Tag Archives: Nancy Nadel

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

16 Nov

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

Demystifying Oakland City Council committees

8 Feb

When writing about the state of the Oakland Main Library I mentioned that most of the policy work the Council accomplishes happens in committee meetings. This makes it somewhat difficult for Oaklanders to shape policy unless we’re really engaged, partially because most committees meet during the day on Tuesdays, when most of us are at work, and partially because committees are a mystery to most residents. Sure, the engaged Oakland resident may have been to a Council meeting or two and has a sense of what they deal with, but most have not been to committee meetings and may not understand what they handle. I can’t fix the issue about meetings taking place during the workday (and believe me, I wish I could so I could attend more of these meetings), but I thought I’d attempt to shed some light on committees, what they do, when they meet, and who’s on them. Continue reading

Yesterday’s budget meeting via Twitter

18 Dec

I had hoped to write a real blog post yesterday or today, but yesterday flew by and today I woke up with a nasty cold and I can’t really focus. So you won’t get a super-excited post from me about City Attorney John Russo’s opinion, issued yesterday, that clearly states that the Council must implement IRV because it’s a voter mandate. (But you should read it – it’s short, easy to read, and important.)

Instead, I’m taking a page from V Smoothe’s book and will share with you Twitter coverage of yesterday’s budget meeting. Though not a lot of new ideas were proposed, I’m glad this meeting was not delayed until January because the Council did approve some staff suggestions and gave staff direction on various other proposals. Hopefully the January budget meeting will be more productive because of this.

If you’d like to see the full budget meeting, it’s only 2 hours and can be viewed online or downloaded.

OaklandBecks: Council budget mtg just started and @Vsmoothe speaking at open forum about KTOP online streaming being down.

OaklandBecks: She’s also saying it’s difficult for people to watch this budget mtg because it’s at 10am and people don’t have Comcast at work.

OaklandBecks: City Administrator Lindheim explains that server has crashed and it will cost $25K to fix. They’re trying to fix it.

OaklandBecks: Lindheim also says it will be improved – currently only allows 250 connections and will allow unlimited connections.

SeanforOakland: @OaklandBecks Someone tell Lindheim to move the server to 365 Main in JLS and this won’t happen.

OaklandBecks: Now @MaxAllstadt is speaking. Suggests taking back $182K from Chamber of Commerce for Chiodo sculpture.

OaklandBecks: Staff – most of our budget “solutions” are one time funds and fund transfers.

OaklandBecks: City Administrator doesn’t recommend spending reductions – so little time left in fiscal year that it wouldn’t make difference.

OaklandBecks: Also, these spending reductions would decimate services, like closing 6 recreation centers or elimination of all IT support.

OaklandBecks: You can see the full staff budget proposal here: http://bit.ly/75k4Ut

MaxAllstadt: Dan Lindheim: Selling assets to cover operating costs makes no sense, but we’re so screwed we might have no choice

dto510: The problem with selling assets isn’t just that prices are low, it’s that sales wouldn’t close for a long time.

OaklandBecks: Lindheim – to close budget gaps w/o one-time solutions, we need further revenue. Asks Council if they’d put rev measures on ballot.

MaxAllstadt: Why isn’t anybody discussing the possibility of selling one of our 3 golf courses?

OaklandBecks: Parks advocate – don’t dismember the already skeletal parks staff we now have. Many parks don’t even receive routine maintenance.

MaxAllstadt: Local 21 rep wants a freeze on hiring to replace early retirees. Demands in house promotion where replacement is essential.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan – we can’t put this off forever with one-time money – we’ll eventually have to make drastic cuts.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan – police/fire budgets growing as general fund shrinks. Eventually have city that’s nothing but police/fire if continues.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan again recommending more billboards on freeways and more medical cannabis facilities as way to create ongoing revenue.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan – permit more medical cannabis dispensaries & permit growers for increased revenue. Permitting growers is way overdue!

OaklandBecks: Kaplan also suggests increased local vehicle registration fee for funds for road repair (which Oakland’s streets desperately need).

OaklandBecks:
Why is Quan speaking? I thought she wanted this meeting to be held off until January: http://wp.me/p55RV-Ap

OaklandBecks: Quan – Mayor’s office, IT department, and police need to come within budget (they’re currently over budget).

OaklandBecks: Quan – should do citizen’s survey on funding & revenue priorities. Sounds like city-funded research for her mayoral campaign.

OaklandBecks: De La Fuente increasingly concerned about structural deficit that we’re not addressing. We haven’t had political will to make cuts.

OaklandBecks:
De La Fuente says we should sell golf courses. We’d get immediate cash and they’d be managed better. That was @MaxAllstadt’s idea!

MaxAllstadt: We should sell a Golf Course: lock in huge ad valorem tax, mandate subdivision + development within 10 years, create more ad valorem tax!

OaklandBecks: De La Fuente – we need to deal with pensions or the city will go bankrupt. We need union/city comm to look at pension problem.

OaklandBecks: Brooks doesn’t think public would respond well to new tax measures since city hasn’t handled Measure Y well.

OaklandBecks: Nadel agrees with Kaplan on permitting & taxing medical cannabis growers but concerned about increased billboards.

OaklandBecks:
Nadel – some neighborhoods get street cleaning weekly & could deal with less. I’ve heard this suggestion from people in her district

OaklandBecks: Why does Brunner never understand staff reports? She’s asking questions about something that was incredibly clear.

OaklandBecks: It seems so simple to understand that while $3.2 mil unspent exists, we can’t touch it because it’s committed already.

OaklandBecks: The CMs keep talking about cutting everything that is not core. But none of them have explained exactly what is core.

OaklandBecks: Many of them seem to agree that the city can’t afford to fund non-profits, outside of what’s required by ballot measures.

OaklandBecks: Brunner says we need June ballot and it should be public-safety measure. People won’t vote for this after Measure Y failure.

OaklandBecks: Also, June ballot initiatives negate potential IRV savings. We wouldn’t have to pay for June election if we don’t have initiatives.

dto510: @OaklandBecks Is that you pointing it out, or CM Brunner?

OaklandBecks: @dto510 That’s me pointing it out. It apparently either hasn’t occurred to her or she just doesn’t care.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan wants to see anticipated revenues & expenditures for next 5 years at next budget mtg to help decide about tax measures.

OaklandBecks: Kernighan – before we go for ballot measure, must cut everything public sees as a waste.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan wants to see Measure Y revision on ballot but prefers Nov ballot. Not saying this, but she’s thinking about IRV.

OaklandBecks: Kaplan – who authorizes police standing around watching peaceful protestors like lockdown of City Hall Tues due to trucker protest?

Vsmoothe: @OaklandBecks Yes, who does authorize that? I had to fight for a long time to be let in for Finance Committee on Tues. Ridiculous!

OaklandBecks: Council approves staff recommendations to close part of budget & tells departments to stay w/in budget or come in Jan to explain.

Oakland Public Works to BART: Oakland does have a stake in the OAC

16 Sep

Disclosure: I am working on a part-time, short term basis for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign. However, the thoughts expressed in my posts on this subject are my own and should not be construed to be those of TransForm.

Yesterday, the Oakland Public Works Committee meeting got off to a rough start for BART and stayed that way throughout the hearing on the Oakland Airport Connector. Chairwoman Nancy Nadel began the hearing by asking BART to respond to the questions that the committee sent to them last month. Tom Dunscombe, project manager for the OAC, stumbled, explaining that he had not prepared a presentation but that he was prepared to answer questions. (A kind of odd thing to say, considering the committee had already sent him the questions to which they wanted answers.) So Molly McArthur, a BART spokesperson who I’d never seen at an OAC meeting, stepped in and read off of the response BART had sent to the committee (a very late response that councilmembers did not see until Monday morning and that did not make it into the public packet).

She read about how great this project is for Oakland, claimed the OAC would provide tons of jobs, and told the councilmembers that it was Oakland’s fault that intermediate stops weren’t being built. She ended by talking about funding sources and by explaining clearly that Oakland is not funding this project, which led her to say, “Oakland does not have a stake in this project.”

I nearly jumped out of my seat to begin debating her on this claim, but instead I just wrote a bunch of exclamation points next to her remark in my notebook. I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised, since I’ve heard this before. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty (yes, the same one who is now a Democrat) said something very similar at the last ACTIA meeting on this project. But I could not believe that BART would say this to a committee of the Oakland City Council – it is so disrespectful!

The committee wasn’t having it though. As Molly was speaking, the clerk passed out a resolution authored by Councilmembers Nadel and Rebecca Kaplan. The resolution (which you should click through to and read in full) concludes:

RESOLVED: that the Oakland City Council supports an improved connection to the Oakland International Airport, but one that does not economically jeopardize the local or regional transit, and whose fare will attract greater local and regional transit ridership and be it

FURTHER RESOLVED: that the Oakland City Council urges our regional transportation authority (Metropolitan Transportation Commission) to reconsider using the $70 million in federal funding for the current BART OAC project, and instead prioritize funding for local bus system improvements and a more cost effective and environmentally sound airport connector alternative.

After Molly spoke, Councilmembers Kaplan, Nadel, and Desley Brooks explained briefly what they think is wrong with this project, focusing on how the stimulus funds could better be used for BART and AC Transit operations, which would help the agencies avoid some of their service cuts. Brooks had to leave early to get to the Alameda County Supervisors to speak out against the rapid appointment of a District Attorney with no process (a hearing which didn’t go as well) so she moved the resolution, Kaplan seconded, and Brooks registered her yes vote before leaving.

Then the public took to the microphone to speak about this project. Seventeen people spoke against the OAC and for the resolution, including many Oakland residents, BART union members, AC Transit union members, transit advocates, and social justice advocates. The six people speaking in the support of the project mostly represented the building trades.

Pat Kernighan spoke after public comment, saying that she was not entirely decided about the project, but that she was leaning towards opposing it. She brought up four main concerns that she’d like to be addressed before the full council meeting on this issue:

  1. Whether the time saved over the current AirBART or the proposed BRT justifies this very large expense.
  2. Would the OAC reduce car travel on roads regionally? (This gets at the ongoing questions about ridership numbers.)
  3. The likelihood of the BART core system having to subsidize the OAC.
  4. Whether spending money on the OAC would take money from other transit projects.

The meeting ended with the committee directing that the resolution come before the full council on Tuesday October 6th and asking Oakland Public Works staff to provide a neutral analysis of the OAC.

You might think that BART would have heard the message loud in clear at this meeting and might have been a bit more deferential in their comments to the press. Well you would be wrong. Just after the meeting ended, I saw ABC reporter Cecilia Vega interviewing the BART rep, Molly McArthur in City Hall. This is part of what she had to say:

“We are interested in understanding what they think about it, but at the end of the day they are not a signatory to the project,” said BART project spokeswoman Molly McArthur…

“It’s shovel ready. In one week from today we’re receiving proposals on this project and we are prepared to move forward with construction,” said McArthur.

Translation: Oakland can say all it wants, but in the end, we’re building this project no matter what.

Somehow, I don’t think the Oakland City Council is going to take too kindly to that message, especially since the only reason they waited so long to have a hearing on this subject is because earlier this summer BART asked them to wait:

So clear your evening for October 6th. We need you down at Oakland City Hall for a showdown on the OAC. We need to tell BART that Oakland does have a stake in this project and that it does matter what we think. We need to make it clear why a $550 million project that is sucking money from other transit projects, won’t be much quicker than the current bus, won’t spur economic development, and is not guaranteed to provide jobs to Oaklanders is unacceptable for Oakland.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

Oakland Public Works Committee strongly questions Oakland Airport Connector

17 Jul

Disclosure: I was recently hired to work part time on a short term basis for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign. However, the thoughts expressed in my posts on this subject are my own and should not be construed to be those of TransForm.

On Tuesday morning, the Oakland City Council, via the Public Works Committee finally had a chance to review the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). The last time they had reviewed the project was in 2006, and it has changed greatly since then, with projected ridership plummeting and costs growing. And the Public Works Committee members seemed to understand this well, asking pointed questions of BART and agendizing the project as an action item for their first meeting in September, when they return from recess.

Before the committee deliberated, BART and TransForm gave 10 minute presentations. BART’s presentation was the same one they’ve been giving for weeks – I think I’ve seen it three times now. I don’t have a copy of the Powerpoint slides, but here are the key points in it:

  • The first page has renderings of the OAC stations that are entirely inaccurate now. The airport station shows a covered walkway directly from the station to the terminal, even though this was taken out of the project due to costs long ago.
  • On ridership, BART concedes that its financial model shows that there will only be 4,350 riders in 2020 but explains that this is a very conservative model and makes the arguments that its 13,000 ridership projection from the EIR is still valid (I’ll get to why that’s wrong later)
  • BART explains away eliminating the two intermediate stops, essentially blaming it on Oakland for building a Walmart at one of the proposed stops and then saying that one day in the future the other stop “could” be built. (Yeah, because BART is so good about building infill stations.)
  • There is one slide that mentions the rapid bus alternative that TransForm has proposed and then says that BART studied it and it doesn’t work. There is no more information provided on this.

John Knox White from TransForm followed with a new presentation, which mostly focused on ridership. Check out a YouTube version of the presentation:

The presentation shows that while the 2002 EIR projects 10,200 new riders per day, a lot has changed since then. The fare has increased from $2 to $6, AirBART ridership has increased much more than expected, and the intermediate stops have been taken out. The reality is that BART’s own numbers show that there are only projected to be 440 new riders per day. Yes, you read that right, half a billion dollars for 440 new riders per day! In contrast, a rapid bus would cost an estimated $60 million and bring in 700 new riders per day. You should check out the full presentation for all the images and numbers, but this one alone is quite telling:

OAC-vs-RapidBART

After the two presentations, several Oaklanders spoke about the need to study alternatives and why the current OAC is not the best project for Oakland. dto510 presented the committee with V Smoothe’s awesome presentation about financing. If you haven’t read it yet, check it out right away, as its some of her best work yet (which says a lot). A few OAC supporters also spoke, claiming the OAC was good for business and labor.

Then it was the committee’s turn, which was the really fun part. Between the four committee members, every question that we’ve been encouraging BART and MTC to ask were finally asked. Pat Kernighan started things off, saying that she wasn’t sure that she had access to all the correct info. She proceeded to ask a series of questions of BART:

  • What happens to the funds if they don’t go to the OAC?
  • What are the operations costs?
  • How many people will use it?
  • She asked for a clarification of the Port’s position, since Commissioner Margaret Gordon spoke and said the Port has asked for a study of alternatives and still has concerns about local hire requirements, and a Port staffer basically said the Port loves the project unequivocally.
  • What fees will fund this project? (i.e. airport passenger fees)
  • She asked for more comparison of a bus to the OAC, including pros and cons and wanted to know how a rapid bus would be different from the currently operating AirBART bus.
  • Are any of the funds from voter approved measures specifically dedicated to this project?

Desley Brooks followed, calling for the item to be re-agendized as an action item immediately to see if the City still wants to continue to support the project. She said that based on the information provided at the meeting and the letter from Don Perata, who was an early supporter of the project, she needed more information. Also, early in the meeting, before the presentations, she brought up concerns about hiring locally and hiring minorities, stating that BART has an atrocious record on these issues.

Public Works Chair Nancy Nadel said she wanted to echo Kernighan’s questions. Particularly, she was concerned about high costs, high fares, and local jobs. She also wanted more information on how smooth the transition would be on each alternative. Nadel ended her comments by saying that her district (in West Oakland) is seeing enormous AC Transit service cuts, and ACT is able to accommodate more people at lower cost. She didn’t say this, but I assume she was speaking to the fact that the stimulus funds, if they didn’t go to the OAC, would be reverted back to the transit agencies, including ACT.

Rebecca Kaplan, who has been a leader in fighting for a better connnector, spoke last. She explained that the stimulus money would not be lost if it was not given to the OAC, since it would be reverted back to the transit agencies. The only way it would be lost, she said, is if it is given to the OAC, since most of it would go to concrete, steel, and out of town jobs. She then asked for a legal analysis of BART’s 2006 contract with Oakland, which states that BART should give the RFP to Oakland before it is issued and allow Oakland 15 days to comment. BART did not follow this process and instead allowed Oakland to see the RFP several days after it had been issued.

Kaplan brought up the possibility of a third terminal being built at the airport and explained that at a BART board meeting, staff said that the Port would pay for an extension to this terminal if it was ever built, which is not true. She agreed with TransForm that BART’s ridership numbers  and revenue projections for the OAC include revenue from third terminal passengers but not the cost of extending the OAC to the third terminal.

Kaplan ended by making a pretty incredible comparison about jobs creations. The OAC, which costs more than half a billion dollars, is projected to generate 350 jobs, while another project that was heard at Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Committee later in the day on Tuesday, which has a similar price tag, is projected to generate 5,000 jobs.

The committee and the full council will be holding further hearings on the OAC in September, but there’s another important hearing next week before the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC). They will be voting on $140 million in funding for the OAC. This vote will be one of the last votes on funding for the OAC, yet BART has failed to provide accurate information on projected ridership and a bus alternative. We are urging MTC not to approve this funding until BART can answer questions that advocates have been asking for months. Please join us:

What: MTC Meeting on Oakland Airport Connector Funding

When: Wednesday, July 22nd @ 10 am

Where: MTC Headquarters (101 Eighth St near Lake Merritt BART)

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

It’s time for the City Council to weigh in on the Oakland Airport Connector

29 Jun

Disclosure: I was recently hired to work part time on a short term basis for TransForm on the Oakland Airport Connector campaign. However, the thoughts expressed in my posts on this subject are my own and should not be construed to be those of TransForm.

The campaign for a better connector is really heating up. The Oakland Port Commission directed their staff to work with BART to look at alternatives to the Oakland Airport Connector (OAC). Don Perata sent a hard-hitting letter to MTC arguing that the OAC is “too much money for too little transit and economic value.” And just last Thursday, several Alameda County Transportation Improvement Authority (ACTIA) members strongly questioned the project and asked staff about alternatives.

Doesn’t it seem like it’s time for the Oakland City Council to weigh in? Larry Reid and BART don’t think so.

Last Thursday, Councilmember Nancy Nadel asked the Council Rules Committee to put a review of the OAC on the agenda for the July 14th Public Works Committee meeting, which she chairs. Specifically, she asked to agendize the “Discussion And Possible Action On The Bay Area Rapid Transit’s (BART) Design And Construction Proposal, Funding Status, Local Job Projections, And Projected Ridership For The Oakland Airport Connector Project.”

It seems commonplace for the Chair of the Public Works Committee to ask to review a half billion dollar public works project that the Council hasn’t reviewed in many years and which has changed substantially over time. So when the item came to Rules Committee, it was largely expected that they’d put it on the agenda.

BART and Larry Reid didn’t want that to happen though. Kerry Hamill, from BART, spoke to the committee and urged them to hold off hearings until after recess, in September. Her stated reasoning was that the RFP was just released and that BART wouldn’t have solid numbers until then. The problem with that argument is that BART has been approaching agency after agency for funding, so although the final financial numbers may change a bit when proposals return, the numbers are solid enough to present to MTC, the Port, and ACTIA, which means they should be ready to present to Oakland.

Councilmember Larry Reid backed up Hamill and pleaded with the other committee members to hold off until after recess. Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan presented the reasons why the committee should immediately agendize the item – costs have skyrocketed, ridership projections have plummeted, the fare has increased from $2 to $6, and the local community stops have been eliminated. She made it clear that if the Council waits until September to review the project, it would be too late for them to impact the OAC project.

Kaplan is right, and it was apparent that besides Reid, the rest of the committee members were convinced by her arguments. Ultimately though, they didn’t take any action and pushed the issue to this week’s Rules Committee meeting. This July 2nd meeting will be the last chance to agendize the issue before the Council goes on recess.

That’s why it’s so important for any Oaklander who cares about public transit and economic development to contact the Rules Committee members and ask them to immediately agendize a review of the OAC. Please take 2 minutes and send an email via TransForm’s action page.

Or if you’d prefer, email or call the committee members directly:

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

When you contact them, know that you’re not alone in asking for the City Council to weigh in on this project. Last Thursday afternoon, a few hours after the Rules Committee meeting, ACTIA heard an informational report on the OAC. Many ACTIA board members raised questions about the project and alternatives, and some specifically wanted to know whether Oakland really wants this project or not. Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty said, “I need some direction out of Oakland….that says either you want this, or you don’t want this.”

So please contact the Rules Committee and echo the words of Haggerty. It is time for Oakland to give some direction on the OAC, and the July 14th Public Works Committee meeting is the time and place for that to happen.

For background information and ongoing updates about the OAC, please visit www.OaklandAirportConnector.com.

Previous posts on the Oakland Airport Connector:

The whole story on Oakland’s proposed marijuana tax

9 Apr

On Tuesday, the Finance Committee took the first big step towards placing a marijuana tax on the ballot. And despite the Tribune’s take on this issue, this tax, if passed, will not just apply to the four medical cannabis dispensaries currently operating in Oakland.

Let me back up a bit though, since the entire story is quite interesting. A couple months ago, James Anthony, a land use attorney who represents Harborside Health Center (one of the four permitted dispensaries), approached several council members about placing a business tax on the ballot. All four dispensaries came on board with the proposal and agreed to pay a tax at ten times the rate of their current tax – 1.2% (or $12 per $1000 of gross receipts).

To me, this is fairly incredible. An industry stepped forward and said, please raise our taxes! Now, it’s not unprecedented in the medical cannabis and larger cannabis community. Those in the industry are mostly willing and happy to pay taxes, as long as they’re left alone by law enforcement.

Once this proposal was out of James Anthony’s hands, city staff and council members considered higher rates of taxation. $24 per $1000 was proposed to make a further dent in the budget. Part of the problem here is that the staff report on this issue is basing estimations of tax revenue on gross revenues from 2007. So they estimate that the $12 rate would bring in $200,000 and the $24 rate $400,000 per year. But I know the medical cannabis industry very well, and I am sure that the numbers have gone up since then (why they couldn’t use the 2008 numbers, I have no clue).

At the hearing on Tuesday, Rebecca Kaplan appeared before the committee and proposed a $14 rate, which the dispensaries had agreed to, even though it was higher than their initial proposal. Nancy Nadel followed, making a motion on the $14 rate, but Ignacio De La Fuente quickly countered that the rate should be $24.

Then came my favorite part of the hearing. Nadel responded that De La Fuente is always a proponent of bringing businesses together, and that’s exactly what she and Kaplan had done. They brought the businesses together and agreed upon a rate that everyone could live with.

But De La Fuente wouldn’t budge, and since the committee was already running 15 minutes past the end of their meeting time (an issue that I’ll write about next week), Jean Quan proposed just leaving the range open for the full Council to decide. And that’s what the committee did, which means that we’ll see an interesting debate and possibly lengthy testimony at next week’s Council meeting.

The story doesn’t end there though. There are a couple of issues that came up during the meeting that I haven’t seen addressed elsewhere. The first is that De La Fuente asked about illegal dispensaries – would they have to pay this tax? What he’s referring to are not always medical marijuana dispensaries but Measure Z adult use clubs that have popped up around the city, against the city’s wishes. Kaplan replied that she hoped this tax could be used as a civil enforcement tool. If those non-permitted marijuana clubs did not pay the taxes, the city could shut them down for this – in the same way as the Mafia was taken down.

Another interesting and important issue is that this tax does not just apply to dispensary sales. From the proposed language in the ordinance, this tax will apply to any cannabis business:

“cannabis business” means business activity including, but not limited to, planting, cultivation, harvesting, transporting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, processing, preparing, storing, packaging, wholesale and/or retail sales of marijuana, any part of the plant Cannabis sativa L. or its derivatives.

Currently, the city doesn’t regulate any cannabis business besides dispensaries, but if they decided in the future to regulate medical growers or edible producers, those people would have to pay this tax as well. And looking further into the future, if marijuana was ever legalized for adult recreational use, this tax would apply to that too. So what started as a proposal for a $12 per $1000 tax on medical cannabis dispensary sales could turn into a $24 per $1000 tax on all marijuana sales, which could potentially bring in millions of dollars of revenue annually.

It will be interesting to see how the City Council hearing goes next Tuesday. I’ll be sure to cover it here.

A bit schocking, even from Nancy Nadel

12 Sep

Wow. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

Mixed feelings, but still hopeful after the election

4 Jun

Like I said on Monday, I’m really glad the election has come and passed. But I have some mixed feelings today. I couldn’t be much happier that Rebecca Kaplan far surpassed her challengers in votes for the at large seat – though I’m sad that I was sick at home last night and couldn’t make it to her victory party. It looks like she’ll be facing Kerry Hammill in November. I’m confident she’ll win and after I take a break for a few weeks, I’ll be back out campaigning for her.

I’m also overjoyed that Mark Leno will move onto the state Senate, that Prop. 98 lost, and that my friend and former co-worker Edie Irons will soon be representing the Democratic Party on the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee. And watching the next President of the United States last night speak to a huge crowd in Minnesota about the time for change brought tears to my eyes.

But I’m also sad and confused. The voter turnout was abysmally low, not just in Oakland, but across the state. And none of the other incumbents on the City Council were defeated, though a couple of them were challenged by formidable candidates. I could go on and on all afternoon about my election thoughts, but instead I’ll share some of the thoughts of others.

David Dayen, at Calitics, liked the overall results of the election but had these statewide concerns that I think were at play here in Oakland:

Turnout was horrendous. These numbers will go up, but with all precincts reporting we’re looking at 22% turnout, the lowest in recent memory, far lower than 2006 and 2004. There still is not much of a real political culture in California with respect to state politics, and I think that’s something we have to recognize. I saw a lot of activism and citizen-led activity leading up to these primaries which made me somewhat hopeful, but it did not translate at the ballot box. Of course, with so many uncontested primaries there was little at stake. But as a measure of intensity of the electorate, there wasn’t much…

Incumbency can be defeated, but it’s tough. Carole Migden is something like the first incumbent to be beaten in a primary in California in a dozen years. Mervyn Dymally was a sitting Assemblyman and something of a legendary figure so I’ll call him a sort-of beaten incumbent. But it took lots of money to unseat these two and they had their share of political scandal. Otherwise, it’s just real hard to get your message out.

Several of us Oakland bloggers dedicated time and energy to the city council races, and East Bay Conservative had this advice for us:

My friends. My fellow bloggers: Oakland does not want your help. And, largely, those you aim to help do not deserve your time and effort.

Oakland has spoken loud and clear: Oakland does not care about changes in leadership and government. Oakland is fine the way it is. Murders, rapes, carjackings and all.

I know that there is a tendency in the face of such defeat to think such things as, “we fought the good fight; we got our message out.”

Let me say this very clearly. By participating in the political process in Oakland, you have wasted your time. You have accomplished absolutely nothing, save providing the government-media machine with a new set of intruders to repel. Our government is a self-healing mechanism, and you have strengthened its immune system for the next election…

Remember that this is not your government. It is their government, and we are all in their crosshairs. So, be selfish and self-reliant. Make decisions to protect yourselves. Be willing to leave if necessary.

I have to say that I couldn’t disagree more. I had a similar argument with some of my coworkers yesterday who were registered in other parties so could not vote in the Democratic primaries. I argued that if we’re upset with the direction of the Democratic Party, we should change it. If we don’t, we can’t expect others to do that for us. And I feel the same way about Oakland politics.

Even though V Smoothe was understandably crushed by the results in the District 3 race, she seems to ultimately feel the same way as I do about this:

Whatever the reason, it just hurts. I watch nearly every Council and Committee meeting, and I watch her performance, and I see how she treats people, and I just feel like if other people did the same thing, they would all agree that Nancy Nadel is just plain bad for Oakland. Sean Sullivan, on the other hand, well I already said it, but I just can’t say enough how incredibly fortunate Oakland would have been to have him on the City Council. I’m so upset. It’s incredibly tempting to sit around and curse the voters (and not just in this race – the other City Council outcomes didn’t surprise me, but I found the margins, in every District, unbelievable. Also, poor Tony Thurmond!), but that would be unproductive. Ultimately, it was our job to make that case to the people who live here, and we just…well, as hard as it is to accept, we clearly failed to do that. I don’t know what more we could have done. I really don’t know what more I could have done. I guess I took two nights off to go to baseball games – could I have convinced 114 people in that time?

Wev. You can’t think like that. Almost exactly two years ago, I felt, like Joanna, that I should just give up on Oakland politics and the ability of the people here to make good choices. And it isn’t just Oakland. The American public has let me down over and over again. But I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought it had to always be that way. You do what you can, you try to educate people, and you just hold out hope that someday people will wake up, get informed, and do the right thing. If I didn’t believe that could eventually happen, well, not only could I not write this blog, I don’t think I could even stand to read the newspaper. So you just promise yourself to work harder next time. And until then, go back and do whatever you can to make where you live a better place. Volunteer for a cause you care about, get out there on Sunday morning and clean up the trash on your street, and try to get your friends and neighbors to do the same.

I couldn’t agree more with that. Now is the time to reflect and figure out what we can do differently next time. It’s not the time to give up; it’s the time to fight harder.

Sean Sullivan & the Need for Change in Oakland

27 May

On Sunday, I was enjoying the sun and drinking with some friends, and the conversation turned to Oakland politics. I started talking about the need for change on the council and then I found myself saying some surprising things. I talked to my friends about how Rebecca Kaplan and Sean Sullivan are going to bring new life to the council and are going to get things done instead of just talking about getting things done.

Why did this surprise me? Well, any of my regular readers should know by now that I support Rebecca Kaplan and am volunteering for her campaign, but up until I voiced my opinion to my friends this weekend, I hadn’t really realized that I support Sean Sullivan.

You see, a few years ago, I really liked Nancy Nadel. And I’m sure I’ll get harassed for this, but I supported her mayoral campaign with my vote and a small donation. I have to admit that at the time, I didn’t know much about Oakland politics. I had only closely followed a couple issues that the council had considered, and I had bought into this idea that it was liberals vs conservatives on the council and that I should be voting for the “liberals.” I think I fell into the same trap that many groups are now falling into in their endorsement processes.

But over the past year and a half, I’ve followed Oakland politics extremely closely, thanks mostly to my fellow bloggers staying very on top of issues that the council has considered. And I’ve realized that the idealogical views of the council members are not so clear cut – they certainly don’t fall into the dichotomy of liberal vs conservative. The only way I can really divide the council is into those who get things done and those who talk about getting things done (this can also be seen as those who listen to and work with constituents and those who don’t).

Unfortunately, I’ve come to realize that Nancy Nadel falls into the second group, and I’m hopeful that both Sean Sullivan and Rebecca Kaplan will fall into the first group.

If you’re still undecided and live in District 3, I highly recommend checking out Sean’s website, which lays out in great detail what he’ll work on if elected. I also recommend checking out the Tagami Vision interview with Sean:

(I learned an interesting fact from watching the Tagami Vision interviews with Kaplan and Sullivan – both of them were Edwards supporters who switched to supporting Obama when Edwards dropped out. Certainly not a reason to vote for someone, but it’s still nice to know that these two candidates see eye to eye with me on the presidential race.)

So I guess I’m bucking the trend of pretty much all the Bay Area liberal groups who’ve issued endorsements by supporting Rebecca Kaplan (who they’ve endorsed) and by supporting Sean Sullivan (who they’ve universally rejected). This whole campaign and endorsement process has really showed me that the only way to know who is the best candidate to vote for is to do the research yourself because even groups you share values with might not have a full grasp on the issues at stake. I’ve also learned that, especially in local politics, liberal vs. conservative branding is not an indicator of how effective or responsive a politician will be.