East Bay races and measures

Pub date October 10, 2006

Editor’s note: The following story has been altered from the original to correct an error. We had originally identified Courtney Ruby as running for Alameda County Auditor; the office is actually Oakland City Auditor.

Oakland City Auditor
Incumbent Roland Smith has to go. He’s been accused of harassing and verbally abusing his staff and using audits as a political weapon against his enemies. The county supervisors have had to reassign his staff to keep him from making further trouble. And yet somehow he survived the primary with 32 percent of the vote, putting him in a November runoff against Courtney Ruby, who led the field with 37 percent. Ruby, an experienced financial analyst, would bring some credibility back to the office.
Peralta Community College Board, District 7
Challenger Abel Guillen has extensive knowledge of public school financing and a proven commitment to consensus building and government accountability. In the last six years Guillen, who was raised in a working-class community and was the first in his family to go to college, has raised $2.2 billion in bond money to construct and repair facilities in school districts and at community colleges. Incumbent Alona Clifton has been accused of not being responsive to teachers’ concerns about the board’s spending priorities and openness.
Berkeley mayor
This race has progressives tearing at each other’s throats, particularly since they spent a ton of cash last time around to oust former mayor Shirley Dean and replace her with Tom Bates, who used to be known as a reliable progressive voice.
Bates’s reputation has shifted since he became mayor, and his record is a mixed bag. This time around, he stands accused of setting up a shadow government (via task forces that duplicate existing commissions but don’t include enough community representatives), of giving developers too many special favors instead of fighting for more community benefits, and of increasingly siding with conservative and pro-landlord city council member Gordon Wozniak.
The problem is that none of Bates’s opponents look like they would be effective as mayor. So lacking any credible alternative, we’ll go with Bates.
Berkeley City Council, District 1
Incumbent Linda Maio’s voting record has been wimpy at times, but she is a strong proponent of affordable housing, and her sole challenger, Merrilie Mitchell, isn’t a terribly serious candidate. Vote for Maio.
Berkeley City Council, District 2
A valiant champion of every progressive cause, incumbent Dona Spring is one of the unsung heroes of Berkeley. Using a wheelchair, she puts in the energy equivalent of two or three council members and always remains on the visionary cutting edge. If that weren’t enough, her sole challenger, Latino businessman and zoning commissioner Raudel Wilson, has the endorsement of the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce. Vote for Spring.
Berkeley City Council, District 7
Incumbent Kriss Worthington is an undisputed champion of progressive causes and a courageous voice who isn’t afraid to take criticism in an age of duck and run, including the fallout he’s been experiencing following the closure of Cody’s on Telegraph Avenue, something conservatives have tried to link to his support for the homeless. His sole challenger is the evidently deep-pocketed George Beier, who describes himself as a community volunteer but has the support of landlords and the Berkeley Chamber of Commerce and has managed to blanket District 7 with signage and literature, possibly making his one of the most tree-unfriendly campaigns in Berkeley’s electoral history. Keep Berkeley progressive and vote for Worthington.
Berkeley City Council, District 8
Incumbent Gordon Wozniak postures as if he is going to be mayor one day, and he’s definitely the most conservative member of the council. During his tenure, Wozniak has come up with seven different ways to raise rents on tenants in Berkeley, and he didn’t even vote against Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s special election last year. Challenger Jason Overman may be only 20 years old, but he’s already a seasoned political veteran, having been elected to the Rent Stabilization Board two years ago. Vote for Overman.
Berkeley city auditor
Ann-Marie Hogan is running unopposed for this nonpartisan post, which is hardly surprising since she’s done a great job so far and has widespread support.
Berkeley school director
With five candidates in the running and only three seats open, some are suggesting progressives cast only one vote — for Karen Hemphill — to ensure she becomes board president in two years, since the job goes to the person with the most votes in the previous election.
Hemphill has done a great job and has the support of Latino and African American parent groups, so a vote for her is a no-brainer.
So is any vote that helps make sure that incumbents Shirley Issel and David Baggins don’t get reelected.
Nancy Riddle isn’t a hardcore liberal, but she’s a certified public accountant, so she has number-crunching skills in her favor. Our third pick is Norma Harrison, although her superradical talk about capitalism being horrible and schools being like prisons needs to be matched with some concrete and doable suggestions.
Rent Stabilization Board
If it weren’t for the nine-member elected Rent Stabilization Board, Berkeley would have long since been taken over by the landlords and the wealthy. This powerful agency has been controlled by progressives most of the time, and this year there are five strong progressives running unopposed for five seats on the board. We recommend voting for all of them.
Oakland City Council
When we endorsed Aimee Allison in the primary in June, we pointed out that this was a crucial race: incumbent Patrician Kernighan has been a staunch ally of outgoing mayor Jerry Brown and Councilmember Ignacio de La Fuente — and now that Ron Dellums is taking over the Mayor’s Office and a new political era could be dawning in Oakland, it’s crucial that the old prodevelopment types don’t control the council.
Kernighan’s vision of Oakland has always included extensive new commercial and luxury housing development, and like De La Fuente, she’s shown little concern for gentrification and displacement. Allison, a Green Party member, is the kind of progressive who could make a huge difference in Oakland, and she’s our clear and unequivocal choice for this seat.
From crime to city finance, Allison is well-informed and has cogent, practical proposals. She favors community policing and programs to help the 10,000 parolees in Oakland. She wants the city to collect an annual fee from the port, which brings in huge amounts of money and puts very little into the General Fund. She wants to promote environmentally sound development, eviction protections, and a stronger sunshine ordinance. Vote for Allison.
East Bay Municipal Utility District director, Ward 4
Environmental planner Andy Katz is running unopposed. Despite his relative youth, he’s been an energetic and committed board member and deserves another term.
AC Transit director at large
Incumbent Rebecca Kaplan is a fixture on the East Bay progressive political scene and has been a strong advocate of free bus-pass programs and environmentally sound policies over the years. A former public interest lawyer, Kaplan’s only challenger is paralegal James K. Muhammad.
Berkeley measures
Measure A
This measure takes two existing taxes and combines them into one but without increasing existing rates. Since 30 percent of local teachers will get paid out of the revenue from this measure, a no vote could devastate the quality of education in the city. Vote yes.
Measure E
Measure E seeks to eliminate the need to have a citywide special election every time a vacancy occurs on the Rent Stabilization Board, a process that currently costs about $400,000 and consumes huge amounts of time and energy. The proposal would require that vacancies be filled at November general elections instead, since that ballot attracts a wider and more representative group of voters. In the interim, the board would fill its own vacancies.
Measure F
Measure F follows the council’s October 2005 adoption of amendments that establish the proper use for public and commercial recreation sports facilities, thereby allowing development of the proposed Gilman Street fields. Vote yes.
Measure G
Measure G is a nice, feel-good advisory measure that expresses Berkeley’s opinion about the dangers of greenhouse gas emissions to the global climate and advises the mayor to work with the community to come up with a plan that would significantly reduce such emissions, with a target of an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Vote yes.
Measure H
In left-leaning Berkeley this is probably the least controversial measure on the ballot. Do we really need to spell out all over again the many reasons why you should vote yes on this issue?
If this measure passes, both Berkeley and San Francisco will have taken public stands in favor of impeachment, which won’t by itself do much to force Congress to act but will start the national ball rolling. Vote yes.
Measure I
Measure I is a really bad idea, one that links the creation of home ownership opportunities to the eviction of families from their homes. It was clearly cooked up by landlord groups that are unhappy with Berkeley’s current condo conversion ordinance, which allows for 100 conversions a year. Measure I proposes increasing that limit to 500 conversions a year, which could translate into more than 1,000 people facing evictions. Those evictions will hit hardest on the most financially vulnerable — seniors, the disabled, low- and moderate-income families, and children. With less than 15 percent of current Berkeley tenants earning enough to purchase their units, this measure decreases the overall supply of rentals, eliminates requirements to disclose seismic conditions to prospective buyers, and violates the city’s stated commitment to fairness, compassion, and economic diversity. Vote no.
Measure J
A well-meaning measure that’s opposed by developers, Measure J earns a lukewarm yes. It establishes a nine-member Landmarks Preservation Commission; designates landmarks, structures of merit, and historic districts; and may approve or deny alteration of such historic resources but may not deny their demolition. It’s worth noting that if Proposition 90 passes, the city could face liability for damages if Measure J is found to result in substantial economic loss to property — all of which gives us yet another reason to say “vote no” on the horribly flawed Prop. 90 while you’re voting yes on Measure J.
Oakland Measures
Measure M
Measure M would amend the City Charter to allow the board that oversees the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS) slightly more leeway in making investment decisions. The board claims that its current requirements — which bar investment in stocks that don’t pay dividends — are hampering returns. That’s an issue: between July 2002 and July 2005, the unfunded liability of the PFRS grew from $200 million to $268 million — a liability for which the city of Oakland is responsible. We’re always nervous about giving investment managers the ability to use public money without close oversight, but the new rules would be the same as ones currently in place in San Francisco and Los Angeles.
Measure N
Oakland wants to improve and expand all library branch facilities, construct a new main library at the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, and buy land for and construct two new library facilities in the Laurel and 81st Avenue communities. The upgrades and construction plans come in response to residents’ insistence that they need more space for studying and meeting, increased library programs and services, tutoring and homework assistance for children, increased literacy programs, and greater access to current technology and locations that offer wi-fi.
This $148 million bond would cost only $40 a year for every $100,000 of assessed property. Vote yes.
Measure O
Ranked-choice voting, or instant runoff voting, is a great concept. The city of Oakland is using it to elect officials in the November election without holding a prior June election. There’s only one problem: so far, Alameda County hasn’t invested in voting equipment that could make implementing this measure possible. Voting yes is a first step in forcing the county’s hand in the right direction. SFBG