May 31, 2012

Sonobe and Knowles Compete for County School Board

The race for the Area 4 seat Alameda County School Board is between former Oakland teacher Geraldine Sonobe and Aisha Knowles, the current Public Information Officer for the Alameda County Fire Department. Area 4 of the Alameda County School Board includes San Leandro, San Lorenzo, Castro Valley, and other parts of unincorporated Alameda County.

When both of these candidates appeared before the Alameda County Democratic Central Committee seeking the Democratic nomination, neither seemed to know what the Alameda County School Board actually did. Despite that, the Democrats endorsed Knowles.

Knowles unsuccessfully applied to be appointed to the position after long-time Area 4 Alameda County School Board member Felix Elizalde passed away in September 2010.

At a candidate forum held at the Bal Theatre on May 16, 2012, Sonobe and Surlene Grant, representing Knowles, both made a case for why they should be elected.

Sonobe noted her 30 years of experience in education, including five years at Castlemont High School in Oakland. After lamenting the cuts to school districts and to the County, Sonobe noted that the math professional development services provided by the County are “absolutely stellar...I know from the actual professional development that I've taken at Alameda it translates to the classroom.” Sonobe said she would look to companies and organizations for mentor-ships that could help engage students at risk of dropping out. Sonobe concluded by noting that she was endorsed by the Oakland Tribune. Complete video of Sonobe at the candidate forum is below.

Knowles was unable to attend because she was sick and was represented by Surlene Grant. Grant first discussed Knowles failed application for the County School Board vacancy in 2010. Grant noted that Knowles established partnerships in her role at the Fire Department, including some that involved training at-risk kids for fire services. “She will work to improve the communications between Alameda County Board of Education and our local community. She will be working to better prepare our schools for fire and life safety and emergency preparedness...She will assist schools with the challenge of state budget cuts and ensure that we are training, recruiting, and retaining quality teachers.” Grant concluded with a list of endorsements that included the Alameda County Democratic Party, Alameda Labor Council, and National Women's Political Caucus. Complete video of Grant at the candidate forum is below.

In its brief endorsement of Sonobe, the Oakland Tribune wrote, “Geraldine Sonobe holds a master's degree in linguistics and the teaching of English to speakers of other languages. She taught English language development in Oakland schools. She understands how academically unprepared our students are.

Today, she's a director of a program that helps prepare low-income students, predominantly African-Americans and Latinos, for college. It's the sort of education leadership that would make her an excellent county board trustee.”

The Oakland Tribune was not so kind to Knowles, “...we remain perplexed by why her opponent, Aisha Knowles, is running. Knowles, a public information officer for the Alameda County Fire Department, says she wants to improve communications between the Office of Education and the community.

However, she's unable to articulate what that would involve in any meaningful way. Moreover, she has no significant education experience. She unsuccessfully applied for a board appointment to a vacancy two years ago when a trustee died and regards that as a credential for her election. We don't agree.”

The election will be held on June 5, 2012.

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May 30, 2012

Second Independent Expenditure Committee Throws Weight into 18th Assembly Race


The Golden State Leadership Fund PAC, another independent expenditure committee, is sending out mail for the California Assembly 18th District race between Joel Young, Abel Guillen, and Rob Bonta. In the past week, the committee has sent out two mailers in support of Bonta, focusing on his parents' work with César Chávez.

As of May 29, the committee had spent more than $34,000 in support of Bonta. The group's largest funder during this campaign cycle is Pacific Gas & Electric ($45,000). Other substantial funders included the Committee on Jobs Government Reform Fund ($35,000), SF Forward, the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce's PAC ($25,000) and Duffy & Capitolo ($24,524).

The Golden State Leadership Fund PAC is also supporting Betsy Butler in the 50th Assembly District and Gene Gantt in the 11th Assembly District. In the recent past, the committee has supported Ed Lee, Phil Ting, and David Chiu for San Francisco Mayor, Warren Furutani for Los Angeles City Council, and Danny Carrillo for Ventura City Council.

The other independent expenditure committee seeking to influence the 18th Assembly District race is California Alliance, which has spent $72,664 to oppose Young, as of May 29, 2012.

The 18th Assembly District includes San Leandro, Alameda, and a large part of Oakland. The election will be held on June 5, 2012, and the two candidates receiving the most votes will face off in the November election.

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May 26, 2012

Independent Expenditures Seek to Influence 18th Assembly District Race

Mailer sent by California Alliance in 18th Assembly District campaign

An independent expenditure committee called California Alliance is trying to influence voters with three recent campaign mailers attacking Joel Young in the race for California's 18th Assembly District . Although there are officially four candidates, the race is widely seen to be between the three Democratic candidates, AC Transit Director Joel Young, Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, and Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen, since registered Democrats significantly outnumber Republicans in the 18th Assembly District.

The first mailer highlights Young's trouble with an ex-girlfriend and an aide for Oakland Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan. The mailer states, “Joel Young. 2 restraining orders. In just the last year.” which implies that two restraining orders have been granted against Young. The truth is that although two restraining orders were filed against Young, neither was granted. One involved an incident in which Young's ex-girlfriend found him in bed with another woman and the other involved Kaplan's aide. Young subsequently filed a restraining order against his ex-girlfriend, which was not granted.

The second mailer repeats the phrase "unfit for office," which was used by the East Bay Express to describe Young and why it did not endorse him for office. The third mailer focuses on whether Young is telling the truth about who has endorsed his campaign.

These mailers may be based, at least in part, on a recent poll that asked voters whether they would support a candidate who had a restraining order.

According to campaign finance records, California Alliance, officially known as “California Alliance, a coalition of consumer attorneys and conservationists,” has spent more than $31,000 so far to oppose Young. During this campaign cycle, the group has yet to support or oppose any other candidates, but has been active in recent local California Senate and Assembly races.

During the 2006 campaign for California 10th Senate District seat, California Alliance spent $26,433 to support former San Leandro Mayor Ellen Corbett and $372,544 to oppose John Dutra, one of her opponents in the Democratic primary. Corbett went on to win the Democratic primary over Dutra and Johan Klehs.

More recently, California Alliance spent $111,428 to support Bob Weickowski and $63,086 to oppose Garrett Yee during the 2010 campaign for the California Assembly's 20th District. Weickowski is currently running for re-election to the new 25th Assembly District against weak opponents.

In both of the previous races, California Alliance only spent money prior to the June primary. However, with a new primary election system in California where the top two vote-getters in the June primary will compete against each other in November, the group may be spending money to support or oppose candidates after the primary this year.

The California Alliance is known as an independent expenditure committee. As such, it is not controlled by a candidate or a candidate's committee, but these groups have had huge impacts on the races in which they get involved.

Since 2009, the largest donors to the California Alliance are consumer attorney groups ($1.05 million), public employee unions ($400,000), California Nurses Association ($250,000), and California League of Conservation Voters ($190,500). This provides the biggest clue as to whom California Alliance might actually support. Many of the funders of California Alliance show up in donations to Bonta and Guillen.

The Consumer Attorneys PAC has contributed $3,900 to Guillen and the California Nurses Association contributed $7,800 to Guillen. According to his campaign endorsement page, Guillen is endorsed by the California Nurses Association, California League of Conservation Voters, California Teachers Association, California Federation of Teachers, AFSCME District Council 57, and Faculty Association of California Community Colleges.

The California League of Conservation Voters and AFSCME District Council 57 have also endorsed Bonta and neither have endorsed Young. The Consumer Attorneys PAC has contributed $3,900 to Bonta. Public employee unions have also made significant contributions to Bonta's campaign, including Alameda Firefighters ($7,800), California Professional Firefighters ($7,800), Alameda County Deputy Sheriffs ($1,500), Firefighters Local 55 ($3,900), Oakland Police Officers Association ($3,900), CSEA ($1,000), San Francisco Firefighters ($5,900), and the San Leandro Police Officers Association ($500).

Updated May 29: Added information about relevant organizations that have also endorsed or contributed to Bonta.

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May 17, 2012

California Assembly Candidates Struggle for Differentiation at Candidate Forum

Two Democratic candidates for the California Assembly's 18th District seat and a representative for the third appeared Wednesday night at a candidate forum at the Bal Theatre. Alameda Vice Mayor Rob Bonta, Peralta Community College Trustee Abel Guillen and Mark Goodwin, Joel Young's campaign manager, gave opening and closing statements and answered audience questions posed by moderator and San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata. Young had a previous commitment and did not attend.

The audience, estimated at 50 to 60 people, included Mayor Stephen Cassidy, Councilmember Jim Prola, Councilmember Ursula Reed, San Leandro School Board Trustees Hermy Almonte, Mike Katz-Lacabe [Note: that's me] and Diana Prola, and Jennifer Ong, a candidate for the California Assembly in the neighboring 20th District.

In their opening statements, Bonta and Guillen spoke about their parents and backgrounds while Goodwin spoke about Young's support for a “buy American” policy at AC Transit and the recent decision to purchase buses from Hayward-based Gillig.

After opening statements, the first question to the California Assembly candidates was about what they could do to keep San Leandro Hospital open. Bonta, who previously served on the Board of the Alameda Health Care District, answered that a parcel tax, like that passed in Alameda, could save the hospital. He also said that he would work with Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan, “who has exclusively endorsed me in this race,” and look at possible hybrid models. Guillen used the question as an opportunity to express his support for single payer health care, which he sees as the way to fix the health care system. Young's campaign manager said that “the state is broken” and that Young supports changes to allow localities to pass tax measures with a simple majority rather than the current two-thirds.

When asked about the first legislation that they would put forth when elected, Bonta lamented the abolishment of redevelopment agencies and wanted to see tax increment financing brought back for former military bases, which would be good for Alameda and Oakland, but would do nothing for San Leandro. Bonta also said he wanted to create an emergency prevention fund for when communities face spikes in violent crime. Guillen said he would seek a constitutional amendment to lower the threshold to pass tax measures down to 55% and claimed it would have an immediate impact on children and communities. Goodwin gave an answer that ranged from government contract procurement policies to assessing the impact of government decisions on local employment.

On seismic safety, Guillen said that he had worked for the last ten years on modernizing school and said he would work with federal agencies to make sure that all schools has seismic safety kits that would help the schools become community centers during a disaster. Goodwin agreed with Guillen and that seismic safety of schools and hospitals was important. He went on advocate for transparency on bonds used as a source of funding, noting that some firms try to defer interest payments far into the future, which is more expensive for taxpayers. Bonta “I've been talking about public safety in this race from the very beginning.” He claimed that he has “the endorsement of every public safety organization that has gotten involved in this race,” referring to police and fire organizations. However, these groups have nothing to do with seismic safety. He said that he would propose a statewide school facilities bond to re-build school infrastructure and ensure all buildings were seismically safe. Finally, he said it's important for localities to have an emergency preparedness plan.

On what distinguishes their platform from the Democrat's standard advocacy for education, environment, and jobs, Goodwin said that Young was a big supporter of early childhood education and mentioned Young's support for a tax on sugar-containing beverage that is being considered by the City of Richmond. Bonta reiterated his support for public schools, public safety, jobs, the emergency prevention fund, tax increment financing for former military sites, and a statewide school facilities bond. Guillen said that he was the only one with six years of experience and proudly noted how he convinced his fellow trustees to divest Peralta Community College District's money from big bank like Wells Fargo and Bank of America and move it to local banks and credit unions.

The tone of the forum was respectful and civil, with candidates having nothing negative to say about their opponents. In many ways, it mirrored a previous forum held in April in Oakland with the same format.

The election is June 5, 2012, and the top two vote-getters will advance to the November election. Historically, winners of Democratic primaries in California have gone on to easy wins in November, but this year is likely to see two Democrats competing against each other in November.

The complete Assembly candidate portion of the forum can be viewed below:

The previous forum can be seen after the break.

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May 15, 2012

Assembly Candidates Debate Wed. 7pm at Bal Theatre

On Wednesday, May 16, the Bal Theatre will host a debate for the candidates for the California State Assembly 18th District seat. If you want to meet, ask questions, and learn about your future representative in the California State Assembly, you will want to attend this forum, which starts at 7pm. The candidates are Rob Bonta, Abel Guillen, Joel Young and Rhonda Weber. The Halcyon Foothill Neighborhood Association, Best Manor Homeowners Association, Bay-O-Vista Homeowners Association, Heron Bay Homeowners Association, and Washington Manor Homeowners Associations are sponsoring the event and it will be moderated by San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata. Light refreshments will be served on the rear patio from 6:30 to 7pm. The event is free and all are welcome.

Guillen is a Democrat elected to the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. Young is a Democrat appointed to the AC Transit Board of Directors in 2009 and elected in 2010. Bonta is a Democrat elected to the Alameda City Council in 2010. Weber is a Republican and small-business owner.

After the debate, there will be an Open Candidates Forum for all candidates appearing on the San Leandro ballot.

The candidates for the 18th Assembly District appeared yesterday at a forum sponsored by the San Leandro Chamber of Commerce.

After redistricting, the 18th Assembly District includes all of Alameda, San Leandro, and a large portion of Oakland. The candidates are vying to replace Sandre Swanson, who cannot run for re-election to the Assembly because of term limits.

The Bal Theatre is located at 14808 East 14th Street in San Leandro.

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