Thursday, December 22, 2011

Re: A Recall is Divisive and Harmful

 Re: A Recall is Divisive and Harmful

As you may know, the Greens have not yet taken a position on this recall effort.
As far as I know, we are the only group to invite both sides to come and speak to one of our meetings.

And as many remember, we did advise voting for Quan as second choice because we found her the lesser evil.
That thought is no longer an easy sell.
But the point is, we are not Quan supporters, so we view the recall from that point of view.

I have not heard anyone say that Quan has done something illegal.
What the public is discussing is a recall, not an impeachment. 

Speaking for myself and not for the Greens, I have some concerns about the recall process.
It does not seem very democratic to only require a 50% vote to recall.
If the vote proceeds with state rules, then only a plurality would elect the replacement.
We could end up with more people voting against the recall than for the replacement mayor.

That said, I am not willing to go so far as to call the money and influence soaked media circus
and advertizing war that passed for an election last time something democratic, or even better
than the recall process.

What we really need is some kind of reforms here to get money out of our local elections and
to get a council composed of community leaders.  I do not hear proposals from MOBN or
Tramutola's (sp?) TOLA other than term limits.  Nothing to make the process of  STARTING a term
any more democratic and nothing to ensure that all views are represented.

How would recalling the Mayor make Oakland any more democratic?

Having the Mayor's ear does not sound very democratic either.
Is this having her ear to do what she told her voters that she would do?
That sounds more like how one deals with a non-profit, not an elected official.

In this, I think the Greens are also the only ones who keep going back to the need for budget and charter reform.
I see no reason to change my mind about that.  Other places do better, so can we.

One group has every right in the world to recall Mayor Quan:  Her supporters.
I would like to hear what the Block-by-Block folk feel and think about all this.
Many of them should feel disappointed in her leadership at the budget and dealing with Occupy.

When I hear people say that a recall would be divisive, harmful, or as the unions say, a distraction,
I have to ask, What unity?  To do what?  What harm?  What is being done that we do not want damaged?
And what is going on that we should be paying attention to if we want to avoid a distraction?

Instead of telling us what we should unify around or pay attention to, let's accept that we have a mayor in crisis and ALL of us are part of the process.  It is easy to ask for unity when it is your  group in power.

I want to ask everyone for responsibility. 

If you support Quan staying office, why?  and if not, why not?


Don Macleay
510 290-1200

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Some questions and comments about Occupy Oakland Questions:

Is it better now? 
Is the area around city hall safer? Cleaner? Is business back up? Are there less homeless at 14th and B-way? 
What was the cooperation about? Was it nation wide?  Why?  
If this was a local sanitation and public safety issue, then why did we need to coordinate with so many other mayors and have all those raids in the same week?  Why were the billionaire mayor of New York and our “progressive” mayor Quan saying the exact same things?  Was it the exact same situation?  Or did we prep the exact same talking points? 

Who are those folk who come and throw bricks? 
Why was this allowed to happen the evening of the general strike?  This is the second major time this has happened.  The other was the Oscar Grant protests.  Are we investigating these instigators of violence or making use of them to justify shutting down protests we do not like?  

What is Mayor Quan doing about the problems of the 99%?  
Has the City of Oakland done anything about the foreclosures?  Have they even asked or tried?   Are we holding the banks we do business with up to any accountability?  Do we rate them for their ethical practices?  Are we getting any of the redevelopment or stimulus money to directly aid common people?  


If there was no violence at the second raid, it was thanks only to the protestors.

Nancy Nadel, council member for District 3, warned the public that this second raid was going to take place.  The police came again in the dead of night armed for a confrontation.  The protestors had already cleared the tents and were standing on the other side of the cordon.  The only people arrested were from a meditation group and the interfaith taskforce and it was a peaceful act of civil disobedience.  Other than that there was one Native American in a tree. 
When Jean Quan and other city officials went through the camp holding their noses at the filth, what they were really doing was walking through abandoned tents and left behind garbage.  Now, compare these verifiable facts with what you were told in the media.  

Occupy is a popular movement with popular support.  ; there are nearly 1400 protests in the USA. 
Tens of thousands of local people came out to support the Occupy Oakland General Strike.  Hundreds, and at times thousands of people have been in the plaza.  Thousands came to protest the West Coast Ports.  People come to the plaza with workshops, theatre, a mobile library, a children’s tent and much more. The original group of young people have been joined by older activists, and the movement is very multi ethnic and growing.  There was a bailout of the banks and Wall Street but no help for the mortgage holders and Main Street. There is a tax holiday for the rich and cutbacks for the rest.  Strong opposition to the economic injustice in our country is taking place for good reasons.

Your neighbor, Green Party activist and Occupy Oakland Supporter, Don Macleay

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Unfinished business, an alternative political movement

Unfinished business, an alternative political movement 

No one has been where we are before, but forty years ago we were somewhere very similar. For some of us the Vietnam War, Civil Rights, and all that culturally stuff that came out of the bottle in the 1960’s is learned from the history books.  For others it is our personal past.  For me it was my childhood. 

It was time for a change, and in some ways things did change a lot. 

People felt that things were going to move forwards in our county.  We were going to have a new society.  One that put race and sex discrimination into the past.  One that would be dedicated to personal freedoms, civil rights, democracy, peace, modernism and the environment.

And then American society took a great leap backwards under Ronald Regan. We have been moving backwards ever since.  For me the symbol of the Regan era was taking the solar cells off the roof of the White House.  Their dedication to vengeance on all social progress was so deep that we were led from there to failing implement the metric system.  The symbol of Barak Obama is that he can barely even get those outdated solar cells back on the roof and keeps the torture center open in Guantanamo.  

So what happened to the big movements of the 60’s?  Why did the considerable American Left and trade unions not put the breaks on this kind of foolishness?  Why was the press free to play cheerleader to the corporate free-for-all and the triumph of the military industrial complex over all forms of decency and common sense? 

Well for all our fanciful thinking and big ideas back in the 1960’s and 1970’s we somehow felt that things had to change so much that we were above doing boring things like build an alternative political party.  When the moment came, progressive, left leaning America had built nothing independent of big money politics so we had to settle for what the market offered us from the Democrats.  

The Democrats never offered much more than being not as bad (theoretically) as the shock jocks.  Not only did they not stand up for principals when participating in vote marketing and infotainment, the Democrats had their hands in the dirt.  From Clinton with his National Guard helping the Contras in Honduras and doing a job on the poorest with a welfare “reform” to the Obama continuation of the Bush tax cuts and financial bailout and running a coup in Honduras, disappointing is too generous of a word.  The Democrats are part of Big Money running America as much as their dance partners, The Republicans.  

All through this time we have been told by “leaders of the left” that we need to be practical and do what we can by voting for Democrats and not “spoiling” elections in our rotten pseudo democracy.  Year after year things have just continued to slide to the logic of the “free market” and globalization, the logic of collective punishment of the poor, and the logic of endless imperial wars.  

And here we are in the 21st century without an American political party of the left.  The Occupy Movement has shown that we are starting nearly from scratch.   I know that most Democrats are still whining and blaming all their problems on Ralph Nader who at one point said that there was not a dime’s worth of difference between the two official parties.  W tried to prove him wrong and Obama has proved him right.  Our next election will be between a RINO and a DINO (Democrat or Republican in name only, as if their names had any value) 

And us Greens?  Our proposal is to participate in democracy with a party that is FREE OF CORPORATE MONEY, in favor of national health and social welfare and opposed to the prison-industrial complex and the endless war doctrine.  I could go on, we have 10 core values and that gives us ten more than the democrats. 

Just saying …. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

Adios Oakland Chamber of Commerce

To Joseph Haraburda, 

I am very sorry to have to do this, but I cannot justify renewing my membership in the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce (OMCC) this year. It has been a few years now that I have really not seen Chamber Membership as a benefit to my business, but the final decision not to renew is because of Chamber advocacy for police intervention against the Occupy Oakland tents.  

For a small business like mine, the main reason we take part in Chamber events is to either sell our own services, or to find people who offer services we need.  There is also value in advocating for our needs as local business owners and in the discussions and forums held with chamber guest speakers.  

Unfortunately the Chamber has been falling short on all three of these things. 

After the first fiasco of a police crackdown against the Occupy Oakland encampment, the OMCC called for the tents to be urgently removed by police force again.  Calling for a second raid without showing any concern for the excessive force used by the police in the first one is not non-violence.  I am one of the people who speaks from inside the progressive movement and directly to Occupy Oakland General Assembly for non-violence.  I am now speaking as a business owner and Oakland Citizen for non-violence.  The claim was made that Oakland business was suffering and that crime and violence at the encampment urgently needed to be stopped.  The facts do not bear this out.  Most of the problems were caused by those reacting to the protest and not by the protestors themselves or were already there.  Meaningful dialog and peaceful resolution was not credibly attempted by the City Government.  

How was my business represented and served by this second raid? Who will have to pay for it? All the peaceful alternatives would have been better for our city’s image and cost much less.  Something better than a riot squad could have helped the businesses downtown who had legitimate problems.  

The area around City Hall, has been very dangerous for years.  There have been two killings at the newsstand, attacks on people using the ATM, attacks on people patronizing the local nightlife, and homeless people in the plaza, on the streets and throughout the area.

Nothing about clearing out the Occupy camp has decreased these problems and I can expect to find people intoxicated in public, being violent, defecating around our businesses and sleeping in public places, using and selling drugs, as they have been doing for years. Truth is, the place was safer to walk around at night with the Occupy Oakland campsite in it, despite what all the alarmist letters to the business community said.  

One of our biggest problems in Oakland is the feelings of distrust between the police, government, the local businesses and many of our local communities.   These actions have only sharpened the distrust. 

I will continue to work for peace and dialog, including with you and my former Chamber of Commerce members and do whatever I can to help build civic unity. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Oakland needs a peace conference.

Oakland needs a peace conference. 

And a peace treaty.  

Yesterday was a great example of people talking past each other and not listening. 
To start with, our chamber of commerce and five members of council tried to give a press conference advocating that the police remove the Occupy Oakland encampment, apparently they want that immediately.  Thanks to the written statement and the short period that Larry Reid got to speak at the microphone we got a rehash of the prior statements on fire safety, the needs of business in the area and city costs and some doubtful verbiage about protecting people’s rights to protest and use their freedom of speech … 

What we did not get was any addressing of the very basic fact that this proposal is seen by the people living in the plaza as another threat to use police violence against them again.  

So far I have not heard much to hold the police accountable for what they did during the first eviction. 
Nor did I hear anything from out local business community of concern for how the protestors would be treated if their proposed second eviction took place.  Would we not use stun grenades again the same way we did not use the stun grenade that the whole world watched our police throw at people trying to help an injured protestor?  We need to get real about what really happened at that eviction.  

It does not help that some are motivated by their opposition to the message of Occupy Oakland and some much unsubstantiated, exaggerated and doubtful claims were made about the impact of the protest on downtown business. 

The call to remove the encampment came from a very mixed group, one had been in a tent at first.
I came to listen to what they had to say all the same, as did many others.  A couple of people stood quietly where the TV cameras could see them with signs to denounce the police violence. 

Occupy Oakland is also a very mixed group.  

So someone shouted “mic check” and the press conference descended into a shouting match and was over.  The media circus continued.  Three of Jean Quan’s staff were there, the media did not ask them for any comments.  Nor me.  But they did ask a few business people for comments, but mostly focused on council members in the middle of the shouting; there was a core of elected officials, a ring of cameras and another ring of protestors speaking together with a public mic.  The print reporters spoke to a few more people, as usual.  The thing was a circus.  

I never got to ask my question. 

Then some media, some council people, some Chamber people and no small number of protestors stopped about half way to the parking lot to chat in small groups.  The shouting was over.  I dropped in to speak with a couple members of council who I know, and a member of the press, and a couple of the protestors who recognized me, but by and large most people were calmly chatting in groups of their own opinion within a few feet of one another. 

We all just talked past each other again.  

If I had been able to listen, and then ask my question, the question was going to be:
How were we going to avoid having a second eviction riot, and do they think having a second eviction riot would be worth it?  

In my one-on-one conversations, I heard a lot of “the protestors have had their chance” and talk about how the protest is “totally taken over by Black Block” and a lot of other stuff to the effect that “we have had enough and SOMETHING has got to be done”.  

I was there to listen, but doing NOTHING would be a lot better that doing the SOMETHING we did last time.  I just can not imagine anything worse for the city, including the city’s businesses, than to have a second violent police action with tear gas in our streets and stun grenades on world TV.  

And it would cost less to resolve every one of those health and safety issues than to pay for another full day of riot squad and mutual assistance.  Not to mention paying for the lawsuits that are coming.  

Back at Occupy Oakland General Assembly that evening the discussion continued on non-violence.  Nothing was voted on and nothing was voted against.  The only decision made was to hold a march in solidarity with the People of Cairo Egypt next Saturday.  

And it became clear to me that most of the people of Occupy have no feeling that the encampment problems are urgent to them or anyone else.  Many people spoke as if a police raid could, would and will come sooner or later.  The belief was that the police raids would come because people like the police, the rich and the chamber of commerce types just wanted to shut the protest down.  The health and safety stuff seems like a thin excuse for more police violence to a lot of the protestors.  

I would not doubt that there are some police and business people for whom the health and safety issues are just a thin veil to justify a crackdown on views that they oppose.  But the health and safety complaints are more valid than that.  They do not justify another raid, but do justify action.  

Finally, Jean Quan did ask my question for me.  She asked her majority of Council and the Chamber folk to show her a plan to remove the encampment without hurting more people and damaging more property.  Let us hope and pray that she is not waiting for them to come up with a sharp idea.  

This morning listening to the KPFA Morning Mix (that a lot of Quan supporters oppose in their fight to “Save KPFA”) and learned that Los Angeles has found a way to have peace with its Occupy protest.  The council member interviewed said that there was some trouble because such things attract a lot of homeless (duh) but that they were moving on and focusing on the bigger issues, such as LA setting up a review system of the social responsibility of the banks and financial institutions that they put their money through. He also wanted to focus on  corporate personhood and oppose big money in our elections.  Maybe Jean should give the mayor of LA a call?  

And tonight some of us local business owners have been invited to a meeting to talk about it all.  Since I am both a business owner and an Occupy supporter, I will go to listen and go to speak if allowed.  

I think I will propose a peace negotiation.  The city has put out a list of complaints against the encampment.  If we fix those can we stay?  The people of Occupy would be a lot friendlier with the police if there was a commitment not to raid them again.  Is Occupy hurting local business?  HOW?  Name names, tell us what you need.  Many other Occupy camps have made a point of helping local business.  This one could too if asked.  

Each group needs to put their cards on the table and say what they need to live with each other.  That means being willing to do some things and willing to give some things up.  My understanding was always that peace treaties are some kind of compromise because fighting it out would be much worse.  

And then we could go back to holding those press conferences, uninterrupted.