There are plenty of important races and issues on the ballot in the East Bay. Here are our endorsements for Berkeley and Oakland
BART BOARD DISTRICT 4
Incumbent Carole Ward Allen has been a disappointment, part of the moribund BART establishment that wastes money on pointless extensions, ignores urban cores, and can't control its own police force. Robert Raburn, a bicycle activist with a PhD in transportation and urban geography, would be a great replacement. If he's elected, and Bert Hill wins in San Francisco, BART will have two more progressive transit activists to join Tom Radulovich. Vote for Raburn.
Hogan's running unopposed and we see no reason not to support her for another term.
Maio in the past has had a decent progressive track record, but lately she's been something of a call-up vote for Mayor Tom Bates. We're not thrilled with her more recent positions years (against raising condo conversion fees and for new high-rises downtown), but she has no strong credible opponents. Green Party Jasper Kingeter has never run for elective office before and needs more seasoning.
Arreguin and Kriss Worthington hold down the progressive wing on the City Council. He's pushed the Berkeley police to stop impounding the cars of undocumented immigrants and is a foe of the development-at-all costs mentality of the mayor.
It's disappointing that Mayor Tom Bates and his allies are trying to get rid of Worthington, who by our estimation is the best, hardest-working, and most progressive member of the City Council. He's been willing to stand up to the mayor when he's wrong — and has managed to force developers to build more affordable housing. He's against the mayor's downtown plan, but sees a way forward to a compromise that includes all the positive elements without big high-rises. Vote for Worthington.
Gordon Wozniak, the incumbent, is the most conservative member of the City Council and has been a bad vote on almost everything. He's going to be tough to beat in this district, but we're giving the nod to Jones, a teacher, Green Party member, and neighborhood activist. He lacks experience, but almost anyone would be better than Wozniak.
There's a six-person tenant slate running, with endorsements from Worthington, Arreguin, and other progressive leaders. The members couldn't find an easy mnemonic, so they've used the last letters of their last names, which, in the right order, add up to SHERRY. We've listed them in the order they'll appear on the ballot.
Ruby's moved the office forward a bit, and we don't see any argument to replace her.
The danger in this race is Don Perata, the former state Senate president, longtime power broker, and friend of developers who has, at the very least, a checkered ethical record that led at one point to a five-year federal corruption investigation (the investigation ended with no charges filed). Perata wants to use the mayor's office to continue his role as a regional kingpin, and he has the support of Pacific Gas and Electric Co. and the big developers. No thanks.
Two strong progressive challengers are taking him on. Our first choice is Rebecca Kaplan, an at-large City Council member who is full of great, innovative ideas for Oakland. She wants to enforce an Oakland-first hiring law, work on transit-oriented development, and encourage small businesses that can attract some of the $2 billion a year Oakland loses in retail sales from local residents who shop out of town.
Kaplan told us she thinks that if Proposition 19 passes and local government has the right to regulate legal marijuana, Oakland is perfectly situated to take advantage of the new law. By combining pot sales and possibly on-site consumption with new restaurants, bike lanes, and street-level amenities, the city could revitalize neighborhoods and bring in significant new tax revenue.
She's a big bicycle advocate, would consider a progressive city income tax, and is a strong supporter of public power. She also has a practical sense of how to solve problems.
Jean Quan has been active in Oakland politics for decades. She served 12 years on the school board, eight on the City Council, and has the experience, skills, and vision to run the city. She's also almost tied in the polls with Perata, despite being outspent dramatically (and being the subject of some nasty, inaccurate Perata hit pieces). She told us she wants to be a cheerleader for the public schools, to work with local businesses, expand the high school internship program, and add city wrap-around services to public schools. She's had a long, impressive record on environmental issues (she worked with San Francisco on a plastic bag ban and wrote Oakland's Styrofoam ban). She recognizes that much of the city's budget problem comes from the police department and police pensions. But she's a little less aggressive than Kaplan about raising new revenue, and while she fully supports Prop. 19 and the Oakland plan for allowing commercial marijuana operations, she is, in her own words, "relatively conservative" on how far Oakland should go to allow sales and use in the city.
Kaplan's got more of the cutting-edge progressive vision. Quan's got more experience and a longer track record. They're the two choices to beat Perata and save Oakland's future, and we're happy that ranked-choice voting allows us to endorse them both.
Patricia Kernighan is among the most conservative votes on the council. She's also representing a wealthy, conservative hills district and will be hard to beat. We're endorsing Jennifer Pae, community outreach director for the East Bay Voter Education Consortium. She has the backing of progressives like Supervisor Keith Carson and Berkeley City Council Member Kriss Worthington (as well as the Alameda County Green Party). She's a long shot, but better than the incumbent.
The front-runners in this race are probably Libby Schaaf, a former aide to Ignacio de la Fuente; Melanie Shelby, a small business owner; and Daniel Swafford, a business consultant. Schaaf is too close to her old boss. We liked Shelby, but she's awfully vague on solutions to Oakland's problems — and she voted for Prop. 8. She now says her position on same-sex marriage is "evolving," and she supports equal rights for all couples. But that's an awfully big issue to have taken an awfully wrong stand on just two years ago.
This leaves Swafford, a neighborhood activist who grew up in Oakland and was City Council Member Jean Quan's appointee to the Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council and is a strong advocate of community policing. He gets the nod.
Conventional wisdom says Desley Brooks is almost certain to get reelected to this seat. Her only competition comes from Nancy Sidebotham, whose platform is all cops all the time, and Jose Dorado, a bookkeeper with little political experience. Brooks is a fierce advocate for her district and has been tough on banks and good on pushing local hiring, but has too many ethical problems to merit our endorsement. She has never denied that she kept her boyfriend's daughter on as a $5,000-a-month aide while the young woman was a full-time student at Syracuse University in New York. When San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson challenged some of her ethical lapses, she sued him for libel (the case was dismissed).
Dorado is a neighborhood activist who is running a grassroots campaign and, while he needs more experience, he's raising good issues (like public financing of elections). And unlike Sidebotham, he's supporting the revenue measures on the ballot.
East Bay Ballot Measures
SCHOOL FACILITIES TAX
The East Bay cities have done a much better job than San Francisco at using parcel taxes — a poor substitute for property taxes but still a relatively progressive form of revenue — to support schools and other public services. Measure H would continue an existing tax on residential and commercial buildings — 6.3 cents per square foot on residences and 9.4 cents on businesses — to pay for maintenance on public school buildings. Vote yes.
Measure I is a $210 million bond act to expand and upgrade the public schools. Vote yes.
Measure T is on the ballot as part of Berkeley's effort to implement Prop. 19, the statewide pot-legalization measure. Berkeley and Oakland are both ahead of San Francisco in planning for legal marijuana. Prop. T would allow six medical cannabis clinics with cultivation permits, but restrict future industrial pot uses to industrial districts. Vote yes.
Another parcel tax for schools, this one $195 a year for 10 years, essentially to offset state cuts. There's an exemption for low-income taxpayers. Vote yes.
If Oakland goes ahead with its plans to allow large-scale cultivation and passes this tax hike on pot sales (to $50 per $1,000 of gross revenue for medical pot and $100 per $1,000 for recreational pot) the city could take in as much as $30 million a year — almost enough to offset the budget deficit. Vote yes.
PHONE LINE TAX
Another creative — if imperfect — way to raise some revenue, Measure W puts a modest $1.99 a month tax on phone lines to raise money for the general fund. Vote yes.
POLICE PARCEL TAX
We typically support any reasonable tax on property to pay for public services, but we can't back this one. Measure X would impose a fairly high ($360 a year) parcel tax on single-family homes — entirely to pay for cops. The police union has been intractable, refusing to give back any of its generous pension benefits to help solve the budget deficit. We can't see raising taxes for that department alone when so much of Oakland is hurting for money.
Measure BB would allow Oakland to continue collecting violence-prevention money under a previous ballot measure even if the police department falls below a mandated staffing level. It would give the City Council more flexibility in addressing public safety. Vote yes.