Tag Archives: Libby Schaaf

Ratna Amin: Open Data is SO Oakland

27 Apr oakland_crimespotting

This guest post was written by Ratna Amin  (@ratnaamin), an urban planner, former Oakland City Council staffer, and Government 2.0 explorer. She is organizing OakX (@Oak_X) – a collaborative effort to grow civic innovation (email: oakXinfo [at] gmail.com).

Should the City’s data be free? The Oakland City Council will decide this Monday night on an Open Data Resolution, which would liberate City data from paper and PDF and make it readable by civic web sites and smartphone apps. The resolution, first proposed by Council Member Libby Schaaf, has been watered down and delayed – yet Open Data is the key to unlocking incredible assets.

What is Open Data? It is government sharing data with the outside world, in a format that computers can read. Anyone can use that data to inform citizens, engage communities, and help government do its work. Open data is typically used on web sites or smartphone apps. What kinds of government data? All kinds: public facility locations, job listings, crime data, meeting schedules, street sweeping schedules, test scores, transit schedules, wastewater data, anything.

Earlier this month, at the 55-country Open Government Partnership meeting in Brazil, Hillary Clinton stated that she and President Obama “believe that countries with open governments, open economies, and open societies will increasingly flourish. They will become more prosperous, healthier, more secure, and more peaceful.” Oakland should comprehensively embrace open data, a City with a legacy of supporting citizen participation and openness. A few other reasons open data should thrive here:

Continue reading

Port Shut Down Resolution: (Dis)respect for the City Council

20 Dec Grassless Frank Ogawa Plaza post-Occupy Oakland

The last couple weeks have been super busy for me so I haven’t found much time for blogging. But tonight the City Council will be voting on a resolution that’s created quite a bit of controversy, and it’s made me think a lot about how Oakland citizens feel about and interact with their City representatives.

The resolution, authored by Councilmembers Ignacio De La Fuente and Libby Schaaf, opposes any purposeful upcoming or future Port of Oakland shut downs and calls on the Mayor and City Administrator to use lawful tools to prevent future shut downs.

There are, unsurprisingly, strong opinions on both sides of this resolution. And voicing opinions is incredibly important in a democracy. But much of the opposition to this resolution I’ve heard and read in the past few days has been expressed as personal attacks against the councilmembers who authored the resolution.

Reading comments on Twitter about De La Fuente and Schaaf over the past few days reminded me of a blog post I wrote almost three years ago, which seems just as apt today. So here’s that blog post, in full:

(Dis)respect for the City Council

There’s been something on my mind for the past several months that I was reminded of on Tuesday night, as I watched the Public Safety Committee meeting. I often hear Oakland residents blaming all of Oakland’s problems on one council member (the council member varies based on the person), to the point where they accuse that council member of being corrupt or not really caring about Oakland. I try not to fall into that trap anymore, but I used to harbor such feelings towards one council member, Larry Reid. Continue reading

Oakland ballot measures go down in flames, sending $800K in election expenses down the drain

16 Nov Oakland Ballot 2011

In the midst of Occupy Oakland, some Oaklanders might have forgotten about our municipal mail in only election. Whether they forgot or just decided not to vote, a full 75% of eligible voters did not return their ballots so yesterday evening the election was decided by just under 25% of the electorate. And that quarter of Oakland voters rejected all three ballot measures.

Since I opposed two out of the three measures (and in the case of Measure H – which would have changed the city attorney position from being elected to being appointed by the Council – I vehemently opposed it), I’m pretty happy with the outcome. What I’m not happy about is how much money, time and energy was wasted on this useless election.

Mayor Jean Quan of course blamed the failure of Measure I, the parcel tax, on Occupy Oakland: Continue reading

Nathan Stalnaker: Moving Oakland Forward

27 Oct Moving Oakland Forward

This guest post was written by Nathan Stalnaker, who spends the day organizing in West Oakland and serves on the Board of Make Oakland Better Now! and is an elected at-large member of the East Bay Young Democrats.

The City of Oakland suffers from gridlock and a fiscal crisis that just won’t quit.  Even so, again and again, the same characters are repeatedly elected to the same positions.  Our system is broken.  Our local races are anti-competitive.  New people enter the races and win only when an incumbent steps down.  It begins to seem that to become an elected official in Oakland, you already have to be or have been an elected official or spend your time currying favor with those already in office.

A Catch-22?   Sure.  Could an initiative calling for term limits for City Council stir things up sufficiently enough to get fresh policy thinking in City Hall?   Absolutely.  Read the petition yourself.  To balance experience and fresh ideas, the petition was crafted with a three-term (12 year) lifetime limit. Continue reading

Parking meters not just “cash cows”: City Council discusses parking demand management

7 Mar Libby Schaaf on Parking

As I mentioned in a previous post about last week’s City Council meeting, the meeting was full of important discussions and decisions. Though most attention has been paid to the zoning update and Energy and Climate Action Plan – and rightfully so considering how long the City and the Council has been working on those items – the discussion I found most interesting was the one on parking at the very end of the meeting. Continue reading

Another reason to celebrate at Thursday’s Blogoaksphere Party

4 Jan

Yesterday I went to the inauguration of Jean Quan and the swearing in ceremony for Councilmembers Libby Schaaf, Pat Kernighan, and Desley Brooks. Overall, I really enjoyed the event and the speeches and hopefully will have time soon to write about some of what happened (particularly on Jean Quan, and the election of Larry Reid as the new Council President and Desley Brooks as the new Vice-Mayor). But for now I just want to mention one comment made by our newest councilmember, Libby Schaaf.

From left to right, Pat Kernighan, Libby Schaaf & Desley Brooks being sworn in. (And no, they're not ghosts or angels, just victims of bad lighting.)

In the middle of her speech, she talked about all the reasons Oakland is so great and how involved its citizens are. As one example of this, she called attention to the Oakland bloggers who volunteer our time to covering the city. Though I’ve heard her praise bloggers many times to individuals, it meant so much to hear her say it to the thousands of Oaklanders congregated at the Fox Theater.

Libby may have been the first to thank Oakland bloggers at an inauguration, but I know first hand that many councilmembers and council staffers appreciate what we do and read local blogs religiously. And they’re not the only ones – community advocates, business owners, new residents looking to get involved, and so many more depend on our blogs.

So let’s celebrate this incredible network and community we’ve built this Thursday at the 2011 Blogoaksphere Party. I hope you’ve already put the event on your calendar, but if not, here’s the info:

When: Thursday, January 6th from 6-9pm

Where: Disco Volante, 347 14th Street in downtown Oakland

Why: To meet and hang out with the Oakland blogging community, have some drinks, eat delicious food, celebrate Oakland, and to reflect on the past year.

If you plant to attend and have a Facebook account, please RSVP via the Facebook event. See you on Thursday!

Mayoral inauguration & City Council swearing in tomorrow

2 Jan

Happy New Year!

I wanted to drop a quick note to let readers know that tomorrow is Jean Quan’s mayoral inauguration and the swearing in of new Councilmember Libby Schaaf and returning members Desley Brooks and Pat Kernighan, as well as City Auditor Courtney Ruby and the Oakland School Board.

The inauguration and swearing in ceremony takes place at 11am at the Fox Theater, but doors open at 10am and the free tickets are on a first come, first served basis so early arrival is recommended.

If you’re not working (or can sneak a way for a bit), this is a great opportunity not only to witness the change in Oakland leadership but also to check out the Fox if you haven’t already. I’ve still yet to see a show there but finally got to sit in a seat and take in the beauty of the architecture at Jerry Brown’s election night party. It was incredible.

If you are working, Jean Quan’s hosting several other events to celebrate her inauguration, including a party tonight at Chabot Space & Science Center, a history walk tomorrow morning, and an open house tomorrow night. Check out her blog for details.

A bittersweet phone call and why you should talk to everyone you know about this election

13 Oct

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how it was so great to be phone banking again, and since then, I’ve been keeping it up, phoning about once a week for various campaigns. And last night I made the most fulfilling voter outreach call I’ve ever made, though on reflection, it was a bit bittersweet.

I was calling for Libby Schaaf, who’s running for Jean Quan’s City Council seat (I’m working on Libby’s campaign, though the calling was on my own time). It had been a bit of a frustrating evening. Most of the people on my list weren’t home and several of the people I did reach didn’t speak English so I had only had a couple of conversations with voters. I was starting to get a bit frustrated.

Then I dialed an 85 year old women. At first, she had a hard time hearing who I was calling for so I repeated myself slowly and then spelled Libby’s name. “Oh, Libby,” she responded, “I couldn’t find her on my ballot.”

I assured her Libby was on the ballot and that she just was a little ways down in the long list of candidates. She went to find her ballot and when she returned she still couldn’t find Libby. I told her to look below the mayor’s race, and she couldn’t find that either. She was certain that neither of these races were on the ballot and couldn’t understand why.

So I asked her to look at the second or third page. I explained it was a long ballot this year in Oakland. “There are three pages?” she asked, sounding perplexed, “I thought each page was for someone in my family, since we have three voters here.”

I walked her through the ballot and she was able to find and vote for Libby as I spoke with her on the phone. I encouraged her to look at the rest of the races and to vote the entire ballot.

She thanked me immensely and told me that if I hadn’t called, she might not have voted in Libby’s race or any of the races on the second or third page.

When I hung up, I felt incredible. It was so fulfilling to know that not only had I secured another vote for Libby but that I had helped a voter understand the new, long ballot, which is a real downside of ranked choice voting. I started dialing faster and was much more upbeat on the phone after this, and on the next call I got someone to sign up to volunteer for Libby.

But on my walk home from the phone bank, I thought about the call some more and though I still was overjoyed that I helped this woman vote, I started wondering how many other people are confused about the long ballot. Are others just filling out the first page and sending it in, neglecting the down ballot races, which are so incredibly important?

I really hope not, but if so, this makes phone banking, walking, and talking to friends, family, neighbors, and coworkers about this election even more important. Whether or not you’re not making a pitch for a specific candidate or measure, please talk to everyone you know about how ranked choice voting works and explain that the ballot will be several pages long.

Voting rates always drop further down the ballot, but let’s try to avoid a precipitous drop by spreading the word about the long ballot.

Endorsements for the November Election

12 Oct

Even though Obama’s not on the ballot (and neither is McCain), there’s plenty to be excited about (or terrified of) on the November 2010 ballot. I know, I know, the election’s not for another month, but absentee ballots went out last week and many people have already voted so I wanted to post this right away.

There’s a LOT on the ballot this time, so to save some space and in hopes that folks would get through this entire post, I’ve left off some local races where the outcome is a foregone conclusion (like my friend Andy Katz who’s running unopposed for EBMUD or Joel Young who might as well be running unopposed for AC Transit), and I’ve skipped descriptions of some of the statewide candidates and initiatives because you can find those in many other places.

Instant runoff voting will be in place for the Oakland races. If you’re still confused about how it works, please read either the explanation I wrote last year or V Smoothe’s more recent explanation. It’s important to understand how voting works before you cast your 1st, 2nd and 3rd choice votes!

(I’m working on several campaigns and the firm I work for is working on many more. I’ve marked all of those campaigns with asterisks.)

Statewide Candidates

As you can probably tell, I’m voting the Democratic slate. One race I want to especially point out is the Attorney General race. Kamala Harris is an excellent candidate, and there are probably few people I would choose over her, but what you might not know is that her opponent is seriously bad news. Steve Cooley is anti-marriage equality, anti-environment, and anti-medical marijuana. For more on why not to vote for Cooley, check out the Not Cooley website, created by some of my very good friends and colleagues in the medical marijuana community.

Statewide Ballot Initiatives

I’m reluctantly linking to the Courage Campaign Voter Guide for descriptions. Reluctantly because I think they are off on Prop 22, which would protect local governments and transit agencies from having their funds raided by the state legislature. As is crystal clear here in Oakland, our local agencies are in huge financial trouble and the last thing they need is the state stealing their money. If Prop 22 had been passed in 2008, it’s likely AC Transit could have avoided many of its most drastic service cuts. Vote Yes on 22 to protect Oakland and East Bay agencies!

The other initiative I want to point out is Prop 19.  I’ve been working on marijuana policy reform for a decade, and I must admit that ten years ago I never could have imagined that marijuana legalization would be on the ballot so soon. Thanks to Richard Lee, it is, and thanks to the amazing team of people I’ve been working with for the past year, it looks like marijuana will soon be legal in California. This is a historic measure and even though I feel good going into our last month of campaigning, we’re going to need every last vote. It’s time to end cannabis prohibition, end the arrests of marijuana users and grower, and provide much needed tax revenue to our state and city. Vote yes and talk to everyone you know about this measure – there are few undecided voters left but we need ever supportive voter to turn out.

Local Candidates:

*Alameda County Superior Court – Victoria Kolakowski

I’m working on Vicky’s campaign, but even if I wasn’t, I’d vote for her, just as I did in 2008 when she first ran to be judge. I feel so lucky that I’ve gotten the opportunity to get to know Vicky over the past several months. I immediately knew she was dedicated and experienced, but over time I’ve learned about her level-headed temperament and compassion, which are very important qualities to me in judges. She has served for several years as an administrative law judge, and she is the only one in the race with extensive civil law experience. Why is this important? Well, governors tend to appoint prosecutors to be judges and it’s important to have a diversity of legal experience on the bench because many cases are not criminal. Issues like divorce, family conflicts, employment issues, etc. come before the court frequently.

Vicky would also bring a different kind of diversity to the courts. In Alameda County, less than a third of the judges are women! When Vicky wins, she will make history by becoming the first transgendered trial court judge in the entire country. There’s no way I can explain this as eloquently or powerfully as she does, but having a transgendered judge on the bench would be huge for the transgendered community. Transgendered people often struggle with the legal system, with issues ranging from changing their names to being the victims of violence so its important for this community to be represented well. Though I am not a person who votes for someone simply because of gender or sexual orientation, Vicky brings both diversity and experience so she is the clear choice. Please cast your vote for Victoria Kolakowski to help make history.

*BART Board, District 4: Robert Raburn

I’m not sure I could be much more excited about this race, especially since I recently moved into the district and now get to vote – both for Robert Raburn and against Carol Ward Allen. Regular blog readers shouldn’t be surprised that Ward Allen is one of my least favorite elected officials in the East Bay. She was the major champion of the Oakland Airport Connector, the half billion dollar boondoggle that will do nothing for Oakland and very little for transit riders. But beyond that, she’s incredibly rude to her constituents, telling at least one of her constituents that if he didn’t like how she voted, he should move. Luckily, I won’t just be casting a vote against Ward Allen because Raburn is a very qualified candidate for this seat. He used to run the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and has been involved with improvements at just about every BART station in the district. He’s a transit wonk, exactly what we need on this board, and has the interests of BART riders (and potential BART riders) in mind. I hope you’ll join me in enthusiastically voting for Robert Raburn for BART Board!

Oakland Mayor: Rebecca Kaplan

Though on policy Kaplan is often in line with my ideologies, that’s not the main reason I’m supporting her. There are a few qualities I’m looking for in a mayor, and Rebecca has all of them:

  1. Managerial skills & the ability to get things done
  2. Fresh ideas & the willingness to thing outside of the box
  3. Ability to work well with others

Policy is taking a back seat for me in this race because what we need right now is someone who’s ready to manage this city hands on. We need someone who will hire the right city administrator and who isn’t afraid to shake up department leadership. We need someone who will bring people together to fix our city. We need someone who’s innovative and who can get things done with basically no money. That person is Rebecca Kaplan. In her two years on the Council she’s accomplished so much, including passing a blighted property ordinance that had been stalled for years, authoring and helping pass the first cannabis tax measure in the country, and bringing Oakland the free Broadway shuttle. I can’t wait to see what she’ll accomplish as mayor.

Oakland Mayor, 2nd Choice: Don Perata

I know there are a lot of people going around saying “anybody but Don,” and my response is “anybody but Quan.” I know, I know, Don hasn’t played nicely in this race and his people have done some pretty bad things. But ultimately, it comes back to the three things I’m looking for in a mayor, and Don exhibits most of those qualities. Quan, meanwhile, doesn’t exhibit any of them. She’s not a leaders. She doesn’t get along well with people. She doesn’t get stuff done (though she often takes credit for stuff other people do). She drove the Oakland schools budget into the ground, as president of the school board, and Oakland’s budget into the ground, as chair of the finance committee. I think she’d be a disaster for Oakland, just as Dellums has been. So for 2nd choice, I’m voting for Perata, and for 3rd choice, anybody but Quan.

*Oakland City Council, District 2: No Position

I’m sure I’ll get shit for doing this, but I’m not taking a position in this race. The firm I work for is running Pat Kernighan’s race, and Jenn Pae’s on the board of East Bay Young Dems with me. I know and respect both of the candidates and don’t feel comfortable taking a position in this race. I don’t live in the district so won’t have to make a choice on who to vote for either. For those who do live in the district or have opinions, feel free to discuss in the comments here.

*Oakland City Council, District 4: Libby Schaaf

The only good thing about Jean Quan running for mayor is that her council seat is opening up. Seven candidates are vying for her seat, but only one has the experience needed – both in City Hall and in the community – to be ready on day one to deal with the financial and other crises the City is dealing with. I told Libby early on that I would support her (long before I started working on her campaign) because I’ve seen how effective, intelligent, and accessible she was while working for Ignacio De La Fuente. But since working on her campaign and getting to know her even better, I feel much more strongly that we need her on the Council. Though Libby understands the deep, structural problems the City has, she maintains hope and optimism. She focuses on the strengths Oakland has and how we can improve those strengths. Another quality of hers that has immensely impressed me is how well she gets along with basically everyone. Her supporters include environmentalists, business people, housing advocates, developers, labor leaders, and just about everyone in between. We need more councilmembers who can bring people together like Libby does. I don’t live in District 4 so won’t be able to vote for Libby, but I strongly urge District 4 residents to vote for her. And if you’re already supporting her, join us at the East Bay Young Dems phone bank for her tonight at the Oakland UDC.

Oakland City Council, District 6: Desley Brooks

I know there are mixed feelings about Desley Brooks – she sticks to what she believes in and sometimes that rubs people the wrong way. But I think it’s incredibly important to have a councilmember who’s willing to say what she believes, even if it’s not popular. It’s important to have a councilmember who will question an incredibly popular project for good reason when no one else is willing to. As I’ve watched council meetings over the past years, I’ve grown to greatly appreciate this quality in Desley. Beyond that, though I don’t live there, I’ve heard much from district residents about what she’s accomplished for her district, including a huge focus on parks. If you live in District 6, please re-elect Desley Brooks.

Local Measures:

  • Alameda County Measure F: Yes
  • Oakland Measure L: Yes
  • Oakland Measure V: Yes
  • Oakland Measure W: Yes
  • Oakland Measure X: No
  • Oakland Measure BB: Yes
I know there are some people who are going to look at the slate of local measures and cringe because they’re all taxes and fees, but some of them are very important. Measure F is an obvious yes – it’s just a $10 vehicle license fee and will mostly be used to fix local streets. There would also be some funding set aside for bicycle, pedestrian, and transit improvements, and since it’s a relatively small pot of money, none of the funds would be used for highways or transit boondoggles like the Oakland Airport Connector. Measure L is also super important – Oakland schools are terribly funded and we’re losing teachers because pay is so low. The one measure I’m conflicted about is Measure V – the marijuana tax. I think it’s inappropriate to tax medicine at such a high rate, but I fully support the other half of the measure – taxing recreational marijuana so that immediately after Prop 19 passes, our city will be able to tax and regulate the sales of marijuana immediately. I’m reluctantly supporting the measure but am disappointed about the trend of cities viewing a medicine as a revenue source.

June 21-27 Oakland Political & Community Events

21 Jun

Tuesday, June 22nd – TRANSFORUM: Problems & Solutions for Public Transportation in the Bay Area

TransForm’s next TransForum will look at the harsh realities transit agencies currently face across the Bay Area and discuss potential solutions. Speakers include Carolyn Clevenger (the project manager for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission’s Transit Sustainability Project), Lewis Clinton (AC Transit’s CFO), Stuart Cohen (TransForm’s executive director), and Carli Paine (TransForm’s transportation program director). Joel Young, a member of AC Transit’s Board of Directors, will moderate a lively discussion and Q&A session. The TransForum will run from 6:00-7:30pm (with time for networking after) at AC Transit’s headquarters, 1600 Franklin Street. Drinks and snacks will be served. TransForums are free for TransForm members and $5 for non-members. RSVP at TransForm’s website.

CANCELED – Wednesday, June 23rd – Zoning Update Committee Meeting

At this meeting, the ZUC will review the proposed zoning text and maps, as part of the Citywide Zoning Update. The agenda includes consideration of changing the zoning to the commercial and residential areas of the neighborhoods in West Oakland, North Oakland, and the North Hills. To read the staff report and to see the maps of the proposed zoning, please visit the ZUC’s website, and look at the “Upcoming Meetings” table. This meeting takes place at 4pm at City Hall, Hearing Room 1, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Wednesday, June 23rd – Oakland Boosters & Bloggers for Libby Party

If you know Libby Schaaf, you know Libby loves Oakland! Join her fellow Oakland boosters, including some stars of Oakland’s growing blogosphere, to help out Libby’s campaign for City Council, District 4 Oaktown-style – with some great art, music, locavore cocktails, and the beautiful diversity of people that makes us love our Town. Hosted by Becks, dto510, Vsmoothe, Zennie62, Ratna Amin, Amanda Brown-Stevens, Annie Campbell Washington, Justin Horner, Doug Johnson, Adam Van De Water, and other bloggers and boosters to be named. The party takes place from 5:30pm – 7:30pm at Era Art Bar & Lounge, 19 Grand Avenue. Big Booster Host Committee: $100 / Guests: $35. To join the host committee, email libbyforoakland@gmail.com. For more information and to RSVP, visit Libby’s website. (Disclosure: I am working for Libby’s campaign.)

Wednesday, June 23rd – AC Transit Board Meeting

At this week’s meeting, among other items, the AC Transit Board will be voting on BRT (sans Berkeley) and discussing the agency’s fiscal emergency. This meeting will take place at 6pm in the 2nd floor board room, 1600 Franklin Street. You can read the agenda and see the relevant memos here and you can listen online here.

Thursday, June 24th – California Young Democrats Black Caucus Bay Area Kick Off

You are cordially invited to join East Bay Young Dems and the California Young Dems Black Caucus for the Bay Area leg of their kick off tour on Thursday June 24th. It will be a perfect opportunity to not only meet the members of the Caucus, but connect with many young and emerging leaders as well as seasoned community advocates from around the Bay Area and beyond. This event takes place from 7pm – 9pm at AIR Lounge, 492 9th Street (at Washington). RSVP and find more info on Facebook.

Thursday, June 24th – Temescal Street Cinema

The Third Annual Temescal Street Cinema returns to 49th and Telegraph (Bank of the West Building) this summer for another year of great, free, locally made films! There’ll be live music and free popcorn at every show, with events getting started at 8 PM every Thursday from June 11-July 16. Movies will start when it gets dark, no sooner than 8:30 PM. Come early or bring a chair! This week features Etienne!, in which a young man in San Francisco learns that his hamster will soon die and decides to take the beloved pet on a last road trip. This quirky and deadpan comedy for the whole family mines several veins of unexpected poignancy as the two meet a rich cast of characters on their travels. Find out more details at the Temescal Street Cinema website.

Sunday, June 27th – Oaklavia: Come Play in the Streets

Walk Oakland Bike Oakland is hosting Oaklavía, which will shut down streets to cars and open them up to pedestrians and bicyclists, allowing residents to experience the city’s best natural and architectural assets, outdoor activities, and arts in some of our most well-loved and unique streets and neighborhoods. There will be organized activities spaced out along the route. Explore the vibrancy of Old Oakland dancing to live Latin music, and enjoy the urban landscape of West Oakland with circus arts at Kinetic Arts Center. You’ll also find dance classes provided by the YMCA, bike repair classes by Love Your Bike, bike safety classes led by the East Bay Bicycle Coalition and food carts. This event will take place from 10am-2pm from Broadway and Grand to 7th Street and Market. For more info, including route details and activity information, visit the Oaklavia website.

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