Desley Brooks

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

I have already written about my endorsement of Dan Siegel for Mayor of Oakland.

I am making no endorsements in the Oakland City Council District 2 race. I was a strong supporter of Abel Guillen when he ran for State Assembly, and I still have a lot of respect for him. However, I am very concerned that he put political considerations before principle and did not speak out against the Domain Awareness Center. For that reason, I cannot endorse him.

I had a long and very productive conversation with Dana King. I found her to be an intelligent, prepared, caring woman who is running for City Council for all the right reasons. Friends who have dealt with her in her non-profit work hold a lot of respect for both her commitment to social justice and her ability to get stuff done. I think she will be a breath of fresh air in a very political and dysfunctional City Council, and I think her research skills and commitment for the truth will serve Oaklanders well. I am not endorsing her, however, because as I didn’t ask her to speak out against the DAC, I cannot be sure what her response would have been. Therefore I’m just staying out of this race.

Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell

City Council District 4: Annie Campbell Washington

Endorsing Annie Campbell Washington for Oakland City Council District 4 is a no brainer.  She is smart, competent, a good listener, friendly and has a good sense of humor.  She exudes humanity and lacks that airs of superiority so many politicians seem to have developed.  I’m confident that if she’s elected, she will listen to all her constituents, find the validity in all voices and weigh different interests to come up with a policy that makes sense for the community.

Politically, Campbell Washington is your typical Oakland progressive.  Her concerns include transit oriented development, developing a better system of bike lanes, supporting small businesses and trying to bring functionality to a deeply divided council.  She is also deeply committed to education and having the City support schools and working together.  She’s currently in the School Board and has two children who go to Oakland schools.

While I don’t believe we will always coincide, I can respect Campbell Washington’s thought process. Basically, she’s the sort of person whom I wish would run for Council here in San Leandro.

Her opponent is Jill Broadhurst,  the Executive Director of the East Bay Rental Housing Association, an organization that works against the rights of tenants. One of their major accomplishments is stopping legislation that would have made landlords pay interest on security deposits they hold for years/decades.

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

City Council District 6: Desley Brooks

I will be the first to admit that I have not followed the Oakland City Council’s doing that closely. Brooks has been in office for many years, and I don’t have a clear picture of all her decisions.  However, I did watch all the hearings that related to the Domain Awareness Center – a facility that would integrate mass surveillance throughout Oakland –, and I was very impressed with how Brooks performed in the final hearing.

She was prepared, she understood the issues, it was clear that she had spoken with the ACLU and other stakeholders and understood their concerns; she did not let staff, who had been less than candid with the Council about this project, get away with half-truths and misrepresentations and finally she advocated an intelligent compromise.  I was very impressed.

Brooks has definitely made enemies, but as far as I can see this is based on the fact that she has a strong personality, she stands up for what she believes and the people she represents and she doesn’t back down.  That’s exactly the type of leaders that I want to see elected.  And it’s also exactly the type of criticism that is freely given to strong women, in particular strong women of color, by those who are uncomfortable when they rock the boat.

I reached out to most candidates for Oakland 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.  

Other Oakland Endorsements: Dan Siegel for Mayor and Tony Thurmond for Assembly.

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

Sep 092014

Democrat DonkeyList of Candidates I’ve Pulled and Nominated for the Alameda Democratic party endorsement

(Updated with Results)

As a member of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee, I have the privilege of voting for the party’s endorsement in local, non-partisan races.  All registered Democrats running for office in Alameda county are eligible for the party endorsement.  Those who apply are interviewed by the Executive Committee, which can put candidates in the consent calendar.  Two members acting together can pull a candidate from the consent calendar and/or nominate a candidate for the endorsement.  All candidates nominated and pulled are then interviewed by the whole Committee (or whichever members show up to the endorsement meeting).  All members then vote on which candidate they want to get the endorsement.  The endorsement meeting for 2014 will be on Saturday, Sept. 13th.

The Committee has 49 members who are eligible to vote, including 16 ex-officio members.  These are Democrats who either represent a part of Alameda county in Congress or the Legislature, owho hold statewide office and live in Alameda county,  or who serve as regional directors for the party and represent parts of Alameda county.

To get the endorsement a candidate needs to get 60% of the cast votes.  Not all members vote, and most members don’t vote in most races.  So while my single vote may seem paltry, in some races it can really make a difference.

I take the whole nominating and voting process very seriously.  I was elected to the ACDCC by the people, and I feel I’m accountable to them.  Moreover, I believe that every right, and in particular those rights that are not universal, carries with it the responsibility of exercising it conscientiously.

For this reason, I make a solid effort to learn about all the Democratic candidates for office in Alameda county and nominate those whom I think hold the liberal principles I want the Democratic party to stand for.  As nominating a candidate often necessitates pulling others, I also pull perfectly acceptable candidates.

Now, this screening of candidates should be the job of the Executive Committee.  Unfortunately, the decisions of the Executive Committee are not always based on who is the best candidate.  Politics, petty rivalries and even profit (some members of the Executive Committee are paid campaign consultants/treasurers for candidates up for the endorsement) come into play.  So I feel it’s my responsibility to look at all candidates independently.

To judge which candidates I want to nominate and/or pull, I look at candidates’ websites, search for news about them and, in the case of Mayor/Council and School Board candidates, I send them a questionnaire.  I meet and speak on the phone with any candidate that is interested in doing so.  I won’t necessarily vote for the candidates that I nominate, in some cases where all candidates are equally good or bad I may vote “no endorsement”, but in all cases I think they are good Democrats that deserve to appear before the whole Committee.  That said, there are many Committee members who would be happier if they had to listen to fewer candidates, either because they trust the Executive Committee, they don’t believe they should vote in races outside their district, or vote for a candidate for reasons other than merit.

For this election, I pulled 9 candidates in 5 races, nominated 10 and would have pulled/nominated a number of others if I could have found someone to seconded me.

Candidates that I pulled and nominated

Berkeley City Council District 1: Pulled Linda Maio, nominated Alejandro Soto-Vigil

Reason: Alejandro’s political views and social justice values are very aligned with mine.  He is smart, committed and I think he has the passion to become a progressive leader at a time when we are in desperate need of them. I had a great conversation with him.  I was unable to find a non-city address for incumbent Linda Maio. Result: Linda Maio got the endorsement. She won re-election

Berkeley City Council District 8: Pulled Lori Droste, nominated Jacquelyn McCormick and George Beier

Reason: I met with Lori and was extremely impressed with her. I pulled her, however, because Angela Ramirez-Holmes is her campaign manager.  That made me doubt the integrity of Lori’s placement in the consent calendar.  Lori had been unaware of Angela’s influence in the Committee and had the integrity to agree to being pulled.  I nominated Jacquelyn and George because both of them responded to the questionnaire I sent and their political views also seem to reflect mine. Result: Lori Droste got the endorsement. She won the election.

Berkeley School Board: Pulled Joshua Daniels, Karen Hemphill and Julie Sinai and nominated Ty Alper.

Reason: A father of kids who attend BUSD, Alper has an impressive resume as a social justice lawyer and now director of the death penalty clinic at Boalt. He has been endorsed by liberal hero Robert Reich.  I think that he deserves a chance to make his case.  To nominate him I had to pull at least one person from consent, and it seemed most fair to pull them all. Result: the incumbents got the endorsement. Ty Alper was elected to the School Board, along with incumbents Daniels and Hemphill.

Oakland City Council District 6: nominated Desley Brooks

Reason: There were no candidates on consent for this race.  Brooks was the main voice at the Oakland City Council advocating that the Domain Awareness Center – a facility that would integrate mass surveillance throughout Oakland – be restricted to operating i