32c/sq ft tax.  Good schools help keep property taxes high and make Alameda a great community – one in which I can’t personally afford to live, however.

K1, Utility Tax: No Recommendation

I haven’t looked into the implications of this tax.

L1, Weak Rent Control: No

This measure will confirm the compromise weak rent stabilization ordinance that the City Council already passed and it’s on the ballot to compete against the stronger rent control measure put in the ballot by renters rights advocates.

M1, Stronger Rent Control: Yes

This measure establishes “just cause evictions” (i.e., the landlord cannot kick you arbitrarily to get a new tenant at a higher rent), sets a limit on how much rents can be increased and creates a rent board.  At a time of rising rents, our communities need rent control to keep people in their homes and community life stable.

ALBANY

N1, Residential Parking Amendment:  No Recommendation

I haven’t done my homework on this one.

O1, Sugar Beverage Tax: No

It’s a regressive tax, and I oppose taxes that harm the poor the most.

P1, Sidewalk Repair Parcel Tax:  No Recommendation

This tax will cost an average of $39/year per 10 yeas and the money will go to repair sidewalks.  If you are in Albany look around, do the sidewalks look in need of repair? If so, vote yes.

Q1, Charter Revision:  No Recommendation

I haven’t done my homework on this one.

R1, Civil Service Board Charter Amendment:  No Recommendation

I haven’t done my homework on this one.

S1, Remove School Board Term Limits: Yes

The City of Albany is having trouble finding enough qualified candidates to run for School Board. This measure would allow candidates to run for more than two terms.  Most School Boards do not have term limits, and even then they have trouble filling vacancies, so this is not panacea to Albany’s problems, but perhaps it can help.

BERKELEY

  • E1 = Yes
  • T1 = ?
  • U1 = Yes
  • V1 = ?
  • W1 = Yes
  • X1 = Yes
  • Y1 = Yes
  • Z1 = Yes
  • AA = Yes
  • BB = No
  • CC = No
  • DD = No

E1, School Parcel Tax Extension: Yes

This is a 37c per square foot tax, which means that a relatively small house will pay $550 a year.  But it replaces an expiring tax and good schools require investment by the community.

T1, Infrastructure Bond: No Recommendation

This is $100 million in bonds to repair streets, parks, recreation centers, etc.  It will cost homeowners $40 to $120 annually. It’s probably a good idea.

U1, Big Landlord Tax: Yes

This is a tax on big landlords, it exempts non-profit affordable housing, new units and rent controlled units.

V1, Appropriation Limit Increase: No Recommendation

I haven’t done my homework on this one.

W1, Independent Redistricting Commission: Yes

This will establish an independent redistricting commission to draw Council districts after the next census. It’s worked great in California and should help prevent gerrymandering in Berkeley.

X1, Campaign Matching Funds: Yes

This creates public financing of elections in Berkeley by providing matching funds to candidates who agree to not accept more than $50 per donor.  Only contributions from Berkeley residents would be matched.  This is a great idea that should be exported to other cities.

Y1, Youth School Board Voting: Yes

This is a great measure, it will allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in Berkeley School Board elections.  This should have the effect of getting kids involved in the democratic process before they leave school, which hopefully will install good habits afterwards, and that people that are actually experiencing the results of School Board decisions will have a voice on them.  This is another measure that should be copied in other districts.

Z1, Low-rent Housing Authorization: Yes

This will allow affordable housing to be built in Berkeley.  It’s amazing that people have to vote to allow this to happen, but we do. So vote for it.

AA, Rent Control Strengthening: Yes

This will prevent landlords from evicting with children in schools until the end of the school year (yes, we have to legislate compassion, because some people don’t have any). It will also increase the relocation assistance landlords must pay when they evict tenants without fault.

BB, Minimum Wage Ordinance No

CC, Minimum Wage Ordinance No

Both of these ordinances were put in the ballot during the fight to increase the minimum wage between the conservative and the progressive elements in the council. They’ve come to an agreement and both sides ask that voters vote No in both measures.

DD, Residential Rental Unit Gross Receipts Tax: No

This was put in the ballot by landlords opposed to U1 to confuse things. Vote No.

HAYWARD

F1, Parks Bond: No Recommendation

It’s $250 in bonds to upgrade and repair Hayward parks. I don’t have a sense of how much this is needed as I don’t visit them.

EE Medical Cannabis Sales Tax: No

This measure will put a 15% tax on medical marijuana.  Medications of any kind should not be taxed.  It is obscene for cities to profit from the afflictions of their residents.  Please vote No on this measure.

OAKLAND

G1, School Parcel Tax: No Recommendation

Unlike the parcel taxes in other cities which assess the tax based on the square footage of the property, this is a flat $120 a year tax per parcel.  This makes it rather regressive, as people who can larger houses or large commercial buildings, pay as little as those who can only afford small houses.  Therefore I can’t recommend it.

HH Sugar-sweetened Beverage Tax: No

Sales taxes are regressive taxes that hurt the poor the most.

II, City-owned Property Lease Term Extension: No Recommendation

This will increase the maximum term for leasing city-owned property from 66 years to 99.  Supposedly, this should make it easier to build affordable housing.  I don’t know enough about the implications to make a recommendation.

JJ, Strengthens Rent Control: Yes

This measure extends just-cause evictions to buildings constructed before 1996 and forces landlords to petition the Rent Board before increasing rents above CPI.  Good things to create stability at this time of quickly rising rents.

KK, Housing Bond: No Recommendation

This is a $600 million bond to build affordable housing, updating libraries and community centers, fixing streets, etc.  Probably a good idea, but I haven’t looked into it.

LL, Police Oversight Board: Yes

This will create a semi-independent Police Commission that will have actual oversight over the Oakland Police.  The measure is not as strong as what community advocates wanted, but it’s what the Council compromised on and is much better than what we have now.  Given the extent of police misconduct in Oakland, a stronger oversight commission is needed. Please vote yes.

PIEDMONT

H1, School Bonds: No Recommendation

This will issue $66 million in bonds to improve and repair facilities.  I don’t know enough about the needs of  Piedmont schools to make a recommendation about it.

PLEASANTON

I1, School Bonds: No Recommendation

This will issue $270 million in bonds to improve and repair facilities.  I don’t know enough about the needs of  Pleasanton schools to make a recommendation about it.

MM, Keep Costco Out: No Recommendation

This initiative was put on the ballot to keep Costco out of Pleasanton, as it’s a non-union store that will compete with union grocery stores, and as it will create more traffic and hurt businesses in the existing location.  It’s really an uber-local measure and I can’t recommend one way or the other.

SAN LEANDRO

J1, School Bonds: No

San Leandro has passed two different bond measures in the last decade and we are pretty deeply indebted as it is.  This new $104 million bond measure was put in the ballot simply because it’s a presidential election, which means this measure only requires 55% approval to pass, and voters have been in a giving mood. The district started with that, and then went on to figure out how they could spend the money – rather than assessing needs, and then seeing how they could be covered.  The district has also been mismanaging previous bond funds. For example, they built fences around schools, even though such expenditures had not been approved by voters.  These bonds will cost $36.2 per $100K of assessed value, or about $181 a year for a medium home in San Leandro.

NN, Medical Marijuana Tax: No

Medicines should not be tax and the City should not profit from the ailments of its citizens. Please vote no.

OO Business License Relief for Small Businesses/Parking Lot & Warehouse Tax: Yes

This measure would eliminate the per-employee business license fee for businesses with three or fewer owners and/or employees, leaving them to pay a flat fee. It would also charge a 10% gross receipts fee for parking lots (this would mostly apply to the parking lots by the airport, the ones in Oakland are currently paying a similar fee) and a $100 per 1,000 sq feet for warehouses.  Given how prop 13 gives a pass to large commercial land owners from paying property tax, these fees seem more than fair.

PP Hotel Tax Increase: No Recommendation

This measure will increase hotel taxes from 10% to 14% – Oakland’s occupancy tax is 14%, but Hayward’s is only 8.5%.  I’m not sure how I’ll vote on this tax.

Oct 022016
 
Jesse Arreguin

Jesse Arreguin

SLT’s endorsements and recommendations are based upon personal or phone interviews, questionnaires sent to the candidates and other research on them.  I only endorse candidates that I believe are truly progressive, support a clean government agenda, transparency and accountability.

Endorsing Jesse Arreguín for Mayor of Berkeley is a no-brainer and probably an exercise in futility.  After all, Jesse has already been endorsed by both the Democratic Party and the Green Party, Alameda Central Labor and the Sierra Club, Democracy for America, Dolores Huerta and the Berkeley Planet, in addition to dozens of other progressive organizations, politicians and activists.  Most importantly, Jesse has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders himself!   So what can my humble endorsement mean among so many?

I’m endorsing Jesse because he is the most progressive politician in Alameda County today – and one of the very, very few with the guts to stand up against police brutality, against social cleansing laws, and against unchecked development meant to benefit developers rather than citizens  Jesse is a man of conviction, a man with the intelligence to navigate the landmines of a corrupt political system and survive with only minor wounds, and a man of integrity, who does not sell out his community for power or for money.  Bernie Sanders called on progressives to not just to vote for the best choice in the ballot, but to find champions that will fight for economic equality, human rights and a fair society.  Jesse, more than anyone I know, is that champion.

As for his opponent Laurie Capitelli, all I need to say is that at the Democratic Central Committee endorsement meeting, he refused to call himself a progressive. I applaud his honesty, but if Berkeley cannot have a progressive Mayor, we’re pretty doomed.

Sep 302016
 
cullen

Cullen Tiernan

Incumbent Vinnie Bacon Recommended for Second Council Seat

No Recommendation for Mayor (yet?)

The November elections are almost upon us and it’s time for San Leandro Talk’s endorsements of candidates running for local office in Alameda County.  My endorsements and recommendations are based upon personal or phone interviews, questionnaires sent to the candidates and other research on them.  I only endorse candidates that I believe are truly progressive, support a clean government agenda, transparency and accountability.  My recommended candidates may not fulfill the same requirements, but they are still the best progressive choices in their respective races.

Cullen Tiernan is new to politics.  He spent most of his adult life in the Marine Corps, where he served as a combat correspondent in Iraq, Mozambique and other countries I had no idea the US military was involved in.  Yet he emerged from that experience as an optimist and a peace loving, community-first, problem-solving progressive that is ready to roll up his sleeves and work for a better America – and a better Fremont.

cullenwar

Cullen Tiernan at the Democratic National Convention

As the son of the editor of a political magazine, Cullen always understood the importance of politics, but he got his first taste of grassroots political activism when he joined the Bernie Sanders campaign.  “I share Bernie Sanders’ belief that ‘we are all in this together,'” Cullen told me “and I was impressed by Bernie’s willingness to speak out about the corrupting effect of money in politics.”  Cullen organized volunteers, knocked on doors, made phone calls, and put his communication skills to work.  Eventually, he was elected as a delegate to represent Sanders at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.  That is how we met and where I got to witness his courage in speaking truth to power and his kindness in showing respect for all points of views and treating everyone with dignity and consideration.  Those are exactly the qualities that will make him an effective City Councilmember.

Cullen is running for the Fremont City Council on a community-centered agenda.  He wants to tackle issues that directly affect the present-day quality of life of Fremont citizens, such as traffic and school overcrowding, without losing sight of the need to make development sustainable and take care of the environment.  “Fremont is actually a great place to live.” Cullen told me.  “I just want to make sure it stays that way and we push it forward in an environmentally friendly way. ”

In practical terms, Cullen wants to bring government to the community: reach out to all the different neighborhood and ethnic groups that live in the City and make sure their views are taken into account before the City Council moves forward with any proposals. Sounds simple, but in practice it seldom ever happens.  Cullen is already initiating hundreds of these conversations.   While some of Cullen’s plans are very ambitious – he wants to end homelessness for veterans (to begin with) in Fremont –  others are more concrete.   He supports helping multi-unit buildings to install charging stations for electric cars and wants to turn the Fremont animal shelter into a no-kill shelter.   Ultimately, it’s his overall vision of Fremont as a city that puts the community first and his willingness to watch out for the interests of citizens which really impress me.

I’m particularly comforted that, true to his Bernie Sanders roots, Cullen is not taking money from developers or running with the support of the Police Union – two institutions that have traditionally manacled the Fremont City Council and forced them into bad decisions both in terms of development and of curtailing civil liberties.  Indeed, Cullen is in the “clean money” slate, which also includes Vinnie Bacon and Lily Mei, who is running for Mayor.

***

Vinnie Bacon

Vinnie Bacon

I am recommending Vinnie Bacon for the second City Council seat up for election this November.   Vinnie is the only incumbent running and I’ve had the pleasure of serving with him in the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, so I know him well.  An environmentalist with a masters degree in Urban Planning, Vinnie is by far the most progressive Councilmember in Fremont today. He has also vowed to not take money from developers and and indeed, he has been often the single vote against badly planned developments.  I respect that he stood up to the very machine-driven Democratic Party, chose to no longer seek the Party’s endorsement, and has chosen to run in a “clean money” slate with Cullen Tiernan and Lily Mei.  This takes a lot of courage and integrity.

I’m recommending him, rather than endorsing him, because of a couple of votes that I find problematic.  He supported placing surveillance cameras in Fremont, despite ample academic work that shows surveillance cameras do not serve to reduce crime, and he voted to ban medical marijuana patients from growing marijuana in their backyards and from having it delivered from elsewhere.  As Fremont does not have a dispensary, this forces medical marijuana patients who are not healthy enough to travel outside Fremont, to suffer without access to the medicine they need.

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At this time, I am NOT MAKING A RECOMMENDATION FOR MAYOR given that both candidates, incumbent Mayor Bill Harrison and Council Member Lily Mei have cast problematic votes (e.g. in favor of the marijuana ban) and neither has responded to my questionnaire or my invitation to meet.

 

Sep 202016
 

revengeThe City of Oakland has set up a service to help Bay Area citizens get back at anyone (or at least, any male) whom they feel has done them wrong.   All they need to do is complete this form, entering the license plate number of their target’s car and make up a story as to how they were seen soliciting prostitution in some neighborhood known for such.   In response, “the Oakland Police Department will send a letter to the registered owner stating that the vehicle has been observed in an area known to have high incidences of sexual exploitation and trafficking.”  If the target opens the letter, it may just confuse him – but if it’s opened or seen by a family member or significant other, it could cause all sorts of strife.  Just what a jilted lover, upset political rival or unhappy business partner might want.

To make it easier for would-be-avengers, the report can be submitted anonymously.  While it’s technically illegal to submit false information to police, anyone who uses a public wi-fi connection and then deletes the cache of the form from their internet device, can feel fairly assured that it won’t be traced back to them.

The form is likely to be particular popular with High School girls dumped by their boyfriends, as their cars are most often registered in their parents’  names.