Dan Siegel

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.

Aug 222014
Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

Teachers, Nurses Endorse Siegel

I want to congratulate the Oakland Education Association and the California Nurses Association for endorsing Dan Siegel for Mayor of Oakland.

I have heard now from many people that they love what Dan Siegel stands for, but he can’t win. That, however, can be a self-fulfilling prophesy. If we don’t support the candidates who hold our values we will never see real change. By catering to our perception of what voters want to hear, we promote demagogy instead of real democracy. We do not give ourselves a chance.

I thank the teachers and the nurses for leaving fears aside and supporting someone who can give us hope.

And Dan can. He has been fighting against government abuse and for the rights of the disenfranchised his whole life. He is intelligent, committed, and has a clear vision. And he is humble.

When I asked Dan Siegel to meet with Mike and I so I could hear more about his campaign for Mayor, I was expecting him to have airs of superiority. After all, he has had a brilliant law career, an outstanding record as an activist and was now vying to become Mayor. Lawyers, politicians and activists can be a rather arrogant bunch (me included).

Dan has no arrogance, no sense of superiority; he is not in love with himself. He is running because he is committed to turn Oakland around, to do the best for the City and all its citizens. He doesn’t seek power, he wants opportunity for others. As a human rights activist, I’ve been privileged to meet other people like him, but even in my field they are rare.

I want Dan to win because he is unapologetically a liberal, because his views and values are clear and he stands by them.  Unlike other politicians, he won’t tell you what he thinks you want to hear.

And I want him to win because things in America are getting worse.  Wealth and power continue to accumulate in the hands of the very few, America is no longer a democracy.  The middle class is disappearing and most of us have an uncertain future.   Young people graduate from college, after indebting  themselves for life, to find no jobs awaiting them.  Racism is growing in our society, and African-Americans are being stereotyped as criminals and the source of society’s problems, much like Jews were in Nazi Germany.  Black men are regularly killed by police with impunity.   Meanwhile, the government is readying for the social upheaval that this racial and economic repression is likely to lead to, by instituting methods of mass surveillance and militarizing the police.

Dan Siegel has stood against these things.  He was the only serious candidate for Oakland Mayor to loudly and clearly speak against the Domain Awareness Center anddemand accountability for police abuses.  Oakland only started talking about raising the minimum wage, after Dan Siegel made it part of his platform.

I want Dan Siegel to win so that he can help turn Oakland around, but also so that he can be an example for others.  Candidates who have strong convictions often don’t run because they believe they’ll have to sell out their principles to cater to voters’ fears.  I want Oaklanders to prove them wrong.

So go Dan Siegel!

Dec 292013

Dan SiegelCivil Rights Attorney Dan Siegel announced last week that he will run for Mayor of Oakland in 2014. Siegel spoke about his race with Oakland blogger Zennie Abraham.

Originally from New York, Siegel was a political activists during his years as a law student at UC Berkeley. Since 1973 he’s been in private practice as an attorney, specializing in labor law, employment discrimination and civil rights litigation.  He served as legal adviser for Mayor Quan early in her term, but he quit in protest over Quan’s mishandling of Occupy Oakland.

Siegel has gathered attention most recently for standing up against the Domain Awareness Center and for representing port truckers against mistreatment by the City and Port of Oakland.

Siegel’s entrance into the race means that Oaklanders concerned with the protection of human rights and civil liberties now have a candidate they can support.