Oakland City Council

Sep 082016

Congresswoman Barbara Lee is not endorsing Oakland City Council At-Large candidate Peggy Moore.  And she wants to make sure everyone knows about that.

First, there was the e-mail sent to various Democratic mailing lists saying just that.  Then, there were the newspaper articles to that effect. And now, in case there was anyone left who didn’t know that Barbara Lee has not endorsed Peggy Moore, here is a press release wildly distributed to press and non-press.  So, in conclusion, Barbara Lee has not endorsed Peggy Moore.


Jul 312014
Annie Campbell

Annie Campbell

Oaklanders, this one is for you!

Last night I met with Annie Campbell Washington, who is running for City Council District 4 in Oakland. I came back very impressed.

She’s smart, competent, a good listener, friendly and with a good sense of humor. She seems like a very candid and human person, someone without airs or that sense of either superiority or inferiority that can be so harmful for working as a group. She seems to me like someone who will listen to her constituents, who considers all voices legitimate and would be able to weigh different interests and still come up with a policy that makes sense for the public.

Politically, she seems your typical Oakland progressive.  Her concerns while in the council 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.

I don’t know that she would agree with me on everything, but I think she’s someone whose thought process I would respect. Basically, she’s the sort of person whom I wish would run for Council here in San Leandro.

If you live in District 4 in Oakland, check her out

Her opponent is Jill Broadhurst.  I haven’t met with Jill yet, but she’s 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.

Mar 042014

Tonight, the Oakland City Council will vote on whether to go ahead with the construction of the Domain Awareness Center.  The DAC is a fusion center that aims to congregate in one place the feeds from surveillance cameras and license plate cameras in the city and port of Oakland.  It will be the “eyes on the ground” for the NSA and other intelligence agencies, and will be primarily used against protesters.

The DAC is strongly opposed by the ACLU, the EFF, Wellstone Democratic Club and the Oakland Education Association, the union for Oakland teachers.  Several organizations and community leaders have also sent a group letter to the Oakland City Council asking them to oppose it:

Dear Honorable Members of the Oakland City Council:

We urge the Oakland City Council to vote against the award of the Domain Awareness Center
(“DAC”) Phase 2 contract to Schneider Electric at the March 4, 2014 council meeting.

The project’s proposed full time mass surveillance throughout Oakland has created grave
concerns about infringement upon our civil liberties, especially in light of the Snowden

While we were encouraged by comments the City Council made at the February 18 meeting,
there are many unanswered questions regarding the data use and retention policy governing the
DAC. We believe it is improper to build the DAC prior to thorough vetting of the privacy and
data retention policies.

Proceeding with the DAC and its estimated $1.6 million annual operating cost makes no sense.
The City has spent the last few years making severe budget cuts, and it would be forced to make
even deeper cuts to comply with the balanced budget provision.

Please vote “No” on March 4, 2014.

Oakland Education Association
Arab Resource and Organizing Center
Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus
Anakbayan East Bay
Berkeley Copwatch
Bill of Rights Defense Committee
Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area
Fight for the Future
March 15 Organizing Committee
National Lawyers Guild
Oakland International Socialist Organization
Oakland Privacy Working Group
Phat Beets Produce
Prison Activist Resource Center
Stop Big Brother
Stop LAPD Spying Coalition
The Justice 4 Alan Blueford Coalition
Women for Genuine Security

Aisha Knowles, Alameda County Board of Education Member
Jesse Arreguin, Berkeley City Council, Alameda Democratic Central Committee Member
J Francisco Zermeno, Hayward City Council Member
Mike Katz-Lacabe, San Leandro USD School Board Trustee
Jason Toro, San Leandro USD School Board Trustee
Janet Arnold, Member County Council Green Party of Alameda County
Cat Brooks, ONYX Organizing Committee
Elaine Brown, former Chair Black Panther Party
Cynthia Chandler, co-founder Justice Now, Alameda Democratic Central Committee alternate
Malkia Cyril, Executive Director, Center for Media Justice
Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, Freeman Fellow at The Fellowship of Reconciliation
Kazu Haga, East Point Peace Academy
Elliott Halpern, ACLU Berkeley/North East Bay Chapter Board Member
Tarak Kauff, Board of Directors, Veterans for Peace
David Keenan, Bay Area Public School Organizer
Margarita Lacabe, Alameda County Democratic Central Committee
Rev. Deborah Lee, Director of the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (CLUE-CA)
Mary Madden, Organizer, Alameda County Against Drones
Normon Solomon, Co-Founder, RootsAction
Leonard Raphael
Wilson Riles, President Oakland Community Action Network, former Oakland Council Member
Tracy Rosenberg, Executive Director, Media Alliance
Michael Rubin, Member Oakland Greens
Igor Tregub, California Democratic Party AD15 Delegate; California Young Democrats VP
Rick Trullinger, Alternate Member, Alameda County Democratic Central Committee
Feb 062014
Emergency Services Director Renee Domingo speaking to the City Council

Emergency Services Director Renee Domingo speaking to the City Council

City employees in Oakland and San Leandro appear to live and work by the motto “it’s better to beg for forgiveness than to ask for permission.”  While most city councils rubber stamp whatever proposals city staff puts before them – an easier task than actually reading and analyzing long and boring reports -, some proposals are so clearly contrary to the public benefit that they are not politically tenable for council members to knowingly pass.  In those situations, staff – most assuredly with the blessing of the City Manager/Administrator – may give the Council an “edited” version of the facts behind it.   Whether the purpose is to deceive council members or provide them with plausible deniability can be discerned by how the member react once the true facts are uncovered.

Oakland city staff’s quest to build the Domain Awareness Center (DAC), a facility that would centralize the feeds from hundreds of cameras and license plate readers throughout the City, is a perfect example of how this works.  Internal e-mails obtained through the California Public Records Act make it clear that the actual purpose of the DAC is to track and subvert the activities of political protesters and labor activists in the city and port of Oakland. However, in public meetings, both staff and Councilmembers have only referred to the alleged crime-fighting uses of the DAC.   Finally, at the last meeting of the Council’s  Public Safety Committee,  Emergency Services Director Renee Domingo, who has spearheaded Oakland’s DAC project, was forced to admit that there is no data showing that existing DACs in other cities have helped to either reduce or solve crimes.

While there might be some room for argument about whether misleading the Council as to the purpose for the DAC is actually “lying”, it is absolutely clear that Ms Domingo deceived the Council about Science Applications International (SAIC)the company that was hired to build the DAC.    SAIC is a large military contractor which, among other things, works in the development, building and deployment of nuclear weapons.  Under Oakland’s 1988 anti-nuclear ordinance, the City cannot award contracts to any company that is involved with nuclear weapons.   Internal e-mails show that Domingo was aware that this was a problem in February 2013, but she didn’t mention anything about it to the City Council and the Council indeed went on and hired SAIC to build the first phrase of the project.  According to Domingo, she first heard about SAIC’s non-compliance in August,when activists brought it up – but that’s contradicted by the e-mails alluded to above.

Domingo is now proposing that the Council contract with called Schneider Electric to build phase II of the DAC. A simple google search of “Schneider Electric” and “nuclear weapons” leads to marketing materials from the company where it describes one of its main applications a being “nuclear weapons handling systems.”  It’s still unknown whether Domingo failed to do her due diligence or just hoped that activists wouldn’t find out.

No member of the Oakland City Council has held staff accountable for deceiving  them and for having the City knowingly enter into a contract that violated the City’s own laws.  Councilmember Dan Kalb campaigned on “restoring trust in City Hall“, and yet he has meekly accepted staff’s unethical behavior seemingly without a second thought.   While Kalb is not for re-election, his colleague Libby Schaaf, who has also failed to question staff over their duplicity, is running for Mayor of Oakland.  Her “no need for accountability” attitude is echoed by incumbent Mayor Jean Quan.

Things are no better in San Leandro.  Chief of Police Sandra Spagnoli routinely gives the City Council information that she knows to be false.  She has lied about things as easy to verify as the number of license plate scanners the Department has and the effects of realignment in the City.  But she also gave the Council false information about marijuana, the number of complaints they get about chickens and the dangers of overpollination.  A few months ago, the City had to settle a lawsuit brought by men after the Chief issued a press release falsely accusing them of attempting to engage in public homosexual sex.

Not only does the Chief routinely lie to the City Council, but she has also broken the law.  In 2012, the Chief was caught using Police Department staff and resources to get citizens to lobby the City Council against a proposed marijuana dispensary.  That violates both the San Leandro Municipal Code and the California Government Code.  Though City Council members are well aware of the Chief’s unlawful attempt to manipulate the democratic process, they have not called her on it.  This year, both Mayor Stephen Cassidy and Councilmember Pauline Cutter are running for re-election.

The Chief is not the only “truth impaired” member of staff in San Leandro.  When City staff decided to change the Zoning Code as a tactic in a pending lawsuit, city they explained the change as being a “routine update of the code” and only acknowledged the actual motive behind it after citizens like me brought it up repeatedly at public meetings.  After the acknowledgement, Mayor Stephen Cassidy made some noise about being more open with the community in the future, but did not take staff to task for their repeated attempts at deception.

It’s difficult to know what we can do to restore ethics and accountability in City Hall – both in San Leandro and in Oakland.  Electing the right people has to be part of the solution, but candidates with integrity are few and far between.   My strategy – exposing bad behavior at City Hall -, has seldom been an impetus for change.  Is local democracy just broken and, if so, can it be fixed?