Tim Holmes

Jan 242015

The following essay is by San Leandro citizen Tim Holmes

martin-luther-king-being-arrestedSan Leandro Police Chief Sandra Spagnoli marched with our San Leandro High School students in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

To claim to honor Dr. King while simultaneously propagandizing the purchase of a Bearcat for local police use (a tank with the lipstick of “medical” slapped on it) is a slap in the face of the memory of a man for whom that tank would represent the very boot of the oppressor.

To claim to walk in Dr. King’s honor while sitting at the helm of a rapidly expanding surveillance apparatus aimed at people not suspected of any crime, is offensive. Even more so as our government used illegal surveillance to gather private information with which they they attempted to blackmail Dr King, demanding he end his political activism under threat of exposing an affair, which is not illegal.

To those who suggest a camera on every block because you “have nothing to hide”, remember that while you may not be a target, those who fought for our freedoms and those who fight today to preserve them ARE targeted and we all pay the price for the squashing of political dissent, as will our children.

To those who say saving even one life is worth the tank and the surveillance state, I would remind you that men and women by the hundreds of thousands have given their lives to get and keep the freedoms and rights you are so casually tossing to the side as if worthless, for a possibility to “save one life.” There are things more precious than our individual selves and the freedom of our people is one for which Americans have and will continue to lay their lives down when necessary. Please, stop disrespecting those who have made such sacrifices by disrespecting the value of the rights the people of our country have earned through blood and loss.
To honor Dr. King would mean to act in a way consistent with his life and work, not pursuing the increase of oppression over the people of our country.

What would the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. feel should be done regarding the tank?

I suspect he’d make a clear case for the injustice and wrong-headedness of escalating a war against our own people and the inevitable impact in particular to the black people of America who have yet to feel relief from the crushing boot of oppression in a police state that has only continued to grow since his death.

Were he here to comment, he might site a psalms and proverb, neither of which would mention getting bigger weapons and putting up bigger walls, but would speak to actions we must take which will lay the groundwork so that equality is possible and so that we can break down the barriers between us: police and citizen, black and white, warrior and victim, oppressors and oppressed, occupiers and the occupied.

I hope Dr. King, his life and his death, is on all the council’s minds when they vote whether to reject the teargas-equipped Bearcat “Medevec” tank.

Jan 212015
Tim Holmes speaks at the "community meeting" on the SLPD acquiring of a BEARCAT

Tim Holmes speaks at the “community meeting” on the SLPD acquiring of a BEARCAT

This is the letter that Tim Holmes, a prominent San Leandro citizen and community activist, sent the San Leandro City Council. You can also read my own message to the SLPD on this matter.

To the members of the San Leandro City Council:

I attended the recent community meeting regarding the plans to obtain a Bearcat, I wasn’t able to complete my comments in the time allotted, so I’m including them in full here.

I am asking you vote no and to NOT accept this vehicle.

Tools only seem neutral. You pick one up, you use it and put it back. But the tools at your disposal determine how you solve a problem. “Give someone a hammer and everything begins to look like a nail.” This tool is not neutral.

This tool CAN be used as a medical vehicle, but it is, by any real-world definition, a tank. It’s a vehicle custom-built and sold as a military vehicle, with an oxygen canister, two folding stretchers, and a “MedEvac” sticker thrown in to put a veneer of humanitarian aid to get in through the door.

It CAN be used as a shield, but any shield with holes built-in was built as a firing platform first and foremost and a shield second.

There is no question this tool will be put to use, as any tool is. And, were you to be given a attack helicopter, that too would assist in pursuing bad guys, but when going down that path justifies any tool. Brick by brick we build the world we will live in. That’s the larger picture you need to keep in mind as your decisions will impact generations to come and shape the world they live in, without their participation or permission.

We all draw a line somewhere, a line over which we feel we lose our freedoms. There are countries, now and in the past, who have taken that path, but I don’t know anyone who considers those countries better for it.

That line differs for everyone, but the discussion about where that line is for this community is being denied. Instead our police department has already decided without public input, and is creeping that line forward more and more. The ever increasing and undisclosed number of license plate cameras, community surveillance cameras, with surprise microphones no less, the proposal for the Bearcat, and more. All of this is occurring without an open debate on the tradeoffs, while the police have pat answers to every concern, never even acknowledging that there is indeed a cost, a human cost, and a cost to our individual rights.

We must govern and make decisions under the assumption that people you do not trust will in charge, because the decisions you are making will affect our grandchildren and had somebody made these decisions 30 years ago, we would live in the free society we do today, even with the legacy of abusing the rights of minorities.

People feel the comparison to Ferguson is inappropriate, but it was only a few decades ago when being black in San Leandro was more dangerous than being in Ferguson today, and our police department followed the orders of our city’s culture of racism and abuse of powers. What would those elected officials and those police officers do with this vehicle… You must make laws to protect us from their sentiments now just as we needed that then. You are hearing about police abuse of power because it happens. It happens in the Bay Area today, not just in Ferguson and not just in our past. It really happens and citizens are justifiably fearful.

Because as things stand, the only way to ensure we aren’t the ones being persecuted is to lie low, stay quiet, and not raise trouble and in a democracy that’s not an acceptable trade off, for me and many others…. that’s unacceptably over the line. That’s our reality.

As a citizen of your city, a voter, a parent, local business owner, donor, community activist, and volunteer, I ask you to vote against accepting this vehicle.

Don’t allow us to be dragged back to a time when police cars sat on the border of Oakland, where minorities were unwelcome and discriminated against, and where our police were the stooges of those whose agenda isn’t American, isn’t moral, and which does not represent the people of San Leandro, the majority of whom are already discriminated against and fear the police, and yet make up the majority population of the city.

Thank you,

Tim Holmes

Jan 032013

Note: This arDemocrat Donkeyticle was originally published here.

Update on January ACDCC meeting: Members Sworn In and Party officers elected. I cast sole vote against having a paid campaign manager as local party Vice-Chair.

Last night was the first meeting of the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee of the year, as well as the swearing-in of the elected and re-elected members of the Committee. We were sworn in by Senate Majority Leader and San Leandro native Ellen Corbett, in a very uneventful ceremony.

Every member of the Committee, including “ad-hoc” members (Democrats elected to state and national offices who live in Alameda county), picks an alternate who can represent them when they can’t make it to the meetings. The alternates then have to be approved by the whole committee. My alternate this term is Tim Holmes. He is the owner of Zocalo Coffeehouse in San Leandro (where many a Democratic event has taken place), and a co-founder of the San Leandro Community Action Network. He is one of the most influential political voices in San Leandro, but he is also very liberal, perhaps even as liberal as I am. He is a better communicator, however.

We also voted to approve the Committee’s delegates to the state convention (basically, all the Committee members plus some of the alternates) and for Committee officers (Chair, Vice Chair, Recording Secretary, Corresponding Secretary and Treasurer). All of the latter ran unopposed and all but one were unanimously approved.

The one exception was Royce Kelley, who was running to be re-appointed Vice-Chair of the Committee. He is currently one of the state party’s regional directors. There was one vote against him: mine. I could not in good conscience vote for him, given the conflict of interest that holding his position signifies.

Royce Kelley is one of the principals at Alliance Campaigns Strategies. He and Angela Ramirez-Holmes, another member of the Committee, specialize in managing the political campaigns of Democrats running for office in Alameda county.

Candidates for local office usually seek the endorsement of the Democratic Party as a “seal of approval” to use in their literature; in the case of local candidates for non-partisan office, this means endorsement by the county Central Committee. Candidates are first interviewed by the Committee’s Executive Board, which is composed of the Chair, Vice-Chair, Treasurer, Secretaries and the District Vice-Chairs (each AD delegation gets to appoint its own vice-chair). The Executive Board then votes on which candidates should be put on the consent calendar to get the party’s endorsement. While it’s possible for regular Committee members to pull candidates from the consent calendar, it’s pretty rare. Usually, if you make it to the consent calendar, the endorsement is yours.

Both Kelley and Ramírez-Holmes are members of the Executive Board, as was their former partner, Shawn Wilson. Robin Torello, the Committee Chair, is very close to Kelley and they often speak with one voice. What this means is that Alliance Campaigns has an inordinate amount of influence on who gets the Democratic endorsement in Alameda county.

Now, I will not presume to say that Kelley and Ramirez-Holmes vote or lobby for the candidates that have hired them. However, they do seem to have represented quite a few candidates that have gotten the Democratic endorsement, even when running against more progressive candidates. And many candidates believe that they must hire Alliance Campaign if they want to get the Democratic endorsement, or at least prevent their opponents from getting it. I find this very problematic from an ethical point of view. A democratic system that is not or has the appearance of not being clean, an endorsement system that is based on something other than an objective evaluation of who is the best candidate for that often, is a corrupt and undemocratic system. And that’s what I ran to stand up against.

I understand why even fellow committee members who agree with me, are reluctant to speak out loud about this matter. If you hope to have a political career, it’s not a good idea to make powerful enemies. But I also believe that we need to vocally stand for what we believe, and I believe in a fair and open process

Marga Lacabe was is an elected member of the ACDCC representing AD 18. These articles are meant to update her constituents on what’s going on at the party.