Things that annoy V Smoothe

There’s some stuff that I’ve been wanting to mention, but not worth writing an entire blog about. So enjoy this little round-up of stuff on my mind.

  • Remember the plastic bag ban? In case you forgot, here’s the story so far. In June of 2007, Councilmembers Nancy Nadel and Jean Quan introduced an ordinance (PDF) banning plastic bags in Oakland. I was opposed to the plastic bag ban for a number of reasons.

    The Council did not agree with my objections, and passed the ban, but implementation of the ordinance was delayed by a lawsuit. A group called the Coalition for Plastic Bag Recycling argued that the City was required by the California Environmental Quality Act to study the impact of the ban on the environment before adopting the ordinance (the idea being that since paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic bags, banning plastic bags would have a negative environmental impact because it would just cause people to use more paper bags). Nancy Nadel said there was no point to conducting an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), because it was impossible to predict whether people, when not given the option of plastic bags, would switch to paper bags or start bringing their own reusable bags instead.

    In April, the court ruled in favor of the Coalition for Plastic Bag Recycling and granted an injunction against the plastic bag ban, saying the City would indeed have to conduct an EIR if it wanted to proceed with the ban. Despite the budget shortfall, Nancy Nadel said that we would not back down and that we would do the EIR. In July, the Council passed a resolution (PDF) supporting an Assembly bill that would impose a tax on plastic bags. Now, when the Council resumes session next Tuesday, they’re going to rescind the ban (PDF). What a good use of time and money all that was!

  • Downtown residents (and maybe those in other parts of the city, too – I wouldn’t know) got an unmistakable reminder that we’re back in election season this weekend in the form of enormous hideous signs promoting Kerry Hamill’s candidacy for the At-Large City Council seat plastered over basically every possible post or fence. The signs read “SAFE neighborhoods NOW” in huge yellow letters, next to a kind of bizarre photo of Hamill.

    Opinions on the signs from Oakland residents varied widely. One wondered whether the image was intended to remind people of those Obama posters you see everywhere, while another questioned whether the picture might be evidence of inappropriate coordination between the Hamill campaign and the PAC that put up the signs. Yet another wasn’t sure if the photo was of Hamill at all, suggesting that it more closely resembled “some neglected 17 year old from Walnut Creek.” One simply offered “Those posters give me the CREEPS.”

    And who do we have to thank for this new influx of visual stimulation? Why, the Oakland Jobs PAC, of course, the same crack team who brought you the “homocide” mailer this Spring.

  • I really wanted to see the new Kaiser Hospital discussion at the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, so I totally rushed to get out of work and to City Hall as quickly as I possibly could. I even made it in time to catch the tail end of public comment on the Creekside EIR. Fun.

    Anyway, the meeting was in the Council Chambers instead of the usual Hearing Room 1, and it had been a long night at work, so I was a little disoriented when I got there. They weren’t broadcasting the meeting video on the big overhead screen like they usually do, and there was all this stuff blocking my view, so I kept switching seats and moving around the room so that I’d be able to actually see what was going on. It took me like a good half hour to figure out that the reason I was could only see four Commissioners up on the dais no matter where I sat was because only four of them were there.

    Despite the Mayor’s incessant boasting of making it one of his priorities to fully staff all the Boards and Commissions, Dellums has let Planning Commissioner Suzie Lee’s seat sit vacant for months, ever since her term expired (PDF) on May 5th. And much like the man who put them there, both of Dellums’s appointees to the Commission were absent. I probably shouldn’t complain too much, since I don’t like Galvez or Huntsman very much and it always bothered me that Lee and I have the same hairstyle, so the half a Commission we were left with was the better half. But still…half a Planning Commission! That’s no good!

  • My favorite San Francisco blogger loves Ron Dellums! I feel betrayed!

  • And finally, a plea for help from my readers. At the Montclair Jazz and Wine Festival on Sunday, one of the vendors was selling a black t-shirt that said “Oakland” in white gothic looking letters, and then beneath that, also in white, was an image of two container cranes inside an outline of a kind of shield-like shape. I thought about buying one, but then decided not to, then once I got home, I decided that I really wanted it after all, and was totally kicking myself for not getting it. Does anyone know were I can find these? A store that stocks them, or a website I can buy them from? Another upcoming event they might be at?

  • And here’s something that doesn’t annoy me at all. I have an awesome new guest post from Sean Sullivan, about La Esperanza, a new grocery story in West Oakland. Go read it!

32 thoughts on “Things that annoy V Smoothe

  1. Max Allstadt

    So, Gregory McConnell’s PAC shelled out thousands of dollars to vandalize the city with giant posters of Kerry Hamill.

    A little bit about McConnell: Anti rent control lobbyist. Pro unrestricted condo conversion lobbyist. Anti inclusionary zoning lobbyist. If he’s backing Hamill with that much cash, I wonder what he’s expecting in return…

    Hamill should explain her connections to this Oakland Jobs PAC, and to Gregory McConnell. More importantly, she should explain whether or not she plans to support any of his pet issues. Is Hamill anti-rent control? Anti-IZ? Pro-condo?

  2. Nate Millheim

    You can get those Oakland t-shirts on the walkway to BART after A’s or Raiders games. My brother got me one the other day. I think they are 2 for $10…not a bad deal.

  3. Becks

    The Hamill signs are all over North Oakland too, and they’re freaking me out! They’re hideous and a bit scary – kind of makes me feel like Kerry’s constantly watching over me, which is not a good feeling.

    Hey, at least your blog looks great. Nice redesign!

  4. Max Allstadt

    While I’m thinking about the Hamill signs:

    1. I did an image search for Kerry Hamill. Could not find the image on the sign anywhere online. I wonder if Kerry remembers posing for it? And how, if it isn’t online, did Oakland Jobs PAC get it without illegal coordination? Didn’t they already coordinate dubiously in the primary?

    2. A lot of those signs are on lightposts on business-owned private property. So McConnell, who is ostensibly pro-business, sent goons out to post signs on businesses’ property without consent. He also subjected them to liability. Those signs are often taped to light posts 15 feet in the air.

    So we have someone uninvited on private property, on a big ladder, and big signs that could fall on a person or a vehicle. Is Oakland Jobs PAC trying to create jobs for average citizens or personal injury lawyers?

  5. V Smoothe Post author

    Nate –

    Thanks. I hadn’t noticed this particular shirt on the walkway before, but I’ll make a point of looking for it next time!

  6. Sweet Melissa

    Hey now! I just said he gave a great speech! (Which he honestly did.) I’m not even remotely qualified to discuss his record as Mayor – I’ll leave that to you.

  7. V Smoothe Post author

    Fair enough, Melissa. Over in these parts, we’ve all heard too many of Dellums’s speeches to be impressed with them anyway. But I agree, the first time you see one, it’s exciting.

  8. cassie m.

    since we all (or most of us?) are obama supporters, why is it problematic that hamill’s posters look just like his? i’ve seen a couple in north oakland near oakland tech, they stand out at you right at first but when you take a second look they are quite nice. the one you have posted here i believe is a little different than the one’s i’ve seen. there is no problem in a canidate getting her name out to encourage voters!

  9. Max Allstadt


    It’s all well and good to comment favorably about the aesthetics of Hamill’s signs. If you’re supporting Hamill perhaps you should consider some of the following issues…

    1. Ostensibly, it’s not Kerry getting her name out there, it’s a PAC. Ostensibly. How do you feel about the views of the PAC and it’s owner? How much money do you think they spent on the signs? Is it fair that Ms. Hamill is benefiting from a practice which skirts campaign finance reforms?

    2. Is it OK that these signs have been attached to private property without permission, including some signs which would require the owner to use a tall ladder to remove?

  10. dto510

    Max, I wouldn’t infer too much about Ms. Hamill’s positions from the support of one PAC. At least one other group with a very similar policy agenda to Jobs and Housing is supporting Rebecca Kaplan (the Oakland Builders’ Alliance). And PAC support doesn’t “skirt campaign fianance reforms,” it’s allowed by them. Maybe if Oakland’s campaign finance rules were more generous, candidates wouldn’t have to depend on unrestricted outside support.

  11. mcas


    Max’s 2nd point is the important one.

    I honestly don’t know anything about the candidate– but that’s not how to run a political campaign. These signs amount to graffiti- whole cloth. But by having a PAC put them up, she/her campaign is not responsible/culpable, which is pretty dirty, isn’t it?

    As for the rebuttal of Obama’s face, those were done by Sheppard Fairey, who has always taken a position of illegal art, and did so by his own volition and through his own networks with not PAC funding or coordination with any campaign.

    Someone should be responsible for the costs incurred by the city and/or private owners for removal of this political graffiti– unlike using a pseudonym for m0ost other graf, we know who is benefitting/responsible for this vandalism– why not prosecute like they word a youth who gets caught?

  12. Robert

    I really don’t think that you should be blaming the tricks of an independent PAC on Hamill regrdless of whether she benefits. And if the posters were indeed put on private property, I think that there is at least civil liability for the PAC, not Hamill, for the removal costs.

  13. cassie m

    The photo of Hamill can be found on her website. Where PAC decided to put the signs is not a reflection of ms.hamill but them. So maybe the issue needs to be consulted with whomever put the signs 20 feet up and not ms.hamill. My take is that she wasn’t even aware that the signs were going up. On the signs it specificially send that it was an independent expenditure, not that of ms.hamill.

  14. Max Allstadt

    It did indeed say it was an independent expenditure on the signs, Cassie…in teeny tiny letters, almost the same shade of blue as the background.

    Which image is it on the site? I can’t find a match.

    Ms. Hamill should make a statement on how she feels about trespassing and vandalism in her name, whether or not she was involved.

  15. cassie m.

    i could see the letters fine, maybe i was just up very close. i had trouble finding the photo as well, i’ll have to check on that one. but let me just say, i am not a devout kerry hamill supporter. i am much more familiar with her than i am with ms kaplan. she has been my school board member for the past 8years and i have worked with her on school stuff, our daughters attend the same high school. i admire the hard work she has done on the school board, i think most of us would have left after the state took over, but ms hamill ran for re election. i think that is the type of leader we need on the city council. as well she is supported by 6 of the city council members (well mr chang is leaving) and it worries me if ms kaplan were to win how would she work with the other council members? as well, i guess ms kaplan has been on the ac transit board, but how does that switch over to being a city council member. i have some apprehensions with ms hamill, but more with ms kaplan. but i still have not decided either way.

  16. John

    Regarding the PAC posting Hamill signs: this is what PACs do. If the sign is on public property, any member of the public can remove it. I’d then suggest calling the campaign and making a complaint. If the sign is on private property, then the property owner will need to make the call.

    This stuff happens all the time during campaigns. I removed more than 20 Sean Sullivan posters and yard signs that someone had put up in the parks at Lake Merritt. When I called his campaign office, they were fairly gracious about it and we agreed that it was probably just an over-zealous supporter.

    But yeah, you can’t really blame the candidate for the signs. Mailers, however, are a different story…

  17. Max Allstadt

    I think that the endorsement of 6 council members says more about Ms. Hamill’s insider status than anything. We had a primary election where people screamed for change, newspapers put out editorials criticizing leadership, and yet the incumbents all won. Part of this was due to the inability of challengers to mount viable campaigns due to money. Part was due to an off schedule election and high special-interest turnout.

    The only campaign run by a newcomer in June that had any real success was Kaplan’s. She doubled Hamill’s numbers. 40% to 20%. All of this without being backed by insiders, Sacramento, or wealthy benefactors. Kaplan is an enthusiastic populist. She also shows up for forums and engages people directly and freely.

    I think that if we want change on the council, we shouldn’t be voting for who they’re endorsing. That the last thing we need is another insider. That’s why I’m harping on PAC funded sign spamming, and that’s why I’m voting for Rebecca.

  18. Lala

    I think Pendragon (or is it Pegasus?) Books on College Ave sells them, but when I was there this weekend they were sold out. They have one on the wall, though, so you can see if it’s the shirt you want.

  19. len raphael

    Don’t encourage people to remove signs from public places. You would be defeating the cheapest form of candidate publicity which will hurt underfinanced candidates more than incumbent fat cats. that’s why incumbents around here pressure the city to enforce the city blight ordinance against signage on public property but don’t do the same for say real estate signage on medians.

    i’m supporting kaplan for much the reasons MA does, even though her very strong union endorsements bode ill. if she gets enough independent support from residents and business, she’ll be able to say no to unions, (until she gets ready to move up to higher office :)

    (the hamill signs are wierd looking, but then i thought the obama posters on MLK Way that morphed him into Rev King were morbid.)

    -len raphael

  20. V Smoothe Post author

    Oh, come on, cassie.

    Look, frankly, I don’t get worked up about independent expenditures or PACs or whatever – people, if they have money, get to spend it they way they want. Fine. I could care less if Greg McConnell wants to blanket the city with pro-Hamill posters, but he should at the very least do Oaklanders the service of making decent looking signs so I don’t have to look at that creepy TJ Eckleburg shit every time I want to walk down the damn street.

    And be honest about what you’re doing! I was walking through downtown with a friend today, and we were standing like three feet in front of one of the SAFE NOW signs, and I was trying to explain to him that they were from the Oakland Jobs PAC, and it took a while (and me telling him to look for it) for him to see the paid for by disclaimer. The print is practically invisible.

    I agree with Len and Max – I don’t see the endorsement of the majority of the City Council as anything but a minus for Hamill. It suggests to me that she’ll just be more of the status quo, and that’s the absolute last thing we need in this town.

  21. Max Allstadt

    To me the most sinister thing about these signs is the cynically pandering tactic of putting “SAFE NOW” in giant letters. Hamill’s crime policy is vague and underdeveloped, so she (or her friend) goes about manipulating the public by tying her name to safety in the most simplistic way possible. But I guess that’s how the game is played.

  22. Charles Pine

    Hamill and Kaplan:

    Does she support or oppose Measure NN, aka Son of Measure Y, a phony guarantee of police for a huge new parcel tax?

    Has she targeted a definite minimum number of police that Oakland needs and a framework to get them?

    Did she help us roll back the rigged balloting for an increase in the Landscape and Lighting Assessment (LLAD)?

    Public safety … clean government … On the big issues, there is no indication that either one of these two will make a significant difference in the operation of city government.

  23. len raphael

    CP, good specific questions to ask of the two candidates. Those would unequivical litmus tests of their commitment to fiscal discipline, transparency and public security.

    CP would you support the candidate who publicly committed to all of those? Sticking by the 1,100 police number? -len raphael

  24. len raphael

    now that you made me actually read those unpleasant Hamill signs, i didn’t see a union bug on them. interesting for a construction related pac or Hamil’s union supporters. Maybe she doesn’t mind annoying unions or maybe that pac is really independent of her. -len

  25. Rebecca Kaplan

    Great to hear lively discussion — and thanks to folks asking for real information. I am working on writing up more detailed proposals regarding: public safety, economic development, solving the housing crisis, retail attraction, and possibly a couple more topics. (Real policy solutions will be longer than a blog-comment, so I will post them on my website when complete, and let y’all know when they are released).

    I would like to share one example where I have changed my mind. I originally suggested a program to help Oakland Police Officers buy homes in Oakland. I have now changed my mind to thinking we should allow them to use a loan assistance program to buy homes anywhere in the inner East Bay. The reason being: so that they can still get here quickly in case of a disaster, which might bring down bridges and tunnels, and in other emergencies, etc.

    Also, I thought it would be helpful to share what I had originally written, before the June election campaign, about the right number of police officers for Oakland, and timeline to get there. The following quote is from a document written months ago, available online at:


    “Determining the Right Number of Police:

    If we improve our recruitment and expand our training, it appears possible to expand our police force by around 70 – 80 officers per year. (This requires increased funding for training & academies). When I ask people within OPD their opinions of the right number of Police officers, responses have
    ranged from 875 to 1000.

    Some also mention: not enough investigators, not enough functioning equipment, lack of finger print analysis, and too much time wasted schlepping to the far-away jail. At the same time, we should look into the problems with police morale and absenteeism. Since many complaints appear to be about the long hours, we should determine the number of police needed to implement geographic policing with 10-hour (rather than the current 12-hour) shifts.
    After using expanded training and recruitment to get from where we are now, to 803, the same level of expanded recruitment and training could then be used to get to a force of 875. If we maintained the expanded training/recruitment necessary to increase our force, at this rate (which appears to be
    about the fastest possible rate to expand our force) we could reach 1100 by the end of one term.

    During the expansion, continue assessment of what the right total number should be. The decision should be made in conjunction with community input, and objective data analysis. Further evaluation should include determining how many of the needed positions must be sworn officers, and how many non-sworn personnel may be appropriate (e.g. administrative, technical, and
    lab positions), and what improvements in terms of equipment, buildings, or other items to include.”

  26. cassie m.

    let’s all get over the hamill signs! they are up whether we like it or not and are not coming down til the election is over. she did not put them up, so if there are serious complaints they should be taken up with whomever put them up, not her. and most of this animosity towards the signs is obviously stemming from the fact that kerry’s face is on them, not rebecca’s. if she had signs all over the city i don’t think the same insults would be flying from left to right.
    in terms of endorsements by city council members. yes “change” is never a bad thing, especially when you consider the state oakland is in right now. what worries me is how rebecca will work with these people if she’s elected. if 75% of the council was in support of her opponent (not just because they are friends, because they like her plan for oakland better) then how is progress going to be made? as well, i understand rebecca is on the ac transit board (she’s served 6 years of elected office, on tagami vision she claimed to have had the most years, kerry has 8. i would think a woman who went to MIT would know that 6 years is less than 8 years). does she have the support of anyone who served on the board with her? kerry is supported by all her colleagues on the board of education. this obviously shows that she works well with them.
    in response to mr.pine-i’m curious as to how we can increase our police officers by over 30% without having to tax the heck out of oakland citizens. i’m not very familiar with rebecca’s plan, but kerry’s plan to increase the current # from 803 to 850 would mean no increase in taxes. maybe 900 or so is more reasonable but i don’t see how 1100 is practical. and where would they all come from? im not sure many people would pick oakland cop as their first job.
    so just a few comments i wanted to make. as well, did anyone see the debate at city hall 2day? i would love to know how things went! i missed it! i guess it was down at city hall and was put on by city employees. did anyone record it or anything?

  27. RdwithCypress

    I think I annoy V Smoothe pretty much a lot but I hope not too much because although I have not met V Smoothe as far as I know I value these blogs very much as well as all the videos.


    As you commented in West Oakland, how about coming out against the CEDA liens. Know you weren’t in city council when the legislation was passed CMS 12842 Oakland Amendments to California Housing Law, but it is clear in light of the documented practices of building services it is clear that building services is not implementing the ordinance as city council passed it. As a result it appears that building services may have violated the due process rights of Oakland citizens and either as Oakland’s next mayor or as Oakland’s Council Member at large, would you or would you not work to rectify the situation. If you do this you will have many votes in East and West.

  28. RdwithCypress


    It was not lost on me how you asked specifically who would be doing the work on the Foods Co. You definitely have my attention… Nice work on that… It is not too late to get me/us in your corner. Lets talk again.