News & Notes

Jerome Wiggins is gone, but his dispute with Sheila Jordan lives on.

Why does the county pay for her computer, anyway? Thanks to a punishing hit piece paid for by her committee, county school superintendent Sheila Jordan elbowed her way to victory on Election Day. The funny thing is she didn’t even have an opponent. Jordan dedicated her campaign to knocking off her top foe on the school board, Jerome Wiggins. Jordan’s handpicked candidate, Jacki Fox Ruby, annihilated Wiggins at the polls shortly after Jordan annihilated the incumbent with a campaign mailer that warned: “Wiggins’ history of actual and threatened violence makes him unfit to serve on the board of education.”

The piece featured several communications attributed to Wiggins including one in which he allegedly threatened an associate superintendent, “Do you want me to go crazy? — a 5150 — I’ll make an appointment to see Sheila Jordan and go home and get my baseball bat and no one will have computers.” (A “5150” refers to Welfare and Institution Code Section 5150, which says, “When any person as a result of mental disorder is a danger to others.”) “This was a political assassination by Sheila Jordan of another black elected official,” Wiggins said the day after the election. “She used slander and racially tinged defamation of character to undermine my reelection.” Jordan, however, isn’t making any apologies. She predicts without Wiggins she and the board will finally “work as a team” and stop worrying about Wiggins wigging out.

Their election battle might be over, but the war between Jordan and Wiggins isn’t. Earlier this year, Wiggins filed a complaint with the district attorney accusing Jordan of, among other things, improperly mixing official business with personal politicking.

In a November 12, 2001 e-mail titled “Campaigning again!” sent to dozens of politicos, Jordan wrote, “I am having a kickoff in coordination with Jacki Fox Ruby who is running for my board. It would mean a lot to me to have you present.” At the bottom of the email is Jordan’s e-mail signature, which includes her job title and contact information at work (the body of the e-mail, however, clearly contains private contact info). Wiggins argues that Jordan ventured into illegal territory by listing her work information on a campaign missive.

He also suggests Jordan actually used county computer equipment to send the campaign e-mail, which appears to be true — sort of. And here things get cyber-complicated. The county office of education supplies Jordan and her seven board members with a computer and Internet access to be able to work from their homes. According to Jordan, she has three computers in her house — one provided by the county and two for personal use. It was from one of her personal computers, Jordan told 7 Days, she sent the “Campaigning again!” letter using her private e-mail address. Here’s the tricky part: After Jordan hit the send button, her private electronic campaign missive traveled via the county office of education’s central server, nicknamed Socrates. In other words, she used a government-owned computer server to send out a private campaign e-mail.

Jordan said she has made a conscious effort to keep her work and personal stuff separate. “I’ve run an ethical campaign,” she said. Jordan referred more technical questions to her computer geek hubby, Larry Cooperman. Cooperman acknowledged that private e-mails from their home do go over the county server. But sending those personal e-mails doesn’t cost the county any extra dough, Cooperman said. Besides, he argued, the county doesn’t necessarily prohibit the private use of public equipment — such as cars or cell phones — as long as the official reimburses the costs to the county. In this case, the cost was zero cents, Cooperman said.

Even if it all adds up to a lot of non-cents, Wiggins is pushing ahead with his complaint and making his case to the DA.

Consider yourself served. Sort of. With election season comes the deluge of campaign flyers full of overinflated promises and praise, which most of us promptly forget about not long after the documents have made the short trip from mailbox to trash. Not so with the members of Just Cause Oakland and the Oakland Tenants’ Union. When the Brown for Mayor campaign recently sent out a mailing extolling Jerry Brown’s virtues and began the list by patting him on the back for strengthening protections for renters, an audible snorting noise was heard from the direction of the tenants’ rights camp. So approximately thirty members of the two groups promptly marched down to City Hall to serve Brown with his own set of paperwork.

“To Jerry Brown, tenant in possession of City Hall,” ran their missive, “Within three (3) days after service of this notice you must vacate the premises for failure to tell the truth about your opposition to pro-tenant laws in Oakland.” Their notice went on to enumerate the ways they feel the Brown administration failed Oakland renters: his refusal to endorse more stringent eviction controls, the jump in Oakland rents during his tenure, and the puny size of the relocation payments that have been made to evicted tenants.

Unfortunately for his surprise visitors, the once-and-future mayor seemed not to be in residence. After taping the eviction notice to City Hall’s double doors, the group moved down the street to Brown’s campaign headquarters at the Madison Park real estate office owned by mayoral buddy John Protopappas, but were thwarted from delivering their complaints in person by Tribune building staffers. Did Brown ever get the message? After voters extended his lease last Tuesday, we have another four years to find out.

Fat Elvis! Insane Hippie! The Merry Pranksters are alive and well, except they are queer and have changed their name and live across the Bay. Guerrilla Queer Bar, a group of malcontents from San Francisco, have struck again. This time their target was Berkeley on a bright sunny Sunday afternoon, and Telegraph Avenue is still reeling from the impact. Where to start? If you happened upon what was billed as a Republican flag-waving protest, replete with martial music, in the heart of People’s Park, replete with irate hippies, angry anarchists, and a truly frightening vision of an Elvis as corpulent as the day he died, well then you had just stumbled into Guerrilla Queer Bar’s latest surreal extravaganza. The event, entitled “By Jingoism, Old Glory to rule the day in Berkeley” and allegedly “sponsored” by the Bay Area Patriots Association, was a spoof within a spoof of a satire.

Right there in People’s Park were at least two flag-waving Uncle Sams, flag-bedecked attendees, flag T-shirts, Republicans in suits, and even a red, white, and blue “Perot for Prez” T-shirt. But there was something wrong. Maybe it was the dodgy-looking brass band lurking in the shadows. Maybe it was when the “Republican” rally leader declared, “We want a land for Frank Sinatra, not Frank Zappa.” Or could it have been when Elvis and his backing band started singing anti-Anita Bryant songs and the extreme Elvis started screaming, “I need a drink! Hey! This is People’s Park! I should be able to get any prescription drug I want!”

We had been told that Guerrilla Queer Bar was going to dress in flag paraphernalia and crash a humorless lefty counterdemo to the Republican rally, all with the intention of confusing everybody. Big fat lie! “We are here to protest ourselves,” one of the flag-wearing participants conspiratorially whispered. The whole thing was a setup from the start.

But that had become pretty obvious to everyone but a few irate anarcho-punks and one scraggly hippie by the time the Extra Action Marching Band showed up. All doubt was removed by the time that the extreme Elvis, had whipped off his shirt and pants — — peed on the stage, and started abusing the bandleader.

As Extra Action launched into their classic 45-member band rendition of “Thirty-Nine Lashes,” their deep-purple-lace-teddy-clad cheerleaders and go-go boys started simulating group activities — — that cheerleaders generally do only in the relative privacy of motel rooms. The whole day rapidly descended into gleeful, badly behaved mayhem. We wandered off as Elvis and the clueless street hippie were screaming “Fat Elvis!” “Insane Hippie!” at each other.

The last word should for once go to the Berkeley Police Department, who confirmed that an allegedly “Republican” group had registered the event.

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