News & Notes 

Jerry Brown saves $50 at gala; Dave Brown raises thousands at event.

Just Call Him Governor Tightwad: The northern Alameda chapter of the National Women's Political Caucus held its Susan B. Anthony event last week, a gala affair and the biggest fund-raising effort of the year. The roster of attendees read like a Who's Who of local politicos: state Assembly candidate Loni Hancock, County Superintendent Sheila Jordan and her proxy Jacki Fox Ruby, retiring Oakland City Councilmember Dick Spees, and state Superintendent of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin. Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown also was in attendance, and he did everything a good politician does. He bellied up to the snack bar and snarfed up the crab cakes, pressed all the flesh within arm's reach, and acknowledged the accolades from the stage during the closing ceremony. He did everything expected of him except pay his bill.

When NWPC organizers tallied the receipts at the end of the night, they realized that all their political guests had paid the $50 gate fee except Brown. The mayor, they claim, snuck past the gatekeepers and mooched their goodies without putting his due in the kitty. "We all thought it was hysterical," says one organizer. "We were counting the money, and someone said, Did you see Jerry's contribution?' After all, Wilson Riles was there, and he paid." But of course Riles would pay; after all, his campaign has $1,000 in operating funds to play with, while Brown's is squeaking by with just $170,000. Asked about the omission, Brown's office claims that since the NWPC invited him, the gate fee was waived -- but they'll send over a check anyway.

Dion Ex Machina: Berkeley's progressive faction has been searching far and wide for someone to challenge Mayor Shirley Dean's attempt to secure a third term, and now they think they may have found the perfect candidate: state Assemblywoman Dion Aroner. But it all depends on what happens on election day. Months ago Aroner, who was term-limited out of her current seat, declared her intention to run for Don Perata's state Senate seat in 2004. But if the voters pass Proposition 45, which would allow voters to sign petitions allowing an incumbent to stick around four extra years, Perata will be first in line to stay in office. Aroner would then have nothing to do. Word is buzzing all over town that progressive Svengalis are hoping to draft Aroner into the mayor's race as soon as Prop. 45 passes.

Aroner has a lot to recommend her; as an aide for former state Assembly-member Tom Bates for twenty-five years, and as an Assemblymember in her own right for six, she's amassed a reputation for hewing to liberal principles while cultivating an intuitive grasp of legislative strategy. In addition, she has spent so much time in Sacramento that she hasn't had the chance to alienate either local moderate swing voters or the progressive base, as City Councilmember and possible mayoral candidate Linda Maio has with her policy of studied equivocation. If she decides to run, Dean would have to pull out all the stops to keep her career alive. "Many people have approached me and asked if I would run, but I'm keeping my options open," Aroner says. "The term-limit initiative would obviously have an effect on my future. It's very flattering, however."

The Successor(s): Most insiders would agree that former Berkeley Prime Minister Hancock is a heavy favorite to win the March 5 primary for the 14th Assembly District seat being vacated by Aroner. Still, political etiquette requires even the most heavily favored candidate to remain humble and not get Han-cocky -- at least publicly. But during a debate at Cal two weeks ago, Hancock handlers swallowed groans when their candidate prematurely referred to Aroner as "my predecessor." Fortunately, no one seemed to be paying too much attention. Except for 7 Days, that is.

Meanwhile, heir unapparent Dave Brown -- who's been treated mostly as an afterthought by the press -- is demanding a little respect. To his credit, the former staffer for Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker has raised nearly $125,000 as of Jan. 31 (a total that doesn't include any donations received from a recent event co-hosted by his pal, Seattle Supersonics All-Star guard Gary Payton, an Oaktown native). Brown sent out a fund-raising letter last month that included some highlights of a 400-person campaign poll purportedly showing him in second place with eighteen percent. Brown's consultant, Eric Jaye, told 7 Days that Hancock polled the best with numbers in the low thirties. Perhaps the most surprising result was the poor showing of West Contra Costa County School Boarder Charles Ramsey, who Jaye said got twelve percent. Of course, those numbers don't mean a hell of a whole lot at this point, since none of the campaigns have yet kicked into high gear. Ramsey is sitting on a $300,000 war chest and has yet to unleash what should be a formidable junk-mail program.

Brown's poll also reinforced what most of us knew anyway, that Congresswoman Barbara Lee is as popular as ever in spite of her post-Sept. 11 antiwar vote. Around sixty percent of those surveyed in both polls held a favorable view of Lee, while about only ten percent had no use for her.

Putsch comes to shove: Of all the cities in the East Bay, San Leandro ain't the first place you think of as the regional epicenter of alternative political thinking. But for years SL has been the nerve center of perennial Democratic presidential fringe candidate Lyndon LaRouche's Northern California operation. Alameda County liberal Democrats have traditionally treated the LaRouchies -- who combine quasi-socialist views with amusing conspiracy theories -- as a mild irritant properly treated with a modest dose of indifference. But this election year, local mainstream Dems are nervously keeping an eye on a slate of six LaRouchies -- Andrew Frederick Laverdiere, Robert George Lucero, Jason Alexander Ross, Charles Spies, Elizabeth Uribe, and Mercy Star Velasquez -- running for the party county central committee's six slots in the 18th Assembly District .

Two years ago, a LaRouche loyalist from Oakland in the 16th Assembly District, Judith Wierenga Nuerge), managed to win a seat on the central committee, to everyone's shock. "We've been trying to figure it out ever since she was elected," sighs Melanie Sweeney-Griffith, the committee's chairwoman.

Sweeney-Griffith and others grouse that the LaRouchies propose wild resolutions pushing Lyndon's pet economic theories and are generally disruptive. During the 2000 presidential campaign, for instance, LaRouchies passed out flyers describing Democratic nominee Al Gore as "the evil one," recalled Sweeney-Griffith, who's also running for Oakland City Council.

But for all the LaRouchies' wackiness, committee incumbent Robin Torello fears that with a whole slate of them running, anything could happen. This is particularly true in an obscure down-ballot battle like this one, in which lovably lazy voters have been known to simply pick the candidates appearing at the top of the list. And in the 18th District central committee race, two of the first six candidates listed are LaRouchies.

"I don't want them to take over and move us in a direction that turns people off," frets Torello. "If people hear them say the Queen of England is a drug dealer, they're just going to go away."

Cattle Call: The scene outside Berkeley's Wheeler Auditorium Wednesday night looked like something straight out of a Sebastião Salgado photograph. The Brazilian-born shutterbug is famous for capturing human beings en masse, whether they be migrating, commuting, or working.

About two thousand Salgado-heads showed up to listen to a speech by the man who is arguably the world's most famous living photographer. Unfortunately, that was about a thousand people more than could fit inside. Long lines for the freebie lectures are common at Wheeler, but Salgado fans showed up particularly early -- around 4:30 p.m. -- and got a little frisky when doors didn't open at the announced 6:30 p.m. Salgado drew a funky crowd of first-semester photography students, ultra-hip San Francisco types, and hoity-toity surveyors of art (7 Days counted at least two fur coats).

Finally, at about 7:10 p.m., the doors opened, unleashing a Beatlemania-like rush for seats. No injuries were reported inside, but that didn't stop things from turning absolutely nuts outside. After ushers pushed back those who couldn't squeeze in, citing fire hazards, a mob's chant broke out in the auditorium's foyer: "Stan-Ding Room! Stan-Ding Room!"

Protesters could be heard chanting for fifteen minutes, but when Salgado took the stage, he was apparently unaware of what was going on outside. He then spoke for two hours, altogether overlooking his photographs and arguing instead that we should all be concerned about globalization. Good thing it was free.

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