Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: Democratic Party

The Political Power of Incumbency

The Political Power of Incumbency

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf

Why is it so difficult to defeat an incumbent politician? Because the incumbent:

(a)  has more money so she can buy a campaign,

(b) is automatically endorsed and supported by the party machine,

(c) is usually endorsed and supported by the mainstream media, and

(d) is usually able to convince people that she will do better in her next term fixing the things she ignored in her last term.

Oakland’s Women In Power

Of the 10 largest cities in California, Oakland has the highest percentage of women serving on the City Council.  Yet, Mayor Libby Schaaf clearly lacks a commitment to maintaining female leadership on the Council. In the 2018 general election, all of Mayor Schaaf’s first rank choices for City Council were men. Schaaf’s consistent vocal attacks on two of the strong women on the Council – Rebecca Kaplan and Desley Brooks – are legendary. With the defeat of Councilwoman Brooks by one of the three Schaaf-backed candidates, there is only one Black woman on the Council.

Fortunately, the defeat of  Mayor Schaaf’s major ally on the Council – Councilmember Abel Guillen – by community-backed challenger Nikki Fortunato Bas maintains the same number of women on the Council.

Desley Brooks Is the Exception to the Rule

Despite Desley Brooks’ defeat in this election, the power of incumbency generally rules the day. In 2016, despite a ballooning housing crisis and horrifying episodic accounts of police misconduct, all five (5) incumbent Councilmembers were re-elected.

Councilmember Larry Reid was first elected to the City Council in 1996. He has held the seat for 21 years.  He has served as the Chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission and President of the Joint Powers Authority overseeing the Oakland Coliseum. Under his stewardship, East Oakland is facing an economic crisis fueled by the loss of both the Warriors and the Raiders. Indeed, East Oakland is trapped in a morass of potholes, illegal dumping and economic stagnation. The prolonged construction of the BRT line through the heart of East Oakland has accelerated displacement of longtime residents and destroyed small businesses.

Of course, Reid and District 4 Supervisor Nate Miley both endorsed and supported Mayor Schaaf’s re-election. Why not – look at how much she has done for East Oakland!

Incumbents Are the Rule

Sept. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Terry Chea)

In 2018, all of the incumbent Board of Supervisors supported District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s re-election. They helped her in spite of her horrible record of racial bias and unwavering support for police murders and misconduct.

O’Malley was also endorsed and aided by the Alameda County Democratic Party. Yet, her policies, practices and allegiances are clearly against our democratic values.

Look at our political structure in Alameda County.  Most of the Board of Supervisors are long-term incumbents:

Keith Carson    Elected 1992 – 26 years in position

Scott Haggerty Elected 1996 – 22 years in position

Nate Miley  Elected 2000 – 18 years in position

Wilma Chan  Elected 1994 – 2000, 2010 -present – 14 years in position

Richard Valle  Elected 2012 – 6 years in position

Women are the majority in Alameda County but we only have 1 woman on our Board of Supervisors. By comparison, both Contra Costa and San Francisco have a female majority on the County Board of Supervisors.

In Alameda County, as in most places, the power of incumbency “trumps” any commitment to your constituents. It often compels you to support the status quo without regard to the needs of the community. If you are in the boat, you do not want to be the one to rock the boat. So you sit silently by, even when the boat repeatedly crashes against the hard rocks of the shore.

Too many of our elected incumbents sit by silently while lives are lost, families are destroyed and communities are displaced. Because you see, their elections do not rest on the power of the people – their elections are assured by the power of incumbency.

The Politics of Trust

  On Wednesday, January 4, 2017, I will be sworn in as an elected member of the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee.  It is an event and an honor that I do not take lightly. I ran for election earlier this year with a promise to bring “a new voice” to the Committee.  To take a seat “at the table” to represent the interests of the people over my own.  I was elected by a landslide with more than 36,000 votes.  The people’s voice demanded to be heard.

 

I take my seat at the table at a moment when progressives are determined to define the Party.  The election of Trump means we cannot go on like “business as usual.”  I take the oath of office mindful of the trust that my community has expressed in me and my leadership.  I intend to serve based on a vision of positive political change called “the Politics of Trust.”

Vasconcellos Legacy Project

In 2002, former California State Senator John Vasconcellos founded the Vasconcellos Legacy Project in Silicon Valley.  He passed away in 2014 before I had a chance to meet him.  His last mission in life was to establish “the Politics of Trust.”  The concern was that our divisive, dysfunctional politics is based on conflict and hostility.  “The traditional view that we humans are inherently evil spreads poison throughout all our politics . . . leaving us with a crippled stunted politics that no longer responds to the will of our people, and politicians who serve primarily themselves.”*  “The Politics of Trust is demanding more and better from each and all of us.”*

* Quotes taken from www.politicsoftrust.net (Accessed 12/2/14)

What We Must Do Now

I believe in the power of the people to effect positive political change.  We must strive to achieve “a new politics, based on our highest aspirations and a new, healing vision.”* In the era of Trump, we have no choice but to reject the old ways of politics and move forward to heal our nation.  In the words of my mentor, Howard Moore, Jr. we have to “organize and fight as we have never fought before to hold this evil at bay over the next two years until the 2018 elections and defeat and remove it from power in 2020.”  I look forward to working with you and all freedom-loving people in my new role. A Luta Continua!

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