EDITORIAL There's not a lot to bring voters out to the polls in Berkeley and Oakland, but two important races deserve attention. Proposition C, a bond act to replace the city's aging public pools, has widespread support, but needs two-thirds of the vote to pass. And in a race for an open judicial seat, Victoria Kolakowski has the opportunity to become the first transgender person to serve on a trial court in the United States.
YES ON PROPOSITION C
Berkeley has four public pools, three outdoors and the indoor Berkeley High School Warm Pool. All four are badly in need of repair, but the Warm Pool faces imminent closure. That would primarily affect the disabled and senior communities, who use the pool for exercise, recreation, and therapy. It's not a wealthy group overall, and having a place to go year-round to swim (or in some cases, just do physical therapy in the water) is a big deal.
The remaining pools are used by kids, adults, local swim clubs, and Berkeley residents who can't or don't want to spend the money on private gyms. Prop. C would provide the money to build a new Warm Pool and fix the cracks and do seismic upgrades and needed repairs on the other facilities. It's the kind of measure that's hard to oppose (it would cost the typical homeowner less than $100 a year in increased taxes) and every member of the City Council has endorsed it.
But with no major local issues on the ballot, progressives may not turn out in large numbers, which means the more conservative voters (who tend to dominate low-turnout elections) could account for enough votes to deny Prop. C a two-thirds majority. So Berkeley residents need to get out and vote yes on C.
KOLAKOWSKI FOR JUDGE
Three people are contending for Seat No. 9 on the Alameda County Superior Court. It's a rare open seat, and all three candidates have strong legal records and appear to be qualified for the job. But Kolakowski is our pick, in part because she'd make history but more so because of her long history of public service and her progressive values.
John Creighton, a career prosecutor, has 25 years experience in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office. He has the support of a lot of local law enforcement groups and a long list of judges. Louis Goodman, a defense lawyer, also served as a deputy D.A. before going into private practice. All the judges who haven't endorsed Creighton are backing Goodman. We have nothing against either candidate except that the bench is already full of former prosecutors.
Kolakowski is a different type of candidate. She's spent much of her career as an administrative law judge, and for two years she helped the state try to recover some of the money that private utilities and energy traders stole during the 2000-01 energy crisis. She also has been deeply involved in community activities, serving as chair of Berkeley's Human Welfare Commission, working with the city's Police Review Commission on LGBT sensitivity training for police officers, and sitting on Oakland's Budget Advisory Committee. She's been on the Board of San Francisco's Tenderloin AIDS Resource Center and is currently co-chair of the Transgender Law Center Board.
She's an advocate for openness in the courts and wants to push for more transparency in how the Administrative Office of the Courts spends its budget. She also wants to make the courts more accessible to people who can't afford lawyers.
Her election would be more than an historic statement it might help change the way courts deal with transgender people (who often wind up in court, either for what ought to be simple things like identification changes or for the more serious problems facing a marginalized community with high unemployment).