Monthly Archives: October 2010

Why I’m voting for Victoria Kolakowski for Superior Court Judge

Victoria Kolakowski, who is running for Superior Court Judge, has been endorsed by a slew of elected officials, democratic clubs, local organizations, and newspapers. I actually can’t even think of anyone I’ve talked to about this race who has not said that they are voting for her.

Victoria Kolakowski

Still, I often get the sense that many of the people I talk to are voting for her because they feel like they should, but don’t really care that much about the race or have a particularly strong sense of why this election matters so much. But you should care. Because it is important.

Diversity on the bench

When you read newspaper articles about this race, it’s easy to get the sense (although she is always quoted in them saying otherwise), that the main thing Kolakowski has to offer is that she is transgendered. In their endorsement of her opponent John Creighton, and in a very frustrating article they ran about the race, the Oakland Tribune seemed to imply that her main qualification for office was that there are currently no LGBT judges in Alameda County. Stories tend to emphasize Creighton’s work prosecuting gang, domestic violence, sexual assault, and murder cases, while glossing over Kolakowski’s legal background and focusing on the fact that she would be the first transgendered judge.

And while she does talk about that on her website and at fundraisers, I have never gotten the sense that she believes it is her primary qualification for the job, nor is it what drives her to want to position.

And I can’t hold it against her for bringing it up when asking for money. I mean, obviously she has to address it, because other people certainly will, and also, the fact is that it does help with fundraising, and you need money to win elections, and it is hard to raise money for low profile races. So you use whatever you’ve got.

Mostly as a favor to a friend who was hosting it, I attended a fundraiser for Victoria Kolakowski last May. I was planning on making a very modest donation. And she got up and made her pitch, and she talked about how less than 30% of Alameda County Judges are women, and how there are no transgendered judges in the entire country, and she read out loud from this awful editorial, which had been recently published in the Washington Times all about employers should be allowed to discriminate against “she-male[s]” and “psychologically troubled persons.”

And yeah, I was moved. Call me a bleeding heart or whatever. Identity politics is not how I make decisions about which candidates I am going to support, but I totally get why some people do.

For a long time, I didn’t understand that. I would listen to women my mother’s age get all worked up about supporting female candidates, or talk about how important it is to get more women in public office, and I would just think “This does not matter to me at all.” I hated the idea that anyone could think my breasts were more of a qualification for anything than my mind. Growing up, it never occurred to me that there was a job I wouldn’t be able to have because I was female. As an adult, the only things I ever encountered sentiments like that about were professional cooking and pinball, where I was never locked out, but compliments always came with irritating disclaimers. You know, like “Wow, V. You’re really good at this, for a girl.” And while that is irritating, if it’s the worst thing you have to deal with — well, things aren’t really that bad.

But now, when I look at the passion gay rights advocates put into electing LGBT candidates, I finally understand. I think the reason I never did before was because the women of my parents’ generation did such a good job that I always had role models I could look at who made me think I could do anything I wanted. They were so successful about their own identity politics that I couldn’t even see why it was necessary. (Nice work, ladies!)

And while there has been much progress on that front in recent years, it is still not the case today for gay people, and it is certainly not the case for transgendered people. And although I am not gay, I remember growing up, having close friends who were, and (especially in Texas) that is a very hard thing for a kid to have to deal with. The immense pain of being an outsider, of just wanting to be normal and thinking they never would be, of having to hear all the time that it is okay for people to hate you for who you are — I wanted so badly to be able to say something that would take their pain away, even just a little bit. And I couldn’t.

And it’s great to have public figures people can point to — celebrities or whatever, but I think that only goes so far. Celebrities, are, almost by definition, not normal. And when the world makes you feel like there must be something wrong with you at your very core, all you want is to be normal.

There’s something very different about being elected. I mean, if you are elected to public office, it means that the most people had to actually vote for you. They had to actively make a decision affirming that they are not bothered by your identity, and they don’t think it makes you less qualified to be represent them, and that they are okay with who you are. In that sense, it’s the most normal possible thing. I think that means a great deal for kids, or adults even, struggling with coming to grips with who they are.

And being a judge is very much the same, as Kolakowski explains in this Bay Area Reporter article from when she was sworn into her current job as an Administrative Law Judge:

As transgender people, often we are perceived by people as being…well, honestly, crazy or delusional. So to be the first transgender person in this position is significant…In a society where people question our judgment, to be affirmed as someone capable of making good decisions based upon sound reasoning and application of the law — that’s a big deal.

So, yeah. I totally get it. And so I do think that it matters. And the second I got home, I went to her website, and I donated five times the amount of money I had been planning to.

Diversity of legal experience and interest

But I wouldn’t have given her any money at all if I didn’t already think that it is important we elect Victoria Kolakowski for Superior Court Judge for other reasons.

John Creighton seems like a very good person. And I have no reason to believe that he is not a very good prosecutor. But another judge whose interest lies solely in criminal law is simply not what the Alameda County Superior Court needs.

Most judges are former prosecutors. Part of the reason is that this is a very appealing title on the ballot, and a lot of people make decisions on low profile races based on the job description next to the candidate’s name. Another part of the reason is that usually when there is an open judge seat, it gets appointed by the Governor. And Governors tend to appoint prosecutors.

This creates an imbalance in the courts, where most judges do not have a background in civil law. Many judges also are not particularly interested in civil cases, and end up getting just assigned to them because they lack the seniority to score the types of cases they request. But these types of cases are precisely the reason Victoria Kolakowski wants to be a judge.

A few months ago, I attended another fundraiser for Victoria Kolakowski. This time, it was Oakland City Attorney John Russo who made the pitch. I wish I had written down what he said, or thought to record him with my phone or something, because he put it so much better than I can. But his speech was just as powerful as the one Kolakowski herself had made a few months ago, although focused on a completely different topic.

He talked about the complexity of the civil cases he works on, and how much more difficult the process can be due to the lack of judges with expertise in these areas of law, and how desperately judges with this type of experience are needed on the bench. Kolakowski has worked in many of these more obscure areas, including patents and intellectual property, bankruptcy and divorce, corporate and contract law, land use and zoning, and environmental law. As an Administrative Law Judge, she has to deal with complicated cases involving utility regulation and CEQA. We need judges who are properly equipped to handle these matters.

Access to the courts

Aside from her extensive legal background in areas that differ from that of most judges, the other reason I feel so strongly that it is important to elect Victoria Kolakowski is her passion for increasing access to the courts.

In criminal cases, you are guaranteed a lawyer. But in civil cases, you are not. And anyone who has had to go through that knows firsthand just how unbelievably and prohibitively expensive that can be. The legal system is often, to say the least, obtuse, and without representation, it can prove nearly impossible to navigate.

In the video below, Kolakowski speaks movingly about her ideas for making the process more understandable, and how taking time at the beginning to explain it to people can save immense amounts of time and money, on both sides, in the long run. It’s not a long video. If you are at all undecided in this race, please watch it.

To have someone who wants to make that a priority, who cares specifically about doing this, about making the legal system work for everyone — that’s huge. That will make a tangible difference in people’s lives.

In her endorsement of Kolakowski, Becks wrote about her temperament and compassion, and while I have not worked closely with Vicky like she has, I do think that her even-tempered mindset and commitment to fairness and the law comes through very clearly in the few conversations I have had with her, as well as in this interview for

And that’s why I am voting for Victoria Kolakowski for Superior Court Judge. And why I hope you will too.

You can help elect Victoria Kolakowski for Judge

While Victoria Kolakowski enjoys broad support here in Oakland, and so it might seem like this is a lock, it’s important to remember that we live in a very large County, and John Creighton’s endorsements of police organizations, prosecutors, and local newspapers carry a lot of weight in other parts of it, particularly in a race that gets as little attention as this. So if you believe, as I do, that Kolakowski is the right candidate, and that her experience and priorities are important to the bench, please, call your friends who live in Hayward of Livermore or Fremont or Pleasanton or wherever, and ask them to cast their vote for Victoria Kolakowski for Superior Court Judge on Tuesday. You can make a difference in this race.

Dick Spees urges you to vote for Libby Schaaf for City Council

I told you guys last week why I support Libby Schaaf for Oakland City Council District 4. And while I probably used more words than I needed to, what I was trying to say is that Libby’s deep knowledge of City Hall, her nuts and bolts agenda, and her longstanding devotion to Oakland make her far and away the best candidate out of the choices in this race. Additionally, I wanted to tell my readers that if you think I have been an effective vehicle for your own civic engagement in Oakland, I really hope you will support the person who was and is the same for me.

But it is true, as some commenters have noted, that I do not live in District 4, and I may not be entirely familiar with all the issues residents of that District have to deal with. So today, I want to share with you another plea for a vote for Libby Schaaf for Oakland City Council from someone who knows District 4 more intimately than just about anyone — 24 year District 4 City Councilmember Dick Spees. Here you go.

Libby Schaaf & Dick Spees

Dear District 4 Voters,

As your Councilmember of 24 years, I care deeply about our community, which is why I’m supporting Libby Schaaf as District 4’s next Councilmember.

I’ve witnessed Libby’s dedication firsthand for more than thirty years. She has lived in Oakland her entire life (including in Piedmont Pines, Merriewood and Oakmore neighborhoods), and she has volunteered in every corner of our diverse District. She has worked on habitat preservation in Redwood Park, offered free legal counseling at Dimond Library, run a Redwood Heights haunted house for foster kids, tutored at Horace Mann Elementary, and served as a Block Watch Captain in Oakmore, as just a few examples.

Libby left her career as an attorney at Oakland’s prestigious Crosby, Heafey, Roach & May law firm to pursue public service. As a Chief Aide to Councilman De La Fuente and Mayor Jerry Brown, Libby helped reduce crime and revitalize neighborhood commercial districts.

As a Port of Oakland executive, Libby brought millions of dollars to our city, to build infrastructure, reduce pollution, and grow our economy.

Considering our dire financial challenges, Oakland needs a representative with the drive and savvy to reduce City Hall’s budget, while increasing services to neighborhoods.

Libby is the only candidate with the experience to make these changes that Oakland needs. Please vote Libby Schaaf for City Council on November 2nd!

- Dick Spees
Oakland City Council Member, District 4, 1979–2003

P.S. I encourage you to visit to read more about Libby and her specific plans.

Family-friendly Halloween in Oakland

Looking for some family-friendly Halloween activities in Oakland? Several local institutions have options for you.

At the Oakland Public Library

Two separate branches of the Oakland Public Library will be hosting Halloween events on Saturday. Golden Gate Branch (5606 San Pablo Avenue) will host a spooky family storytime on at 2 PM, and Melrose Branch (4805 Foothill Boulevard) will be having a Halloween party from 2-4 PM the same day.

At Children’s Fairyland

Have I ever mentioned how much I adore Children’s Fairyland? Well, I do. That place rocks.

Anyway, Halloween weekend at Fairyland means Jack O’Latern Jamboree, which is, in their words:

“More Delightful than Frightful” Little kids’ and bigger kids’ bouncer, face painting, balloon twisting, creatively crafted environments, special entertainment, costume parades, unlimited rides, pumpkin decoration at our pumpkin patch, free give-aways and the spooktacular Old West Junction Ghost Town!

Admission is $10 per person, and they do not accept passes for this event. Check out the puppet show calendar before you go, because the performances are not the same on both days.

At the Oakland Zoo

And finally, there’s Boo at the Zoo:

It’s a family friendly way to celebrate Halloween – Oakland Zoo’s Boo at the Zoo. This year’s festivities include a spooky scavenger hunt, a cute costume parade, teddy bear check-ups, free train rides for kids in costumes, and Halloween treat bags that feature palm oil free candy. If the little ghosts and goblins get hungry, stop by the Island Café for pumpkin soup and mummy dogs. Get your ghostly gear ready, grab the kids, and see how the Oakland Zoo celebrates Halloween.

Boo at the Zoo is from 10:00am – 3:00pm, with the costume parade at 11:00am & 1:00pm. Admission prices are $8.50 for children and $12.50 adults. Parking is $7.00 per car. Boo at the Zoo festivities are included with general admission.

And if not of those sound like a good way to spend your weekend, well, you could do a lot worse than volunteering for a local campaign.

Halloween with the Heathens

Those who just can’t wait until next week to get a peek inside new downtown Oakland restaurant Disco Volante will have a chance on Saturday, when the venue hosts a special Halloween party featuring one of my absolute favorite Oakland bands, Damon and the Heathens.

If you’re not familiar with the group, well, this description from the SF Weekly puts it better than I could:

Oakland’s Damon and the Heathens will show off what a boisterous bank o’ horns adds to noir-ish, piano-laced punk. Their smoky-voiced, sometimes spoken lyrics about being down-and-out in the East Bay remind us how much we have to celebrate. And when the punk ‘tude and real life tales threaten to get a bit too dark, the band’s party loving side — flush with big beats and brassy breaks — whisks us away on a cheerful breeze of ’60s soul.

And here’s a couple videos to give you a better idea of what to expect:

Assuming I’m feeling better by then, I will definitely be there! Stop by and check it out between 8 PM and 2 AM this Saturday, October 30th, at Disco Volante, located at 347 14th Street in downtown Oakland (at Webster).

You’ll still have to wait until next week to try the food, though. The kitchen will not be open.

Why I am voting Don Perata for Mayor of Oakland

So, I told you guys yesterday why I am not voting for Jean Quan or Rebecca Kaplan for Mayor. Today, I’m going to tell you why I am proud to be voting for Don Perata.

I like Don Perata

I should probably start out by saying that although it took me a while to come to a decision about the Mayor’s race, it was never because I bought into that whole “anyone but Perata” thing. I admire Don Perata. I have admired him for many years.

The fact that he works for the CCPOA does not bother me. When politicians retire, they become lobbyists and political consultants. They all do it. Before Ron Dellums returned to Oakland to run for Mayor, he was a lobbyist for defense contractors and prescription drug companies. There were many reasons I thought that Ron Dellums would not make a good Mayor, but that wasn’t one of them.

I know that it really bothers some people. And to them, all I can say is that if it upsets you so much, if you think it’s more important than his record and his platform and his ability to lead Oakland, well, then you probably should not vote for him. It’s not like I’m some huge fan of the prison guards union either. But for my part, I don’t begrudge people for needing to make a living.

Maybe that’s because of how I grew up — my father is in the oil business. He became a geologist because he loved rocks. And he got into oil because he had a family to support. Where I’m from, lots of people are in this industry, and growing up, it never occurred to me that working in energy made you a bad person. But since I came to the West Coast 13 years ago, I have gotten more earfuls than I would have imagined possible about how everyone in the oil industry is completely evil and soulless. But you know what? I spent my whole life growing up surrounded by people who are part of it. And most of them are very nice people who do good things for their communities. So I’ve learned not to make broad judgements about people’s character based on their careers.

The fact that Don Perata eats dinner at Oliveto using campaign funds? That also doesn’t bother me. When it comes to the way public money is handled? I believe that is absolutely sacrosanct. But campaign donations? I don’t care. That’s not my problem. If Perata’s donors don’t like the way he’s using their money, they can stop giving it to him.

The Raiders deal? That doesn’t bother me either. Yeah, it was a bad deal. But the fact is, every single City Councilmember and every single Supervisor at the time supported it. The press supported it. And people were clamoring for someone to find a way to bring the Raiders back. When you have been in public service for decades, you are inevitably going to have made some bad calls. That’s just life. And what matters to me is not whether someone has ever made a mistake (because the only way to have an error-free record is to have never done anything), but whether or not they are able to acknowledge when they’ve made one and learn from it so they can do better in the future. And Don Perata has done that.

So while I know those are big issues for some people, I just wanted to say right from the beginning that they never have been for me.

It’s a tough State

One thing that has been really striking to me over the course of this election is learning how many people are just completely tuned out of news about the State.

I mean, I’m not like, obsessive about State politics or anything. But I do try to keep up with what’s going on. I read the Sacramento Bee RSS feed. I subscribe to some State blogs. And while there are plenty of people engaged on the State level who have legitimate beef with Don Perata based on policy disagreements (and I respect that), that is not, for the most part, what I have been encountering around here. What I have been running into is person after person who is convinced that they hate Don Perata and that he was bad for the State, but knows absolutely nothing about his record. I mention this because I think that one’s perspective on Don Perata is very different if the only things you know about him come from reading local stories about the FBI investigation or listening fearmongering from supporters of other candidates.

So if you don’t follow the State, I have two things to tell you. First, you should immediately start listening to the Capital Notes podcast from KQED California Report Sacramento Bureau Chief John Myers and Capitol Weekly’s Anthony York. You can listen to it on your headphones on the bus, it only takes half an hour a week, and it is by far the easiest way to keep yourself in touch with State politics. Second, it is rough up there in Sacramento. The two-thirds vote requirement to get a budget has created a truly insane situation where the minority party has all the power when it comes to spending, and because the budget is the only thing they have power over, the hold every other thing in the whole damn State hostage to it.

A tremendous legislative record

And ever since Arnold Schwarzenegger came to office, he has been submitting budgets that rob transportation, education, and social services. And Don Perata has been there fighting to protect these things that I hold dear. It took compromise, leadership, and concessions to get budgets passed. And he did it. It wasn’t always pretty, and the results weren’t always great, but he took the hand he had been dealt and did what he needed to do to get the job done.

And Don Perata has been there on issues I care about.

When the Governor decided he wanted to put tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure bonds on the ballot, and came up with a plan that was all about building dams and highways in the Central Valley, Don Perata stood up and fought to make that package work for cities and the for the environment. And it was hard, and it took months, and it took compromise, but it happened.

And we got Proposition 1C, which funded affordable housing, emergency shelter, down-payment assistance for first-time homebuyers, environmental remediation to support urban infill, and high-density, transit-oriented development. We got Proposition 1D, which funded badly needed upgrades to school and university facilities. We got Proposition 1E, which protected watersheds and wetlands. And we got Proposition 1B, which provided funding for air quality improvements at urban ports and public transportation. These things matter to me.

I care about the environment. Without Don Perata, we would not have AB 32. (For those who aren’t aware, AB 32 is landmark climate change legislation that mandates dramatic greenhouse gas emissions reductions. It is a huge deal.) You think that getting that passed was easy? You think everyone liked it? Well, obviously not, since they are trying to get rid of it on the ballot right now! At the same time, although to less fanfare, Don Perata also authored successful legislation to create emissions standards for electricity used in California (i.e., make your energy cleaner).

I care about public transportation. When Bay Area public transit agencies were bleeding, Don Perata made sure that operations funding was a part of RM2. Again, this is a big deal. Nobody ever wants to include operations money in anything!

And I care about Oakland. And Don Perata has been there for Oakland. Whether it’s stepping in to help save a skate park or supporting literacy for Oakland school children, Don Perata has consistently remembered the people he represents and delivered on the home front. He got us the money to build Mandela Parkway. When we were struggling with the sideshow problem, he changed State law to help. When violent crime in Oakland skyrocketed, Don Perata stepped in to bring people together to look for solutions, and then went out and raised the money to do something about it.

Local Issues

So, for me, my initial reluctance to support Don Perata was never an issue of being dissatisfied with his work on the State level. Rather, I was concerned how that would translate to Oakland. After all (and yes, I do realize there are big differences between the two, chief among them being that Sacramento is a hell of a lot closer to Oakland than Washington DC), that didn’t work out so well the last time around. I thought he had been a good leader of the State Senate, but wasn’t sure if that would make him a good Mayor.

But after watching his campaign for the last several months, I feel confident that he knows what Oakland needs and is prepared to lead this City in the right direction. I agree that we need to prioritize health care and green industry when it comes to business attraction and job creation. I agree that we need to improve our partnerships with schools and not decimate our police force. And I agree that we need to take a hard, line-by-line look at the budget and stop just endlessly chipping away at every damn service this City provides. If we keep doing it the way we have been, there’s going to be nothing left.

I read through his questionnaires for the Sierra Club (PDF) and Make Oakland Better Now!, and I agree with what he has to say. I watched his responses to the Great Oakland Public Schools video voter guide, and I was impressed by those as well.

I know that a lot of people criticize him for not going to all the debates, but honestly, that doesn’t bother me. The number of candidate forums this year was truly ridiculous. If it was me, I wouldn’t have gone to them all either. He went to (I think) nine of them, which is more than the total number of Mayoral candidate forums there even were in the last election. And I personally don’t find these forums with a ridiculous number of candidates particularly useful. The answers are such short sound bites that you don’t really learn anything.

His reluctance to spend every night at a candidate forum mostly attended by supporters of one candidate or another (there tend to be not very many undecided voters at these things) might have bothered me if Don Perata had not made himself accessible to voters in any other way. But that’s not the case. He held eight large, widely advertised public events where he stood up there for an hour and a half and answered unfiltered questions from anyone who wanted to ask. So I just don’t see how you can reconcile that with this thing people keep saying about how he doesn’t want to talk to voters. I mean, to me, that seems a lot more informative. And I really appreciate that he did that, especially in comparison to certain other candidates who only have events where you have to pay to hear them talk.

What Oakland needs

Oakland needs a leader. We need someone who face problems head on. Not only does Don Perata have a long history of doing exactly that in Sacramento, he has also demonstrated a willingness to to it here. Of all ten candidates running for Mayor, Perata is the only one who has actually put out a proposed package of budget cuts. I don’t think all of them are the right thing to do, but I think that many of them are, and I have tremendous respect for the fact that he did it when no one else has been willing to. It takes courage and leadership to put your ideas out there and open them up for criticism like that.

Oakland is in crisis. It needs a leader. It needs someone who is not afraid to make hard decisions, or to make cuts that are unpopular. It needs someone who can pull together the votes for tough decisions, and Don Perata has many years of experience doing exactly that.

I want Oakland to grow, so I want a Mayor who can attract development and will support it. I want someone who is willing to make priorities about the budget and about our core services and stick to them.

The Best Mayor for Oakland

I have no second thoughts about this decision. I don’t feel any hesitation about it. It took me a long time, and a lot of thought to get here. But I want to be absolutely clear that my vote for Don Perata is not a hold my nose choice. No, Don Perata is not my fantasy Oakland Mayor. I want our very own Cory Booker. But you can’t always get the fantasy. In fact, usually, you don’t. And I do believe, based on his record and his vision, that Don Perata will be a very good Mayor. And I definitely believe that he is by leaps and bounds the best of the choices we have.

Don Perata

I don’t expect all of my readers to agree with my choice. My opinion is just that — the opinion of one person. I like to hope that I’ve earned enough respect from my readers over the years that you’ll at least take my thoughts into consideration as one of the many factors you consider when making a decision. I do think that it would behoove everyone to try to put the endless vitriol and half-truths being spread by Jean Quan and Robert Gammon and take an honest look at Don Perata and his tremendous record of tangible accomplishments.

I know my readership includes many devoted Rebecca Kaplan supporters, and you know what, I sympathize. I really, really do. Like I said yesterday, I wish so much that I could vote for her and feel good about it. Her energy and her optimism and all of that is very appealing. I spent months trying to find a way to convince myself that she could be an effective Mayor, and looking at her record, I just couldn’t do it. If you’re already sold on her, well, I don’t have a lot of hopes about convincing you to change your mind — after all, having been a Kaplan supporter myself, I know what it’s like to have drunk that kool aid. So, you know what? Go for it. Make Rebecca Kaplan your first choice. But I really hope you’ll consider marking my guy number 2.

One final note

So. I have something I want to say in anticipation of comments.

The decision to support Don Perata has been very difficult for me personally. Not because I personally feel bad about it (see above), but because I have taken such incredible amounts of shit for it from people I know, almost all of whom are supporting Rebecca Kaplan. People I thought were good friends won’t even speak to me anymore, and those who will seem to feel like my support for a candidate they don’t like entitles them to say all sorts of horrible, nasty things about my character and my values, and…well, it has just been really, really hard for me.

And you know what? I’m sure I’ll take more shit for it here. But all I can do is what I believe is right. And I believe that Don Perata is the best person to be Mayor of Oakland.

If you want to ask me honest questions about that, I welcome them. I do have limited time, but I think that this is important, and I know a lot of people are predisposed to be against Perata, and I want them to open their minds. So I will do my absolute best to answer any questions and respond to any comments that indicate genuine curiosity and invite honest debate.

But if you want to leave some nasty comment about my integrity, or craft some ridiculous elaborate conspiracy theory about why I would support Perata — well, you know what? I can’t stop you. But I’m going to say right now, just so we’re all clear, that I am not going to dignify any comments like that with a response.

I have been putting myself and my opinions out there for public criticism and debate for more than four years, and I have given tremendous amounts of time to trying to help Oakland move in the direction I believe it should go. And I think that, through my work, I should have established a certain level of trust — if not in my judgment, then at least in my integrity. And if you disagree? Well, if my history isn’t enough to convince you of my honesty of heart, then there’s nothing new I can say that is going to.

Why I am not voting for Rebecca Kaplan for Mayor

So. Like I said in my post about why I can’t vote for Jean Quan, it took me a long time to come to a decision about who I was going to support for Mayor. And much of the reason that it took me so long was because I was trying my absolute hardest to find a way to reconcile my desire to support Rebecca Kaplan for her energy and ideas with my nagging fear that she just does not possess the management and leadership skills to handle the job. I tried and I tried and I tried. In the end, I just couldn’t find a way to do it.

A breath of fresh air

It’s not uncommon to hear people refer to Rebecca Kaplan as a breath of fresh air on the City Council. And that is true. She is wicked smart and has a genuine interest in the nuances of policy, which is a surprisingly rare thing to find in politicians. She always seems so excited about the many possibilities for finding new ways to do things, and she isn’t all hung up on tired battles from like 10 years ago. It is so refreshing.

Rebecca Kaplan

Late last year, somebody mentioned to me, kind of offhand, about the possibility of Rebecca Kaplan running for Mayor. I thought that it was kind of weird, since I remembered her being questioned about it at a candidate forum during her City Council campaign 2 years ago, and she had been so insistent that she had absolutely no interest in being Mayor, because she was so passionate about legislative work and didn’t want to do anything else. But I thought, hey, people change their minds, and because I had been so impressed with how she had been such a welcome voice of reason on the City Council, I decided I was pretty into the idea. I even e-mailed her to say that I really hoped she would run.

And when I would tell people that I was hoping she would run, they would always ask me things like “Well, do you think she’s ready? She has no experience. Aren’t you concerned about that?” And I would be just be like “But she’s so smart! How hard can it be?”

And, as silly as it seems in retrospect, that was totally my attitude. I loved the idea of instead of Oakland having a Mayor who was not yet another politician coming back to Oakland at the end of their career, and instead was someone young and full of energy. I would look at cities like Portland and Newark, with their smart, forward-thinking, young Mayors, and dream about how great it would be if Oakland could have that too.

I mean, who wouldn’t want that for Oakland? I had this image in my head where, with our very own young gay bicycle pot Mayor, news articles about Oakland wouldn’t be only about crime anymore. They would be about how the City is turning around, and how our fresh new leader is a symbol of all that. And when people from other places thought about Oakland, they would think of bicycles and fun instead of murders.

And when you’re just thinking about how much you want your own version of Sam Adams or Cory Booker, well, it’s really easy to project that onto Rebecca Kaplan. Because, you know, she’s super smart. And she speaks so well, and she’s so charismatic. And she’s such a relentless cheerleader for Oakland, and she agrees with you on all the ways that the City is stupid. It’s really appealing.

Reconsidering my decision

But then, as time went by, and winter turned into spring, and as it became more and more clear that she was going to run, I started having some serious second thoughts. It’s amazing how much your impression of someone can change once you start looking them through a different lens.

When you’re watching one of eight Councilmembers, it’s so exciting to have someone up there saying all these things you agree with, even if nothing ever comes of it. You know, speaking truth to power and all that.

But then, when you’re trying to imagine this person actually running the City, the standards become very different. Oakland is seriously bad shape right now, and fixing it is going to require real leadership. When you’re in charge, it’s no longer enough to just say the right things. You have to actually make things happen. You have to be willing to make difficult and unpopular decisions. You have to be able to build coalitions. You have to be willing and able to craft compromises that, while not perfect, can satisfy enough people that you have five votes to pass them. It feels great to get to say that you voted no on something unpopular. But if you can’t get four other people on your side, then all you have to go home to is an inflated sense of self-satisfaction.

Here’s one example. Last winter, during one of the many budget cutting meetings we’ve had to endure over the last two years, one of the things that came up for cuts was more cuts in the IT department. And when Rebecca Kaplan voted against cutting those positions that provide IT support for the public internet computers at the library, I totally cheered. It was great to have her up there talking about how it’s so wrong to cut IT. But the thing is — she didn’t offer an alternative. And so the IT staff was cut. And now the public internet computers are broken all the time. So at the end of the day, what was the point?

And that really gets to the heart of why I just can’t support Rebecca Kaplan for Mayor. She’s great at saying all the right things. But when it comes time for action, she just can’t seem to get the job done.

An underwhelming record

Rebecca Kaplan has done some very laudable things since joining the City Council. She deserves credit for taking the initiative to rescind Oakland’s century-old “immoral dress” ordinance, as well as partnering with Nancy Nadel to reform Oakland’s outdated cabaret regulations. Both of these achievements represent needed progress in Oakland, and I do not want to minimize their importance.

However. They are also both issues on which there is broad agreement. When it comes to topics that are more divisive, Rebecca Kaplan has not been able to demonstrate an ability to push through reforms. The condo conversion proposal she and Councilmember Pat Kernighan submitted last November was a good idea, and would have generated some much welcome cash for the City. But it went nowhere. When the Airport Connector made it to the City Council, Kaplan was just not able to persuade her colleagues that the project was bad for Oakland, even with all the facts on her side. Her work with Councilmember Larry Reid to pass a vacant building registration ordinance seemed very promising at the time, but now that the ordinance has been in place for a while, it has turned out to be kind of a failure and to not have much of an impact, either in terms of reducing blight or generating revenue.

When it comes to the achievements she does point to, there are some legitimate questions to be asked about their veracity. At every candidate forum I’ve watched, she has boasted about how she removed conditional use permit (CUP) requirements in the new downtown zoning, to make it easier to open small businesses like bakeries and bicycle shops. But when you look at the actual text of the zoning, there is no change in the permitted and conditionally permitted activities between a draft from August 2008 (PDF) and the final version adopted by the Council (PDF). So while I’m very glad those CUPs aren’t in there anymore, I have a hard time figuring out what she had to do with it, since they weren’t in there before she was on the Council either. She often talks about how she’s responsible for creating Transbay bus service after BART stops running, but as I noted back in 2008, there already were all-night Transbay buses. I know because I used to take them home every night after I got off work at 2 AM. Her work did make the service more convenient. But I think there’s a really big difference between creating new service, as she claims and improving something that already existed.

Failure to Lead

So all these things worried me. But I so wanted that fresh, exciting Mayor, and I agreed so much with Rebecca Kaplan’s positions on issues like transit and technology and the like that I just kept trying to push all these nagging fears to the back of my head.

And then there was that liquor store. You know, I don’t expect to agree with every vote of anyone. That’s just not a realistic standard to hold people to. So although I disagreed with Rebecca Kaplan’s vote to allow new alcohol sales in North Oakland over the vociferous opposition of the neighborhood, I wasn’t going to change my mind about supporting her because of it.

But what I do expect, and I think that it is a more than reasonable thing to ask, is that when politicians take a position on controversial items, they offer a justification of their reasoning to the public. There was a tremendous amount of impassioned public testimony at hearing after hearing on this item. And when you are going to sit and listen to all of that and then vote the other way, you owe those people an explanation of why you think you know better than what they said. And Rebecca Kaplan didn’t do that. Instead, we just got some weird rambling apology about procedure. That was a real problem for me, and is not the type of behavior one expects from a leader.

And then the same thing happened with the Merritt Bakery. Now, this one bothers me more. I could see both sides of the liquor store issue, but it is just impossible for me to see the justification of voting in favor of giving a $150,000 loan to a business that was clearly not exercising any kind of financial controls (PDF). Kaplan’s comments about how people want to buy juice while they’re running around the Lake just didn’t do it for me. And that’s when I really started thinking that maybe this whole Kaplan for Mayor thing really was a huge mistake.

The budget

But I felt like it was too late too change my mind. I was already doing some volunteering for her campaign, and I felt awful about the idea of going back on that commitment. And then the budget happened.

You know, I could write a whole long post just about this issue, but I don’t think my typical long-windedness is necessary here. If you’re going to vote against the budget, you have to offer an alternative.

This summer’s budget decision, and the question of whether to lay off police officers was hard and unpleasant. And nobody wanted to do it. But someone had to balance the budget, and it wasn’t going to be easy, and whichever five people willing to put up the votes for it was inevitably going to take a ton of heat.

But making unpopular decisions when there are no good options in front of you and then living with the consequences is part of being a leader. Whoever is Mayor is going to have to do that over and over and over again in the next four years. And Rebecca Kaplan took the easy way out. She had an opportunity to show that she had a better way to handle this, to prove wrong that all those people who said she wasn’t ready or was too inexperienced, and she blew it. That was pretty much the end of it for me.

The last straw

Any lingering doubts I had about whether or not I could feel good about supporting Rebecca Kaplan for Mayor were squashed in July when she brought forward her proposal for a new marijuana tax (PDF).

Now, it should not be a hard thing to do to get a higher tax on marijuana on the ballot in Oakland. And when you own an issue as much as Rebecca Kaplan owns taxing marijuana, there really is just no excuse for not coming in ready with something you know you’re going to be able to pass. But she couldn’t do it.

The whole thing was just such a testament to complete disorganization. First, she submits this proposal for a 8, 10, or 12 percent tax. Then she wants a 4 percent tax. Then she can’t even vote for a 5 percent tax?

I mean, I know that I keep using this word, and I’m sure it’s getting really repetitive, but that’s just not leadership. I can’t understand that thought process, and I can’t imagine how someone who couldn’t handle something as relatively small as this could possibly handle being in charge of the whole City.

I just can’t cast that vote

Like I said before, this has been really hard for me. I genuinely like Rebecca Kaplan. And I do think that she has been a good addition to the City Council. She is full of ideas and energy, and she can talk about ways to make the City better until the cows come home.

But being Mayor is about more than just talking. It requires action, and Rebecca Kaplan just has not demonstrated that she is able to translate all her good ideas into tangible action. She has had several opportunities this year to show that she can do so, and she has failed the test every time.

Something Kaplan says a lot in interviews and in forums is that she’ll be able to get things done as Mayor that she can’t as Councilmember because “A councilmember can suggest and share information, but a mayor can direct that Things Shall be Done.” You get this idea that she thinks the reason she’s can’t seem to do anything is because of the job she’s in. But that’s not why. It’s because she doesn’t look at the big picture of what it takes to put votes together. Yes, Mayor is a more powerful office than that of Councilmember. But there’s nothing magic about it. You still have to make hard decisions and you still have to convince the Council to pass your policies. And if she can’t do that as a Councilmember, I just can’t see how it would be any different with her as Mayor.

So as much as I wish I could support her (believe me — it sounds like a whole lot more fun than supporting the old guy who everyone on the internet hates), I can’t do it. Picking a Mayor isn’t about who is the most likable or who is the most fun or who is the smartest or even who has the best ideas.

It’s about who is the best able to lead the City out of crisis and in a new direction. And I just don’t see any evidence in Rebecca Kaplan’s time on the Council that she is at all prepared to do that. In fact, I see a lot of evidence that she isn’t. Like I said, I think she’s a very good Councilmember, and Oakland needs her energy and optimism. And just because she is clearly not ready to be Mayor now doesn’t mean that she’ll never be. Leadership skills can be learned, and I hope that she grows into them. Maybe in four or eight years, she’ll be ready. I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Why I am not voting for Jean Quan for Mayor

Hey folks. I know I said I would get all my endorsements up on Monday, and well, obviously that didn’t happen. I’m sad to say, it isn’t going to happen today either. I have come down with, like, pneumonia or something, and feel like complete hell. So I’ve been spending my time sleeping instead of writing. I’m going to do my best to get all my Mayor posts up today, and then I’m going to aim for at least one more set of endorsements tomorrow, then another batch on Thursday.

Now that the logistics are out of the way, let’s get started.

Deciding who I was going to support for Oakland Mayor was a very difficult decision for me, and one that took me a long time to reach. For those who are not already aware, I am supporting Don Perata for Mayor. I’m sure people have lots of questions about why, and I assure you that I am going to get to it. But I don’t feel like I can give a complete explanation of why I believe he is the best of the field without also talking about why I don’t think the other candidates are. So please just be patient. I’ll get there.

Out of Touch

From the beginning, I was never thrilled about the idea of Jean Quan being Mayor. I strongly disagree with her on many issues. In particular, I vehemently disagree with her position on inclusionary zoning, a policy I believe is bad for Oakland’s future development and growth, as well as counterproductive to the laudable goal of maximizing production of affordable housing. It bothers me that, although it is clearly time for Oakland to move on, Jean Quan has been so resolute and single-minded about this one tool in the large affordable housing toolbox that she refuses to even discuss other housing related policies. This childish attitude is detrimental to the City.

Jean Quan

Additionally, I have been consistently frustrated over the years with Jean Quan’s dismissive attitude towards the legitimate concerns people have about issues like crime, high taxes, and the burdens placed on business in Oakland. Whether it’s running around bragging that crime is down when it’s actually up or responding to legitimate fears about rising violent crime rates with flip statements like “People get robbed everywhere, even in San Ramon,” or laughing off a proposed doubling of the fee to apply for a cabaret permit with a snide comment like “They can afford it. Cabarets make a lot of money,” Jean Quan just never seems to acknowledge that people have real reasons to be unhappy with they level of service they are getting from this City.

Quan has been a staunch advocate for things like youth programs and violence prevention programs and domestic violence awareness, and I commend her for that. Social justice is important to me, and I appreciate her work on these issues. What bothers me is that with Quan, it always seems to come at the expense of everyone else. The reality is that times are tough for everyone. And you don’t have to be completely destitute and living in the ghetto to have trouble making ends meet. Her relentless support of more taxes, and her totally dismissive “cup of coffee a day” or “just a tank of gas” attitude about imposing them on people all the time is, I think, really out of touch with how much of a burden all these taxes add up to on a lot of people just trying to get by in this city. Taking more money from residents is just not the direction I believe Oakland needs to go.

A hard worker

But then, as I was looking at the field all summer, I could not ignore the fact that Jean Quan appeared to be working for this way harder than anyone else. Although she wasn’t able to raise all that much campaign money, she seemed to be very smart about the way she used it, saving it all up for mail at the end of the campaign. So even though I don’t think she’s demonstrated much of a sense of fiscal responsibility on the City Council (more on that below), the way she was running her campaign seemed to indicate that she can be tight with a penny when she really wants to.

And you know what? I’m one of those people who works really hard at things. And so when I see someone else working really hard, I respect that. I think there’s a lot to be said for just really wanting something and being willing to just drive yourself into the ground to get it. And so I felt that just based on her determination, I owed it to her to give her another chance. So I tried to put all those nagging concerns that I talked about above out of my head and open my mind to the idea of Jean Quan being Mayor. At the very least, I figured, I could count on her to work hard in that office, which is a hell of a lot more than I can say for our current Mayor. And in the end, I see the void of leadership in Oakland right now as a much bigger problem than the threat of inclusionary zoning.

Back to where I started

That lasted a couple of weeks. I crashed right back into realizing that there was no way could I support Jean Quan for Mayor at a Mayoral forum I attended in September. The first question was about what opportunities for job growth in Oakland and creating jobs for Oakland residents. Jean Quan spoke about the need for job training and preparation for young people in Oakland (which I agree is important), but with respect to how we’re going to make sure those jobs exist, she basically said we didn’t have to do anything!

Oakland is going to have jobs over the next decade. ABAG says that Oakland and San Jose and San Francisco will continue to grow in jobs. But the question is who is will get those jobs. There are three great possibilities of clusters of jobs that they’re going to be in Oakland. My colleagues will talk about the eight sectors the Chamber has looked at — transportation, communications, health care, the food industry, the tourism industry. Those jobs are going to be here.

And here we are, right back to that dismissive attitude that I talked about above. I don’t think there’s any guarantee that jobs are going to be in Oakland. Yes, all those industries have potential here. We are well poised for business attraction in a number of sectors. But you can’t just assume they’re going to come. You have to work to bring them. You have to create a supportive environment for the businesses that provide them. And Jean Quan just seems so completely unconcerned about how we’re going to do that. Listening to it just reminded me of all those reasons I was against her in the first place. It’s great to be an advocate for the downtrodden. But you can’t just assume that everything else is going to fall into place on its own.

Not there on the budget

In the end, though, all of these issues are secondary to the budget. I don’t know if people realize what a crisis the City is in. But it is really bad, folks.

And Jean Quan just is not good with the budget. Oakland’s budget is unsustainable. While Quan loves to blame the deficit on the economy in like, every single one of those absurdly long newsletters she sends out, the fact is that Oakland has had budget problems for years.

Quan is fond of talking about how she believes Oakland should have a five year budget. That sounds great and everything, but the fact is, we’re already supposed to have a two-year budget, and as well as know, that has been completely out the window for the past two years. The Council is constantly meeting to cut the budget and making a new cut to this program or that. It has been band-aid after band-aid non-stop for two years. At one point, we were basically operating on a two-week budget. And Jean Quan makes the budget! So I just cannot imagine why anyone would expect it to be any better with her as Mayor. We’ve seen how she handles the City’s finances. She does it by basically not dealing with them.

Quan appears to be operating under the delusion that eventually the economy will get better, and then we just won’t have anything to worry about anymore. But that’s not true. The City of Oakland has not been operating on a sustainable budget the entire time she has been on the Council. There are deficits basically every year. Even she says so!

When Oakland was in the middle of the biggest tax bonanza it is likely ever going to see, bringing in a storm of transfer tax revenue, not only, did the Council, with Quan leading the way, not put any money away for when times got worse, they managed to spend almost all of the reserve that already existed. And when Jean Quan was asked about how they could have possibly let that happen, did she acknowledge that spending like that was a mistake? No! Instead, she dismissed it, saying “It’s not like the money was stolen.

The one time in the past eight years that the City did have a suprlus, did Quan advocate using it to pay down debt, which would be the fiscally responsible thing to do? Of course not! She spent it.

A history of fiscal irresponsibility

And this, of course, is not the first time this has happened on Jean Quan’s watch.

Who can forget January 2003, immediately after she joined the City Council after 12 years on the School Board, when OUSD suddenly discovered that they were in such deep financial crisis due to overspending that they were literally going to run out of money to pay people. You know what happens when a government body can’t pay its bills? Bankruptcy. The only reason OUSD was able to avoid bankruptcy was because Don Perata got the State to bail them out to the tune of one hundred million dollars.

It wasn’t news that the School District’s finances were badly managed. They knew. Or, at least, they should have. They were warned. In 2000, the Board received a comprehensive audit of the District by the state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assessment Team (ironically, the Board only consented to the audit because of pressure from Don Perata, who also secured the funding for it), in which OUSD failed every single category, including finance, where it scored a whopping 4 on a scale of 10. The report even went out of its way to note that “the district [...] could face financial peril because it may have overstated student attendance records”. As it turned out, that’s exactly what happened.

Did Quan make sure the School District followed up on the urgent recommendations of the audit? No. In fact, the School Board ignored most of them, and in some cases, did the opposite of what they were told.

And now, not only does Quan still refuse to acknowledge her role in OUSD’s crisis, she has the audacity to try to blame it on Don Perata! It’s truly incredible. I mean, people make mistakes, and if you have a long record of service, it is pretty much inevitable that you will have made some bad calls at some point. But a real leader is willing to admit when they’ve done something wrong, and learn from their mistakes.

Jean Quan has not done this. Instead, she seems determined to repeat the same mistakes all over again, this time with the City. And that’s the kind of leadership I can live without.

Educate yourself about OUSD on Thursday

Have you guys been following this whole deal with OUSD’s new strategic plan and all the task forces and all that?

No? That’s okay. I haven’t really been following it that much either. Luckily, the Great Oakland Public Schools has set up a page where you can get all the information you need about the strategic plan in one place. It really is super helpful, and if you want to get up to speed on this, I highly recommend starting there. The OUSD website has a nice page about it too.

Great Oakland Public Schools

Have I mentioned before how much I adore this organization? I think I meant to a few months ago, but just never got around to it. I went to this event they had earlier this summer that was being co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters Oakland, where they had this speaker talking about what makes a School Board member effective. The presentation was great, the whole thing was really well-attended, and I was just incredibly impressed with their energy and organization. That was the first time I had ever been to anything of theirs, and I was just totally wowed.

And I’ve been even more impressed with them since election season started. They’re doing a kick-ass job pushing for Measure L. They posted questionnaires from the candidates running for Mayor, City Council, and School Board, and they put together this really neat education-focused video voter guide. Also, their Board Agenda Watch blog is absolutely indispensable for anyone who keep up with what’s going on with the School Board.

Anyway. You get it — they’re great. So the reason I brought them up is because they are having an event this week about the OUSD Strategic Plan, and if you are at all interested in this thing, I am sure it will be well worth your time. Watching a presentation and getting the chance to ask questions is a much, much easier way to get up to speed on complicated subjects that reading through like a zillion documents and trying to make sense of them.

Anyway. Here’s the event description, from the Great Oakland Public Schools website:

Join the GO Public Schools network for an evening of learning and engagement around the OUSD task force process.

Task force leaders Vernon Hal, Ash Solar, Kimi Kean, Chris Chatmon, Tim White (and others TBA) will be present to overview their task force’s work plans and timelines, and to share opportunities for community participation and engagement around these critical issues. RSVP for this free event by filling out the form below.

Refreshments will be provided from 5:30 – 6:00pm. The program will begin promptly at 6pm.

It all happens this Thursday, October 28th at the Jack London Aquatic Center (115 Embarcadero) from 5:30 to 8:00 PM.

Disco Volante (hopefully) open for lunch November 3rd

Here’s the latest update on new DTO restaurant Disco Volante, from their Facebook page:

Fingers crossed — we’ll be open for lunch beginning Wed 11/3. Dinner opening will be delayed until the ABC office in Sac figures out their new computers and gets us our liquor license.

For those of you who missed it the last time I mentioned this place, here’s the scoop on Disco Volante from SFGate’s Inside Scoop:

Disco Volante has been a few years in the making, with Cook and his partners batting around the original idea of a bar/live music venue for a while. But with the Uptown neighborhood growing as a dining destination, the idea of a restaurant grew on them. Then, when a space in the tiled Art Deco commercial block on 14th Street became available — with an existing kitchen and equipment — they pulled the trigger.

The name means “flying saucer” in Italian, but there will only be hints of Italian on the menu. The chef is Douglas Bernstein, last seen as the Bacar executive chef; he’s also worked at Eccolo and Farallon. He’s going to put out a local/seasonal California-ized menu (think braised octopus terrine, house-ground burger, smoked sausage, etc.), with nothing over $20.

Oh, and BTW. I usually don’t say things like this, because I think it sounds obnoxious, but since everyone is all of a sudden so concerned with disclosure, I’ll note for the record that I am friends with most of the owners of this restaurant. I think they are all awesome people and wish them the greatest success.

Two vacancies on Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission

I wanted to call attention to an opportunity I thought might be of interest to some of my readers. Oakland’s Public Ethics Commission is currently taking applications to fill two vacancies.

Here’s the announcement:

The Oakland Public Ethics Commission is accepting applications for TWO Commission-appointed seats for terms beginning in January 2011. Attached is an announcement and application. Please consider applying for a seat on the Commission or forward this email to someone you know. APPLICATION DEADLINE IS FRIDAY OCTOBER 29, 2010. Please contact Dan Purnell at 510-238-3593 for more information.

The only requirement for being appointed is that you have to live in Oakland.

There are, however, some restrictions you’ll have to deal with after being appointed:

  • You can’t work for the City.
  • You can’t run for office, or be involved in any way with any political campaigns. That includes donating, endorsing, or volunteering.

If you’re interesting, you can download the application here (PDF).

The deadline for applying is Friday, October 29th. So if this sounds like something you might be interested in, fill that sucker out soon!

Mark Trail gets violent

It’s been a while since I updated you guys about all the political intrigue on the funny pages. I know you’re all just dying of curiosity. Well, I won’t make you wait any longer.

Mark Trail

Mark Trail has been ridiculously action packed lately! Some kind of domestic employee (I wasn’t exactly clear on what he did) of Mark’s neighbor Frank Johnson quit in disgust after he learned about Frank’s plan to set himself up for being the next Governor by inviting a bunch of political types to his house for a backyard tamed-animal game hunt.

Hell-bent on exposing Frank’s bizarre plan, Mark has been lurking in the bushes on the edge of the property with his camera, hoping to get proof so his editor will run the story.

Then Frank’s daughter somehow figured out what was going on. She totally flipped out and ran screaming into the fenced-in backyard hunting area, which led to one of the guests (a Senator!) missing a shot, which made Frank freak out, because I guess somehow that means he’ll never be Governor.

Mark Trail

So then — and if you thought Frank was a jerk before, O.M.G, you don’t know the half of it. So Frank’s daughter’s pet deer (yeah, I know. WTF?) chased her into the hunting area when she ran in there screaming, and Frank, desperate to save his political career, tells the Senator to shoot it!!!

Mark Trail

Luckily, Mark witnessed all this from his spy perch, and flew over the fence just in time to keep the Senator from shooting the deer.

Mark Trail

Naturally, the Senator was totally appalled by Frank’s psychotic scheme.

Mark Trail

Then Frank, who clearly has some serious anger management issues, kicked his kid’s pet deer! And then Mark punched him!

Mark Trail

Now Mark is all excited about his great story, and threatening the Senator about how he’s going to ruin his career, but I’m not sure. I mean, I know Mark is a trustworthy guy and award-winning nature journalist and everything, but unless he got all this on video, nobody is going to believe that this actually happened. Right?

Anyway, that takes us up to the present. For those who can’t stand the suspense in between my somewhat arbitrarily timed updates, you can keep up with the full story as it happens at the Mark Trail archives on the Seattle Post Intelligencer website.

Rex Morgan

The Rex Morgan storyline is far less exciting. Basically nothing has happened. The Mayor continues to be furious about the news of his prostate cancer getting leaked to the press. Rex Morgan has been investigating everyone who had access to the medical records to see if he can find the source of the leak, but no luck. Literally every single day, the comic is basically exactly the same. Either the Mayor is screaming about vengance or Rex Morgan is telling yet another person that he doesn’t know who leaked the info. YAWN.

Rex Morgan

And now I think it is turning out that it was not a political enemy hoping to ruin the Mayor’s re-election campaign after all, but instead the Mayor’s daughter, who like, texted all her friends about it. What a waste.

CompStat in action

Everyone loves CompStat, right? Data driven police resource management has proved incredibly successful all over the United States. And of course, in Oakland, we’ve been talking and talking and talking about doing it for years. Happily, our new Chief has been able to get it going at long last.

Even more happily, the police department is now eager to share this process with the public! And they’re a meeting about it on Wednesday.

CompStat is a multidimensional approach to crime reduction and resource management. This technique is intended to map crime and identify problems in weekly meetings. CompStat gives police commanders the opportunity to devise strategies and tactics to solve problems and improve the quality of life in their assigned area. The strategies to address emerging (real-time) crime trends throughout the City’s neighborhoods are discussed and reviewed by the Chief and Deputy Chiefs. The Oakland Police Department has been using CompStat for the last year and Oakland is currently experiencing a 14% reduction in violent crimes.

The next Oakland Police Department CompStat meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, October 27th, at 10:00 a.m. This meeting will be held in the James Moore Theater, Oakland Museum, 1000 Oak Street and is open to the public.

This is an excellent opportunity to observe the analytical and detailed approach the Oakland Police Department personnel take when addressing crime. The Department is planning to conduct more public CompStat meetings with dates to follow.

So if you have time on Wednesday morning, it would probably be a pretty interesting thing to check out.