Letters for the Week of October 29, 2014

Readers sound off on the coming elections.

“Vote Libby Schaaf for Mayor of Oakland,” Election, 10/15

Continue the Momentum with Quan

Why is the Express recommending changing horses in mid-stream, and for such bogus reasons, when even you admit that Mayor Quan is “mostly on the right track?” Occupy Oakland was an impossible situation for any mayor. Early on, councilmembers were split between support for Occupy and wanting to shut them down immediately. Occupy’s consensus process for decisions was unwieldy and meant they were unable to take many actions. They claimed at the time that there were no “leaders” and told the mayor that if she wanted to talk to anyone she could wait in line for the evening open mic (usually a two-hour process!) like everyone else. Oakland had a particularly toxic anarchist group that did most of the damage; by definition, their goal was to create chaos, not to protest. Their actions were irrational and unpredictable.

Police Chief Sean Whent has been excellent, making significant progress on court-ordered reforms as well as overseeing reorganization of the department. Chief Anthony Batts was hired by former Mayor Ron Dellums. He was job- hunting before Quan was even elected. When he left abruptly, Howard Jordan was promoted from within for stability in a department that needed it, but Jordan was unable to buck the police officers’ union to make enough progress with reforms.

The previous administration had left us with a $38 million deficit, followed quickly by a reduction in property tax revenues and by Jerry Brown seizing redevelopment funding to balance the state budget. City Administrator Deanna Santana’s financial skills were very appropriate for that period of crisis. Promoting Fred Blackwell to replace her was great; unfortunately for us, he was offered his (other) dream job shortly afterward, but he has continued to work on the Coliseum City project proposal. And Blackwell’s replacement, former City Manager Henry Gardner, is brilliant.

For the first time since the mid-1990s, more people think the city is going in the right direction than think it is going the wrong way. Why switch horses? I’m voting to continue the momentum with Jean Quan.

Valerie Winemiller, Oakland

Quan Deserves a Second Term

Personally, I am voting Jean Quan as my first choice. As a member of her transition team after she was elected in 2010, I was intimately aware of the generally poor conditions in City Hall when Jean came into office. And now all areas of the city — including finance, budget, safety, development, operations, management, personnel, morale, and community involvement — have been vastly improved. It is impossible to be unaware of the positive changes occurring throughout the city, yet for reasons that remains a mystery to me, from Day One, there remain many who are proud “Jean haters” (a perplexing phenomenon).  

Jean brought the city back from financial disaster and has had admirable accomplishments in all areas, including crime reduction and stabilizing the number of police officers, making good staff appointments, getting police officers to contribute to their pension plan, providing summer jobs for youth, spearheading the pothole blitz program, and making sure that all committee and commission appointments are filled. She has balanced budgets and the city now has a growing surplus. She brought in Chinese investors to speed up the Oak-to-Ninth project, a number of new housing developments have been permitted and are ready to start, she’s visibly fighting to keep our three sports teams in Oakland, there has been not a hint of scandal or corruption in her administration, there’s been no labor strikes or threats, and there’s been a noticeable improvement in staff morale across the board. 

Early in her term, Jean was a party to a very unfortunate handling of Occupy — an untold story in itself, not susceptible to a soundbite. Jean is not the most friendly administrator. It is no secret that Jean is a lengthy talker, partly due to the fact that she is so deeply versed on almost any matter. Jean is well aware of these frailties, and is indeed improving.

Additionally, after twelve years of mostly inaction by the two prior mayors, Jean has resolved practically all the heavily resisted court mandated changes in Oakland police practices that resulted from The Riders litigation. Unlike Mayors Jerry Brown and Ron Dellums, Jean continues to attend and participate in every meeting of the city council. And despite not usually having a vote on council matters, Jean still voices her position on all-important matters that come before the council, thereby remaining visible, active, approachable, and transparent to the citizenry.  

A strong supporter of lesbian and gay rights, Jean has been a leader and supporter of annual Pride activities. Earlier this month, she won the endorsement of the Bay Area Reporter, the area’s largest gay/lesbian newspaper.

I don’t think it is possible to find a mayor who works harder, longer, or more effectively on behalf of Oakland, and who continually attends, meets with, and reaches out to all segments of the city. Jean Quan has succeeded over and beyond expectations. She definitely deserves a second term to continue the good work she has begun.

Were Jean not running for reelection, I would vote Dan Siegel first. In the past, Dan would not have won the Oscar for social skills, however, in recent years Dan has made a complete turnaround. Overall, Dan is a true progressive, and the only steadfast progressive in the fifteen-person field. Dan was also a member of Quan’s transition team, where we generally agreed on issues. Dan ended his close relationship with Mayor Quan as result of the Occupy fiasco. 

Of the remaining candidates, I don’t have overwhelmingly positive feelings: Libby Schaaf is smart and articulate, and is basically fair, but she is the darling of the chamber, landlords, and developers. Libby would be adequate as a typical mayor, but don’t expect imaginative initiatives.

Rebecca Kaplan is to me a puzzle. She tries to talk a good game, but she has back-stabbed tenants and housing organizations several times. With Kaplan, ego and glad-handing comes first. Being one of the first “out” lesbian mayors is an important objective. But the Bay Area Reporter endorsed Jean, totally snubbing Kaplan. Also, the Stonewall Democratic Club did not endorse Kaplan for mayor — strong commentaries in themselves. 

Courtney Ruby is honest and has done an excellent job as auditor. I feel that beyond budgets and oversight procedures, she would be in over her head. I would like to see Ruby as a councilmember for a couple of terms in order for her to broaden and mature in other areas of governance.  

Joe Tuman has been around a long time, but never ran for council. I don’t find anything special in Joe. He has no definable constituency, and I think Joe would be the typical run-of-the-mill politician.

Bryan Parker was appointed by Quan to the Port Commission. Shortly after taking the seat, Parker double-crossed the mayor without even an advance conversation of his reasons or intent. I would not trust him. 

I strongly support Mayor Quan. No present opponent even begins to measure up. 

James E. Vann, Oakland

“The Myth of the Unbiased Media,” Election, 10/22

Quan Is Progressive?

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan is as progressive as the bean-bag round that entered Scott Olsen’s skull.

JP Massar, Berkeley

“Chevron Bids to Retake Richmond,” Election, 10/22

You Forgot Eduardo Martinez

Good article with important information not seen in most of the media, but there’s one glaring omission. Eduardo Martinez should definitely be included among the top candidates for city council. He came within just a few hundred votes of being elected in 2012, and was the favorite of dozens of public speakers who urged the city council in early 2013 to appoint him to fill the seat vacated by the then-ill Gary Bell. Eduardo is a key contender who has been immersed in the Richmond community for more than twenty years as a teacher, park and recreation commissioner, planning commissioner, and three-time city council candidate.

Marilyn Langlois, Richmond

Boycott Chevron

Chevron is a disgusting company. I hope Richmond voters aren’t suckered by its money and sleaze. The next step is to organize a huge California-based boycott of Chevron. Time to pass by the Chevron sign and go elsewhere for gas. Every little bit hurts and puts these overpaid price-gougers and arrogant bullies a step closer to being put out of business.

Steve Redmond, Berkeley

“A Barrier to Proposition 1,” Election, 10/22

Prop 1 Is a Trojan Horse

Don’t be taken in by the state water bond measure, Proposition 1, on the November 2014 ballot. Prop 1 is a Trojan horse: Under the guise of alleviating the drought, this glittering package of measures with “something for everyone” hides the fact that the lion’s share of the measure will go to building costly and environmentally destructive dams and reservoirs that will provide no actual relief from the drought.

The first question to ask is the classic one: “Who benefits?” The bond provides $2.7 billion (more than one-third of the total $7.545 billion) for additional water storage projects — including the Sites, Los Vaqueros, Temperance Flat reservoirs, as well as raising Shasta dam — that benefit Big Agribusiness. Building dams and reservoirs is ill-advised. These projects will damage fragile ecosystems while producing little or no additional water during drought years. In addition, all the most cost-effective dam sites in the state have already been used. Prop 1 is a very costly way to give Big Ag access to minimal water at taxpayers’ expense.

Key decisions on these projects and their financing would be made by Governor Jerry Brown’s politically appointed California Water Commission. The commission would make its decisions with no budgetary oversight from the legislature.

In addition to the cost of these projects, the bond measure adds $14.4 billion or $360 million per year in debt service to the general fund over the 40-year period of repayment. This adds to California’s already huge structural deficit of $747 billion. This money could be better used for other needs like education and health care. For example, a proposed $4.3 billion school bond measure was blocked from the November ballot because Governor Brown didn’t want competition against the water bond.

Prop 1 does not benefit all parts of the state equally. It primarily benefits agribusiness interests in the Central Valley and southern California cities. Rural communities and residents in Northern California, including the Bay Area, the Central Coast, and the eastern Sierra region will get little or no benefits from the bond.

The bond measure fails to bring real water solutions to California. It slashes previously proposed funding for water conservation, efficiency, recycling, and more to $1.5 billion, about half the amount earmarked in the measure for additional water storage. With the state’s increasingly unpredictable climate, we can no longer rely on the old build-build-build mentality to solve our water-scarcity crises. We must send the issue back to the legislature so it can invest the public’s money in proven, cost-effective, flexible, nonstructural water solutions that can secure our water future.

Droughts are not uncommon in California. This isn’t the first one, nor will it be the last. The State of California needs to deal with this reality and invest in more water conservation and better groundwater management and efficiency and recycling strategies. It should not throw huge sums of money at building new dams for powerful agribusiness interests.

Vote no on Prop 1.

Helen Burke, Berkeley, former East Bay
Municipal Utility District board member

Prop 1 Doesn’t Conserve Water

Okay, here’s my take on the subject. Why would we build dams in a drought? It’s like opening a bank account when you’re broke. We should be spending money on ways to protect the water we have — like putting water meters in every home. In my town, only half the homes have meters. We can’t afford to buy more, and that’s a shame.

We could also give tax breaks to those who remove lawns that use lots of water.

Conservation measures? Yes. Prop 1? No.

Phillip Moya, Merced

“Replacing Courtney Ruby,” Election, 10/22

None of the Above

Having read this article I would be hard-pressed to vote for either candidate for Oakland city auditor. Best to leave this part of the ballot blank!

John Seal, Oakland

Vote for Raphael

Len Raphael has the knowledge to deal with the tough financial issues that have plagued Oakland for years. He will do a great job of sweeping away fat-cat contracts and money-wasters in the City of Oakland. Let’s vote for a man who will be effective in reviewing and auditing city contracts!

Ellen Gierson, Oakland

Raphael Is Right for the Job

Len Raphael sounds like he would really do the job of the city auditor. If I were the owner of a company that had financial leakage, I would hire him.

Ruthie Lee, Oakland

“Vote Yes on Oakland’s Measure Z and No on Berkeley’s Measure R,” Election, 10/22

Gammon Knows Better

Express editor Robert Gammon was given full background and all the supporting documents regarding all the behind-the-scenes bad behavior regarding Measure S.

While he admits it’s not a perfect map, it’s unfortunate he entirely glosses over what happened, including Mayor Tom Bates (who Gammon has praised as the best mayor) threatening aides and killing independent redistricting.

Email me at [email protected] so I can show you that Gammon indeed had all this information and curiously did not do a story, possibly because it implicated the politicians he supports. Ironically, he did a story praising Oakland for doing independent redistricting, which in part inspired by the work of our office. So Gammon cannot claim he has no interest in the subject as an excuse for why he ignored what happened in Berkeley.

Also, please find a very detailed background on Measure S at StoptheGerrymander.nationbuilder.com/background

I took great pains to document everything to prove what indeed had happened.

It’s a shame that Gammon chose to conveniently ignore the sordid details that killed the very issue he is claiming to support (independent redistricting) in Berkeley.

Anthony Sanchez, aide to Berkeley City Councilmember Jesse Arreguin

“Berkeley Measures Test the Popularity of Council Majority,” Election, 10/15

It Won’t Create Affordable Housing

I am not aware of any major affordable housing advocacy organizations supporting Measure R. Meanwhile, the Berkeley Food and Housing Project, whose mission is to end homelessness in Berkeley, has endorsed No on Measure R because it recognizes it would mean fewer affordable units and/or less funding for new affordable housing projects.

Eric Panzer, Berkeley

Measure R Would Be a Mistake

Measure R is a well-intentioned piece of legislation that is so idealistic and over-the-top that it will completely defeat its own goals if passed. The impossibly tight standards that R would introduce would mean that developers will steer clear of Berkeley, so no affordable housing will be built.

Preventing housing growth as the city’s population continues to grow will cause housing to become even more expensive, and more people will commute from elsewhere, increasing car emissions and transit crowding. Not too green if you ask me.

Berkeley should definitely continue to use affordable housing incentives and give developers perks and exemptions for including more affordable units. Strangling all new developments out of existence with extreme regulations isn’t the way to achieve that goal. Definitely no on R.

Max Chanowitz, Oakland

“A Crowded Field of Newcomers,” Election, 10/15

Debro Is an Educator

My first choice for the Oakland school board District Four race is Karl Debro because he is an educator and we need that perspective on the board.

Katie McLane, Oakland

“Just Can’t Give Brown My Vote,” Letters, 10/15

You Can’t Do Write-In Votes

The author states, “I guess I’ll have to write somebody in.” But it’s important that voters be aware that, unfortunately, the write-in space has now been removed for all partisan races — as a consequence of the top-two primary system that was first implemented two years ago. One way you can protest this assault on voter rights is to boycott these limited- to-only-two choices statewide partisan races. For details, see the lead article linked at: ACGreens.Wordpress.com/voter-guides.

Greg Jan, Oakland,
Green Party of Alameda County

“From Siegel to Parker,” Election, 10/8

What About Kaplan’s Lack of Ethics?

This was a good write-up on the candidates. Although I don’t think much in terms of right and left, I feel your story makes them a little more knowable. You illuminated Bryan Parker’s past with a shady healthcare company, about which many probably do not know.

But you did not mention Rebecca Kaplan’s more current lapse of ethics, controlling a political action committee to receive funding to support Measure BB and using the funds for her mayoral campaign. When she was caught she supposedly killed it but, according to an article in the August 2 Oakland Tribune, only about a third of the funds have gone to the measure’s official campaign.

So when I see her ad on TV, I wonder if donors who paid for the ad thought they were supporting Measure BB? I would say she is not a cheerleader for Oakland, or for transportation, but a cheerleader for Rebecca Kaplan!

Joyce Roy, Oakland

“Replacing Pat Kernighan,” Election, 10/8

Park Is the Best Bet

Andrew Park is the real deal. I love that he’s not a slick politician. He’s a father and husband like me who wants to make the place he lives better for his family! Our neighborhood is getting hammered by crime, so what is the answer? He’s the best bet for a solution. I hope he wins and can do it. If he doesn’t it’s going to be more of the same blah, blah, blah. I’ve seen it happen over and over for thirty years.

Richard Jue, Oakland

Park and Blackburn Are True Oaklanders

What the article failed to mention is that two of the candidates recently moved into the district or into Oakland in order to be able to run for office. In order to keep his community college position, Abel Guillen moved into the one block in District Two that overlaps with his own Peralta Community College district. Is that the political experience voters are looking for — opportunity before community?

And Dana King got her urban-issue policy chops from being an artist and living in Marin. Just google her to find out what makes her famous as an artist.

Kevin Blackburn and Andrew Park didn’t have to move to qualify — they are Oaklanders. Park has a very long record working in the district, creating opportunities for youth, targeting crime hot spots, making neighborhoods safer, improving our schools, and helping local businesses thrive. His campaign office is in the too-long-shuttered original Parkway Theater — that’s only one example of his deep Oakland connections and passion.

Scott Adams, Chicago

“Vote Campbell Washington, Droste, Maio, Worthington, and Echols,” Election, 10/8

Thurmond Is No Friend of Big Oil

In your endorsement of Elizabeth Echols for the state Assembly, you wrote “Big Oil obviously does not want Echols elected to the state legislature. In our book, that’s reason enough to support her.” Actually it isn’t — not when the other contender for the office, Tony Thurmond, has stated his opposition to Big Oil, called for a ban on fracking, and voted against Chevron’s interests while on the Richmond City Council. 

Why favor Echols on account of her opposition to Big Oil when Thurmond has not only stated but also demonstrated that same opposition with his actions?

Candidates cannot control what independent expenditure groups do with their money so they should not be held accountable for their spending. There may well be other, unknown forces at play in determining how these “shadowy groups” throw around their cash.

Nick Despota, Richmond

Endorse Thurmond

I think Tony Thurmond is the best choice for the State Assembly. He is hands-down more savvy about politics and how to get things done than his opponent. You should endorse him.

Margot Smith, Berkeley

Miscellaneous Letters

Vote Yes on Measures U and V

The League of Women Voters of Berkeley, Albany and Emeryville urges citizens to support ballot measures U and V in Emeryville. Please vote yes on both when you cast your ballot. Measure U will enable Emeryville to become a charter city for the limited purpose of being able to create and collect a property transfer tax, thus gaining more control over the income of the city.

Measure V would create the local property transfer tax itself. The rate would be $12 for each $1,000 of sale value. The income from the new property transfer tax would begin to replace the funding lost to the city when the state dissolved all redevelopment programs. Emeryville lost $30 million, half of its annual budget.

Since the income will depend on the number and value of property sales in future years, the income from the tax cannot be predicted. In 2013, Emeryville collected $130,000 in property transfer tax revenue. If a local transfer tax had been in force at the $12/$1,000 rate, the City would have received $2.85 million. Eighty-five percent of this would have come from sales of commercial properties.

The proposed Emeryville rate is lower than the $15/$1,000 rate charged by neighboring cities Berkeley and Oakland. The tax would be spent in the city where your homes and buildings are located. It would help keep city services running well, maintain parks and much more — thus maintaining and enhancing the value of the individual properties that are bought and sold.

Nancy Bickel and Barb Singleton, Emeryville

Correction

Our October 22 election story, “Incumbent a No-Show in Campaign,” misstated Dollene Jones’ last name in the story’s subtitle. 

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