Monday, December 15, 2014

OK, can we NOW have some unity for an Oakland Police Commission?

If we want to do something about Ferguson, we should finish our business in Oakland. 

The protestors, self-included, gather in front of City Hall and we call that Oscar Grant Plaza. 
In Oakland we know the problems of having the police be out of control. 
According to Judge Henderson, who oversees the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, we are over a decade late dealing with just the tip of the iceberg represented by the Riders case.   According to many of the liberal Democrats that run our city, we have not made good on the promise of our Civilian Oversight since the days of Mayor Lionel Wilson back in the 1970’s.  According to me, when it comes to how Oakland Police treat blacks, other people of color and the working public in general, there are no good old days.  It was always bad.  The further back you go….. 
It is bad and the problems extend past the mistreatment of the “minorities” who make up Oakland’s majority of residents.  We just spent 10 long and expensive Measure Y years watching this force drag their feet and hide behind union rules and the “Police Officers Bill of Rights” to fight every form or participation in community policing and even the most mild civilian oversight. 
Community policing example:  The program we are supposed to have is that each Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council is to have a Problem Solving Officer.  The reality is that this is the most unstable job in the Oakland Police Force.  It is always the first thing to be cut, put on the back burner and when staffed, the officer assigned is constantly changing.  In my local NCPC’s we never had anyone on the job long enough to really get to know their group, let alone their community.  By the time you get to ask them to sit for coffee, your PSO has been replace by someone who is too busy to talk with you because they are just getting started.   
Accountability example:  For a couple of budgets now, there has been a small reform in the offering.  Right now, if you have a complaint against an Oakland police officer, you must file that complaint to an Oakland police officer in the Internal Affairs Department or someone who works directly for them.  Oakland activists, self-included, have been pushing to move civilian complaints from Internal Affairs to the Civilian Police Review Board.  The council agreed and put the funds into the budget.  The City Administrator simply did not do it.  No authorization, little explanation, no public review.  Then after some pressure, much of it led by the organization PUEBLO, it was put into the budget again.  Next thing we know, there is a job description asking civilians to apply to do intake for civilian complaints IN INTERNAL AFFAIRS.  Still no authorization from Council to change the plan laid out in the budget, still no public account given.  It turns out that the City Administrator had been consulting with the police officers’ union under a farfetched contrivance where they really had no standing, and the police officer’s union was able to get the court appointed monitor to go along with blocking this reform “to have better relations”.  (That monitor has been relieved of duty shortly thereafter, but the decision stuck.) 
By the way, included in the job description for a civilian complaint intake officer, was an encouragement for former police to apply and requiring knowledge of the Police Officer’s Bill of Rights, but civil rights training, being from Oakland, having any background in advocating for the public, none of that was even asked about. 
Anyone active in Oakland over the last fifty years could now say:  “Yeah and let me tell you about…..   
Fill the blank in here with all kinds of issues big and small that stem from a police department that does not have a clear system of accountability or any checks and balances. 
Therefore there is no surprise that this police force is costing the City of Oakland big dollar payouts to compensate victims of Oakland Police Abuse.  How much more?  More than the cities of San Jose and San Francisco COMBINED. 
Done right, and done well, a Police Commission could make a difference.  A police Commission was what people were asking for back in the 70’s.  What we got instead was a sham.  That failed and then history repeated itself the second time as farce giving us today’s powerless Civilian Police Review Board. 
Other cities have police commissions, we can look at their legislation, look at their successes and failures and catch up quick. 
PUEBLO still has such a proposal that they have been working on, they call it a “Public Safety Commission”.  If they had the support of the street demonstrations, they could advance an even stronger proposal and they have all the lawyers necessary to write up a charter amendment.  I don’t care what they call it, as long as it has the power to conduct outside, independent investigations and it has the power to dismiss police officers who we do not want.  Notice I said “want” and not those convicted of some kind of a crime.  Police officers who want to kick but, want to bust heads and treat our people like the enemy have the wrong attitude for working here.  They should go and the ones who are on the community service wavelength should stay and be rewarded for it.   
We should also look into our souls and think about what it is WE want out of this here in Oakland. 
We are one of the US’ urban cores dealing with problems of generational discrimination, poverty, crime, violence and lack of education.  With Measure Y and Measure Z we see that the overwhelming majority of us, self-included, have decided to make our focus the causes of crime as well as the crime itself. 
We cannot do that with a police force that is not held accountable.  One of our biggest problems right now is the extremely poor relationships the police have with most of the communities of this city.   
So let’s do it.  The groups organizing the protests, can you also organize a ballot petition?  This kind of change is going to need a change of the City Charter and we are going to need the support of the voting majority to make it work.  Contact the PUEBLO office and join into this effort.  This will probably move the protests from the freeways to the neighborhoods getting folk to sign petitions and for many, sign up to vote.  Do this and the protests win. 
PUEBLO is willing to take the risk of leading, do we have the good sense to FOLLOW?   The group that is meeting following the Dan Siegel mayoral campaign, you are partly involved already.  This is something we can do now and deserves a coalition now.  Jessie Douglas Alan Taylor, Wilson Riles, speak out, you know a lot more than me and it is time to share it. My local Greens, we are already part of this coalition on paper, can we make this the first thing we do in 2015?  There are many other groups, I think too many other groups, Phat Beets, the ISO, Peace and Freedom.  Hey Commemorators, didn’t you start this the first time?  Would Block by Block support a strong police commission?  If so, many of you know your way to the PUEBLO office, and I mean YOU Pamela, among others. 
Can we just agree on this essential power shift right now and get this one reform done? 
It has waited too many years and our streets and freeways are feeling the need to finally do it. 
Don’t do it, and we will feel our own unfinished business in the pain of others.  Oakland will be an example either way.  Right now we are an example of the problem, we can join Richmond and be an example of the solution if we can work together enough for this. 
Given the right police commission we can quickly work towards a day when any law enforcement employee who commits a crime or abuse will be dealt with and the public can trust that justice will be served, especially if the injustice was committed by someone wearing a gun and a badge.  
If we do it right, Oakland Police would wear a badge that everyone honored. 

Monday, November 3, 2014

No on Z! Yes on crime prevention programs!

Measure Z is the renewal of Measure Y, our Police, Fire and crime prevention programs special property parcel tax and parking tax that is up for renewal after ten years.    Over ten years most of the money raised went to Police ($159 million) and Fire ($95 million), and the smallest spending item was sent to the Department of Human Services for the crime and violence prevention programs ($38 million).  They were also able to get some grant monies for the DHS programs.

The crime prevention program is called Oakland Unite and its website tells us that the strategies are Youth Services, Family Violence, Reentry Services and Crisis Intervention. Look around the website, and you will find lots of support for getting funding.  An actual list of who HAS funding is found here: Oakland Unite functions more or less like any other Foundation handing out grants. 

If Measure Y were a grant recipient asking for a renewal after 10 years, an independent review of the past work, supervised by those giving the money (in this case us the voters) would inspect the program. 

The questions asked would be:  Was the program effective in dealing with the problem it was trying to address?   Was it cost effective?  Were funds spent wisely and properly?    Who benefited how?  How many benefited for how long?  What happens to the target community when they leave the program? 

Those questions have not been asked of Measure Y and that kind of review has not been done. 

So let’s go back to the top.  In 2004 we voted 20 million dollars a year for stable police and fire and to start down the path of violence and crime prevention, intelligently turning our backs on the “tough-on-crime” failures of the twentieth century.  Probably one of the smartest things we could have done given our prison system without rehabilitation and our parole system’s total failure.  I was in total support of Measure Y and totally support the concept inspiring that small part of the funds headed toward Social Services. 

Rough estimates are that Oakland incarcerates, and releases about 5 to 9 people on any given work day.  From what Probation and Parole employees have told me, about 13 to 17 thousand of our people in some form of incarceration or provisional release at any one time.  A lot of those going to jail are going back to jail and a lot of those coming out will not be out too long. 

There is no agency giving us a report on the whole situation and there is much massaging of numbers, but even given the lowest estimates of the size of this vicious circle of our criminal justice system, we are talking about thousands of people directly involved and serious stress and crisis for tens of thousands of Oakland families.  If you take families, friends and neighbors into account, it puts about one resident in eight into direct contact with some kind of Oakland crime and violence problem.  More if you count the victims of crimes.  It would be very hard to find anyone in town who has not been robbed, or has had a family member or friend who has been harmed in some way.   

We in Oakland know crime, and given that, we made a very informed choice to take the path of prevention.  Now I ask you to think about what you know about this city, the size of this problem and ask yourself if you think the numbers measure up for what we have experienced over the last 10 years. Looking over the Oakland Unite website you will see dozens of youth and family served in that time, probably hundreds, maybe even a couple thousand, but looking over the city you will see thousands, probably tens of thousands left to the way things worked before the ten year, forty million dollar, Measure Y experiment.   The whole project cost us $200 million when you add police and fire. 

I feel that we are letting the big ticket items fall too far down the list to be effective.  Given the limited resources, even with Measure Y/Z money, I feel we should focus on the areas of highest need and highest yield. 

Top of that list of high yield programs that should be a priority is Restorative Justice.  We need to stop sending so many people to jail and Restorative Justice Group-Family meetings provide a well-tested alternative.  Instead of a trial, sentence, and parole path, the offenders are brought to their community through the meeting in lieu of a trial and given a restitution and reform path to follow instead of a sentence.  Families and communities having difficulties, creating the conditions for the crime and violence should be able to receive targeted assistance.  This system has been worked on and the beginners’ mistakes have been made in other places.  Two things are known.  1) It costs a lot less than regular law enforcement. 2) Restorative Justice Systems have never performed worse than prison when it comes to repeat crimes. 

Some people think that prevention programs are the long term solution when in this case it is how we stop feeding the whirlwind RIGHT NOW.  How many crimes would we have prevented if we had had a serious Restorative Justice program in Oakland during the 10 years of measure Y?  We have been fixing flat tires as the potholes get worse. 

What do we have in the way of Restorative Justice after ten years of Measure Y? 
Maybe one or two cases resolved this way a week and some low number, amorphous support from the county without a clear plan or agreement.  We have lots of “great first steps” when we should have made it a lot further down the road.   

After our fifty to a hundred cases a year resolved with restorative justice practices, the 5 to 9 other criminal cases a day are taken to Court where the District Attorney’s office practices the same old policies of getting as many convictions as they can, getting as many years of sentencing as they can and trying as many youth as adults as they can.  You can go watch, it is in the main courthouse, ask the desk which departments are seeing criminal cases.  Since Measure Y went into effect a whole new generation of Oakland youth have been through lock up, almost none of whom were considered for an alternative resolution.  Many lives of crime have been started and made worse since 2004. 

For an example of Restorative Justice going well take a look at our own Oakland Schools.  And yes some of the push came from Measure Y.

School discipline has the same problems as the criminal justice system.  Restorative Justice has given a way to have better behavior, better participation and fewer suspensions and expulsions overall and less disproportionate damage to school careers of black and brown students.  This city/school collaboration is one of the few bright lights of the last ten years.

How about the other end?  What do we do for those who are about to be released?  Do they have a place to go?  An integration plan?  Have we met with their friends, family, and church before they get out?  Has the State offered them any rehabilitation, job training, basic education while they were in?    A bank account?  One of those Oakland ID cards?  So are we spending measure Y money to teach people how not to act like they just got out of jail and to tell them how to apply for the insufficient services? 

The re-entry programs on the Oakland Unite website seem very cool, but are they really targeted on the extreme situation a person finds themselves when the bus lands them down at MLK and San Pablo?  Do they measure up to the real needs out there?  Have we put a dent into parole violations and new convictions?  The State of California does not think so.  Google Little Hoover Commission and Parole. 

So, I think that the programs of Oakland Unite miss the main action.   The police feel that the main four social factors that need addressing are 1) substance abuse, 2) homelessness, 3) truancy and 4) recidivism. At least one of the four is present at most murder scenes. Only one of those is in the Measure Z priorities list.  Nothing is in there to set up a triage office of the Oakland Police to review every arrest BEFORE we hand it to the county for incarceration and the DA’s office for prosecution.  There is nothing in there to provide a serious number of half way houses and serious support to those getting out from behind bars. 

Well, isn’t something better than nothing?  Are we not doing something good, albeit not perfect?

Good arguments both at times.  In the case of Measure Z we are being asked to spend 20 million a year for the next ten years, pretty much along the lines of the last ten years.  If we pass measure Z, and we probably will despite me and my little blog, that will be the only money we will get.  The money it will raise is already spent.  There is no other money on the horizon and the whole process is focused on subcontracting, so there is little training or setup inside our city agencies and most of the work is done by non-union outside vendors. 

Isn’t Measure Z a case of “something-better-than-nothing”? I see it more as something ineffective standing in the way of doing what is most needed for crime prevention. 

Without Measure Z would we not be “letting-the-perfect-keep-us-from-doing-the-good”?  In my view Measure Z allows a lot of problems with what we are doing go un-fixed.  Council and the public will both think we are on the right track, when all we have done is really nowhere near enough or on target.  With Measure Z we will continue to have day to day operations at police and fire unstably funded by this temporary tax and there is nothing in the measure to demand police accountability or make sure we get the long promised community policing. 

Measure Z is a status quo measure that will give us status quo results. 

This is spending what little cash we have on some nonprofits while missing the boat. 

There is a whole other side to this discussion following the lion’s share of the funds.  The Police Department and City Council were sure able to spend those funds, and two thirds of our discretionary budget at the same time.  After ten years we still don’t have the promised Community Policing, and for that matter, we don’t have much police accountability at all.  We are STILL under court control for the Rider’s police abuse case.  Our police abuse cases compensation payouts add up to more than San Francisco and San Jose COMBINED.  About 10 million a year!  If we got that down, we could pay for everything Measure Y now funds without spending a dime of the special tax and we could spend the special tax on giving people a life after jail or helping them avoid that life of crime altogether. 

The last amendment to Measure Y was to fix the cutoff point for police funding.  That was after Quan crashed the program in a dispute with our police officers over pension contributions.  Almost all of the new police from the academies are offsetting the loss of 80 of our newest officers at that time.  Current council members scream at the thought of losing the Measure Y funding because they have already spent it on day to day operations that should come out of the general fund.  They still have not gotten a handle on our exaggerated police costs and pouring special tax funds into our police department is akin to pouring water into a bucket with holes in it.  Little makes it from the well to the kitchen.  Why would this improve under Measure Z when it did not improve after ten years of Measure Y? 

There are examples of Community Policing working just fine.  One is in Richmond CA.  In that town the civilians run the police and they hired a police chief who would implement their policies.  No special tax, just an active government and lots and lots of grass roots community work.  In Oakland, the man who wrote our Community Policing policy is running for mayor promising to finally make it happen. 

But crime is down?  There sure are a lot of politicians running around claiming credit for our nationwide drop in crime.  The numbers do not really credit any one thing.  Crime is down across the country; Oakland has followed the trend, not led it.  Right wingers claim that it is because of such things as Three Strikes and everyone trying to get reelected is saying that low crime rates prove them right on policies as diverse as Ceasefire and Stop and Frisk. 

At first after Measure Y crime went up.  It went up again when Quan became Mayor.  Way up.  We had some of the highest murder rates in years.  Now we have some of the lowest.  It would be bad sociology to conclude much yet.  It is good politics for some to blame Jean Quan and Measure Y for the high crime of 2010 and for Jean Quan and the Measure Z backers to claim the credit for the low crime of 2014.  How could both be true? 

Before we start running around saying this or that “works” we should ask ourselves “works to do what?”  I want something that works to prevent our youth from becoming criminals. 

If we do not vote in Measure Z, we can still continue with Ceasefire, Community Policing and Restorative Justice.  We should do as Richmond has done and tell the Police Department that this is what the residents have chosen to do and it is the police department’s job to do it well. 

We are not dealing well with convictions, releases and direct aid to families and 20 million a year on the Measure Z will not change that one bit. 

But Measure Z, like Measure Y before it, sucks all the money out of the budget while missing the mark. 

Our budget is not a short term disaster right now.  The sky will not fall on our non-profits’ heads if we vote it down.  We have the money we could use to pay directly for the programs that really deliver services to those it helps.  Remember that the Human Services part of Measure Z is the SMALLEST item on the menu.   We should review those projects, one by one, and fund them as they are found deserving.  We should have the whole program professionally, independently, reviewed and audited before setting up any more special taxes.   Our council fell down on the job by not doing this before putting the renewal on the ballot. 

A budget that works after Measure Z is over would be nice.  My choice would be to spend special tax moneys on special things, setup of new programs for example, and get operational funds from the operational budgets of City and County.  Use a ballot tax to set them up, use normal taxes to keep them running and we have something of a sustainable plan. 

The Measure Y had no such plan other than to come back to the public telling us we have to do it again. 

We also need to work out some details and have agreements with both the county and the state.  If we do things, such as restorative justice, or housing parolees, then we are doing things that are normally the county’s and state’s job.  If we keep people out of the criminal justice system, we are saving the state and county a lot of money.  We should negotiate getting some of those funds.  It is also our money.  The DA’s office, County social services, the Department of Corrections and so on, should either provide the services we all pay for, or help us pay for doing it here in Oakland ourselves. 

We should also have clear who does what in Oakland.  Everything related to social services, law and justice, crime and punishment overlaps with Alameda County and the State of California.  There is some coordination and cooperation now and such things as Ceasefire depend on it, but there is a lot more that needs to be done, especially when one of ours is let out of jail.  Some advanced planning and written agreements with state and county are in order. 

I am not saying that the whole thing is a total failure, far from it, just too expensive and ineffective to be worth renewing without reform.  Let’s take the time to fix it and bring back in better health. 



Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Will Scotland vote “oui”?

Tomorrow’s referendum vote on Scottish independence is flooding the airwaves with a little more balance than NPR and the BBC usually reserve for such events.  Yeah we get the “bad for businesses” and “scary future” drumbeat and some hogwash about the advantages of being in the United Kingdom “family” in a disproportionate amount, but some of the other view is coming through. 

I think that the small modicum of balanced reporting owes itself to two facts:
1, they might win, and
2, they speak English. 

Despite my last name, I have no personal connection to Scotland and have never even been there. 

On the other hand, I do have a deep personal relationship with another place that had an independence referendum that never got any balanced reporting in English.  That is Quebec, the French speaking province of Eastern Canada where more than one independence referendum failed to pass.  I grew up there, in part, and while I was getting what little high school that I have, in French, in an East Montreal trade school, and I voted OUI, (yes) because I felt it was time for Quebec to step forward to take care of itself and deal with other issues.  Those issues were blocked because of the “national question”.  My whole life ran in French from school, to work to bedroom and I have a strong bias in favor of the French language and in favor of national self-determination for any country. 

Given that full disclosure of personal bias,
I’ll move onto my polyglot news junkie version of the Scottish national question. 

Nobody questions that Scotland is a nation.  One of the things most nations have is some kind of self-government and control over their own affairs.  Scotland has some of that via a Scottish Parliament with some autonomy powers.  Many nations are part of a larger state, often in a relationship where clearly defined local control is set in law akin to the US balance of powers between our Federal Government and the States. 

The UK has none of that. 

The UK Parliament in London is “supreme”.  That is the basic rule we all should know about British style parliamentary democracies anywhere, including Canada, is that the “Parliament is Supreme”. 
(Canada’s new constitution moderates that, but if we are going to talk about Scotland, I need to stop on the Canada stuff). 

When Margaret Thatcher, a name as vile as Ronald Regan, decided she did not like “Red Ken” (Ken Livingstone, left Labor) as the head of Greater London Council, she had parliament dissolve the council.  Imagine that?  If Barak Obama was sick and tired of, say the racist government of Arizona, could he decide to dissolve Arizona as a state?  By the way, in the UK the Prime Minister is a member of that Parliament, there is no independent executive, no division of powers with checks and balances or any of that stuff either.  Imagine if Newt Gingrich had the power to dissolve a state of city government when he was Speaker of the House! 

So, when the Scots are deciding if they want to be independent, let’s keep in mind what kind of government they would be independent from, and how fragile their autonomy is today.  Puerto Rico has more legal protections. 


Another thing yes voting Scots would say, and some have, said they want independence from is British foreign policy.  At times it questionable if the UK is independent from the US on foreign policy.  That was shown in the invasion of Iraq where the Blair government took the UK to war despite the opposition of the majority of UK citizens.   In this context, the Tory government is about to follow the US lead into yet another mid-east military intervention against the Islamic State that will put us propping up the semi legitimate government of Iraq and helping to overthrow the semi legitimate government of Syria.  Low income Scots, and many other Scots, serve and die in such wars.  The UK spends vast amounts of cash on their military and offer the public austerity in social services, calling it some kind of governmental reform.   Voting NO in this referendum is to vote to stay part of this foreign policy. 


Being British is to have a big gap between the popular vote and the seats allocated in the all-powerful parliament.  One only needs the MOST votes to hold a seat, not a MAJORITY of votes.  There are no run offs, and there is no proportional representation. 

Except in European elections.  Those seats are allocated based on the popular vote.  The largest number of those votes in England in the last European poll went to UKIP, the United Kingdom Independence Party and ANTI European Union movement.  

The current government of the UK is the Conservatives, who have promised a referendum to the UK voters to be able to re-decide if they are going to stay in the European Union or leave it. 

So all the talk about Scotland needing to apply to re-enter the EU has the backdrop of being part of a UK that is considering the exit door.  In five years’ time we could find Scotland an EU member and the UK outside the system.  They are half outside the system now, not part of the customs union, holding themselves apart on many smaller issues and not participating in the Eurozone. 

The UK keeps the pound because …. ?  Well, a lot is said and most of it is said about the giant part of the UK economy caught up in the big investment banks and institutions in London.  The “Strong Pound” is good for “The City”, meaning their Wall Street.  Does it help Scotland?  Does it help the other parts of the UK economy that does things like provide working class jobs?  Neither the Conservatives, nor the ‘New Labor” opposition talk much about that.  The pro-independence faction in Scotland claims to want to keep currency union with the UK, in other words keep the Pound.  But if they were not allowed to do that, would they accept the Euro instead?  Germany, France, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium and about anywhere else nearby uses the Euro.  Others are working hard to qualify to join that club. 

So maybe in 5 years we have Scotland part of the bigger picture, using the Euro and the UK even more isolated in Europe than their policies have already made them.

And the Scots have something to sell.  North Sea Oil.  Maybe there is only some more, maybe there is a lot more, but right now London calls the shots and I have to think that pro-independence Scots are looking at whatever oil is left and is thinking about how to best sell it in ways that benefit their own country where the oil comes from.  Maybe they will be able to keep the Pound Sterling, but will they accept Euros for that oil?  The thought comes to mind. 

The international aspect of this vote breaks down along the lines of who has minorities that might want to do the same thing.  Supporters of the NO camp include the Spanish government that does not want an independent Catalonia or Basque Country.  Other nations see this as no problem.  The Check and Slovak republics are the product of a divorce.  Go back far enough and there are a lot of splits that have worked out fine thank you, and whole lot of marriages that do not look so great.  Lines have moved back and forth faster than the people living behind them can adapt and it has broken down, especially in the former Soviet Union states, such as Eastern Ukraine today and the Ex-Yugoslavia.  Keeping nations or nationalities inside of countries they want independence from has a bad history, especially in Europe. 

In a world of growing internationalism, what does it mean for a State like Scotland to be independent in an ever more interdependent Europe?  If the game softened, the French Basque and the Spanish Basque could have their own voice.  They already live in a world where they use the same money in the North and South parts and there are no boarder stops, or immigration controls between them.  A French Basque does not need permission to go live and work in any part of Spain or anywhere else in the EU.  A Spanish Basque has the same rights.  Independence in Europe for them would only mean full membership in the Union and getting off the family plan they are on now. 

If I could vote I would probably vote yes and hope for the UK to fully join the EU, including the Eurozone. 

Yeah, the UK family and the European family should stick together, but under one roof?

Scotland needs to be treated as an equal partner. 



Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Ruby and the empowerment of women in elections?

Is this the Ruby difference? 

Interesting group of people listed on this day event.  Interesting for who is there and for who is not. 

In this race I have real trouble understanding how these divisions are breaking down.  Why are Ruby, Tuman, Schaaf and Parker running against each other?  Is there an overlap between Schaaf and Quan supporters?  Has this just become some kind of overlapping sets of insular, enfranchised cliques? 

Is this election just about personal ambition?  Are personal animosities, or professional disagreements that we are not hearing a big part of the rivalries? 

We know about Kaplan's commitment to personal ambition, but the others? 

One thing that this Oakland City election is not about, is the underrepresentation of women in government.  Look at the guest list of enfranchised women talking about getting "empowered" when I would think that this group would be more on the list of those who should be telling us how they handle power ethically.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Oakland Parking and Joe’s plan.

Joe Tuman has released a parking plan for Oakland.  It covers a few basic things that should have been done a long time ago and really should not be controversial except for the expanded free parking.

It will be though because Joe comes from a Pro-Business perspective and used that language.  Just for that there will be some “pro public” or “pro-public transit” backlash.  Some of our transit advocates are in love with the theories of Donald Shoup’s book, The High Cost of Free Parking so any advocacy of any free parking anywhere for anyone will be opposed as some kind of social anathema.  Joe will make Allan Michaan, a solid supporter of progressive politics in Oakland and owner of the Grand Lake Theatre happy with some of his ideas but he will piss off the anti-free parking crowd.

Now we will have two opposing ideas. 

Joe’s plan says Free Parking = Better Retail = Better Sales Tax Revenue. 

The Shoup plans that say Free Parking = Lost Revenue = Parking Scarcity. 

Both ideas don’t really work just through the magic of the market and the claims made don’t have a lot of research to back them up.  In my view that is not possible because bigger factors determine what happens in retail sales and public transit than the price of a parking meter. 

Nobody is going to rush down to Jack London Square because parking is now free at certain times.  Not after the closure the Jack London Center artisan shops and the shuttering of the Old Spaghetti Factory, El Torito, other restaurants, the big book store and Starbucks, and other venues near the square such as Bluesville.  Sometimes I wonder if the planners have ever been on a date.  People have lost a lot of reasons to go to the square or to browse the square area if they are down there.  There needs to be some draw to go and park there for free.  The free part was only part of the problem anyway.  You can get validation for the lot across from Jack London Cinema, and when the movie is over, why stay?

Joe addresses the problem of the high price of tickets in his plan.  Parking hours and high fine costs have been the hassle to avoid in Oakland.  On the other hand, 21st Century driving and shopping habits are not just formed around parking or municipal sales tax boundaries.  Someone who works in Berkley, and lives in Oakland could well stop at the Trader Joes in Emeryville on their way home for all kinds of reasons, including preferences, convenience, price, personal safety, and parking. 

These cross-city-lines retail purchases can be measured, and have been measured.  Oakland residents spend a lot of their retails dollars outside of Oakland and other cities nearby pick up those sales tax dollars.  The balance is way out of Oakland favor.  We lose a lot of tax dollars paying sales tax to other cities for their police, their streets, and their schools.  The sales tax system is as out of date as the horse and carriage.  It needs reform and equalizations should take place on a state level distributing sales taxes allocations by number of residents, not receipts.  When I learned how bad the sales tax system shorts Oakland I started to buy everything I can in Oakland.  I gas up before I leave here, and if I stop at a Safeway, it is an Oakland Safeway. 

Ever hear any Oakland politician talk about the sales tax deficit?  Only Wilson Riles.  Yet it means more to us than all the parking meters we could ever install. 

The anti-free parking side will say that free parking will take away from public transit.  Really?  How does it take away from transit that is not there or not there often enough to be practical?  Are the parking dollars going to be used to pay for transit?  Nope, parking money is not even earmarked for our free B buss. Note that this free buss does not quite run to the train station, does not quite make the bus station, nor the key BART station at MacArthur with its connections to shuttles and the Emery-go-round and does not get to Kaiser or Allan’s Theatre.  I think it does run up and down in front of Rebeca Kaplan’s political ambitions.

As a working man I ask WHO is parking, WHY and for HOW LONG?  There is more at stake here than just stopping long enough to take in a movie at the Grand Lake.  How about if you happen to WORK at the Grand Lake Theatre?  In all these discussions I have heard nothing of parking set asides or transit focused on the needs of employees.  The new high cost of parking and higher costs of tickets have fallen hard on those who can afford it least. 

Working people need to do things such as get their kid back from school.  So after serving you your soya latte they may not have time to do that without a car.  Even if the work has good transit, schools, shopping and other places people need to go, such as home, often don’t.  So working people are usually forced to have a car to have a job and to use a car to keep a job and take care of their family.  Even when they work across the street from BART.  Getting that car is usually the first step to getting that job.  Usually the job does not include parking in central urban areas, even if they work there. 

Another cost has fallen on the working folk hardest and that is the cost of having your car stolen by Parking Enforcement.  Stolen sounds like a harsh word unless you see how it works in practice. 

Here Joe missed an opportunity to expose a scandal.  Maybe he does not know.  In case you do not know, it works like this: 

·         Working people get tickets for doing such things as trying to park near work. 

·         Tickets add up and don’t get paid on time. 

·         The license plate of that car is put on a list. 

·         A & B Towing just takes the car if they see a listed plate without any procedure or warning. 

·         The working person then needs to go pay all the fines in full, and the DMV also gets involved collecting any back fees they have due.  Everything needs to get paid before the car will be released.  This is down on 7th street downtown. 

·         Then the working person needs to get way out to San Leandro Street (in an area with no transit and there is no shuttle from where you pay the fines to where you get the car) and pay exorbitant A & B towing and storage fees.  If things are missing from the car, well too bad.  Sometimes the car has already been sold. 

·         If you give up and just let them have the car, you only maybe get to have the contents back and only if you list them.  You do not get to actually see the car. 

This is only the brief version of the story.  For an idea of how A & B treats working class Oakland residents on the city’s behalf, take a look at their Yelp! Page:

So what might be a good parking plan?  Well, if we want people to leave their cars, let’s figure out where they can leave them.  Such as at home.  Let’s make sure we can use what we have now.  Joe’s ideas fit in there.  Do something for the employees, do something for the customers and take the dollar hungry aggression out of the system.  A&B should be fired and investigated.  The whole process of impounding cars for tickets should be scrapped and the city should collect its bills as others do without extortion. 

And we really need to stand up for some equity in tax collection.  It is complicated, but reform is needed and that only happens when reform is demanded.  City Council should demand reform. The state tax systems short Oakland in a couple of key ways.  Sales tax being one, school funding being another, and before we waste time squabbling over parking dollars we should raise hell over millions of dollars that should come to us via better equalization.  Local government has control over some of the sales tax, and that will be complicated and difficult to figure out.   Not figuring it out is costing us bank.  

Of course we need to be spending on transit.  Not the chump change out of parking meter, but way more than that.  Regions with good transit spend on infrastructure.  Without a regional transit authority with any authority or much in the way of regional government, we will find that complicated too.  The longest journey starts with a single step and that step is a deep commitment to transit.  City Council should be on the tails of AC Transit and BART and every other transit agency riding them for better results.  The B bus is probably not a good idea if it does not fill the gaps between BART, AMTRACK, Greyhound and the other shuttles, but it is a great idea if it ever does.  Demanding better service out of AC Transit should be something Oakland City Council does every day until we get it. 

Now for a personal story.  In 2010 I met Allan and some business owners from the Grand Lake area when Jean Quan, then council finance committee chair, decided to jack up the parking rates and expand the fines.  This was at the same budget where she cut funding to our 80 newest police officers.  Her take on the parking was that if we opposed her plan, we needed to come up with the money some other way. 

I asked “How much money?” without much answer and then filed a public information request.   Eventually I got an answer from the Administrator’s office that had big holes in it.  It did not tell us how much money because some was with the city and some with the Police.  At one point they had the same number as the Gross and the Net.  So, I don’t really know how much we Oaklanders make out of the parking system after costs.  I do know that it is a good business for the outside contractor that does it for us.  My questions on how many cars get towed, how many confiscated, how many returned and how much A&B makes off the deal were referred to the Police as if the Police was separate from the City.  The police sent me back to the same process that I used to file the first request.  I got stonewalled.

I came out against the rate increases mostly for how badly they hurt the employees of city businesses.  I was not in favor of the free parking, but that was overlooked by some of the on-line know it all’s.  I also found that some lefty-greens did in fact feel that any increase in parking meters was good and any opposition to it was to be anti-transit.  Some did not seem to care much how badly the new regulations were hurting working people.   There were class and color lines here and it was ugly. 

To add insult to injury, the city also came out with a plan (now scrapped) to spend 1.9 million dollars for a bike path down 40th street (my street) that would be unsafe and cause us to tear out our meridian gardens.  In these gardens volunteer Frank Snapp and his friends have put in over a decade of work.  Community voices asked for the bike path on a smaller side street, such as 42nd.  We now have a Green stripe and as I understand it, the whole reason for the bike lane stuff was really to get repaving money.  So it was sold to us as being pro-bike, but it was really for auto road repair. 

One blogger called me the Green who was Anti-Transit and Anti-Bike.  I suggest you keep this story in mind when you hear shallow, cheap characterizations of people running for office. 

A short time after that election a homeless woman was kicked out of her car in the middle of the night, in the rain, by the Oakland Police so A & B towing could take her car and leave her with some of her stuff living under a phone pole across the street from my home.  I seriously wonder about the values of the police officer and the tow truck driver, both of whom could have declined to take that car, and the values of our community that allows such cruelty in the name of tax collection. 

There is a lot more at stake here than parking Joe. 


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.
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 and much of what I saw on Jean’s literature table was reports from the city of Oakland. To contact them I suggest

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 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:

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.

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.