So we’ve got what, 11 days before the election? I’m so nervous! Anyway, next week’s blogs are going to be all elections, all the time, and since I’m finally done with some big projects I’ve been working on, I’ll actually have the time to write them! Part of next week’s election coverage is going to be endorsements. I take this seriously, and have spent a great deal of time researching the candidates, especially in races that I’m not terribly familiar with, because I want to be able to stand behind what I say and feel like I’ve made a recommendation based on as much information as possible.
Apparently, not everyone takes the responsibility so seriously. dto510 wrote last week about the misplaced ideology behind the Central Labor Council/Sierra Club/Central Committee/Green Party/Bay Guardian slate, a post which generated a number of comments from endorsers of the “progressive” candidates. The commenters were unable to provide any justification of the logic behind their endorsements, or answer questions about Nadel’s troubling record, instead falling back on vague statements like “V Smoothe, I know it must be eminently gratifying to pretend that people who reject your analysis only do so because of ignorance, but you know some of us pay attention and still think you’re wrong.”
What a horrible thing to say! It isn’t gratifying in the least to see people making bad choices about their government because they’re uninformed! In fact, it’s incredibly depressing! It keeps me awake at night. Anyway, while some of these groups, such as the East Bay Young Democrats, continue to fail to offer any argument supporting their endorsements (making it impossible to then rebut said argument), other endorsers of this slate have done so, and, as expected, their choices are, well, completely uninformed.
Take, for example, the San Francisco Bay Guardian’s endorsement of Nancy Nadel:
Nadel is hardworking, effective, a leader on progressive economic and planning issues, and one of the best members of the Oakland City Council. She asked the hard questions and demanded improvements in the giant Oak to Ninth project (although she wound up voting for it). She’s pushing for better community policing and promoting community-based anticrime efforts, including a teen center in a part of her district where there have been several homicides. She was a principal architect of the West Oakland industrial zoning plan, which she hopes will attract new jobs to the community (although she also pissed off a few artists who fear they’ll be evicted from living spaces that aren’t up to code, and she needs to address the problem). We’re happy to endorse her for another term.
Is she? Hardworking and effective are subjective terms, I guess, but I doubt that even her most ardent supporters would use the latter to describe her. A teen center? Seriously? I find it really irritating when people just repeat her lie about the teen center. Why does nobody bother to check? Let me repeat once again: there is no teen center coming to Market Street. Nancy Nadel saved her pay-go and project priority funds for years, and instead of buying that street furniture or lighting, or getting that community garden started, or making that dog park, or installing that crosswalk, she spent $850,000 (PDF!) on a building, that is going to be mothballed at the cost of nearly $20,000 per year (also coming out of District 3 pay-go funds!). There is no money to turn this building into a teen center. Let me repeat that. There is no money available to turn this money into a teen center. We can’t afford to rehab the building to even make it suitable for use, and there is no money whatsoever available to fund the operation of the teen center if we ever were able to restore it. Nadel, who first brought her request to purchase the building to Council last summer, and who got it approved last fall, is now planning on looking for grants over the next year and trying to get Measure Y money appropriated to it. Oh, but one aspect of the project will start soon – the teen planning process!
Moving on: “She was a principal architect of the West Oakland industrial zoning plan.” Again, 100% not true. Not only was Nadel not a “principal architect” of the new industrial zoning, she wouldn’t even be allowed to be. Councilmembers giving planning staff direction about their zoning plans is explicitly forbidden by City Charter. She is, of course, welcome to come to meetings and testify as to what she would like to see in the proposal just like everyone else. You’d think, being so interested in industrial land use, she might have bothered to attend the Planning Commission or CED hearings on the new zoning. Nope. In fact, at one CED meeting, she showed up and sat through a different item, then left before the zoning issue came up.
As for the artists – the issue isn’t and was never building code enforcement – the issue was that the proposed zoning banned any work/live space anywhere in industrial zones except in a small border area. After CED tried to amend the code to allow work/live spaces with a Conditional Use Permit, she had the plan further amended at Council so that it would not allow any new hybrid space, saying specifically with respect to work/live space “If you want this in your District, fine. But I don’t want it in West Oakland.”
Even the most perfunctory attempt at researching Nadel’s record or claims of accomplishment would have revealed that none of the issues the Guardian claims their endorsement of Nadel is based on were even true. A similar problem is found in the Rebecca Kaplan endorsement, which appears to be primarily based on the idea that “defying all odds, [she] managed to get all-night transit service from San Francisco to the East Bay. Of course, as I’ve noted before, she didn’t actually do this, and there was already all night bus service across the Bay before the launch of the new and improved “All-Nighter” service. Kaplan may be the obvious choice for the Guardian’s at-large endorsement, but it would have been nice to see them write an explanation for their choice that was actually, you know, true. As for Clifford Gilmore, who they don’t seem to even know anything about, they simply say that “it’s hard to imagine” that he could be worse than Larry Reid. This is so irresponsible!
Then yesterday, I was looking over the Green Voter guide (PDF!), and found myself equally disturbed. The Green Party’s guide is better than the SF Bay Guardian, in that at least some of the endorsements appear to be rooted in legitimate ideological positions. I strongly disagree that Larry Reid should be replaced in Distict 7 because he abstained on the plastic bag ban vote, or that Brian Rogers “must be stopped” because he’s a Republican, but at least those things are true.
But at least one of their endorsements is bizarre. The lengthy section on the District 3 race criticizes Nancy Nadel extensively for her support of Jerry Brown’s sideshow ordinance, failing to stop the Walmart on Hegenberger (and because she “chose not to notify Oakland’s progressive community of the project until it was too late to oppose it”), voting in favor of Oak to Ninth, and not helping the Green Party with their referendum effort on Oak to Ninth. Fair enough. They don’t have much to say about Hodge except that his positions are vague. Then they go on and on about how awful Sean Sullivan is, based on, well, nothing! They basically say that the entire reason they oppose him is because he has OakPac’s endorsement:
Nadel’s second opponent is Sean Sullivan. Far from challenging the progressive credentials of Nadel or Hodge, Mr. Sullivan is the chosen conservative candidate of the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. His only endorsement as of mid-April is from OAKPAC, the political arm of the Chamber of Commerce. He also has specific links to real estate developers, including Mike Ghielmetti, the Oak to Ninth project developer.
They write almost nothing about the work he’s done in the community, saying:
In general, Mr. Sullivan’s answers to our questionnaire reveal a narrower focus than either Nadel or Hodge. His primary issues are crime, growth, and food security. He has worked to get young adults away from unproductive lives on the streets, by raising money for Covenant House, a service organization with projects in 15 US cities and in other countries. He is a Board Member of Alameda County’s FEMA, and Treasurer of the Oakland Rainbow Chamber of Commerce and Labor, a multi-ethnic LGBT business group founded by Peggy Moore.
So yes, a lot of Sean’s job, as I understand it, is raising money. That’s how he was able to build the new shelter in Jack London. But the way they write it, it sounds like he held a bake sale for Covenant House once or something! It’s horribly disrespectful to write off 12 years of hard work in youth service, providing job training, street outreach, and shelter as “raising money.”
They then go on to reveal that although they support inclusionary zoning, they haven’t the faintest idea how redevelopment areas work:
Mr. Sullivan’s concept of “smart growth,” as stated on his Smart Voter webpage, seems to be rooted in currently popular economic ideas. “Through creation of market rate housing in our redevelopment areas,” he says, “we will fast track desperately needed affordable housing.” It is not clear from this phrasing if Mr. Sullivan actually favors “inclusionary zoning” (in which developers of market rate housing are required to provide affordable housing as part of the package), but, given his “free market” endorsers, this seems improbable. More likely he means that some of the tax increments that come to the City when the value of property rises within a redevelopment area could be used for affordable housing. As Greens, we do not believe that this trickle-down approach to housing will serve the homeless, one of Mr. Sullivan’s professed goals.
Okay, so if you read this blog, you probably already know this, but in case you don’t: this isn’t some kind of trendy economic theory, it’s State law. 15% of all units built in redevelopment areas are required by State law to be affordable. These units are funded by the 25% of redevelopment funds that we set aside for affordable housing. By using these funds, we have built more affordable housing in Oakland in the last 10 years than we did in the 20 previous. We produce significantly more affordable housing per capita than our neighbors who do have inclusionary zoning do. It isn’t a “trickle-down” issue. It’s a legal obligation. If you think it’s more important to punish developers with unfunded, on-site mandates than to provide more affordable units, then the inclusionary litmus test is appropriate. That’s a question of priorities. But to condemn someone’s position as not serving the goal of affordable housing or assisting the homeless without even bothering to do the most elementary bit of research that would have explained the answer is reprehensible.
They conclude “Please DON’T vote Sean Sullivan, but DO VOTE.” Given the uninformed blather that comprises their essay, this conclusion appears to be entirely based, as far as I can tell from their explanation, on the fact that Sean is supported by businesses. The horror!
I really wish that groups or media organizations who decide to make endorsements in these races would just spend even a little time doing some fact checking, or examining records, or at least trying to understand a candidate’s positions. Failure to do so is a serious abdication of responsibility and does a disservice to the public these organizations are allegedly tasking with informing.