Clinton Killian v. Kerry Hamill v. Rebecca Kaplan v. Frank Rose v. Charles Pine: LWV At-Large Oakland City Council forum recap, Part 2

Continuing my recap of the at-large candidate forum. If you missed Part 1, check it out here.

Q: What will you do to provide Oakland’s children with nutrition and food so they can be healthy and stay in school?

Kerry Hamill said that the school district provides free breakfast and lunch to students who meet a certain threshold, and that every spring, the district tries to ensure that churches and other groups provide summer food programs. Frank Rose talked about the existing food programs at the East Oakland Boxing Association – they provide one meal a day to the kids they serve during the school year and three meals a day during the summer, they have a community food giveaway every two weeks for parents, they have an organic garden, they have a certified farmer’s market, and they bring the produce from the market to homebound seniors. He said that we need to publicize existing programs to get people to take advantage of them.

Clinton Killion said he would work with existing programs, and that there are many groups, like Covenant House, currently doing a good job, and that we need to ensure they have support. Charles Pine said that we need more officers to deal with truancy, and that if kids are in school, they’ll get a good meal instead of eating junk food. He also said that it’s not realistic to talk about nice programs when we don’t have clean government at City Hall, then complained about the delays in getting the 81st Avenue branch library built, and that we should do what we say we’re going to do before we talk about “all the nice little things.” Rebecca Kaplan said that nutrition impacts every aspect of our lives and that it is the responsbility of government to ensure healthy food is available. She said we need to work to bring grocery stores, farmer’s markets, and community gardens to neighborhoods that don’t have them, and that part of the reason Oakland has a high youth obesity rate is the lack of recreation programs and facilities, like ballparks and swimming pools.

V: Winner: Frank Rose. This was one of two questions where my viewing partners and I all picked the same winner. The whole time he was talking, I kept asking “Do they really do all that?.” It appears that they do. Good for them! That’s awesome. Rebecca Kaplan was also awesome.

Charles Pine made me angry. As Rebecca Kaplan correctly pointed out, nutrition is not a “nice little thing.” It impacts people’s entire lives, and is especially important in children. I guess you wouldn’t know it from reading this blog, but my two primary causes in terms of advocacy and charity are food security and libraries. I wish I had more opportunities to write about these, and I always hope that I’ll get to it someday. Right now I can barely keep up with chasing the Council. Something that really upsets me about this Council is that it lacks any advocate for food security. One of several reasons I’m supporting Sean Sullivan is that he is the only candidate who has even tried to make this issue part of his campaign. Malnutrition, even mild malnutrition or undernutrition, in childhood has been extensively documented to impair cognitive development. By ignoring the very basic need for healthy food in our children’s lives, we are raising a generation that will be burdened by long-term developmental disadvantages and we will have to face the social costs of that. The results of poor nutrition – diminished brain growth, impaired social skills, and decreased attention spans – all lead to behavioral problems and poor educational achievement.

Kerry Hamill barely used half her allotted time to answer this question. Boo! Her answer was also very poor. She simply listed what the schools doing currently, and displayed no interest in improving the situation. This is not enough and it is unnacceptable to be content with the status quo on the issue of food insecurity in Oakland. I am happy that the Oakland School District has a free breakfast program, but nutrition problems are not limited to schools, or even the school age. The developmental disadvantages of poor nutrition begin in pregnancy and are especially pronounced in early development. I can’t even remember now what Clinton Killian said. Oh yeah, it was about programs for youth generally. He ignored the issue of nutrition and just talked about violence prevention. Boo!

Q: As a Councilmember, what will you do specifically to support the homeowners of Oakland?

Frank Rose said that he would work with the rest of the Council to ensure that people are getting what they’re paying for with their taxes, and that safety is the number one issue for the whole community. He said he would be a watchdog to make sure the Council is giving residents a return on their investment in the city. Clinton Killian said that we need to rebuild our neighborhoods with city services, a diverse supply of housing, and basic retail, like grocery stores and basic services. He said we have to provide the basic safety that will let people enjoy their lives. Charles Pine said that he would give Oakland their neighborhoods back. He said that when we have 1100 officers, we will have enough officers to provide timely response, street presence, and community policing. He said that he would tell us the truth about services.

Rebecca Kaplan talked about the foreclosure crisis caused by predatory lending. She said that this harms everyone because the vacant properties are magnets for crime and depress property values. She said that as Councilmember she will sue banks engaging in illegal activity, educate the public about homebuying, and provide downpayment assistance people need to refinance and keep their homes. Kerry Hamill said that everyone in Oakland, owners and renters, wants safe neighborhoods. She said that when she worked for Elihu Harris, we didn’t have a fully staffed department, and wonders why it has taken so long for Oakland to feel urgency on the issue. She said that people should feel like they have a partner at City Hall and that all neighborhoods need better schools and community centers.

V: Winner: Charles Pine. Almost everyone talked about safety, but it is the heart of his campaign and message. Kaplan was weird. She answered the most specifically, but everyone else was on the same theme and she was just on a different page. I don’t know where we’re going to get all that money to help people refinance their bad loans, but I do agree that the City should be educating people about financial literacy and stopping predatory lending. If she wants to sue banks, though, maybe she should run for City Attorney. Okay, I don’t really think that, I just wanted an excuse to complain about how Russo is running unopposed. I like Russo a lot, actually, but I hate any race without a challenger to the incumbent. It encourages complacency. Everyone else was pretty good.

Q: Lake Merritt is the jewel of Oakland, and the voters have made their commitment to it with the passage of the $198 million DD bond measure in 2002. What would you do as Councilmember at-large to enhance and promote vitality of the Lake for future generations beyond the DD projects?

Clinton Killian said that Lake Merritt is a jewel, and that it should be more of a pedestrian zone and be everyone’s front park. He said that we should reroute the streets to be further from the Lake, do traffic calming measures, and close the streets during certain times. He also said we need to do something with the Kaiser Convention Center. Charles Pine said this is an issue of clean government, and that we can’t talk about getting beyond Measure DD when the City hasn’t fulfilled the promises of DD. He said that what is being delivered is not what was promised, and that it was outrageous that the citizens of Oakland were denied the right to express themselves on Oak to Ninth.

Rebecca Kaplan told everyone they should go paddle boating on the Lake, and that we need to make sure the promises of DD are implemented, because some of the promises have not been. She said that we need to protect the Lake’s water quality in a long-term way, maintain a greenbelt around the Lake, and that we should use a machine to clean up the goose poop. Frank Rose said that we need to make it safe around the Lake, and that he’s spent 13 years pushing increased police staffing, and that he was the first person to present the police staffing comparisons to other cities to City Hall 8 years ago. He said that there are plans on the table for DD, and that Larry Reid just got a bunch of DD money for a Sports Center in East Oakland. He said that we’re doing what were supposed to do with DD, that the City is doing what it said it would, and that people would know that if they got involved instead of criticizing from the outside.

Kerry Hamill said that DD included many good projects, but that it was held up in court for a couple years. She said that was an example of the City needing to better negotiate and get it resolved because we need to be working on the channel and restore the storm drain system. She said that we need to get access to the bond funds immediately and start the preventive maintenance included in the measure.

V: Winner: Rebecca Kaplan, although I found her squeezing in the thing about the geese at the end irritating. I am convinced that the only reason people talk about this so much is because they all derive a juvenile thrill from using the phrase “goose poop.” Feel free to disagree. Most people seem to.

Personally, I liked Frank Rose the best. Regular readers of this blog might find this hard to believe, but when I’m talking to people who aren’t huge policy geeks, I usually find myself in the position of defending the City and the Council. I have limited time to blog, so I try to use this space to raise issues that concern me and provide detailed analysis of policies I don’t think are right for Oakland. When something good comes along, I figure it will be covered in the traditional media and that I’ll have nothing productive to add. Anyway, good for Frank Rose for standing up for some of the progress the City is making. I couldn’t give him the win because his response was so disjointed. He just tried to fit too much information into his minute, and it came off as scattered.

Hamill really blew this one. She tried to bring up the DD lawsuit, but she didn’t seem to really know anything about it. The lawsuit has not prevented us from accessing all the DD funds, as she implied, and many water quality improvements have been made. In fact, that’s the aspect that is most on track! Pine lost me. DD is not the failure most people seem to think it is. I wrote a story about DD progress for the last Oakbook, which you should pick up if you see it around, but you can also download a DD project progress report here (PDF!). Yes, progress has been slow, and not everything has been implemented, and I’m just as upset about the 12th Street Bridge project as the next person, but DD is a long term measure, and results don’t happen overnight. I really didn’t follow Clinton Killian at all. He wants to get rid of Lakeshore? I don’t know what to say about his answer. I found it really confusing.

Q: I’d like to ask each of the candidates please to discuss your past experience in setting policy for organizations and discuss how successful you were, what particular tactics you used that you felt were successful in developing policy amongst a group.

Charles Pine said he co-founded Oakland Residents for Peaceful Neighborhoods, and that they discovered that we have half a police department during the Measure Y campaign. He said they decided to publicize it, and that when they started, you would be laughed at in City Hall if you said we didn’t have enough police, but that now everyone realizes our force is too small. Rebecca Kaplan said that she’s been an elected policymaker for 6 years, and before that was a staffer and policy advocate. She said that after missing the last BART train from San Francisco once, she came up with the idea of using buses to cover the BART routes after midnight. She said that she began a project to do that, found funding for it, and built a partnership of 6 different agencies to provide all nighter service throughout the Bay Area so that workers and others can get home after BART closes. She said that she brought the nation’s leading sustainable fuel development project to Alameda County.

Kerry Hamill said that when she first joined the school board, she learned that we had 27 different reading programs, and was able to bring people together to consolidate into a new program that she got training money for from the State, and that since then, reading scores have improved consistently. Frank Rose said that he was chair of the City’s best NCPC in 34x in Elmhurst, and that he made their neighborhood family friendly by working with the schools and working with students. He said that he’s served on 9 different commissions, and that people would be shocked if they knew everything they were doing. Clinton Killian said that he served five years on the Planning Commission, and helped usher in Oakland’s largest building boom. He said that he worked with Shorenstein when they bought City Center to build the Ask Jeeves building, which brought 2200 jobs downtown. He said that during his 6 years on the AC Transit board, he began when the system was in its worst financial crisis and huge deficits, and left the board with a surplus. He said that when he started on the Paramount Board, the City cut the Paramount’s subsidy to nothing, and that they have made it self-sufficient.

V: Clinton Killian rocked this one. This was the other answer where we all agreed. I used to have one of those jobs at 555! I think the improvement in AC Transit’s fortunes had more to do with fluctuations in the economy than in anything the Board did, but I do think that the agency made some very wise shifts in policy and long term planning during his tenure, and that he should be proud of the work he did there.

Until this question, I had forgotten why I had initially disliked Rebecca Kaplan. When she started talking about missing the bus, I remembered, and started furiously scrawling angry things in my notebook in all caps. I remember when I read about the new All-Nighter launch. I had been working as a cook in San Francisco and would rarely get off work before 1. Often it was 2 or even 3 in the morning when I left the restaurant. I finished in time for BART maybe once in six months. I would drag my tired self every night down to the creepy Transbay Terminal and sit there waiting for the all night bus, which ran every hour, and I would ride it home across the bridge and to my apartment in downtown Oakland. From the stop at 12th and Broadway you could connect immediately to the 51, 40, 43, 72, and 82 all night long. So you can imagine my surprise when I read this story in the Tribune one morning, about the brand new all night bus service across the Bay:

“It seems to me, people have been concerned about this problem since time immemorial,” said Rebecca Kaplan, a member of the AC Transit Board of Directors and former TALC staffer who thought up the all-night bus network after staying out too late with friends in San Francisco and missing her BART train back to Oakland.

Even Cinderella had to cut her party short lest she miss her ride, Kaplan said.

“In the Bay Area, we can do better than having our carriage turn into a pumpkin at midnight,” Kaplan said.

Yes we can, and we were already doing it! I was infuriated that all the media coverage of the new service implied, no – said straight up, that there was previously no all night bus service. And how could the AC Transit board member not have known about the bus I depended on every night or pretend it didn’t exist? I remain resentful two years later!

This is not to say that Kaplan should not be proud of her achievement. The new all night service is better than the old service. The all night schedules are now coordinated between MUNI, SamTrans, AC Transit, CCCTA and Wheels. Muni, SamTrans, and AC Transit all had all night service running already, but the bus schedules had no relation to one another. And the addition of CCCTA and Wheels all night service means that more people can get home after midnight. It is also nice that you can pick it up at the BART stops instead of going to the transbay terminal, which, like I said, is creepy in the middle of the night, although I wish that it would start at Mission instead of Civic Center, just because that would make my life easier. Still, that doesn’t make it okay to say there wasn’t a bus running back to Oakland when there was.

Charles Pine didn’t have much to say compared to the other candidates. Of course he’s at a disadvantage, having not been involved in policymaking ever before. It is to his credit that he made it his mission to raise awareness about police staffing, and he was successful at totally changing the debate. That’s a serious accomplishment. So kudos. Still, I have a website, too. It isn’t that big of an accomplishment. Isn’t he involved with his NCPC? I think I’ve read that before. He should have talked about some of the things they have done in their neighborhood. Frank Rose was fine and Kerry Hamill was good.

Q: Is Oakland adequately prepared for next disaster, whether natural or man-made? How would you rate out preparedness, and what would you do to improve it?

Rebecca Kaplan said that one example of our lack of preparedness is that we don’t have a fireboat. She said that often people only ever think about the fireboat it terms of how it impacts Jack London Square and other waterfront areas, but that we also need one because it can reverse pump water. She said that in an earthquake, water might not come from other sources, and we will need the fireboat to fight fires. She said we need more neighborhood based preparedness and we can’t expect FEMA to be coming. Kerry Hamill said that she had just finished reading The Great Deluge, and that it’s really all about transportation, and that you have to be able to move people in an emergency. She said that transportation agencies are getting better at being aware and communicating, but that we can do more. She said there needs to be a comprehensive plan for response.

Frank Rose gave us a 2, saying that we’ve started a number of programs, including a 411 register and putting addresses on people’s curbs, but they have not been finished. He said we need more emergency personnel living in Oakland and that we should provide a housing subsidy to police and firemen, and that we need to update our firefighting equipment. Clinton Killian said that the office of emergency services needs to be accountable, and that we can’t prevent disasters, but we can be prepared. He said that he lived through the 1989 earthquake and the Oakland hills fire, and that we need ensure we’re ready, and pray we survive. Charles Pine said that a park ranger saved the city in the last earthquakeby restoring emergency communications that had been knocked out, and that we used to have 20 park rangers, but now we have 6. He said that the police and firemen have had staffing cuts, and poor equipment.

Winner: Draw. Nobody bombed this question, but nobody really stood out either. They all had good things to say. Maybe Frank Rose won since he’s actually working on preparedness issues right now.

Closing Statements

Rebecca Kaplan said that she would be honored to have everyone’s vote, and that this is about our future. She said a lot of the same things as she said in her opening – in five years will we have a better economy and walking officers? She said that downtown Oakland should be a retail and entertainment destination to generate jobs and tax revenue. She said we need to improve the City’s website to improve access to public information and have equitable resource use.

Charles Pine that he will not be politics as usual, won’t be tied to “the bosses behind City Hall”, and that he’s not looking for higher office. He said that his focus would be peaceful neighborhoods, basic services, and clean government. He said he would be a full time Councilmember and have no conflicts of interest.

Clinton Killian said that he will work to make a better city. He repeated the familiar Robert Kennedy quote “Some men see things as they are and ask why. And I dream of things that never were and ask why not?” He said we can and should have better, safer neighborhoods, quality housing, more jobs, and better schools. “We can have a better Oakland. We deserve a better city.”

Frank Rose said he wished there was more time for the debate, and that he’s running on his record as a volunteer. He said that he would bring supermarkets to neighborhoods that need them, and bring full police staffing. He listed many awards he’s received for his contributions, and said he’s fighting for seniors, youth, and safety.

Kerry Hamill said that her children’s elementary school in Oakland flew 27 flags, and that Oakland is an international city with vitality and the best food on earth (“which I eat a little bit too much of”), and that we have new neighborhoods cropping up everywhere. She said that City Hall needs to echo the vitality in Oakland and stop talking about the same problems.

V: Winner: Clinton Killian. In case you hadn’t noticed by now, I’m a total sap. My viewing partners rolled their eyes at the Kennedy line, but I’ve always found it moving. I also really believe that we can have a better Oakland – hence the name of this blog. (BTW, the first time I met Clinton, he joked about coming after me for copyright infringement for stealing his campaign slogan. I said that I had it first, but I was wrong – he used it for his last campaign too. I’m glad we’re on the same page.) They were all good, though. Kerry Hamill looks great, BTW. She is enjoying exactly the right amount of our wonderful food. I appreciated Rebecca Kaplan’s desire to improve transparency and accessibility with a better web presence.

Overall Performance

I want to say again, like I did at the beginning of the first part of this recap, that this debate was really hard to judge. The candidates are all really impressive. I ardently disagree with some of their policy positions, but there isn’t a slouch in the bunch. I encourage all my readers to watch the debate reruns for their District, of course, but I can’t encourage you enough to watch this one. Have your neighbors over and make it a party! If there was an overall winner, it was Rebecca Kaplan.

Deciding who to support in this race was an incredibly difficult decision. I’m glad we don’t have an incumbent running. It allows everyone to focus on the future, instead of trying to explain away the past. Having said that, even though I don’t think he did a great job in the debate, I am supporting Clinton Killian for at-large City Council. It’s sad that Killian doesn’t have the magnetic stage presence of Kaplan or Rose. Every so often, you could catch glimpses of the amazing charm he demonstrates in person, but this isn’t just wasn’t the right platform to showcase his awesomeness. While I don’t agree with any of the candidates on every issue, Killian, more than anyone else, shares my goals and priorities for Oakland – accountability, transparency, transportation, economic development, growth, and a commitment to downtown. He is engaged in the community, has demonstrated his ability to lead, and has a thorough understanding of the barriers to progress in City Hall. I’ll devote a whole post at some point in the future to the case for Killian, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

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9 thoughts on “Clinton Killian v. Kerry Hamill v. Rebecca Kaplan v. Frank Rose v. Charles Pine: LWV At-Large Oakland City Council forum recap, Part 2

  1. scottpark

    Clinton Killian!?!? Wow! I would never think in a million years that someone like you, with your ear so close to the ground on what’s going on in Oakland, would choose a perennial nobody like Killian. This is a guy who simply cannot stop trying to become a politician, whether its Council, Assembly, City Attorney or AC Transit. I don;t know how many Planning Commission meetings you went to when he was Chair, but he was so idiotic and patently offensive to everyone in the process that it was an embarrassment. For his decade or more on the scene, there’s nothing he can show that is actually an accomplishment. I will also offer that Killian is part of the whole Oakland Black Caucus clique committed exclusively to getting black contractors city dollars.

    Very very surprised by your choice. Very very impressed with your coverage and your commitment to informing everyone.

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    scottpark –

    What can I say? I’ve always had a soft spot for the underdog? Seriously, have little interest in politics or politicians and their personal history – my focus is on policy.

    I strongly disagree with Killian’s contracting ideas (I think I covered that in part 1), but like I said, he’s on the same page as me on growth, development, and transportation, and those are my priorities.

    You want to know something really sad? I’ve never had a chance to sit all the way through a Planning Commission meeting. I like to catch reruns or buy the DVDs, but I’ve worked Wednesday nights basically the entire time I’ve lived here. Sometimes if I get out early, I can rush over and catch something controversial if the meeting’s running long, but I’m always embarrassed cause in my work clothes, I’m not dressed appropriately.

  3. Buddy Cushman

    V Smoothe — As I have said a couple of times before, I want to thank you so much for the effort and committment you make to provide people with all of this information, interesting opinions included. It’s a lot. I also feel very strongly about the Robert Kennedy quote, have since I heard Ted Kennedy say it at Robert’s funeral, 40 years ago. I really believe it separates the many from the few. Your point within your post about someone throwing out lots of new and different options/solutions bound to have some wacky ones in the mix is so on the point. You laugh at the wacky ones, roll your eyes, and then take a long look at the others. Albert Einstein said, “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” Amen. Thanks again.

  4. Becks

    As always, thanks for the thorough analysis. I had already decided to support Rebecca Kaplan before reading your recap of the debate, but now I feel both satisfied with my choice and that we’ll be ok if she doesn’t win.

    Though Kaplan’s website isn’t as extensive as Sullivan’s, she too is concerned about food security and nutrition issues and mentions it in the “Healthy Neighborhoods” part of her platform: http://ccwidget.com/kaplan/issues.html

    You can read my take on Kaplan here: http://oaklandliving.wordpress.com/2008/04/14/why-im-supporting-rebecca-kaplan-for-oakland-city-council/

  5. OP

    I’ve decided to support Frank Rose in this contest.

    While many candidates talk about how they will address crime, education, disaster prepardeness, elderly issues, youth empowerment, etc., Frank Rose has actually been tackling these issues through his involvment in organizations, nonprofits, and city commissions. I was also impressed by the fact that, in the two debates I have attended, he was the candidate that seemed to have the best grasp of what the City was doing and could offer the most concrete examples of what programs should be enhanced or what policies could be implemented.

    I think more than that though, I saw in him a very humble and selfless commitment to helping Oakland which I found inspiring and, frankly, that I wish we saw more of in Oakland.

    Rose’s biggest disadvantage is that, while civic-minded, he doesn’t strike me as political and I think he would face an extremely steep learning curve on the Council.

  6. Max Allstadt

    I’m really with you on all of that, OP. The only reason I haven’t committed to vote for Rose yet is that I’m not sure he’ll be able to learn to bullshit and maneuver well enough to be potent on the council. I do think his extraordinary charisma will translate into political currency though. Still on the fence. Killian, Kaplan or Rose.

  7. dto510

    I like a lot of what most of the candidates say, but I am supporting Clinton Killian because of his depth of experience. I find his performance on the AC Transit Board impressive, and Oakland needs strong voices on transportation. One of the biggest problems with Oakland’s governance is that the Planning Commission doesn’t settle development disputes and they end up at the Council. Clinton’s perspective having served on the Planning Commission could help the Council figure out how to move beyond these fights, and also he would bring a realistic (and hopefully detail-oriented) view to the zoning update. I know from talking to him about his work on the Paramount Board (which is also impressive) that he shares my goal of revitalizing downtown and supporting the arts.

    Frank Rose is great but he’s doing such good work in the community now, and I don’t really see what he brings to the Council. I’m impressed with Rebecca Kaplan but I am also annoyed that she exaggerated her improvements to late-night service, and I am very unhappy with AC Transit’s failure to get the community on-board with BRT. I am also skeptical of her endorsement from the Central labor Council, putting her in the same company as Brunner and Nadel is no good (I realize that one endorsement is not necessarily reflective of a candidate in their entirety, and frankly the CLC had only reform-minded and pro-growth candidates to choose from, so they probably weren’t too thrilled). I am not considering Kerry Hammill because she chose to join an already crowded race when District One needs new leadership, especially on educational and affordable housing.

    It’s great to read all of these endorsements coming from residents and volunteers. I’m very excited that people are paying attention to these important races.

  8. Joanna

    Thank you so much for providing this information! I agree with several of your points.

    For me, I think Frank Rose offers something very special. By far – he has the most experience successfully working with community agencies. Many candidates talk about working with nonprofits and faith agencies to partner with the City to make meaningful change and to improve the quality of life for the residents of Oakland, but Frank Rose actually does it. With budget cuts, longstanding problems and more staff turnover to come, we absolutely need Frank Rose’s ability mobilize community assets, and his willingness to seek and empower non-governmental solutions to the issues facing Oakland.

    I also love the fact that Frank Rose’s devotion to youth, seniors and safety (and to the advancement of the City of Oakland) are so clearly NOT motivated by a desire for political gain or for career advancement. How refreshing is that!

    Thanks again for all you do to keep us informed.

  9. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    Just to clarify – the post above wasn’t the same Joanna that has been posting about height limits, Nancy Nadel, JLS, cabaret licenses, etc… This Joanna hasn’t decided who she’s voting for.

    But the poster above has definately got a great name!

    Cheers,
    Joanna Adler aka “Joanna” and “OnTheGoJo”