I have a new found on line friend who wrote a blog saying that there is no Left in Oakland.

Check out his blog here: http://www.project-oakland.org/the-leftwing-alternative-in-oaklands-2014-mayoral-race/#more-1289

Unfortunately I have to agree that there is no effective left alternative political movement yet in Oakland, but it is not for lack of trying by the Oakland Greens.

I disagree that there are no alternatives, we Greens are offering an alternative.

Green Party activists know full well that we are only part of the left movement in the US and in Oakland that is no different. We have been constantly and consistently reaching out to other parts of the movement seeking some kind of alliance.

We have been calling this kind of alliance / movement “progressive” but at this point the word is becoming meaningless, especially in Oakland.

“Left” is probably a better word because there is a better public idea of what it means. Add to that the Green commitment not to take big campaign contributions and the message to the public is very damn clear.

Not ones to sit on our hands, we Greens have participated full tilt in local politics.

Twice we joined the coalition to back Wilson Riles for Mayor when he was still a Democrat.

After that Wilson joined the Greens and sat on the Alameda Green Party County Council for years.

The campaign for Larry Shoup for Council, District 1 was a major step forward in local organizing. Larry is still a local Green and has been offering advice and help to candidates ever since.

Back when she was a Green and a progressive Rebecca Kaplan ran for council as a Green.

She also helped produce a serious policy document with Wilson giving options for our city.


When Amy Allison, also a Green, ran for District 2 we all but suspended the local Green Party and all active Greens were pointed to her campaign.

Then no movement building happened to turn those campaigns into a social movement or anything like a city level political party. A city level political party is common in democratic countries (into whose number I do not include this nation)

In the 2008 elections, what you could call the Dellums midterm, no real alternative candidates stepped forward and the Greens were a bit tapped out.

So then I personally ran for Mayor in 2010. Frankly I almost did not do it, but when I got on stage for the first debate at the Unitarian Church, Wilson came over to me afterward and asked me to stay in the race, if only to speak truth to power at these events. I also met my wife there. 2010 ended up being a good year for me.

During the 2010 race we reached out and asked others to run with us and put up candidates for other seats up for a vote. In any Oakland race that is about 9 positions between council, school board, mayor, city auditor and city attorney. We also published some position papers on crime and the environment and picked up a lot of the ideas of earlier campaigns and put them back in there.

We did not build a coalition, but we did put some new energy into the Greens and changed some of the conversation. We also got a lot more votes than anyone expected. Every time I hear people talking about using civilian employees in the police department, I feel that I am hearing the legacy of that campaign.

Then Occupy happened. Most Greens put their time into this mass movement and we did very little “as Greens” other than to try to stop the police violence.

The Greens came back in 2012 and ran 3 candidates. Me for District 1, Theresa Anderson for Council at Large and Randy Menjivar for Peralta School Trustee. Vicente Cruz was on deck for school board, but he had to move away from a roommate from hell and ended up living in a different district. We did pretty well. Probably about 7% on average.

Before we started, we invited all the progressives and leftists we could to a meeting at Humanist Hall. The invitation was extended to form an “Oakland Progressive Alliance”. We heard a lot of encouraging words, but no other group stepped forward to present candidates.

Now in 2014 we Greens are putting the same proposal forward. Many of us attended Siegel Campaign meetings and I spoke bluntly at the first one that without some kind of movement all we have is a campaign that will dissolve on Election Day. Again we heard a lot of encouraging words, but no action. One of Dan’s followers had the absurd proposal that somehow a progressive alliance was one thing and political campaigns were not part of that.

Not to be deterred we invited Peace and Freedom, International Socialists and Dan Siegel himself to a Green Sunday where I put forward a series of proposed political points that we could build some kind of coalition around.

(see my blog for those ideas: http://donmacleay.blogspot.com/2014/02/a-peoples-agenda-for-oakland.html)

The Greens have one candidate, Jason Anderson for Mayor, so far, as our contribution to the political soup this election. We hope to have more and we will keep reaching out to others.

Why bother?

Because without a movement, nothing works.

We have already elected a Dan Siegel, his name was Ron Dellums. The most progressive people in town “drafted” Ron and ended up ever so disappointed. Ask yourself. Was the Dellums mayorship a time when progressive, people friendly politics came into City Hall? Did things move forward for Oakland? Did they even change?

The Dellums election of a good liberal hero and then hoping somehow a grass roots movement will kind of spring up afterwards has been tried so many times in US history that we should all just plain know better by now. Most of the people drafting Ron should have known better then.

Richmond would not be where it is today without the Richmond Progressive Alliance. Look to Jackson, Seattle and other cities in the US that have been electing alternative, people-before-profits candidates and putting forward alternative proposals, and they all have one thing in common:

That one thing in common is grass roots movements based on active citizens.

In Richmond it took them a good seven elections to get to where they are today.

No gimmicks, no star candidates, just old fashioned community work.

They built something real and have the results to show for it.

The Oakland Greens, like all Greens, will continue to reach out, look to make common cause with others, present candidates free from money ball politics and propose people centered city policies.

It is the right thing to do.


Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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16 Responses

  1. Chuck Morse

    I appreciate Don’s piece very much and I think he touches on a very important topic.

    Oakland is home to one of the most dynamic, largest, and most creative Lefts in the country. This is one of the reason’s why the New York Times called our city the “last refuge of radical America.” Radicals have a huge presence here!

    However, the Left has largely failed to present an alternative in the realm of municipal policy. While we are good at organizing protests and good at creating countercultural spaces, we have yet to present or (even debate) a serious plan for radically reconstructing the city’s economy or political structure. As a result of this, the left is largely invisible when people start debating policy. I think this is a shortcoming on our part.

    (Ps. In the interest of full disclosure, I am the author of the article that Don cites in the beginning of his post).

  2. r2d2ii

    Important points well made. I agree with Chuck Morse that there has been no coherent alternative political force locally since the time of the Panthers.

    It would be hard to find anywhere a more cynical, unethical and radically-disconnected establishment than what currently inhabits Oakland’s City Hall. I think this reflects several important factors: the failure of local media major and minor; the complete lack of transparency in City Hall (no vision for a different, truly progressive future; no specific goals set for change); a generally very low quality of people running for office.

    I think Oakland’s real left has got to start thinking strategically and long-term about change over several election cycles. I believe there is some hope for change because for the first time in many years there seems to be a widespread realization that the Oakland establishment is incompetent and out-of-touch. The main point of focus is the establishment’s utter failure to reform the police department, to reduce the violent crime that plagues much of the city and to build the economy in our poorest neighborhoods.

    I think that once there is even a small amount of opening up of the downtown establishment and any significant improvement in transparency (transparency is not about putting more information on the internet but about setting goals and reporting on real progress towards those goals), Oakland could very slowly begin the journey towards taking care of its own people and its own environment.

    Thus a useful path to change might be for true progressives to create some ties to the more ethical and competent Mayoral candidates who are not products of the existing establishment. There are a couple of such candidates who seem to have a real chance to get elected who could do one or two truly progressive things and start to open up this city.

    A step at a time, but a real step, not simply a gesture or a talking point.

  3. Chuck Morse

    I appreciate this discussion very much. In my view, the left in Oakland ultimately has to find a way to have a public debate about what sort of program it wants to advance. I believe that this is much more important than talking about candidates or parties (although that is important, too). I think that the biggest question that the left will have to address is this: do we advance a politics of small reforms that may improve the lives of some but preserves the basics of the system or do we advance policies that really challenge capitalism in the city and political institutions organized around hierarchy? I’m strongly in favor of the latter, but we need to debate these things. Demos and countercultural spaces are just not enough. Good people will disagree, as is natural, but we have to work through these things in a public, principled way.

  4. Oakie

    I remember my first city council election after arriving in Oakland in 1981. It was a choice between a Leninist and a Trotskyite.

    Which one was the “Progressive?”

    I know from my history class that Teddy Roosevelt of the Carry a Big Stick Imperialist variety was the one and only Progressive president we’ve ever had. We goes go Progressive in Oakland bears 😉 no resemblance to anyone ever elected here in my time.

    I would not describe our dominant political power as Progressive (although Dellums and Quan would claim so), but incompetent. And a bit of corruption for spice.

  5. Chuck Morse

    Oakie, just out of curiosity, do you remember the name of those two candidates for city council that you mentioned? That’s before my time here, and I’d love to learn more. Thanks

  6. Oakie

    I was mostly joking (mostly). I looked it up and it was in 1996, much later than I thought. Natalie Bayton was the incumbent, she knocked on my door and I talked to her for awhile. That was a time when I would actually answer my door for strangers. I was amazed at how many ideas she had in new ways spending OPM (Other People’s Money). She was defeated by Nancy Nadel, who was even more radical of a pure Marxist. I’m guessing at the time I thought of Bayton as the Trotskyite and Nadel as the Leninist.

    Honestly, all the “progressives” worrying about enforcing purity in a field of candidates including Dan Siegel and Jean Quan is entirely off the mark imho.

    If “progressives” wish to grow and build a successful alternative in Oakland, I would like to see that collaboration with centrists. Nobody here is to the right of that, but many people in the center.

    The fundamental problem is that we don’t have a functioning governance and the clock is ticking down to that unfunded $1.5 Billion liability. Plus the crime is so out of control that we may have no way to grow our economy to pay for everything. Therein lies the bankruptcy concern, which will not be good for anyone.

    My proposal is that we go back to basics and remember what a city’s governance is required to deliver at the minimum to its residents:
    1. Policing, Crime Control and Fire Protection
    2. Libraries
    3. Parks
    4. Roads

    Stick with that. Everything else should be zeroed out. Social services is actually a county function and we need to stop funding any of it: until we have these 4 responsibilities functioning properly, we should demand nothing else of our city government. Lean and mean.

    Could we all agree to that? Once we have a functioning governance, then we can go into our corners and argue about all the rest, because then we will be in a position to pay our bills and consider more than the basics.

  7. r2d2ii

    You are right on the button Oakie. First things first. One toe of a foot in the forever-closed Oakland establishment door. A mayor and a few council members who can actually think clearly and practically with the integrity to commit to doing just four things. To do that in Oakland would amount to a revolution.

  8. Oakie

    The entire premise of Don’s article is that the left is losing out.

    Please. Oh, poor them. I have voted in every single election, no matter how minor since 1982. I have only picked the winner for mayor once in all that time (Jerry Brown in his re-election) and not a single one for city council. If there’s any group in Oakland which is entirely shut out of political control for at least 35 years, it is centrists. The left wing has owned the operating control of this place for that long, has done such a crummy job of running it, and now they lament that the real-real-left isn’t winning the elections.

    Comeon…. what I see as left wing nut cases like Jean Quan and Dan Siegel have ruled OUSD (they brought us the Ebonics fiasco: AA genetically speak their own natural language and 6 years of state takeover) and done everything possible to drive the city government into bankruptcy and out-of-control crime not seen anywhere else in California.

    What does the left have to complain about? Worst of all, they won’t own what they have done to this place. Which is to make a mess of it.

  9. Adrian Napolitano

    While the left may offer solutions at the state or federal level, they have done nothing for Oakland. There is a huge presence of the left in Oakland, one that has resulted in police being paid an average of $162,000 and that has failed to bring private investment. Oakland is a great city, but right now Oakland needs a moderate candidates, like maybe Joe Tuman, that can effectively manage the city’s budget, increase the size of the police force, make Oakland safe, and attract private investment. Oakland has 2 billions dollars in unfunded pension liabilities. Oakland residents pay some of the highest sales and property taxes in the state and nation while receiving third-world services. Our roads looks like they got chewed up by godzilla, our libraries are open five days a week, and Oaklanders live in fear of getting robbed every time they step out of the house. We need a moderate that can balance the budget and work across segments of the left to achieve real change in Oakland. Quite frankly, the left as of late in Oakland, such as Occupy Oakland, has mainly disrupted city council meetings and further contributed to Oakland’s negative image. Personally, I am a staunch liberal but Oakland needs a moderate for mayor that can make Oakland great.

  10. chris

    I appreciate Don’s article on Oakland’s Left political currents/groupings and the role that the Green Party has played in the city’s political history. As Don mentions, The Green Party has made significant contributions to Oakland’s political landscape in terms of elected officials who started their careers with the Green Party or later joined the party after becoming alienated from/disolutioned with Oakland’s local Democratic Party establishment.

    Rebecca Kaplan is perhaps the most recognized Oakland elected official who started with the Green Party. I think it is fair to suggest that Kaplan’s political values and principles have been—and continue to be—-shaped by her time in the Green Party.

    Wilson Riles and Amiee Allison are two important Oakland activists and former City Council candidates and/or elected officials who have advanced the Green Party’s agenda in Oakland among other local political activists (including Don).

    The political model for progressive forces in Oakland is the Richmond Progressive Alliance, as Don alludes to in his commentary. Over the last 10 years, the RPA has dynamically transformed Richmond into a progressive municipal bastion that has established a successful and lasting presence in Richmond with scores of dedicated RPA members.

    I will have more to say on Richmond and RPA in my next “thread” entry.

  11. The Dude

    Individuals that are entrenched in either political extreme will always think the solution is more adherence to their extreme. If you’re waiting for anyone from the Left (or Right) to come to the center, you’ll be waiting for a while.

  12. Jonatton Yeah?

    Couldn’t agree more, Adrian. The “Left” in Oakland seriously lost the plot some time ago. Fighting for social programs while fighting the development that will pay for them. It’s insane that I would probably be considered conservative in Oakland when I would be looney left pretty much anywhere else in the country. The answers always seem to be, “we’re just not doing enough of more-of-the-same!”

  13. Oakie

    The left not only has a shortage of new ideas and a failure to learn from experiencing the dystopia of their dogma, but they may have difficulty refilling their ranks with the young. Rand Paul drew a SRO and enthusiastic audience at Cal a little while ago. The leftist demos on campus seem tired and desultory. I remember a few years back when Jessie Jackson made an appearance on Sproul. He tried to get all the young-ens to join in his chant “I AM” “SOMEBODY” and you couldn’t have found a less enthusiast crowd at a Sunday Church Service with atheists filling the seats. The demographics of the young suggest they are not so easily drawn to the delusional left (except for the Truther contingent).

  14. chris

    To continue where I left off regarding the Richmond Progressive Alliance as a political model for Oakland’s Left groupings ( from my thread entry above), the RPA—since gaining a working majority on the Richmond City Council roughly eight years ago—- has managed, under the leadership of Green Party mayor Gayle MacGlaughlin, to dramatically reduce violent crime in Richmond to its lowest levels in decades.

    This achievement represents only one of many public policy successes that the RPA has accomplished since gaining a majority on the Richmond City Council

    The following Contra Costa Times article below highlights the RPA’s policy success on addressing violent crime:

    Richmond reports lowest homicide total in 33 years, credits multipronged efforts

    By Robert Rogers
    Contra Costa Times
    Posted: 01/06/2014 02:29:58 PM PST2 Comments | Updated: 4 months ago

    RICHMOND — Just six years removed from being ranked among the nation’s 10 most dangerous cities, Richmond’s 2013 homicide total was its lowest in 33 years. Total reported crimes also continued a decade-long fall and were more than 40 percent lower than the 2003 total.

    While the reasons for the steep decline are complex and varied, anti-crime advocates point to an event last summer that highlights just how much things have changed in a city once plagued by cycles of retaliatory street violence.

    Hundreds of mourners, many of them young men with their fallen friend’s face embossed on T-shirts, packed Macedonia Baptist Church in North Richmond to remember Lavonta “Macho” Crummie, a 23-year-old budding rap star who grew up in the neighborhood’s notorious housing projects.

    Crummie was killed in an Aug. 1 drive-by shooting in Antioch.

    Mixed with the crowds and the raw emotions of that day were more than a dozen representatives from the city’s Office of Neighborhood Safety, many of them ex-street toughs who now work to keep the peace. They urged Crummie’s friends not to retaliate.

    August was one of five months last year in which there were no killings in Richmond.

    “Particularly because of who (Crummie) was, that was the kind of incident that has historically triggered waves of retaliation,” said ONS Director DeVone Boggan. “The violence could have been outrageous, immediate and terrible.”

    Sixteen people were killed in Richmond in 2013, the lowest total since 1980 and a far cry from the 40-plus tallies of just a few years ago.

    “We have a ways to go, but we’re headed in the right direction,” said police Chief Chris Magnus. “The reputation of Richmond as a dangerous city is not well-deserved anymore; that is becoming the Richmond of the past.”

    The decline in homicides and overall crime — Richmond has not had more than 26 homicides in any year since 2009 — can be attributed to a range of factors, law enforcement and anti-violence officials say, including better police-community relations, improved youth-outreach programs and changing demographics.
    Richmond police traffic officers Ben Mendler, left, and Phil Sanchez are photographed in one of their DUI Enforcement police vehicles in Richmond, Calif.,
    Richmond police traffic officers Ben Mendler, left, and Phil Sanchez are photographed in one of their DUI Enforcement police vehicles in Richmond, Calif., on Friday, Feb. 22, 2013. Sanchez and Mendler were honored by Mothers Against Drunk Drivers for their work in helping to curb DUI’s in Contra Costa County. Sanchez received the Century Award for the third straight year for his 101 arrests and several other contributions. Mendler was the top arresting officer in Contra Costa County with 139 DUIs. Also, Sanchez was honored with the HERO Award. (Ray Chavez/Staff)

    On the police side, Magnus has reformed a long-beleaguered department with an infusion of young officers, a focus on data-driven resource deployment and an emphasis on building community trust.

    “We don’t cast a wide net or move into hot spots like an occupying force, which fosters distrust among community partners,” Magnus said. “We are surgical; we concentrate on people that need to be focused on.”

    At the same time, the ONS employs agents who build relationships with more than 60 young men and teens, identified through criminal records and other data as potential violent offenders. The program includes educational, counseling and job-placement support.

    Operation Ceasefire, a volunteer campaign, helps give former gang members and violent offenders job training and counseling.

    “We have built relationships with the people who may have otherwise perpetrated gun violence, and helped them become influential peacemakers,” Boggan said.

    While the drop in Richmond’s violent crime is pronounced, it’s also part of a larger trend.

    Oakland saw a 30 percent reduction in homicides and a slight drop in overall violent crime in 2013. San Jose reported 44 killings, a drop of two from 2012, and San Francisco’s homicides fell from 69 to 48. The regional trend mirrors a national one of major urban centers such as Los Angeles, Chicago and New York reporting steep drops in killings, said Barry Krisberg, a senior fellow at UC Berkeley’s law school.

    Krisberg said Richmond benefits from a confluence of forces, including improvements in policing strategies and the ONS, along with community groups and faith leaders who conduct frequent “peace walks” in the city’s most crime-plagued neighborhoods. Krisberg noted that Richmond is “not the same city it was even 10 years ago,” thanks to the influx of more upper- and middle-income residents and immigrants.

    The focus on offering positive outlets for at-risk youths in Richmond and elsewhere could be key to sustained crime reduction, he said.

    “Part of crime reduction is not incarcerating kids in awful places where they become more violent,” Krisberg said.
    Richmond police officers Matt Stonebraker, left, and Anthony Diaz ride on patrol in Richmond, Calif., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013.
    Richmond police officers Matt Stonebraker, left, and Anthony Diaz ride on patrol in Richmond, Calif., on Wednesday, March 13, 2013. ( Kristopher Skinner/Bay Area News Group Archives)

    The 16 homicides in 2013 are the lowest total since 1980, when 15 people were killed. The lowest number on record, dating to 1971, was 12 homicides in 1973. But Richmond has about 105,000 residents today, up from just under 75,000 in 1980, according to U.S. Census data, meaning the homicide rate per capita in 2013 was the lowest in the city’s recorded history.

    While total violent crime dropped 4 percent in 2013, one of the few categories that rose was assaults with a firearm, which climbed from 81 to 91. The city’s sophisticated ShotSpotter gunshot-detection system, which records and triangulates gunfire throughout the city, showed no significant decrease in 2013, Capt. Mark Gagan said.

    While the statistics show decreases in crime, longtime residents say the decades of gunplay haven’t faded from memory.

    “Shootings and people dying has been a part of life out here since I can remember,” said Joe Alexander, a 38-year-old who has spent most of his life in the high-crime Iron Triangle neighborhood.

    Alexander is also the founder of the Facebook group R.I.P. Gone But Never Forgotten, which pays tribute to hundreds of young men killed in Richmond over the years. “I know there’s less violence, but when I’m out and about, I still always stay aware of my surroundings.”

    Contact Robert Rogers at 510-262-2726 or rrogers@bayareanewsgroup.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/SFBaynewsrogers.

  15. Oakie

    Richmond’s success in the drop in murders has 1,000 mothers, including from the mouths of “progressives.” The fact that robberies and gun fire did not drop has no mothers.

    Murder stats are notoriously noisy and allow those who want to claim credit for their pet policies an opportunity to carefully select time frames to “prove” their point. And in April 2014 there were 3 murders in 3 weeks in tiny old Richmond. That’s an annualized rate of 52, exceeding even the old levels.

    The fact that Queen Quan claims a 28% drop in violent crime is the Poster Child for this. A “trend” means that 2014’s murder body count ought to be lower than 2013, and it is not. There is no trend-the Queen has no clothes.

    Again, robberies in Oakland did not go down (actually went up significantly, and made us the Robbery Capital of the country in 2013, and gun fire was as bad as ever (over 8,000 in 2012-2013). I think the murder body count has more to do with the aim of the people firing the illegal weapons and less to do with pronouncements from the almighty. Some years they’re better shots than others.


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