2014 endorsements

Nov 022014

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

AC Transit

At-Large: Dollene Jones

Dollene Jones

Dollene Jones

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

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

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

Ward 4: Murphy McCalley

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

Ward 5: Jeff Davis

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


District 4: No Recommendation

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 012014


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

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

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

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

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

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

Nov 012014
Len Raphael

Len Raphael

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

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

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

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

Nov 012014
Matt Morrison

Matt Morrison

This is a quick write-up of my recommendations for Pleasanton offices. The are based on my knowledge of the candidates

Matt Morrison is a Democrat. He is an environmentalist.  He stands against development in the Pleasanton area.  Developers don’t like him.  Developers, including James Tong and the Lim family, have an undue level of influence in the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee (ACDCC) , mostly through campaign manager and Executive Committee member Angela Ramirez-Holmes.   So, in one of those ironies of politics, Matt Morrison was unable to get the Democratic endorsement because he is too environmentally conscious, too anti-development, too anti-making a few people rich.

Those are exactly the reasons why I support him.  He is fighting the good fight against very wealthy, very powerful interests who are willing to sell out the people of Pleasanton for money.  He has no money, he is unlikely to win the race, but I can only hope that the citizens of Pleasanton, of all political inclinations, will vote for him.

Olivia Sanwong

Olivia Sanwong

Olivia Sanwong serves with me in the ACDCC.  She had no problems getting the Democratic endorsement, and she does deserve it.  She is intelligent, well educated, committed to Pleasanton, and will bring to the City the perspective of a young professional.

I’ve spoken with Olivia about civil liberties issues, and she is concerned about the overreached of surveillance technologies used against private citizens. As this becomes a larger issue, I think her perspective will be useful in the Council.

Mark Miller

Mark Miller

The Pleasanton School Board is in disarray.  Parents are not being heard, at least once, not even allowed to speak.  Changes are made without adequate consultation with the community.  District staff has been leaving in droves. Parents are not happy. A change is needed.

Mark Miller is a dad.  Two of his kids have graduated from Pleasanton schools. One is still in middle school.  He is a smart guy, an IT professional, with an extensive history of being involved with youth.  The Pleasanton School Board needs change, Miller has stepped up to the plate and has my endorsement.

Oct 232014

Dax Choksi

My last written recommendation for this election goes to Dax Choksi who is running for Fremont City Council.  This is based on his answers to the questionnaire I sent to him.  The Fremont School Board was mired in controversy earlier this year after they approved a sex education textbook that was too graphic for some puritanical parents, though it had the overwhelming support of health education teachers.  The Board voted to go back and use the previous textbook, which contained inaccurate information.

Dax is an involved parent in Fremont schools and a man with common sense.

1) What do you think is the biggest challenge facing your School District and how would you tackle it?

The following are the biggest challenges for the Fremont Unified School District:

* Facilities – our facilities are in dire need of repair and upgrade. In several schools the infrastructure is not adequate to provide an environment where students can thrive and receive education effectively. In addition to this, we have schools with huge waiting lists and this problem is persisting.

* Overcrowding – the class sizes are under pressure. This is not going to be an easy problem to solve but I would work to constantly strive to reduce the class sizes.

* Technology – We need to work to bring Fremont schools to the 21st century. Thy are currently lacking in several technology areas including computers, desktops and communication devices.

* Academics – We need to work on successful implementation of common core and ensure that there is equity in education.

2) Do you believe there are systemic problems with racial/sexual/gender-based or other discrimination in your district’s schools? How would you tackle them?

* I do not believe that there is a systemic problem with racial/sexual/gender discrimination. However, the problem could exist without a lot of people knowing about it. We need to take steps to ensure that this is prevented proactively:

* I would prevent this by continuing to enforce the existing regulations prohibiting discrimination and recommend disciplinary action against any person who is found to be violating the regulation.

* I would also seek to educate the youth about the negative impact of discrimination and how it could create a severe blow to the self-confidence of the victim of this injustice.

3) Do you support school dress codes? Specify.

We live in a democratic country thereby providing the right to people to dress as they please. However, there are certain guidelines essential in a school environment to ensure that there is no provocative dressing and the that the dressing adheres to a certain common decorum. There are existing dress code guidelines in FUSD and I would ensure that the guidelines are enforced in all the schools without exceptions.

4) What’s your position on the controversy over the health education books thought to be too risque by some?

I am strongly in favor of the textbook. I believe our first and foremost responsibility is to protect our youth. We can only do so by educating them. If we don’t educate them, we are leaving them ignorant and vulnerable to getting false/erroneous information from secondary unreliable sources. In the interest of the well being of our youth, I strongly support the book.

5) Do you believe religious texts, practices or songs should be part of the school’s curricula? If yes, please specify how.

No. Religion has no place in the school curricula. I believe in separation of church and state

See also: David Bonaccorsi & Raj Salwan best Choices for City Council

See Marga’s 2014 Voter Guide for recommendations on propositions and other local endorsements.