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.

Nov 052011

Mary Hayashi accused of shoplifting $2K worth of clothing at Neiman Marcus, but would it have been better if she’d bought it?

Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi

The Bay Area political world was in full giggle mode last week, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Mary Hayashi, who represents San Leandro at the California Assembly had been arrested for shoplifting.  Hayashi is a pretty controversial figure in Bay Area political circles, a powerful campaigner and even more successful fundraiser, she’s known both for talking the talk of her labor and Democratic supporters and walking the walk of her big donors.  She does dress well, though, and she is probably one of very few politicians who, at 45 years of age, can get away with wearing $1250 designer black leather leggings.

The question of whether Mary Hayashi actually meant to shoplift those leggings (plus a skirt and a blouse) is for the court to decide.  What I am posing here is a more significant moral question.  Is it a worse deed to shoplift $2445 worth of clothing from Neiman Marcus or to buy $2445 worth of clothing at Neiman Marcus? I mean, really, in this economy, when many people are doing their clothing shopping at the thrift store, can a Democratic politician really justify spending that much money on three items of clothing?  That’s enough to pay some people’s mortgages for at least a couple of months!

So, my dear readers, what do you think?

[poll id=”6″]



Aug 142011

San Leandro has a long history of representation at the state level.  Presently, Ellen Corbett, a former mayor of San Leandro, is the Majority Leader of the California Senate while Bill Lockyer, a former San Leandro School Board member, is the State Treasurer.  Even Pete Stark, our representative in Congress, started his political career in San Leandro.   San Leandro’s influence at the state level may cease, however, as no San Leandran has so far announced a 2012 run for either the California Assembly or Senate.  While the election is not until June, and candidates don’t need to file until next March, anyone seriously considering a run needs to start fundraising and coalescing political and grass-root support right now.  So far, there seem to be only four candidates for the Assembly district that will include San Leandro, and two candidates for that Senate district.

Redistricting is almost finalized at the state level, and most of San Leandro has been grouped with Alameda and most of Oakland in a new Assembly district.  The new Senate district goes from San Leandro as far north as Rodeo, while the congressional district ends in north Berkeley.  Previously, we were part of an Assembly district that included Hayward and Pleasanton, and a Senate district that goes from San Leandro as far south as north San Jose.  This all means that San Leandro will encounter a new batch of politicians aiming to represent it.  Currently, three of the declared candidates for Assembly are from Oakland and one is from Alameda.   While the Senate race will be very competitive, posing former Berkeley mayor and current state senator Loni Hancock against Oakland Assembly member Sandré Swanson, the field of candidates for the Assembly seems rather weak, and there is still room for a San Leandran to jump into the race.  While I haven’t heard any rumors of anyone considering this move, there are several past or current elected officials who could be strong candidates if they decided to run.

The current candidates for the Aseembly are:

Rob Bonta, a Filipino lawyer, works as a deputy DA in San Francisco.  After holding a couple of commission seats, he was elected to the Alameda City Council in November 2010.  His feet are not yet wet, but he’s ready to jump ship into bigger things.  His website doesn’t offer a platform or indications as to what his views are, but he is a democrat and said in an interview he’s interested in education and social services.  He is married, with 3 children.

Abel Guillen: Guillén is a young man who runs a school finance firm.  He was elected to the Peralta Community College Board of Trustees in 2006, and re-elected in 2010.  He’s running in a general “make California better” platform.  He is a democrat and seems to be single.

Kathy Neal: Neal is an African American businesswoman and Democratic Party operative.  She’s currently a member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee.  She is divorced from former Oakland mayor Elihu Harris. She doesn’t seem to have a webpage, so I don’t know what her platform will be.

Joel Young: Young is a young African American lawyer, appointed to the AC Transit Board in 2009 and re-elected in 2010.  His past political experience consists of working on Loni Hancock and Joan Buchanan’s campaigns.  He is running on a platform of “jobs, education and the environment”. He is a democrat.  He is single with no children.

I hope to meet with all the candidates and report back on my opinion of them and their platforms.  I also hope to see someone with more experience and specific goals arise, ideally from San Leandro.

Jun 112011

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission seems to have listened to us, and is keeping San Leandro whole in the new district maps.  However, they’re cutting our long association with Hayward and we will now be bunched with Oakland/Alameda for both the California Assembly and Senate districts.  This means that from a practical point of view it’s unlikely that any San Leandran politician will be able to be elected to the California Legislature – Oakland politicians are not only better known, but they are able to tap into deeper pockets for campaign contributions. But candidates for state office will still have to pay attention to San Leandro and our particular issues if they want our votes.  It’s not the ideal situation, we’d have more political clout if we were part of a district that included Hayward, but it’s better than the alternative of being cut in two, as the earlier maps suggested.

Sandre Swanson, who represents the 16th Assembly district that currently includes Oakland, will be termed out and several city council members from Oakland and Alameda are expected to run for his seat in 2012.  I’m sure we’ll be seeing them around these parts soon.   As for the Senate, we’ll be in a district that will now include both our current Senator, San Leandro native Ellen Corbett, and Loni Hancock of Berkeley.   At this point it’s impossible to know who will be our state senator come 2012.  Depending on what number the Redistricting Commission assigns to that senate district, there may be an election for that senate seat in 2012 or a senator may be appointed to the seat until 2014.

San Leandro will not be lumped with Oakland in the new Congressional district (sorry Barbara Lee fans), but rather we will be part of a new district that goes as far south as northern Fremont/Newark and that includes of all Livermore and areas further to the east. This is an area currently represented in congress by both Pete Stark and Jerry McNerney.  Stark is one of the most liberal members of Congress, while McNerney is a somewhat conservative Democrat.  This new district will be heavily Democrat, but with a strong conservative base.   It’s difficult to know what will happen if this district map is finalized.  Stark could chose to run against McNerney in a primary, or against Zoe Lofgren, who will take over the southern part of Fremont/Newark that Stark currently represents.  More likely, he’ll chose to retire. He’s 80 years old and in ill health, and still has a young family he could spend his last years with.   Ellen Corbett has expressed interest in running for Congress before, and she may be willing to confront McNerney in a primary election.  Indeed, this may be her only if not best chance to continue in politics.

Of course, the maps issued today are the first draft.  The Redistricting Commission will continue hearing testimony and may redraw the maps based on that.  For that reason, I think it’s still important to continue writing to the Commission and asking them to make sure that San Leandro is kept together in the final maps.