Alameda County School Board

May 072016

voteThe following are my recommendations for candidates that will appear on the ballots for voters in Alameda county.  The list only includes those races for which I have a strong recommendation.  An asterisk* next to a candidate’s name indicates that s/he was also endorsed by the Democratic Party.  A (B) indicates that they are a Bernie Sanders supporter and (i) indicates incumbent.

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PRESIDENT:  Bernie Sanders

Bernie is the only candidate that actually represents the people rather than corporate interests and Wall Streets. Hillary Clinton has a record of supporting and advocating for wars of aggression, supporting gross human rights violations such as forced disappearance, extra-judicial executions, arbitrary detention and torture, she supports profiting from mass incarceration, supports the death penalty and fought to halve the minimum wage in Haiti to 31-cents an hour so American corporations could make larger profits.


Read about the Committee and everyone who is running here.

AD 15 (select no more than 9)

Brette Badelle (B): A young African American father (two demographics the Committee is in dire need of) and Bernie supporter
Vincent Casalaina (B):
Vincent is very progressive grassroots activist, he is with PDA and was an early Bernie supporter.
Andy Kelley (B) (i):
A young LGBT and Democratic party activist with strong leadership potential.
Ces Rosales:
A strong feminist and LGBT activist, Ces is a very independent thinker, even if she supports Hillary.
Len Raphael (B):
Intelligent, thoughtful and has an insurgent streak.

AD 18 (select no more than 10)

Margarita Lacabe (B) (i), that would be me.
Guillermo Elenes (B), a housing rights organizer and staunch liberal
Mike Katz-Lacabe (B), my husband and a privacy rights advocate
Marlon McWilson (i)(B), an appointed incumbent and County Board of Education trustee
Pamela Price, a civil rights attorney

AD 25 (select no more than 3)

Raj Salwan (B), a veterinarian and the nicest and most liberal candidate running

US SENATE: Steve Stokes (B)

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.  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.  They are both Clinton supporters.

A better option seems to be Steve Stokes – who has a very progressive agenda, very close to Bernie Sanders’.


CD 13: Barbara Lee* (i)
CD 17: Ro Khanna

Barbara Lee is a staunch liberal and an overall good representative.   in CD 17, Democratic incumbent Mike Honda* is in the midst of an ethics investigation.  I’ve written more about Ro Khanna here.  I’m making no recommendations in CD 15, as Eric Swalwell* is a conservative Democrat who supports Hillary Clinton.


SD 9: Nancy Skinner

Nancy is not only the most progressive candidate in this race, but she is also an extremely effective legislator. And she’s been a great ally on issues ranging from civil liberties to fighting poverty.


All the Democratic candidates running for Assembly in Alameda County support Hillary Clinton.


Judge Office 1: David Lim
Judge Office 2: Jennifer Madden*

I met with David Lim and was very impressed with his openness and honesty and his concerns for the community.  It felt very real and very personal.  I was also impressed on how fair Lim is.  He worked with one of the other candidates and he was very frank that his opponent would also make a great judge.  I reached out to his opponent on several occasions, but I never heard back from him.

The third person in the race for office 1, Barbara Thomas, is a defense attorney (though she’s running as a “victims’ rights attorney) and former City Councilmember with a rather problematic reputation in the legal profession and I fear she would make a terrible judge.  She’s reportedly considering suing the City of Alameda over their rent control ordinance.

I was also impressed with Jennifer Madden, who is running for another judge position.  She has done a lot of work on human trafficking and seems to be committed to be a fair judge.

Judges are not allowed to endorse other political candidates.


Area 2: Marlon McWilson* (B)(i)
Area 3: Ken Berrick* (i)

Both incumbents are very knowledgeable and very committed to education, in particular with kids in challenging circumstances. McWilson is my colleague at the Democratic Central Committee and I find him to be a thoughtful, independent and fair voice.

HAYWARD CITY COUNCIL (select no more than 3)

The three incumbents, whom I had previously recommended, support Hillary Clinton. I’m making no recommendations on this race.


Thiel is a Biology teacher in Pleasanton who is actually passionate about water and the environment. I can’t think of someone better for that job.


Prop AA: YES

We need to restore the Bay. This may not be the best possible way of doing it, but it may be the only way we have.

Prop 50: NO

Prop 50 gives the Legislature the ability to suspend elected members without pay.  I find this problematic, as it could lead to the Legislature suspending members due to purely political disagreements, and by withholding pay, they would make it very difficult on the Member to fight back.  In addition, a suspension would mean that the constituents of that Member would not have representation in the Legislature, which I believe is very undemocratic.  The Legislation already has the ability to expel members.

Print and Take to the Polls

May 312013

Aisha KnowlesLast year, I gave Aisha Knowles a very hard time when she was running for Alameda County Board of Education.  Aisha, at that time, had not demonstrated she understood what the Board did.

A year later, I’m happy to say that she’s proven me wrong. She’s become an extremely committed Board member, visiting the juvenile detention centers (the county Board is responsible for the education of incarcerated students) and researching first hand what needs are and are not met. She’s also taking a hands-on approach to the issues that confront other students under her jurisdiction. For example, the high school for pregnant and lactating mothers only has a prom in alternate years – which means that many students go without a prom at all.

Aisha is trying to change that, fundraising to be able to throw them that one-in-a-lifetime special night. It may seem like a little thing, but I know how incredibly difficult it was for me, in my 30’s, to be a new mother and how great my need for recreation was. We often forget that taking care of the emotional well-being of mothers is essential for the proper development of their babies. Having a prom to look forward can be a wonderful way to lift the spirits of what I’m sure are very exhausted girls, and that can only be beneficial for all. I have invited Aisha to write about her fundraiser and experiences in the Board, and she will soon. But meanwhile I want to congratulate her for taking her job as a board member seriously – more seriously than most – and working hard to make a difference

Apr 102012
Aisha Knowles

Aisha Knowles

Race for Alameda County School Board Lacks Qualified Candidates

*May 6th Update*

In the last few weeks Geraldine Sonobe seems to be all over the place, meeting with officials and learning about the issues concerning education in the county.  Last weekend alone, she was at the public meeting with San Leandro school officials Saturday morning, and at the Bike SL event on Sunday.  Aisha Knowles, however, seems to be MIA.

For this reason, in addition to Sonobe’s greater experience and commitment to the issue of minority education, I will be voting for her.

Original Blog Post

Aisha Knowles is a well-liked woman.  She is very good at her job as public information officer for the Alameda County Fire Department.  She is poised and works well with people.  She sits on many boards and has the support of both unions and the Democratic political establishment.  She doesn’t have kids or a background in education, but that’s not required to be a Trustee on the Alameda County Board of Education.

Her opponent, Geraldine Sonobe, looks even better on paper.  She was an English development teacher at one of the toughest schools in Oakland and now works developing new programs for a non-profit which prepares disadvantaged children for college.   She is the mother of twins who attend public schools in San Leandro.

Despite their different backgrounds, Knowles and Sonobe have one thing in common: neither seems to have a clue as to what the Alameda County Board of Education does.  And that’s pretty depressing, given that they are the only two candidates for District 4 (which includes San Leandro).

I had never been particularly enthusiastic about Aisha Knowles, despite how nice she is. In 2010, upon the death of the then sitting trustee for District 4, Knowles tried to be appointed to the Board.   Despite her public speaking experience, even then she could not articulate a particularly good reason for seeking that office.  Unfortunately, this has not changed.  According to her ballot statement, her goals are to “improve communication between the County Board of Education and our local community; work to better prepare our schools in fire safety and emergency preparedness; assist schools with the challenges of state budget cuts, and ensure that we are training, recruiting, and retaining quality teachers.”   Those are worthy goals, no doubt, and if she was running for the San Lorenzo School Board they would certainly be worth pursuing.  The problem is that they are not pertinent to the position she’s running for.

The Alameda County Board of  Education is responsible for overseeing the work of the Alameda Council Office of Education (ACOE).   This work includes approving the budgets of local school districts, offering staff development programs, approving county-wide charter schools and hearing appeals from students expelled or denied transfers.  The ACOE is also in charge of the education of students incarcerated in county facilities, students who have been expelled from public schools and students who are pregnant or have young babies.  They provide oversight for foster children, who are frequently moved from school district to school district.   What the ACOE does not do is run public schools, recruit and retain teachers or interact with the local community.  That’s the job of local school districts.

Geraldine Sonobe

Geraldine Sonobe

Geraldine Sonobe also seems unaware of what the County Board does.  Her ballot statement is all about making smart decisions when dealing with budget cuts.  Again, this is something that affects school districts, who run the schools and have to make those cuts.  But it’s not something the ACOE has to deal with – indeed, they are doing quite well financially.

Both Knowles and Sonobe came before the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, to which I belong, to ask for our endorsement.  After listening to their presentation, I had the opportunity to ask one question: how do they think the County is under-serving expelled and incarcerated students and what they would do about it.  Neither could answer the question.  Indeed, they both admitted that they didn’t know what the ACOE did for these students.  That is not acceptable.

My first instinct is to be most critical of Knowles.  She has been planning to run for this office for two years.  She’s had plenty of time to find out what the ACOE does and how she can actually affect it.  Sonobe, however, can also not escape criticism.  While she jumped into the race at the last minute – and I’m glad, as I believe every race should be contested -, she had enough time to at least take a look at the ACOE website and familiarize itself with its programs.

Unfortunately, Knowles and Sonobe are not the exception as far as candidates go.  I have encountered multiple candidates who have little understanding of the office they seek.  In 2006, for example, neither Diana Souza nor Julian Polvorosa could speak intelligibly about transit-oriented development, which the City was then pursuing with gusto.

But I think it’s time we say “enough,” that we challenge those candidates that have not done their due diligence and do not understand the offices they are running for.  If they are too lazy to put the time and effort to find out about them – what exactly can we expect of their performance once they are elected?

At the Democratic party endorsement meeting I called for the party to not endorse either candidate.  I knew, of course, that it was a useless call.  Knowles would have been endorsed, no matter how qualified her opponent was (because the Democratic party likes to support insiders).  I, of course, made many enemies that night, and I’m sure I’ll be making more with this blog entry.  But I feel that if I don’t speak up, nobody will.  We’re so used to “business as usual,” to demand so little of our elected officials, that we ultimately make a mockery of democracy.  I believe, however, that democracy can be restored one voice at the time.

At this point I’m not inclined to vote for either candidate – but I’ll remain hopeful until election day that one of them will shape up and take the office they’re running for seriously.  If they don’t, I’ll probably go ahead and do a write-in for Mickey Mouse, I hear he might be a pretty popular candidate this year.

I will be writing about other local elections, those that affect San Leandro in particular, in the upcoming weeks.  I welcome your comments here or in Facebook.

Mar 042012

Abel Guillen

Meet the two political candidates that give me hope we can actually turn around our country, from the bottom up.

Last night I had a small get together to introduce California Assembly candidate Abel Guillen to some of my friends.  It was great to hear his analysis of the state’s financial problems, his proposed solutions and overall vision, as well as his experiences at Peralta Community college.   One thing that really impressed me is that he lead the Peralta Board to divest their $100+M budget from big banks and move their money to small credit unions.  But he’s also done things that directly benefit the student community, like negotiate a $31 a semester AC Transit pass for students (normally, these are $80 a month).  Mike and I will be throwing a reception/fundraiser for Abel at Zocalo on March 23rd at 7 PM, and I hope all of you will come and have a chance to meet him.

Phil Ladew and his wife Victoria

One of my other guests last night was Phil Ladew who is running for re-election to the Alameda County Board of Education. Phil is an amazing man, and you know I’m not easily impressed by people. He grew up in the foster care system, experiencing all the hardships of that life, but was able to overcome those difficulties and be a better person for it. He  went to college and law school (my alma mater, U.C. Hastings).  He became a child welfare attorney, representing disadvantaged and foster children in court, and now heads an organization that advocates for abused and neglected children. The County Board of Education is responsible for the education of incarcerated children and provides services to foster children, pregnant teens, homeless students and students that have been expelled from other schools. I cannot imagine someone better suited for that Board than Phil.  I hope to host a coffee or some other event for Phil, and I’ll invite you all to meet him.  Phil, BTW, is a San Leandro resident married to a San Leandro native.

I’ve been involved in local politics for the last six years, I’ve worked on several campaigns – all of which have been successful – but I had overall become disenchanted with politics.  It’s so easy for politicians to be co-opted the moment they get into office.  They become afraid of making waves, push for change and alienate future financial backers.   But few people step up to run for any office, so it becomes a matter of choosing the most acceptable candidate: the one that seems smarter, more competent, hopefully more ethical.  But when I look at Abel and at Phil, I get excited.  I actually believe in them in a way that I haven’t believed in a politician in years – if ever.  I think Abel has the perfect combination of commitment to the community, financial acumen and understanding of how politics works.  More importantly, however, he has the passion to organize us into standing up against corporations and create a society more fair for all.  As for Phil, I am in awe of the work he does and his commitment to children, but also extremely impressed by his intelligence and work ethic.