We are almost through this awful and weird year! One more thing we all need to do….vote.
I can’t help but think that this year, values are on the ballot as much or more than ever. As I’ve put thought into these recommendations, that is the thought that keeps coming to mind. Who do we want to be? As Americans, as Californians, as Alamedans?
If you don’t read much further, please do our community a favor and read up on Measure Z. This is an initiative that defines our community in this time of Black Lives Matter and I have been working hard on the Yes on Z campaign. We cannot fully address climate issues, racial justice, housing affordability or mitigate the traffic and livability impacts of state-mandated new housing without Yes on Z. Z is not about “more” housing, it’s about allowing the housing that is required by the state to be built with the lowest impacts possible. (more below)
LOCAL CANDIDATES AND ISSUES
Alameda City Council
As we continue to navigate through COVID and the unsettling year that Alameda has had, I can’t say how important having a steady voice, with a clear understanding of the issues and values that align with our community is going to be. In this election, that person is Jim Oddie. Having worked with him on the council, I know him to be a hard worker, interested in seeing action on key community priorities, working across ideological lines and aiming to bring the community together. He has a good heart and is a good listener. With five candidates to choose from and two votes, Jim Oddie absolutely deserves to be one of them.
Jim and I have worked on Climate Change, Gun Safety, Traffic Safety and many other issues. Alameda has some of the tightest gun safety rules in the state due to our collaboration with the community (including both NRA members and Giffords Law Center staff).
Councilmember Malia Vella is running for reelection. Our values align in a lot of ways and she’s been a strong voice for renter protections and creating equity for working moms. Given our shared interests in promoting equity and traffic safety, please consider Councilmember Vella for your second vote.
There are two newcomers to the race: Republican Gig Codiga, backed by large donations from Alameda’s old-guard, is running on a campaign of “Let’s get Alameda Back” and claiming to “put Alameda first” while relying on out of state consultants for his messaging and policy positions.
Amos White is better known as he’s placed himself visibly in the Climate and Defund the Police movements as well as being an award-winning haiku poet.
Our community will be poorly served if it returns Candidate Trish Spencer to the Council. After four disastrous years that included her threatening to sue the city over her husband's DUI, running council meetings that went to all hours of the night because of her lack of preparation and unwillingness to listen to answers to her questions, Spencer left office with next to nothing to show as accomplishments except for a continued inability to work with her colleagues on the council.
AUSD School Board:
There is only one incumbent running this year, Jennifer Williams has done a lot of great work on the board, including spearheading a cooperative agreement with the City of Alameda to have the City provide funding for student mental health services as well as working closely with the City on other key issues. Nowhere has COVID had more impact than schools and losing Jennifer Williams' knowledge and care would be terrible. Heather Little brings two (well more) great strengths for the job. Experience in early education and years of deep community work. One thing that is going to be important in the coming year or two is balancing parent/student needs with the operational craziness of the COVID world. This is going to take deep listening to the community and a proven ability to bring people together. Heather has proven she is able to do this.
With five other newcomers, there are almost no bad choices, except Leland Traiman--who stands out as a big red-flag. Read his ballot statement, it speaks for itself. In this time of centering voices of color, John Casselberry and Verna Castro are two new voices with different skill sets that would be valuable to Alameda. Casselberry as a local parent, author with a lot of experience in the schools, and Castro, with decades of administrative service in SFUSD’s physical education department. Additionally, Beth Aney, as head of the PTA Committee and leader of the Measure A School Parcel Tax committee, has proven herself to be a strong leader and voice, and Megan Sweet, who is very new to the Alameda public scene, but has amazing knowledge and understanding of education from her years of service with OUSD.
AC Transit Director-at-large
AC Transit has great choices too! H.E. Christian (Chris) Peeples is a stalwart of the board, he’s been insisting on just outcomes for the agency for over 20 years, Chris uses the system as his only transportation and has been a leader in creating a nation-leading climate-friendly system with the Hybrid Hydrogen Fuel pilot. With COVID, transit funding is decimated for the coming year or two. Knowledge and experience are important in steering the ship into steady shape. Chris is the candidate to do this. Victoria Fierce is another excellent candidate, involved in land-use and transportation for years. The District and voters would be lucky to be represented by her as well.
This is the continuation of an existing tax paid in the unincorporated parts of Alameda County. A Yes vote will continue the funding of import services for vulnerable populations.
I’m near the end of my ability to support sales tax measures, but with the growing homelessness crises, we know that we need funding for the services that will help address the needs of the unhoused members of our community. Yes on W will provide much-needed funding to support the County’s solid plan for addressing homelessness in Alameda.
Probably the most discussed issue in Alameda. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of bad information and mythology that is causing discussions to be difficult. Here are facts: Currently, the State of California’s draft housing requirement for Alameda is 4,900 new homes in the years 2023-2030. These are on top of homes already under construction. They are required. Measure Z will not increase this number and defeating the measure will not stop the homes from being built.
Yes on Z allows Alameda to zone for housing in ways that allow homes to be more affordable (both market-rate and subsidized), create lower climate impacts and generate less traffic. At the same time, it removes a policy in our City Charter that has discriminatory impacts and has already led to three separate legal actions that the city has settled rather than risking losses in court.
Saying “no” will put additional pressure for homes on HB Landing, on the HB Club, towers on South Shore, etc. Saying “no” reduces the leverage that the City has in negotiating with developers.
Yes on Z will not fix everything, but it is absolutely required in order to take the actions our community has said they want. In the Bay Area, 31% of Black households own their homes. In Alameda, 7% do. In the end, it’s easy to post a sign that says “Black Lives Matter,” this year, Alameda gets to vote to show we mean it.
This is mostly an administrative item. It removes, at last!, gendered language from our City Charter and addresses other issues. The two big items are A) clearer rules on what is considered interference of the City Charter (currently, our charter is written in such a way that nearly any discussion between a City Councilmember and the City Manager could be considered “influence” and therefore prohibited) and B) allows our existing City Prosecutor to prosecute state laws without first asking for District Attorney permission. There’s a lot of bad information out there. This change does not require the City to staff this position or to prosecute any additional crimes. There are no staffing impacts or budgetary impacts from this. It simply empowers the City Prosecutor to prosecute crimes that they already prosecute, but currently must first ask for DA for permission before proceeding. This is a simple Yes on AA.
National, State and County
If I have to explain my recommendation to vote for Joe Biden and Barbara Lee, you’re probably reading the wrong election recommendation email. 😊
9th State Senate District
Nancy Skinner is a shoo-in for this election, but I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to highlight what an absolute legislative badass she is. The list of successful bills that Senator Skinner continues to work through the State government, with their focus on equity, housing affordability, and police accountability, are quite honestly astonishing in the breadth and impact. While I harbor zero interest in higher office, if I did, I’d want to be Nancy Skinner when I grow up.
18th Assembly District
Rob Bonta is also a shoo-in, running against a local birther candidate. Assemblymember Bonta has also been highly successful in his time in the State Assembly, leading the charge on criminal justice, housing, transportation, and public safety. Alameda is lucky to have such a compassionate and effective voice in the Assembly. We can be proud of the work done in our name over the last eight years. As a strong voice for equity, Rob has been a great partner on the Yes on Z campaign and a big supporter of Alameda's needs and interests. He's another voice that is hugely important in our State.
Superior Court Judge
Over the last four weeks, I have flip-flopped multiple ties on my recommended candidate for this position. We shouldn’t be electing judges, but since we do, we are lucky to have two solid candidates and will end up with a great judge.
Peralta Community College
Bill Withrow will continue to represent Alameda well on the PCC Board. As Community Colleges are wrestling with a lot of unknowns that are exacerbated by COVID, changing horses midstream seems incredibly unwise.
No, not this time. When the Bush II presidency started blocking medical research, Californians funded their own. It wasn’t overly successful. We need public money for so many issues, additional bond money that could fund schools and parks and transportation shouldn’t be prioritized for this use. It was a great idea, it didn’t really pan out. The SF Chronicle said it well.
When Prop 13 was put in place, decimating our state budget, some giant loopholes were included that allowed giant corporate landowners to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. The burden has shifted to families and the budget impacts have ravaged transportation and schools. So, Yes, Yes, Yes for this equity measure that will return millions to our city and school district each year.
We know that the history of employment is rife with purposeful racist intent. We also know that equally insidious but softer systemic racism continues to support discriminatory outcomes in America. Prop 209 banned affirmative action in hiring, contracting and education. Like Article 26 in the City Charter, it baked in all of the past bad deeds and made making meaningful change near impossible. If we are going to achieve the ideals of America and California, we are going to have to pro-actively work to do so. That means ensuring that we place qualified people of color, gender, etc. in places where they can have impact and right the wrongs of our current systems. Yes on 16 is absolutely a necessity for achieving our dreams.
People make mistakes and while there are many, many issues with our criminal justice system, it at least purports to be a system of rehabilitation. Whatever the old saying is: Do the crime, do the time or whatnot, we’re in a place that we’ve locked so many people up that even after they’ve “done their time” their voice is removed from the public square, they are stripped of a key piece of citizenship forever. We have to move to a place where redemption exists. Yes on 17 will allow people who have finished their prison sentences to regain their civic voice and rejoin our community in deciding how we move forward.
Yes on 18 would allow 17-year-olds, who will be 18 and allowed to vote in an upcoming election to also vote in the primary that will determine who is in that election as well as some special elections. Letting these community members engage in the full range of the election, not just the end vote where they had no opportunity to give input on the choices they ultimately make.
This is one of the more tricky propositions for me. It sounds good, but the more I delved into it, it became clear that it’s a No. When we ask ourselves how systemic inequality happens, it’s typically because those in power continue to make rules that benefit themselves at the expense (sometimes unintentional) of others. This is a perfect example. I’m going to quote the California Budget and Policy Center:
Prop. 19 Expands Tax Breaks for Older, Mostly White Homeowners Who Tend to Be Economically Secure Already, Reducing the Equity of California’s Tax System
California already has special rules that allow homeowners who are age 55 or older or who are severely disabled to avoid paying higher property taxes if they sell their home and move to a new home under certain circumstances – and Prop. 19 would expand the special tax breaks for these same homeowners.
About 4 million homeowners age 55 or older would be eligible to benefit from these new property tax breaks under Prop. 19, as well as a much smaller number of younger homeowners with disabilities, according to Budget Center analysis. Similar existing special rules apply to individuals whose homes have been damaged or destroyed by fire or other natural disasters, and these tax breaks would also be expanded, though homeowners affected by disasters who are not also eligible due to age or disability make up a tiny share – well under 1% – of the total number of homeowners eligible to benefit from Prop. 19, according to Budget Center analysis.
Absolutely No. When one of the key supporters of an initiative is Devin Nunes, run far and fast! If you think our inhumane prisons don’t have enough people in them, then this proposition is for you. This is a reaction by strident law enforcement supporters to undo Prop 47’s criminal justice reform before it has even had a chance to get settled. Using fear (like our local election is doing!), this measure is telling people they need to be afraid and that we need to start locking more people up again. I encourage you to learn about what’s really happened with Prop 47 and criminal justice reform. Crime and safety are real and important concerns. But we need to start doing things differently, not double down on what hasn’t worked.
Currently, the Costa Hawkins law exempts all new construction from rent control. The assumption, correct, is that financing for new rental developments would be impossible with rent control in place (or even potentially in place) because financing is based on future rents. The problem is, now that a lot of time has passed, a lot of corporate rental developments have paid off their financing and their tenants have no protections from predatory pricing. Yes on 21 will allow new developments to opt out of rent control rules for 15 years in order to secure financing and then bring tenants under local protections from there.
No, No, No and No again. There is just so much wrong with this. First, the gig economy is extracting money from the people who do the work and transferring it to white-collar tech employees. The income inequality impacts are huge! Second, this measure (funded with $200 million from the tech companies who stand to benefit from the cheap labor of their non-employees) puts in place requirements that any changes to these employment rules by our elected leaders will require a 7/8th vote of the legislature. Talk about putting your thumb (and entire body) on the scale! This is greedy power grab and nothing else. If this passes, California’s inequality issues continue and get worse. Please vote no.
Big money continues to make legislative fixes to this healthcare area impossible. While voting on this type of issue isn’t great government, not taking action doesn't provide good healthcare outcomes. Yes on 23
No on 24: While this proposition sounds good, be careful of the outcomes. Prop 24 is inequitable and sets up new processes that move CA away from protecting privacy.
The ACLU and LWV are against this. That sets off many warning bells for this great sounding (and I assume well-meaning) proposition. I care deeply about privacy online and in the real world. Failing to protect it adequately has significant impacts. In researching this measure, this quote struck me as summarizing the issues well. It’s from Khaim Morton, a former vice president of the Sacramento Metro Chamber:
"Prop. 24 fails us in two key ways: First, Prop. 24 creates a loophole that allows commercial credit agencies and data corporations to sell the personal information of small-business owners. Creating the loophole weakens the privacy of small-business owners and hurts our Black, Latino and Asian-American small businesses the most. And California leads the nation in minority-owned small businesses. Second, Prop 24 allows the continued use of “neighborhood scores” and fails to address “digital redlining,” a practice whereby lenders use a person’s race or the racial make-up of a neighborhood as a rationale for either refusing to lend to its residents or charging much higher interest rates. Historically, redlining stifled the ability of Black families to get ahead by either denying them access to home ownership or charging them significantly higher finance fees."
Cash money Bail, if you haven’t watched John Oliver’s piece on the issue, you should. Our current bail system is a disaster. Changes were adopted, with Assemblymember Rob Bonta as one of the lead authors, and California became a leader in bail reform. The bail and prison industry freaked out! They can’t make money from locking up people who haven’t been found guilty of a crime if cash-bail goes away and so, they put this referendum on the ballot.
The reform isn’t perfect, as with all reform, it will need tweaks and fixes, but Yes on 25 is a key vote to affirm that in CA you don’t rot in jail when you haven’t been convicted of a crime just because you can’t buy your way out.
More information from the CA Budget and Policy Center:
Across California and the United States, the push for bail reform has gained momentum with increasing awareness and research showing the disproportionate impact the money bail system has on people of color and low-income households. In California, it’s estimated over two-thirds of people detained in jails – around 47,000 – have not been sentenced for a crime, a number that includes both those who cannot afford bail and those who are awaiting sentencing post-conviction. Los Angeles County alone is the largest jail system in the US and houses over 1 in 5 of adults who have not been sentenced for an alleged crime in California.
I'm sure that there are places where we disagree on these issues. However you vote, thank you!
Stay safe and well in this crazy world. The end of the tunnel is in sight, we can do this!