So, regular readers will be happy to know that after a completely miserable week without it, I now have my computer back and working and I should be back to my regular daily blogging schedule tomorrow. There’s been a lot going on that I’ve wanted to write about and just haven’t gotten around to yet. And I figure people have been distracted with the election lately. Anyway, you will also be happy to know that I’ve secured myself a back-up computer so that this problem will hopefully not happen again, even if my lemon of a laptop fails me in the future. Also, I have received ample lectures about storing my drafts online from now on, and I promise I’m going to start.
I figure that at this point this is somewhat of an academic exercise, since everyone has already decided how they’re voting, but what the hell. Here are my hastily written election-day endorsements for the November 4, 2008 election:
Oakland City Council, At-large: Rebecca Kaplan
This is just a complete no-brainer. I had been kind of looking forward to this race. Kerry Hamill is easily the best school board member, and I figured that as a Councilmember, she could bring some of the refreshing rationality she displays in that venue to a City Hall often desperately lacking it. And if she were to win, maybe she still would. But she certainly doesn’t appear to have plans to bring anything else. At multiple candidate forums, in multiple recorded interviews, and during our personal conversation, Hamill never managed to establish for me that she has any ideas about what Oakland needs, what she wants to do as Councilmember, or that she’s put any effort into even learning what types of issues our neighborhoods are facing. I don’t have the faintest idea why she even wants to be on the Council, whereas, with Kaplan, I get like, an unstoppable river of wonky policy talk and ideas about how to deal with this issue or that every time I bump into her at an event. (Which happens a lot, BTW, all over the City, and I appreciate that visibility.)
And that’s pretty much what it comes down to for me. Rebecca Kaplan has ideas about what she wants to do for Oakland – well-researched, specific, detailed ideas, and Kerry Hamill, as far as I can tell, has none beyond a skeletal “public safety” plan and a “walkable cities initiative” that she keeps referencing, but I have been unable to get any details on whatsoever, despite several attempts to contact the campaign about it. It’s like at that League of Women Voters debate, Hamill just kept giving these total non-answers. It was so bizarre. For a question about how she would deal with certain community/development disputes, she was all like “If there was disagreement between the two sides, I would work to negotiate an agreement.” Helpful. Informative. Not! These questions are about your priorities. And it was the same thing over and over again. When asked about keeping the A’s in Oakland, she’s like “Maybe there’s another way to structure the deal.” Gee, you think? You can’t just say things like that, you have to actually have ideas for what that other way is. I didn’t understand Kaplan’s answer to that question at all (she’s since elaborated on her position for me), but at least she had one. And that’s pretty much what it comes down to for me. Hamill might bring sound judgment to the Council, but we need energy and ideas too, and Kaplan can bring all three.
Also, to the extent that Hamill has articulated any kind of position related to growth and development, it is one that favors very large projects and is dismissive of smaller urban infill. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with big planned developments like Forest City, Oak to Ninth, or the MacArthur BART Transit Village, but I also don’t think that those types of projects are all we need, and I would prefer to see us making policy decisions that favor more organic types of growth. So that’s a very real policy area where I agree with Kaplan and not Hamill (I add this part only because I keep hearing people say things like “They’re the same, but Kaplan will work much harder.” They aren’t the same, especially not when it comes to development.) Anyway, Kaplan’s the clear choice for me here.
Measure N: NO
It seems like the only person in town who supports Measure N is Vince Matthews. We just passed a parcel tax for the schools in February, and the State Administrator threw this onto the ballot at the last minute with no public discussion and basically no warning. It’s a $120 per year parcel tax, 85% of which would go to teacher pay and the 15% of which would go to charter schools. I agree that our teachers should be paid better, but this isn’t the way to do it. For one, raising pay only for teachers ignores other school employees who make vital contributions to education, like librarians. Also, the district, even after years of state receivership, still has not managed to get their finances under control. Until they get their house in order, they don’t deserve any more money.
Measure NN: NO
I went back and forth one this one for months. I’d tell myself that the police department is poorly managed, and that they shouldn’t get any more money until they can demonstrate that they’re serious about reform and increasing efficiency. Also, Measure Y funds have not been spent as promised and the concerns of the Measure Y Oversight Committee are routinely ignored by the Council. Then I’d tell myself that the City’s financial situation is so dire that they really do need the funds, and we can work out the reforms later. In the end, I went with no, and didn’t feel at all conflicted about it. The Department is a mess, the Council’s oversight is lax to non-existent, and this is not an agency that deserves to be rewarded with more money without substantial reform.
Measure OO: NO!!!
Ugh, Measure OO is so awful. It would decimate city services.
Measure VV: YES
Unlike OUSD or OPD, AC Transit is a well-managed agency, and over the last 10 years, they’ve finally managed to reverse a decades of deterioration and mismanagement. Unlike those other agencies, they also aren’t currently receiving large amounts of revenue from parcel taxes. The combination of rising gas costs and the $15 million the State is stealing from AC Transit spells doom for service levels if this $48/year parcel tax doesn’t pass.
Measure WW: YES
This measure does not increase taxes and brings enormous benefits to Oakland.
AC Transit Director At-large: Chris Peeples
I find Chris Peeples more pompous than even the average politician, but he’s a good transit director and has the right priorities. His opponent, Joyce Roy, is crazy and had to have like half her ballot statement stricken for being untrue. This is a no-brainer.
AC Transit Director, Ward 2: Greg Harper
Harper isn’t one of my favorites on AC Transit’s Board, but he does a pretty solid job as well, and the guy running against him doesn’t live in the district and is facing perjury charges. Another easy choice.
East Bay MUD, Ward 5: Doug Linney
I was bothered during the League of Women Voters candidate forum by challenger Susi Ostlund’s answers on a variety of questions. She does not appear to be taking the drought seriously enough and is not interested in emphasizing conservation of resources to the degree we need to. Linney’s commitment to conservation and efficient use of resources is important for the district.
East Bay MUD, Ward 6: Bob Feinbaum
Incumbent Bill Patterson is a fine, but Feinbaum’s commitment to rate equity, conservation incentives, and improved service delivery with the aid of modern technology make him the better choice for this seat.
Peralta Community College District Trustee, Area 2: Marlon McWilson
Incumbent Marcie Hodge had to be censured by her peers on the Board for frequent absences, tardiness, and childish behavior. Change is needed on the Board, and McWilson is the right person to bring it.
BART, Area 7: Lynette Sweet
Sweet’s challenger, Marshall Walker, wants BART to ring the Bay and then extend to Sacramento. No! BART is insanely expensive, and while I do support better rail service to areas not covered by BART, that would be like, the worst possible way to do it. What a freaking nightmare. And something that someone representing urban areas that are already unfairly subsidizing service to low-density suburbs every time they ride BART has absolutely no business supporting.
East Bay Regional Park District, Ward 1: Whitney Dotson
Both candidates in this race would be quality additions to the Board. Dotson wins my endorsement because of his focus on improving access to our regional parks. La Force prioritizes expansion, which is all well and good, but transportation options are limited for many of the District’s residents, and it’s really important not just that we have regional parks, but also that people can get to them.
I think that’s everything.