Friday, May 30, 2014

Riles on Tuman on Crime


A man whose opinion I always value, Wilson Riles has shared with us this below:

First, let me say that I greatly appreciate the fact that mayoral candidate Joe Tuman has presented his plan for reducing crime in Oakland early in the campaign. He is to be congratulated for that because this issue always has been a vexing conundrum for Oakland and has been since-forever blamed for almost all of Oakland’s lack of progress. The problem with his campaign strategy is that it leaves plenty of time for the plan to be attacked; therefore the plan would have needed to be virtually full-proof. Campaigns are not based on the use of logic; supporting someone to lead you is hardly ever a logical process. Therefore it will not be through logic that the plan will be attacked during the remainder of the campaign. I, however, will attempt to look at it from a logical prospective and from this prospective this Tuman plan is flawed.

Joe starts out – number one, first thing out of the box – by talking about the number of officers that Oakland has per capita. Logic would dictate that we must first question our assumptions. The assumption that Oakland’s crime problem can be improved – first – with more police officers is a false assumption that has been proven wrong. Let me give you three ways that it has been proven wrong: (1) there is NO relationship between the crime rates and the officers per capita for cities of similar size in the US, (2) there is NO relationship between the crime rate in Oakland over the years and the number of officers per capita, and (3) the 1972-73 Kansas City preventive patrol experiment clearly proved that more police in an area makes NO difference to the crime rate.

In Kansas City, they divided the City into parts and measured what difference different concentrations of officers would make. The major findings were as follows: (1) citizens did not notice the difference when the frequency of patrols was changed, (2) increasing or decreasing the level of patrol had no significant effect on resident and commercial burglaries, auto thefts, larcenies involving auto accessories, robberies, or vandalism–crimes, (3) the rate at which crimes were reported did not differ significantly across the experimental beats, (4) citizen reported fear of crime was not affected by different levels of patrol, and (5) citizen satisfaction with police did not vary.

Therefore, Joe Tuman’s and others belief in the first priority need for more cops is not based on evidence. It is an unexamined faith that is marketed to the public by manipulative politicians who do not have the courage to go against mythology, the incarceration-industrial-complex that sells things to police departments, and by empire building police chiefs like Bill Bratton. Joe Tuman’s idea to receive One-Time-Only resources from the sale of land to expend on the On-Going costs of police personnel is outrageous! And irresponsible! The rest of his payment plan is ass-backwards; a responsible leader does not spend money before he has it! Expand the tax base first before you start spending the money. And what is your plan for doing that? And how do you do that when you increase the business license taxes on new businesses and collect hotel taxes on – Nonexistent – newly built rooms?!

Joe Tuman’s Second priority is just a bunch of platitudes, ignorance, and politics. We can start with the politics. Tuman’s attack on Mayor Quan’s 100 Block Initiative and his advocacy of evenly distributed patrols across the City is a cynical political move. Quan’s tactic of concentrating attention – not just patrols – into particular areas for specific results has demonstrated itself as an effect but temporary tactic for police departments across the country. Tuman might legitimately argue with the areas chosen and he can surly argue with Quan’s and the Police Department’s implication of permanence. Instead he criticizes a tactic that has some evidence for success and substitutes a tactic – evenly distributed patrols – where there is clear evidence of ineffectiveness. I can only surmise that he is playing up to hill’s and foothill’s critics of Jean’s plan who were upset that flatlands neighborhoods were getting some attention that their neighborhoods were not getting. This is Tuman’s cynical political move.
    
I echo his concern that “City leaders” have not given proper direction to the OPD. And, yes, OPD actions need to be evidenced based. Tuman only offers his candidacy and possible mayoral administration without presenting how he is going to educate the City Council to govern based on evidence. The Council is the source of many of the initiatives that Tuman disparages like Measure Y, the temporary use of law enforcement officials from other jurisdictions, etc. The Council is particularly blame worthy for not curtailing the persistent unconstitutional policing that results in MILLIONS of dollars in losses to the City every year from successful civil rights violation lawsuits including the one which brought about the Negotiated Settlement Agreement. Tuman only offers his opinion that he would make a good leader while demonstrating his belief in tactics that have no evidence that they will work. How does that work?

Third, Tuman’s call for Special Initiatives for Specific crimes is uninformative and hackneyed.  What does he mean by “reduce the number of potential customers” for child trafficking for prostitution? How? Using what resources? And his car impoundment and property seizures for illegal dumping and sideshows are inane. Who is going to do those impoundments and seizures? How about providing more affordable dumping sites and advertising them. How about doing what San Diego did and provide a safe and sane place for sideshows that could lead young folks into detailing, auto mechanics, and automobile racing professions?

Fourth, Joe Tuman talks about working on the root causes of crime and violence. He demonstrates little interest in this or much knowledge, expertise, or wisdom about the root causes. It is as if he is “checking a box.” ‘Oh, I have to say something about root causes. But I am not going to find more resources for this or propose new programs.’ Tuman just lists four small categories of programs that he says are working. I will not expect any leadership from him in this area – if he were to get elected – because he has demonstrated only a very thin slice of knowledge about it.

Tuman’s Fifth point is a reiteration of his call for leadership; his call for his leadership.

Again, I appreciate Joe Tuman’s boldness for putting out a plan. I just wish that it was a better plan. I hope that it will spark the discussion that this community needs both inside and outside the mayoral campaign.
 
Wilson
There simply is nothing to which we can attach ourselves, no matter how hard we try. In time, things will change and the conditions that produced our current desires will be gone. Why then cling to them now?
- Master Hsing Yun, "The Indescribable"

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

How do you say anything intelligent in two minutes?  



Even after 24 years as a father of boys I have no idea how to do that.  

Now try this question:  What inspires you to run for Mayor and how will you better coordinate the city government with the school systems in order to provide a better educational and economic situation in Oakland?  (I am paraphrasing) 

Two minutes.  GO.  Give it a try?  Try to even understand that question in two minutes.  

Welcome to the third major candidate debate, this one hosted by Laney College.

If you are looking for something you can read in two minutes, this is not your blog.

This blog is on the whole event, the candidates, one by one, and add in some considerations about where Oakland is going and what I think is at stake.  This is not the 2 minute sound bite version.

I had not been in that Laney theatre since I was a student at Laney the second time in 2006.   On my way from class I saw a crowd and some press and invited myself in.  I was asked if I was with the Press.  That is what all the other white males carrying laptop bags were doing in the audience section.  There were a couple other non-African Americans on stage next to Ron Dellums.  He was accepting being drafted into a run for mayor.  

In many ways I see that moment when we drafted Ron Dellums for mayor as the beginning of the slow motion disaster for progressive politics in Oakland that continues to this day.  So I found it ironic to be back in that same theatre for another mayor's debate eight years later. Richmond continues to move forward, Oakland less so.

Each candidate got their two minutes of fame.  All went over; I timed it.  A Siegel supporter glared at me every time the 2 min buzzer went off. He was sort of like a second timer.

The theatre at Laney is not very big. Seats 200 or so? It was not full. I was hardly one of the few whites in attendance this time. There were a lot of the familiar faces one sees at these events and a lot of individual candidate supporters, self-included.  

The event at Temple Sinai was an exception for its quality and high attendance. The event at Laney had gone back to the rule. It is amazing how few people these events reach. One group that was not in attendance in great numbers was Laney College students. There were no great numbers. I usually hope that these things be webcasted. Not this time.

After the 3 minute each of our two minute introductions we got questions in a basket.  Each candidate got to draw a question and have another two minutes of brilliance.

WHO wrote those questions? I had to lean forward in my chair and could not take notes fast enough to write some of them down. They all sounded something like: 

Given the work that Peralta College has done to promote racial and economic background diversity in employment focused education, how would the city coordinate in a manner to see that these programs are sufficiently and equitably funded?  

That is not an actual question, but they were all long and complex and sounded like that to me. I started to imagine multiple choice questions where I am supposed to fill in the bubble next to the funding policy that the school wants you to support.

two minutes.....  

My fellow Green Party seat mate was wishing that 8 PM could come soon.  

Then we were off to round three with questions from the audience.

My question was: Do you support a Police Commission with hire, fire and discipline powers? THAT was never read.

Mr Burris was our MC / moderator and he did something that could have been great during this part of the debate. He called on different candidates on different subjects, sort of talk show style. It would have been great, but it was not because it became a discussion between him, Siegel and Tuman.

The result was far from great. At one point Burris called on my candidate, Jason Anderson, asking him about taxing the port. Anderson said that there are billions of dollars flowing through our port but the port is effectively exempt of the business taxes all the businesses of Oakland pay.

To counter he called on Parker, who is a Port Commissioner, and let him ramble on in an answer that started with bait and switch and ended with a total plug for an un related PR ploy. The worst of it was that Parker said that Anderson was wrong because there are only 600 million in port fees collected. Of course Anderson was saying that there were billions of dollars of business flowing through the port, not billions of dollars of port fees. If there were not billions of dollars in those containers, there would be no money for hundreds of millions of dollars of port fees. Then Parker went on to say that the Port pays a lot of debts, the airport part is sort of its own money and totally left Anderson's point begging. None of those things get my little business or any other, out of paying Oakland Business Taxes, which are based on GROSS REVENUES. Finally Parker started to talk about how some of the jobs at the (yet to be realized) Oakland Army Base project will go to Oakland Residents.

Then Burris did not give Jason a chance to respond. My advice to Jason Anderson later was that it was a good time to stand up and demand a chance to answer. The word BULLSHIT would not have been out of place at that point.

Much of the talk show back and forth was aimed at Joe Tuman. I got to say Joe did not handle it very well, but he also was being defined by the questions, not his own policies. He did get a chance to point out that police misconduct cases were a good business for both Burris, our MC and Siegel, the candidate that Burris kept counter pointing him against.

In all of it there was a basic upgrade of how the candidates presented themselves. Sort of a lost opportunity since they had not done a very good job at the much better attended, organized and moderated debate at Temple Sinai.

Dan Siegel did the best job putting his own views out there. In an event moderated by a fellow civil rights attorney, it would have been sad if he had not. But much to Dan's credit he spoke clearly and put a few major points out there. He got a couple good laughs, a couple applauses and did a good job of making fun of a question that was so long he did not want it to count against his allotted two minute answer.

Mayor Quan and Council Member Schaaf were both clear and concise for the short amount of time they were on stage. This event had been moved from a mid-day event for only a few candidates (the ones with money) to an evening event with many candidates right when Council Committee work was scheduled. Schaaf did a good job of describing her background of service and was the first to take the mike, stand up and speak clearly to the audience. Quan spoke this time with the skills that got her elected mayor and before that supervisor and before that school board member.

Points have to be marked for Anderson, Ruby, Parker and Sidebotham for clear speaking and making good points. Parker should get the nod for most improved public speaker and finally sounding like someone who is seriously running for mayor with a reason to do so. Anderson did well, even when his nickname "Shake" came out as "the Snake" from Burris. He did well talking about not only his roots in Oakland, but also the history of being a black person in Oakland. Anderson also got a couple of good crowd responses especially when he said that in his home his mother did not "allow them to be stupid" in a good context. Ruby and Sidebotham both held their own as public speakers one should consider for Mayor with good descriptive opening lines and direct addressing of the issues.

Tuman is still disappointing me. I know Joe and I know he has a lot behind is ideas. He is an intellectual, yet he comes off as the guy who ignores the studies. At one point he was telling Burris that after the show he could send him links to important studies. Burris answered that he needs to tell it to us, his audience. My point entirely. It was really not Tuman's crowd, and when he asked a rhetorical question of the audience some attendees shouted out YES when he expected a NO. (There were a lot of Greens and Siegel supporters there.) Overall his word choices and comments were too intellectually based in an argument that was not an intellectual challenge.

Then we had Liu, Washington and Williams. I do not know what to say. As a supporter of a candidate without big money backing (a job that I held myself) and an advocate for a better democracy than we have, I think it is important that all voices be heard.  

Not all voices deserve to be voted for.

 

Burris failed as a moderator, yet I think he really had something to offer. With some reflection on fairness and bringing people's own voices out, he could apply his skills and knowledge of the city to other public debates. Calling Shake "the snake", messing up Washington's and William's names and constantly not knowing Liu's name was really not cool. Reminded me of Amy Allison.  

His back and forth, talk show style, shows promise in a public forum practice drastically in need of some new methods. Maybe forum with only one question, and then a back and forth with all the participants with Burris drawing people out on their views would be very useful. I have to thank him for making himself available for this 2 min sound bite joust.

Let's just remember that this is still early days. Ballot qualification is months away after the June Primaries. (don't forget to look for the Green Voter Guide for those primaries)

So let's also remember that I am writing an opinion piece here as I take the candidates in alphabetical order with what I think they had to say and my reactions and comments:

Anderson: Our Green Party candidate made a very clear point when he closed. He said something along the lines of not being a wealthy man and not aspiring to be one. That was in stark contrast to everyone else on stage, a few of whom were boasting about their business success as a qualifier for office. From Parker to Siegel most of the candidates are well off indeed. Shake put his campaign into the context of wanting to be "Town Mayor" which for him means a mayor that is part of the whole town being mayor; the whole town should have a say. He had more to offer, but did not get a chance to speak much of it. He did convey that there is a need for the resources to be pointed to the public and that he had no time for projects that did not have a clear public benefit. Good point. I know too much of his programs and ideas to know how well it was conveyed that night. I really liked his closing statement where he framed the "town mayor" idea.

Liu: His ideas were mostly about using a game that he has invented to teach people to become successful capitalists, like him. It was in his answer to most questions. Speaking to him at the tables before the show, I asked to be on his mailing list. No such thing. His website? Oakland Wiki. He did have a handout, mostly about his game. Other views? I am not really sure. Party affiliation?

Have you ever heard of someone called Tymiński? He was a Canadian-Pol who ran for president of Poland when Walesa was first elected. His campaign was based on having made a mint in Canada and being willing to show Pols how to make it under capitalism. Walesa came in first, Tymiński second and Poland's very competent prime minister, Tadeusz Mazowiecki, came in thrid.

Watching Liu speak I was reminded of Tymiński. If we were in Europe, I would have called him a Tymiński and people would know what I meant, maybe. and

Unrelated to Liu or the Oakland Mayor's race Walesa went on to be an ineffective, right wing catholic president of a corrupt administration that caused Poland to backslide a bit economically and lead the post-Soviet world in taking away women's rights, such as abortion rights. Mazowiecki was probably the best candidate, but he found himself supporting Walesa in the run-off in order to keep a crazy like Tymiński out of office. There is a very big difference between Walesa the union leader and Walesa the president. One of Poland's main growth industries under Walesa was the sex trade. They did what they could to tear down the social state and take away free education and health care. Eventually Poland joined W in the invasion of Iraq when even German and France would not.

Parker: As a center right businessman and Port Commissioner he is a very typical candidate for Mayor in any US city. He came out and made a good clear stand for a position somewhere between Siegel and Tuman on Police staffing levels. He made the very obvious point that a viable police force and community policing go hand in hand. What we did not get in 2 mins was exactly what he would do in community policing or how he would keep that police force accountable. No one else did either. When talking education and technology he was talking about the next Mark Zuckerberg coming from Oakland. He was much clearer on what it means to be a young black person trying to make it while facing discrimination and other barriers. He talked of the contrast between Travon Martin in a hoodie and Mark Zuckerberg, also a young guy in a hoodie, and how young black people are not on the track to success. He talked about including program coding and advance computer-sci at Laney as stepping stones to success.

We have already had a center right competent liberal mayor, his name was Jerry Brown. I am not sure how, or if, Parker would stand up for the 99%, not sure at all. I also found that talking about the next Mark Zuckerberg is a distraction when talking about thousands of Oakland youth not getting the education they need to take the jobs given to Indians on special visas by companies that get sweetheart tax deals while our schools starve for funds. The very schools that he is asking to produce the next Mark Zuckerberg. Currently they don’t fully help us get the next IT tech.

Quan: The Mayor came back to her personal commitment to education. She has that claim and it would be unfair not appreciate her commitment there. She made two good points in her introduction and one question.  That is 4 scheduled minutes that she stretched to seven.

1 we have 5,000 recently released inmates to work with. 

2 the State of California left our Oakland schools more in debt than they were when they took them over because of our supposed financial miss-management. That is several dozen millions of dollars more by the way. Quan said that she wants the state to pay that money back.

For a forum on education, these were important points.

Quan has been in office for 20 years now. The woman whose supporters claimed was "new on the job" during the Occupy fiasco and as a defense against a recall is part of the status quo. 8 years on the school board, another 8 on the council, including as budget chair, and now 4 more as Mayor. Her points are good, but what is her record and why do her supporters think she is still credible? When I was at her campaign table I met friends of mine who still support her.  The Block By Block group behind Jean is something of a local political party and may well get her reelected. I wish it were more out in the open. We never think if Jean as being part of Block By Block or talk about her in the context of this movement she leads. Are they the progressive leadership of Oakland? Are the progressives currently in office?

The Block by Block Organizing Network has a web address with no pages http://bbbon.net/ and much of what I saw on Jean’s literature table was reports from the city of Oakland. To contact them I suggest info@bbbon.net.

In the end I think the argument with Quan from the Greens is how to be a successful, effective progressive and what does being a progressive mean?  



This is a discussion we need to have among residents of Oakland in a more global way. Have we all forgotten the Dellums administration?

Ruby: She made very clear that her top priority is crime and that she supports more police staffing. She also put forward some of her work as the city's "watchdog" and included her better administration of the Auditor's office as her reference points. She made an unpopular, but important stand against spending on ball parks, or anything else, that does not "pencil out" in the city's favor. I wonder how she feels about the Army Base and Upper Broadway redevelopment plans. She did a much better job in this debate showing herself as a centrist, competent government advocate and something of a reform Mayor if elected.  

One has to ask then about her friends at the Chamber of Commerce among the developers? Why is she different from Schaaf and Tuman? If she has opinions on restorative justice, taxation, job training, etc, there was no time in her 2 mins for it.

Schaaf: Libby got the least time of anyone. She had to leave for committee work. So she only her 2 min intro. In that short time she rejected the idea that crime is "an urban tax that we need to pay." She talked about investing in the police and working on root causes and said that every child needs to graduate from High School. She also supports the same min wage petition that Siegel has made a cornerstone of his campaign.

Those are all good points, but who is against them? Moderators of future debates might have a question or two for Ms. Schaaf on these issues. Does she think Oakland can lower its crime rate more than the national trend? HOW? Of course that is a question that all the would-be mayors should find time to answer.

Sidebotham: Nancy is a clear speaker. A couple of times she stated the obvious, but not mentioned. When she put aside the questions of educational number and crime number and boiled it down to "what is our quality of life" I felt she was going somewhere. She framed her answers in the context of our national problems and how our economy is suffering from globalization. Her attitude seems to be one of social solidarity, albeit from a pro-business perspective, and good government as a way for Oakland to weather the storm. That has been the view of the French Republicans (what we call Gaullists) for about forever, but we are not in France, and she did not say how we should deal with the social economic sociopathic market fanaticism that holds so much of our national politics hostage. Is she supportive of some national movement?

These again are discussion points for all the candidates, not just her, and in a better discussion I would like to see her explain what dealing with globalization means for the actions of an Oakland Mayor.

Siegel: Dan made two things really clear that night. First is that he is belligerent on the minimum wage, and second that he has an actual staffing plan for the Oakland Police. Inside two minutes, he did not get a chance to describe either with any detail. Who could? As far as I can tell it is the only staffing plan on the table other than the mayor's plan, which is policy.

Dan’s plan gets a mention on the safe streets page of his highly produced, very developed website http://siegelforoakland.org/public_safety.php but it is not the detailed, numbered, plan he sketched out in the debate where he had a layout for the staffing levels building up from the local detachment. It is probably the best proposal Dan has made so far, the most concrete and I hope he will put move of it into print.

The current administration, Quan, and the current police leadership have, to their credit also put out a concrete plan, which is our city’s current official policy as far as I can tell. I think candidates proposals need to be compared to that plan as they are running against that incumbent mayor.

Most recent report to the public safety committee

1. View Report.pdf, 2. View Supplemental Report.pdf (both important)



For the whole meeting, go here:
 
https://oakland.legistar.com/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=1684842&GUID=564CCA25-99C8-4157-BAA9-AE4D6AD885D3&Options=&Search=

Siegel made mention of his well-deserved reputation as an activist and civil rights lawyer. He did not make mention of his long standing links with about all of the status quo Oakland pols in the orbit of Jean Quan. He was also not challenged on his involvement in the KPFA civil war.

For another candidate long involvement in local government would be listed as one of his qualifications considering his experience on the school board and in housing. Yet that was not mentioned. It IS on his website in detail. The status quo is pretty unpopular and he is selling himself as a change from the status quo. So when did he stop being part of local leadership? What is he going to do different? He talks about how he wrote the community policing ordinance that is not yet implemented. Well, how would he implement it after two mayors he supported did not?

Dan talked about having been a Freedom Rider back in the day. I wish he had used those words, but he described it. That was an impressive thing to have done and a major action to his credit. Siegel spoke openly and well about poverty and racism at the forum. He cheapened it in my view by talking about Sterling and the Basketball scandal but on the whole put forward the ideas we on the left tend to have consensus around.

He made some other concrete proposals. He wants to the culinary academy in Oakland to become "world class" sounding a bit akin to Dellum’s "model city." He also wants world class broadband. He cited work done in city provided broadband in other countries, but not in San Leandro. That makes me think Dan does not have an advisor who actually works in the IT sector.

In 2006 I was a Dan for Mayor Supporter. That campaign was short circuited by the Dellums campaign. Thus I saw Dellums speak at Dan's home. At that time Dan put forward some ideas on community use of school sites as civic centers that I found very intelligent and I stole them for my own campaigns. Those ideas did not become policy under Dellums or Quan. Mixed use of schools was on his laundry list of things at the debate, but not core. Dan got a lot more than 2 mins to talk with Burris calling him back multiple times.

I have some Dan inspired questions, which are again questions for any candidate. What is WRONG with local government? Is it just the policies? Is it the social class and racial focus of the services? Is there something wrong with our practice of government? Are we dividing everything up into bureaucratic turf? Is there something wrong with our democracy? What would Dan do differently? When I hear Dan say these great things and talk this great talk, I ask how is this going to be any different than the mayoral terms of his good friends Dellums and Quan.

 

Tuman: Joe has made a couple of things clear. First and foremost is that he will fund the Oakland Police to pre-recession staffing levels and put law enforcement as the sine qua non (without which nothing, or the absolute pre requirement) of any city plans. He has an argument there and many people in Oakland feel the same way. With current crime rates how do we work on the schools? How do we get people to move/stay here? How do we get businesses to invest here? Those are Joe's questions that all deserve an answer. Unlike other center right candidates he came forward as a qualified yes on a minimum wage hike. He wants a study and a plan.

The rest of the Tuman message needs some messaging. What exactly is the Tuman view on police misconduct? What would he do ab out it? What would he do with the thousands arrested every year? What to do with those released? If there is to be a Tumanist message, what is it?

Tuman and Schaaf are member of Make Oakland Better Now. Tuman is keeping the faith of that group by sticking to his police staffing levels. Seems that Schaaf is too. Not far from them politically are Ruby and Parker. http://makeoaklandbetternow.org/

So why the hell are these four running for office against each other? If Schaaf stayed on council, Ruby at Auditor, Parker on Port and they ran Tuman for Mayor they would have a powerful team. They could form a local Oakland, municipal level political party.

That is a political party that I am glad that they do not have because I do not agree with the policies. We cannot arrest our way to social peace and the Measure Y non-profit request for proposal method has not given us workable alternatives. What we need is activist government that makes solving these problems the way local government works, not just another liberal program. But I am a Green, so....

Washington: I know nothing of this guy and I learned nothing about him at the debate. He did not say anything others did not say. He did show some insider knowledge, and if I were an insider, I would probably know more about him. He said that we could go to his website to know about who he is, and thus did not use is two minutes to tell us. Washington said some of the basic things almost every business sector person says about government waste. There is some real truth to that, but I found it limited. He also spoke against the disunity of government, leadership vacuum in council and laid some of the blame at the feet of instant runoff voting.  His main thing is that he has worked in a lot of private and public agencies and feels he could offer better leadership to the city. If he has a good case for being mayor, he did not make it.

I am still not very decided on IRV myself, but I find most of the critics seem to think that someone else would have won otherwise. I am not so sure. Had Perata gone to the second round with Quan, I think Quan would still have ended up Mayor because Don Perata had big negatives.

(at some point ask me about Proportional Representation, the voting method used all around the world that our two party monopoly is doing everything to avoid)

Williams: I went to Mr. Williams’ table to meet him before the debate. He seemed friendly, but somehow expecting people to respond to him in a certain way I did not catch. He really reminded me of a church deacon who was an important person among those who knew him. He made a lot of comments about getting tough on crime and constantly said that changing the zoning would bring in the money and the jobs. He may be right about that. Currently zoning amendments are up in front of council all the time and in my view zoning amendments is one of the practices of the council that should be audited. That does not make a mayoral campaign. He seems a great guy, conservative, and wears some kind of star thing on his lapel that reminded me of the Masons. Some of what he said made me think he was a Vietnam era vet, but I am not sure. I am very sure he is a Vet, as is Jason "Shake" Anderson. Any others? His speaking style went into a ramble and he did not get much through with his two minutes. Not knowing how to bullshit in 2 mins is no bad mark on anyone. In my view he was making economic improvement via zoning changes and cracking down on crime all too simple and I do not believe in simple solutions for complex problems in Oakland. And I am not a conservative. In a more democratic Oakland, we would probably have such a person on council.

In all the talk I felt that some things were missing the mark.  

School was spoken of as vocational (often treated as correctional or remedial by education bureaucrats), entrepreneurial or just plain academic degree success driven. (How many graduate high school, how many go to college, etc, more degree, more better) Siegel talked about having our culinary academy being "world class" which is fine, but where does one learn to be a health inspector or comply with a health certification? To its credit, Laney pays more attention to the next IT geek and health inspector than our candidates did.

What left me begging was certification and qualification all hands around. When someone get skills training the path to a job is often dependent on those skill certifications such as the Microsoft Certified Professional programs, low voltage certified electrician's license, contractor's license, etc. This forum was on education and not one question or answer was about certifications. As a working class graduate of a machinist program I do not see opportunities for today’s youth that I had 35 years ago.

There was also a silence on diversion programs for those arrested, and integration programs for those released. Only Mayor Quan made any mention on this. Yet we were talking about crime, education and jobs?

When it was over the place cleared out faster the financial district on a Friday with snow in the Sierras. I chatted a bit with folk and then went to fetch my bike for the ride home. I would have more than two minutes to pedal through the hot summer evening air and reflect on what I had just watched.

Passing under what is now the 12th street overpass back to Lake Merit I came upon the same homeless folk I saw when I got there. They had added to their numbers, and even had a motorbike of some kind parked among their bicycles and shopping carts. Some pads were down with people sleeping on them. I found a sense of perspective leaving an event attended mostly by middle class, college educated, secure followers of Oakland politics.  Who represented the folk under that overpass? Who witnessed among that population? There are reasons that I am a Green.

We did not mention homelessness during the event at all. Yet it is one of the core difficulties affecting the jobless and many of our students.

I decided to go the long way around the lake and enjoy the lights and then made a commitment to myself to write this very long blog.

 




 

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Is there no left in Oakland?


Is there no left in Oakland? 

I have a new found on line friend who wrote a blog saying that there is no Left in Oakland.  


Unfortunately I have to agree that there is no effective left alternative political movement yet in Oakland, but it is not for lack of trying by the Oakland Greens. 

I disagree that there are no alternatives, we Greens are offering an alternative. 

Green Party activists know full well that we are only part of the left movement in the US and in Oakland that is no different.  We have been constantly and consistently reaching out to other parts of the movement seeking some kind of alliance. 

We have been calling this kind of alliance / movement "progressive" but at this point the word is becoming meaningless, especially in Oakland.

“Left” is probably a better word because there is a better public idea of what it means. Add to that the Green commitment not to take big campaign contributions and the message to the public is very damn clear. 

Not ones to sit on our hands, we Greens have participated full tilt in local politics. 

Twice we joined the coalition to back Wilson Riles for Mayor when he was still a Democrat. 

After that Wilson joined the Greens and sat on the Alameda Green Party County Council for years. 

The campaign for Larry Shoup for Council, District 1 was a major step forward in local organizing.  Larry is still a local Green and has been offering advice and help to candidates ever since. 

Back when she was a Green and a progressive Rebecca Kaplan ran for council as a Green. 

She also helped produce a serious policy document with Wilson giving options for our city. 
 
When Amy Allison, also a Green, ran for District 2 we all but suspended the local Green Party  and all active Greens were pointed to her  campaign. 

Then no movement building happened to turn those campaigns into a social movement or anything like a city level political party.  A city level political party is common in democratic countries (into whose number I do not include this nation)  

In the 2008 elections, what you could call the Dellums midterm, no real alternative candidates stepped forward and the Greens were a bit tapped out.               

So then I personally ran for Mayor in 2010.  Frankly I almost did not do it, but when I got on stage for the first debate at the Unitarian Church, Wilson came over to me afterward and asked me to stay in the race, if only to speak truth to power at these events.  I also met my wife there. 2010 ended up being a good year for me. 

During the 2010 race we reached out and asked others to run with us and put up candidates for other seats up for a vote.  In any Oakland race that is about 9 positions between council, school board, mayor, city auditor and city attorney.  We also published some position papers on crime and the environment and picked up a lot of the ideas of earlier campaigns and put them back in there. 

We did not build a coalition, but we did put some new energy into the Greens and changed some of the conversation.  We also got a lot more votes than anyone expected.  Every time I hear people talking about using civilian employees in the police department, I feel that I am hearing the legacy of that campaign. 

Then Occupy happened.  Most Greens put their time into this mass movement and we did very little "as Greens" other than to try to stop the police violence. 

The Greens came back in 2012 and ran 3 candidates.  Me for District 1, Theresa Anderson for Council at Large and Randy Menjivar for Peralta School Trustee.  Vicente Cruz was on deck for school board, but he had to move away from a roommate from hell and ended up living in a different district.  We did pretty well.  Probably about 7% on average. 

Before we started, we invited all the progressives and leftists we could to a meeting at Humanist Hall.  The invitation was extended to form an "Oakland Progressive Alliance".  We heard a lot of encouraging words, but no other group stepped forward to present candidates. 

Now in 2014 we Greens are putting the same proposal forward.  Many of us attended Siegel Campaign meetings and I spoke bluntly at the first one that without some kind of movement all we have is a campaign that will dissolve on Election Day.  Again we heard a lot of encouraging words, but no action.  One of Dan's followers had the absurd proposal that somehow a progressive alliance was one thing and political campaigns were not part of that. 

Not to be deterred we invited Peace and Freedom, International Socialists and Dan Siegel himself to a Green Sunday where I put forward a series of proposed political points that we could build some kind of coalition around. 


The Greens have one candidate, Jason Anderson for Mayor, so far, as our contribution to the political soup this election.  We hope to have more and we will keep reaching out to others. 

Why bother? 

Because without a movement, nothing works.  

We have already elected a Dan Siegel, his name was Ron Dellums.  The most progressive people in town "drafted" Ron and ended up ever so disappointed.  Ask yourself.  Was the Dellums mayorship a time when progressive, people friendly politics came into City Hall?  Did things move forward for Oakland?  Did they even change?

The Dellums election of a good liberal hero and then hoping somehow a grass roots movement will kind of spring up afterwards has been tried so many times in US history that we should all just plain know better by now.  Most of the people drafting Ron should have known better then. 

Richmond would not be where it is today without the Richmond Progressive Alliance.  Look to Jackson, Seattle and other cities in the US that have been electing alternative, people-before-profits candidates and putting forward alternative proposals, and they all have one thing in common:

That one thing in common is grass roots movements based on active citizens.

In Richmond it took them a good seven elections to get to where they are today.
No gimmicks, no star candidates, just old fashioned community work.  
They built something real and have the results to show for it.

The Oakland Greens, like all Greens, will continue to reach out, look to make common cause with others, present candidates free from money ball politics and propose people centered city policies.

It is the right thing to do.

 

 

Friday, April 4, 2014

A night at the mayors debate


A day at the races. 

That is the mayor's race.  2014 run.  Oakland City.  

After having done this myself in 2010 and then having run for council in 2012 it sure felt different to sit in the balcony and be part of the crowd.  It was fun.  I waived at a few people I knew, noticed others further away and watched the show.  Only the popcorn was missing. 

The day belonged to Libby Schaaf.  She spoke well.  She answered the questions well and basically carried herself as if she could credibly be the next mayor.  That she has to credit herself for.  The day belonged to her too because of the way the good questions kept coming to her.  Credit the press panel for that.  I had the feeling that the panel was treating her as the front runner. 

The candidates as speakers 

Worst of them all was our current mayor, Jean Quan. Every time she spoke she was running out her breath and running down the clock.  It was hard to understand her points.  She also had some real trouble hearing some pointed questions which the audience repeated to her.  Jean has always sounded like that and got elected mayor sounding like that.  Maybe speaking skills are not so important for getting elected in Oakland.  

My friend Joe Tuman, who taught me a lot of the public speaking skills I have, did not follow his own advice.  It took him a while to answer the questions to the audience instead of to the journalist on the panal.  This is the man who hammered home into my head at San Francisco State that AUDIENCE DRIVES THE MESSAGE.  He also broke the rule about shape.  His speaking sounded a bit like Quan's with breath and diction, but still a single buzz until the clock ran out.  Worst of all, at one point he was speaking about management measuring tools in a jargon so academic that I was glad that I also speak French.  

My friend Shake Anderson, along with Parker, Ruby, Schaaf and Sidebotham all did good jobs of answering the questions directly without waffling, and speaking with breath and pause to make clear when they were passing from one idea to another.  Nancy Sidebotham was particularly well spoken, even when the questions were pointed and personal.  At one point Shake was asked if he would use Occupy consensus decision making as mayor to which he toned a clear NO that got the laugh from the crowd.  Nancy was hounded for not supporting much of any taxes and she came back clear on why she does not trust those who spend those tax dollars.  Anderson, Parker, Ruby and Schaaf knew the skill of answering head on before heading in the direction that they wanted. 

Patrick McCullough and Dan Siegel fell somewhere in between.  Both have good clear voices.  Siegel tended to sound good even when he was speaking without much structure or any clear answer.  At other times he was really clear on message, albeit without much memorable punch.  McCullough speaks very clearly, but let the journalists decide what he was going to talk about.  

The audience 

There was a lot of it.  Temple Sinai was PACKED, all seats taken on both levels with people sitting on floors, stairs and standing.  The audience was also much more mixed in age, race, and gender that many of the forums I have seen.  It was pleasing to see such a great turn out.  We need more people in Oakland to take the time to see, hear, understand and give a damn in our elections.  

The place 

Shone brightly.  The Temple Sinai sanctuary is a splendid building.  Early 1900's stone and an ironwork supported dome does it for me.  So did the very 21st century sound system and Wi-Fi.  We should all thank Temple for hosting us so well in such a classy venue.  (full disclosure, I know the building well and have something to do with that Wi-Fi)  

The panel 

It was a well-chosen group.  We had the notorious Chip Johnson, who was gracious and fair.  Matt Artz of the Tribune was as well informed as always, which he used to put a sharp edge on a lot of his questions.  Bob Gammon showed in his questions that he is probably the most informed and longest serving member of the local press since the death of Sanjiv Handa.  His tone was very respectful and his questions, although hard, were put fairly.  I was very impressed by Bianca Brooks of Youth Radio who really zoomed in on some hot issues and pushed those buttons when needed.  

The show 

I am not a fan of this format.  It runs long, the answers are too short and the discussion ends up being superficial.  I also thought that some of the questions were unfair.  McCullough was first cast in the light of his past self-defense use of a firearm to wound a miscreant, years ago.  Then the weapons issue was harped upon again in discussion of armed private security patrols.  Then he was asked flat out what qualifications he might have to be mayor.  No such questions were asked of the others.  They were asked about relevant events, issues or character of governance.  

Chip Johnson asked Shake Anderson how he would get along with the police after having gone head to head with them when he was an Occupy protestor.  I found that question fair and Shake started his answer with a clear message that he wants a different chief of police.  
 
The mayor was put on the defensive comparing crime stats during her first 3 years to the last year of the Dellums administration.  She did not answer clearly (see description of her mumbling above) but she was right to say that short term numbers like that mean little.  I agree.  I say the same thing when her supporters in Block by Block talk about how crime is way down this year compared to last year, especially murders.  That is true, but both last year and this year fall within the normal fluctuations, but who wants to listen to analytical statistics when you can score sound bite points? 

Not all that much was said in 90 second sound bites; you can't even string them as you would on Twitter.  There was some meaningless talk of police staffing numbers.  In this Joe Tuman clearly stated that he was willing to pay what it takes to have 900 police.  Libby ducked some clear questions on police costs overall and avoided answering if she would like to get union seniority out of how police brass make assignments.  

There were some good small points made by all, many a good statement made, but in 90 seconds how much can anyone say?  A couple people, especially Shake, Ruby and Libby, made it clear that they would expect a police chief to do their job, not have the mayor do it for them.  WHO those three would like as mayor may not be a point of consensus. If there was a consensus it was that they all wanted more beat cops who actually live in the city.  There was some talk about how young men of color are supposed to act or what they are supposed to want... There was some more snippets about chronic poverty and chronic crime... Some words on economic development ... 

Every candidate got some time, but certain candidates got a lot more time.  As I said, Libby was sitting in the middle of the stage standing out in a bright red dress.  All the other candidates were dressed more conservatively, including Shake.  And she got the center of attention if not the numeric majority of the questions.  The Mayor got fewer questions than one would guess.  She got the most questions when it was the turn of the candidates to ask another candidate a question.  It was pretty easy to see that the focus and attention was on the candidates considered most likely to win.  

Some questions were not asked.  "Do you have the support of the Oakland Police Officers Association or are you seeking their support?" would have been a question.  "Who do you think you can work with on City Council to support your agenda?" would be another.  I could add to this "Should we have a police commission?" and "What happened to civilian intake of complaints against police officers?"  (Now back in the hands of Internal Affairs despite direct votes of council and the city budget) I would have liked some questions about failed policies and rapidly changing policies instead of hounding the mayor for how many people quit on her.  Of course even if they had asked better questions, with 90 second answers, what would we have really learned? 

I was a little disappointed with some of the numbers thrown around. We had the normal questions about pensions as if it were a single without mentioning cash flow and rate of payout.  We also had some unexplained numbers on cost per cop.  The candidates were sticking to $180,000 per cop, per year.  There was no numbered distinction made about overtime, yet we were asking if police salaries should be lower.  I was half expecting Dan Siegel to clarify, and he sort of did on another question.  Basic police salary is a lot less than 180K, overtime is a real lot and total cost per cop is between 200 and 250K unless you want them out there on foot in their underwear.  (Source, former City Administrator Lindheim) 

By and large the whole thing was good natured and there were even a few laughs.  One when the Mayor thanked Chip for a column and he gave a good hearted you're welcome.  Shake got a good laugh for his flat NO and another when he said that he could end up good friends with the police.  McCullough got a couple good laughs and there were a few light moments.  If there was any serious value in the evening, it was to get a good look at all the candidates mannerisms.  

By and large, the feeling of the whole evening was friendly.  

The politics

For our 2014 election, we have a few of those likely winners. The measure of such things in our nation is dollars and press.  So who has the dollars and the connections?  Tuman, who is a TV personality and has been running for a year already, Ruby, our city auditor, who is well liked at the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, Libby Schaaf, sitting council member and lifelong Oakland insider, and the incumbent, Jean Quan, who has a strong core base after 20 years as an elected official, working hard to get her reelected.  

The politics of what is at stake is mostly personalities.  Only Green candidate Anderson and independent McCullough would be any real break from the status quo.  Even ultra-radical Dan Siegel has been part of the inside crowd in Oakland for a long time.  At one point he reminded us that he wrote a part of our current community policing laws. How Dan is different from Jean is not as clear as it needs to be and he did not make it any more clear tonight.  

As this is a blog, not some kind of journalism, I can now pass to the candidate that I support: 

Jason Kane "Shake" Anderson.  I think he did well, especially for his first round of this circus.  He obviously was well prepared and obviously has the relevant experience to do the public speaking, public debate part of running for office.  As the standard bearer for the Green Party he made the points that needed to be made within the limits of this sound bite boxing match.  

I liked how he explained the new relationship he proposes with the police along the lines of needing South African style Truth and Reconciliation.  He followed that later with a clear message to the nonprofits who do not get the services out to the residents.  In case anyone was wondering, Anderson, like all Greens, does not take big money and owes big money no quid-pro-quo.  I liked how he spoke of his grandparents moving to Oakland during the great migration.  

I think he should hone his message on his opposition to the war on drugs because he will be asked that again and again.  He got the words PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX out there and followed with Nonprofit Industrial Complex later. That is a damn good start considering that they did not call on him much.  He talked about his leadership style when answering the Occupy-Consensus question and included what he had personally learned from Occupy.  What I like about his style is that he speaks as a whole person from the heart, personal and political.  Yet he did not sell himself as the others did.  Overall he gave clear ideas for a real transition in our relationships around public safety and crime based on who we are here and now.  As the campaign moves on his reform agenda will make itself heard.

This election is not even started.  The petition period is in JUNE.  Others could file and some could drop out.  In July we sign ballot petitions and only once those are turned in, we will know who will actually be on the ballot in November.   Right now nothing is fixed.  

There is much more to be said about public safety in Oakland than was said tonight.  

We have until November to say it.  

 
See the debate for yourself:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUYZZGdqhsM&feature=share
 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

It is getting ugly at KPFA Dan


If Dan Siegel is going to show himself to be a leader of the progressives of Oakland he will need to show it at KPFA.  KPFA is our local community radio station in the Pacifica Network, in case you did not know.

And in case you did not know, as most don’t, there is a civil war going on at our community radio station.  The faction fight for control of the station and the network has reached a new shrill peak this week.  Unless he stands up and does something, Dan Siegel will be counted as one of the un-civil warriors.   He is very identified as a leader of one of the two groups, “Save” KPFA,  wanting to run the show. 


The other group is here http://supportkpfa.org/  
Both websites will give you each side of this recent dispute and then some. 

This infighting disturbs me and makes me angry two ways.  First is because the station could go under. 

KPFA, our Pacifica Station, is one of the few media outlets in the whole country that belongs to the people.  It is precious, rare and needs a lot of support to survive in the recession economy. 

Right now the war drums are pounding out an Iraq invasion kind of beat with a one sided, distorted view of what is happening in the Ukraine.  Pacifica is one of the very few outlets in the US that is letting us know other parts of the news, not being told to us by the corporate press.  Where else will the public get alternative reporting on our economy, the environment, race relations, our legal system, and our foreign affairs in these days of Clear Channel?  

If KPFA went under, we would lose a lot.  We have depended on this radio station for generations now.   With the corporate giants controlling most of the airwaves and dissent so blacked out, it is time for Pacifica and KPFA to grow larger, grow more heard and grow better at what we do.  It is also time for us to reach more young people and listen to more young people.

The other part that disturbs me is the way this faction fight gets so extreme.  The tactics of the fight have become more of an issue than whatever opposing views each group has for the management of the station.  I am not sure I know what each side wants to do, mostly I hear about what the other has done wrong.  I do know people on both sides of some value.  One of them is Dan Siegel, who I have known for years.  I have seen some of the economic arguments and tend to agree more with the other group.  I also think that the other group has not been anywhere so cut throat about things. 

The image we are giving of community radio to the public with these kinds of antics is about as damaging as any the right wing would wish upon us.  Right now Fox news execs can uncork the champagne and laugh as we do ourselves in. All sides have done some of it, one side had done most of it. I think everyone who is so viciously fighting for power inside of KPFA and Pacifica needs to be held accountable for their viciousness.    Late night meetings, dubious votes, padlocking the offices, legal actions, calling the police (and the fire department?), trying to take over the bank account in some kind of lightning power grab all does not look good because it is not good.  It is recklessly irresponsible. 

Responsible would be to listen to all sides.  Seems that some sides want some financial audits, so let’s have all the audits people ask for, and let’s have them done by a neutral, professional, third party. 

Responsible would be to follow procedures and law.  If a vote is to be held to remove the executive director, then hold it with some time for everyone to hear the case that is being made. Hold the vote where it can be counted normally.  Follow protocol and law dealing with the director’s contract. 

Responsible would be to hold back.  If one only has a thin majority, one should not act like a G W Bush Republican and make deep changes that disrespect the significant minority.  The vote to remove an executive director and change course for the network needs a super majority.  The vote to sell a station license should require a consensus.

Responsible would be for everyone to act like adults and work on what the station needs to grow because the station urgently needs to grow adding more listeners and members. 

Responsible would be to treat each other with respect. 

If we want Unity, then we need to offer respect and some sense of restraint.  Dan, I do not think you should back down on the views you express in support of “Save” KPFA.  If that is the direction you advocate for the station, then advocate it openly and honestly, as we all should advocate our views.  

But could you help us control this kind of behavior?  As a leader of one of the two groups could you now offer some leadership to the whole community?   If you stood up for some restraint and mutual respect right now, we could back away from this abyss. 

Right now this LA Weekly article is correct; we are falling over the edge. 
I consider it suggested reading.