The City Dweller’s Guide to the Election: Part II (Oakland)October 23, 2008
It’s Oakland time!
Councilmember At-Large, Oakland City Council:
Rebecca Kaplan. The race here is just between Kerry Hamill and Rebecca Kaplan for the at-large seat, since the other seats were all settled in the June primary. I actually think either of these women could bring good energy and ideas to the Council, which is a refreshing contrast to the national races. But I’ve been very impressed with what I’ve seen and heard from Rebecca Kaplan, so my vote is with her. Not only does she seem to “get” cities in general, but she’s been very articulate about how she would tackle some of the heavy-hitting issues the new council will be dealing with, most notably the fallout of the corruption scandals and the housing crisis and HUD funding. I also resent Kerry Hamill’s “safe neighborhoods” ads that are all over the place, partly because her team keeps sticking them on public and commercial property without permission (big no-no!) and partly because the ads imply that she’s the safety candidate and Kaplan isn’t, which is just patently false. (One of these days I will remember to bring my camera and snap a shot of an ad that’s fallen into a vacant lot on Auto Row, where it’s been looking especially ironic.) Yes, public safety is probably the single biggest issue in Oakland right now, but we don’t need a single-issue candidate—we need someone who can think holistically about the city to enhance safety by strengthening the local economy, meeting the basic needs that are driving some of the more desperate crimes, looking at youth issues to get a handle on the gang warfare in East Oakland, etc. That’s Kaplan, in my view.
U.S. House of Representatives, District 9
Barbara Lee is running again, so there’s really not much to say here.
State Senate, District 9
Again, Loni Hancock running. This race was over back in June.
State Assembly, District 16
Sandré Swanson is our current rep, and does good work. I’m sticking with him.
Superior Court, County of Alameda, Seat 9
Dennis Hayashi. Another race where there are two good contenders, though, so that’s nice. But I’m much more impressed with Hayashi’s experience and his stated goals, especially with respect to accessibility of the courts without regard for language ability or income, which is a huge barrier in Oakland.
Board Member At-Large, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District
Chris Peeples gets my vote, though I have to say that I’m not super enthused by either candidate. I find Peeples’ devotion to the Van Hool buses irritating given the many issues that have arisen with them and the huge cost, but otherwise I think he’s doing an okay job. And Joyce Roy, his challenger, is a BRT-lite fan, which irks me much more than the choice of bus thing. The buses can be fixed. Screwing up our shot at a true BRT system can’t be, at least not easily.
Board Member, Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District, Ward 2
I like Greg Harper fine. He can stay. As a bonus, he hates the Van Hools!
Measure N: Outstanding Teachers for All Oakland Students Act (OUSD)
NO. I almost always support any measure to increase school funding, but this one has me a bit worried. Conceptually, raising teachers’ salaries is a good thing, but everything I’ve read about Measure N suggests that it is poorly put together, and not a good means to that end given the cost to manage it. Let’s wait for a better opportunity to do this. No on N.
Measure NN: Police Services Expansion Measure (City of Oakland)
A very, very lukewarm YES. Oakland needs more cops. Period. Even if we had all the cops that Measure Y was supposed to get us (which we don’t), we wouldn’t have enough for a city our size. Do I trust the City and OPD to manage and spend funds effectively? No, not really (though I was pleasantly surprised to see OPD overtime meet the hatchet in the deficit-closing budget meeting earlier this week, since that’s certainly one of the biggest budget sucks). But at the end of the day I think we need to secure the money first, and then make sure we put the fire under them to do it right. There’s a compelling argument that says that’s me being overly optimistic (and/or a trusting idiot), but there ya go. Yes on NN. If you want to vote no, though, I won’t hate you for it. And I somehow doubt it’s passing either way.
Measure OO: Kids First! (Oakland Fund for Children and Youth Act)
NO WAY. I’m usually a shoe-in for any measure that supports kids or education….but not this one. Here’s why: while this is a great idea, this ballot measure doesn’t include a funding source for this work, which means it’s an unfunded mandate to the City to move money in the General Fund over to this fund. Which means taking money from somewhere else. The City Council just spent hours trying to figure out which critical programs to cut this week. We’ll be holding round two of that if OO passes. I’d actually like to see this measure return in a few years with some teeth—figure out where the City will get the money from, and then spend it. We do need more funding for youth programs, but not at the expense of parks, libraries, arts, police, street lights, and other crucial services. (Incidentally, if this had been a parcel tax for these programs, I would happily have voted for it.) The worst case scenario if this passes is that we could wind up in a few years’ time with a sea of these issue-driven mandates controlling General Fund spending so tightly that the City won’t have anything left to fund basic services. No on OO.
Measure VV: Special Tax Measure (AC Transit)
YES. Okay, let’s get rid of that negative energy. Here comes a critical ballot measure that Oakland can’t go without. A while back, AC Transit, which provides bus service throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties and across the Bay Bridge to downtown San Francisco, announced that they would have a massive deficit in large part because the state had pulled a lot of local transportation funding. They’d have to raise fares across the board, and cut service and routes. People cried. They staged protests. Seniors and youth who can barely afford to ride now showed up to public meetings. Everyone begged AC Transit to look for another solution. Well, folks—here it is! This measure extends and raises by $4/month a current parcel tax for transit services. Four bucks a month is pretty minimal as taxes go—in fact, I’m the only bus rider in our house and I only ride a few times a week, but we’ll still pay less with the new parcel tax than we would have with the increased bus fares. This is important for Oakland in part because a strong transit system helps keep cars off our streets, and in part because it’s an equity issue for transit-dependent Oaklanders (including seniors and youth). Yes on VV.
Measure WW: Renew & Protect Our East Bay Regional Parks (EBRPD)
YES. I *heart* parks. I especially *heart* EBRPD parks, which are honestly some of the most incredible regional parks I have ever known (and I’ve lived in some very park-rich cities!) I will pretty much vote for any parks measure, but this one is especially good because it’s an extension of an existing measure, so it’s not a new tax. And it’s a proven program—the renewal of the parks really is working. It also allocates funding very specifically, so you know exactly what you’re getting. (Me? I’m getting the East Bay Greenway, Eastshore State Park, public access to the Oakland shoreline and estuary, more open space at Sibley, and Redwood Creek. What’s in there for you?) Yes on WW.
Berkeley’s Measure KK
NO!! Finally, just for kicks, let’s talk about Measure KK, which is actually a Berkeley measure but will directly affect Oakland. Measure KK seeks to require voter approval for transit-only and commuter/bus-only lanes as an underhanded means of barring AC Transit from dedicating a lane along Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley to bus rapid transit (BRT), an innovative system that gets you most of the efficiency of light rail at a fraction of the cost. We need-need-need BRT. It will provide reliable, more frequent bus service to better connect our neighborhoods, help reduce emissions, and wean us off cars. Berkeley, in its beautifully contrary nature, is working on its climate action plan to reduce car use, but doesn’t want transit in its midst. Huh??
The people who live in the Berkeley neighborhoods along Telegraph (and I used to be one of them and still get all their emails, so I’m comfortable vouching for them) are convinced that taking a lane for BRT will lead to people driving around Telegraph on the side streets and parking there, too. Shops will lose their customers when people can’t park in front. Telegraph will get even more congested. Okay. Let’s unpack these. Will people drive and park on side streets if Telegraph is congested? Left to their own devices, sure. But that’s one of the easiest things in the world to control: you close off the ends of streets, and you use residential parking permits, as in Elmwood. Done. Will shops lose customers? Umm. Have you been to this part of Telegraph recently? It’s virtually all student-oriented shopping. The students are coming from campus, not in their cars. I, for one, will go to Telegraph way more often if I can do it in a few minutes on BRT—it’s already painful to drive there, so I don’t. You risk running over students, hippies, and guys selling buttons. I can’t think of many/any shops in that stretch that require cars for transporting your purchases. Half the streets are already one way in bizarre directions. The notion that people will refuse to abandon their cars even in the face of steep parking fines and annoying street patterns is puzzling. That’s exactly the point: you make it super quick and easy to hop on the bus and a royal pain to drive, and YES, people will stop driving.
Importantly, if Berkeley blocks BRT, there’s a very real chance it won’t happen in North Oakland, either, since it will be less viable along just half of the Telegraph corridor. In that case, it’s most likely that the line would run from San Leandro into downtown Oakland, but end there—stranding those of us in Westlake, Mosswood, Temescal, Bushrod, and other parts of North Oakland. If you live in Berkeley or know people who do, urge them to walk the walk, not just talk the talk—their new climate action plan calls for encouraging transit and other alternatives to cars along major transit corridors. Berkeleyans need to prove that they mean what they say.