Election Recommendations: November 2016

2016 November Election Recommendations

This year’s local election has a lot of clear, easy choices, and one really tough one (M1), plus a crazy amount of other initiatives and measures.

Following are the quick recommendations, more below for those who want to understand why they are recommended.

Endorsement Summary:

City Council (you can vote for two)
Strongly Support:

  • Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft
  • Malia Vella

School Board (vote for three)
Strongly support:

  • Gray Harris
  • Anne McKereghan
  • (see below for thoughts on third vote)s

Judge (Office 1)
Strongly Support

  • Scott Jackson

City Auditor
Strongly Support

  • Mike McMahon

City Treasurer

  • No Endorsement (see write-up)

AC Transit (At-Large)

  • H.E. Christiean Peeples

East Bay Regional Parks

  • Ellen Corbett

State Assembly (18th District)
Strongly Support:

  • Rob Bonta

State Senate (9th District)

  • Nancy Skinner

Local / County Measures

  • A1 (Housing bond) – Yes
  • B1 (Schools) – Yes
  • K1 (Utility Tax) – Yes
  • L1 (City council shenanigans) – No
  • M1 (Rent Control) – See write-up
  • C1 (AC Transit) – Yes
  • RR (BART) — Yes

State-wide

  • Prop 51 – Soft Yes
  • Prop 52 – No
  • Prop 53 – No
  • Prop 54 – Yes
  • Prop 55 – Yes
  • Prop 56 – Yes
  • Prop 57 – Yes
  • Prop 58 – Yes
  • Prop 59 – Yes
  • Prop 60 – No
  • Prop 61 – Yes
  • Prop 62 – Oh Yes
  • Prop 63 –Yes
  • Prop 64 – Yes
  • Prop 65 – No
  • Prop 66 – Hell No
  • Prop 67 – Yes

Endorsements Explained:
 
City Council (you can vote for two)
Development and its resulting issues, plus housing costs and inequality are the two major issues in this race. These endorsements are informed by my strong belief that long-term, we’re not stopping development. It won’t happen, so we should:

  • work to ensure that developments that occur provide benefits to all Alamedans,
  • are designed to support the city’s goals and
  • be livable, vibrant spaces that people want to be in, and
  • provide additional transportation options, not just to new residents, but for everyone in Alameda.

Therefore, the best choices for city council are the people who have shown they have a solid understanding of how the council can ensure that good decisions are made, not pretend that voting “no” is a sustainable choice that will lead to positive solutions in Alameda. 
 
With this frame, there are two clear choices for ensuring that best-practice planning efforts occur related to developments that do proceed.
 
Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft has a proven track record of rejecting bad development ideas, pushing developer to provide necessary transportation solutions, and working regionally to ensure that Alameda is at the table when issue regarding transportation, funding, etc. are being discussed. She’s strongly supported intergrated, mixed-use developments that ensure they support job-growth and community benefits.
 
Ashcraft was the single voice on the city council pushing the city to look at and come up with consensus solutions related to the high number of families who have been forced out of their homes by bad-faith actors in the residential real estate business. The current rules may not be perfect, but they absolutely would not exist without her dogged leadership on the council.
 
Not everyone on the council does their homework, some do, and at the top of the list is Ezzy Ashcraft. Watchers of council meetings know that she is always prepared and thoughtful. Someone who has shown an ability to bring voices together and enact positive legislation.
 
Malia Vella –Vella has been very involved in Alameda civics for years. She’s been on the Historic Advisory Board for three years and is currently serving as the president of the Board. She haa publicly shown up to engage in multiple high profile issues: Supporting safer streets for people who walk and bicycle, pushing the council to enact protections for families who are losing their homes due to exorbitant rent increases. She’s been visible and public in her positions of the day and shown herself to be a thoughtful, intelligent and energetic advocate for keeping Alameda livable for all.
 
Misc notes: Lena Tam is running again after disappearing from politics for the last couple of years. I’ve been a big supporter over the years, but like my position on past candidates who have termed out and then re-run for office after a couple of years, I’m not supportive of recycling candidates. We need to ensure we have new voices. If Tam’s elected, we may have three voice from the same council of ten years ago. That would be a missed opportunity given who’s running this year. Jennifer Roloff: I know a number of people who are her friends, she is apparently intelligent and nice. She’s clearly articulate, but also clearly uninformed on local issues. She’s admitted that has not been involved in Alameda issues at all. (video) This is a big problem. Roloff has said she is running because friends of her husband didn’t get a city contract. You can see video of her saying this here, where she shows that she misunderstands the city’s contracting process. Asked about national issues related to policing and communities of color, she suggested increasing the militarization of the police as a solution (Roloff claims she’s not a politician so the question caught her by surprise, that this was where she immediately went is troubling, politician or not…and the other four were able to answer this more appropriately). Video of her at the Alameda Peeps forum show her having very strong opinions but not having an understanding of the issues she discussed. Perhaps she’ll engage in some issues, become informed on the ones she says are important, develop a track record that can be seen by all and then run again. Daysog: fourteen years on the council and still nothing to recommend his reelection. Daysog clearly cares about Alameda, but his votes and actions don’t make things better. He turns himself into a pretzel to vote both sides of an issue. He supported the rent stabilization initiative, and the immediately tried to gut it, unsuccessfully. He tried to get his council mates to reverse direction in supporting housing for formerly homeless families at Alameda Point to support housing for people of means. The only positive on these issues is that he’s so ineffective. These, and many other of his actions, suggest other candidates are a better choice for Alameda.
 
School Board (vote for three) 
There is only one incumbent running this election, Gray Harris, and she deserves the community’s wholehearted support.
 
Gray Harris was appointed in the last couple of years to replace Nielsen Tam. At that time, Harris’ history as the former head of the Alameda’s teacher union (AEA) made some people who watch schools nervous. But now many of them are supporters. That’s speaks volumes. She’s smart, focused on making Alameda schools even better and looking out for students and effective.
 
Anne McKereghan has been engaged in school policy and issues for years and is now finally running for the Board. Anne’s tireless advocacy for Alameda’s schools has ensured our kids have better funding, more equitable programs and stronger school leadership.
 
Quick take on the remaining candidates (I’m not endorsing a third candidate. I think all of the remaining four people will be good board members but my knowledge of them is limited and keeps me from encouraging votes for one above any of the others): 

Ardella Dailey: As a former superintendent at AUSD, lots of experience with education policy and a strong connection to the district. Depending on your feelings about charter schools and their impact on public schools, Dailey’s strong support for charters may increase or decrease your support. . Jennifer Williams: Strong social justice perspective who has sat on the City’s social services and human relations board (SSHRB) and worked on school issues for the last few years. Having never met Ms. Williams, I don’t know enough to endorse, but appreciate her apparent care for the issues she works on. Matt Hettich: Smart and thoughtful from my brief interactions with him. Heitich hasn’t been heavily involved in district level school issues so I don’t know a lot about his overall philosophy. Dennis Popalardo: Managing partner in a law firmDedicated teacher in Alameda and a latecomer to the race missing a number of endorsement opportunities. He’s supported by a lot of people that I respect, but I have no personal knowledge of his positions and ability to legislate as a Board member.
 
Judge #1
Scott Jackson has the support of judges and legal associations. He’s a commonsense vote. His opponent, Barbara Thomas, was ceremoniously un-elected from the Alameda City Council in the early nineties after numerous run-ins with the police, including an investigation into the alleged breaking into a fellow council members office. There is a clear choice in this race. Jackson
 
City Auditor and Treasurer
These two positions are both very limited in scope/ Both positions require only a few hours of work each  year. In fact, the City’s Finance Director told the city council that the auditor only does 4-6 hours of work a year. This is because the elected auditor only ceritifies an audit that is conducted by an independent auditor who is hired by the city. and yet, both both positions have been costing the city approximately $25,000 a year each in stipends and benefits.

It’s time to look at whether these positions (unrelated to the individuals in the job) are providing a benefit for the costs they incur. An important note, it is sometimes said that these positions are the financial check on the city, that their role is to weigh in on fiscal policy, etc. It’s not. They have specific jobs outlined in the charter, this does not include fiscal policy oversight. While they may contribute positively to the conversation, when they do this, they do it as plain-old residents, just like you and me, not in an elected capacity. 
 
City Auditor:
Mike McMahon: as the longtime Treasurer of the City of Alameda Democratic Club and running on a platform of looking to eliminate the position of Auditor and Treasurer. In an election between a Democrat and a conservative, I’m going to go with the Democrat.

City Treasurer: No endorsement. Neither candidate has addressed the issues related to the costs associated with the position so I’m not recommending. I’ll likely vote for the incumbent, who’s given a lot of his time to the city in a multitude of ways unrelated to the position.

AC Transit
Chris Peeples has long represented the district. He’s a wealth of historical knowledge and been a strong voice in support of Alameda’s transit needs. There is nothing in the history of his service that suggests he should not be reelected.
 
East Bay Regional Parks
Ellen Corbett: has been a longtime and effective leader for the environment and sustainability. The EBRP Board would benefit from her strong leadership and extensive policy understanding.

Assembly District 18

As if there is any other choice. Rob Bonta has represented Alameda well, and enacted a host of legislation that should make our community proud, he deserves reelection.

State Senate (9th District)
Nancy Skinner: Two solid choices (thanks term limits!) but only one can be elected Skinner’s record on gun violence, environmental and other key issues has shown her to be an effective legislator who can get issues through the complicated political process in Sacramento.

Local / County Measures (too many!)

A1 (Housing bond) – Yes
Not a silver bullet or our housing ills, but will help to support upwards of 100 affordable housing units in Alameda beyond what our current housing pipeline can provide. These would be housing for those most in need of it and an inability to afford it. Compassion says vote yes.

B1 (Schools) – Yes
A replacement for the $12 million parcel tax passed four years ago. This will go to hire and retain excellent teachers, support education programs. A failure to reauthorize means budget cuts in the coming years. The no camp is the same set of anti-school folks no funded by outside statewide interests. This is a reauthorization of the same parcel tax approved by voters four years ago. Removing this funding from our schools would cause chaos and reduce the educational opportunities for Alameda’s kids.
K1 (Utility Tax) – Yes
Using a creative reading of the current law, some cellphone companies are not collecting the utility tax that phone carriers are supposed to pay. This law will fix the inequality in some carriers paying the tax and others not. It will also allow voters to support the current practice of using city enterprise departments (Alameda Municipal Power) to provide support for other key city services. This will not change rates, only confirm via voter approval, an existing city practice.
L1 (City council shenanigans) – No
Voting for this will have zero impact on anything. It is already the law, and voters defeating it will not remove it. It’s an advisory measure and a waste of time. This was put on the ballot by three members of the council to confuse voters and attempt to move the conversation away from M1 and the issues that it raises. One of those council members is on the ballot today. Tony Daysog. It should be noted that the campaign in support of L1 is being run by outside corporate forces who are spending what appears to be more money than any Alameda has ever seen. Ironically, they are most of the same people who fought vehemently against the city council adopting the ordinance embodied in L1 and unsuccessfully tried to qualify a ballot initiative to overturn it.
M1 (Rent Control) – no endorsement
I’ll state my position upfront: renting homes to people and families is not just a business. These are people’s homes, not shoes, or TVs, or widgets. It’s literally people’s lives. I don’t believe that unfettered profits need to be protected over protecting Alameda’s families from the stress they face because of the rising cost of housing for themselves and their family.

If you think that the families and individuals who make up Alameda’s majority of residents (over 50% are renters) are important to look out for, the number one thing you can do is vote for Ezzy Ashcraft and Vella. These are the two voices in this council race who are most committed to supporting all residents in Alameda, not just the propertied.

Alameda and the Bay Area are in the midst of a significant period where the cost of living and housing have grown so out of whack that families and individuals are leaving our city and our area in droves. On my block, we’ve had two families kicked out of their homes in order to raise their rates. Both had young children. It’s clear that we need protections for our valued fellow residents.

Four to five years ago, I would have been “no” on rent control. I would have argued that over the long term, rent control can impact the rental market and the market will work its way to the right rent level. But, it became clear to me that in Alameda, and throughout the Bay Area, the “market” has subsidized individuals who own property by limiting the ability of market forces to increase housing to meet demand. Alameda has been at the vanguard of this with Measure A. In a system where the law limits supply, then a measure that controls for demand costs is needed to off-set that market comstraint.

M1 is on the ballot because a majority of the city council could not come together to develop a well-crafted ordinance (the result was L1). Council member’s Matarrese and Daysog worked hard to gut or avoid any protections for renters, joined by Mayor Spencer. The result was loopholes that were left in the ordinance, combined with generous annual rent increases for landlords and this lead renters to gather signatures (via grassroots efforts, not paid employees) for M1.

So, why am I not encouraging a vote for “Yes on M1?” Because I believe that this should have been better vetted and put on the ballot with a broader coalition. By putting this into the city’s charter, it is getting seriously baked into our system and I’m still struggling to determine if it’s written well enough to gain my “yes” vote. However, If it doesn’t pass, this city is going to need to take further steps to protect our fellow Alamedans.

The “no on M1” campaign is silly. It highlights unsubstantiated costs for enacting the measure and its required oversight. First, if protecting people from losing their homes is important, then how do you put a price on that? We should be having a conversation about costs and tradeoffs. It’s important to note that L1 also has a multi-million dollar cost, it’s lower but somewhat vetted, but since it is already approved, the “yes on L1/no on M1” campaign pretends these costs don’t exist. Also, M1 does not remove the ability of landlords to remove problem tenants, it only removes “no cause” evictions–literally you can’t just evict people for no reason or to jack the rent. (The ordinance masquerading as L1 handles this differently at a high cost to landlords with long-term tenants).

If M1 passes, it will likely need future votes to amend it. If it doesn’t pass, then a new M1 or amended L1 ordinance will likely need to be developed. Therefore, as mentioned at the top, the number one thing people interested in protecting Alameda’s renters can do is elect Ezzy Ashcraft and Vella who will work with all sides to come to a fair solution.

C1 (AC Transit) – Yes
This is a re-authorization of an existing parcel tax that is already providing transit in Alameda. A failure to pass C1 will lead to a reduction in transit service in the East Bay at a time when more options are needed.

RR (BART) – Yes
For years, BART spent energy expanding its routes at the expense of its core system. Luckily, changes at the Board and the leadership have changed this direction. RR will fund much needed projects for the core system which will lead to improvements in service for Alameda’s riders. A failure to pass additional funding will lead to more and more breakdowns and worse commutes for all of us.

Statewide
This year I’m doing a quick summary on the statewide recommendations.
Prop 51: Soft Yes, K-12 and community colleges have significant infrastructure funding needs and bonds are a good way to pay for these. Could have been written better to ensure better design and siting requirements, but a perfect bond is not typical and this meets an important need.
Prop 52: soft No, while well intended with heart in the right place, 52 requires more of California’s famed ballot box budgeting, which never works out the way it’s supposed to. CA voters shouldn’t be directing program funding.
Prop 53 – NO – Billionaire’s picking their personal fights via the ballot box should not be rewarded. Requiring voter approval for bonds backed by revenues, not the general fund is just another way to gum up an already messed up system.
Prop 54: Yes, This has a local interest perspective. Alameda’s ferry system was secretly taken from the city through the legislature’s ridiculous gut and amend system, which allows for deleting and replacing all of the text in a bill before its voted on without any meaningful public review. Requiring three-days notice of all bills before they are voted on will allow cities and interested parties to know what is in each bill before their representatives vote.
Prop 55: Yes, continue the current income tax on incomes above $263k ($526k joint) to fund schools and general fund activities   
Prop 56: Yes, Tax cigarettes and smoking because cigarettes and smoking.
Prop 57: Yes, criminal justice reform. Allow for more parole leniency for non-violent criminals and allow judges to determine if youths should be tried as adults.
Prop 58: Yes, allow bi-lingual education in public schools. A well-educated electorate and populace is better, no matter what language they achieve that in.
Prop 59: If you need to be told to vote to say corporations are not human beings, you won’t listen to me on the issue.
Prop 60: No, sounds good, poorly written. The list of people and organizations against this is compelling as are their arguments about workers’ rights, privacy and unintended consequences from a poorly written measure. It’s opposed from both ends of the political spectrum.
Prop 61: Yes, reduce prescription costs.
Prop 62: Hell Yes! The death penalty is immoral, racist, costly and ineffective. Any one of these reasons supports an end to the death penalty, we don’t have to agree to all four.
Prop 63: Yes to limiting high capacity ammunition magazines
Prop 64: Yes to marijuana legalization
Prop 65: No, love wildlife, not ballot box budgeting
Prop 66: Hell No! no making it easier to impose the death penalty
Prop 67: Yes, confirm the legislatures ban on plastic single use bags. We’ve survived it in Alameda, lets become the first state to do it.

  
These opinions/thoughts are offered as just one data-point. I’m a big believer in active discussions around politics, I’m sure we’ll disagree on a couple or a few of these (all of them?) I really just believe that our elections turn out better when people are sharing thoughts and ideas. Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments.

Happy Election Day.

  • Updated to reflect my incorrect statement that Dennis Popalardo was a teacher. He is not. I was confused.