Nov 132014

right_arrowIt’s time to face the facts.  Alameda County has ceased to be a home for liberals.  Perhaps we can trace this development to the replacement of the word “liberal” by the word “progressive,” perhaps to the broken promises of the Obama administration or even to 9/11.  Or perhaps the yuppy generation grew old, more afraid, more conservative.  In any case, policies throughout the county show that, by in large, liberal values have been abandoned.  We now welcome mass surveillance, the loss of fourth amendment rights and the militarization of police, under the fear or excuse of crime, even as crime has plummeted since the 1980’s.  We are willing to accept racial profiling by police almost as a fact of life.  We pass ordinances prohibiting the feeding of the homeless, the eviction of the poor and even attempt to criminalize people from sitting on the sidewalks.  And we elect conservative politicians.

Despite the claims of Democratic operatives and newspapers, this election has been terrible for liberals in Alameda County, at least as far as local governments goes.  In most local races, the more progressive candidates lost.  When they didn’t, it was because they were well-established incumbents, often facing token opposition, or as part of plurality elections, where multiple candidates split the vote.

Here is a brief analysis of how the City Council races turned out countywide.

Berkeley had three City Council seats up for election.  Incumbents Kriss Worthington and Linda Maio won. Worthington faced a more conservative challenger, while Maio was up against a more liberal one.  If anything, this was a wash.  As for District 8, the political distinctions among the candidates were minor.

In Oakland, Dan Siegel, the only actual liberal candidate for Mayor, did not win the election. Libby Schaaf moved to the left in the latest stages of her campaign, at the same time that she basked in the endorsements of  Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer, who have long abandoned the pretense of being progressive.  Early in the year, however, Schaaf was supported the establishment of the Domain Awareness Center, an intelligence fusion center that would allow government officials to better track the movements of regular people.  At the start of the election, Schaaf was actually lumped with Joe Tuman and Brian Parker as the most conservative viable candidates in the race.

All the viable candidates for Oakland City Council District 2 were equally progressive, some stronger in one area while weaker in another.  In District 6, incumbent Desley Brooks barely beat out a staffer for Libby Schaaf, whom would have likely been more conservative than Brooks.  Only in District 4 we see a clear win by a progressive candidate over a conservative one.  If there is one bright light on this election, it’s Annie Campbell Washington’s win.

Unfortunately, I did not follow the Emeryville City Council race, so I can’t judge where the candidates fell in the political spectrum, though I can say the two winners had the Democratic endorsement.

Trish Spencer was elected Mayor of Alameda.  She is significantly more liberal than incumbent Mary Gilmore, who supported the acquisition of license plate scanners and of an armored personnel carrier for the police, but Spencer ran on an anti-development platform which attracted many conservative votes.  Similar issues played out in the City Council race, where just three candidates vied for two seats.  The loser was the incumbent member of the Council who had voted to expand development.

In San Leandro, Pauline Cutter, a moderate Democrat was elected Mayor against a more conservative opponent – but the more liberal candidate was left in the dust.  The three City Council races saw the most conservative candidates win, all endorsed by the police union.

Results were just as bad in Fremont, where even a moderate Democrat who had the endorsement of the Police, was defeated by two of the most conservative candidates.  One is an ex-police officer who openly supports the militarization of the police.

Union City saw its two Democratic incumbent Council members get re-elected, as well as their Republican colleague.  Meanwhile in Newark, the Democratic Mayor won re-election against a Democratic opponent, and the two empty City Council seats were split between a Democrat and a Republican

In Pleasanton, the Republican Mayor won re-election and the two City Council seats were filled by Republicans.  Dublin Mayor and Assembly candidate Tim Sbranti was replaced by a Republican, though the two Democratic incumbent council members won re-election.  Tim Sbranti, by the way, lost the Assembly race to a Republican, the seat had been previously filled by a Democrat.

No Democrats even ran for City Council in Livermore.

The results were much better at the School Board level, but only because the trend was to see parents of students in their respective school districts get elected over non-district parents, regardless of their political views.

Oct 012014
Trish Spencer

Trish Spencer

Mayor: Trish Spencer

I met Trish when she ran for re-election to the Alameda School Board.  At the time, I spoke with her at length about her ideas on education and social justice, community building and political philosophy.  I even watched several Alameda School Board meetings to see her in action.  I was incredibly impressed.  Trish, a lawyer by training, is a careful thinker.  She has an analytical mind, is able to see the consequences of policies much more broadly than her colleagues, and is firmly committed to everyone in her community.  In addition, she is committed to civil liberties and the environment.  She is by far the most progressive candidate in this election – the incumbent Mayor has been pushing for the militarization of the Alameda Police Department -, but also the most competent one. I urge Alamedans to vote for Trish.

Jim OddieCity Council: Jim Oddie

I have served with Jim Oddie in the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee for four years.  I think Jim is intelligent, caring, personally and profoundly committed to social justice, equality and education.  He is the dad of two beautiful young women and has lived in Alameda for many years.  While his relationship with Assemblymember Rob Bonta is a bit problematic – he is Bonta’s Chief of Staff and will have to recuse himself from voting on some matters -, he is still the best candidate of the three running.  That may not be saying much, when one of them, Stewart Chen, is an unapologetic insurance scammer and promoter of the genocidal Chinese government, but Jim Oddie would be a good choice even in a field of stellar candidates.

Though there are two open-seats in the Alameda City Council, I’d recommend that voters only vote for Jim Oddie.  Both of his opponents supported the raising of the Chinese flag.  A single vote for Oddie would increase his chances of being elected.

I reached out to all candidates for Alameda Mayor and City Council and invited them to meet/speak with me and/or respond to a candidate questionnaire.  I only endorse candidates who are strong liberals, are committed to accountability, transparency and fact-based legislating and who are intelligent, competent and knowledgeable.  

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

Dec 062013


It should elect a full-time Mayor instead.

“The City of San Leandro is currently seeking the services of a state legislative advocate who will assist the City of San Leandro develop a state legislative program as well as advance its legislative goals at the state level. For additional information, please see the Request for Proposals document or contact Eric Engelbart, Assistant to the City Manager at (510) 577-3391.”

Former Assembly member Johan Klehs has been lobbying for the job and has tried to get it without going through a competitive proposal process, but fortunately the Council chose to open the process up to proposals from other lobbying firms.  The City of Alameda just hired former state Senator Don Perata for a similar role without such process, and while that’s a good way of rewarding old friends, it doesn’t guarantee the best results in Sacramento.

It’s not clear what San Leandro plans to pay its lobbyist, but Alameda’s contract is for $90,000 a year.  It may also be a waste of taxpayer money.  Lobbying Sacramento should be part of the job description for the Mayor and City Council members. They are, after all, politicians and they can and should be developing the relationships with elected officials in Sacramento to make any direct lobbying not just possible, but successful.   Sacramento, after all, is only a couple of hours away with bad traffic.

Unfortunately, San Leandro Council members have shown very little inclination to do actual political work.  For example, the only Council member who attended the holiday party thrown by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, State Senator Loni Hancock, Assembly members Rob Bonta and Nancy Skinner,  and Supervisor Keith Carson last Tuesday, was Ursula Reed.   She is running for County Superintendent so is courting political favor for her next race.   Reed and Jim Prola were the only two to attend the Democratic Party holiday party in San Leandro on Wednesday.  Parties are great opportunities to schmooze, make relationships and lobby.

An even better opportunity to do all three is the Democratic Convention which takes place every year.  There, you get access to state legislators from throughout the state in one single, fairly informal, but 2-days long event.  The Convention happens in Sacramento every other year, which makes it within driving distance.  And yet, the only Council members who attended this year’s convention were Jim Prola and Ursula Reed, who is busy with her own campaign.

One of the main reasons why our Mayor and Council members are so detached from their Council jobs is that these are all part-time positions.  This means they have other jobs that take most of their time.  Not surprisingly, the only retired member of the City Council is Jim Prola.   I have advocated before that we turn the Mayoral position into a full-time job. This would allow the Mayor to actually do his job as Mayor, in addition to represent the economic and political interests of the City in other fora.  And having a full-time Mayor could actually save us money.  A full-time Mayor need not be paid more than what Oakland’s Mayor makes currently, $137,000 a year – which is about what the City will spend in the combined salaries of a part-time lobbyst and part-time Mayor.   A full-time Mayor, however, should also be able to shoulder some of the responsibilities of the assistant City Managers.  Currently, San Leandro spends over a million dollars a year on its City Manager and two assistants.

Mayor Stephen Cassidy, however, doesn’t want to even entertain this possibility as it would not behoove him.  He’s currently a partner in a major law-firm so his current salary is probably more than twice what he’d make as a full-time Mayor.  However, Mayor Cassidy’s employment obligations are probably to blame for the fact that he has abdicated most of his responsibilities as Mayor.   The current system cheats the voters.

Before any actual changes can happen at City Hall, however, we need to elect a Mayor and Council members who actually want to do the job, and not just hold the title.  That is difficult, of course, given how little they get paid – seldom we have elections among quality candidates.  Ultimately it’s a chicken-and-egg question.

Sep 302013
MEDIA ADVISORY                                                                                                 Photo Opportunity
DATE               September 30, 2013
Tenzin Gyaltsen, 510-384-2566
Tenzing Dolma, 510-254-1420
Giovanni Vassallo, 415-264-3264
Alarm, Protests, & Candlelight Vigil at Alameda City Hall for the City Raising the Flag of the People’s Republic of China
WHO:            San Francisco Team Tibet
WHAT:       Daytime Rally & Protest of the Raising Red Flag of China
                        Evening Candlelight Vigil for Tibet
WHERE:        2263 Santa Clara Ave, Alameda City Hall
WHEN:     Daytime:                                   October 1, 2013, 10 AM- 5 PM
                      Evening Candlelight Vigil:    October 1, 2013, 7-9 PM
We the People of the Bay Area and Alameda support Human Rights and do not want Alameda to be tainted by the political event, namely, to raise the Flag of the People’s Republic of China on October 1, 2013, which is China’s National Day, at Alameda City Hall.  China’s illegally occupied Tibet in 1949/50 and over one million Tibetans have died resisting the Chinese flag.  Tibetans deserve liberty and justice and wish to stop living under the Chinese police state, which severely oppresses Chinese, Uighurs, and the Tibetan people.  We demand more transparency and accountability to democracy so that Alamedans & the public know about this flag-raising endorsement of China’s dark human rights record. Recently, 122 Tibetans lost their lives by self-immolation to urge the public to help Free Tibet and Return the Dalai Lama home to Tibet. The public should  know the true meaning of the raising of the Flag of the People’s Republic of China.
Sep 252013

Update: Apparently, contrary to what Benny Lee said, there were never any plans to raise the PRC flag at the Alameda City Hall.

From the Tibetan National Congress

The City of Alameda plans to raise the Chinese flag on Oct 1 to celebrate the Chinese National Day and Mao Zedong.

Last week, we successfully suspended the flag raising in the City of San Leandro.

Please call/email/fax Alameda’s Mayor Marie Gilmore and ask her not to taint her city:
Phone: (510) 747-4701
Fax: (510) 865-1498


September 25th, 2013

It has come to our attention that the City of Alameda will be raising the Communist flag of China on Oct 1st, the Chinese National Day — to celebrate Mao Zedong’s brutal and bloody victory to rule China, which came by way of unleashing unimaginable pain and misery onto millions of Chinese citizens.

The flag represents a government that ran tanks over their own children who were protesting peacefully in Tiananmen Square in 1989. For others, like Tibetans and Uighurs, it represents a symbol of occupation of their homeland and unremitting oppression as countless innocent citizens are arbitrarily imprisoned, routinely tortured, and even executed without proper representation. 121 Tibetans in Tibet have self-immolated to protest this extreme racist and cruel strategy to annihilate the very traces of Tibetans on the plateau. Falun Gong practitioners, one of the most peaceful religious organizations in the world, are routinely rounded up, persecuted, and their organs harvested to be sold to the west.

Chinese Christians are also harassed, their Bibles confiscated and their churches destroyed. Closer to home, for many American Veterans of the Korean and Vietnamese wars, this flag represents the force that put their friends and fellow soldiers into the ground in the name of Communism. And for many unemployed Americans, it represents the regime that uses espionage, currency manipulation and trade abuses to rob them of their jobs.

Earlier this week, the City of San Leandro, due to strong public objection and petitions, decided to suspend a similar flag raising ceremony scheduled for October 1st. We were very pleased and grateful that the leadership made the conscientious decision to listen to the impassioned opposition to the proposal; and proved that America is still a country that stands for democracy, freedom of speech and thought, and equality for all. As long as China remains an oppressive regime which denies all that we in America take for granted as our basic human rights, we cannot display the red communist flag least we devalue the very spirit that has wrought this great country.

We urge the honorable Mayor Marie Gilmore and the respected members of the City Council to follow the stellar example set by the City of San Leandro and vote to suspend the decision to raise the flag until further deliberations are entertained and public voices are heard on this matter.

Your’s Sincerely,

Jigme Ugen

Benny LeeThis post comes to you thanks to San Leandro Council Member Benny Lee