Tag Archives: Public Ethics Commission

April 5-11 Oakland Political & Community Events

4 Apr

Monday, April 5 – Social Networking Made Easy

Do you realize you need to know about Social Networking, but get overwhelmed when you try to figure it out?  Help is on the horizon!  Dave Casuto, Director of Senior Surf, is an expert at explanations that are easy to understand!  In addition he brings a great handout so you can go over the material again later!  Dave will cover Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Linked In and more; plus he will show you how to create your own blog!  Come and bring lots of friends!This event takes place from 6:00-7:30pm at Buttercup Grill, 229 Broadway at 3rd Street. The event is sponsored by the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC).

Monday & Tuesday, April 5th & 6th – BART Community Meetings

BART is holding community meetings throughout the Bay Area this month. From BART’s website: “These series of community meetings will target minority and low-income communities along with those who have limited English skills.  The purpose is to ask these typically underrepresented communities the most effective ways BART should reach out to them so agency officials have a better understanding of their needs before making major transportation decisions.” You can probably imagine that I’m skeptical about this exercise since no major changes have been made at BART and this appears to be a way for them to meet Title VI obligations without making these changes. But who knows, maybe these meetings will make a difference, and at the least, it’s important to show up to express concerns about this process and BART in general.

Monday from 6:30pm-8:00pm at Mandela Gateway, 1350 7th Street, across from West Oakland BART.
Tuesday from 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm at the San Antonio Neighborhood Community Center, 2325 East 12th Street, near Fruitvale BART.

Find more info on BART’s website.

Wednesday, April 7th – Public Ethics Commission Meeting

This week’s Public Ethics Commission meeting should be interesting and contentious. Among other items, they’ll be discussing Ignacio De La Fuente’s proposal to raise contribution limits for city elections, a report on City Council pay, and a new complaint by Marleen Sacks. The meeting will be held at 6:30pm in the Council Chambers, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. You can read the meeting agenda here.

Thursday, April 8th – Mix It Up East Bay

Join us for a monthly happy hour bringing together young activists, organizers and leaders in the East Bay. Esperanza Tervalon-Daumont, the Executive Director of Oakland Rising will be the featured speaker of the night. Oakland Rising is a formation of four community-based organizations that have come together to build a progressive city-wide electoral base that forwards an agenda which addresses the needs and issues of low-income communities of color in Oakland. Free Snacks! Drink specials ’til 7 pm! Speaking program begins at 7 pm. Mix It Up East Bay is held every 2nd Thursday of the month from 6-9pm at Shashamane at 2507 Broadway. It’s accessible by 19th Street BART station or by AC Transit lines 1/1R, 51, 59. For more info and to RSVP, visit the event’s Facebook page.

Thursday, April 8th – Rockridge NCPC Town Hall Meeting with Chief Batts

The Rockridge Community Planning Council, the Rockridge NCPC, and the Oakland Yellowjackets will jointly meet to offer a special guest speaker, Chief Anthony Batts of the Oakland Police Department.  Chief Batts will be speaking and taking questions from the audience for the first hour of the meeting. We encourage you to come to the meeting to share your questions and concerns regarding crime and public safety in Rockridge with the Chief. This event will take place from 7-9pm at Rockridge Branch Library, 5366 College Avenue at Manila, Community Room (upstairs).

Thursday-Sunday, April 8th-11th – Bookmark Bookstore’s Spring Sale

The Bookmark Bookstore, operated by the Friends of the Oakland Public Library, will have its 30% off spring sale April this week. All proceeds benefit the Oakland Public Library. Sale pricing is offered to the public from Thursday, April 8 through Sunday, April 11, 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily.  The Bookmark is located at 721 Washington St in Old Oakland. When you shop the Bookmark, you are supporting the Oakland Public Library! Call 510-444-0473 for more information, or visit the Friends online.

Friday, April 9th – Farley’s Non-Profit of the Month Happy Hour Benefiting WOBO

Farley’s monthly “Non-Profit of the Month” Happy Hour celebrates/benefits WOBO this month! Join us at Farley’s East to eat, drink and be merry. Superstars Chris & Amy at Farley’s are not only donating proceeds from the Happy Hour to WOBO, but they’re going to put their culinary magic to work for *you* and provide free appetizers. If there’s one thing that people can agree on, it’s free, tasty food, and since it will be there, so should you! No dress code, no cover, just bring a good attitude and an appetite/thirst. For conversation if not for food and drink. The happy hour takes place from 5-9pm at Farley’s East, 33 Grand Avenue. Please RSVP on Facebook so WOBO can get a head count to prepare for food for the evening.

Friday, April 10th – Estuary Art Attack

First Fridays are not the only day of the month to check out art galleries. Jingle Town and Alameda artists have joined together to start the Estuary Art Attack, a monthly event held on second Fridays to showcase the area’s galleries, restaurants, and bars. The Art Attack will be held from 6-9 pm throughout Jingle Town and Alameda. Check out their website for more details.

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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.

February 22-28 Oakland Political & Community Events

21 Feb

Monday, February 22 – East Bay Young Democrats’ February Confab

On Monday, February 22nd, EBYD will be holding our first membership meeting of 2010. This will be an exciting meeting that you don’t want to miss. We’ll be determining priorities for the club for the year, reviewing our endorsement calendar, making plans for the CDP/CYD convention, and hearing from a couple of guest speakers about statewide initiatives. We’ll also be electing a new At-Large Executive Committee member, as Christine Smith has resigned after moving to Pennsylvania. Current nominations have been submitted for Anthony Sanchez and Dorian Peters. Please join us to shape the direction of the club. All are welcome and encouraged to participate! The meeting will take place from 6:30-8:30pm at Spice Monkey, 1628 Webster Street (Btwn 15th & 17th and 3 blocks from 19th Street BART). For more info and to RSVP, visit the Facebook event page.

Monday, February 22 – Mayor Dellums’ State of the City Address

Mayor Ron Dellums will address Oakland residents during his third State of the City address, likely trying to convince the audience that his tenure has been successful and Oakland is improving because of him. The address will be held at 6pm in the Council Chambers of City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. You can read my brief review of last year’s state of the city address and V Smoothe’s in-depth review of the first state of the city address.

Wednesday, February 24 – League of Women Voters Forum: Do Oakland Citizens Need a Public Ethics Commission?

The Public Ethics Commission (PEC) administers Oakland’s Sunshine Ordinance. What does “sunshine” mean in the affairs of our city and our rights as citizens to know what and how city government is doing? Andrew Wiener, past PEC chair, will lead off what should be a lively discussion. The League of Women Voters of Oakland sponsors monthly HOT TOPICS roundtable discussions to inform members and the public, and to seek ways we can come together to address important issues facing our community. This forum will be held from 6:30 – 8:00 PM at Redwood Heights Community Center, 3883 Aliso Avenue (Off Redwood Road below Highway 13).

Wednesday, February 24 – Missing Links Town Hall

Join The American Institute of Architects, East Bay, for a panel discussion and town hall forum discussing missing vital transportation links between Oakland and Alameda. Wine and cheese will be served after the program. Citizens of Oakland and Alameda are strongly encouraged to participate! Panelists include Patricia Kernighan, Oakland Council Member; John Knox White, Transform; Jeff Cambra, BikeAlameda Board Member; and John Eddy, ARUP. The event begins at 5:30pm and will be held at AIA East Bay Chapter Office, 1405 Clay Street, Oakland. The event is free and open to the public, but registration required. Click here to register.

Thursday, February 25 – The Worst is Yet to Come: An Economic Budget Forum

The Alameda County Budget Workgroup and its Chair, Supervisor Keith Carson, are hosting a free public forum that will examine how Alameda County finances are being squeezed by the current Federal and State Budgets and the effects on residents, community-based organizations, and service providers. This forum will be held at 9:00am at the Elihu Harris State Building Auditorium, 1500 Clay Street, Oakland. To RSVP, please visit www.acgov.org/budgetforums.htm.

Thursday, February 25 – AC Transit Community Forum on Line 1R Service and Reliability Study

The results of the Line 1R Service and Reliability Study will be presented at a community outreach forum. The study, which began in October 2008, was designed to yield data and analysis that could help improve the line’s reliability, overall efficiency, and customer satisfaction. Bus riders and members of the general public are invited to attend, hear about the study’s findings, and discuss with AC Transit planners how best to apply the results to improve the service. The forum will be held at AC Transit’s General Offices, 1600 Franklin Street in Oakland, from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Read the full study at AC Transit’s website.

Thursday, February 25th – Walk Oakland Bike Oakland Meeting

Meet Michael Flocchini, AC Transit’s Education and Training Manager, at the next WOBO Member Meeting. Michael will share AC Transit’s current project to update driver training to improve bike/ped safety. We’d love to have you there, because Michael wants to learn from you – he’s interested in your constructive ideas on how buses, bikes and pedestrians can all share the road! This meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 pm at Bay Area Wilderness Training, 2301 Broadway, Suite B – enter on 23rd Street. For more info, visit WOBO’s website.

January 4-10 Oakland Political & Community Events

3 Jan

Monday, January 4thPublic Ethics Commission Meeting

Among other items, the Public Ethics Commission will be continuing its discussion of updates to the lobbyist registration ordinance. For background, you should read the account by Max Allstadt of the initial hearing and the more recent post by John Klein about the proposed changes to the ordinance. 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.

Monday, January 4th – Assemblymember Nancy Skinner: The Legislation That Doesn’t Make the Headlines – But Impacts Our Lives!

Begin the year with a dynamic conversation with our own Assemblymember Nancy Skinner on the bigger picture of what happens in the state legislature! Hundreds of bills pass the legislature-but the media only covers a few!  Find out about important legislation in the areas of environment, women’s issues, health, education, social services, and more that is under the radar screen of sound bytes! Please plan to arrive at 6pm so you can order your dinner before the program begins. This event takes place from 6:30-8:00pm at Buttercup Grill, 229 Broadway at 3rd Street. The event is sponsored by the National Women’s Political Caucus.

Tuesday, January 5th – Oakland City Council Meeting

The hot item for Tuesday’s meeting will be the votes on the implementation and funding of instant runoff voting, which I’ll be writing about in more detail tomorrow. The Council will also discuss providing a loan to the Fox Theater so it can pay its contractors, registration of foreclosed and vacant residential properties, the citywide parking policy study, and more. 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, January 6th – 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, George Lakoff will present on the ballot initiative he’s circulating that if passed would make tax and budget votes in the state legislature subject to majority votes, instead of 2/3 votes, which has allowed Republican legislators to hold the budget process hostage. 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.

Friday, January 8th – Actual Cafe Grand Opening Party

Come be a part of Actual Rising, the grand opening party of Actual Cafe, which is a new cafe that’s very bike-centric. There will be music, beer, wine, and art by Allan Ayres. The party will be held from 6pm – 10pm at Actual Cafe, 6334 San Pablo Avenue (@ Alcatraz Avenue). Find more info about the cafe at their website or read Our Oakland’s review.

Friday, January 8th – Estuary Art Attack

First Fridays are not the only day of the month to check out art galleries. Jingle Town and Alameda artists have joined together to start the Estuary Art Attack, a monthly event held on second Fridays to showcase the area’s galleries, restaurants, and bars. The Art Attack will be held from 6-9 pm throughout Jingle Town and Alameda. Check out their website for more details.

Saturday, January 9th – East Bay Vegan Bakesale

I really wish I wasn’t going to be in LA this weekend so I could go to this because it sounds delicious. Several local bakeries will be donating scrumptious vegan baked goods for this sale, which is a fundraiser for Bad Rap Pit Bull Rescue and the School Garden Program at Laurel Elementary School. The sale will be held from 11am-4pm at Issues, 20 Glen Avenue, near Piedmont Ave. Find more info at the Fat Bottom Bakery Blog.

John Klein: The Public Ethics Commission Plods On

7 Dec

This guest post was written by John Klein, a resident of Oakland for over 23 years. His sense of ethics was formed as full-time volunteer for 12 years during the 70’s and 80’s with Nyingma Centers, a Tibetan Buddhist community in Berkeley and Sonoma County, and more recently as a legal assistant in large Bay Area firms.

On December 7th, tonight, the Public Ethics Commission (PEC) continues its discussions on amendments to the Lobbyist Registration Act (LRA) and to its own enabling ordinance (OMC).  These have been in the works since July of this year.  The PEC will also decide several outstanding ethics complaints filed by David Mix.  Here’s the agenda for PEC’s December meeting.

The need for changes to the lobbying law arose during a series of ethics complaints in the first half of 2009.  In the midst of those complaints, it became apparent that our law was not well thought-out making it hard to enforce.  Even so, I’ve been of the opinion that the PEC could have done more than simply dismiss the complaints.  It could have issued Advice Letters clarifying the ambiguous situations which would have had the further effect of upholding the public’s right-to-know who is lobbying local officials.  However, the PEC decided, wrongly in my view, that the LRA is too ambiguous to enforce.  The real effect of the course taken by the PEC was to gut our law and, at the same time, signal lobbyist that they won’t be held accountable

To its credit, the PEC recognized the law needs to be changed, especially regarding volunteer or unpaid lobbyist associated with large, non-profit business groups, and undertook the current process to amend the law. As it stands today, however, a group of businesses can form a non-profit business group and lobby City Hall without the need to disclose it.  Some groups are already doing this.

With regard to the amendments, first of all, we’ll see clearer distinctions of the different types of lobbyists and how they are regulated.  Three categories of lobbyists are proposed, two of which are already part of the LRA and will only be “tweaked” in these amendments.  The first is a “contract” lobbyist who is someone hired by another for the purpose of lobbying.  When the contract lobbyist makes more than $5,000 a year, they must register as a local lobbyist.  The change for contract lobbyists is to increase the compensation threshold from $1,000 to $5,000.

The second type is an “in-house” lobbyist and is someone that lobbies as a part of their employment or on behalf of their employer; they don’t receive extra compensation for the lobbying.  The change for in-house lobbyist is that any compensated employee, not just board members or salaried employees, must register if they lobbying local officials.

A third, new category would be the “volunteer” lobbyist.  This is someone that is a non-compensated officer, director, managing member and/or managing partner of an entity who communicates six or more times with local officials (the number of contacts is still being worked out).  For this type of lobbyist, a threshold number of contacts with an official or officials will trigger the requirement to register as a lobbyist.  The number of contacts could be as few as one contact per month to trigger the requirement, or as many as 25 or more during a given period.

I like the addition of the volunteer lobbyist category and think it will solve the problems created when businesses form non-profit groups and lobby without disclosing it. Clearly, a business group seeks only to improve the business prospects of its members.  It is disingenuous and untrue to think a powerful business association is the same as, or on par with, groups like the Friends of the Oakland Public Library or the Sierra Club – they clearly are not.  If adopted, volunteer lobbyists will have to report their lobbying activities after they make a specific number of “communications” or “contacts” with local officials.  This idea is still being refined and is not a done deal.

Another non-controversial proposal is that the PEC wants to expand the list of private industry position titles subject to lobbyist registration so that “managing member” and “managing partner” are included.  This may not seem like a big deal, but it is.  A Limited Liability Company (LLC) is run by managing members but currently our LRA doesn’t include managing members.  Right now, there are a number of managing members of LLCs regularly lobbying City Hall but they don’t have to report it.  This addition will change that.

The PEC is also adding a new section called “Findings and Declarations” which sets out the purposes of the lobbying law.  The lobbying laws of other cities and jurisdictions usually have a section at the beginning that states the reasons for lobbyist registration.  These declarations reaffirm the need for transparency in government; restate the public’s right-to-know who is meeting with government officials attempting to influence legislation; and re-enforce that openness in government is necessary to eliminate corruption or the appearance of corruption from the legislative process.

Oakland’s LRA doesn’t have a declaration like this and the absence of on puts the PEC, and the public, at a disadvantage.  If the PEC hears complaints with situations and facts that lead to ambiguous outcomes, there is nothing in the current law for the PEC to fall back on.  And we’ve already seen this.  The PEC has already dismissed complaints citing “ambiguities” and no statement of purpose to fall back on.  With a statement of purpose, the PEC can cite those purposes in order to decide complaints in a way that preserves the public’s interests.  Follow this link to read more about these proposed changes in the LRA.

On a different front, changes to OMC 2.20, the PEC enabling ordinance, center on qualifications and restrictions for PEC commissioners.  The limitations currently proposed for future commissioners are that they, 1) can’t be employed by the City or one of its Agencies, 2) can’t act as a local governmental lobbyist, 3) can’t seek election to any Oakland public office, 4) can’t seek election, to any other public office, or participate in or contribute to an Oakland municipal campaign, 5) can’t publicly endorse, support, oppose, or work on behalf of any candidate or measure in an Oakland election, 6) can’t accept a gift of any value from an Oakland elected or appointed official.  The last item about gifts has a long explanation about the definition of a gift.

The Metropolitan Greater Oakland Democratic Club has been asking for these rule changes and I hope they are successful.  MGO’s push arose from the situation wherein a new PEC commissioner was appointed who is also the registered domestic partner of a local government lobbyist.  A number of people in the community felt blindsided by this appointment and its obvious conflict of interest.  Even the PEC chair, Andrew Weiner, was not aware of the conflict before the appointment of the new commissioner early this year.  Oakland residents deserve and should expect ethics commissioners to be free of perceived or actual conflicts or personal ties with the very lobbyists they regulate.  This is the only way to ensure that commissioners will act impartially while on the commission. You can read the proposed changes here.

There are a number of other interesting changes under consideration by the PEC which aren’t on the December agenda.  They include a PEC recommendation that the Mayor, the City Council, and the City Administrator be required to maintain sign-in sheets for visitors.  The PEC also wants the Mayor and City Council to maintain electronic daily calendars and meeting schedules and to make them available to the public online.  PEC staff is researching technology platforms to make this possible and we should see something about this early next year.

The PEC also recommends a ban on “Late Night Decision-Making” which would prohibit the City from making certain decision between the hours of 11pm – 9am.   Finally, the PEC wants to expand of the group of City officials and employees who must take two hours of Mandatory Sunshine Training every two years.   Here’s more information about it the items not on the December agenda.

I hope everyone gets the opportunity to watch or attend this month’s meeting.  If not, you can always send your comments to the PEC by email to ethicscommission@oaklandnet.com.

September 21-27 Oakland Political & Community Events

21 Sep
Tuesday, September 22nd – Oakland City Council Meeting

After a two month long recess, the Council is back in action this week and this first meeting is full of important and contentious issues. Among many other items, the Council will discuss and vote on an emergency moratorium on nail salons and laundromats, the Public Works Agency performance audit, the City Auditor’s whistleblower program report, and the authorization of incoming Chief of Police Anthony Batts’s salary. That is, they’ll be discussing all of those items if they can get past the most contentious topic of the night – parking. Pat Kernighan, after being targeted by a pro-parking mob, has proposed rolling back meter hour to 6pm from 8pm. The problem is that this would blow a $1.3 million hole in the city’s incredibly tight budget. Kernighan’s solution is to crack down on disabled placard parking fraud, but staff recommends not rolling back the meter times and Rebecca Kaplan sent the Council a copy of Donald Shoup’s presentation on “The High Cost of Free Parking.” 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.

Tuesday, September 22nd – Walk Oakland Bike Oakland Meeting

Since attendees of past Volunteer Meetings have asked for more speakers on local bike/ped issues, expect to see more “special guests” at WOBO’s monthly meetings. We’re kicking things off with speaker Joel Peter, the Measure DD Coordinator, who will get us up to date on the Measure DD projects. We’ll also talk about the status of WOBO campaigns in progress and leave time for announcements from attendees (just let us know before the meeting that you’ve got an event or info to share). As always, there will be snacks and lots of bike parking.This meeting will be held from 6:30-8:30 pm at Bay Area Wilderness Training, 2301 Broadway, Suite B – enter on 23rd Street. For more info, visit WOBO’s website.

Wednesday, September 23rd – Public Hearings on AC Transit’s Proposed Service Changes

AC Transit will hold public hearings to present its proposed Service Adjustments Plan and gather feedback from the public. If you’re concerned about losing your bus line or just want to hear more about the extensive service adjustments, these will be important hearings to attend. In October, the Board will likely make its final decision on the service adjustments, taking into consideration all public comments received. The Board could accept, modify, reject, or defer each of the proposed changes. If service adjustments are adopted, they likely would be implemented in January 2010. Take the bus: All lines serving downtown Oakland (also BART to 19th Street). The workshops will be held from 2-5pm AND 6-8pm at the AC Transit offices, 1600 Franklin Street, 2nd Floor Board Room. Find further info at AC Transit’s website.

Wednesday, September 23rd – League of Women Voters State Budget Forum

From the League’s website: “At the kick-off meeting on September 15 we will have heard about budget issues from a local perspective. What is the state perspective? We will have a resource person from Assemblymember Sandré Swanson’s office to bring us up to date on the latest information on the state budget. Come learn and talk about what you can be doing to make things happen both here in Oakland and in Sacramento.” The forum will be held from 6:30-8 PM at Lincoln Court Senior Housing, 2400 MacArthur Blvd. (corner of Lincoln and MacArthur).

Thursday, September 24thSpecial Meeting of the Public Ethics Commission

The Public Ethics Commission will be holding a special meeting to discuss proposed amendments to Oakland’s lobbyist registration act. The commission will discuss 1) whether registration and reporting requirements should be limited to paid, professional representatives of an organization or include volunteer representatives as well; 2) should persons who lobby City officials have to communicate a minimum number of times or devote a certain amount of their time to lobbying before triggering a registration requirement; and 3) should people be except from registering if the communications they make are a) made in writing or at a public meeting or, b) made on behalf of certain non-profit groups that operate on City property and provide a public service.These proposals sprang from a commission hearing in May at which John Klein had launched a complaint against Carlos Plazola for not registering with the City for certain lobbying activities. For background, you should read the account by Max Allstadt of the initial hearing and the lengthy discussion that followed it. The meeting will be held at 6:30pm in Hearing Room 2, City Hall, 1 Frank Ogawa Plaza. You can read the meeting agenda here.

Thursday, September 24thWellstone Democratic Club Meeting

The Bay Area Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club will present and discuss”Americans and the Climate Crisis: Attitudes and Social Change” featuring Aaron Pope, Director of Sustainability Programs, California Academy of Sciences. The meeting will be held from 6-9pm at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th Street in Oakland. For more information, visit the club’s website.

Friday, September 25th – Dancing Under the Stars at Jack London Square

Due to the success of Dancing Under the Stars, Jack London Square will offer an additional four-event series of free outdoor dance classes on select Friday nights through the end of September. Singles and couples alike can practice their sizzling salsa moves, learn new Latin dances like the Cha Cha, or do the Hustle while listening to disco. Live bands will add a new level of entertainment to the program. Novices and experienced dancers are all welcome to spend the evening dancing outdoors on Oakland’s celebrated waterfront.  No reservation is required, and all ages are welcome. Dancing Under the Stars will begin at 7:30 PM for professional dance lessons and 8:30 PM for open dance  at the foot of Broadway. This Friday, they’ll be teaching Rumba and Cha Cha.

Friday, September 25th – Fourth Friday Summer Nights: A Little Princess

This summer, the Dunsmuir Hellman Historic Estate is hosting free movies on the fourth Friday of each month. This month, they’ll be showing Finding Neverland. Via V Smoothe, “The grounds open at 6 PM for picnicking and wandering. Music is provided before the movies, which begin around 8:30, once the sun sets. And if you don’t have a car, no problem! AC Transit line 45 drops you off maybe a 10 minute walk (or less, depending on how fast you walk, I guess) from the Estate and runs until midnight.” The estate is located at 2960 Peralta Oaks Ct.

Saturday, September 26th – Love Your Parks Day

Each year, in the fall, Oakland Parks Coalition (OPC) conducts a city-wide survey of Oakland parks to determine their condition. This year the survey is more important than ever due to the maintenance cutbacks. We need lots of volunteers to ensure that all parks are surveyed. The data from our annual surveys is used as a basis for an OPC annual report, 2007 Community Report Card on the Maintenance of Oakland Parks, which is presented early each year to the Life Enrichment Committee of City Council. The written report and a Power Point Presentation are tools used by OPC to advocate for improved and enhanced maintenance services in Oakland Parks. Meet at 8:30am at the Lakeside Garden Center, 666 Bellevue Avenue, Oakland. After a continental breakfast you’ll be sent out in teams to survey 3-5 Oakland parks. To find out more information and RSVP, visit OPC’s website.

Saturday, September 26th – Democratic Unity Dinner

The Democratic Unity Dinner is the county’s largest party fundraiser. This year, speakers include Attorney General Jerry Brown, Lt. Governor John Garamendi, State Treasurer Bill Lockyer, and Board of Equalization Chair Betty Yee. The Party will be honoring ACDCC long-time member Maggie Gee for all her hard work on behalf of the Democratic Party over the years. The Oakland United Democratic Campaign (UDC) will receive the 2009 Democratic Club/UDC award recognizing co-chairs Elizabeth Echols and Rodney Brooks in particular for their success. The monies raised for this event helps support our six county UDCs for 2010. Cocktails at 6 pm and dinner at 7:30 pm at the Oakland Airport Hilton, One Hegenberger Road. Find more info and purchase tickets on ActBlue.

Sunday, September 27th – Rockridge Out and About

The Rockridge District Association organizes its annual street festival to attract residents, visitors and new businesses to College Avenue.  For one magical afternoon, 10 blocks are transformed into a street fair featuring live music, cooking demonstrations, artisans and food booths, arts, crafts and kids activities. I’ve always enjoyed this street festival, but this year they’re adding an awesome new feature – a Cookbook Exchange! Bring a used cookbook and exchange it for another (remaining books will go to the Rockridge Public Library). The festival takes place from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on College Avenue from Claremont to the Rockridge Library, in the Rockridge shopping district. Find more info at the festival’s website.

Sunday, September 27th – Sundays in the Redwoods – The Oakland Symphony

This free concert features the The Oakland Symphony & John Handy. Bring sunscreen, hats and water– it can get very hot in the sun. Gates open at 1:30– concerts start at Woodminster Amphitheater in Joaquin Miller Park, 3300 Joaquin Miller Road. To reserve a picnic table, contact Renee Tucker at 238-4720. Find more info at the Sundays in the Redwoods website.