Finally, last one of these! So here we go – Jane Brunner has represented District 1 for nearly 12 years. She was elected in 1996 to fill a seat vacated by Sheila Jordan, now County Superintendent of Schools after a tough campaign against then-Planning Commissioner Peter Smith. At the time, Smith warned that Brunner was part of Ignacio De La Fuente’s anti-development political machine. My, how things change.
Although the North Oakland flats undoubtedly have their share of poverty and crime, much of District 1 is relatively wealthy and therefore well-maintained. Brunner has managed to mightily piss off both pro-development and anti-development types, and has been absent on rising crime, but she nonetheless ran for re-election unopposed in 2000 and 2004. While we have plenty of experienced and qualified candidates living in District 1 (two of them are currently running for At-large Council), nobody will step up to oppose Brunner because she’s perceived as unbeatable, since she has lots of money plus most voters live in the hills and are totally uninformed, but like her because she’s a woman and plants trees. So Patrick McCullough, a guy people in the Bushrod neighborhood know for his work cleaning up his street, and everybody else in Oakland knows as the guy who shot a teenager in his yard, stepped up. I’m not going to get into the shooting issue – you can read his story about it on his website, and I’m going to say now that I would prefer that discussion of the shooting not dominate the comments on this post. There are plenty of other forums available to do that, and I’d like to see the discussion here limited to questions stemming from the debate or either candidate’s platform.
So let’s dive in.
Jane Brunner said that she’d been on the City Council for 11 years, and that crime is the top issue in Oakland. She said that some things, like the new geographic policing, are working well, and noted that the police contract issue has been solved. She said they gave $7.7 million to recruit new officers, but there’s a lot more to do, and that we need more police officers as well as a strategy from the Chief for fighting crime. She said we need businesses because we need jobs, and that we had the 10k plan, now we need 10,000 jobs, and that we need opportunity sites and job training, and that we also need to keep working on affordable housing.
Pat McCullough said that crime is flourishing in Oakland, and that Brunner has sat on the Council for 12 years while we lost control of the schools, the budget, and the streets. He said he’s a repairman with 30 years of experience, that he’s fixed problems most of my life and led the improvement of 59th Street, which had been an open drug market. He said that he’s independent of the power brokers, and that he won’t be corrupted, and will restore optimism in Oakland, rebuild the economy, balance the budget, and make the streets safe.
V: Winner: Patrick McCullough! This forum happened like a month ago and I only just now watched the video. That was partly because I lost my DVD for a while, and partly because I’ve been so busy, but also partly because I was really nervous Pat was going to get clobbered and I was really not looking forward to writing about it. But take note Mario Juarez and Clifford Gilmore – this is how it’s done. Pat, not having much experience of his own to point to, made a strong case for the failure of the current leadership. He was engaging and persuasive. I loved it. Also, his line about being a repairman has made me laugh. Jane Brunner was really weak, and I wish people would stop talking about the geographic policing like it’s the most amazing thing since sliced bread, and stop acting like it’s making some huge dent in crime. Crime in Oakland is up 12% in 2008 over 2007! (I’m not saying that this is the geographic reorganization’s fault at all, obviously it’s way too early to draw any conclusions, but it clearly isn’t the magic bullet the Mayor, the Chief, and the entire City Council keep acting like it is.) Have I mentioned lately how much this 10,000 jobs thing annoys me? Anyway, aside from me just not liking what she said, she simply did not inspire confidence or make any argument about how things have gotten better under her tenure. That means she loses.
A: Jane Brunner said that it’s the Councilmember’s role to put out information so people can get it, and that you empower the community by giving them information, and that she holds meetings every couple of months on controversial issues. Patrick McCullough said he would increase the City Council meetings, and complained about the long summer and winter recesses. He said he will do things to bring back trust in government and show people that we can have progress.
V: Winner: Patrick McCullough. Okay, I got a little too excited with the introduction. Pat wasn’t nearly as strong here, and they seemed much more evenly matched this time around. And aside from the thing about increasing public meetings, he didn’t really say anything of substance. I agree we should have more meetings, but the recesses don’t bother me. I would like to see a return to weekly Council meetings, as much as it makes me want to cry thinking about covering that. Jane Brunner’s answer was pathetic. You can’t answer a question about how to increase participation by saying you already provide information. Weak, weak, weak.
A: Patrick McCullough said we need to make the streets safer, and that the reason we can’t have a thriving entertainment district to diversify the economy is because people are afraid to get out of their cars and go to restaurants. Jane Brunner said that we will lose revenue from the transfer tax with the housing downturn, but that it’s okay because we haven’t been using the transfer tax revenue in ongoing programs, and that we should diversify the economy with retail. She talked about the rezoning of Broadway that requires the first level of new buildings be retail.
V: Draw? I don’t know, they both said pretty similar things. Are people really afraid to go to restaurants? That depresses the hell out of me. It’s news to me that we haven’t been relying on the transfer tax for anything important. Brunner’s reference to the rezoning of Broadway irritated me. She says she supports the Conley Group’s plan, but the entire point of the retail attraction strategy is that we’re supposed to be preparing for the phasing out of auto uses along the corridor and attract destination retail instead. When the time came to do the zoning to accommodate that, Brunner asked to amend the new zoning code to permit new auto uses! Talk about missing the point.
Jane Brunner said that we’re much better than we used to be, and that we have an excellent fire department with a state of the art emergency center. She said our next disaster will probably be an earthquake, and we need to expand the CORE program. Patrick McCullough said that the fire department equipment is very old, and that many trucks need to be replaced. He said the police radio system and equipment needs to be updated. He said that neighbors aren’t coordinated and there is no emergency communication system in place that will allow people to communicate with one another or with emergency systems, and that the government has failed.
V: Winner: Patrick McCullough. Okay, I’ll admit to being shamefully uninformed about the fire department. But from what I hear, state-of-the-art is not the term one should be using to describe equipment and preparedness. Perhaps one of my readers can fill us in a little bit in the comments.
Patrick McCullough said that he had two visions – one if he was elected and one if he wasn’t. He said that if he is, he will pull people together and bring all our resources together to make this City a beautiful place, it will be like Dellums’s “model city”, except it will be real and not a dream. He said that if he isn’t elected, his vision is pretty dismal. Jane Brunner said that Oakland is a wonderful city, but that there’s a lot to improve, and that we need jobs. She said we need to continue job training programs, encourage businesses to come, and that we need to improve our schools because they’re critical, and that housing is critical and we need to build infill and affordable housing, and that crime is critical.
V: Winner: Patrick McCullough. Again, he made me laugh, which always wins points. Jane Brunner really likes the word “critical.” Also, she has nothing to say! Seriously. Pat doesn’t have much to say either, so for any qualified sitting Councilmember, creaming him should be a cakewalk. But he somehow keeps managing to outperform Brunner. That’s sad.
A: Jane Brunner said that the issue was recently before the Council, and that artists revitalize neighborhoods, and that when developers want to change neighborhoods, we need to make sure the artists aren’t kicked out. She said that with the industrial land use policy, they decided to set aside an area where work/live artists can stay. Patrick McCullough said we need to help artists come to Oakland, because many people stay out of Oakland due to crime. He said we have a lot of underutilized and empty space, and we need to identify those spaces, and find a way for people without much money to come in and talk to landowners to explain to them the benefits of having people in the building who aren’t paying market rents.
V: Winner: Jane Brunner. McCullough thinks simply asking people to lease their space below market is an answer? That’s not going to happen. Brunner’s answer disturbed me, though. At CED and Council, I thought she handled the issue of amending the proposed industrial zoning code to permit existing artists to remain and directing the planning staff to create new codes for hybrid space well, so I was extremely surprised with her response to this question, in which she boasted that they made buffer zones for work/live, when that’s exactly what they didn’t do. Why doesn’t she know what she did? Infuriating!
A: Patrick McCullough said the City should run its own records program, and he doesn’t want to outsource work. He said we need to improve the records management program, because it is currently extremely frustrating to try to get records, and that all the departments should be working from one database. Jane Brunner said she would support a records management system, and that we’ve had a lot of trouble with records management, and that we couldn’t find some development agreements. She said we should have records going back years and years and years, and that records often get lost. She said the records you need should be run by the City, not by an outside company.
V: Draw. They both said basically the same thing, and also both seemed to think that a “certified records manager” meant outsourcing the work. No! It means the City would hire someone who is certified in records management. Since I used to work in records management, I know I have a greater depth of knowledge on the subject than the average person, so I would be hesitant to pick on them over this, except that Nancy Nadel, Sean Sullivan, Larry Reid, and Clifford Gilmore all answered the exact same question and none of them made the same mistake. In any case, making information available to the public is of paramount importance, and I really hope that whatever Council we end up with next year will make improving the system a priority.
A: Jane Brunner said that we need more police, but that police are very expensive. She said she supports 200 more police, but that we need to pay for them, and that we should put that on the ballot. She also said that we need to be running the police department with statistics, and that she’s going to LA next month to look at how they use CompSTAT. Patrick McCullough said that adding 200 more police officers would cost $50 million, not $60 million as Brunner had said, and that we have a lot of waste in government. He said he would pay for the police by using civilians in government, and that we need to mentor and guide our youth, which we’re not doing well.
V: Winner: Patrick McCullough. I’m happy Brunner now wants us to use CompSTAT, but she knows perfectly well that after the disaster of Measure Y, nobody in Oakland is voting to tax themselves for more police. They did that once, and the City took their money and didn’t deliver. It isn’t going to be anywhere remotely near as easy as McCullough seems to think it will to find a spare $50 million in the budget, but if we are going to add to the force, we are going to have to find ways to pay for them other than going to the ballot. People will say no, and Brunner should know this as well as anyone.
A: Patrick McCullough said we need a condo conversion policy that doesn’t force people in apartments out of Oakland, and that he’s lost neighbors to condo conversions. He said the City should make it easy to stay in affordable housing, and that there are plenty of homes for people to buy, and that it isn’t necessary to convert existing apartments. Jane Brunner said that condo conversion is part of three tiers, condo conversions being the top tier, inclusionary zoning being the second tier, so when you build developments, some units are set aside as affordable, and the bottom tier is that we should give our redevelopment money to lower incomes. She said condo conversion needs to be done very carefully, and that we shouldn’t turn affordable housing into condos, but maybe it would be okay to turn luxury units into condos, and that if the tenants buy their own apartments, that would be good.
V: Winnner: Jane Brunner, although I personally hated both answers. I have written over and over again about how inclusionary zoning doesn’t work and how if we passed it, we would reduce the number of affordable units we build. Condo conversion is another area where Brunner really irritates me. Honestly, I’m not entirely sure what condo conversion policy I think is right for Oakland – the current one absolutely needs reform – there is currently no restriction or limit on conversions of buildings four units or less, and there are no currently protections for tenants. So when Ignaacio De La Fuente and Desley Brooks introduced a proposal that would address those issues (as well as introduce a relatively high cap on conversions), you’d think Brunner would have jumped at the chance to work with them on it if she really cared. I was not in favor of the original Brooks/De La Fuente proposal (you can read a discussion Johnny Z and I had about the issue here – although I have to say, Z edited it together from our e-mail exchange, and I think in a way that was somewhat unfavorable to me), and I wasn’t entirely sold on the final proposal they presented to the Council. Anyway, Brunner was not helpful on the issue, and although she is now saying that she supports conversions if tenants want to own their apartments, she actually had to ask a speaker at a CED meeting this winter what a TIC is. Now I don’t expect the average person on the street to be an expert on tenants in common, but there’s absolutely no excuse for the Chair of our Community and Economic Development Committee and alleged affordable housing advocate to not know.
A: Jane Brunner said that you need parks in an urban center, and that it was a problem with the old LLAD that it didn’t have a CPI increase, and that the new one will do that. She said that if doesn’t pass, then we’ll find the money elsewhere. Patrick McCullough said that we should examine the LLAD, and that it’s a hidden fee that bothers people. He said that the money isn’t used only for landscaping and lighting, and that we should be honest with the taxpayers and not try to trick the voters.
V: Winner, Patrick McCullough, but once again, I wasn’t thrilled with either answer and Pat gets the win only because Brunner was so incredibly weak. We do need more transparency with the LLAD, as with the use of all City funds, but I think the way Charles Pine presents his argument against it is misleading – he says the money will be going to the General Fund, not landscape and lighting, but the fact is that the General Fund is currently covering a LLAD shortfall, so the money that will be allegedly going into the General Fund is actually money that should have been there all along. In any case, if I got to vote, I would vote against the LLAD increase only because I think the Council needs to start proving they’ll use our money the way they promise before we give them any more. But as a sitting Councilmember, Brunner knows just how desperately we need the extra funds, and she should have made a strong case for people to vote for it. Instead she basically shrugged at the idea of it not passing. So bad!
A: Patrick McCullough said we need term limits, because right now, the only way to remove an incumbent from office is to get them into a higher office. He said people shouldn’t feel like being on the Council is their job, and that anything more than three terms is too much. Jane Brunner said that she used to like the idea of term limits, but she sees that it doesn’t work at the State level. She said that people are too green, and don’t know what they’re doing, and that lobbyists are running Sacramento, and she doesn’t want to see that in Oakland. She said that if the voters are unhappy, they should vote out the incumbent, which happened in North Oakland two Councilmembers ago.
V: Patrick McCullough, I guess, even though I strongly disagree with term limits for Councilmembers. Note to Jane Brunner – see Ignacio De La Fuente for a good response to this question. How is it possible that the substance of both their comments was pretty much the same, yet Brunner completely failed to sell me on it? She simply does not inspire confidence, and pointing to an incumbent that lost a seat 20 plus years ago certainly does not make the case that doing so is feasible.
A: Jane Brunner said that those are some of the most important things in Oakland, and that we need jobs and housing near one another instead of having people who work here live in Stockton. She said we need housing people can afford near jobs and open space. She said we need to put more of our redevelopment funds into affordable housing, and that we need inclusionary zoning. Patrick McCullough said that the Council just gave away industrial land for other purposes, and that we need to preserve it for future industry. He said that if we turn industrial land into housing, there won’t be anything left for when industries want to come back, and that people need to live near where they work because of global warming.
V: Winner: Patrick McCullough, although, again I disagree with what he said. But at least he had an answer – throughout this debate, I continued to be amazed at how little Jane Brunner has things to say. Maybe Brunner’s answer would have been better if she had gotten to go second on this, because I do appreciate that she’s been a strong advocate of opening up the waterfront so that it will be accessible to Oaklanders, the decision that McCullough was criticizing.
A: Patrick McCullough said that we need to make Oakland attractive to investors and businesses, and we do that by dealing with the crime problem. He said that we need to have good job training programs, and that he isn’t aware of any union training programs helping people get into jobs, and that he’d work with unions and trade councils to prepare people for jobs. Jane Brunner said we need to do four things, the first being opportunity sites, so that when people call the City looking to move their businesses, we can help them find a spot. She said we need a one stop center where someone can get a business license and learn about tax credits available through enterprise zones. She also said we need specialized consultants helping us attract specific industries and telling us what we need to do. She said we do a lot of union job organizing and training programs.
V: Winner: Jane Brunner. Her answer was much more detailed and thorough than Pat’s was, and she called him out on not knowing about existing job training programs. Still, Brunner’s support of the opportunity sites plan reaffirmed for me how out to lunch she is on business attraction.
A: Jane Brunner said community policing was the only answer, and that when she was a kid, the police officers would tell her parents if she did something wrong. She said that when we do get to 803, we’ll have enough officers so that each officer will have a beat they can walk and bicycle and get to know the residents. Patrick McCullough said we don’t have enough police to do community policing, and that most officers spend 85% of their time responding to 911 calls. He said that when we have enough officers, they’ll be able to do community policing.
V: Winner: Patrick McCullough. McCullough is absolutely right that even at 803 we will not have enough officers to have walking officers in every beat, and Jane Brunner should know it. On a side note – was I the only person in the world who grew up without a neighborhood police officer who knew me and my parents and would tell them if I got in trouble? I never in my life personally knew a single police officer until I moved to Oakland. Seriously, politicians are constantly telling that same story, and it sounds like something out of a 1950s TV show. Is this a normal experience that I just missed out on?
A: Patrick McCullough said that we need to find lanes and roads where people can bicycle, and that we need to make it safe for bicycles, and make it possible for people to leave their bikes safely, and that we need to work with BART and AC Transit to make it easier for people to bring their bikes across the Bay. Jane Brunner said that the bike plan is excellent, and that she’s been a leader on bike lanes. She said Cuba has the best bike lanes she’s even seen, which have some kind of division that keeps cars away. She said that she wanted to put bike lanes in North Oakland, but that merchants and residents didn’t want to lose their left turn lanes, and the City was sued, and that we’re now doing a new EIR. She said we need to go to the State and Federal government to get more money for bikes.
V: Draw. Maybe someone can leave a comment about the problem with Bicycle Master Plan implementation and the lack of a bicycle engineer. I’m planning on writing a post about this soon, but I’m too tired to do it right now.
A: Jane Brunner listed Jerry Brown, Sandre Swanson, Keith Carson, the Alameda County Central Labor Council, Sierra Club, National Women’s Political Caucus, and “many merchants and residents”, but that she didn’t have her list with her. Patrick McCullough said that the people of Oakland are his endorsers, and that he doesn’t mind that people who don’t live in Oakland haven’t endorsed him, and that he doesn’t want to be part of the power broker system, and that being free of major endorsers allows him to only care about the constituents.
V: Winner: Patrick McCullough. Big minus points to Brunner for not being able to name any more endorsements than that. She’s got to have more, right? Her website only lists two additional endorsements and she doesn’t have a SmartVoter page, so I can’t check, but Nancy Nadel said on TagamiVision that she’d endorsed Brunner, so that’s at least one that she’s failed to list. Anyway, it’s sad. A three term Councilmember should be able to point to a lot more support than that if she were doing a good job.
A: Patrick McCullough said that we need to make it easier for people to bicycle and increase the use of mass transit, but do it in a way that doesn’t harm the environment like, for example, shrinking traffic lanes which will increase congestion. He said we need to encourage the use of insulation and encourage people to stop wasting energy. Jane Brunner said that global warming is critical, and that Oakland is the fifth most sustainable city, and that she’s taken a leadership role on the issue, and that we have solar panels on the ice rink and the buildings near the airport. She said she brought a cap and trade climate exchange program, and been a leader in tree planting.
V: Winner: Oh, I don’t know. Draw, I guess. Brunner really just has nothing to say. I can’t believe I’m supporting someone who opposes BRT.
A: Jane Brunner said we need to evaluate contracts after completed, so we know whether we should do that contract again. She said that audits are critical, and that if projects need to be audited, they need to be audited, and that the budget should be more open. Patrick McCullough said the City Attorney needs to enforce warrantees on our equipment, and that departments need to be more accountable, and the City Administrator needs to be more accountable to the City Council. He said we need oversight and follow-through.
V: Draw. Neither answer was that good.
A: Patrick McCullough started to answer, then stopped, then the camera jumped back and there was some kind of ruckus with two women holding up a big banner and another woman, I’m guessing one of the League members, yelling that they had to get it out of the room and grabbing at it. I tried freezing the DVD and zooming in, but I couldn’t see what the banner said. I’m guessing that it was the Uhuru people, who have been following Pat around passing out flyers calling him an “attempted child murderer“. Brunner didn’t say anything about this, and as far as I’m aware (please someone correct me if I’m wrong on this), she has to this date still failed to publicly condemn their behavior. I find this unconscionable! Anyway, then the women left, Pat made a joke about how he’ll sue them later, and the debate resumed.
Patrick McCullough said we need development to fund programs for youth and for the City, and that we won’t be able to do that without adequate business development, and that we need more industry, residential, and retail. He said that many people are concerned with buildings being too large, and that can be worked out by working with the developers through better communication and letting the neighborhood have more input on development. Jane Brunner said she supports smart growth, and that people need to be able to live and work together, and that we need to do infill development. She said that smart growth needs to involve working with the neighborhood and make sure it works with the neighborhood. She said she holds a meeting on every project four units or more.
V: Draw. Does Jane Brunner really hold meetings on every project in District 1? Brunner’s irritating habit of coddling anti-development types and knocking arbitrary numbers of units and feet of buildings is not reflective of someone who really does support smart growth and infill development. McCullough has slyly avoided taking a position on development, although I suspect his views are more closely aligned with STAND’s than with ULTRA’s.
Patrick McCullough asked people to visit his website, and said that if you think Oakland is doing fine, you should vote for Jane Brunner, but he believes we can’t take four more years of this type of performance. He promised a balanced budget, a thriving economy, and real improvement rather than just talk, and said that if you wanted that, then you should vote for him and for a better Oakland.
Jane Brunner said that crime is the top issue, and that she’s working hard on it, because we need a safe city, and need to welcome businesses and help them hire locally. She said we need to train people and ensure housing is affordable, and make sure Oakland is a lovely place to be and continue greening Oakland.
V: Winner: Patrick McCullough. Brunner just can’t seem to manage to make a case for herself or for progress she’s made.
Okay, I struggled with my decision about this race. I do not like Jane Brunner at all. Her relentless support for inclusionary zoning is enough to make me want her off the Council. Anyone who truly cares about producing affordable housing would not advocate for a policy that will reduce the tax increment, and by extension, the amount of affordable housing we produce. I do not appreciate that she often seems absent and unprepared at meetings. And I do not appreciate at all the way she interferes with development in North Oakland, chopping bits and pieces off proposed buildings at her whim and failing to appease either side – STAND remains unsatisfied and projects end up getting cancelled. She claims to support smart growth but her actions encourage sprawl.
But is that reason enough to vote for a no-name who doesn’t seem particularly involved with City government, who doesn’t support BRT, and who hasn’t taken a firm position on development, but who includes Bob Brokl on his list of endorsers, even if I do greatly admire the work he’s put into improving the Bushrod neighborhood? Well, no. But then I met Pat a few weeks ago and I found him to be intelligent, charming, engaging, and genuinely concerned with making Oakland a better place to live. Pat strikes you as someone who doesn’t want to be involved in government at all, and would rather just go home at the end of the day and spend his evening drinking a beer or two and cooking dinner for his family, never even thinking of city politics. But he’s been drawn into civic activity due to the absolute failure of our current leadership, and is stepping up because nobody else will. He knows as well as anyone how frustrated many Oaklanders feel with their government and how their input and effort is ignored by our leaders. I came away from the encounter still undecided, but inclined to support him.
Then Jane Brunner really seemed to step up her game. I’m as frustrated as the next person with the way elected officials start being attentive and responsive when election time rolls around, and I’ve been paying attention long enough to be suspicious. Still, Brunner’s improved performance has not simply been limited to a sudden call for more cops or an op-ed in the Chronicle – her trademark cluelessness at Council meetings is gone, and all of a sudden, she’s making good, reasoned arguments and asking the right questions. Since most voters don’t watch Council meetings, I doubted this was only for show. So I was back to being undecided.
Then I watched this debate. Three times. Jane Brunner floored me. She should have creamed him. Seriously – she’s been on the City Council for nearly twelve years now, there is no reason in the world for her to appear less informed, less eager, less prepared, and less productive that Pat. Does she not have any accomplishments she can point to? Does she really not have any plans or advocacy for improving Oakland beyond inclusionary zoning? Her performance was shameful. Pat simply came off as a stronger candidate and more prepared for the office. I can’t say enough times how unbelievable I found this. So while I don’t live in the district and don’t get to vote in this race, Patrick McCullough has my support and my endorsement (along with those of Charles Pine, Ishmael Reed, and Bob Brokl – what an odd combination!). I would love to have some incredibly well-prepared dream candidate opposing Brunner (and am so incredibly thankful that District 3 was lucky enough to get one in the form of Sean Sullivan), but that didn’t happen. On the issues I disagree with Pat on – BRT, and, I suspect, infill development, Brunner isn’t any better. But unlike Brunner, Pat is absolutely dedicated to using the office to serve the people of Oakland – he won’t be working another job, he is committed to listening to his constituents and is truly committed to improving public safety. I found him to be very smart, reasonable, and willing to approach things with an open mind. He, like me, is concerned not with whether policies sound nice, but whether they will actually work. So if he’s elected, I believe that he will throw himself wholeheartedly into studying the issues that come before him and listen to people with an open mind. When someone isn’t an ideologue, which Pat certainly isn’t, an initial position that I don’t agree with doesn’t worry me. The time to persuade him is after the election, and I’m confident in my ability to make a good argument.
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- 04.13.08 Clinton Killian v. Kerry Hamill v. Rebecca Kaplan v. Frank Rose v. Charles Pine: LWV At-large Oakland City Council Forum Recap, Part 1
- 04.07.08 Larry Reid v. Clifford Gilmore: LWV District 7 Forum Recap
- 04.04.08 Nancy Nadel v. Sean Sullivan: LWV District 3 Forum Recap