Thursday, May 10, 2018

Do not vote Dan Kalb for Assembly

Do not vote Dan Kalb for Assembly
This June we North Oakland residents will be voting for a new member of State Assembly, District 15.
I am advising strongly that you do not to vote for our current District 1 Member of City Council, Dan Kalb. It makes me feel kind of like a rat to say bad things about him because he is a personable, nice guy. I like him, but I am also closer to the process than other members of the community and feel a responsibility to warn people off from voting for him.
I did not always feel so negatively about Mr. Kalb but over the course of the 7 years that I have been around him, his office and his political friends, my conclusion is that Dan is about Dan and his political career first, and we residents come second, at best. And we should expect second rate constituent service, at best.
Sure, Dan looks like a wonderful candidate. Looking like a wonderful candidate is usually the first thing that our mainstream politicians do well. That and raise funds. They cultivate working relationships into endorsements (called networking) and they hustle up that pile of cash needed for them to be on the inside and be seen as “viable” by our local press.
I know that Dan and his campaign can cite a long list of accomplishments and show off a chest full of Democratic Party merit badges and campaign ribbons. But apart from their marketing valued to his career, do they mean much for us here in North Oakland?
Before we get too caught up in the siren’s call of any Oakland politician’s self-promotion please take a look at the seven thousand plus people living out in the rain under the bridges and ask yourself how good of a job are our Oakland elected officials doing on the list of things that matter to us in our day to day lives.
Call a cop, visit a school, park your car, get a permit to upgrade your home, file a complaint, buy or sell a home or do any of those things that we do with the city government and ask yourself if Oakland is well run. Do we have a good local government?
If it all seems fine to you, walk down the sidewalk with the car glass swept to the curb, past the people living in the tents and go vote for one of our council members to go help us in Sacramento.
Dan is only part of the problem when it comes to Oakland’s disappointing government, but being part of running Oakland is not much to be proud of.  
Let’s talk some specifics about our council member.
Dan Kalb boasts of being a top environmental advocate. What does he mean by that? I think he means environmental statements with a city hall signature. He has a background that should be seen as environmental nonprofit lobbying and he talks it up.
But insufficient environmental concern has taken place exactly where the City of Oakland wields the most authority: code, zoning and permitting.
The Oakland list of neglected environmental actions is too long to write because it includes everything from fire abatement to native species, water control to pollution in our parks and landscaping, from the solar panels on our roofs to the grey water from our sinks and the list goes on to include every part of what the city should be doing about the world wide environmental crisis. You will find that most of these subjects were rarely discussed by our council and by no means is Dan Kalb a visionary on urban ecology or a vocal advocate of it.
The reality of it is that Dan and his office assistant Olga come from the Sierra Club group of local Democrats.
What has been done in Oakland is symbolic, token and statistically meaningless, but it does provide political cover by allowing the claim of “doing something”.
Something is better than nothing only when it is something real.
Doing “something” to create an illusion of progress keeps substantial advancement stalled.
Putting forth “something” is a good way to make oneself look good and it advances a political career.
Another place where the progress does not measure up to the size of the problem is our new police commission. Despite popular misconception, Dan Kalb did not write the police commission proposal. That was done by the Coalition for Police Accountability led by Rashidah Griange.
What Dan was involved with is the watered down version that we voted for in 2016, called Measure LL.
Some key provisions were cut and the LL version lost considerable informed support including some of the leaders of our local Black Lives Matter movement and the Oakland Justice Coalition. Both of those groups felt that the key ability to discipline an out-of-line police officer was missing. The Measure LL version also gives the Mayor the right to directly name too many members of the new police commission.
Guess who The Mayor endorses in this race?
The overwhelming yes vote for LL shows that there was no political need to water LL down on the public’s part. The political need to water it down was for the careers of the politicians involved, including Dan Kalb who may have already had his eye on the “open” 15th District Assembly seat as he ran for reelection to his council seat.
One does not rack up the pages of endorsements that Dan has when one stands up to the police officers’ union or any other public sector union, or the mayor.
The long list of endorsements are on Dan Kalb’s website. I suggest you take a long look and think over what each of them means in the way of who he will think of first before he responds to the needs of the voting public.
Oh, and Oakland Police? Still under the control of a judge because we still have not implemented the reforms agreed to back when the Rider’s case was settled in 2003. (yes, 15 years ago) Oakland continues to pay out for police abuse more than any city in our area. But save that, want to know another side of the Oakland Police Department? Ask current or former black and brown youth.
Dan was one of the new faces on council that was supposed to do something about that. We are still waiting.
There has been some symbolic change, some real change and there continues to be one scandal after another and not enough of the police accountably that was asked for when we voted for LL.
Then there is the question of constituent services.
Want to get a deep laugh out of a local community activist? Tell them that Olga from Dan’s office will “get back to you on that”. That will cause any of us to smile, left right and centrist. (most are centrist)
Dan is there to press the flesh, he hold semipublic, symbolic “office hours” but a one on one, in depth, private meeting does not happen. Sustained support for community projects is also a weak point. Ever wonder how Telegraph Ave fell off of the repaving list? Neglected local items is another list too long to write.
And I know a couple things from running for office.
As someone who ran for local office in 2010, 2012 (against Dan) and 2016 I got to see some of the process around Dan and his part of the Sierra Club. This is worth a couple blogs all on its own, but just for this editorial, it forms part of why I lost trust in, and I will not vote for, Dan Kalb.
I also have some serious questions about what our local branch of the Sierra Club has become. It feels more like a Democratic Party “player” to me, than part of the environmental movement. I see that they have endorsed our incumbent DA against the woman who would bring us some real restorative justice practices where they would be most needed. (Do not re-elect O’Malley, PLEASE vote for Pamela Price)
Dan’s own endorsements of others are devoid of public process, consultation with us here in District 1 and based on his “working relationships”. I asked to talk to him in 2015 about my 2016 school board race and got a yearlong run around. Asking to meet with him politically got me a “yes” and “Olga will get back to you”. In other words it never happened.
If the answer was NO because I am too left wing, or too Green for him to support, he did not have the integrity to tell me that. I think he endorsed Jody so that Jody could endorse him in 16 and now again in 18. I doubt that Dan and Sierra Club support charter schools and serial budget cuts, but that is what they endorsed. I learned about it on twitter.
And what expertise does the Sierra Club have to endorse candidates for District Attorney and School Board anyways? Are they now education and criminal justice experts? We are a long way from David Brower….
But that was not Dan’s first long run around with me.
Unprompted he told me personally that parolees were going to be one of his priorities once he was on council. Given my own background, I offered to work on whatever Dan came up with to help people on parole and probation find a place in our community after he won the election in 2012. I would have been glad to help and set politics aside because Oakland should come first and we have a serious problem with recidivism here. There are young people who need serious attention following the neglect they received from Alameda County and the California Department of Corrections.
I asked Dan about this a few times over the following years and never heard that anything was happening from Dan or anyone from his office. Maybe Olga will get back to me about that too.
Personally I will vote for Jovanka Beckles. We only have one vote in this one.
She is one of the three people running who have serious backgrounds in being a local elected official. The other two are Dan and Judy Appel. One could say Andy Katz too, sort of.
Jovanka is part of the Richmond Progressive Alliance success story, so politically I am more in her camp, and she is the only one who has the hands-on track record dealing with the problems we know in Oakland such as parolee recidivism, restorative justice, community policing, the housing crisis, wage equity and so on. Jovanka was part of the team that gets real results and she is also known for her active and attentive constituent service.
Jovanka has the endorsement of the My Revolution (Berniecrats), us Greens and most of the progressive left. So politically she and I are kindred spirits.
But that may not be your cup of tea. A person more attracted to the mainstream Democrats would find a good person to vote for in Judy Appel with her strong nonprofit advocacy and experience on the Berkeley School board. Katz also has a respectable background.  
The other person who would give me pause voting for her is Buffy Wicks.
A background pushing a bill in Washington on behalf of the executive is a long way from being a local legislator, but others have made that conversion and she is obviously bright and personable.
What gives me pause, and would really give me pause if I were a Democrat, is her history of heavy partisanship against the Berniecrats and 3rd party folk like me. I am not sure if she would be there to lead all of us.
We need someone in Sacramento who will be responsive to the district across the board. I do not want to be waiting for Olga to get back to us when we are asking for help with something that does not get Dan a campaign donation or endorsement.
And if Dan stays because he does not make it to the November runoff, we need to see what will get us more attention in District 1, here in Oakland. 

For more information, please take a look at the Alameda Green Party Voter Guide for the June 2018 election. I did not write the endorsement for Assembly District 15, but I did write the recommendation for a Yes vote on Measure D and to cast our ballots for former Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin for Lieutenant Governor.

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