Thank you to all campaign volunteers

So. The election results, for the most part, are in.

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.

Staying involved

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 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.

20 thoughts on “Thank you to all campaign volunteers

  1. Daniel Schulman

    Another way to get involved is to apply to be on one of the city’s boards and commissions – you can be observed by the LWVO Corps!

    There are a whole bunch of openings right now

    As a member of the Landmarks Preservation Advisory Board, I would highly recommend the experience. The time commitment is fairly large, but the more you put it into it, the more you learn about issues, and the more interesting they become.

  2. Dax

    Another way to get involved is to not get involved.

    At least not with organizations and boards that are then suppose to do something for the people.

    What would happen if just one person on each block, just took care of their own block.
    Picked up the papers, and when asked by neighbors what or why they were doing such, just asked the neighbor to join in and do a little bit.

    Seems we are relying so much of the time for the city or some city program to give us the cures. We hire $100,000 employees to keep papers off our street, when just one resident could easily handle his block, of perhaps 30 to 50 houses.
    Couple times a week, with a plastic bag, pick up anything and everything.

    Don’t get me wrong, boards, commissions, and the like are OK, perhaps even helpful, but too many people are waiting until some organized group does something.

    I have seen and talked to a man who cleans up a stretch of Mt Blvd, from just North of Knowland Park, to a few hundred yards past the gate to the Navel Hospital site. Less than a mile in total.
    When you drive that stretch, you see a few pieces of paper, as he can’t be there every hour, but normally its only a couple pieces.

    He takes care of that stretch. No boards, no commissions, no meetings. No help.
    Just one person.
    Now, that isn’t even a street his home is on.
    If only people could handle their own block.

    As in New York City, the downfall in a city begins with the little things. The litter, the petty crime. Cities focus on the big things after they have become a real problem.

    BTW, wasn’t there one candidate for mayor who had a emphasis on litter.
    I should have voted for that person.

    I’d have been so impressed with Tuman, or Kaplan, Quan or Perata, if they made it a trademark of carrying around a simple plastic bag all the time, picking up pieces of paper etc, as a daily practice.

    A humble task. A bit like Mother Teresa.
    Leading others in each community to say that if the mayor can do that simple task, so can I.

    A million times more impressive than the Don Perata “clean up” days for the campaign.

    Leading by example, not by proclamation, or by having a program to do for people many tasks they could do for themselves.

    Which leader in Oakland, current or potential, does that?

    Quan should have incorporated it into her “block by block”…
    She wanted to take it back block by block.
    How about if she just told the voter they’d have to do it block by block.
    Start with the litter and if you need more help, then call us, but start with cleaning up your own street. Take ownership of the street. Everything follows from that.

    We actually can’t afford to do otherwise.

    How about this. For each person on each block or blocks, or per 50 houses etc, the city gives free garbage pickup, if you keep the street clean.

    I’d have to do the math, but I’m betting it would be far cheaper than how litter pickup is currently handled

    OK, with about 1 resident per 50 houses, that would equal about 4,000 clean up folks, each saving $240 per year on their garbage bill.

    Gross cost, $960,000. However the city gets some of that monthly fee, so their true cost would be perhaps $750,000.

    $2,000 per day to keep all the residential areas of the city clean.
    $1.85 per year, per resident, for clean residential areas.

    Or you can hire 7 city employees to try to do the same thing, and fail miserably to keep up with the trash.

    Crazy idea, or creative idea. Look at what the current methods yield.
    Think about a extra 2,000 ambassadors of cleanliness out there. Bringing pride back to a neighborhood.
    50 houses isn’t much. A dozen in either direction on your side of the street and a similar number on the other side of the street. Piece of cake once you got it cleaned up the first time.

  3. Dax

    Oh, for that, we’d have to create a new city department, with a staff of 5, with 4 vehicles, 3 who would drive around and check the streets, one who would do the entry and record keeping, and of course the department head to supervise the other 4.

    Of course those employees together would cost more than the entire program I outlined.

    That…that, is if you set it up in the traditional way that the city normally does.
    There are other methods if one is truly creative in that manner also.

    Mind you, its not like the world collapses if one of the neighborhood participants falls short for a month.
    All that would happen in that case, is the street would look like it does normally today.
    And you’d have given away $20 worth of free garbage collection.

    I can assure you, a simple program could be set up without needing a staff such as that noted above.

    A self regulating system.
    I don’t have all the details, but it could be done.
    At the very most, I’m positive one person could run the entire program.
    So that $1.85 annual cost per person, might end up costing $2.15 per year.

  4. Sam R

    Well, putting aside the other discussion in the comments….

    V, I want to thank you for this post. I needed to read something like this today, and bam– there you are.

    On a bigger scale, I want to thank you for continuing to blog. Reading your blog over the past year has encouraged me to take a far more active role in my community. Growing up, I was instilled with such cynicism for the political process… but reading about the perspective of a “normal person” in the civic arena made me realize that my cynicism was sort of displaced. I wasn’t engaged, and I didn’t know the right choice anyway, so who was I to complain about anything?

    Your blog has given me the confidence to dig a bit deeper into the issues I care about, which has helped me to realize which issues I think are truly important. Simply knowing that my voice matters has really changed things for me: I’m starting to speak up about things more. More than any civics class, your blog taught me that I really SHOULD learn about issues, have an opinion and take action on how my community is run. Being lazy and simply writing off our government process is kind of irresponsible.

    I guess… you just really inspire me. I don’t even live in Oakland (SF resident!) but this blog has dramatically changed my view of the political world and my role in my community. So. Thank you.

  5. ralph

    A week ago, I was looking forward to Nov 2nd. Now that is Nov 3rd, I miss the fight of the campaign – knocking on doors and making calls.

    Be engaged. Stay engaged.

  6. CitizenX

    Dax, I think you’re talking about the Department of Redundancy Department. Already been invented. LOL.

  7. CitizenX

    If you ever want to get angry, I mean really angry, with the breakdown in simple public services, follow around one of the individuals charged with picking up litter (the Keep Oakland Clean and Beautiful Department in Public Works) for a day. Then, you will understand why the streets are dirty.

  8. Bruce Nye

    V, thanks for the mention of Make Oakland Better Now! And yes, we really could use some help — there are a couple of pretty big, pretty important projects we’re starting to look at that could be kind of labor intensive. If any folks out there would like to help or learn more, please e-mail us at

  9. Patrick M. Mitchell

    I pay $33 per month for garbage collection. Where is this $20 garbage collection service of which you speak?

  10. 94610BizMan

    Since the recurring theme is jobs for Oakland residents what about taking 50% of your retirement or investment funds and invest it in some company that provides decent jobs for Oakland residents.

    If you think you have skill you could be an active investor and if you do not there are plenty of Oakland firms and projects starved for capital.

  11. Dax

    Patrick, don’t you get the Prop 13 garbage pickup rates? You know, they only go up 2% per year.

    Just kidding.
    Actually you are correct. I forgot when using my own situation as a example, I get the small can since I recycle most other stuff, green and gray cans.

    So I can get by on the 20 Gallon can, which costs about $61 every three months.

    Is the burgundy 32 gallon can now costing $99 for three months?

    Well anyway, then my plan might cost a bit more, but at $33 per month, you’ll find lots of individuals willing to be the “block clean up person” thus saving themselves even more money while at the same time keeping their neighborhood environment clean.

    You know, with the green/enviro themes these days, you might get lots of people to do this without any financial inducement.
    But offering a bonus would create the spark needed to make the program well known.
    I could see it featured in the newspaper and by neighborhood groups.

    Or keeping with my original $60 dollars per 3 months, you could reduce a person’s bill by that amount only charging them $39 instead of $99..

    I like “free” better. The word “free” draws attention. Much more so than “reduced charges”.

  12. locavore

    I’d love to work on one of these boards, or participate in some of the government watchdog stuff, but all of the meetings are during the work day. How do people with full time jobs manage to participate in their local government?

  13. V Smoothe Post author

    locavore -

    Council meetings take place in the evening, as do the meetings of most of the City’s major Boards. There’s plenty you can do even if you are busy from 9-5! Most activists work during the day.

  14. East Lake Rider

    Congratulations Robert!

    My first involvement in a campaign was with Robert Raburn. So I haven’t experienced the crushing feeling of defeat (not yet anyway), just the exhilaration that comes with a hard fought victory. And the satisfaction of beating a terrible, entrenched incumbent.

    My condolences to the Bert Hill folks in SF, who lost to James Fang.

  15. Dax

    Len, yes, you must use Waste Management.

    I don’t know how many sizes of the brown/burgundy cans there are.
    I know there is a 32 gallon standard size.

    I also know there is a 20 gallon gray can that costs less.

    I would imagine there is also a 64 gallon container available, or perhaps you are forced to get two 32 gallon ones.

    I don’t know all the rates.

  16. Patrick M. Mitchell

    Hey, wait a minute! I have the small can as well and I’m paying $99.xx every three months!

  17. ralph

    Committee mtgs do take place during the day. If you are unable to attend, I suggest emailing council members. I lot of work happens at committee.

  18. Dax

    Patrick, what do you mean by small?
    The small gray 20 gallon containers have no wheels. They are round, like a very small Rubbermaid garbage can.

    You have that type, and still pay 99 dollars?