Welcome to San Leandro Talk’s Guide to the most progressive candidates running for office in Alameda County. It also covers state propositions and local measures.
National & State Races
PRESIDENT: No Recommendation
Update: As a member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, I cannot advocate that anyone not vote for the Democratic Party’s nominee or that they vote for someone else. I am therefore not doing either. However, when I ran I made it clear that I could never support Hillary Clinton and I stand by my word.
Progressives have three solid choices in California. They can vote for Peace and Freedom Party candidate Gloria La Riva, Green Party candidate Jill Stein or write-in Bernie Sanders. While a vote for La Riva or a write-in vote for Sanders are basically protest votes, voting for Stein will help her get the 5% of the vote the Green Party needs for it to receive public campaign financing in 2020, and thus potentially help push the Democratic Party to the left. I’m voting my conscience and I hope you do too.
US SENATE: Loretta Sanchez
Loretta Sanchez has accused Muslims of wanting to install a Caliphate and has insulted Native Americans. but she voted against the Patriot Act and against the war in Iraq and has a fairly liberal voting record in Congress. While she eventually endorsed Clinton, she held a fundraiser for Bernie Sanders and she has called on Obama to put a stop to the North Dakota Pipeline. . Kamala Harris is pro-mass surveillance, seems to have strong neo-con tendencies and wants the US to kneel before Israel. As Attorney General she has failed to address the epidemic of police brutality against mostly people of color and has refused to investigate the police victimization of Celeste Guap. She is a big Clinton supporter. I’m voting for Sanchez.
CD 13: Barbara Lee
Barbara is one of the most liberal members of Congress, a strong voice against war and for civil liberties. While she didn’t endorse Bernie Sanders, she also did not endorse Clinton until Bernie was ready to do the same. I’m voting for Barbara Lee.
CD 15: No Recommendation
Incumbent Democrat Eric Swalwell faces a weak Republican that is not campaigning and will easily win re-election. Swalwell is a corporate Democrat, a former prosecutor, that has shown concern about student debt and yet endorsed Hillary Clinton. He has shown little interest in protecting civil liberties. If I lived in this district, I’d write in Pete Stark.
CD 17: Ro Khanna
I first endorsed Ro Khanna when he ran in 2014 and continue to support him. I’m impressed by his expressed commitment to a non-imperialistic foreign policy and to human rights. Alone among all candidates to Congress, he was endorsed by former President Jimmy Carter. Mike Honda was a nice man, but he seems to have lost his mental faculties, is in the midst of a Congressional ethics investigation and is running a disgustingly racist campaign. I’d vote for Ro Khanna.
SD 9: No Recommendation
I endorsed Nancy Skinner when she ran on the primary and voted to give her the Democratic endorsement (ultimately, neither candidate received it), but I’m concerned about some of her actions that were directed towards harming the Progressive Revolution that Bernie Sanders has started. I was happy to see Sandre Swanson attend the recent Bernie Sanders rally in San Francisco. They are both strong progressives, though Skinner is a far more effective one. At this point, I haven’t decided whom I will vote for. I’m still undecided.
AD 15: No Recommendation
Democratic Incumbent Tony Thurmond is a pretty strong liberal, but he supported Hillary Clinton which gives me pause. However, he’s doing a good job in Sacramento. I’d vote for Tony Thurmond.
AD 16: No Recommendation
Incumbent Catharine Baker is a moderate Republican, but some of her votes are inexcusable. For example, she voted to deny farm workers overtime pay! Democratic challenger Cheryl Cook-Kallio is more conservative than I, but she’ll be an improvement over Baker. I’d vote for Cook-Kallio.
AD 18: No Recommendation
Incumbent Rob Bonta will easily win this race against an invisible Republican opponent. Bonta is a transactional politician, he is good on Labor issues- because he relies on labor to fill his campaign coffers – but not on civil liberties or other matters without big pocketed donors. I’ll write in Lou Filipovich.
AD 20: No Recommendation
Incumbent Democrat Bill Quirk has a mixed record. He voted against the farm workers overtime bill the first time around, but redeemed himself when it came for re-vote. He’s good on surveillance and privacy issues, however. I’d vote for Bill Quirk.
AD 25: No Recommendation
I haven’t paid any attention to what Kansen Chu is doing, so I can’t say anything about him. I’d do my research.
Superior Court Judge Office #1: No Recommendation
I have reservation about both candidates and I don’t actually support electing judges. Therefore I’m going to seat this race out.
At Large: No recommendation
Long term incumbent Chris Peeples faces retired bus driver Dollene Jones. Peeples is a strong progressive, but he has been criticized for supporting the purchase of expensive Belgium made buses and has lost the confidence of some public transit advocates. Jones, meanwhile, didn’t answer my questionnaire because she was afraid someone would steal her ideas. I’ll vote for Peeples.
Ward 2: No recommendations
District 3: No recommendation
Updated: Incumbent Rebecca Saltzman represents my district and she has been extremely responsive whenever we’ve contacted her with any concerns. She has been particularly good on issues concerning surveillance and police brutality, and she voted to not press charges against the BART protesters. She supported Hillary in the primary so I’m not officially recommending her, but I’ll happily vote for Saltzman.
District 5: No recommendation
Incumbent John McPartland supported prosecuting the BART protesters and would support similar prosecutions in the future, so I cannot recommend him. His challenger, however, is former Pleasanton Mayor Jennifer Hosterman, who did not provide specific answers to my questionnaire. In other interviews, she expressed opposition to Measure RR (the BART bond that will allow for the modernization of the system), while acknowledging that the system does need to be modernized. She seems to be running in an anti-labor platform, and I see no compelling reason to support her. I‘d probably just not vote on this race.
District 7: Don’t vote for incumbent Zakhari Mallett
Mallet was elected on contractor money, and has shown no interest in being accessible to the community. He did not answer either my questionnaire or the Green Party’s. Mallet, moreover, strongly sided against labor in past disputes. Both the Democratic and Green parties have endorsed Lateefah Simon, but she has not answered my questionnaire, so I don’t know anything about her views on freedom speech, surveillance and policing in BART. Will Roscoe did not answer my questionnaire and Roland Emerson is too pro-surveillance and anti-protest to get my vote (if I was voting in that district). I‘d probably vote for Simon as she’s the most viable candidate against Mallet.
WARD 2: Dionisio “Dee” Rosario
I hesitate a little in making this recommendation because I don’t know Rosario that well. Still, his answers to my questionnaire were good and he showed a lot of knowledge and, most imporantly, passion for parks during the Democratic endorsement interview. He is in favor of returning the armored vehicle that EBRP police has. Rosario has gotten the endorsement of both the Democratic and Green parties and he supported Bernie in the primary! I’d vote for Dee Rosario
WARD 4: No recommendation
Ellen Corbett is my former State Senator. She’s a moderate liberal, with a strong record on consumer rights. She will surely be a competent board member, and her extensive government experience will surely be useful for the park district, but I don’t fully know how much baggage she will also be bringing into this role. She did, of course, get the Democratic endorsement. Daniel Chesmore is a very young, enthusiastic politician-in-the-making. He seems quite progressive, but he works (or worked) for a charter school organization, which gives me a little bit of pause. I’m also a bit concerned that he’s looking to run for something, rather than have a specific interest in parks. Still, he lives in East Oakland and will represent a constituency – that of low income urban park users – that is not otherwise represented. The issues he spoke about in his questionnaire have not been raised by other candidates and I think there is much to be said for having a diverse board in terms of age. Otis Lee Sanders, meanwhile, did not respond to my e-mails. I’ll be voting for Dan Chesmore.
COMMUNITY COLLEGE BOARDS
Chabot, District 7: No Recommendation
William Macedo’s answers to my questionnaire were fine. He received the Democratic endorsement and the Green Party did not endorse in this race (the Green Party usually only endorses in the northwestern part of Alameda County). His opponent, Edralin Maduli, is a Republican and did not answer my questionnaire. I’d vote for Macedo.
Peralta, District 6: No recommendation
Updated: I heard both Nick Resnick and Karen Weinstein speak at the Democratic Party interview. Neither seemed to have a deep knowledge of the financial issues concerning the district, but beyond that I couldn’t decide what made a candidate better than the other. I had a long talk with Karen Weinstein, and I’m now confident that I would vote for her if I was in the district. Karen is a psychologist and a counselor, and I think her skills will be useful in bringing professionalism to the Board. She has very progressive political views, she sees community colleges as a fundamental tool for taking students out of poverty, she understands education as a tool for social change and she shares my distrust of police forces. Basically, she is a bleeding heart liberal (despite her unwise support of Hillary Clinton). Resnick, with whom I haven’t spoken, has awoken the distrust of organized labor because of his ties with a charter school organization. I’d vote for Weinstein.
WATER AND SANITARY BOARDS
Water and sanitary boards are usually made up of engineers and people with technical knowledge. None of the races this time are in my district, so I’m weary of making recommendations. Plus, incumbents are pretty much always re-elected to these races. So, for these races, I will allow myself to make recommendations that come from my heart, not necessarily careful analysis.
Alameda County Water District Board (choose 3): Aziz Akbari
He’s very young, energetic, has done his homework on water, seems fairly progressive and would bring a different perspective to the board.
Castro Valley Sanitary District Board (choose 3): John Maher
This is pure cronyism. John serves with me at the ACDCC, and he’s a lovely, wonderful, super progressive, retired union worker. I just love him. He may not have the expertise of the incumbent board members, but there is something to be said about having good, decent human beings be in positions of power.
Oro Loma Sanitary District Board (choose 2): Dan Walters
Dan is another decent human being, more conservative than I in many ways, but a good man. He is a chemical engineer who just LOVES water treatment plans and knows everything about everything connected to garbage. He’s also smart and fiscally conservative, so a good person to have in a board. But mostly, I recommend him because he really has a childish enjoyment of water treatment plants that I find so cute. He is the only incumbent I’m recommending.
Oro Loma Sanitary District Board Short Term (choose 2): Chike Udemezue
Chike is a Nigerian immigrant who has written a book about the social implications of Nigerian accounting practices. How cool is that?
Cities & School Districts
City of ALAMEDA
City Council (choose 2): Don’t vote for Malia Vella
No progressives are running on this race and there are just no good or even mildly acceptable choices. None of the candidates responded to my questions or invitation to speak.
Malia Vella is probably the worst of the bunch. She is a political operative with endless political ambitions. She has moved around different jobs working for Democratic politicians and unions, and likes to work behind the scenes supporting candidates that can help her political career. She is originally from San Leandro, where she has backed candidates that support mass surveillance and police militarization, while opposing rent control. Labor has poured tens of thousands of dollars into her race and she’s supported by the Firefighters union and the conservative Alamedans United PAC. The Green Party recommends voters do not vote for her, while the Democratic Party had endorsed her.
Incumbent Marilyn Ashcraft has also received the endorsement of the Democratic Party and the anti-endorsement of the Green Party, and is also supported by the Alamedans United PAC. She has an undistinguished record as a Council member. Tony Daysog is a self-described conservative who opposes rent control. Lena Tam voted to militarize the Alameda Police when she previously in the City Council. Jennifer Roloff is the only newcomer and she got the Green Party’s endorsement, but she didn’t reply to my questions. I’d probably just vote for Roloff in this race.
School Board (choose 3): No recommendations
Gray Harris is a former teacher who has been active in Democratic politics. She is very progressive and I’ve heard she’s a great teacher. She was appointed to the Board and apparently she is doing a fairly good job. She isn’t a Berniecrat, however, otherwise I’d recommend her.
Ardella Daily, Matt Hettich and Jennifer Williams did not answer my questionnaires, while Dennis Popalardo did, so he would get my second vote by default. I had a great meeting with Anne McKereghan, and while she’s definitely more conservative than I am, I was impressed by her personal commitment to Alameda schools, where she has been a parent volunteer for many years. I would vote for Gray Harris, Dennis Popalardo and Anne McKereghan.
City Auditor: No recommendation
City Treasurer: No recommendation
These are two very technical positions and I did not research how good a job the incumbents were doing to be able to make a recommendation one way or the other as to whether to vote for them. I’d vote for the incumbents in both races.
City Council (choose 3): No recommendations
The only candidate to answer my questionnaire was Amber Whitson, though Nick Pilch has reached out and I’m trying to schedule an interview. If I was in Albany I’d probably vote for Amber, just to bring a new voice and a very different perspective to the City Council, but she probably lacks the knowledge of City Hall that would make her an effective council member.
Incumbent Michael Barnes refused to answer my questionnaire, claiming he was no longer a Democrat. The Green Party recommends you vote against him given his history of vitriol and personal attacks in public fora. As mentioned, Erik Giesen-Fields and incumbent Peter Maas did not return my questionnaire. I’d probably vote for Whitson and Pilch on this race.
School Board (choose 2): No recommendations
Kim Trutane, Jon Raj Destin and Clementina Duron all seem well qualified, progressive candidates that would do a good job in the Albany School Board. Jacob Clark, a teacher in San Leandro schools no less, did not return my questionnaire or the Green Party’s. I’d probably vote for Trutane and Destin.
Berkeley has ranked choice voting.
Mayor: Jesse Arreguin
This race is mostly between Council members Jesse Arreguin, who was endorsed by Bernie Sanders himself, and Laurie Capitelli who has refused to call himself a progressive. Write down Kriss Worthington as your second choice. I’d vote for 1) Jesse Arreguin, 2) Kriss Worthington, 3) leave blank
City Council District 2: Cheryl Davila
Darryl Moore did not respond to either my questionnaire or the Green Party’s and he has consistently voted with the regressive forces in the Berkeley City Council.
Cheryl Davila is a strong progressive who has the guts to say she’s voting for Jill Stein – in a year where Stein supporters have been harassed and insulted ad infinitum by establishment types. Then again, so is her opponent Nancy Armstrong-Temple. Both come highly recommended by progressive activists I respect very much. I believe they both will champion social justice and human rights in Berkeley. Davila returned my questionnaire, so I’m more inclined to vote for her first. I’d ranked choice vote 1) Davila and 2) Armstrong-Temple.
City Council District 3: No recommendations
None of the candidates answered my questionnaire and only two answered the Green Party’s. Ben Bartlett’s complete answers are not online (or were not submitted) but he got the nod as the number one choice from the Green Party, as well as the Democratic endorsement. He is also the choice of the progressive politicians in Berkeley. Both Al Murray and Mark Coplan seem run-of-the mill moderate progressives. I’d probably vote for 1) Bartlett, 2) Coplan, 3) Murray
City Council District 5: Sophie Hahn
Sophie Hahn is a strong progressive, with a history of women’s rights and human rights activism, as well as with deep involvement in her own community. She is supported by and will vote with the progressive side of the Council. She has my full endorsement. I’d vote for Sophie Hahn.
City Council District 6: Frederick Denman Dodsworth, III
Frederick Denman Dodsworth, III is a very strong progressive and out of the box thinker. He’s exactly the sort of morally courageous not-quite politician that you want to have make decisions at City Hall. He has my full endorsement. I did not get a questionnaire back form Isabelle Gaston, but I would rank her second simply because she is not incumbent Susan Wengraf, whose lack of respect for human dignity was made apparent by her advocacy of the sit-lie ordinance (which Berkeley voters wisely rejected). Wengraf was endorsed by the Democratic Party and anti-endorsed by the Green Party. I’d vote 1) Fred Dodsworth, 2) Isabelle Gaston
School Board (choose 2): No recommendations
Incumbents Beatriz Leyva-Cutler and Judith Appel are typical Berkeley progressives and seem competent in their positions. I would probably vote for them if I was a Berkeley resident. Challenger Abdur Sikder did not return my questionnaire and his answers to the Green Party’s one were uninspiring. I’d vote for Leyva-Cutler and Appel.
Rent Review Board (choose 4): Alejandro Soto-Vigil, Christina Murphy, Leah Simon-Weisberg, Igor Tregub
This is the progressive, pro-rent control slate. And they’ve actually been endorsed by Bernie Sanders! I’d vote for Soto-Vigil, Murphy, Simon-Weisberg and Tregub.
School Board (choose 3): No recommendations
I received answers to my questionnaire from Tojo Thomas and heard Lavender Whitaker and Monica Lee speak at the Democratic endorsements. The three are supported by the teachers’ union. Suresh Gupta and incumbent Jo A.S. Loss did not return my questionnaires. I’d vote for Thomas, Whitaker and Lee.
Mayor: No recommendation
The Mayor is a Republican while his opponent is a perennial candidate, who has run for an office or the other for the last 28 years. I’d do a funny write-in.
City Council (choose 2): Arun Goel
UPDATED: Arun Goel is a strong smart growth, clean money, Bernie Sanders progressive. He’s served in the Planning Commission and is concern about transparency and dirty money in city politics. I met with him for a couple of hours, and I was very impressed with his integrity and the value he puts on community input and evidence and policy-based decisions (as opposed to lobbyist based). He faces a strong challenge from Melissa Hernandez Strah, Mona Lisa Ballesteros and Republican appointed incumbent Doreen Wehrenberg. Hernandez Strah and Ballesteros both got the endorsement of the Democratic Party, after being put on consent by the Executive Committee. In the Tri-Valley, the Democratic party usually endorses candidates that support developer interests as the Democratic party vice-chair for that district, Angela Ramirez-Holmes, works as a lobbyist for developers. Meanwhile, Alameda Central Labor – which is often interested in backing candidates that will create construction jobs – endorsed Hernandez-Strah and Wehrenberg, despite the latter being a Republican. I’d vote for Goel.
(Note: this section has been updated to give the reasons why I suspect that developers are backing Wehrenberg, Hernandez-Strah and Ballesteros – though it may very well be that they just want to make sure that Goel does not get elected).
School Board (vote for 3): No recommendation
I didn’t get back questionnaires from any of the people running and I haven’t researched the candidates.
School Board, Short Term (vote for 1): No recommendations
City Council (choose 3): No recommendations yet
Emeryville’s two blogs have done a great job of interviewing candidates, and I’m still not done going through all their answers.
School Board (choose 2): No recommendations
Barbara Inch gave great answers both to my questionnaire and the Green Party’s. She is a Clinton supporter, however. She got both the Democratic and Green party endorsements. Cruz Vargas didn’t answer either questionnaire and Ken Bukowski answered the Green Party’s but not mine. I was not impressed by his answers. Still, Emery School Board President John Affeldt just resigned, so there will be one more vacancy in the district, so it’s likely that whoever doesn’t get elected will get appointed. I’d vote for Barbara Inch.
Mayor: No recommendation
Current Mayor Bill Harrison is a Democrat and active in the party, but he takes copious campaign contributions from developers and votes to do their bidding. He has also voted for mass surveillance and against allowing marijuana cultivation or the delivery of medical marijuana within Fremont. Challenger City Council member Lily Mei shares his anti-civil liberties agenda, but does not take money from developers or is a guaranteed vote for developer interests. She’s running in a slate with Cullen Tiernan and Vinnie Bacon, whom I do support, but as a School Board members he voted to prohibit an AP English teacher from teaching an award winning book because she objected to the subject matter. Neither Harrison nor Mei responded to my questions or request to talk.
Update: Developers and the Police Union have skirted campaign finance laws by contributing sixty thousand dollars to the Democratic Party, which in turn and after taking a cut, has put out mailers for Harrison. This is the type of legal but unethical behavior that makes me ashamed of being a Democrat, for this reason alone I’d wrote for Lily Mei
City Council (choose 2): Cullen Tiernan and Vinnie Bacon
Click on their names to read my full explanation for this recommendation. I’d vote for Tiernan and Bacon.
School Board (choose 3): No recommendation
Fremont has four good candidates for School Board, who seem to have similar ideologies and commitment to education. Ann Crosbie has been in the School Board for a while and is active in the Democratic Party. Desrie Campbell, has been there for a term and she brings a diversity perspective that may otherwise be lacking in the Board. Michelle Berke is a special education teacher, specializing in deaf education and Dax Choksi is a techie dad wanting to bring that emphasis into the district. They are all intelligent people, even if not as progressive as I might like (Crosbie, Campbell and Choksi filled out my questionnaire and suggested they were Clinton supporters, Berke and Hiu Ng did not fill it out). I know Ann Crosbie the best, and despite her Hillary-ism, I’d probably vote for her. She is extremely knowledgeable about the schools, she is committed to education and she would not ban important books from being taught in AP classes, as other Board members have before. I also really liked Berke’s energy. Alas, I’m uncomfortable about recommending the two white women who are running, as it makes me wonder whether I’m responding to a hidden bias in myself. So I’d probably just go with my gut on voting day.
Updated: The Hayward School Board is a big mess. Incumbent candidate John Taylor actually took advantage of the district’s print shop to get heavily discounted printing done for his business and City Council campaign, and then didn’t even pay for it. He also had the n0w-fired Superintendent act as his Campaign Treasurer, a pretty big conflict of interest. Meanwhile, the Superintendent was giving contracts to former Board members and the Board is in complete disarray, with members fighting and insulting each other. Hayward schools now need a new Superintendent, but nobody will want to work with the existing Board, so it’s time to vote all the incumbents away.
Some community members have gotten together and created a slate with candidates Daniel Goldstein, Robert Carlson and Todd E. Davis. Of the three, only Davis was able to get the endorsement of the Democratic Party. Carlson is a Republican. Wynn Grcich is a Republican and I couldn’t find any information, including contact info, on Joe Ramos. If I was in Hayward, at this point I’d vote for Todd Davis and Daniel Goldstein.
(choose3): Don’t vote for Michael Ritchie
Jeff Wang was the only candidate to answer my questionnaire, but his answers were intelligent, well thought out and progressive – which is puzzling given that he is a registered Republican. I never was able to figure out a time to meet with Lance Nishihira, but based on his blog, he sounds like an intelligent progressive candidate. I could make no such determination about Sharan Kaur, who gives very little information about her views on her webpage. Meanwhile, incumbent Jonas Dino does not seem to have even bothered with a web page. After 16 years as a School Board member, he may feel like he doesn’t need it. Alas, I couldn’t find much about him beyond the fact that he is an independent and was in the School Board when the district was sued by the ACLU for violating students’ fourth amendment rights (they settled).
Finally, appointed Michael Ritchie actually refused to answer my questions. If I was a voter in Union City, I’d vote for Wang and Nishihira.
Oakland has ranked choice elections.
City Council, At Large: Matt Hummel
Matt Hummel is a former Occupy Oakland and Bernie Sanders activist, deeply involved with the community. He’s currently the Chair of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. He supports all the right things and would be perfect to have in the Council. However, he may be too progressive even for Oakland so the ranked choice system was created just for candidates like him: so you can vote for them first, without having to worry that you’ll be splitting the progressive vote and letting a conservative win.
Your second choice vote thus should go to incumbent Rebecca Kaplan. Kaplan is sometimes too much of a politician, and often it takes her too long to throw her weight behind the right issues, but she ultimately does and she’s a strong progressive vote on most issues. Her help defeating the DAC and establishing the police accountability commission was invaluable. Rebecca was a strong Bernie supporter during the primary and spoke at Bernie rallies.
I had a long meeting with Bruce Quan and came out impressed by his intelligence, his vast experience and his willingness to spend his own money to run a campaign he’s unlikely to win because he’s tired of the cat fighting at the City Council and the lack of progressive change in Oakland. He seems very concerned about reforming the police, creating real affordable housing and dealing with issues of gentrification. I’m recommending him third because he wasn’t as prominent a Bernie backer as Kaplan was.
Whatever you do, don’t vote for Peggy Moore or Nancy Sidebotham. Sidebotham seems very conservative, she’s against the police commission, rent control and pretty much everything. Moore, meanwhile, is running to be a vote for Mayor Libby Schaaf in the Council (she’s currently Schaaf’s Senior Advisor), was political director for Hillary Clinton, and she actually shoved a Sanders delegate and the Convention and lied to get his credentials pulled. Moore has been accused of bullying behavior in other instances, and that cannot be tolerated in an elected official. I’d vote for 1) Hummel, 2) Kaplan, 3) Quan.
City Council, District 1: Dan Kalb
Dan Kalb is not always my favorite politician. He often seems to lack initiative and the courage to go against the establishment, but he usually ends up voting the right way and supporting human rights and civil liberties. He also has deep concerns about social justice issues, including affordable housing and homelessness. He can be too political, however. For example, when I ran for re-election for Central Committee, he endorsed all the incumbents plus Peggy Moore, but not me (I didn’t ask him or anyone else for an endorsement either, because I don’t play these type of political games). His opponent, however, showed at the Democratic candidate forum that he had very poor understanding of how the City of Oakland is ran and that he had not even looked at the budget. That may be acceptable in cities with low quality candidates such as San Leandro, but it doesn’t fly in Oakland. Plus, he will be a tool of the Police Union, which is pouring money and support behind him to punish Kalb for supporting the creation of an independent police commission. Kalb got both the Green Party and the Democratic Party endorsement. I’d vote for Kalb.
City Council, District 3: Noni Session
Noni Session is everything you want in a progressive politician. She grew up in West Oakland, and after going to Cornell for her PhD in Anthropology and spending time abroad doing field research, she’s back at home to make a difference in her community. She was recruited by other neighborhood activists to run because they felt that incumbent was not responsive to their needs. Session is a strong progressive, who registered as a Democrat to vote for Bernie Sanders, and she will be a true champion for social justice and human rights in the Council (and right now, there isn’t one). If you heed just one of my recommendations in Oakland this year, vote for Session.
I should say that I do like incumbent Lynette Gibson McElhaney, who I find to be both intelligent and thoughtful. However, she is sometimes slow to move on progressive issues, such as establishing an independent citizens police commission (but at least she moves, which can’t be said for other members of the Council) and, more disturbingly, the Grand Jury this year found that she had violated Oakland ethics and conflict of interest rules, by intervening with City staff about a development near her home. Session is too progressive for our local Demoratic Party, but she got the Green Party and the East Bay Express’ endorsements. I’d vote for Session
City Council, District 5: No recommendation
Noel Gallo is too conservative for me to actually recommend him. He is in favor of youth curfews, for example, and he was a supporter of the Domain Awareness Center for quite a while. However, he proved to be a really ally on the fight for an independent citizens’ police commission. His opponent, Viola Gonzales, opposes the Commission and has received the support of the police union. Gallo got both the Democratic and Green party nod. I would vote for Gallo.
City Council, District 7 (ranked choice): No recommendation
Incumbent Larry Reid has been MIA at the Oakland City Council for years. He often misses Council meetings, he’s inattentive when he does go and is otherwise disengaged from his work in the Council. He does get paid for it, so that probably justifies his running for re-election. Challenger Marcy Hodge failed to impress me at the candidate forum I attended. She ran for Council before, in a different district, prodded by the Don Perata machine and was plagued by scandal when she sat in the Peralta College Board. I was never able to touch base with Nehanda Imara, who is an independent, but I heard wonderful things about her from other candidates that I am recommending. That’s not enough for me to recommend her personally, but if I was in Oakland I’d vote for Imara as my first choice, and leave second choice blank.
School Board, District 1: Don Macleay
Incumbent Jody London is a tool of the charter schools association, she’s funded by them and has done their bidding. Don Macleay, meanwhile, is a solid Bernie Sanders’ progressive. He’s intelligent, thoughtful, is a dad so he has skin on the game, and takes issues of educational policy seriously. He’s been endorsed by the teachers union, Labor, the Green Party and progressive politicians. Update: Since I wrote my recommendation, I found out that Macleay was an internationalist working in Nicaragua in the 80’s. Among other things, he helped build a power plant for a rural community. Since then he has become more convinced that education is the avenue for social change, and he is committed to seeing it happen in Oakland. Check out this documentary about his work in Nicaragua. I’d vote for Macleay.
School Board, District 3: Kharyshi Wiginton
Kharyshi Wiginton is another Bernie progressive that is running to champion Oakland schools and Oakland children. She is an educator and community activist and has been endorsed by everyone, from the Teachers’ Union, to Labor, to the Green and Democratic Parties (and yours truly). I also heard Benjamin Lang speak during the Democratic endorsement and he seems a solid second choice. Whatever you do, don’t vote for charter-school sponsored Jumoke Hinton Hodge. My rank choice vote would be: 1) Wiginton, 2) Lang, 3) Narain
School Board, District 5: Mike Hutchinson
Mike is an extremely knowledgeable and committed education activist, who has become a rallying force behind the anti-charter school forces in Oakland. He knows the school district better than Board Members, has gone to every single School Board meeting and has fought to keep public schools open. Mike is also a strong progressive, who understands how a society can be broken by providing substandard education to the disadvantaged. Incumbent Roseann Torres was an ally of charger school forces, though she has since seen the light. She’s an intelligent, dedicated School Board member, and is a solid second choice. The charter school PAC is backing newcomer Huber Trenado and you should not vote for him. I’d vote for 1) Hutchinson, 2) Torres.
School Board, District 7: Chris Jackson
Chris Jackson is a young, African American version of Bernie Sanders. OK, perhaps the comparison doesn’t really carry, but Chris is a young father in the district, with vast political experience – having served as a community college trustee in San Francisco and worked for labor and legislators -, a thorough understanding of current sociological and political currents, and a personal and family commitment to create real social change. As a parent of two kids who will be in the district soon enough, he also has skin in the game. I spent hours talking to Chris, and I left in love. This is a man with a clear vision and political astuteness who can really make a difference.
His opponent, James Harris, is supported by the charter school PAC, does not live in the district (he lives in Sheffield Village, which falls within the San Leandro School District) and sends his kids to Head Royce, the most elite private school in Oakland. I’d vote for Jackson.
City Council (choose 2): No recommendations
None of the candidates submitted a questionnaire and I didn’t pursue it further.
School Board (choose 3): Hari Titan
Hari Titan calls himself the “Bernie Sanders” of Piedmont, and his progressive credentials showed up in his questionnaire. Nobody else bothered to answer it. I’d vote for Hari Titan.
Mayor: Julie Testa
I’m not sure that a recommendation from a Progressive Voter Guide will help Julie Testa much in Pleasanton, a city that has no Democrats in the City Council. She was also unlikely enough to not be able to get her statement into the Candidates Guide. However, she is a true progressive who has been fighting against unchecked development and to reform the police. For that reason, the regressive elements in the Pleasanton Democratic Party have opposed her. She has my full support. I’d vote for Testa.
City Council (vote for 2): No recommendation
All candidates are Republican. I’d write in Testa.
School Board (vote for 3): Valerie Arkin
I have served with incumbents Valerie Arkin and Jamie Yee Hintzke in the Democratic Central Committee. Both are progressive, caring women, fully committed to making Pleasanton schools the best they can be. They are intelligent, they know the district and I trust their decisions. The only reason I’m not officially recommending Hintzke is that she’s a Clinton supporter and I’m only putting my recommendation behind Berniecrats.
I was never able to get in touch with former principal Steve Maher, but I was impressed with the answers that Kathlyn Ruegsegger provided. Alas, she’s a Republican. I’d vote for Arkin, Hintzke and Ruegsegger.
City Council District 2: No recommendation
Updated: Ed Hernandez‘ answers to my questionnaire show him to be a law-n-order conservative that will bend over backwards to please the police union (who did not even endorse him). And his answer on how to keep people in their home was to build more housing – which completely begs the question. I met with Bryan Azevedo. He’s a sheet metal worker, from a humble background, who understands first hand the importance of having a livable wage and affordable housing. Bryan is extremely green, both new to the practice and concept of politics and policy, but he’s a good guy at heart and he seems willing to learn and listen. I think he was a little afraid of me, which is not a bad thing. As a union guy, Bryan will fill Prola’s shoes as the union vote in the Council, and that’s not a bad thing, so I will vote for Bryan Azevedo.
City Councils District 4 and 6: Write in the ghost of Lou Filipovich
City Councils District 4 and 6: Write in the ghost of Lou Filipovich
Benny Lee and Pete Ballew are both running unopposed for Districts 4 and 6 respectively. Benny Lee is a corrupt politico, with Mayoral aspirations, whose major non-accomplishments in the last four years were to try to raise the Chinese flag over San Leandro and to lobby the Oakland City Council for them to use a garbage company not located in San Leandro, which would cost San Leandro millions in lost taxes. Needless to say, he then received a nice campaign contribution check from the principals in that company. Pete Ballew is a conservative former police officer. Neither should be in our City Council, but they have no opposition. There are no official write-in candidates, but the Alameda County Registrar of Voters generally counts write-in votes, even if they are not for official candidates. So while nobody will see who you wrote in, you might as well do it and stand in opposition to conservative, unchallenged candidates.
Choose 3: Don’t vote for Helen Foster
Incumbent Helen Foster no longer lives in San Lorenzo. She works in Coalinga and spends her week there – it’s outrageous she’s running for re-election. The school district has had horrible conflicts between the administration and the teachers, and it needs a new board altogether. However, incumbent Penny Peck has not been as bad as other Board members and it seems she has finally realized she needs to support parents and students, not the administration. The teachers are supporting Kyla Sinegal and Marilyn Stewart as are fellow Bernie activists. I haven’t spoken with them, so I can’t recommend them, but I’d vote for Peck, Sinegal and Stewart.
These 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.