Tag Archives: Don Perata

Rules for running for Mayor of Oakland – Rule #4

15 Jun

I let this series drop off, but now that the June election’s over, I thought I’d start it up again.

Rule #4: Don’t pass up important opportunities to get your message out, but if you must, don’t be overly dramatic and provide ridiculous reasons for doing so

Last week, 100 Black Men and OaklandSeen held the  first mayoral forum for the November election. As you’ve likely read, the event was well attended and all candidates but one were there. Though he initially agreed to participate, Don Perata pulled out just a few days before the forum.

I must admit, that like Perata, I think it was a bit early to hold a mayoral forum. The June election just happened last week, most people haven’t started thinking about November yet, and the field of candidates isn’t even close to solidified. But in the course of campaigns lots of silly and sometimes annoying things happen. If you’re a serious candidate, you roll with the punches and grab any opportunity to get your message out to voters and opinion leaders.

So it somewhat surprised me when Perata decided not to participate in this forum. And I was floored by his reasoning and his wide-reaching statement:

I regret that I will not attend any mayoral forums until the official filing deadline for mayor has closed and the full field of aspirants is known.

Woah. So not only did he skip out on last week’s forum, but he will not attend any forums for the next two months! Just because he’s the presumed front-runner in the race doesn’t mean that Perata can ignore debates without losing ground. The other candidates will have a huge opportunity to get their messages out, while the only message Perata will be sending is that he’s too important to be bothered.

But it gets worse:

Holding mayoral debates before all candidates are declared is undemocratic and misleads voters.

Yeah. Perata just dissed OaklandSeen and 100 Black Men, as well as any organizations that will be holding mayoral forums or debates in the next two months. I don’t see how forums could possibly be “undemocratic” or “mislead voters” unless the organizers lied and said that the filing date had passed. As long as it’s explained that the race is still in flux, I think it’s fine to start educating voters about the policy positions of the candidates, just as the candidates themselves (including Perata) have been doing at town hall-style forums and by campaigning door to door.

Perata doesn’t end there though:

In particular, Mayor Dellums has yet to announce his intentions as is his right as an incumbent. The mayor is running for re-election until he says he’s not, or when filing closes in August. Ron Dellums has served our community for almost four decades. He’s well entitled to such consideration.

This is totally ridiculous. First off, it’s pretty clear that Dellums isn’t running. He’s terribly unpopular with voters and he’s having plenty of personal monetary problems. There’s no way he could win, and even if he could, I’m not sure he’d want to as he doesn’t seem to be enjoying the job much.

But even if there was a chance that Dellums was running, it’s incumbent upon him to announce that. If he was running and decided to wait this long to announce, that would be his own fault. Campaign strategies are tricky and to each his own, but nobody, not even an incumbent, can expect a race to wait for him to make up his mind.

Perata might have thought that this open letter would shame other organizations into not planning further mayoral forums, but I don’t see that happening. Too many Oaklanders are interested in this race, and though the week of the June election might have been a bit early for a forum, soon Oaklanders will begin thinking more seriously about the candidates for mayor and they’re not going to wait until Dellums announces to form their opinions.

Don Perata – A Democrat using Republican talking points

9 Apr

Continuing my series on mayoral candidate blogging, today I’ll be looking at Don Perata’s blog. Before I get into the content, I have to point out that Perata is either courageous or stupid – he’s allowing comments on his blog. Kerry Hamill, who ran for Council against Rebecca Kaplan in 2008, did the same thing for a short time but soon disabled them when negative comments started flowing in. Any guesses to how long before Perata disables comments on his blog?

There have only been a handful of blog posts posted so far. The first ones were about the campaign, but the last four have been about policy issues. Two of the posts were about prison issues – recidivism and summary parole. Those are important issues, of course, but there’s much more that can be done at the state level about them. One of the two Oakland posts was about the most recent parking debacle, when the City was found to be ticketing cars in low-income areas but not ticketing them in the hills for the same violation. Can you guess where Perata stood on that?

His last policy post was the most interesting. It focused on the City budget and the proposal to place two parcel tax measures on the November ballot:

Mayor Dellums’ office threatened that this was the only way to avoid cutbacks to police and fire-services.

The only way? This response is typical of Oakland’s stagnant city government. It’s a ballot cop-out to subsidize city inefficiency. There are always other ways.

I’m not sure there are many who would disagree about city inefficiencies, and so far the Council (save for a couple of members) and Mayor Dellums have been short of ideas for how to avoid huge public safety cut backs so I’m open to hearing new ideas.

Sadly, what follows are not new ideas:

To start, the City Council could have put a measure on the June ballot asking Oakland voters to retain the half-cent tax we already pay but one that the state will rescind in July.

Sales tax in Oakland is already way too high. I’m not anti-tax, but a sales tax is a measure of last resort – it is incredibly regressive and does nothing to help struggling small businesses in Oakland. I’d prefer a parcel tax over a sales tax measure any day (and for those of you who are going to comment that I’m a renter so I wouldn’t have to pay a parcel tax, my apartment isn’t rent controlled and I’m sure my rent will be raised if any parcel taxes pass).

But worse is that Perata says the Council should have put this measure on the June ballot. Yes, that’s the June ballot that the City does not have to pay for because there are no Oakland races on it due to instant runoff voting pushing all of the City elections to November. To close the budget gap, Perata is proposing wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars on paying for the June election to pass a regressive tax.

Moving on, Perata then complains about the lack of responsiveness from City Hall, which I can sympathize with:

It’s no surprise then that my office isn’t getting a straight answer from City Hall on how much the city’s 33 boards and commissions are costing Oakland’s taxpayers. The City Clerk’s office claims that the Mayor’s office is responsible. The Mayor’s office has no idea how much is being spent and is not sure that records even exist.

I’m sure there’s some waste in the boards and commissions (many of them never have quorum so I’m not sure why we keep them around, but that’s another blog post). But bringing this up in a post on the budget is at best a distraction and at worst similar to the talking points Republicans use about the state budget. Meg Whitman’s campaign for governor is centered around government waste and the idea that she can fix the state budget mess by trimming the fat, while at the same time making no cuts to education and cutting taxes.

Perata’s blog post doesn’t go that far, but it heads in that direction:

Every dollar should be accounted for before raising taxes. Oakland’s voters are among the most generous in the state. Their pockets have been tapped again and again, and they’ve been failed again and again by the city government. City Hall should be making serious political cuts before cutting city services.

Basically everyone agrees that there’s waste in Oakland government, and yes, I’d like to see that fixed, but it’s dangerous to suggest that we can fix our budget problem by making “political cuts.” We need long-term budget solutions for this City that are more about policy than politics. We need new revenue streams and, likely, some serious cuts that are beyond “political.”

After serving for so long as head of the State Senate, I would have expected more from Perata than regurgitating the Republican talking points that he fought against for so many years. We already have a Green Party Tea Partier in the mayoral race (or as a friend commented, a Green Tea Partier) – do we really need a Democrat using Republican talking points? I don’t think so.

Did Quan violate City or campaign laws? It depends on the significance of hyperlinks.

2 Mar

Last night’s Public Ethics Commission (PEC) meeting was packed with controversial items and lengthy debate. I didn’t make it through the whole meeting, but I’m guessing it went on well past 11pm. Don’t worry, I’m not going to subject you to a recap of the meeting, which was very interesting but also often maddening. If you want a recap, check #oakmtg on Twitter.

Instead, I’m going to focus on the complaint against mayoral candidate Jean Quan. I know, I know, there was also a complaint about Perata, but that complaint was a bit more clear cut and less interesting. The PEC did ultimately decide to admonish the Oakland Police Officers Association and “request” that they reimburse the City for the city-sponsored event where the Perata endorsement was made. (They don’t have authority to demand a reimbursement.)

The Quan complaint is particularly interesting to me, and to the Commission, because it involves issues regarding online communications that the City has yet deal with. The complaint, filed by Anthony Moglia, alleges that Quan violated Penal Code Section 424(a) by using public funds for campaign purposes. Specifically, Moglia points to Quan’s use of her city-funded website and newsletter to promote her campaign. Moglia’s complaint also points out that Quan encouraged her constituents to lobby for IRV, and Moglia alleges that this was clearly in Quan’s campaign interests and she should have disclosed that in the newsletter.

Back in November, I wrote about this issue:

Jean Quan made a huge mistake by using her City email list to announce her candidacy and ask for support and funding. Why is this problematic? The accumulation of email addresses and the maintenance of that list is done by her council staffers, who are paid by the City. Though I doubt that City staff time was used to write her mayoral announcement, hours of staff time were spent on the email list, and the law makes it clear that this is illegal.

What’s worse is that in her attempt to explain that her Council office and campaign are separate, she violated the law again. In her weekly newsletter following the campaign announcement, she wrote this:

Reminder: In our office we need to keep our City Council work separate from campaign activities for Mayor.  Please do not contact our City Hall office or city email for those communications, please use our temporary website or Facebook for those communications.

By linking to her websites, she again used a list cultivated through staff time to promote her campaign.

As you can see by what I wrote in November, I think it’s pretty clear that Quan violated the law. Even if she didn’t, what she did was unethical.

What I didn’t mention in November is that all of these communications were sent by jquan@oaklandnet.com, a City email address. But the PEC didn’t discuss the emails much, since that wasn’t central to the complaint, and instead focused on the hyperlink issue. The City website, in the City Council section, links to jeanquan.org. That site is not funded by the City, but by funds from Quan’s officeholder account, which are similar to campaign funds and are privately raised. Then, this site links to jeanquanforoakland.org, and OMG, Quan finally has a real website up that’s not that hideous blog, and it actually looks really good!

But back to the issue at hand. The PEC and its executive director, Dan Purnell, discussed whether that hyperlink, which connects the City website to Quan’s campaign website via another site, violates the law. Purnell thought it was far enough removed that it didn’t violate the law. From the staff report:

The preliminary staff report stated that Ms. Quan uses the City’s computer system to link the viewer to her outside website [JeanQuan.org] for the purpose of maintaining an electronic newsletter and communicating with constituents. The staff report also revealed that from this outside website viewers can be linked, upon request, to a second outside website paid for by Ms. Quan’s 2010 mayoral campaign committee. It is at this second website that viewers can sign-up to receive information about her mayoral campaign. It was this degree of attenuation between the City’s computer system and her two outside websites that caused Commission staff to recommend the Commission take no action to refer Mr. Moglia’s allegations that Ms. Quan misused City resources to another law enforcement agency…

As cited in the preliminary staff report, Government Code Section 8314(b)(2) creates an exception from the rule prohibiting the use of public resources for campaign or other personal uses not authorized by law. The exception applies to the so-called “incidental and minimal use” of public resources within which the exception allows “the
referral of unsolicited political mail, telephone calls, and visitors to private political entities.”

Thus it appears that public officials may occasionally refer visitors to “private political entities” so long as such referrals are “incidental and minimal.” What is unclear is whether the ongoing access to a campaign website, directly or indirectly through the City’s computer system, constitutes something more than an “incidental and minimal” use of public resources. Commission staff recommends that the Commission direct staff to work with the Office of the City Attorney to develop more specific guidelines for the use of the City’s internet service by elected officials.

Got that?

In the end, the PEC voted to have Purnell seek an informal opinion from the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) on the hyperlink issue. Once the FPPC weighs in, the complaint will again be brought back to the PEC (it was initially brought to the February meeting).

When the Commission revisits this complaint, I hope they’ll focus on what I think is the much more clear cut issue of using a City email address to send out campaign communications. While the indirect linking is also problematic, the email issue is cut and dry and can be proven.

The PEC also would be wise to consider that Quan continues to use her email list for campaign purposes, even though her practices are currently being investigated by the Commission. This past Saturday, she sent out her weekly newsletter and it included an item urging readers to contact the PEC about Thursday’s special meeting. Here’s the entire item:

An attempt to rush doubled campaign donation limits through the City Council by City Attorney John Russo and Council Member Delafuente was delayed when the Council Rules Committee referred the item to the Public Ethics Commission which has jurisdiction over Campaign Finance Reforms in the City, including contribution and campaign finance limits.  This Thursday, the Public Ethics Commission will hold a special meeting on the issue.

Why Is This So Important?

  • Limits for the Mayor’s Race could go up from $380,000 to $760,000.  Council races would go up from an average of $100,000 to over $200,000. After the new census numbers and with cost of living increases, they will be more.
  • Donation limits would go up from $700 (just raised from $600) per individual donor per election to $1400–the highest per voter in the state.The limit in San Francisco, San Jose, San Diego, and Fremont is $500.  Berkeley, San Mateo, and Santa Monica is $250. Long Beach is $350. The average is around $500.  Some larger cities have higher limits such as Fresno which is more than twice the size of Oakland, but the per voter limit is less.
  • The limits for the District 1 and 4 Council seats would go up to about a quarter of a million dollars!
  • It would defeat the purpose of Instant Run-off voting which was suppose to level the playing field because running one election rather than a possible two elections requires less money.  Since there is only one election, it doesn’t make sense to double the limits. San Francisco has more than twice our population and also has Ranked Choice Voting, their limit is less than ours at $500.
  • Special interests have much more control when campaign limits are higher as pointed out by President Obama in his State of the Union speech.

The Public Ethics Commission meetings are generally broadcast live on KTOP Channel 10. You can send your opinion to Public Ethics Commissioners by email.

Clearly an increase will affect this year’s Mayor’s race.  The Express article by Bob Gammon puts the background in perspective.

An argument could be made that Quan would be passionate about this issue even if she wasn’t running for Mayor, except that Quan has a very similar alert on her mayoral campaign website. Quan is again using her newsletter, sent from her City email address, to lobby her constituents. The PEC complaint centered around her lobbying constituents on IRV, but now she’s lobbying them on campaign contribution limits. The most flagrant part of this is that she’s lobbying her constituents to get them to lobby the PEC, the same Commission that’s investigating her!

The Commission needs to set clear rules on online communication for city elected officials to stop this kind of behavior, which is entirely unacceptable. Commissioner Paul asked in February and last night if it would be acceptable for Quan to have a stack of campaign literature in her Council office. Purnell somehow argued that maybe it would be ok, if Quan didn’t push it on people and only gave it out when it was solicited. Even that seems unethical to me, if not illegal, but even by Purnell’s standards, if websites are to be considered the same as campaign brochures, Quan violated that standard. I and many others signed up for Quan’s newsletter to find out about community and city events. I never solicited her campaign announcement or the continued lobbying via the newsletter.

So the PEC and FPPC decision comes down to this – is a website the same as a campaign brochure? And is a hyperlink from a City website the same as passing out a brochure from a City office?

March 1-7 Oakland Political & Community Events

1 Mar

Monday, March 1st – Public Ethics Commission Meeting

Tonight, the PEC will be hearing complaints about mayoral candidates Don Perata and Jean Quan. The complaint about Perata stems from an Oakland Police Officers Association endorsement made for him at a city-funded event, while the complaint against Quan centers around her use of her email list and city website for transmitting campaign information. The Perata complaint was held over last month, and the Quan complaint was heard but brought back for further discussion. The meeting will be held at 6:30pm in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. You can read the meeting agenda here. I tweeted the last PEC meeting and should be tweeting tonight’s meeting as well.

Tuesday, March 2nd – Oakland City Council Meeting

At this week’s meeting, the Council will continue its budget discussions and hopefully make some more progress. They’ll also be discussing instant runoff voting implementation, the 12th Street construction project (see V Smoothe’s blog post for background on why this is controversial), amending the times of Council meetings to run from 5:30pm-midnight, applying for a broadband grant, and misuse of disabled parking placards. See the full meeting agenda and check out my post about how to watch and understand City Council meetings if you need some guidance on how or where to view the meeting. The non-ceremonial parts of the meeting start at 7pm in the Council Chambers in City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza.

Wednesday, March 3rd – Alameda County Democratic Central Committee Meeting

Every month, the Central Committee meets to discuss party business and to make plans for the future of the Democratic Party in Alameda County. This month, we’ll be discussing the June endorsement process and the California Democratic Party convention. If you’re interested in getting involved with the Democratic Party, this is a great way to do so. The meeting will be held from 7-9pm in the San Leandro Main Library, Dave Karp Room, 300 Estudillo Ave., San Leandro, CA 94577.

Thursday, March 4th – Special Public Ethics Commission Meeting

There are not one, but two PEC meetings this week, and the second one should be just as contentious as the first. The PEC will be discussing a proposal to raise the candidate contribution limit from $700 and raising expenditure limits, which vary by office. The City Attorney has recommended doubling contribution and expenditure limits because there is now only one long election, instead of two shorter elections (in the past, a person could donate the maximum for both the June and November elections). There are a range of opinions on this proposal from City Councilmembers, so it should be interesting to see what the PEC decides. The meeting will be held at 6:30pm in Hearing Room 1, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. You can read the meeting agenda here.

Thursday, March 4th – Residential Rezoning in the Grand Lake – A Town Hall Meeting Hosted by Grand Lake Neighbors Community Group

The Grand Lake Neighbors (GLN) community group will host a town hall meeting at Barnett Hall behind Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, 3534 Lakeshore Ave, starting at 7:00 pm on Thursday, March 4, 2010. The topic will be residential zoning concepts for the Grand Lake neighborhood that are being proposed as part of the city-wide zoning update. Planners from the City’s Planning and Zoning Department will be available to answer questions. This meeting will focus primarily on residential zoning update proposals. A well-attended meeting was held by GLN in December which focused on commercial zoning proposals and there may be a brief time for follow-up questions regarding commercial zoning, but it will not be the focus of this meeting. All property owners and residents are invited and encouraged to participate.

Friday, March 5th – Art Murmur

Check out the monthly evening of art gallery shows and entertainment in Uptown. Read my review of the art murmur here. The Art Murmur runs from 6-10pm but individual art gallery times vary. The galleries are mostly located in Uptown, between Broadway and Telegraph, and Grand and 29th. Visit the Murmur’s website for more info.

Saturday, March 6th – Oakland Kidical Mass

An opportunity to get to know families who get around Oakland by pedal power. Bring the kids on the trail-a-bike, the trailer, the Xtracycle, on their own bikes or however you happen to make it work. No kids? No problem! Come out and share the joy of a casual social ride. We’ll hopefully spend a few minutes talking about the future of Oakland Kidical Mass, so please be ready to share ideas for future rides. Rides normally meet up at 10 am and begin at 11 am. Destination is Union Point Park. Questions contact Mark@walkoaklandbikeoakland.org.

Saturday, March 6th – Greening Oakland Homes Fair

This educational fair will feature exhibitors with solutions to help you save energy, water, and natural resources. It will include presentations on the benefits provided by various types of retrofits and also offer information on financial aid and programs that will save you money. This fair takes place from 11 am-3 pm, at Montclair Women’s Cultural Arts Club, 1650 Mountain Blvd. Learn more at Greening Oakland Homes.

Sunday, March 7th – Women of WOBO: International Women of Mystery Ride

The next Women of WOBO (WOW) ride is in honor of International Women’s Day. Join us to tour around San Leandro Bay, mostly following bicycle paths that are part of the Bay Trail. And the “International Mystery” part means you should bring your favorite international snack to share! Depending on the weather, we’ll stop and share on the edge of the Bay, or somewhere more protected. Any and all female-identified people are invited to participate. Please RSVP to shannon@walkoaklandbikeoakland.org by Wednesday, March 3rd with your name, email, and phone number in case there are any last-minute updates. All participants must sign a waiver and wear a helmet – no exceptions! The ride will take place from 10am-1pm, and starts and ends at Fruitvale BART station (by the bike racks). Approximately 10 miles and pretty darn flat. See the route map (subject to change).

Sunday, March 7thNWPC-AN Susan B. Anthony Celebration

The National Women’s Political Caucus, Alameda North will be hosting their Susan B. Anthony Celebration, honoring Susan Muranishi, Alameda County Administrator; Nancy O’Malley, Alameda County District Attorney; and Nancy Nadel, Oakland City Councilmember. Drink wine, eat hors d’oeuvres, and participate in a silent auction. This event will be held from 3-5pm at the Montclair Women’s Cultural Arts Center, 1630 Mountain Blvd, in Oakland.  Tickets are $50 and benefit the NWPC-AN PAC.

Which campaign is this mailer for?

8 Feb

UPDATE: Robert Gammon digs deep into this issue at the East Bay Express.

Don Perata: Message to City Council: Instant Runoff Voting: Protect Our Civil Rights

13 Nov

This guest post was written by Don Perata, who was the President pro Tem of the California State Senate from 2004-08. He chaired the Senate Elections and Redistricting Committee in 2001 charged with protecting the Voting Rights Act when drawing congressional and legislative districts following the 2000 census. There were no allegations of minority voting rights violations and no lawsuits. The plans won bipartisan approval.

In 2006, Oakland voters approved the so-called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) to be used in municipal elections. IRV was developed from a similar voting scheme implemented in San Francisco.

The Oakland ballot ordinance set forth criteria for adopting the IRV by the Oakland City Council, on whose authority it may be implemented.

The key criterion is a “public education and awareness” campaign in anticipation of the potential confusion and difficulties voters may have understanding this unusual ballot voting system. In fact, IRV may only be implemented if determined “practicable”, as by the City Attorney.

Although I initially opposed IRV, my present concern is that if it is to be implemented it needs to be implemented carefully and thoughtfully. It is on this very point that I have urged extreme caution.

Anyone knowledgeable of American history is protective of our voting franchise, especially those who lived through this nation’s civil rights movement. Many citizens died in the fight to obtain the right to vote for women and minorities, especially African Americans.  Making voting easier should be our goal, not creating more complex systems.

The right to vote is the cornerstone of civil liberty.

Therefore, it is only natural for many to be skeptical of any basic changes on how elections are conducted by the government.  IRV, adopted in San Francisco to save money by eliminating a December runoff election – will actually require voters to receive and cast two separate ballots.

One ballot is to cast your vote for state constitutional officers, state propositions, local ballot measures, and legislative, judicial and county and regional offices. This is the familiar ballot where one vote is cast for each candidate or ballot proposition/measure.

The IRV is separate from the state ballot. No one knows how this ballot will look, how to use it or how votes will be tabulated. This is another point of concern. The Alameda County Registrar of Voters (ROV) is responsible for conducting both elections – simultaneously. Yet the registrar’s office has not proved particularly competent in conducting elections with only ONE ballot, much less two. Examples of errors and omissions in past elections are numerous.

To date, the ROV has not produced its plans for the requisite and all-important public awareness and education campaign among Oakland voters; nor the training protocols for poll workers likely held to answer many unprecedented questions; nor the ballot and instructions that must accompany each sample and actual ballot.

Finally, the Oakland City Council must approve the use of IRV and pay all costs associated with it. To date the costs remain unknown. San Francisco said it spent over one million dollars on voter-education related to IRV. Oakland has a $19M budget deficit this year that will require more cuts in police, fire and other basic city services, as well as layoffs of city workers.

I find it hard to fathom how the council could justify cutting these services in favor of paying for an experimental election. But that decision is theirs.

As a candidate for mayor, I want this election to be above reproach in its conduct and outcome. I want the Registrar to accept this onerous responsibility and clearly explain how he intends to dispatch that responsibility in a timely and through manner.

There is also the question of the mechanics of how IRV will work. Can the voting machine and vote tabulating be hacked or tampered with? Will every vote be counted equally? Is it likely or fair for someone who gets the most first place votes to lose? Or, that the voters who voted for a fourth or fifth choice have their votes not counted?

This is a new and almost untested system. Can it be gamed?

These unknown and unanswered questions are precisely why voter awareness and education is so vital. Bi-lingual and older voters in particular will require special attention. (Many of whom won’t vote-by-mail; preferring instead to go to the polling place, cast their ballots and watch them placed in a locked box by the poll worker).

IRV would confuse any voter when two separate sample ballots – one familiar, one unknown – arrive by mail.

Unless the County Registrar prepares and conducts a thorough, timely public awareness and education campaign, the potential for fraud, disillusionment and anger is too great to warrant. The right to vote is simply too important.

(Note from Becks: You can read my take on these issues in my blog post about instant runoff voting and a post about the mayoral campaign.)

Rules for running for Mayor of Oakland – Rule #3

10 Nov

A couple weeks ago, I started a new series about rules for running for Mayor of Oakland. Today I’ll share the third rule and will continue with this series in the coming weeks and months.

Rule #3: Do not do anything that is or appears to be illegal or unethical

Sounds pretty obvious, right? I thought so too, until both candidates and/or their supporters broke this rule.

Jean Quan made a huge mistake by using her City email list to announce her candidacy and ask for support and funding. Why is this problematic? The accumulation of email addresses and the maintenance of that list is done by her council staffers, who are paid by the City. Though I doubt that City staff time was used to write her mayoral announcement, hours of staff time were spent on the email list, and the law makes it clear that this is illegal.

What’s worse is that in her attempt to explain that her Council office and campaign are separate, she violated the law again. In her weekly newsletter following the campaign announcement, she wrote this:

Reminder: In our office we need to keep our City Council work separate from campaign activities for Mayor.  Please do not contact our City Hall office or city email for those communications, please use our temporary website or Facebook for those communications.

By linking to her websites, she again used a list cultivated through staff time to promote her campaign.

Don Perata and his supporters have also undertaken questionable actions in the past several weeks. As I mentioned last week, Perata is trying to stop instant runoff voting (IRV) from being implemented in 2010. I don’t know what his real reasoning is behind this – maybe he thinks IRV is a terrible idea or has valid concerns about the 2010 implementation plan. But the appearance of his actions is that he’s trying to make it more difficult for Jean Quan or anyone else to run against him, since he has an advantage in a June election, both in name recognition and funding. Perata and other candidates should think twice next time before taking an action that appears to be so self-serving.

Then, last week, Perata’s supporters made a similar mistake to the one Jean Quan made, by using an event that was promoted through City staff time to publicly endorse Perata. At the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) meeting with Chief Anthony Batts, the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) announced its endorsement of Perata. Flyers for the meeting were produced by City staff and many staff members were there. Several of the event organizers and attendees were understandably disturbed that a community meeting had been turned into a campaign event. Perata said he did not know that the OPOA had planned to endorse him that evening, but the OPOA should have known better.

Via the Oakland Tribune, the City is looking into whether violations were made:

“It is a violation of city policy and state law to use city resources or city work time for political purposes,” City Administrator Dan Lindheim said in a statement. “While any group has the right to endorse whomever they choose for political office, the Oakland Police Officers Association decision to co-opt a city-sponsored community event and use it for political purposes raises serious concerns.”

Lindheim said he would conduct an investigation to determine “whether disciplinary or other action is appropriate.” He did not have figures on how much money was spent by the city on the event and said he did not know how long the investigation would take.

I’m glad Lindheim is following up on this, but he should also launch a similar investigation into Jean Quan’s campaign email and her follow-up “clarification” in her newsletter. And Quan and Perata should make sure that incidents like this do not happen again.

What’s going on with instant runoff voting? Registrar Dave MacDonald explains… sort of

5 Nov

Last night, Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave MacDonald came to the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee meeting to discuss instant runoff voting (IRV), which is a hot topic in Oakland right now.

MacDonald started off by making it very clear that he wasn’t taking sides on IRV, but that the Registrar was just implementing what the cities (Oakland and Berkeley, and possibly soon San Leandro) had voted for. He then spent a while explaining how IRV would work, when implemented. Ballots would have all candidates for Oakland offices listed, but they’d be listed three times – under 1st choice, 2nd choice, and 3rd choice heading. It would look something like this:

oakland irv sample ballot

My sample above only features three candidates, but no matter how many candidates there are, you will only get three choices. So the voter would then choose their first, second, and third choices. When the Registrar tallies votes, they would first tally all first choice votes. If someone had received more than 50% of the vote, that person would win. If not, the Registrar would take the last place vote getter out of the running and count the second choice votes of voters who voted for that person, adding those votes in addition to the first choice votes. If someone had then reached more than 50% of the vote, that person would win. This cycle continues until one person reaches 50% of the vote.

Got it? Well, if not, that’s ok because the Registrar and Oakland plan to do significant voter education before IRV is implemented. There’s a plan for an educational mailing to all voters and for education of poll workers so that they can help voters at the polls. According to MacDonald, educational materials will be made available at least in English, Spanish, and Chinese, and potentially in other languages.

This robust educational effort, unfortunately, will not be cheap. IRV supporters claimed in 2006 that implementation would cost $400,000, though I’ve heard that the current estimates are upward of $1 million (I couldn’t find confirmation of this so if anyone knows, please share). This cost is luckily a one-time cost, but it’s a one-time cost that could come in a year when Oakland is looking at slashing its budget by $19 million. Of course, once this cost is incurred, Oakland will save money in the long-term, as we will no longer have to pay for June elections. (June elections will still happen, for statewide primaries, and county measures, but Oakland won’t have to pay.) Though MacDonald mentioned that these savings disappear if the Council places measures on June ballots.

Confused or torn yet? Well, it gets even more convoluted. Right now, the reason this is such a burning topic is because Oakland is waiting to hear from the California Secretary of State on administrative approval of our IRV system. San Francisco’s system was approved last month (they have to seek approval for every election, even though they’ve been using IRV for a while now), and MacDonald said that he had assumed Oakland’s IRV would be approved at the same time as San Francisco’s, especially since we’re proposing to use the same system.

What’s the delay? Well, no one really knows, and worse yet, no one knows when we’ll hear whether it’s approved or not. It might be this month or next, or it might not be until January, which would really be pushing it for being able to do enough voter education and for candidates gearing up to run.

You’ve probably read that Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente and Don Perata sent letters to the Secretary of State, urging her not to approve IRV for the 2010 elections. They claim that Oakland is not ready to do significant educational outreach and are concerned that voting problems would occur.

But others are pushing for IRV to be implemented next year, including Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan. She came to the Central Committee meeting last night and voiced strong support for IRV. Kaplan said that IRV has overwhelming support – it was passed by 69% of Oakland voters and 80% of Berkeley voters. She then explained why she supports IRV – the current system puts the local election in June, when there is a much lower turnout. As an example, she shared the voting numbers from the June vs November 2008 elections (which are admittedly a bit skewed because of Obama but the trend holds for other years). In June, 62,000 (38% of voters) voted, while in November 161,000 (79%) voted. For people of color and youth, the difference is even more stark. In June, only 15% of voters aged 40 or younger voted, while in November 74% of them voted. Kaplan explained that IRV would enfranchise a huge portion of voters.

Kaplan later reminded the Committee that the Democratic Party (which is essentially equivalent to the Committee) had endorsed Measure O, the 2006 IRV initiative, along with the MGO Democratic Club and several other local Democratic groups. She asked if the Committee would send a letter to the Secretary of State, asking for the immediate implementation of IRV. A motion was made and unanimously supported so the Committee will soon be sending a letter.

So that’s where things stand now. At this point, we wait and hopefully will hear soon whether IRV will happen next year or not. Either way, IRV will be implemented some day, and if it’s delayed for too much longer, it seems likely that IRV advocates will sue.

Oakland Updates: OAC, AC Transit Passes, Auto Row & BART Police

13 Jul

I did one of these a few weeks ago and it seemed to work well so I might make this a regular feature. I’d love to hear feedback on whether these brief updates are interesting to you or not.

The ongoing Oakland Airport Connector saga: (Disclosure: I was recently hired to work part time on a short term basis for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign.) As you might have seen on TV or in the newspaper last week, Don Perata headlined a press conference last week before the MTC committee meeting decrying the Oakland Airport Connector. Advocates felt we had a really good chance at this committee hearing, but, unfortunately, the committee lost quorum after they had a long closed session and then plenty of public comment. We were pretty surprised when MTC Chair Scott Haggerty appointed other commissioners to the committee at the last moment so they could get to quorum to move the funding discussion to their full commission meeting on July 22. That meeting may be one of our last chances to alter this project so put it on your calendar now.

As I mentioned yesterday in the events listing, the Public Works Committee of the Oakland City Council will be discussing the OAC tomorrow. RSVP on Facebook to attend and speak out against this wasteful project and in favor of alternatives.

And if you’re wondering what could be done with all the money saved from building BRT instead of an overhead connector, 21st Century Urban Solutions has a great post up about using the funds to build an infill station in San Antonio, between the Lake Merritt and Fruitvale stations.

What to do with old AC Transit passes: It’s time to rummage through your stuff and find old AC Transit 10 ride and 31 day passes because they’ll only be usable through September 30th. Ride ACT has a comprehensive post about how to use these passes, but the short story is that the 31 day passes are usable as is and with the 10 ride passes, you’ll need to add $0.25 to complete your fare. Also, if you have entirely unused passes sitting around, you can go to the AC Transit office and exchange those for fare on a Translink card.

Background on the Broadway Auto Row planning porcess: Though I couldn’t make it to last week’s meeting about the Broadway Auto Row planning process, I still feel very informed because of three thorough blog posts. V Smoothe wrote a post previewing the meeting and describing existing conditions on the corridor, complete with detailed maps. City Homestead featured two posts on the subject, one covering the history of Auto Row and the other discussing possible models to follow for planning the future of Auto Row.

Voice your opinions on BART police: The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE) is conducting an independent study of the BART Police Department as commissioned by BART. As part of this study, they’ve set up an online survey to solicit feedback from the community about BART police. You can take the brief survey here.

Don Perata on Oakland Airport Connector: “Too much money for too little transit”

16 Jun

Last week, Don Perata joined the effort to stop the wasteful overhead Oakland Airport Connector (OAC) by sending a hard-hitting letter to Metropolitian Transportation Commissioner and Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty. On July 8, the MTC will be voting on providing even more funding to the OAC from Regional Measure 2 funds, and Perata is not pleased about this:

As the author of SB 916 – which placed regional Measure 2 on the ballot-, I must oppose the Oakland Airport Connector project. In short, the proposal is too much money for too little transit and economic value.

While the connector was included in the menu of RM2 transportation projects, that election was in 2004. The world has since changed dramatically. And so has the project. In 2003 when the project was proposed, only $30M was needed to complete funding for the $230M connector. In fact, we told the voters (in the ballot pamphlet) that this was “the final portion of funds needed for direct BART service” to the airport. Project costs have now increased by over $300M and the RM2 dollars needed have quadrupled. Even more damning, the ridership predicted in 2003 has fallen substantially from 13,540 to fewer than 4500 by 2020. This fails any cost-benefit analysis on its face.

Advocates have been making these arguments for months, to the MTC, BART, and the Port Commision, and most of our pleas for reason have fallen on deaf ears. But I’m hopeful that these elected officials will find it more difficult to ignore the former State Senate Democratic leader and the likely future mayor of Oakland.

Perata continues:

Elected representatives everywhere act as consistent with today’s realities; we cannot conduct public affairs as if the weak economy is simply a market correction. There is less tax dollars available and more competition than our generation has ever known. This requires strong fiscal discipline and hard choices. Whether the money comes from taxes, tolls or fees, it’s the same pair of pants, only different pockets!

I am unconvinced an Oakland Airport Connector is the highest and best use of available transit money – even assuming potential millions from the federal government stimulus program. Washington bureaucrats don’t know any better; we should.

In the coming weeks, the Port Commission, MTC, the Oakland City Council, and ultimately BART will all have opportunities to prove that they do know better.

Today, the full Port Commission will vote on taking the first step on funding the OAC to the tune of $44 million. (Two weeks ago, the Aviation Committee of the Port Commission voted to move move the OAC funding issue onto the full committee, and then for some reason the full commission delayed the hearing.) Just as BART has gone back to MTC again and again for increasingly larger amounts of RM2 funding, they have asked the Port for more and more. The Port has the opportunity to leverage its contribution to require BART to study a rapid bus alternative that would save hundreds of million of dollars.

Then, on Thursday, the Rules Committee of the Oakland City Council will vote on a request from Councilmember Nancy Nadel to bring the OAC project before the Public Works Committee and ultimately the full Council. There are a multitude of reasons that the City Council should review the project again, as dto510 explains:

A lot is at stake for Oakland. On one hand, project supporters claim that it will improve the Oakland Airport area, attracting more airline passengers and perhaps more businesses to Airport and surrounding area. For the reality-based community, however, there are enormous costs to the City of Oakland to moving ahead with the project. ACTIA funds that would otherwise go to East Oakland bike/ped/transit improvements, such as a mooted transit village at the Coliseum BART station, would be lost. The Port of Oakland will have to use funds that would otherwise go to airport renovation and expansion. Regional stimulus funds would go to this instead of to shoring up AC Transit and BART service. And the City of Oakland will lose the opportunity to improve transit service that would serve the workers and businesses in the Hegenberger Corridor, since the RFP for the Airport Connector does not include any intermediate stops. Many of these problems are a result of changes to the project, and many former supporters are now opponents.

Unfortunately, it is possible that OAC proponent and Oakland Councilmember Larry Reid will urge the Rules Committee not to agendize this item because he fears that when the City Council finds out how drastically this project has changed, they will no longer support it. So if you’re an Oakland resident, please contact Rules Committee members to ask them to support a public Council hearing on the OAC:

Council President Jane Brunner, District 1
JBrunner@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7001

Jean Quan, District 4
JQuan@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7004

Ignacio De La Fuente, District 5
IDeLaFuente@oaklandnet.com or 510-238-7005

A half billion dollars, affordable access to the Oakland Airport, and so much more are at stake in the OAC project. In the coming weeks, let’s hope that our elected officials show as much leadership and reasoned skepticism as Don Perata and save our region from this boondoggle.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector: