Oakland Election Guide: Nov 2020

Oakland City Attorney: No Recommendation

Incumbent Barbara Parker is facing a challenge from a staffer in the City Attorney’s office, Eli Ferran. Left and progressive endorsements are split, with many groups not weighing in at all & few releasing their rationales. Parker has been criticized for being unresponsive to police violence, but is pretty strong on tenant’s rights; Ferran has shown some interest in reigning in the cops but, per the Green Party voter guide, stopped short of making any strong commitments. Meanwhile the realtor lobby, notoriously anti-tenant and pro-police, has spent generously on Ferran’s campaign. We don’t feel well informed enough to make a definitive recommendation here. 

Oakland City Council

Oakland City Council At-Large: Rebecca Kaplan

Kaplan’s facing a well-funded revenge challenge after her (failed) attempt to put a small tax on rideshare apps. Lyft teamed up with YIMBY & East Bay for Everyone leaders (much to the consternation of some of their rank-and-file members) to funnel $100,000 into an anti-Kaplan PAC, trying to unseat her from the right in favor of businessman Derreck.Johnson. Kaplan’s had some missteps (voting against, and then for, a substantial defunding of the police this summer) but she’s a reliable progressive force on the council, and we should not let anti-labor tech companies buy themselves a seat on our city council. 

Oakland City Council District 1: Dan Kalb


Kalb’s a little closer to a swing vote on the city council, a dedicated environmentalist who’s also voted to sell public land to developers over the objections of affordable housing advocates.

He’s facing a slick challenge from the right in Steph Walton, wealthy real estate agent who’s using her ties to centrist Democrat Buffy Wicks to launch a political career. While she’s focused a lot of her campaign rhetoric on her identity as a mom and a business woman from a multiracial background, a closer look reveals she’s definitely challenging Kalb from the right–promising to smooth the path for real estate developers in the hope they’ll lower prices, rather than supporting social housing or stronger tenants rights.

We give Kalb the Ed Markey Award for candidate we’ll be damned to see unseated from the right.

Oakland City Council District 3: Carroll Fife

This one’s easy. The longtime incumbent, Lynette McElhaney, has been embroiled in scandal after scandal–most recently, it was revealed she’s being investigated for accepting donations of money from a city contractor laundered through his son, to pay for the legal fees she incurred from a previous investigation into allegations she took donations from a real estate developer who was trying to get a development approved by the council. She’s opposed tenant’s rights laws and sped the gentrification & displacement of her West Oakland district.

Her primary opponent, Carroll Fife, is the perfect opposition. Fife is the local director of tenants rights group par excellence Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) & was a key organizer for the successful Moms 4 Housing action, in which homeless Black mothers and their kids occupied a West Oakland home kept vacant by corporate real estate speculators, until the owner agreed to hand the home over to a land trust. Fife’s platform is a left dream, and she’s secured the backing of a wide coalition of labor unions & left groups, managing to out-campaign and out-fundraise her opponent. Given the current composition of the council, if Kaplan and Kalb keep their seats and Fife wins, we could see real defunding of the police & other stalled left priorities. 

Oakland City Council District 5:  #1 Zoe Lopez-Meraz #2 Richard Santos Raya

Longtime incumbent Noel Gallo is one of the more conservative members of the city council, but not consistently so. He’s also fairly popular with D5 residents, being the kind of old-fashioned retail politician who goes to every public event and does volunteer trash pick-up on weekends, then votes against defunding police during the week. He’s attracted 2 challengers from the left, Richard Santos Raya and Zoe Lopez-Meraz. Lopez-Meraz supports defunding the police and the Black New Deal, a package of anti racist, social-democratic reforms also championed by Carroll Fife, as part of a radical platform focused on housing the unhoused, cutting the police budget, following through with opening a public bank, & more. She’s running a shoestring campaign with lots of street art. Raya also supports cutting the police budget and the Black New Deal, but some Oakland politics-watchers are a little suspicious of his well-funded campaign–his parents are close friends with the mayor, who’s been making heavy-handed plays to replace the council with her personal allies. His platform is certainly to the left of both Gallo and Schaaf, but we’ll see if he follows through.

Oakland City Council District 7:  Aaron Clay #1, Treva Reid #2


This seat is open following the retirement of one of Oakland’s more conservative Democratic city council members, Larry Reid, and a whole swath of candidates have emerged to compete for it. Clay is the most prominent left challenger, Reid is well to the left of her father but would be a swing vote on the council, and a few candidates are running from the right, including Rev. Bob Jackson.

Clay promises to cut the police budget, shifting funds to prevention & support services, providing universal housing through new construction, eviction protection, and supportive housing. However, Jackson and Reid are outspending him considerably, and Jackson could plausibly win. That’s why we suggest ranking Reid second–she also supports tenant’s rights & eviction protections (especially emergency measures for Covid), emphasizes the nuts and bolts of addressing Oakland corruption & inefficiency, and transferring money out of the police budget into effective-but-underfunded violence prevention programs for the district. We don’t generally like political dynasties, but her politics seem to be genuinely different from her father’s, and it’s important to block the right flank of Oakland politics. 

Oakland School Board 

We’ve decided to follow the Oakland Education Association’s (OEA, the union for teachers) first-place rankings for a couple reasons–1) they chose great candidates this year, 2) Teachers have a stake in our public education system and follow school board politics closely, 3) The OEA has a deep commitment to bargaining fo the common good, and foregrounds whats best for their students. Second place rankings come from the Wellstone Democratic Club’s candidate interviews. These are ranked-choise races, so we’ve recommended rankings & noted the worst candidates as well.

Oakland Unified School District Director, District 1: Sam Davis #1, Stacy Thomas #2

Davis graduated from, taught at, and now sends his kids to Oakland schools (he now works for Cal, in a college-readiness program) His main issues are expanding college readiness, increased budget accountability & improving vocational & technical programs. 

Thomas is a professional bookkeeper & also promises to tackle OUSD’s mysterious and messed-up budget. She’s a mentor in Oakland Yout Court, a restorative justice program. 

We recommend you not rank Austin Dannhaus, the candidate running with anti-public education/Bloomberg privatization front group GO Public Schools. 

Oakland Unified School District Director, District 3: VanCedric Williams #1, Cherisse Gash #2

Williams is a long-term high school teacher in SF, treasurer of their teacher’s union, and an long-term Oakland resident. Oakland Unified School District employees can’t serve on the school board, and the position doesn’t carry a full salary, making it very difficult to elect teachers to the board–the Oakland teachers have found a good work-around here, nominating someone who’s both an Oaklander and a teacher. His platform emphasizes recruiting & retaining diverse, talented teachers, choosing achievement & technology gaps and reducing bullying.

Gash is a parent and longtime activist focused on fighting youth incarceration, and a member of anti-privatization group Oakland Not For Sale. She is, of course, very opposed to school privatization.

We recommend you not rank Mark Hurty or Maiya Edgerly anywhere on your ballot, as they are backed by pro-privatization organizations.  

Oakland Unified School District Director, District 5: Mike Hutchinson

Hutchinson is a long-time activist for public schools–his mom was an Oakland teacher, he grew up in the schools and has made it his mission to fight for them. He’s a DSA member & founded a policy-focused watchdog group, OPEN-Oakland Public Education Network.  He has a deep knowledge of the policy, budget, history & legal constraints on the school district, which will certainly be an asset in trying to reform a corrupt, entrenched system. His campaign priorities are fighting structural racism, giving students & community a say in district decisions (think of all the school closures that’ve proceeded despite intense, nearly unanimous, public outrage), and improving core academic programs. 

We don’t have a clear second choice in this race but advise you not to rank Leroy Gaines, who’s running with the support from the Bloomberg-backed anti-public ed group GO Public Schools.

Oakland Unified School District Director, District 7: Ben Tapscott #1, Victor Valerio #2

“Coach” Ben Tapscott is a long-term figure in the education community–he was hired as the district’s first Black coach after students protested unequal hiring, and since his retirement he’s fought school closures and lead in school drinking fountains, to name just a few issues. The teachers recruited him to run, and with their backing, DSA, and a number of other endorsements, he’s running a strong race for a longtime activist but political newcomer. His main issues are improving graduation rates, fixing the ‘feeder’ system of neighborhood elementary->middle-> high schools, which as been disrupted by closures, and increasing teacher pay–Oakland teachers make much less than those in surrounding districts, often below a living wage, so bringing teacher pay up to par with the suburbs is key to attracting and retaining good teachers.

Valerio supports shifting the budget in towards an equity focus–more for underfunded & under-resourced schools, less for the central office. He supports fewer charters but declined to take a hardline stance against privatization. We advise you not to rank Clifford Thompson, who’s running with the support of GO Public Schools 

Oakland Ballot Initiatives

Measure S1–Charter amendment to allow Police Commission to hire civilian inspector general: Yes

On paper, Oakland set up one of the strongest police oversight boards in the country in 2016. In practice, the commission has had multiple members resign in protest, claiming the city administrator and police have hampered their work. This initiative, introduced by Rebecca Kaplan and approved by the entire city council, would let the commission hire its own police inspector, rather let the city administrator choose for them. It should make the commission stronger and remove pro-police bias in investigations; vote yes. 

Measure QQ–allow 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in Oakland school board elections: Yes

Pretty clear from the name, this measure would let Oakland 16- and 17 year olds vote, but only for school board rep. A similar initiative passed in Berkeley a few years ago with ~70% support, and this one has the backing of centrists (who see it as a nice way to instill civic pride) and leftists (who note the Oakland school system has ignored student protests, and that the majority of Oakland’s students are working class kids of color). Frankly there’s no good reason to oppose it. 

Measure RR–Remove the cap code enforcement fines: Yes

A 1968 law caps the amount the city can charge for code violations at $1000, this initiative would remove that limit, and allow the city to set fines as it sees fit. The intent is to address illegal dumping–Oakland Rising supports the measure on the grounds that some businesses simply pay the $1000 fine over and over rather than paying the real cost of cleaning up their waste. We’d like to see a healthy skepticism around punitive fines and unequal enforcement once this is passed, but the city should have the tools to ensure businesses don’t use illegal pollution as a cost-saving measure forever. 

Measure Y–$735 million bond for school upgrades: Yes

Oakland schools are in rough shape physically. We generally prefer to see spending through increased taxes on the wealthy rather than bond measures (which borrow against future tax revenues, paying out interests to whoever has the capital to buy the bonds), but still–the buildings need serious work (where are we in removing lead-tainted water fountains again?), and if there’s ever a good use for bonds, it’s getting a lot of money up front for big construction projects. Vote yes.  

Alameda County 

Alameda Superior Court Judge #2: Elena Condes

This judgeship is vacant following the retirement of the previous judge, so there’s a rare competitive race to fill the seat. Progressive groups have settled pretty much unanimously on Condes, a longtime solo practice attorney. Her opponent is Mark Fickes, a former prosecutor & SEC attorney who now does criminal defense for those charged by the SEC, and seems to have stretched things a bit to call himself a ‘civil rights lawyer’ on the ballot.

Condes meanwhile touts her experience as a trial lawyer with extensive,varied experience in court (most lawyers do not actually go to court much, if at all), endorsements from 20-something other judges, and perspective as a Latina lesbian who values inclusion. She notes that the vast majority of judges come from a prosecution or civil law background, and her experience with criminal defense would bring some balance & understanding of those facing incarceration. It was challenging to find much information on this race (judicial candidates strive to appear apolitical; Condes website mostly explains what the position is and gives her bio), but she seems qualified, concerned with equal justice, and very nice, so sure. 

Alameda County Ballot Initiatives

Measure V–Utility Users Tax: Yes

This renews an existing tax to even out utility prices between Oakland and unincorporated county areas. We look forward to a state takeover of PG&E and a complete refiguring of gas & electricity pricing one of these days, but in the meantime we shouldn’t screw over our neighbors. If it passes, nothing changes. 

Measure W–Half Cent Sales Tax Increase to Fund Homelessness Services: Yes

This is a half cent sales tax to fund support for homeless people & prevent homelessness through things like emergency rent support. The money will fund a little of everything–healthcare (including mental health & addiction), shelter space, outreach efforts, assistance in finding long-term housing & etc. It’s probably still not enough, and lacks a robust housing guarantee. But the services it will cover are deeply necessary–the population of unsheltered Oaklanders doubled in the last 4 years, and that’s pre-Covid. Only about a fifth of unhoused Oaklanders are able to stay in a shelter at any given time, much worse even than other US cities with a housing crisis. This is easy, vote yes.  

AC Transit Board

AC Transit Board At-Large: Chris Peeples

 Chris Peeples is the incumbent and the current AC Transit Board president. He’s been a tireless advocate for ensuring our transit system is disability-friendly. As a wheelchair user who relies on the bus himself, Peeples s quick to notice and demand action when the system falls short. He served as the expert witness when the AC Transit workers union sued for racially equitable transit funding & won.

Jones is a retired bus driver who’s depth of transit knowledge impressed us in her last run in 2016, when she addressed the need for equitable, efficient transit with more depth and clarity than the scandal-ridden incumbent of another seat, Joel Young. 


The third candidate, Victoria Fierce, got her start as a provocative staffer for a pro-gentrification front group, accusing her would-be colleague, Afrolatina immigrant Jovanka Beckles, of supporting segregation for standing up to real estate developers (we don’t get it either), and recently making up wild accusations DSA is nationally “teaming up with Qanon.” Jones and Peeples would both be excellent choices, but leave Fierce off your ballot. 

AC Transit Board Ward 2: Jean Walsh

A less dramatic transit race, Walsh doesn’t support free transit but does have the support of AC Transit workers against anti-labor incumbent Greg Harper. Transit workers have been squeezed for years–with low pay leading to constant understaffing, inadequate healthcare, long hours and sometimes no bathroom breaks–and the current board let their contract expire without negotiating a new deal. Replacing the anti-labor members of the board with people who will keep our system functional is key in the coming era of Covid-driven budget shortfalls. 

BART Board 

District 7: Lateefah Simon

Simon has worked for racial justice and transit equity, moving from a client to staffer in direct service non-profits for low-income young women, then working with recently incarcerated people to support their re-entry, another NGO opposing criminalization of Black youth, becoming director of the Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights, and becoming the youngest woman ever to win a MacArthur genius grant. She ran for BART board as a disabled person who relies on public transit herself, and was elected president by her peers on the board.

On top of an impressive resume, we know she’s the candidate of choice because the BART Police have gone all-in on trying to unseat her. We’ll take that as a sign her opposition to police violence is sincere and effective. 

Peralta Community College District 

Area 1: Jeff Heyman

 Our community colleges have suffered from years of mismanagement, with the board fucking up their finances so badly that it dropped their bond rating, making it much more expensive to borrow the money needed to repair buildings and expand to serve our growing population. The Peralta Federation of Teachers, the faculty union, has taken it upon themselves to try and replace problematic incumbents with fresh, competent new management. Last cycle they had some success, and this cycle they’re backing Heyman, a former whistleblower. SEIU and the left-liberal Wellstone Democratic Club have joined in, and his platform includes not violating transparency laws, not bankrupting the colleges, restoring worker listservs that were shut down to prevent employees from talking to each other about how poorly the colleges were managed, and helping students get green jobs.

Berkeley Election Guide: Nov 2020

Berkeley Mayor: Jesse Arreguín

An acolyte of the Gus Newport school of Berkeley progressives, Jesse Arreguín won decisively over Laurie Capitelli, the candidate backed by then-incumbent Tom Bates and the conservative city council, in 2016, securing an endorsement from Newport’s old friend Bernie Sanders along the way. This time, he’s running virtually unopposed, being challenged only by a small handful of idiosyncratic, nonviable candidates who would be lucky to break into the double digits. His most notable challenger, Wayne Hsiung, is running on a solid, progressive program, but being the founder of Direct Action Everywhere, a fringe animal rights group whose favorite activities include disrupting Bernie rallies and stealing animals from farmers, is best kept away from the levers of power.

Arreguín is certainly no socialist, let alone a flawless mayor, and he’s betrayed allies on key issues such as homelessness and policing. But he’s still among the council’s more progressive members, flanked by more people to his right than to his left, and represents a shift from the decades of conservative governance that preceded him—not to mention he’s the only serious candidate on the ballot.

Berkeley City Council

Berkeley City Council District 2: Terry Taplin and Cheryl Davila

The only really competitive race for Berkeley City Council this year, District Two features incumbent Councilmember Cheryl Davila with three challengers. While Cheryl aligns with progressives and socialists on most issues, she is a singularly ineffective Councilmember. Close watchers of the Council will see that her items fail as often for being half baked and poorly written as for a lack of political support. Her signature achievement, passing a Climate State of Emergency, is a mostly symbolic measure. That said, she is a reliable vote on sociailst priorities including policing, renters rights, and the environment. Given that, some of her choices of appointees to the city’s boards and commissions are startling, including keeping Sharon Kidd as her appointee to the Personnel Board, a police union backed candidate for the BART board. She is also the sole progressive member of the council who has failed to endorse the pro-tenant rent board slate.

Her main challenger is Terry Taplin, a new entrant to Berkeley Politics. A DSA member, Taplin has assembled an odd coalition of supporters, including moderates who oppose Cheryl’s views and progressives who agree with the incumbent but want a more effective voice on council. Taplin’s platform and public statements would seem to align him with the progressive wing of the council. The choice in District 2 comes down to whether to keep an ineffective but reliable incumbent or gamble on a new unproven candidate.

Regardless of order, voters in District 2 should rank Taplin and Davila in their first two spots and no one else after them. Alex Sharenko, the third main candidate in the race, is the choice of moderates who oppose Davila but find Taplin too left, and would likely become the most conservative member of the Council if elected. Timothy Carter, the fourth candidate, isn’t viable.

Berkeley City Council District 3: Ben Bartlett

This district, which represents South Berkeley, among the most diverse and working-class areas of the city, awarded Bernie his second-best performance in Berkeley in both 2016 and 2020, behind only the student-supermajority District 7. It deserves a progressive councilmember, and it sort of has one in Ben Bartlett. Though more of a swing vote than the likes of Davila and Harrison, Bartlett is still positioned as a member of the council’s six-person progressive majority and can more often than not be relied on for a good vote. He’s being challenged from the right by the same person who finished second to him in 2016, and should be re-elected.

Berkeley City Council District 5: Sophie Hahn

Centrists are rightfully derided for claiming that only moderates can win swing districts. But there are some districts where you really do have to settle for what the best you can get. Like Bartlett, Hahn is somewhat of a swing vote but generally sides with the progressive majority. Her district, covering North Berkeley, is one of the wealthiest and whitest areas of the city. Given that environment, her record is better than what you’d normally hope for. Certainly, it’s better than that of her predecessor, Laurie Capitelli, who she twice barely lost to before being elected to the open seat he vacated, and better than that of the “moderate” wing that controls the city’s other wealthy districts.

Berkeley City Council District 6: Richard Illgen

Susan Wengraf is a relic of councils past. She was first elected in 2008—all other councilmembers were elected to their current positions in 2014 or later—and is also the council’s most conservative member, two facts that are probably correlated. She’s unlikely to be defeated, having a strong well of support in the Berkeley Hills, which make up most of her district (only a small portion immediately north of campus is dominated by students and renters), but Richard Illgen is giving it a shot. As the only progressive challenger in the district and in Berkeley’s 2020 elections as a whole, he deserves your vote. If he fails, we can hope that Wengraf, who is 75, retires in 2024.

Berkeley School Board (Choose 2 city-wide election): Ana Vasudeo and either Laura Babitt or Mike Chang

Berkeley School Board races are remarkably low stakes compared to those just over the border in Oakland. Berkeley’s last remaining charter school shut down within the last few years, and while the public school system is far from perfect there is a general consensus on the work that needs to be done. This year’s race features three main candidates for two seats, all three of whom would be more than acceptable.

First and foremost is Ana Vasudeo, the consensus choice in the race. A BUSD parent, she currently works for the SFMTA including on issues like school transit. Vasudeo has a staggering array of endorsements, including every member of the School Board, the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, the Labor Council, and many others. She should get the first of your two votes.

That leaves two candidates you should consider for your second vote, Laura Babitt and Mike Chang. Both are qualified. Babitt has the second endorsement from the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, though they notably did their candidate interviews before Chang joined the race. Take a look at their websites and make the choice for yourself. You can’t go wrong between these two.

Another notable candidate in the race is the elderly Norma Harrison. A perennial candidate, Norma is a self described communist realtor, and thinks public education is a tool of bourgeois propaganda and should be abolished. We have a soft spot for Norma, though you should not cast your ballot for her in this election.

Berkeley Rent Board (Choose 5 city-wide election): Leah Simon-Weisberg, Mari Mendonca, Dominique Walker, Xavier Johnson, Andy Kelley  

Every two years, the Berkeley Tenant Convention selects a slate of tenant-backed candidates to run for the Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board. These slates won full sweeps in 2016 and 2018, making the Rent Board the only majority-socialist elected body in the US, by board member Soli Alpert’s estimation. This slate, backed by the Convention and by East Bay DSA, will hope to continue that perfect record, but they’re faced with opposition from more landlord-backed candidates than ever before. Make sure pro-tenant candidates maintain their full hold on the Rent Board!

Berkeley Ballot Initiatives 

Measure FF – Fire, Emergency Services and Wildfire Prevention Tax: Yes

Measure FF is a modest parcel tax to pay for emergency services and prevention including fires and health emergencies (ie pandemics). Do you like ensuring the basic functioning of society and the health and safety of you and your neighbors? Vote Yes.

Measure GG – Tax on Transportation Network Company Trips: Yes

Measure GG imposes a 50 cent fee on rideshare trips originating in Berkeley, discounted to 25 cents for pooled trips with multiple passengers. Despite promises from our tech overlords that ridesharing and the fog economy would be good for the environment and drivers alike, the advent of Uber and Lyft has drastically increased the number of cars on the road, hurting our environment, infrastructure, and traffic management for the purpose of exploiting low paid drivers for corporate profit.

Conscientious folks may be concerned that this is a form of sales tax and therefore regressive, but this is mitigated by the fact that low income people are much less likely to take rideshare, instead opting for public transportation. Vote Yes.

Measure HH – Utility Users Tax: Yes

This measure would create a Climate Equity Fund, paid for by raising the tax on natural gas for wealthier residents but lowering it for low-income folks. HH is doubly progressive, taxing the rich and exempting the poor while funneling the revenues towards assisting low-income residents to weatherize their homes, improve energy efficiency and reduce both greenhouse gas emissions and monthly utility bills. Pushing back against both climate change and income inequality, Measure HH is a double-whammy of effective local governance. Vote Yes.

Measure II – Police Accountability Charter Amendment: Yes

Measure II would amend the City Charter to strengthen Berkeley’s Police Review Board. While it isn’t everything activists had hoped, the community coalition that initiated the push to strengthen the commission a few years ago is supporting the version passed by Council. One part of a multifront effort to address racist policing, Vote Yes for police accountability.

Measure JJ – Charter Amendment: Mayor and Council Compensation: Yes

This measure would raise salaries for the Mayor and Council from their current poverty level to something more sustainable for living in a Bay Area city. The Mayor currently makes $61,304 a year while Councilmembers make $38,695. When the wage was first set, the position of Councilmember was a part time job with limited hours. That is no longer the case, and in the meanwhile rents have tripled. One Councilmember currently works at Peet’s to afford rent in his district. Measure JJ would set the Mayor’s salary at the “low income” level for a family of three. In 2020, that’s $107,300. Councilmembers’ salaries would be 63% of the Mayor’s, or $67,304 currently.

SEIU 1021, the main union for City of Berkeley employees, has endorsed the measure. The union has long supported increased council pay as it makes it easier to elect and retain working class, pro-labor elected officials who otherwise might not be able to afford holding elected office. Socialists should vote yes to make sure that people who aren’t independently wealthy can represent us in City Hall.

Measure KK – Charter Amendment: Administrative Provisions and City Attorney: Yes

A hodgepodge of assorted amendments to the City Charter, this measure allows firefighters to live farther from Berkeley, removed gendered language, allows noncitizens to serve on the redistricting commission, and clarifies the institutional position of the City Attorney relative to the Council and City Manager. Vote Yes.

Measure LL – GANN Limit Spending Authority: Yes

Incredibly wonky but required by state law, this measure allows the council to spend tax money that it has already collected from tax measures that were already approved by the voters. Vote yes.

Measure MM – Rent Stabilization Ordinance: Yes

While more limited in scope than the Rent Board proposal for the measure had originally envisioned, Measure MM takes a few modest steps to enhance tenant protections and expand data collection on rentals. Vote yes.

Alameda County 

Alameda Superior Court Judge #2: Elena Condes

This judgeship is vacant following the retirement of the previous judge, so there’s a rare competitive race to fill the seat. Progressive groups have settled pretty much unanimously on Condes, a longtime solo practice attorney. Her opponent is Mark Fickes, a former prosecutor & SEC attorney who now does criminal defense for those charged by the SEC, and seems to have stretched things a bit to call himself a ‘civil rights lawyer’ on the ballot.

Condes meanwhile touts her experience as a trial lawyer with extensive,varied experience in court (most lawyers do not actually go to court much, if at all), endorsements from 20-something other judges, and perspective as a Latina lesbian who values inclusion. She notes that the vast majority of judges come from a prosecution or civil law background, and her experience with criminal defense would bring some balance & understanding of those facing incarceration. It was challenging to find much information on this race (judicial candidates strive to appear apolitical; Condes website mostly explains what the position is and gives her bio), but she seems qualified, concerned with equal justice, and very nice, so sure. 

Alameda County Ballot Initiatives

Measure V–Utility Users Tax: Yes

This renews an existing tax to even out utility prices between Oakland and unincorporated county areas. We look forward to a state takeover of PG&E and a complete refiguring of gas & electricity pricing one of these days, but in the meantime we shouldn’t screw over our neighbors. If it passes, nothing changes. 

Measure W–Half Cent Sales Tax Increase to Fund Homelessness Services: Yes

This is a half cent sales tax to fund support for homeless people & prevent homelessness through things like emergency rent support. The money will fund a little of everything–healthcare (including mental health & addiction), shelter space, outreach efforts, assistance in finding long-term housing & etc. It’s probably still not enough, and lacks a robust housing guarantee. But the services it will cover are deeply necessary–the population of unsheltered Oaklanders doubled in the last 4 years, and that’s pre-Covid. Only about a fifth of unhoused Oaklanders are able to stay in a shelter at any given time, much worse even than other US cities with a housing crisis. This is easy, vote yes.  

AC Transit Board

AC Transit Board At-Large: Chris Peeples

Chris Peeples is the incumbent and the current AC Transit Board president. He’s been a tireless advocate for ensuring our transit system is disability-friendly. As a wheelchair user who relies on the bus himself, Peeples s quick to notice and demand action when the system falls short. He served as the expert witness when the AC Transit workers union sued for racially equitable transit funding & won.

Jones is a retired bus driver who’s depth of transit knowledge impressed us in her last run in 2016, when she addressed the need for equitable, efficient transit with more depth and clarity than the scandal-ridden incumbent of another seat, Joel Young. 


The third candidate, Victoria Fierce, got her start as a provocative staffer for a pro-gentrification front group, accusing her would-be colleague, afrolatina immigrant Jovanka Beckles, of supporting segregation for standing up to real estate developers (we don’t get it either), and recently making up wild accusations DSA is nationally “teaming up with Qanon.” Jones and Peeples would both be excellent choices, but leave Fierce off your ballot. 

AC Transit Board Ward 1: Jovanka Beckles

Perhaps no other local political candidate is held in higher regard among East Bay socialists than Jovanka Beckles, and for good reason. Running one of the most inspiring campaigns on the West Coast, Jovanka won over 90k votes in her bid for State Assembly last cycle. This time, she’s gunning for a 16-year incumbent on the AC Transit Board, and has a solid shot at winning. East Bay DSA has emphatically backed both of these campaigns. Her platform, Transit for the People, is refreshing and ambitious, fighting for workers and riders alike, and paving the way for a Green New Deal in the East Bay. Last time this seat was contested, a third of people who voted for president didn’t vote in this race. Make sure you don’t skip this one.

BART Board 

District 7: Lateefah SimonSimon has worked for racial justice and transit equity, moving from a client to staffer in direct service non-profits for low-income young women, then working with recently incarcerated people to support their re-entry, another NGO opposing criminalization of Black youth, becoming director of the Lawyer’s Committee on Civil Rights, and becoming the youngest woman ever to win a MacArthur genius grant. She ran for BART board as a disabled person who relies on public transit herself, and was elected president by her peers on the board.

On top of an impressive resume, we know she’s the candidate of choice because the BART Police have gone all-in on trying to unseat her. We’ll take that as a sign her opposition to police violence is sincere and effective.

California State Elections, Nov 2020

Statewide Ballot Measures

Prop 14: Funding for Stem Cell Research: No Recommendation

On the one hand, stem cell research offers huge potential for medical breakthroughs against diseases like cancer and alzheimers. When anti-abortion groups convinced the federal government to cut off stem cell research funding, California stepped up and provided public funds, becoming a center for stem cell research. Now that federal ban has expired & federal funds are flowing, so critics of this measure argue we should be a little more stringent with our public dollars. 

Publicly funded pharmaceutical research that lets private companies retain all the profits is the norm in this country, and this measure is no exception–while it creates an “affordability working group,” the measure does very little to ensure the public would benefit from (ie, be able to get our hands on) the fruits of our $5.5 billion in research without going personally bankrupt. On the other hand, if you feel that the possibility of breakthroughs can’t wait for the possibility of a better deal later, vote yes now. 

Prop 15: Schools and Communities First: Yes

Long long ago (the 1970’s) Republicans blew an enormous hole in the state budget by passing Prop 13, which gives massive tax breaks to property owners and makes it a huge hassle to raise them. This forced the state into austerity, cutting public school spending from top-tier to near the bottom, leaving roads to rot, & etc.

Prop 15 repeals the most odious parts of prop 13–the freeze on property taxes for large corporations. It doesn’t affect homeowners at all (to the contrary of dishonest anti-prop 15 ads), and exempts farm land & any business that takes in less than $3 million dollars per year. It would raise taxes on Chevron, Disneyland, country clubs, and big commercial landlords, so they’re mounting an enormous campaign to stop it by any means necessary. Still, it’s polling well and may be our biggest chance in decades to begin repairing the state budget.

If it does pass, 40% of the $8-12 billion per year it would bring in goes to public schools & community colleges. The rest goes to local governments to pay for things like senior centers, libraries, parks, fire departments, public health clinics (and, if we don’t insist otherwise, cops).

Given the enormous deficit in public revenues caused by Covid-19 and the ensuing crash, failing to pass Prop 15 won’t just leave the status quo in place–it means punishing austerity to balance city budgets. The least we can do it tax country clubs to keep our schools open. 

Prop 16: Reinstate Affirmative Action: Yes

California banned affirmative action in 1996, as part of a national backlash to the means of repairing American’s systemic racial & gender biases. This would re-legalize it, and allow institutions to take reparative action in hiring and school admissions.  

Prop 17: Voting Rights for those on Parole: Yes

This would allow people convicted of felonies to regain their voting rights when they leave prison, not much later after finishing parole. We don’t believe anyone should be denied the right to vote, so while this doesn’t go far enough, it’s important that the initiative not fail. 

Prop 18: Allows 17 year olds to vote in primaries: Yes

This would let 17 year olds who will turn 18 before that year’s general election to also vote in the primary. Since a lot of California elections are decided in the primary, this could help bring new voters in. California already allows 16 & 17 year olds to pre-register to vote, so the administrative burdon is minimal. Why not? If teens care enough to vote we should let ‘em. 

Prop 19: Changes to Tax Assessments: No 

This measure is funded by realtor’s associations, and sets up a complex set of property tax breaks, such as letting senior citizens, people with disabilities & people displaced by disasters transfer their frozen property taxes to new homes. While these are all populations deserving of help, California’s broken property tax system shouldn’t be expanded, we should abolish Prop 13 and run our property taxes like every other state–the frozen taxes fan the flames of price inflation (because buyers with a given budget can put more into a mortgage), and the lost revenue has sent schools and local governments into decades of austerity. We shouldn’t dig it deeper by allowing Boomers with their taxes frozen at 1970’s levels to outbid everyone else trying to buy a home. 

Prop 20: Sentencing & Evidence Rules: No

 This would add several new crimes to the code (“serial crime” and “retail organized crime”), give prosecutors new options to charge gun, auto & credit card theft as felonies, and expand police DNA collection to some misdemeanors. It’s supported by police unions, Republicans and some Democrats, and opposed by the ACLU.

We have a crisis of mass incarceration, and a historically unprecedented surveillance state. We do not need to make up new crimes or stiffen punishments for property theft. 

Prop 21: Rent Control: Yes

This is essentially a re-hash of 2018’s Prop 10. It would remove a statewide ban on many types of rent control (ie single family & duplex rental houses, newer construction & etc) with some loopholes (landlords who own only 2 properties, no rent control until a building is 15 years old), so cities could control rents if they want, or enforce old rent control laws the state suppressed. It would also do something new–only allow landlords to raise the rent 15% between tenants, reducing incentives to kick out long-time residents in rapidly gentrifying areas. It’s good, vote yes. 

Prop 22: Repeals Gig Worker Protections: No

Overturns a recent state law declaring that gig workers must count as employees. Uber tried to dodge this by claiming drivers are not a core part of their business, but since no one fell for that, they’ve invested heavily in trying to convince voters to take away their workers’ rights directly. While they were at it they wedged in some ludicrous freebies for themselves, like a clause saying the state legislature will henceforth have to get a ⅞ majority to regulate them going forward. 

Prop 23: Dialysis: Yes

This was placed on the ballot by SEIU-UHW, a union which represents many dialysis clinic workers. It would ban private dialysis clinics from discriminating based on who’s paying the bill (eg refusing patients with particular insurance), and to have more staff per patient, and report infection data to the state. Clinics complain this will drive up costs, but their workers insist their boss’s cost-cutting measures spread them too thin to adequately care for patients.   

Prop 24: Expand California Consumer Privacy Act: No

While this offers some increases in privacy protections, it has such severe loopholes that the ACLU and Consumer Federation have come out against it. For instance, companies could ignore a universal “Don’t Sell My Data” list and require you to notify them one by one, and would allow tech companies to charge you to keep your data private. 

Prop 25: Abolish Cash Bail: Yes

Prop 25 is the last, dying gasp of the cash bail industry in California. In 2018, the legislature passed SB 10, a deeply flawed bill to reform the bail system. This initiative would replace cash bail with a risk-assessment program, which comes with it’s own biases. The bail industry paid for signatures to force the bill to a referendum, where the public will be able to vote it up or down.

Despite the problems with the proposed risk assessment program, approving the law with a Yes vote will end the cash bail industry. This means their lobbyists and money won’t be in Sacramento for the next round of negotiations around pretrial detention and release, making it easier to make this flawed system better in the future.

Congress

13th District: Barbara Lee

Her challenger this time is a Republican software engineer promising universal tex cuts and the adoption of the metric system.

She cast the only vote against the Iraq war and he turns up on lists of Qanon-promoting politicians, so please, no voting for him ironically either. Let’s move on. 

State Senate

9th District: Nancy Skinner

The Republicans couldn’t even get it together to run a sacrificial candidate, and Skinner hasn’t offended enough to attract intra-Democratic party challengers from the left or right, so we’ve got a Libertarian challenger by default. Never humor a libertarian, free market extremism always ends up bringing full corporate indentured servitude and very little drug legalization. 

State legislature

15th District: Write-in 

Corporate Democrat Buffy Wicks is being challenged by a joke candidate whose tagline in the primary was something like “Because You Have No Good Options” and who’s replaced her entire campaign website with an earnest letter about how this election does not matter against the rising tide of fascism. The left should prioritize stopping Wicks before she works her way any further up the party ranks, but this isn’t the year. Has anyone ever voted for you? Now’s your chance. 

18th District: Rob Bonta

Bonta’s…fine. He’s the author of California’s own Green New Deal bill, but mysteriously endorsed Tom Steyer for president. He’ll beat his Republican challenger easily. Do your part to keep the Alameda Republican Party somewhere behind the Greens in political relevance. 

Frustrated Socialists Voter Guide: Oakland 2020 Primaries

As is the way of things, several members of the Frustrated Socialist’s Guide team have had to depart the East Bay for cheaper pastures, and those remaining have been working overtime with the DSA for Bernie campaign (with which this guide has no formal relationship, but bears a deep affection for). We’ll be regrouping to bring you a timely, in-depth guide to the exciting elections coming up this fall. In the meantime, you probably just want to know ETF a county commissioner is. Let’s get to it. 


Offices

President: Bernie Sanders
Yeah no shit y’all, we’ve got the chance to boost working-class organizing in a way not seen since–[infighting over leftist history redacted]–in a long-ass time. He consistently beats Trump in head-to-head matchups, has the most volunteers, the biggest donor base and the highest popularity of the candidates, so Bernie’s as safe a bet as we can get for the general election. And as of press time, he’s come in first in first in both of the primaries thus far, and the most likely alternatives are Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg, with the remaining candidates failing to consistently meet the 15% minimum threshold required to win pledged delegates. If you’ve got any doubts, hit berniesanders.com/issues and take a look.

 

Democratic Party County Committee
District 15
Pick 8 of these 9: Paola Laverde , Igor Tregub , Wendy Bloom, Bobbi Lopez , Julie Caseky, Michael Barnett, Andy Kelley , Alfred Twu, Soli Alpert

The first 8 candidates are endorsed by the steering committee of the Berkeley Tenants Union. You can read their bios and rationale for endorsement here. Laverde and Twu are also endorsed by the People Powered Progressives, and the author of this document would vouch for them personally as committed public servants, Laverde as a Berkeley rent board member and Twu as one of the few people who writes publicly about zoning and development who is an unabashedly good person.

Soli Alpert is the youngest member of the Berkeley Rent Board, representing the city’s student population. He was a major force behind Students for Bernie in ‘16, and has remained engaged in left politics constantly since then.

District 18 
Henry Gage III, Pamela Price, Andrea Luna Bocanegra, Austin Tam, Marchon Tatmon, Victor Aguilar Jr, Royl Roberts, Guillermo Elenes, Howard Egerman, Iris Merriouns, Jose Carlos Moreno

We recommend voting for the People Powered Progressives slate, a group of left challengers who are all refusing corporate funding, and represent a comprehensive set of perspectives and areas of expertise including tenant’s rights, labor organizers, police accountability and a wide spectrum of marginalized identities. The slate is centered in D18, but also includes some candidates from districts 15, 16 & 20. Read more about them here.

 

13th Congressional District: Barbara Lee

No one will be replacing Lee with a Republican. Since this is a top-2 open primary and the Greens didn’t feel up to repeating their 2018 mini-victory in edging out the Republican competitor for the honor of losing to Lee in a landslide, this one technically doesn’t matter because we’ll see the same 2 candidate matchup in November for the actual vote. Still, vote Lee.


State Senate District 7: Marisol Rubio

Rubio is a former Bernie Sanders delegate and healthcare provider, running to unseat Shitty Democrat Steve Glazer. Glazer has said public transit workers shouldn’t be allowed to strike, authored bills to weaken environmental protections in favor of real estate developers, and gets tons of money from charter school PACs. Rubio has the backing of unions, especially teachers and firefighters, as well as environmental groups. She supports banning fracking and lists support for many components of a Green New Deal, proposes big, necessary expansions to public education funding, and supports universal healthcare (though her platform stops short of specifying the details). Vote for her, consider canvassing for her or donating as well. She’ll need to edge out the Republican to make it to the November ballot.


State Legislator

District 15: Sara Brink, or write-in Jovanka Beckles

Billionaire-backed incumbent Buffy Wicks is not facing the opposition she deserves this go-round. Brink is the progressive-ish challenger–she describes herself as “a 34 year old white lady gentrifier” and states her identities have given her the privilege to run for office, before getting to a platform that enters on making it easier to run for office and charging citizen committees to oversee each bill passed by the state. But she has has campaigned so halfheartedly (her slogan is literally “because you have no good options”) that local hero/2018 runner-up Beckles is also racking up some protest votes.

District 18: Rob Bonta

Again, both these candidates will return in November, but Bonta’s fine, and we don’t give Republicans an inch.

Superior Court Judge, Office #2: Elena Condes

This judgeship is vacant following the retirement of the previous judge, so there’s a rare competitive race to fill the seat. Progressive groups have settled pretty much unanimously on Condes, a longtime solo practice attorney. Her most viable opponent is Mark Fickes, a former prosecutor & SEC attorney who now does criminal defense for those charged by the SEC, and seems to have stretched things a bit to call himself a ‘civil rights lawyer’ on the ballot. Condes meanwhile touts her experience as a trial lawyer with extensive,varied experience in court (most lawyers do not actually go to court much, if at all), endorsements from 20-something other judges, and perspective as a Latina lesbian who values inclusion. It was challenging to find much information on this race (judicial candidates strive to appear apolitical; Condes website mostly explains what the position is and gives her bio), but she seems qualified, concerned with equal justice, and very nice, so sure. 

Board of Education, 2nd Trustee Area: Angela Normand

This is the Alameda Country Board of Education, separate from but kind of overseeing the school boards of the various cities in the county. A major function of the County board is hearing appeals from charter schools that the city boards deemed unnecessary to open, unprepared to function, or which are operating so poorly the city votes not to renew their charter. Incumbent Amber Childress has routinely sided with charter schools. Her opponent, Angela Normand, is a teacher endorsed by the Oakland Educators Association and, in a rare move, the Alameda County Democratic party abandoned the incumbent to support her. Vote Normand for public schools, and holding the charter schools we already have to account.

Alameda County Supervisor, District 4: Esther Goolsby

She fought off a crematorium in working-class, majority POC, already-heavily-polluted East Oakland. She’s won the support of the Green Party and our pal Jovanka Beckles. We’ve not been following the supervisor races as closely as we should, but we’d be proud to see her environmental justice experience guide the county. 


Ballot Initiatives

State 13: Yes
This initiative gives the state permission to borrow $15 billion from bond-buyers to repair & build school facilities, from preschool to university, with the bonds being paid off over 35 years. Given the enormous size of the state and the decaying buildings of many of our schools, $15 billion may be a little light, but we should take it. A nice upside is requiring that our big public colleges ensure affordable student housing in order to get their share of the money. They downside is charter schools are eligible to pocket up to $500 million, a problem we’ll have to solve through public ed, rather than starving them out.

County C: Yes

This creates a half cent per dollar sales tax county-wide for the next 20 years, with the money earmarked for preschool and a pediatric trauma center. Sales taxes are regressive (hitting the working class proportionately harder than those who have so much money they spend in ways that aren’t ‘sales’) but $0.005 per dollar is small, and the revenue also goes to underserved kids, so we think you should do it.

Oakland Q: Yes

This raises property taxes on each ‘parcel’ (single family home) of land by $148/year, expiring in 20 years. The money will fund homeless shelters and public parks. We have a homelessness crisis and parks are a vital public good (and some of ours do inded need infrastructure repairs) so do it.

Oakland R: Yes

The Oakland city charter calls for making a newspaper with daily circulation of 25,000 or more the official county paper in which legal notices must be published. We, uh, don’t have a paper like that anymore, thanks to the collapse of journalism. This would eliminate the 25k/day requirement and let the city council figure out what we do instead.

Oakland S: Yes

An obscure part of the state constitution puts a spending cap on the city, and we have to vote to suspend the cap to use already-collected tax money on city services like paramedics, libraries, violence prevention, and homelessness services. Do it, we can’t afford not to have those things. You already paid for them anyway. 

2018 East Bay Voter Guide: The Master Post

Welcome to the Frustrated Socialists’ Voter Guide. We’re a volunteer team of democratic socialists in the East Bay who have tried to research everything on the ballot in our communities and share those recommendations. We take a harm reduction approach to voting–meaningful political change relies on everyday people taking action before and after elections to shape what’s on the table. But if your eligible to vote, we encourage you to pick the best, or at least the least-bad, option in each race while you’ve got the chance. Some races have no good option, some have several highly similar candidates, and our research is imperfect, but these are the consensus picks of a team of dedicated organizers. We tried to provide helpful explanations for each choice, but we encourage you to do your own research too. We hope you find it helpful!

We broke different sections of the ballot up into separate posts, and we’ll have some shareable graphics for Facebook and Twitter coming very soon. In the meantime, here’s links to our recommendations for different sections of your ballot:

Peralta Community College District Elections: Nov 2018

Peralta Community College District Trustees

Area 3: Corean Todd         Area 5: Cindi Reiss

Staff at the Peralta Community College have been ringing the alarm over financial mismanagement. Corean and Cindi are both highly qualified women of color with the support of the teachers union and the more reform-minded incumbent trustees.

 

Peralta Community College Bond Measures

Peralta College District – Measure E: Yes

Measure E renews an existing $48/house/year tax to fund the already-underfunded Peralta community colleges: College of Alameda, Berkeley City College, Laney College and Merritt College. These colleges primarily serve working class students of color, and the state won’t pony up the money to keep them running properly, so here we are. The tax makes up about 7.5% of the colleges’ funding, bringing them from 19% under budget to just 16% under-funded.

Peralta College District – Measure G: Yes

Measure G adds another $24.50/yr in property taxes to issue a bond–basically selling the future tax revenues to investors with interest in order to get all the money up front–to pay for infrastructure improvements to the Peralta colleges: repairing buildings, upgrading science labs and the like. We’re pleased that none of the money can go to chronically-inflated administrator salaries. The biggest downside is that past financial mismanagement has hurt the Peralta system’s credit rating, so we’ll be paying a higher interest rate than we should, raising the cost and eating into the money available for actual use. Still, students deserve good learning environments and university workers shouldn’t have to make due with run-down facilities. So vote yes now and elect Corean Todd and Cindi Reiss to start fixing the system for the long haul.

Oakland Elections: Nov 2018

Oakland Candidates for Office


Oakland Mayor: #1 Cat Brooks, #2 Pamela Price, #3 Saied Karamooz

Cat Brooks is a Black Lives Matter and anti-police violence activist. Pamela Price is a civil rights attorney fresh off nearly unseating Alameda County’s terrible DA. Saied Karamooz is a Green party activist and advocate for a public bank. Any of them would be an improvement over incumbent mayor Libby Schaaf, who’s been mired in scandal for covering up sex trafficking of a minor by the Oakland PD, and whose business-friendly platform has worsened gentrification. Oakland tends to not re-elect mayors, but all challengers entered the race pretty late and Schaaf is deep seated and well-funded.

Oakland City Auditor: Courtney Ruby

Courtney Ruby is the old Auditor running to oust the one who succeeded her. She’s pretty well regarded, and the incumbent is viewed to be ineffectual.

Oakland City Council

District 2: Nikki Fortunato Bas, #2 Kenzie Smith

Nikki Fortunato Bas is a long-time local labor activist, working through non-profits to support garment workers. She’s been a leader in successful campaigns to raise the city’s minimum wage, to require real estate developers to hire local residents, and to reduce air pollution around the port. Her platform includes strengthening anti-displacement measures for tenants, stronger rent control, strengthening police accountability, and environmental health measures. She’s won the support of a broad swath of labor and progressive community groups.

Kenzi Smith is a community activist who became famous overnight as the target of ‘BBQ Becky,’ when a white woman called the police to complain he was enjoying a cookout at Lake Merritt. That lead to his appointment to the Parks commission, and his decision to challenge incumbent Abel Guillen. Guillen is one of the more conservative city council members and faces ethics complaints for accepting donations from real estate developers behind a project pending city council approval, we suggest you leave him off your ballot altogether.

District 4: #1 Pam Harris, #2 Sheng Thao #3 Nayeli Maxson

Pamela Harris is an accomplished documentary filmmaker and an inspiring speaker. She’s called for a real living wage in the Bay–noting that in San Francisco, that would realistically be $40/hr–supports union jobs, and favors supporting Oakland’s diversity through both economic and cultural equity. She’s gained the endorsement of community organizations and leaders from the far left to the center, including that of the outgoing incumbent.

Sheng Thao is the labor candidate, having secured support from an assortment of progressive unions and non-profit groups. She promises to be exceptionally available to her constituents through frequent town halls and office hours, proposes using unspent homelessness prevention money to buy a shuttered SRO and open publicly-run transitional housing, and to migrate public services like illegal dumping clean-up and pothole-filling from a complain-and-wait to a proactive service model.

Nayeli Maxson is to both their right, having endorsed and been endorsed by Buffy Wicks. Still, it’s a crowded field and the remaining candidates are even more conservative, so we’d recommend rounding out your ballot with her.

District 6: #1 Desley Brooks, #2 Mya Whitaker #3 Marlo Rodriguez

Desley Brooks is not perfect. Many have likely heard about her misadventures with a Black Panther Party member-turned-housing developer, and other incidents. But at the end of the day, she represents her community, and has been a reliable progressive vote on the Oakland Council. The Schaff machine is out to get her though, and they’ve used every excuse they can find to paint her in a bad light. She’s been endorsed by Bobby Seale, founder of the Black Panther Party, ACCE Action, Oakland Rising Action, and many labor organizations.

Mya Whitaker is an accomplished recent college grad who grew up in the district and serves on the police accountability board. Her platform includes anti-displacement protections for longtime residents, trauma-informed mental health care for youth living in difficult conditions, promoting small businesses over large developments, and a preventative approach to crime reduction. As a first-time candidate, she doesn’t yet have a voting record we can parse to make a fully informed recommendation, but she seems likely to be politically successful over the long haul. If you have misgivings about Desley Brooks, Mya Whitaker would also be an excellent choice for #1.

Marlo Rodriguez is a union nurse and community activist. Her platform includes reducing police violence through training and accountability, expanding affordable housing through add-on units and development, and attracting a grocery store to the food-desert flatlands in the district. We have qualms with her approach to curbing police violence and crime through improved community/cop relations, but we expect her to be more progressive than the remaining 2 candidates, who are more closely aligned with our neoliberal mayor.

Oakland School Director

District 2: Aimee Eng
Running unopposed

District 4: Clarissa Doutherd

The Oakland teachers’ union (OEA) has thrown all their energy behind Doutherd this year. She’s running on equitable funding for all schools, democratic & transparent control of school district finances, and developing full-service ‘community schools’ that support kids & their families’ needs outside of just education. As a non-profit director, she’s been very successful in expanding access to & funding for childcare for low-income families, and is generally seen as an opponent of Oakland’s pro-charter/pro-privatization school board.

District 6: Shanthi Gonzales

Strong progressive, proponent of public schools, and labor ally. Running unopposed.

 

Oakland Ballot Initiatives

Measure V: Yes

This changes several regulations to the Oakland cannabis industry. One would be letting cannabis businesses pay their taxes in 4 installments a year instead of one huge annual tax bill, which would help smaller business keep up with their tax burden. It would give them the tax break on their raw materials which other manufacturing businesses already get. And it would let the city council make future changes to cannabis business regulation, so we don’t have to have a ballot initiative about it every time they want to change these codes. Business-enabling legislation isn’t really our wheelhouse, but these all seem like sensible moves to treat cannabis businesses like regular businesses, so, sure. Literally no one bothered filing an argument against it.

Measure W: Yes!

This would create a new tax on properties left vacant or almost-vacant (used less than 50 days per year) to fund homelessness services and clean up illegal dumping. The tax is progressive, with 3 tiers of higher rates as properties get more expensive, and is expected to raise $10 million a year. Measure W was a latecomer to the ballot and has flown pretty low (apart from some skeezy real estate industry campaigns against it), but it’s an excellent idea from every angle. Gentrification often encourages property owners to leave perfectly good homes and storefronts vacant in the hopes of attracting a high-end buyer or tenant someday, while locking out or kicking out the people who’re already there. Our homelessness services are dramatically underfunded for the crisis we’re facing. Taxing vacant spaces to fund homelessness services raises desperately needed money while punishing landlords for letting homes sit empty. And Oakland’s inadequate trash pick-up lead to lots of illegal dumping, which is an environmental mess, frequently blocks sidewalks for pedestrians and people using wheelchairs, and is insulting to the residents of working class communities left covered in trash. This is a strong yes.

Measure X: Yes

Similar to Berkeley’s Measure P, this raises the transfer tax (the sales tax on real estate) in a progressive way: the rate goes up for more expensive properties, and there are breaks built in for low-income & first-time homebuyers. Unlike Berkeley’s tax, the lower tier (1%) would apply to all real estate sales. The current transfer tax is a flat rate of 1.5%, so this makes properties under $300K properties a tad cheaper, holds the rate steady for $300K to $2 million sales, and raises taxes on everything over $2 million: luxury housing and big commercial projects. The money, like our existing transfer tax, would go to the city’s general fund. We’re all for taxing the rich, so this is a welcome change. And because the tax is only paid when properties are sold, it should not affect people staying in their homes.

Measure Y: Yes!

This measure takes the protections against unfair eviction that most Oaklanders already enjoy, and expands them to cover people living in duplexes and triplexes. Tenants in single-family homes and bigger apartment buildings can only be evicted for ‘just cause’, that is, only for specific violations of their lease, like failing to pay rent or doing damage to the property. This closes the loophole that lets landlords who live in one apartment in a 2- or 3- unit building evict their tenants in the other units for no reason (it would still allow homeowner/landlords who have roommates to evict people from within a shared home without cause). Measure Y was buoyed by investigative journalists going undercover at real estate open houses & getting footage of agents telling would-be buyers how to buy a small apartment building & evict all the existing residents to increase the rent. Vote yes.

Measure Z: Yes!!!

This would set the minimum wage for hotel workers (at hotels with more than 50 rooms) to $15/hr, (or $20/hr if the job doesn’t offer benefits), give them a panic button when working alone in rooms with guests, and resources to report threats and receive paid time off for counseling if they sustain violence in the workplace, and place restrictions on workload. It also gives the city the resources to enforce labor laws across the city. Hotel workers–especially immigrant women of color–have fought hard to win these benefits: they’re frequently underpaid, overworked, and subject to on the job sexual violence. As a result of their organizing, not only would their own jobs be improved, but the new Department of Workplace and Employment Standards this initiative sets up would make it easier for all workers to demand their bosses be held to the letter of the law.

Measure AA: Yes

A similar measure to fund childcare and public early education just barely failed in the primary, it’s back now in the form of a $198/yr property tax (with exemptions for low-income property owners). It would also set aside funds to reduce disparities in post-high school education outcomes, that is, help kids prepare for, apply to, and figure out how to pay for college. The high cost and low availability of childcare and preschool are disastrous for working class families. Working class moms, especially, find that their ability to work is hampered by insufficient childcare, or that all their wages are eaten up by the costs of sending their kid somewhere safe and educational while they work. Racial disparities in earning power and childcare availability means this deepens racial inequality, and there is a notable trend towards criminalizing parents who can’t pay for childcare. Universal, free-to-use childcare is a key socialist feminist project, and this at least establishes public funding to fill the gap for lower-income families.

On the other hand, some progressive groups have criticized the measure for routing the money through a politically controlled board of appointees rather than sending it directly to public programs like Head Start, and worry the pretty steep price tag represents an inflated budget and might deter voters from other necessary tax measures in the future. In short, it’s clear the goals of the initiative are vital, but we’re gambling a bit that this measure will accomplish them well.

Berkeley Elections: Nov 2018

Here’s our picks for Berkeley candidate for office & city-wide ballot initiatives. See previous posts for the Alameda County races and statewide elections.

City Auditor: Jenny Wong

Jenny Wong is a talented and experienced auditor who is running her campaign by canvassing the entire city and asking the residents of Berkeley what they want audited. She is endorsed by every member of of the Berkeley City Council and will do a great job. We could write this entire blurb about her positives, but she is also running against a candidate whose primary campaign platform is “move all the homeless people in Berkeley to Pleasanton,” which is completely immoral and also not what an auditor does.

Berkeley City Council

District 1: #1 Igor Tregrub, #2 Margo Schueler, #3 Mary Behm-Steinberg

Igor Tregrub is a smart, policy-minded candidate (as well as a DSA member), and we trust him to find the very best possible policies within the existing political framework. Among other public service gigs, he’s a current member of the Berkeley rent board, and is running with a strong focus on affordable housing and aid to the homeless population. He points to his past experience negotiating larger affordable housing set-asides in promising to push for a similar deal in development around the North Berkeley BART station. He’s also focusing on upgrading public transit and keeping Alta Bates hospital open.

Margo Schueler is a civil engineer, running on a heavily infrastructure-centric platform. She was one of the first women welders in the SF shipyards, and was a long time union activist before becoming an engineer, and she’s endorsed by the retiring incumbent. Her campaign website lists a number of issues of importance, from city sewer maintenance to STEM education, but does not include a platform of policy specifics.

Mary Behm-Steinberg is a disabled activist, running on a platform that includes more flexible building codes to legalize unlicensed apartments, supporting statewide taxes to fund housing, protecting the West Berkeley shell mount, and calling for a police oversight commission.

District 4: Kate Harrison

Kate Harrison was elected to the City Council in a special election. She has been on the council only 18 months, and in that time she has doubled the required number of affordable units in all new developments, passed an impressive ordinance requiring registration of all lobbyists who walk into city hall, secured public money for legal fees for tenants facing eviction or harassment, passed a fair scheduling ordinance, and is working on expanding paid family leave for all city employees. She is a vocal proponent of single-payer, and her work to save Alta Bates hospital gave her the wholehearted endorsement of CNA and NUHW. As if all of that wasn’t enough, her work to ensure civilian oversight over the police, as well as her attempt to pull Berkeley out of the militaristic and expensive Urban Shield program caused the Berkeley police union to officially endorse “Anyone But Kate Harrison” for this seat. Anyone who can piss off cops this much has our vote.

This is a ranked choice seat, but we would suggest leaving Ben Gould and Greg Magofna off of your ballot entirely. Both Gould and Magofna are pro-development YIMBYs. Gould is an ardent supporter of Buffy Wicks, and Magofna co-leads East Bay For Everyone, which is acting as a huge canvassing operation for Buffy this election cycle. Ben Gould is a weird trickle-down economics type masquerading as a progressive — at a recent town hall, he argued that the only way to solve Berkeley’s looming pension discrepancy is to invest in small business owners. In this same town hall, he argued that the biggest threat to public safety is “low police morale”, and this still wasn’t enough to get a positive endorsement from the police union.

District 7: Rigel Robinson

Rigel Robinson is a 2017 Berkeley alum. In his time on student government he led the campaign to divest the school’s endowment from fossil fuels and led the Cal for Bernie group, one of the largest Bernie student groups in the country. He is running on a platform of affordable housing and public safety for students, public safety here referring to increasing lighting, late-night transit options, better police oversight, and pulling out of Urban Shield (not more cops, which is usually what people mean by “public safety”). His platform is all very solid, but he is running is because Berkeley District 7 is the only student supermajority City Council district in the entire country as a result of a hard-won redistricting effort, and yet there has never been a student or recent graduate in that seat. He is running to give Berkeley students a seat at the table, and his platform and past progressive victories indicate that he will excel at this task.

District 8: #1 Alfred Twu, #2 Mary Kay Lacey

Alfred Twu is an activist, artist, and also an active DSA member, running on a vision of Berkeley as a green, affordable, inclusive and friendly city. That translates to expanded tenants rights, architecturally pleasing in-fill housing, public health services (including saving the Alta Bates hospital), and transit-and-pedestrian-oriented cityscapes. He’s a political staple in Berkeley and a veteran of Berkeley’s co-ops, pushing for more housing and worker-owned co-ops.

Mary Kay Lacey is an attorney who’s specialized in land use and tribal law, and also emphasizes the need to save Alta Bates hospital and strengthen tenant protections. She’s also highlighting the zero-waste initiative and the need to address traffic congestion on the district. Either candidate would be a welcome improvement over moderate incumbent Lori Droste.

Berkeley Rent Stabilization Board (choose 5)

The Community Power Slate: John Selawsky, Paola Laverde, James Chang, Maria Poblet, and Soli Alpert

These candidates were all chosen to run by the Berkeley Tenants’ union, endorsed by East Bay DSA and other progressive groups. All but Alpert are accomplished incumbents, and he’s a Cal student running to represent students–one of the most numerous and frequently exploited renter populations–on the rent board. The 2 candidates actively campaigning against the slate are literally landlords. There’s no ranking order, just chose these 5.

Berkeley School Board (Choose 3)

Ka’Dijah Brown, Ty Alper, and Julie Sinai

These three candidates are running together as a slate, with the backing of most of Berkeley progressive groups. Ka’Dijah Brown is an elementary school teacher and is herself a graduate of Berkeley public schools, bringing a dual perspective to her understanding of the district. Ty Alper is an incumbent with a generally progressive voting history and notable awareness about racial discrepancies in the school system. Julie Sinai is more tied to the moderate wing of Berkeley politics, but has nonetheless won the endorsement of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers and established progressive groups like the Wellstone Democrats. We support candidates running together as slates as a way to put platform over personality and build voting blocs of elected officials, and prefer to approach slates as an all-or nothing proposition. But as an alternative, the Green party is endorsing school worker and parent of Berkeley public school students Dru Howard over Sinai.

Berkeley Ballot Initiatives

Measure O: Yes

Issues a bond, paid for by a small property tax increase (roughly $100/year range for the average house), to fund a smorgasbord of affordable housing projects: construction, preservation of affordable housing, co-ops and land trusts, all kinds of necessary stuff. Progressive groups are backing O&P together as a broad affordable housing initiative, but they’re separate ballot measures because they rely on different revenue streams. Take ‘em both.

Measure P: Yes

This is a sales tax on luxury real estate to fund services for Berkeley’s homeless population–housing, navigation centers and hygiene facilities. Transfer taxes are taxes paid when real estate is sold, and Measure P would tax only the top 33% most expensive real estate deals–right now, that kicks in at $1.5 million and up. It’s redistributive, it’s well thought out, it’s Good. Vote yes.

Measure Q: Yes

Most of this measure only matters if Prop 10 passes; it’s designed to update and expand rent control in ways that Costa-Hawkins currently bans. It would rent control new buildings after giving developers 20 years to make back their money (a longer window than we’d like, but better than the status quo of never). Unfortunately, it also exempts accessory dwelling units (garage apartments, in-law apartments, and other ways people add an apartment to what was originally a single family home) from rent control and just cause eviction, which we’ll argue against in Oakland. But overall, it would expand rent control a ton the moment it’s possible to do so, so let’s pass it now.

Measure R: Yes

This is a non-binding resolution calling for the Mayor’s office to develop a climate & infrastructure plan for the future of the city. Vision 2050 is basically already underway, as it desperately should, since Berkeley needs new infrastructure anyways. This measure is to get citizen buy-in to a pretty massive project.

Richmond and Contra Costa County Elections: Nov 2018

Most Contra Costa county-wide elections were decided during the primary, leaving just 1 ballot initiative and the West County school board races. As such we’ve included those with Richmond, and hope to expand to more CoCo cities in future elections as our team grows.  You can find more info on Richmond’s general election here: https://ca-richmond3.civicplus.com/3527/November-6-2018-Election

Candidates for Office

Richmond Mayor: Melvin Willis Vice Mayor Willis is running to unseat current Richmond mayor Tom Butt. Willis is young, dynamic, very progressive, working by day as a tenant organizer for ACCE. Butt is a wealthy, white conservative democrat, wildly out of step with Richmond’s new political direction.

Richmond City Council (Choose 3): Ada Recinos, Eduardo Martinez, Virginia “Vicky” Ramirez Ada Recinos and Eduardo Martinez are incumbents, representing the Richmond Progressive Alliance’s Team Richmond slate along with Melvin Willis for mayor, and all 3 are endorsed by DSA as well as a slew of progressive groups. Their main focus is expanding affordable housing and rent control, and over the last term they’ve been part of the successful push to pressure the sheriff into ending an ICE detention contract. Vicky Ramirez is a late entry to the race, but she’s informally joined Recinos and Willis at campaign events. She works for a legal aid clinic, has joined in refusing corporate donations, and supports decommodifying housing.

West County School Board (Choose 3): Madeline Kronenberg, Valeria Cuevas, Consuelo Lara We’re taking our cue from the WCCC United Teachers and Richmond Progressive Alliance endorsements. These 3 candidates have their teacher’s backing, along with other unions. There’s no ranking or districts, just select these 3 candidates from the long list of those who are running.

Richmond & Contra Costa Ballot Initiatives

Measure R (county-wide): Yes Measure R would tax and regulated cannabis growing businesses in unincorporated portions of Contra Costa County. The money would go to fund general county services. Supporters say it will provide oversight to the cannabis industry for quality & environmental compliance, while funding public services. Opponents suggest stealing public workers’ pensions to pay for public services instead (really)

East Bay Parks District: Measure FF Yes.  Re-authorizes a tax we’re already paying to keep our extensive network of public parks running, including funding for wildfire prevention.

Measure H: Yes This is a progressive real estate transfer tax that goes into the general fund, the arguments are similar to those for Oakland’s Measure X: it places a higher tax on luxury and major commercial real estate transactions, its paid only when real estate is sold, and the money goes into always-underfunded city government.

Measure T: Yes Similar to Oakland’s Measure W, this would tax the owners of vacant property to pay for programs for homeless Richmonders and fund affordable housing. It’s a material stand against letting homes sit empty while people are on the streets.

Alameda County Races: Nov 2018

AC Transit Director: Dollene Jones The incumbent, Joel Young, has major issues, including alleged domestic abuse. He’s been censured by the transit department, but only voters have the power to remove him from office. Dollene Jones is a long-time bus driver with a deep understanding of the AC Transit system. The run-down we found of this race suggested she knows the budget and ongoing projects better than the incumbent. Let the workers who know the system have a seat at the table, and let’s get abusers out of office.

County Assessor: Phong La Phong La is a tax attorney who points to his volunteer work helping people avoid foreclosure during the 2008 crash, supports Prop 13 reform, and is campaigning on customer-service oriented improvements to the office. His opponent is against Prop 13 reform (i.e. wants to keep taxes on commercial property frozen at their purchase value, which starves local school and infrastructure budgets) and has argued tax assessments, and thus city revenues, should be decreased. We don’t need someone cutting property owners a break at the expense of functioning local government.

East Bay Parks District: Measure FF Yes.
Re-authorizes a tax we’re already paying to keep our extensive network of public parks running, including fire prevention.