Tag Archives: mayoral race

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.

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June 6-13 Oakland Political & Community Events

7 Jun

I’m again pressed for time so a list of events with links will have to suffice again this week. Hopefully next week I’ll bring back the fuller format.

Tuesday, June 8 – Election Day: Don’t forget to vote!

Wednesday, June 9 – AC Transit Board Meeting

Wednesday, June 9 – Alameda County Democratic Central Committee Meeting

Thursday, June 10 – Oakland Mayoral Candidates Forum

Thursday, June 10 – Mix It Up East Bay

Friday, June 11 – Go Public Schools End of Year Celebration

Friday, June 11 – Dancing Under the Stars (Cha Cha)

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.

Oakland’s Green Party Tea Partier

6 Apr

It’s been a while since I’ve written about the mayor’s race, partially because I’ve been super busy and partially because not much has happened in the race. But the candidates have been campaigning, raising money, and blogging. Yes, it looks like all of the mayoral candidates have started blogs so I thought I’d take the next several days to review them and bring some attention to what they’re writing about.

I’m starting off with Green Party candidate Don Macleay. Yeah, I know he’s unlikely to be a serious candidate against Don Perata, Jean Quan, and whomever else jumps in the race, but after reading his blog, I felt like it would be a disservice not to share some of his messages.

A poll just came out that showed that people who identify as part of the Tea Party movement mostly identify as Republicans, but some identify as independents and a few identify as Democrats. Yet in Oakland, the Tea Party mayoral candidate is actually a Green.

I’m guessing Macleay would contest my description of him as Tea Partier, but his blog backs up my description. In the past couple of months, here’s what he’s ranted about:

It would be unfair for me not to mention Macleay’s posts about some issues that come more from the Green Party than the Tea Party, like restorative justice programs, but I’m left to wonder how programs like this would be paid for in Macleay’s world. If we lower taxes, stop penalizing tax evaders (even if they’re small businesses), and make parking free, where is the money for social justice programs going to come from?

It looks like the Tea Party is alive and well in the Oakland mayoral race, even if disguised behind the Green Party label.

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?

Which campaign is this mailer for?

8 Feb

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

Budget meeting this Thursday, no thanks to Jean Quan

16 Dec

Somehow I totally missed this when putting together the weekly events listing, even though I was looking for it, but there’s a special budget meeting tomorrow, Thursday, December 17th at 10am. I might have missed it because I naively thought it would be held in the evening, when working people could attend, especially after many speakers complained at the last afternoon budget meeting about the scheduling. The worst part about the scheduling is that you either need to go to City Hall to attend the meeting or you need to have Comcast to watch KTOP on TV, because KTOP’s online streaming has been down for days.

But as annoyed as I am about the timing of this meeting, I’m glad that the Council will be having a budget meeting before the end of the year because they really need to figure out some way to close the $19 million budget gap and that process can’t wait until next year.

I would have thought that this would have been an obvious conclusion, and to most councilmembers, it was obvious. Actually, three out of the four Finance Committee members pushed for a December budget meeting, yet one member argued that they should wait until January! And this wasn’t just any councilmember – it was the chair of the Finance Committee and mayoral candidate, Jean Quan.

Sounds pretty unbelievable, huh? Well watch for yourself the incredible discussion that happened at the December 1st Finance Committee meeting:

This from the mayoral candidate who’s first priority on her campaign platform is, “We Need Ethical, Open, Effective City Government.” In an email to supporters this week, she explains this further:

Oaklanders deserve a responsive city government that works for all of us and honest public officials without conflicts of interest who are not for sale. Unlike the state we must balance our budgets; this year we cut $140 million and over 400 jobs. Every employee gave back 10 percent in wages and benefits, every department was cut back…yet we did not close libraries, senior or recreation centers, or layoff safety personnel.  In the next years we will have to continue to reorganize and maintain basic services by reducing costs and growing our economy…

A “responsive city government” is not one that delays essential budget meetings. And how does Quan think the Council will be able to “reorganize and maintain basic services” without even meeting to discuss these strategies?

Thankfully, Ignacio De La Fuente, Pat Kernighan, and Nancy Nadel pushed for a December budget meeting, against Quan’s wishes. But if Quan is serious about being mayor, she needs to step up and show leadership as chair of the Finance Committee and stop delaying the difficult the decisions the Council must make.