National losses are, of course, terribly disappointing, but it’s a relief that sanity prevailed in California at least, with wins for Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer. All the local races I felt really invested in — Libby Schaaf for City Council, Measure BB, Victoria Kolakowski for Judge, Robert Raburn for BART, and Don Perata for Mayor — turned out the way I wanted. The only race I did any volunteer work for that didn’t go my way was in another state, and it’s not like I spent a ton of time on it or anything. So it feels nice to be on the winning side of things for once.
But whatever side you were on, if you did any volunteer work for any campaign, I have something I want to say to you.
Thank you all so much
Whether you gave one hour or one hundred to a campaign this season, I want to extend my most heartfelt gratitude to you. Thank you so much for being part of this process.
And for those who volunteered for a campaign that lost, I am so sorry. I know very well from experience just how badly it hurts when an election that you have put your time and energy into doesn’t go the way you want. I have cried myself to sleep on more than one election night. I wish I knew something comforting to say to those who were crushed by their candidates or their ballot measures losing. I don’t. I’ve been there many times, and it just plain sucks. It can make you feel like all that time you invested was for nothing, and that all your work didn’t matter, and you should have just spent the last few months playing pinball or something instead. But it wasn’t for nothing.
Believing in something so much that you’re willing to give up your time and go out there to harass people who don’t want to talk to you and try to convince them to believe in it too — that is a beautiful thing. And even if you didn’t manage to sway as many votes as you wanted, well, you swayed some. At that does matter.
You are what makes our system work. And sadly, it doesn’t always work the way we hope it will. And when it doesn’t? Well, it might not seem like it right now, but life does go on. Oakland will move forward. There will be more elections.
So no matter how disappointed you might be feeling today, please remember that what you did was a wonderful thing, and please do not let a discouraging result this time keep you away from doing it again in the future. Eventually, you will win one.
And really. Thank you for your participation in this process, from the bottom of my heart.
I am especially grateful to those people who had not volunteered for elections in the past, and did it for the first time this year. I hope so much that you will stay involved in Oakland government. Democracy only works when people are engaged.
If you’re not sure how to get started, you should know that there are a number of organizations out there that do very work to advocate for good government in Oakland. Here are just a few options.
- Of course, there is the venerable League of Women Voters. And I urge everyone who cares about good and transparent government in Oakland to become a member. The League offers many different opportunities for getting involved in local government, but there’s one that is particularly close to my heart, and that is the League’s Observer Corps. This is a coordinated effort to send members to watch City Council, Council Committee, and Boards & Commissions meetings. Observers wear a neat pin to show everyone they are there on behalf of the League, and they report back to the League after the meeting about whether there were any issues raised that the League’s Action Committee should be monitoring, as well as whether the meeting was conducted in conformance with State and local sunshine laws. This kind of monitoring may not be very sexy sounding, but it such important work, and it can only happen when many people join together in pursuit of a common goal. Plus, I think that most people find that once they actually go to a meeting, it’s a lot more interesting than they expected. And then they want to go back! If the cost of a membership is a problem for you, that does not need to stop you from joining. The League maintains a fund to help people who can’t afford their fees, and is happy to offer dues assisted memberships. Call the League office at 510 834-7640 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
- If education is more your thing, I recommend getting involved with Great Oakland Public Schools. I have been so impressed with what I’ve seen of this organization, and they have many opportunities for you to help improve our schools in Oakland.
- Make Oakland Better Now! does excellent work advocating for sound decision making in Oakland’s budget process. Studying budget documents and making sense of them is a tremendous amount of work, and I am sure that they would welcome any assistance you have to offer.
These are just a few of the groups out there doing excellent work to make Oakland’s government work for you. If you have one that I didn’t mention and you really like, I invite you to share it in the comments here, and tell people how they can get involved. Or if you work with an organization that does great work in Oakland and needs volunteers for things that have nothing to do with government, please feel free to share that too. There are so many different ways you can help to make our city a better place, and the important thing is not which one you pick, but that you pick one at all.
And once again, thank you.