Leo Sheridan

Oct 122014
 
Evelyn Gonzalez

Evelyn Gonzalez

The San Leandro School Board has two seats open this November.  The election is by plurality vote – whoever gets the most votes wins, even if they get under 50% of the total vote -, and all registered voters who live within the boundaries of the San Leandro School District can vote in both races.

The race for Area 4 is between three parents: Latrina Dumas, Chike Udemezue and Leo Sheridan.  Parents Evelyn Gonzalez and Monique Taste, retired New Haven teacher Jean Kinkella, and  Peter Oshinski, who runs Hayward Unified’s school lunch program, are contesting for the At-Large seat.

Among these candidates, Latrina Dumas and Evelyn Gonzalez are the clear choice: they have the most experience with our schools, a far better understanding of the challenges facing the School district and have demonstrated an unparalleled commitment to improve not just specific schools, but the district as a whole.

There are great similarities between Dumas and Gonzalez and, indeed, they have worked together over the years.  They both have children that have made their way through San Leandro public schools from elementary onwards (Duma’s youngest daughter is in 5th grade).  They both have been extremely involved in their kids’ schools as class parents, PTA presidents, Site Council members and more.  They’ve even helped other schools with fundraising and other issues – when McKinley Elementary needed to get a computer lab, it was Gonzalez who lined up the donors and made the lab a reality.

As parents of a special needs child, they’ve both experienced the disfunctions of the special education department at the school district.  They understand how it needs to be reformed to serve what is a growing population.  And as parents of children of color, they’ve seen the challenges that minority children face in schools that have a mostly white faculty.

Serving in the School Board requires more than just knowing how a school works. You need to understand budgets, funding sources, state policies and the competing interests of different stakeholders.  Dumas and Gonzalez, alone among the candidates, have been attending School Board meetings for a decade, reading the materials, engaging with Board members and administrators, helping craft policy and advocating on specific issues.  If they are elected, they’ll be able to hit the ground running, rather than spend years trying to get up to speed.

Neither Gonzalez nor Dumas are very political, but they are both personally committed to social justice.  They both volunteer with different organizations helping those in need, and they stand up for the rights of the marginalized.  Finally, they are both caring and non-judgmental people.  They see the potential in children, what they can do, rather than what they can’t.  They believe in instilling personal responsibility, but also offering support to kids that are struggling.  They will bring a sense of humanity and compassion into the School Board that is, frankly, missing.

I know less about the other candidates, in part because they haven’t been as involved in the school district.  Udemezue, Sheridan and Tate are active parents in their children’s schools, but they’ve shown little interest in reaching out to the community as a whole and no desire to learn the actual mechanics of the district and the issues it faces.   I don’t think Kinkella and Oshinski have had any relationship with the schools or the district.  In any case, given the vast experience, knowledge and commitment that Gonzalez and Dumas have demonstrated, they are the obvious choice for School Board.

More info on Latrina Dumas: Smart Voter

More info on Evelyn Gonzalez: Voter’s Questionnaire, Candidate Statement, Smart Voter, Website, Facebook 

More info on Chike Udemezue: Smart Voter, Website

More info on Leo Sheridan: Candidate Statement, Smart VoterWebsite, Facebook, Twitter: @voteleosheridan

More info on Peter Oshinski: Candidate Statement, Smart VoterFacebook

More info on Monique Tate: Smart VoterWebsite,

More info on Jean Kinkella: Smart VoterWebsite,

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 in the Port of Oakland.  She took the comments from the ACLU seriously.  Without her incisive questioning of staff, I think the vote would have been different and the DAC would include all of Oakland. Result: no endorsement was made on this race. Brooks won re-election.

Oakland School Board District 2: nominated Aimee Eng

Reason: Neither candidate had been nominated for the endorsement.  Eng responded to me when I reached out to her with my questionnaire, while her opponent didn’t. I’d like to hear her make a case for the endorsement. Result: Eng got the endorsement and won the election.

Oakland School Board District 4: nominated Karl Debro

Reason: Debro was a teacher at San Leandro High and co-founded a gay-straight alliance on campus. When a lesbian student couple was harassed, Debro and other teachers spoke about it to their classes.  While the white teachers weren’t disciplined for this, Debro, an African American, was.  He sued the district, settled for $1M, and as a result of his suit the district implemented a pretty successful pro-diversity/anti-bullying curriculum.  I respect his experience and his stands. Result: Debro got the endorsement. Debro lost the election.

Pleasanton Mayor: nominated Matt Morrison

Reason: I was impressed with Matt Morrison when we interviewed him last June, and I was also impressed by his answers to my questionnaire.  He is the only Democrat running in that race against a Republican incumbent. Result: no endorsement was made on this race. Morrison lost the election.

Pleasanton School Board: pulled Jeff Bowser and Joan Laursen, nominated Mark Miller

Reason: Miller reached out to me.  I was impressed by his qualifications, platform and commitment to transparency.  This contrasts with Jeff Bowser whom, as Board president, prevented parents to speak at a School Board meeting, in violation of the Brown act.   I don’t know Laursen well, but it seemed fair to pull both of them. Result: the incumbents got the endorsement. Miller won the election along with Laursen.

San Leandro City Council District 1: pulled Deborah Cox

Reason: Deborah Cox, who is running against my husband Mike Katz-Lacabe,  does not hold the progressive values that the Democratic party should spouse (e.g. she is a vocal opponent of marijuana dispensaries).  Cox is represented by Ramirez-Holmes and her candidacy has been pushed forward by ACDCC chair Robin Torello Result: no endorsement was made on this race. Cox won the election.

San Lorenzo School Board: nominated Steve Kirk

Reason: This district includes part of San Leandro.  There are two spots on this race and only one candidate, Janet Zamudio, was put on consent.  Kirk and Zamudio are running together. They have both received the endorsement of the teacher’s union. The current incumbents have been there for many years and do not reflect the diversity of the district. If elected, Kirk will be the first openly LGBT official in San Leandro. Result: Kirk got the endorsement. Kirk lost the election.

Peralta CCD Trustee District 5: pulled William Riley, nominated David Ralston

Reason: I looked at this race after a colleague suggested it.  The Democratic party has a tendency to endorse incumbents automatically which concerns me.  Ralston has been in office for 16 years now and I think it’s important for him to explain what he has to give the district that he hasn’t already given, and for the challenger to make a case as to what he wants to do differently.  That said, this is the only race for which I didn’t actually reach out to the candidates. Result: Riley got the endorsement and was re-elected.

Wanted to pull / nominate but couldn’t find a second

Alameda City Council: pull Stewart Chen.

Reason: Chen has shown a great insensitivity towards victims of human rights violations in China and Tibet by advocating the flying of the flag of the People’s Republic of Chinaat City Hall.  In addition, Chen’s unwillingness to own up to the insurance fraud charges to which he plead guilty years ago and his advocating in favor of California Waste Solutions in front of the Alameda City Council call into question his integrity. He also didn’t respond to my questionnaire. Stewart lost re-election.

Albany School Board: nominate Charles Blanchard

Blanchard responded to my questionnaire and I very much liked his answers.  I also researched him and he seems to have been very much liked when he was in the School Board before.  He had not been previously interviewed by the screening committee, as he had not seen the invitation to apply for the nomination. No other candidate has been  nominated in this race. Blanchard was elected.

Castro Valley School Board: pull Janice Friesen and/or Gary Howard, nominate Dorothy Theodore

Reason: I spoke at length with Theodore and she impressed me. She has young children in the district and thus has an inside view to what is working and what is not.  The Castro Valley School Board messed up big time last year when they tried to move a preschool into the grounds of an existing school, eliminating needed open space.  They did this without appropriate communication and buy-in from parents.  Theodore was recruited from the group of parents who organized to oppose it.  In our conversation, Theodore showed herself to be intelligent, concerned about issues of social inclusion and diversity, and aware of how the schools are working.  In order to nominate her, however, I would have to pull at least one incumbent.  I was able to get a second to nominate Theodore but not to pull the incumbents.  Dorothy Theodore was elected.

San Leandro School Board Area 4: nominate Latrina Dumas

Reason:  This race is for the School Board seat my husband will be vacating.  I would have let this race go, but someone else nominated Latrina’s opponent, Leo Sheridan.  Sheridan doesn’t have a platform to speak of, doesn’t understand how the district works, did not reach out to Mike – the current officeholder – and would not meet with me to speak about his candidacy.  I was predisposed to dislike Latrina because she ran against Mike in 2010 and because during the period where the School Board was considering firing Chris Lim, Latrina spoke out often and in very harsh terms to School Board members.  However, I met with her and found her to be intelligent, very committed to education, a fighter, and someone who respects and cherishes each child for what they have to offer.  All in all she is a very positive person, but also one that spouses very progressive values.  I think she’d be a good addition to the School Board. Dumas ended up not campaigning and Sheridan won the election.

Would have pulled / nominated if someone else asked me to:

Alameda Mayor pull Marie Gilmore to nominate Trish Spencer.

Reason: My main issue with Gilmore is that she has not shown much interest in curtailing the militarization of police in Alameda (e.g. she voted in favor of having the police department acquire an armored vehicle).   I spoke at length with Spencer when she was up for the Democratic endorsement in her race for School Board and again now, and her commitment to both social justice and civil liberties matches mine.  Spencer was elected Mayor.

Oakland School Board Dist. 4: nominate Nina Senn

Reason: This was a race in which no candidate had been nominated.  Senn reached out to me after I contacted her, and I would have seconded her nomination if another member who knew her well had asked me to.  However, she is running against Karl Debro, so I won’t be voting for her. Senn won the election.

Candidates on Consent

These are the candidates who remained in the consent calendar and who will automatically receive the Democratic endorsement on Saturday:

  • Karen Monroe, Alameda County Superintendent (won)
  • Mary Gilmore, Alameda Mayor (lost)
  • Jim Oddie and Stewart Chen, Alameda City Council (won)
  • Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley City Council Dist 4* (won)
  • Ann-Marie Hoggan, Berkeley Auditor* (won)
  • James Chang and Paola Laverde-Levand, Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board* (both won)
  • Kasie Hidenbrand, Dublin Mayor* (lost)
  • Don Biddle, Abe Gupta, Dublin City Council* (both won)
  • Scott Donahue, Diane Martinez, Emeryville City Council (both won)
  • Raj Salwan, Fremont City Council (lost)
  • John Marchand, Livermore Mayor* (won)
  • Alan Nagy, Newark Mayor (won)
  • Mike Bucci and Francisco Preciado, Newark City Council (won and lost)
  • Olivia Sanwong, Pleasanton City Council* (lost)
  • Victor Aguilar, San Leandro City Council District 3 (lost)
  • Corina Lopez, San Leandro City Council District 5 (won)
  • Emily Duncan, Pat Gacoscos and Kashmir Singh Shahi, Union City City Council* (won, won and lost)
  • Isabel Dvorsky, Chabot/Las Positas Community College District* (won)
  • Vivien Larsen, Ohlone CCD Area