June 2008 Endorsements

So one of the funnest parts of having a blog, or so people tell me, is that you get to make endorsements. I wouldn’t know. I’ve somehow managed to find myself so busy that I’ve run out of time to write them. So here’s A Better Oakland’s endorsements. I’ve already said who I’m supporting in most of these races, and I’m linking to my previous explanation for the decision because I just don’t have the time to write a new, short one. Sorry. Next time around I’ll do it right.

District 1 City Council: Patrick McCullough

District 1 School Board: Brian Rogers

District 3 City Council: Sean Sullivan

I said it last week, and I’ll say it again today. I cannot endorse Sean Sullivan more strongly. He is exactly what this city needs. I also recommend reading Becks’s endorsement of Sullivan over at Living in the O.

District 3 School Board: Jumoke Hinton-Hodge

Like I said before, I feel kind of out of my league when talking about the schools, so I asked around on this one, and although most people I spoke with supported Oluwole, and although this wasn’t the only reason most of them gave, every single one of them complained about her husband’s performance in the same seat. I just want to say that think that criteria is bullshit. Jumoke is not her husband. This is the equivalent of people who support Hillary for President because they love Bill. I find it infuriating when educated, engaged people behave as though educated, engaged women have no identity beyond that of the person they’re married to.

I was a little weirded out by all the notes and papers she spread out all over the table at the LWV forum, but her answers overall were data-driven, thoughtful and detailed, so if that’s what it takes, go for it. She demonstrated a better grasp of the District’s issues than Oluwole in the debate, and in large part, I agree with her solutions – better professional development for teachers, increasing parent engagement, and increased use of technology. Oluwole is an advocate of vocational education, which is very important to me, but supports a moratorium on charter-schools, which I have a serious problem with. Hinton-Hodge is on the same tip as Brian Rogers about requiring the A-G curriculum for all high school students, which I think is bad, but you’re never going to agree with someone about everything, and she’s just the better candidate.

District 5 City Council: Ignacio De La Fuente

District 7 City Council: Larry Reid

At-large City Council: Rebecca Kaplan

Probably the only one of my endorsements that will come as a surprise to my readers, since I previously said that I was supporting Clinton Killian in this race. I can pinpoint the exact moment I switched to undecided for At-large. It was at the HarriOak candidate forum, when the candidates were asked if they thought there were any city regulations that should be scaled back. Clinton’s immediate response was “Well, good luck with that.” I get that he was trying to be funny, and it actually was funny, but it also isn’t the can-do attitude I want to see on the City Council. Kaplan’s response to this question, about how we require way too many conditional use permits, was totally awesome.

I remained torn between Killian and Kaplan since then, and it wasn’t until last night that I finally decided who I’d be voting for. I know Clinton shares my priorities, and it’s really tempting to vote for someone who I can feel confident will always vote on the right side on things I care about – development, transit, planning, and so on. Killian has also shown an appealing commitment to transparency and community engagement. But after spending way more time than is normal or healthy thinking about this race, I’ve decided I want more from a Councilmember than a predictable vote.

Kaplan makes me nervous. I don’t like her a lot of her endorsers at all, which sort of makes me sympathetic to the Green Party’s logic regarding Sean Sullivan – if I disagree with the priorities and the other endorsements of many of these groups, then shouldn’t I be concerned that they think Kaplan is on their side? But ultimately, I think that’s a terrible way to judge a candidate.

Kaplan has promised to work full-time on the Council, which is important to me, and I’ve found her positions overall to be well-researched and detailed. I’m concerned about what she’ll do regarding inclusionary zoning – when I spoke with her personally, she made a really good argument against IZ (well, it was basically my argument) and said that we should be focusing our affordable housing energies in other areas that we can all agree on and will help more people anyway. I completely agree! But her response to the IZ question at the HarriOak debate was a lot more wishy-washy, and IZ advocates I know are using her alleged support of the plan as a reason to vote for her. So I don’t really trust her on this issue.

I also have concerns about the way she’s run her campaign – two different people have complained to me that they called her campaign office wanting to talk about the race, and they couldn’t even get someone to give them a scripted pitch – instead, they were curtly referred to the website and then hung up on. Of five City Council campaigns I’ve made donations to, hers is the only one where I never received any kind of thanks or acknowledgement of my gift. That’s just not very classy. I think the way one campaigns says a lot about the way one will behave if elected, so I worry about how attentive she’ll be to constituents.

But as I said before in my recap of the LWV forum, I love that she’s not content to simply accept long-term problems as inevitable, and really thinks outside the box for solutions. What we desperately need on the Council are people who are going to bring a lot of energy and fresh ideas, because the status quo is simply not working. Kaplan’s super smart, pragmatic, and was able to persuade me that she’ll make decisions based on data rather than emotion and with an eye on implementation. She’s fully committed to smart growth, and like Sean Sullivan, awesomely showed up at the Zoning Update Committee to speak against the proposed new CBD zoning. She’ll offer some much-needed attention to transportation issues. She gets the need for Port-supportive services at the Army Base, and the vital role the Port plays in our economy. So even though there are some definite trust issues here, particularly around inclusionary zoning and civil service, I’m gambling on Rebecca Kaplan, because I’d rather take my chances on someone I think could be really great than on someone I know for sure will be pretty good. And I think you should too.

State Senate, District 9: Wilma Chan

Like one of the most recent mailers I got from her says “VOTE OAKLAND! VOTE CHAN!”. Ok, I don’t have time to write a real endorsement for this one (although I am voting for Chan), I just wanted to bring up the race to ask what the hell is up with Don Perata? He endorses Chan, no, he endorses Hancock, no, he endorses both, then I get a mailer on Saturday that says “Don Perata sets the record straight” really big, and the back is a letter about how he supports Wilma Chan, and only Wilma Chan. Then my friend gets a robocall from him last night saying to vote for Loni Hancock. WTF?

25 thoughts on “June 2008 Endorsements

  1. Surfways

    I am concerned about Kaplan because she had said that if she were elected, she would invest her time and energy to help with the Obama campaign. That doesn’t sound like someone who is going to work full time on the needs of Oakland residents.

  2. Jim Ratliff

    Surfways, the Obama campaign will be over before Kaplan would take office, so this couldn’t interfere with her efforts as a council member. I could imagine she means: If I’m elected outright in June (or defeated outright in June), I’ll work on Obama’s campaign between now and November. However, if she makes it into a runoff in June, I’d imagine she’ll be pretty busy with her own campaign during that period.

  3. Josh Abrams

    as one of the KOS readers said (paraphrasing) “Yeah, I’m sure Obama needs her help to lock up the Oakland and California votes!”

    while i’m not supporting Rebecca, I agree with V that she’ll be effective at whatever it is she decides she is going to do if she is elected – the question is what is she going to do? At every forum I have seen or heard about her being in she ‘caters’ (pander is a very loaded word) to the crowd that is there… leaving me very unsure what she stands for beyond getting herself elected.

    Plus it bothers me that someone who is trying to take on the mantle of Obama (the first post-racial candidate) is running as the “queer candidate” and that a big chunk of her supporters are voting for her for that reason. I guess thats how identity politics works – but it rubs me the wrong way.

  4. Max Allstadt

    If we’re doing identity politics, I’m voting for her pertly ’cause she’s a post-baby boomer. We barely have any council members under 50. Desley and Larry? or just Desley?

    Actually I’m voting for her ’cause I want Hamill to have a real challenger. Did anybody see Gammon’s piece on how Hamill is blatantly violating campaign finance rules? Nadel did too, but Hamill’s violations are really over the top. Very very not ok.

  5. josh abrams

    Max – sorry to burst your bubble, but there was probably no violation. Read the articles, read Hamill’s website, and then look at the actual mail pieces – the IEC simply took information from the website and mailed it out. As for the “its her signature” claim, even if it is an image of her actual signature, does that mean that she actually signed it? or perhaps they scanned her signature (from one of her mailers, or from anywhere else you can get the signature of an elected official) and used it? If I mailed you a letter “signed” by bill clinton would you believe that he authorized it?

    If there was some form of communication it would take a real investigation to prove it – simply saying “omg! it has her picture, its illegal!” is a little silly.

    Same thing with that Berkeley Daily Planet article claiming that a bunch of council members violated the finance rules by taking money from people who were city contractors — the rules say you can’t take $ within x days before or after a contract is signed, it doesn’t say you can’t ever take money from them… I just wish some of these journalists would take 20 seconds to research their claims before writing this stuff up.

    I love a good scandal, but it needs to be a real one.

  6. V Smoothe Post author

    Josh –

    I have the same concern about Kaplan, and like I said above, I know I’m taking a gamble on this one.

    Use your power for good, not evil, Rebecca! Don’t let me down!

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    Josh –

    I haven’t seen Hammill’s mailers, because apparently people who live below 580 don’t exist for her or something, and from the way they’re described, they don’t sound that bad to me. But weren’t you the one who complained about the OakPac Killian mailer for the exact same reasons?

  8. josh abrams

    I complained about the OakPAC mailers because they didn’t contain the required “this mailer was paid for by x and the total cost was $$” statement (this is an Oakland rule, they should know better than to break it) and because the images it had were not available anywhere i looked (i am open to being corrected). There is nothing wrong or illegal about putting information out there with the hope that an IEC will take it and use it in a mailer, it seems pretty smart to me. The line to illegality is crossed when you are “coordinating” between the candidate and the IEC.

    So yes, I complained, but I also researched what i was complaining about before I did so… I don’t think accusing someone of breaking the law is something to be done in a toss-off comment without researching first.

  9. Joanna/OnTheGoJo

    I had been on the fence between Frank Rose (my more idealistic candidate) and Kaplan, and despite some concerns, I’m going with her as well.

    Max, I’m glad that you clarified “identity politics”, because you really scared me for a minute. That’s like saying that if Ignacio’s son ran, that you’d vote for him if he were running against of bunch of 50+ white guys. Yikes! There’s a thought, eh? So glad you made us all aware that this wasn’t your only reason for voting for her.

    I got the same Perata robocall (only 2 political robocalls yesterday – quite a decrease from Friday. could someone outlaw them?) and I haven’t a clue who Perata is behind. Maybe I shouldn’t vote for either. ;)

    I agree that Jumoke Hinton Hodge should not be judged on her husband’s performance and I’m glad you’ve endorsed her. On the other hand I’m not so convinced that her husband did a bad job on the School Board. His number one response is that we should go to these meetings and see for ourselves. He and the rest of the Board brought forth the issues that the school faced in terms of cash shortfalls and poor outdated accounting systems. I’d heard that long before I’d ever heard of Greg Hodge. They took that battle public because they wanted to get it fixed. Greg comes from a family of teachers (as do I) and I felt that while I’m on the fence about charter schools, I did feel that he had well thought out reasons for doing the things he did.

    Almost time for a break, V – can you really do it this time? :)

  10. Max Allstadt

    I’m only half kidding about that Joanna. There is a generational groupthink common among baby boomers. I’m not saying it’s all pervasive, but it’s there. What is it? Well in Nadel’s case, it’s vestiges of 60s ideals, whether practical or not. In other cases, concepts of urban planning that have long been discredited linger. There are many Baby Boomers who are still 2nd wave, sex-negative feminists. There are plenty of liberals who think South Park is offensive, Marylin Manson caused columbine, and Video Games are worse for kids than negligent parents. These people aren’t genXers.

    There’s plenty more. Generalizations aren’t all pervasive, again. But stereotypes don’t exist with out some basis in fact. I want people on the council who are of my generation in order to counterbalance this. I also want younger people on the council because I think it will get people in my generation more interested in Oakland politics.

    I also like the idea of having people on the council who will have to live with their decisions for 20 years longer than the other members.

  11. Charles Pine

    It seems to me that if you give priority to public safety, you don’t stop Hamill by going for Kaplan. And if you want someone on the council who will open it up to the people and their real needs, someone who will change its dynamic, you support me for that reason, too.

    Our campaign does not buy polls, and I make no prediction about tomorrow. We did communicate our program to almost all the likely voters. I’m confident that in a head-to-head runoff I would defeat Hamill (or Kaplan for that matter).

    Incidentally, Hamill’s website, actually a blog, used to allow comments to items, but this morning I see they’ve been removed along with the option to comment.

  12. josh abrams

    “I also like the idea of having people on the council who will have to live with their decisions for 20 years longer than the other members.”

    cynical – but funny!

  13. Andre Jones

    As Rebecca Kaplan’s Campaign Manager I want to urge anyone who has an interest in the campaign or a question to feel free to call the campaign HQ at 510-681-8641. I assure you we will do our best to answer whatever questions you may have in a timely manner.

    Also, I want to invite everyone to our Election Night Party tomorrow, June 3rd, at the bar/restaraunt Clancy’s. Clancy’s is located at 311 Broadway (near Jack London Square). Polls close at 8pm so we will be gathering at Clancy’s afterwards to celebrate.

    Snacks included. Cash bar. Everyone is welcome.

  14. Chris Kidd


    I think you’ve kinda hit the nail on the head concerning the baby-boomer/genX disconnect. The way I see it is with babyboomer liberalism, there’s a lot of “let’s plan a better tomorrow today”. I don’t think that genXers (or whatever you want to call them) are necesarily opposed to the liberal leanings of generations past in this city, they’re just also much more cynical/realistic than those that came before. More of a “let’s make a better today right now” if you will. Ideology and political correctness matter less and less, it’s more about tangible results and pragmatic thinking. I just hope we don’t get to “well, at least he makes the trains run on time…”

    Or at least that’s where I’m coming from as a post-genXer (genY? Millenarian? NES instead of Atari?)

  15. Max Allstadt

    Charles Pine -

    The reason that Hamill’s website removed comments is simple, and that reason is…


    Hamill had posted a link to the endorsement article in the East Bay Express. Early this morning, in the comment section, I posted links to the two Robert Gammon articles which called attention to her potential campaign finance violations. If what you’re saying is true, and she removed commenting, I claim full responsibility.

    See, the urls for those articles were so long that they ran out of the comment box. You couldn’t tell they were unfavorable without clicking on them. Clearly, a supporter or two went to her site, clicked through, and got an unpleasant surprise!


    PS, Uhuru did the same thing when I posted critical comments on their McCullough-hatefest video on youtube. Deleted me and blocked me.

    V Smoothe believes in democracy, and in the word of the people. Hamill and Uhuru, not so much.

  16. josh abrams

    i didn’t notice where any other council candidates allow you to post comments on their sites… everyone who is running is as bad as Uhuru!

  17. Charles Pine

    “i didn’t notice where any other council candidates allow you to post comments on their sites… ”

    Actually, I made that observation because in general Hamill has been a reluctant candidate (although she is quite happy to have $125,000+ spent on mailers for her), and the use of a blog template, with little of the elaboration that V has given hers, seemed to be another little sign of that.

  18. Max Allstadt

    Joshatron and Charlie,

    It was pretty clear to me that the comments section was just a sloppy mistake. But In this day and age, screwing up your website that badly is the same thing as putting out grammatically incorrect literature. It’s careless.

    Josh, I know the other candidates have no comments sections. Probably an unwise thing to do. Although Q&A would be a brave thing to do… Still, Hamill offered the chance to comment, then recinded it as soon as it provoked disagreement. It’s one thing to not offer discussion. It’s far worse to offer it and then walk away when it turns out it’s not the discussion you wanted.

  19. Becks

    I’m actually not surprised at all that you’re supporting Kaplan. I had the realization that you should and probably would endorse Rebecca when I realized that I supported Sean. Though these two candidates might at first seem to have little in common (look at who endorses each of them), I think they’re both coming to the council from a similar place. They both care deeply about this city and have visions for making this city better but neither seem to be so deeply entrenched in idealogical views about issues that it would prevent them from listening to their constituents. Neither of them is afraid of change or of hard work. Both of them are thoughtful, creative, and incredibly intelligent. And though this is not the reason I support them, they’re both young, which I think can be a great asset to our council.

    I’m a bit surprised that people have complained to you that Rebecca’s campaign has not been accessible. I see her personally campaigning just about everywhere, and I’ve been impressed at how knowledgeable her volunteers are about her campaign. When I was phoning for her last week it was great to hear my fellow volunteers answering pretty detailed questions about what she was going to do for the city. Regardless, I think Rebecca will be incredibly accessible to her constituents – she comes to this position after being a community activist fro many years so she knows what it’s like to be on the other side.

  20. V Smoothe Post author

    Becks –

    Rebecca has personally been very nice to me, and I’ve really enjoyed the opportunities I’ve had to talk to her. But it did disturb me that two separate people I know, neither of whom know one another and one of whom isn’t involved at politics at all, felt the need to tell almost the exact same story without any prompting. It seemed worth mentioning.

    In the end, I agree with you, and all the points you hit on your blog about Sean. Kaplan can get things done. When I had coffee with her, I think that my favorite thing out of everything she said was when I was talking to her about some of my frustrations with inefficiencies in our government due to mandates in the City Charter. Almost the second I finished speaking, she spat out “Well then, the solution is to change the City Charter. We can do that!” Yes! That’s exactly what I was going to say. I should have realized then and there she had my vote, but it’s taken my a long time to feel like I’d made a firm position. I’ve been waffling like Don Perata over here.

    And just like you said, if District 3 doesn’t go to a run-off and At-large does, I’ll be volunteering for Rebecca in the fall.

  21. Barry

    Josh — the rule about contractors making contributions to city council candidates who control the purse strings may be on the books, but in practice, doesn’t pass the smell test.

    Of course a contractor (like BBI, the builder behind Municipal Boathouse Restaurant restoration) is going to feel comfortable crossing a palm (of Nancy Nadel) with cash (see her campaign financials) and just wait a few months to ask for 1.5 million dollars for the project. The amount he has given NN is chump change to what he is going to receive in the end once she pushes a resolution to give him the money he wants.

    What bothers me is Nadel seemed to be so clueless as how it appears to others — ie taxpayers.

    She really does live in a bubble.

    Thanks, V, for publishing the financial statements. I still hear the NN propaganda — that she is not the developer candidate and therefore is free from that type of financial influence as opposed to her challengers — being reiterated by loyal supporters.

    Martyrhood is one thing, not being truthful is quite another.

    ‘Way to play the martyr card.

  22. josh abrams

    Barry – I am not saying that it is a good thing having folks who stand to benefit from being in the good graces of council members donate $$$ to them – I was just making the point that some journalists paint things in one light when a bit more research would show things differently.
    I would support 100% public financing (thus avoiding the problems of members being beholden to donors or only the deep-pocketed being able to run) but I think that would tip the balance too far toward labor (they can turn out the manpower to win a race, which is impossible to regulate). It seems like it would be unfair to regulate business (no $ from city contractors, etc) while not being able to regulate labor (hard to say no to a pay bump for the union who turned out 100s of folks to walk for you).