Oct 022016
Jesse Arreguin

Jesse Arreguin

SLT’s endorsements and recommendations are based upon personal or phone interviews, questionnaires sent to the candidates and other research on them.  I only endorse candidates that I believe are truly progressive, support a clean government agenda, transparency and accountability.

Endorsing Jesse Arreguín for Mayor of Berkeley is a no-brainer and probably an exercise in futility.  After all, Jesse has already been endorsed by both the Democratic Party and the Green Party, Alameda Central Labor and the Sierra Club, Democracy for America, Dolores Huerta and the Berkeley Planet, in addition to dozens of other progressive organizations, politicians and activists.  Most importantly, Jesse has been endorsed by Bernie Sanders himself!   So what can my humble endorsement mean among so many?

I’m endorsing Jesse because he is the most progressive politician in Alameda County today – and one of the very, very few with the guts to stand up against police brutality, against social cleansing laws, and against unchecked development meant to benefit developers rather than citizens  Jesse is a man of conviction, a man with the intelligence to navigate the landmines of a corrupt political system and survive with only minor wounds, and a man of integrity, who does not sell out his community for power or for money.  Bernie Sanders called on progressives to not just to vote for the best choice in the ballot, but to find champions that will fight for economic equality, human rights and a fair society.  Jesse, more than anyone I know, is that champion.

As for his opponent Laurie Capitelli, all I need to say is that at the Democratic Central Committee endorsement meeting, he refused to call himself a progressive. I applaud his honesty, but if Berkeley cannot have a progressive Mayor, we’re pretty doomed.

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

These are the candidates that I’m personally endorsing for Berkeley races. I have spoken with them and/or received answers to my questions and have been incredibly impressed by their qualities. As I look at the list, I can’t help but note that all my recommendations are for men.  This doesn’t make me happy, and yet it’d be utterly sexist of me to chose a woman just because of her gender.  I will note that in the School Board race there are two women running who seem capable and caring, and who are very well thought of by all Berkeley politicians I’ve spoken to.  I am not recommending them because one of them just did not impress me as much at the Democratic interview – though it may have been more her manner than her answers – and the other is very close to the Bates machine.

Alejandro Soto-Vigil

Alejandro Soto-Vigil

City Council District 1: Alejandro Soto-Vigil 

I have seldom met a candidate with the commitment, energy and plain force than Alejandro Soto-Vigil exudes.  He is young, in his mid-30’s, but I would describe him as an old-fashioned liberal, a Latino version of a young George Miller, Ron Dellums or Barbara Lee.  At a time when politicians reflect the values of those who fill their coffers, Soto-Vigil stands for the poor, the disenfranchised, young families, students,Berkeleyans.

I had a long conversation with Alejandro, and I am confident he has both the education (political science degree from Cal, followed by law school), experience and clear policy thinking to make him succeed both at the City Council level and beyond.  I also think that he will be listen to the community and bring new ideas to the table.

Kriss Worthington

Kriss Worthington

City Council District 7: Kriss Worthington

Kriss Worthington has been in the Berkeley City Council forever, and yet Berkeley deserves to have him there for even longer.  He is currently the leading liberal voice in the city, taking the side of residents against the benefits of developers.  His opponent, Sean Barry, who has the support of Mayor Tom Bates, is not ready for the position.  His inability to answer some of my questions – he had no idea what Urban Shield was, for example – made me wonder whether he actually reads newspapers.


George Beier

George Beier

City Council District 8: George Beier

I wish I lived in Berkeley District 8.  Not only is it beautiful there, but it would mean that I’d get to chose between three great candidates.  Of the three, George Beier stands up for a couple of reasons.  First, he is not afraid to stand up for his beliefs, even when it goes against the interests of his allies. Second, his answers to my questionnaire for city council candidates were among the best I’ve gotten from all candidates. They showed that he is clear about his principles, and he knows how to think about the issues critically and analyze possible consequences.  Finally, the Berkeley City Council is strongly divided between the Tom Bates camp, with 5 members, and the liberal camp, with 3.  Unlike his opponents, George is not supported by either faction, which would allow him to be the bridge builder and swing vote that the Council really needs.

School Board Ty Alper and Josh Daniels

I had the opportunity to hear all the candidates at the Democratic endorsements. I also spoke with a couple of them, and received answers to my questionnaire from two of them.  I was particularly impressed with Alper and Daniels.

Ty Alper

Ty Alper

Ty Alper is a social justice attorney who runs Boalt’s death penalty clinic.  He is also the father of three kids attending Berkeley public schools.  He is intelligent, definitely committed to education as the way of lifting children up, a clear thinker and someone who will bring a different perspective to the Berkeley School Board.  He is endorsed by liberal lion Robert Reich, among others.  I very much appreciated how well thought out the answers to my questions were, and how Ty believes in data-driven solutions, rather than on suppositions.  I believe his analytical approach, and his persona experience both as a lawyer and as a current parent at Berkeley schools, will enhance the quality of the decisions made by the Board.

joshdanielsJosh Daniels is a young education attorney and current President of the Berkeley School Board.  I was impressed by his approachability, understanding of the challenges, and progressive values.  He seemed the candidate most committed to understanding and honoring diversity, while taking the needs of different student groups into account.  I also thought he was the most energetic of the incumbents and the one who had the most comprehensive view of the issues, perhaps because he is an education attorney.  He had great answers to my questionnaire.

I reached out to all candidates for Berkeley City Council and School Board 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.  

Other Berkeley Endorsement: Tony Thurmond for Assembly.

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