HarriOak All Candidates Forum Video and Recap

I’ve finally managed to upload all the video from the All Candidates Forum last week. Big thanks to Elise Ackerman for all her hard work organizing the event. District 3 candidates Nancy Nadel and Sean Sullivan were there, but the third candidate, Greg Hodge, was not. (His wife managed to make it.) Of the at-large candidates, Kerry Hamill was absent. The group questions lasted until about 8:20, and all the candidates (except Nancy Nadel) hung around for a while to talk to residents one on one. Anyway, recap, video, and response for all the group questions below. Enjoy!

Nancy Nadel said she has worked as a geophysicist, an artist, and a teacher, and that she’s just started another small business. She said that she’s running for re-election because she wants to complete several projects she’s begun, and that we need somebody with experience as we enter a difficult financial period and who will hustle for resources for District 3. She said her priorities are public safety, sustainable development, and infrastructure improvement, and that she really wants to see through development of the Army Base, and that she’s working to attract industrial businesses, which we can do now that we’ve zoned the land to keep prices low for businesses and artists, and that we’re doing a retail attraction plan for Auto Row.

She’s running because she wants to finish the Army Base redevelopment? At this rate, we’ll be stuck with her for another 12 years. Seriously, I do hope that things finally work out with the Army Base this time around, but I certainly don’t trust Nancy Nadel to make that happen. I mean, this is the same woman who advertised on her 2000 re-election campaign webpage that she had “helped find an excellent developer for the Army Base with a goal of create 6000 more new jobs,” and who used to be vice chair of the Oakland Base Reuse Authority. We all know how well that worked out. I continue to fail to understand why she thinks it’s appropriate to run for re-election while starting a new business. Also, we didn’t zone prices. I find it kind of disturbing that she appears to think we did.

Sean Sullivan went next, and said that the community’s spirit of civic activism brought him to the race, because he’s met so many people who want to work to improve their communities, and they all tell him that they haven’t had a partner in City Hall and can’t get a response from the City Council office, and that we need to look to the leadership from our own community. He said we’re in a crime crisis, and that crime is rising this year, and that Oakland is approaching being the most violent city in the country. He said he will be smart with our resources on crime, and that he will do ride alongs with police officers, and will be out in the district on a regular basis. He asked people to view the transparency in government section on his website, and that he pledges to be present and available. My poor quality video makes Sean look like an albino, but he isn’t.

I don’t really have anything to add to that. I’ve made it pretty clear on this site before that I think Sean’s awesome.

Then the At-large candidates spoke. Rebecca Kaplan went first, and explained what the at-large seat is (a Councilperson who is supposed to represent all of Oakland). She said she can bring her skills to create citywide solutions that we’re missing right now. She cited her experience as a trained mediator, and said we need to solve our budget crisis and public safety crisis. She invited people to read her position papers on public safety (PDF!) and economy and environment (PDF!). She said she’s been serving as an elected official in the at-large seat of the AC Transit board and has found funds for new projects and launched new initiatives in that capacity. She complained about the failure to implement Measure Y, and said we can’t keep refighting the same fights.

Charles Pine said he stands for peaceful neighborhoods, basic services, and clean government. He said that when he started ORPN in 2005, it was unpopular to say the police department was understaffed, and that we need at least 1100 officers. He talked about the girl who got killed by kids from Oakland on Halloween, and how quickly the Alameda police were able to solve the murder, then complained that an organization that receives $200,000 annually of city funding protested the Alameda police department’s successful investigation. He said we can’t hire the police because we haven’t set the goal of 1100. He said we had 82 gardeners in 1989, and now only have 63, even though 557 positions have been added, and wants to know what all those people are doing. He said Measure Y and Measure DD are examples of unclean government, and told everyone to vote against the LLAD.

Frank Rose was excited to get a whole five minutes to talk, and named some of the boards and commissions he’s been on. He said he’s familiar with everything in the city, and told people to look at his list of 30 boards and commissions he’s served on, and said that he worked for Henry Chang for two years, and he learned then that there is a great deal of factionalism in City Hall. He said he’s well respected in City Hall, and that his job title on the ballot is “volunteer,” which you can only get by proving you work for the community free of charge 40 hours per week. He listed more of the organizations he’s involved in. “Anything that you want to do in this City, I can get it done for you.” He said he’s going to put a curb address on every senior’s home, which will be important in an earthquake. He said he wants to provide housing assistance to police and firemen.

Clinton Killian said that he’s lived in Oakland for over 20 years, and that everyone is concerned with safety. He said that Oakland is full of potential, and talked about some failed redevelopment attempts that sent businesses to Emeryville instead of Oakland. He said Oakland doesn’t have the resources to provide necessary safety, and that we need to asked the State to help us with resources for patrols and fingerprinting labs. He said that most crimes in Oakland are committed by ex-offenders and talked about the Men of Valor academy as an example of an excellent re-entry program. He complained that there’s no grocery store in West Oakland, saying he has to drive over two miles to buy a tomato. He said we need to raise the City’s revenue to provide better services, and complained that the City doesn’t help or encourage businesses who want to relocate to Oakland.

The first question was about campaign contributions. The question was specifically about the Lake Merritt boathouse restoration project, which is way behind schedule and way over budget. The question for all the candidates was if they have received any money from the contractor, BBI Construction, and whether they think it’s appropriate for a City Councilmember to receive funding from a contractor that’s asking the City for an additional $1.5 million.

Sean Sullivan said that he hasn’t received any money from BBI, and brought up the accusations Nancy Nadel made on this blog about his donors. He reminded the audience that he had less support from developers as of the last filing, but said he didn’t think it mattered anyway, because developers are always involved in City Council races, and he’s going to take whatever money people want to give him. He said the accusation offended him because as president of the Golden Gate Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, he has pledged to hold the highest ethics, and that as Councilmember, he has to put the people’s interests first and not consider how things before him benefit anyone besides the people he’s working for. Nancy Nadel said she didn’t know if she’s gotten any money from BBI or Tom McCoy, the owner. She went on to say that Tom McCoy is a wonderful volunteer for her tree planting efforts and that she’s happy to take funds from him. She said that she’s gotten some support from developers, but that some infill developers who used to support her are now supporting Sean because she doesn’t want all the industrial land to go to housing and they do. Since this seems to be an important campaign issue for a lot of people, I recommend viewing this response.

For the record, Nancy Nadel reported $600 from Tom McCoy as of the last filing. Anyway, this stuff about Sean’s donors wanting all the industrial land to be housing is so absurd. She knows it isn’t true, and she also knows that even if it were true, that dispute isn’t even relevant anymore, since the City Council already passed their industrial land use policy. I didn’t have much respect for Nadel as a policymaker before this campaign started, but I thought that at least she was a good person, and well-meaning. It’s been extremely upsetting to me to watch her engage endlessly in wanton duplicity and deception during this campaign, fabricating accomplishments and slandering Sean – what happened to the “conscience of the council”?

Clinton Killian said that he didn’t think he’d gotten any money from BBI, but that if he had, he wouldn’t think it was a problem. He said that the boathouse is an example of what’s going wrong in Oakland, and that we turned it over to one restaurant with no competition, and that the restaurant should be paying for the improvements, not the City. He complained about the subsidy for Forest City’s Uptown project. Frank Rose said he hasn’t gotten money from BBI, and that his campaign is very grassroots, and that if BBI wanted to donate, he would make sure they knew they couldn’t buy him, and that as long as your donors know you’re principled, it’s fine to take anyone’s money. Charles Pine said that he has no developer money, and that unemployed people are giving him $100 because they really want change in City Hall, and that he’s the best chance for that in years. He went on and on about his opposition to Measure N. Rebecca Kaplan said she hasn’t taken money from BBI, and that campaign finance reform is extremely important to keep integrity in government. She said she was outspent 20 to 1 when she ran for at-large 8 years ago, and said that matching funds aren’t available for at-large. She said that the California Nurse’s Association and the Sierra Club have thrown fundraisers for her.

Since the Forest City project is providing much needed rental housing (although at somewhat insane prices), and includes 25% affordable units, I think a subsidy was appropriate. Broadway Grand, which Killian compared it to, has no affordable component and offers market-rate condos. The answers to this question kind of bored me.

Next the candidates were asked about their positions on education.

Nancy Nadel said that since the Council doesn’t oversee the schools, it’s hard for them to do much. She said the Council has an education partnership committee which doesn’t make decisions, but creates an opportunity for conversation. She said that she ensured Cole Middle School in her district got Measure Y funds for a restorative justice coordinator which has produced incredible results, and she wants to expand that. She said that she used her flexible funds for a stop light in front of Westlake Middle School, and that she does what she can with her limited powers. Sean Sullivan said the Council should be supporting the schools through better truancy enforcement, and said that our single truancy center doesn’t work, and we need site-based truancy centers so kids can be brought to truancy centers within their communities. He said that he has a great deal of experience getting money from the philanthropic community and that if you explain how they can invest their resources in our schools, you can bring a lot of resources to the table, and that we shouldn’t just throw our hands up and suggest growing a money tree, as Nadel has in the past.

Okay, I don’t want to sound like a jerk or anything, because I do think it’s wonderful if she put such a successful program into this school. But I hear her talk about it at length every time I see her speak, which really makes me wonder if that’s the only thing she can point to doing for any school in her district. Sean’s answer was good – I agree that we should have site-based truancy centers. I’m also encouraged that he sees other opportunities to raise money for the schools – Larry Reid raises money for the schools in his District, I don’t know why we can’t have a Councilmember who does the same.

Rebecca Kaplan said that we need to strengthen education in Oakland at all levels, and talked about the State school takeover, which is keeping us from implementing innovative solutions. She said we need to partner with the schools on resource sharing, like opening up school playgrounds on weekends. She said we need more programs like the Boxing Association Smart Moves program, and that we need vocational education and training opportunities that are related to job markets. Charles Pine said that public safety and education are the two big issues, and he’s concentrating on education, and that we need more police officers if we’re going to have adequate truancy enforcement. He brought up Dellums’s idea of school based health clinics, and said that if that isn’t just talk and is actually going to happen, he’d be happy to work on that with the Mayor. He pointed out that Kerry Hamill, the School Board member also running for at-large, wasn’t there, and condemned the School Board for creating the budget shortfall. He complained about AC Transit, and said he isn’t a career politician and wants to get the job done and move on. Frank Rose talked about the Smart Moves program at the East Oakland Boxing Association, where they make the kids do their homework before they get to go to the gym. He complained about inequity in education funding at the State level. Clinton Killian complained about the State Administrator and charter schools.

This is what I’m talking about with Charles Pine. He just doesn’t seem to know what goes on. Dellums announced a $3 million grant for those health centers in March. (He’s also announcing some other grant today that’s going to provide health services and some other stuff to five local middle schools – I don’t entirely understand it. Here’s the press release (PDF!)). Rebecca Kaplan had the best answer to this question, although I think this talk about the coming city employee shortage is ludicrous. I guess I haven’t talked about that here – I’ll try to do it soon.

Then the candidates were asked if there was any area of the City where regulations should be removed or reduced.

Sean Sullivan said that he wants to create a small business commission, so we can hear from the businesses about what they need. He said Oakland makes it very difficult to start a business, and we need to create an attractive business environment, and should exempt small businesses from the business tax, like other local cities do. He said we also need to offer tax holidays to bring in restaurants to certain locations. Nancy Nadel said that we do have a business tax exemption for very small income businesses, and that she just started a business so she could see how the bureaucracy works, and that she had a lot of trouble getting a business application. She said we need incentives for the kind of businesses we want to attract and she’d like to eliminate free parking for staff so people will have to use public transit.

Nancy Nadel is starting a business so she can learn how the bureaucracy works? I’ve heard her use this explanation of why she’s starting her chocolate company like five times now, and each time it sounds more ridiculous than the last. No wonder we never get anything done in this town. Also, our “small business exemption” is a joke.

Clinton Killan said that you can’t unbite an apple, but we can make the process more transparent by getting people more involved. Frank Rose said that more people would be involved in City business if we opened up the City Hall parking lot for free parking on meeting nights, or ran shuttles from parking lots to City Hall. Charles Pine talked about the way the City relies on heavy fees and fines and said we should listen to the City Auditor, and praised her [wrong] report. Rebecca Kaplan said that she should get rid of the conditional use permit for almost everything, saying it was ridiculous to make bakeries jump through extra administrative hoops when we should be making things easier for them.

If you’re not watching most of these, I highly recommend watching this particular video. Kaplan’s response about the conditional use permits was the highlight of the entire forum for me.

A representative of WOBO asked about the problems implementing the Bicycle Master Plan and funding for bicycle improvements.

Nancy Nadel said it’s frustrating for her to spend a lot of money on plans, but watch them not be implemented, and that implementation is the responsibility of staff and the Mayor. She said that the Council provides funding, but that it’s going to be difficult to find funds in the budget. Sean Sullivan said we need to hire a transportation engineer immediately to implement the plan, and that when funding is an issue, we should try to secure funding from regional transportation agencies, and that it’s important to get bicycle and pedestrian improvements because we need to get people out of their cars.

She’s incredible! She just said that the Council isn’t responsible for getting things done. Why would anyone vote for this woman? Have you ever seen anyone with a less can-do attitude? In any case, the bicycle engineer position is funded – it’s just that the City has been content to let the position just sit around unfilled. And if you’re wondering about implementation and how they let this happen – well, remember that Nancy Nadel chairs the Public Works Committee.

Rebecca Kaplan said she’s a bicyclist, and that Oakland is the best positioned city in the country to harness bicycle improvements. She said Oakland isn’t going after grants from MTC, ABAG, and other organizations. She talked about Safe Routes to School grants and said we need to get those grants, too, and that we should apply for funding from anti-global warming groups. She said we should have a transportation commission to coordinate our transportation planning, and that we don’t do transportation planning, and she will. Charles Pine said he is not an expert on every subject, and that the other people’s ideas sounded good, but he had nothing to add. Frank Rose said the Pedestrian Master Plan is not implemented either, and he talked about how the redevelopment agencies are providing money for pedestrian improvements. He said we need to subsidize retail in underserved neighborhoods through tax breaks. Clinton Killian said that when he was on the AC Transit board, the City did not coordinate with anyone, and lost out on all sorts of available funding. He said the Council needs someone who understands that public transportation means more than BART.

Didn’t we just get a big Safe Routes to School grant? I am extremely amused by my mental image of Charles Pine sitting there while the first three candidates were talking, racking his brain to find a way to relate bicycling to the police. I thought everyone else’s responses were good.

Sean Sullivan was then asked a question only for him about whether he supported rent controlled apartments being removed for condo conversions. He said that he didn’t support that, unless people wanted to buy their own condos, he kind of babbled for a while, then started talking about reforming the First Time Homebuyer’s Program, but ran out of time before he was able to finish his thought.

Then, another question for all candidates. Do they support inclusionary zoning?

Nancy Nadel said she’s been trying to pass inclusionary zoning for 8 years, and that she wants to pass it for 80% AMI properties and that will work well. Sean Sullivan said we need to look at where it will work, and if maybe it should be for just certain parts of the City where it’s more feasible, and complained that some parts of Oakland have no affordable housing. He brought up the First Time Homebuyer Program again, but once again, ran out of time before he was able to finish his thought.

Rebecca Kaplan said that inclusionary zoning is one of the tools in an affordability strategy, but not the only one. She said we should do an IZ program that phases in, and that has different requirements based on whether projects get public subsidy or not. She also said we should be buying foreclosed properties and selling them as affordable units. Charles Pine said we all agree that inclusionary zoning is one element of the mix, but that in 4 years the city will be divided exactly the same on development, but we will have a dramatically different outlook on public safety. Frank Rose explained that in redevelopment areas, we fund affordable housing. He said we need equitable development, but that we shouldn’t run developers away with a burdensome inclusionary zoning policy. Clinton Killian talked about a newspaper article explaining why inclusionary zoning works some places and not others, and it won’t work in Oakland. He said the real issue is affordable housing, and how do we build the most of it, and that we need more small infill housing.

You know, it’s really refreshing to me to see how the debate on inclusionary zoning has shifted over the last two years. Before, inclusionary zoning was pimped as the answer to all our problems, and now, even its supporters call it only a small part of the package. I think people are starting to realize that inclusionary zoning doesn’t actually produce affordable housing, and I find that small bit of progress encouraging. Frank Rose was completely right, Clinton Killian’s response was good, and Charles Pine – well, you have to give him points for staying on message.

Then a woman complained about how there’s no grocery store in West Oakland.

Nancy Nadel said that there was a store for a while on Market Street, but that the owner sold it to a Korean fellow who made some bad investments, and then the store closed. She explained the Fresh & Easy didn’t come because they wouldn’t agree to a living wage. She said that since they can’t get stores to come to them, we started our own grocery store which is going to open next month, and that we started our own co-op credit union, which is the only bank is West Oakland. Sean Sullivan said that since he lives in West Oakland, he knows how frustrating it is to not have a real bank or a grocery store or pharmacy to go to when he gets home. He talked about efforts to create community gardens. He said that Mandela Foods Cooperative is an example of how we can’t just leave implementation to others, and that it was terrible the City limited the 99 Cent Store to only 50 feet of produce and that people deserve better access to produce, and it’s backwards to be restricting food access.

I’m not sure who this “we” is, but I do find it amazing how much Nancy Nadel seems to love reinventing the wheel. She wants to know what the challenges are to businesses in Oakland, so she starts a business? She can’t get a bank, so we have to start one? Why not subsidize a real bank? East Oakland has a bank! That credit union she’s so proud of doesn’t even offer checking accounts! And I already wrote about what a disaster Mandela Foods Cooperative is.

Rebecca Kaplan said we need to address areas of Oakland without grocery stores and banks, and that we need to look at our business development and incentive funding, and that needs to be at the top of our priority list and use our leverage and funds we have to subsidize these businesses if need be. Charles Pine talked about the Subway at Mandela Gateway that almost closed due to crime, and that crime is an issue all over Oakland, but they hurt the poor districts of the city the most. Frank Rose said he’d been working on those issues for years, and talked about the West Oakland senior shuttle, which began to get seniors to the market. He said he brought East Oakland its first supermarket in 10 years at Eastmont Town Center, and that he manages a roving farmer’s market that he takes to all the senior residences in West Oakland and East Oakland where others won’t go. Clinton Killian pointed out that Compton has grocery stores and drugstores, and that the Council needs a member who considers attracting neighborhood serving retail a priority.

Rebecca Kaplan was awesome, Charles Pine was, well, on message, Frank Rose was awesome, and Clinton Killian was awesome as well. Wow. Everyone had really good things to say to this question except Charles Pine and Nancy Nadel.

The final question was only for the At-large candidates. They were asked for their thoughts on a newspaper editorial arguing that the at-large seat should be eliminated, since it isn’t responsive to constituents.

Clinton Killian gave a little history lesson about how we ended up with District-based elections, and said the At-large seat has a huge amount of potential to deal with major, citywide issues, and that we should have term limits in Oakland. Frank Rose said the At-large Councilmember holds things together, and that Henry Chang gets a lot of things done, even though he’s very low profile. He said it’s a thankless job, but one that someone who really loves Oakland will do a lot of good there. Charles Pine complained about the AMG project on MacArthur and High St. Rebecca Kaplan said that Oakland has not yet seen what’s possible with an effective, dedicated At-large Councilmember. She listed all these things she did when she joined the AC Transit board.

And that was it. If you missed this one, but want to see a debate, there’s going to be another candidate forum this Wednesday, May 7, at the Scottish Rite Temple downtown (1547 Lakeside Drive) at 6:30 PM. All three District 3 candidates have confirmed, and the discussion will be moderated by Aimee Allison, Jim Ratliff, and Robert Gammon.

Readers who were in attendance at the forum are invited to share their thoughts in the comments section.

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4 thoughts on “HarriOak All Candidates Forum Video and Recap

  1. Barry

    Read the second comment regarding DD bond measure fiasco at this blogspot:

    http://brooklynavenue.blogspot.com/2008/04/improving-our-community.html

    At the Harrioak forum, it was refreshing to hear 3 out of the 4 candidates for the Council Member at Large finally take on the Sacred of Cow of DD. I agree with the Brooklyn Avenue poster. The Grand Jury needs to be get involved and look into :

    1) who knew the channel project was impossible before 2002 the bond measure was passed 2) what reallly has happened to the bond funds? Where did all the money go? Follow the money!

    Speaking of which, at this forum, Nancy Nadel DID vaguely remembered getting money from the owner of BBI — the DD boathouse/restaurant construction company that will be coming to City Council to ask for a couple million more bucks for the job — and said something to the effect that it was allowable under the campaign finance laws.

    If the contribution simply doesn’t pass the common man’s “smell test” she shouldn’t have taken the money, no matter HOW she interprets the laws.

    I am also beginning to think she’s not very bright. Saying to the crowd that the owner BBI is one of her favorite volunteers because he plants trees in West Oakland (after she allowed mature trees to be sawed down around the Lake Merritt) certainly dried up her last few sympathy votes in here Adams Point.

  2. Max Allstadt

    The candidate’s forum at the Scottish Rite is being moderated by who?

    How exactly is it objective to have Aimee Alison, who’s campaign was endorsed by Nadel, acting as a moderator?

  3. Max Allstadt

    Just fot the record, Tom McCoy is a really nice guy. I’ve met him at council meetings around the industrial land zoning business. He talks about the tree planting program all the time, I think he’s really into it. He was totally willing to hear constructive criticism too. People complain that once the trees are up, they’re under maintained, and I remember him acknowledging it and wanting to improve it.

    That doesn’t necessarily answer anything about the trees by the lake. I know nothing about that situation. I just didn’t like seeing McCoy being demonized. Besides, somebody had to issue permits to remove the trees, right?

  4. Becks

    Thanks for the detailed recap. I unfortunately couldn’t get the videos to play so I had to use my imagination a bit.

    Though I don’t live in District 3, I’ve really appreciated your reporting on the race. I didn’t feel strongly either way about the race when it started, but I’ve been consistently amazed at how low Nadel’s willing to stoop. Hopefully she’ll be better at running a chocolate shop than she is at representing her district.