The most talked about race in Oakland this year is the contest between Kerry Hamill and Rebecca Kaplan for the city council's at-large seat. We endorsed Hamill and neighborhood activist Charles Pine in the June primary, mainly because of their focus on crime. But this time around we're going with Kaplan. We think she has been more consistent, and we're disappointed that Hamill flip-flopped on her call for more police officers. Hamill now is opposing Measure NN, which would add 180 personnel to the badly understaffed department. Kaplan supports it.
Although we think Measure NN's opponents are right when they say the Oakland Police Department is dysfunctional, there is no denying the fact that the crime-infested city desperately needs more cops. The Measure NN parcel tax will pay for them. We also endorse Measure N, the parcel tax that would boost Oakland teachers' salaries and provide much-needed funds for charter schools. We don't like the fact that the state superintendent struck a backroom deal with charter school supporters to put this measure on the ballot, but that's not enough for us to oppose a plan that would give Oakland's drastically underpaid teachers a raise.
Finally, we oppose Measure OO, the so-called Kids First initiative. Children's programs, especially after school, are indeed important, but we see this as a classic example of budgeting from the ballot box. We think it's bad policy to hamstring the city council by forcing it to spend a specific amount of money each year on kids' programs, no matter how bad the budget situation gets. Measures like OO are why California has a budget crisis every year.
In the all-important mayor's race we support incumbent Tom Bates. He has led the effort to make Berkeley one of the greenest cities in the nation, especially with the city's innovative solar-power financing program. We also think he has struck the right balance between being progressive and being pro-business. And we like that he had the political courage to finally attempt to address the city's intractable homeless problem. Shirley Dean had a strong track record as mayor before Bates, but we question her recent shift to the left (see "Trading Places," page 11), especially her opposition to Measure LL, a level-headed attempt to reform the city's radical landmarks preservation law.
We support Measure LL. Readers of this paper know full well that NIMBYs have used the landmarks law for years to protect questionably historic structures. As a result, Berkeley now has more historical landmarks than San Francisco and San Jose combined. Also, we're against Measure KK, which would give voters the final say over whether Bus Rapid Transit comes to Berkeley. While we have concerns about BRT, we think Measure KK is bad policy. Voters don't need to decide every important issue facing a city. That's what city councils are for.
We also oppose Measure JJ, the medical marijuana initiative. We think it's a mistake to allow pot dispensaries to set up shop in any commercial district they choose without having to get a permit or undergo a public hearing (see "Taking Another Hit of Marijuana," page 12). We think residents and businesses who don't want a pot club on their street should have a voice. We're also concerned that eliminating limits on medical pot growing could turn Berkeley into a drug destination. And finally, we support Measures FF and GG, which would allow the city to renovate and seismically upgrade branch libraries, keep fire stations open, and improve both emergency medical response and disaster preparedness.
In the city council races for districts two, three, and five, we support incumbents Darryl Moore, Max Anderson, and Laurie Capitelli, respectively. In the District Four race to determine the successor to the late Dona Spring, we endorse former Berkeley school board member Terry Doran. Councilman Kriss Worthington's aide Jesse Arreguin is a strong candidate, but Doran's level-headedness and his dedication to kids' issues over the years impresses us. And in the last council race, we endorse Susan Wengraf, chief of staff to outgoing Councilwoman Betty Olds, as the clear choice for the District Six seat.
Doug deHaan has long been an independent voice in Alameda city politics. He's not beholden to state Senator Don Perata's political machine, which is reason enough for why we're endorsing him for reelection to the Alameda City Council. We're also supporting the other incumbent in the race, Marie Gilmore. Longtime Alameda school board member Tracy Jensen is also a strong, smart candidate, but we're concerned about her ties to Perata and to his disciple Mayor Beverly Johnson (see "Power Struggle," page 13).
We also support Measure P, which more than doubles the tax rate on property sellers and buyers. The tax rate would go from $5.40 to $12.00 per $1,000 of value, and the city council plans to use the proceeds to help avoid deep cuts in Alameda's budget. If Measure P fails the city may have to close fire stations and slash neighborhood policing programs.
This election is a referendum on Chevron, and we believe that it's time the city finally stands up to Big Oil. In the city council race, we support incumbent Tom Butt, a no-nonsense politician who voted against Chevron's massive oil refinery expansion plans earlier this year. That expansion could allow Chevron to start refining dirtier grades of crude, thereby extending its ugly history of polluting Richmond. In fact, we are hard-pressed to name another East Bay politician that we respect more than Butt.
We also support challengers Jovanka Beckles, a community activist and small-business owner, and Jeff Ritterman, chief of cardiology at Kaiser Richmond. Beckles and Ritterman decided to run because of the Chevron expansion and we salute them as citizen activists fighting a righteous cause. Incumbents Nat Bates, John Marquez, and Harpreet Sandhu, should be thrown out of office for their decision to give Chevron what it wanted. These three members of the so-called "Chevron Five" also should be ashamed for trying to use a backroom deal with Chevron as a way to dole out favors and buy votes (see "This Election is About Big Oil," page 10).
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