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Something is rotten in the state of…

Today’s blog is critical of recent news. No, I’m not yet ready to comment on Mayor Dellums’ attempt to take the Second Start program away from destitute, illiterate mothers of small children, or put an end to community gardens, or reduce library service by a quarter. No, the surprisingly tiny savings from eliminating such direct services are not the focus of this blog, and neither is the evidence that Oakland’s city workers are the highest-paid in the entire country and are significantly overpaid by several measures. This blog is not about the bad budget. It’s about the bad media.

The SF Weekly publishes parts of former Berkeley Daily Planet reporter Judith Scherr’s email to colleagues explaining that she quit the NIMBY mouthpiece because she could not longer stand editor Becky O’Malley’s constant meddling to make articles more ideologically bent. The Weekly’s comments are hilariously dismissive of the Planet. BeyondChron, which occasionally swaps articles with the Planet, rises to Ms. O’Malley’s defense, but doesn’t address the issue of altering articles to be more one-sided (for example, this article about a Berkeley hearing on BRT is so different from what a friend at the meeting reported to constitute disinformation).

The always-relevant SF Bay Guardian, in a pioneering work of political journalism, reveals that former Don Perata Chief of Staff Kerry Hamill enjoys the support of Senator Perata in her bid for the Oakland City Council. The article also handily summarizes all the relationships between Councilmembers and interest groups in a single phrase, which is quite illuminating. Not!

The Chronicle’s popular urban design critic John King discusses the new Cathedral of Christ the Light, but completely neglects its unfortunate pedestrian presence that is the talk of downtown and Westlake. That, and the, um, yonic design concept. Also, he thinks the building is modest?

That lazy blogger from The DTO finally posts something.

The New York Times shows some love for Oakland’s ambitious office developers, but kinda skips the issue of who exactly will occupy these new commercial highrises. Meanwhile, a prominent North Oaklander calls for exorbitant business taxes to balance the budget on a neighborhood listserv.

After running biased articles in favor of the city’s “industrial preservation” policy adopted this Spring, the Trib now criticizes industrial pollution and thinks that converting industrial land to housing helps revitalize neighborhoods. Confusing!

When I’m disappointed in the MSM, I can go directly to the primary source or just make my own news through activism. Tomorrow (Thursday), there’s an opportunity to do both. Rather than read analysis of the pundits’ analysis of public reaction to the Vice Presidential debate, you can watch it yourself with a crowd of energetic young Democrats at downtown’s Geoffrey’s Inner Circle. The event is a fundraiser for not-quite-so-establishment Council candidate Rebecca Kaplan, whose election would be big news. See you newsmakers there!

Posted in california, dellums, oakland.

22 Responses

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  1. Max Allstadt says


    That article in the guardian about Hamill isn’t just about the fact that the Don supports her. It’s also a pretty detailed look at soft money.

    Perata wants to buy her the election because he wants a proxy and a foothold for a possible mayoral race (dear god, please no.)

    Developers apparently want to buy her the election because Hamill is rumored to support lifting all restrictions on condo conversion.

    IDLF wants to keep his presidency, and knows Hamill will support him, but doesn’t know which way Kaplan would vote despite the fact that she’s repeatedly said she thinks he’s effective and has great staffers.

    The article is long, and informative. It paints a grim picture of just how much money the political machine is willing to use to buy Hamill a seat. It also points out that some of the people involved are probably breaking elections laws. People should read it.

  2. jman says

    Meanwhile, a prominent North Oaklander calls for exorbitant business taxes to balance the budget on a neighborhood listserv.

    Well I clicked on this link and I didn’t see any thing described above- it was an article from the Economist regarding Wifi hotspots & trends and included the Nomad Cafe. A nomadic 21c lifestyle.

    Sure I really only read Matt Cantor column in the Berkeley Daily Planet- I’m tired of the anti semitic rants, but I did recently find this article by Barbra Gilbert to be rather good:

  3. dto510 says

    Listservs aren’t available on the web so I couldn’t link to the email, by the owner of the Nomad Cafe (hence the link), saying that we should balance the budget on the backs of the few businesses still left in Oakland (not his, though).

    Sometimes the opinion pieces in the BDP are interesting, although I think everyone’s getting tired of the back-and-forth between BRT supporters and their handful of opponents. What’s really bad about the BDP is when they report on hearings dealing with issues the editor has a very strong opinion about (Ie, everything), and then totally skew coverage to make it seem as if only her side was present. They do this repeatedly with BRT hearings, where friends of mine have attended and said the meeting went very well, and then the BDP claims that the hearing went poorly for BRT by selectively quoting commissioners. For example, recently BRT opponents skipped a BRT hearing, so the BDP just filled in their arguments for them.

  4. dto510 says

    Max, how can you describe an article as “informative” when there are no dates and virtually all of the information is months old? How is it “detailed” when it presents a very simplistic assessment of City Council dynamics and relies on anonymous sources?

    The conclusions you draw from the article show how misleading / ill-informed it is. Obviously Perata is considering running for mayor and would like to elect an ally to a city-wide seat. But Ignacio never brings up his Council Presidency when telling people to support Ms. Hamill, and won it with a vote to spare last year anyhow. I don’t see why “developers” are concerned with condo conversions when they build condos in the first place, or at least get condo maps so they don’t have to through the conversion process if they initially rent them (like the Essex Trust does).

    The SFBG has very little grasp of Oakland politics and so their articles are always simplistic and misleading. But this one was really damaging – honestly, it made it seem like Ms. Hamill’s money is coming from local interests when the real problem with Perata aiding her is that he can leverage money raised in Sacramento, intended for statewide campaigns, on the Council race.

  5. Max Allstadt says

    I think that it was certainly far from comprehensive, but it was still about time somebody at least dipped their toes in the water.

    SFBG are often morons. Their endorsements in June were astounding. They were also totally untransparent – “SFBG staff” was given credit for endorsements, without any explanation of process. They even parroted the “vigilante” lie about Pat McCullough.

    Still, the overall message of the story could be summed up as :

    Hamill = PAC money and Politcal Machine money,
    Kaplan = grassroots support and some modest union support.

  6. Max Allstadt says

    “Developers” might have been a little broad a term. There are people in Oakland who own a lot of rental properties. Old buildings and old multi-unit houses. They currently have limitations on converting rentals to condominiums. It would be very lucrative if those restrictions went away.

    There has to be a financial reason people like Gregory McConnell or Signature Properties to shell out heaps of soft money for Hamill. These are businessmen. They’re either trying to buy favors, or they owe the Don a favor.

  7. V Smoothe says

    Max -

    First, let’s clear up some confusion about condo conversions. Currently, there is no restriction whatsoever on conversions of buildings four units or less. No tenant protections either. The vast majority of conversions in Oakland are of such buildings.

    Second, it’s both reductionist and wrong to suggest that Kaplan’s support is only from the “grassroots.” Kaplan has the support of OakPac, the Political Action Committee affiliated with the Oakland Chamber of Commerce. She also enjoys the support of the Oakland Builder’s Alliance, a group of local development and building industry interests.

  8. Max Allstadt says

    Oakland Jobs PAC makes no effort to tell us who they are. The only information they’ll provide the public is what the law forces them to release. Their website is blank and has been for months. It’s a blatant front for people who don’t want you to know where their flyers are coming from. This is who’s on Hamill’s side: ghosts.

    OCC and OBA are not shadowy proxies for anybody. They represent their members, and local small businesses. Their members are known. Citizens can join them. This who’s behind Kaplan: humans.

    Big difference. Again, Hamill, for lack of talent, has decided to use wealthy connections to buy this election. Here’s a little quote from her campaign manager’s company:

    “Government rules place limits on the amount of money individuals can contribute directly to candidate campaigns. Independent expenditure campaigns offer another option for getting your message out, and BMWL is one of the premier Bay Area firms when it comes to managing these highly specialized, highly regulated campaigns.

    “We can help you develop a comprehensive campaign that is completely separate from a candidate and their campaign, but which influences voters with impact, precision and clarity.”

    Read this language carefully. It basically says “we’ll help you cheat”. It simply phrases it in a way that’s barely legal. The language just barely skirts the issue of PAC coordination with candidates, which, I believe is the benchmark for breaking the law.

    So yeah. Rich, anonymous people are trying to buy the at-large seat. I stand by that.

  9. Charles Pine says

    Please wake me up when Kaplan or Hamill give a forthright answer:

    Measure NN, aka Son of Measure Y – for or against?

    Measure OO, aka Kids First Gone Greedy – for or against?

    Dellums’ menu of budget options – which ones are you for, which against? any further options you insist must be part of the package?

    Police staffing – for a committed plan to get at least 1,100, or just go with the flow?

  10. Max Allstadt says

    Charlie! I just watched you get half your answer.

  11. Max Allstadt says

    Oh, and I just saw the second half of your answer. For details, watch KTOP, or get on ABO for a recap. This debate I’m watching is something everybody should see.

  12. Charles Pine says

    Well, just an couple of hours after I posted, the candidates answered on Measure NN. Kaplan said she will vote for it. Hamill is opposed.

    And also on OO. Both are against it.

    Both evaded the issue of minimum police staffing.

  13. Max Allstadt says

    Correct, Mr. Pine. But I’d love to know where that leads you, vote wise. Frankly if neither candidate will meet the 1100 cop litmus test, I’d think Kaplan’s details on policing and walking beat cops would be a big plus.

  14. Rebecca Kaplan says

    Good morning. If you missed the City Council At-Large debate (Friday night), but still want to check it out, it will be played again on KTOP TV (Cable 10) on the following dates/times:
    - Saturday, October 4th, 6pm – 7pm.
    - Wednesday, October 8th, 5pm – 6pm
    - Friday, October 10th, 7pm – 8pm

    Today is one month to the election! Best wishes,

  15. Charles Pine says

    Max suggests to me, “Kaplan’s details on policing and walking beat cops would be a big plus.”

    Actually, it was disappointing to hear Kaplan repeat her suggestion that an Oakland version of the Atlanta Ambassadors (pleasant guides who walk around downtown) would be a cost-effective way to reduce crime. As we discussed on ABO just over a month ago, Max:

    These are the Atlanta Ambassadors, apparently paid by the downtown business improvement district. In Atlanta’s downtown, 65 to 70 percent of the crime is larceny (simple theft). Not relevant to Oakland’s armed takeover robberies.
    Furthermore, Atlanta does not use the Ambassadors as a substitute for police. As the Atlanta BID folks write, “In Downtown we have more certified law enforcement (over 400 in the aggregate between the eight jurisdictional agencies [city police, Georgia State polices, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority, and the Capitol Police -- sounds like downtown Sacramento -CP]), more private security (over 3,000), and more eyes and ears watching and listening than any place in this City.” (
    I’m all for finding good ideas from far away — but with due diligence.

    I was not impressed that Kaplan repeated that Mickey Mouse idea. It’s much more significant that Hamill told voters to vote No on Measure NN (Son of Measure Y), while Kaplan trailed after her big-money backer, the Oakland Chamber of Commerce, in support of NN. Of course the Chamber supports NN: let residents pay another tax.

  16. Max Allstadt says

    I’m sure you prefer someone who’ll vote against tax increases Charlie. The vast majority of your comments online are blindly anti-tax. Kaplan supports additional sworn police officers in addition to the unsworn Ambassador style program. She talks about sworn beat cops too.

    Go ahead, Mr. Pine, vote in the interests of your wallet. I find it ridiculous. Exactly what percentage of your income would you lose to NN? I own property, I make $40k in a great year, if I’m lucky. I’m prepared to shell out for it. If we were to aim for 1100 cops I’d be prepared to shell out for that too. Taxes are necessary sometimes, and NN doesn’t hit anybody particularly hard. Show me a real undue burden, and maybe I’d have some reservations. But that’s not what this is.

  17. Max Allstadt says

    By the way, PCC isn’t a “big money backer”. There are people in Sacramento plotting to spend up to a million in unrestricted funds to get Ms. Hamill elected.

    Did you see that long uncomfortable pause after Hamill was asked a question about PAC money? That’s because it takes time to formulate an evasive response. Kaplan didn’t pause because she was being forthright and has nothing to hide.

  18. Max Allstadt says

    not PCC. OCC. typo.

  19. Charles Pine says

    “Mayor Ron Dellums has finally named Doug Linney to run the Measure NN campaign for a $100-plus parcel-tax hike to pay for more cops.”
    –Matier & Ross, SF Chronicle, Oct. 6, 2008

    Linney is also Rebecca Kaplan’s campaign consultant. Kaplan supports NN, the Son of Measure Y proposal that allows the tax to be collected even when the promised additional police are not provided.

    To put the case for a No vote on NN (and reply to the charge of being “blindly anti-tax” in Oakland of all places) in terrible brevity:

    Y. Q. NN. OO. Q.E.D.

  20. Max Allstadt says

    You are of course omitting the fact that Kaplan explicitly stated that the reason she was pro-NN was that she expected to be elected, and thus expected to be able to help ensure that a Y-like misuse of funds would not occur.

    There are of course other reasons to vote for her. I myself am not sold on NN because of the potential for misuse. But I am sold on Kaplan.

    Charlie, if you’re worried about sloppy spending, consider voting for the candidate who’s been walking around with a hardcopy of the city budget, which she’s reading cover to cover. Her name is Rebecca Kaplan.

    She’s already into the budget enough that she’s making wisecracks about sections she finds absurd and wasteful. That’s the kind of wonk I want working for me.

    How many sitting councilmembers do you think will read the budget end to end themselves?

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Is this tree really necessary? « Living in the O linked to this post on October 9, 2008

    [...] Posted on October 9, 2008 by Becks Since everyone else in the blogoaksphere is talking about things that annoy them, I thought I’d share one of the things that bothers me daily – this [...]

  2. I’m voting FOR Rebecca Kaplan, not AGAINST Kerry Hamill or Don Perata « Living in the O linked to this post on October 16, 2008

    [...] Max mentioned over at Future Oakland, Rebecca Kaplan is the type of person that literally carries the Oakland budget around with her. [...]