Is Choosing A Mayor a Bit Like Choosing a College?

October 22, 2014



Lynette McElhaney for Mayor 2018?

Is Choosing Oakland’s Mayor a Bit Like Choosing a College?

Deciding how to vote for mayor this year seem to be on a par with choosing colleges as an 18 year old–with so much at stake and so many varied choices what’s the responsible thing to do with the information at hand. I have asked myself over and over what it is that makes someone a good mayor of Oakland according to my very subjective scorecard.

Here’s the spoiler: I wish Lynette McElhaney (Councilmember in District 3) were running. I’m tempted to just punt and write in her name but then I convince myself to suck it up and choose someone actually on the ballot–and I feel obligated to choose three! After I supported and continue to believe in ranked choice voting, isn’t it my god-given duty to buckle down and do this thing! It’s kinda like getting my taxes done on time. No one wants to do it but I need to keep my nose to grind stone and fill out the sample ballot.

Polls are showing Quan, Kaplan and Schaaf in a virtual dead heat since so many folks are still undecided and because of the complexities of rank-choice voting where someone can lose the first round and end up the winner (like Quan did four years ago). So I sift through the information from the Sierra Club (no endorsement), the East Bay Express (endorsing Libby–can’t go there), and talk to various friends inside and outside City Hall to get their take on the issues and personalities. And here is my very subjective but somewhat informed opinion.

I’m voting #1 for Dan Siegel because he is the most “progressive” candidate on the ballot with his background as a labor and tenant rights lawyer and his contention that we have enough police on the job (they need reform and oversight) and his emphasis on raising the minimum wage. Siegel parted ways with Mayor Quan over the Occupy protests which wins my huge respect but the cons for me are voting for a white men who by reputation is irascible and doesn’t seem to understand that Oakland desperately needs more housing at all levels, both market rate and affordable along the transit corridors.


I’m tempted to vote for Einstein the dog in my #2 position but will likely vote for Mayor Quan for either #2 or #3. I have many friends who support Mayor Quan and I do think she is challenged at communicating her successes such as a much better economic forecast and a significant reduction in crime. But I think the overall economy reviving and folks being pushed out of SF to Oakland are the real reasons why Oakland is doing better in the last 2 years rather than anything much Quan has done. Quan has personality challenges such as an inability to look folks in the eye and be focused on the task at hand. I was once at an hour long intimate meeting where she continually was on her cell phone texting. Bad form from the Mayor. Some folks applaud her for being at every event but I see that as a detriment. I want to see her less so I know she is hunkering down and working on the big issues, not snapping photos where more than 2 are gathered which she is wont to do.

The real reason I am voting for Quan for #2 or #3 is because I want a NEW mayor in 4 years and we already have an excellent prospect in Councilmember Lynette McElhaney. If any of the other folks are elected such as Kaplan or Schaaf, it will be possibly difficult to dislodge them. I have never spoken to Lynette about whether she has aspirations to be Mayor but she is the complete package which would serve Oakland well. First of all she is a unifying personality with emotional intelligence who holds a big tent for all of Oakland, a black woman who is charismatic, passionate, serious and fun, and who has the respect of other Council members, her staff and her constituents. How she manages to hold down another job as executive director for a non-profit housing organization in Richmond is beyond me but there you go. Her last child graduates from high school this year so she will have even more time and focus to concentrate on improving our City. She is not afraid to vote on the hard issues (unlike Kaplan who often abstains) and I appreciate her standing up for those of us who don’t accept the status quo, whether working to get the waste management contract out of the control of a virtual monopoly or serious questioning of the land give-away that is the current thinking of the ill-conceived Coliseum City.


Marguerite Young for EBMUD

The Rest of the Ballot 
I will be voting the Democratic ticket for the state races and here are the others
Member of State Assembly: Tony Thurmond
Former City Councilmember of Richmond, African-American, even though Elizabeth Echols is great, do we really need another white woman from Berkeley in this spot?
State Superintendent of Schools- Tom Torlakson
County Superintendent of Schools-Karen Monroe
Peralta Community College District Trustee-Area 7- Julina Bonilla (endorsed by Abel Guillen who is stepping down)
BART Director District 4: Robert Raburn (endorsed by Express)
EDMUD Director, Ward 3-Marguerite Young (endorsed by Express)

Protests Against Prop 1–a hard choice

State Measures
1. Water Bond (Yes)
This is one everyone will need to decide on their own.  I am supporting the water bond with caveats, because on balance it provides much needed funding for disadvantaged communities, groundwater clean up, recycling and consservation.  The caveat is that it allocates 1/3 for funding that could be used to build some really bad dams and the oversight on the money is not great.  I have confidence that the environmental community will make sure these bad dams don’t get built and that the money instead goes to more benign storage options such as groundwater.

Three views from the Environmental Community
Sierra Club: No Position
2. State Budget Stabilization (No)
45 YES (big insurance companies are trying to defeat this)
47 Criminal Sentences. The less people in prison the better Yes
48 Indian Gaming NO NO NO. I despise the fact that this is what we offer Native Americans for economic development. Shitty jobs at shitty wages. Should never have come to a ballot measure.
Temescal Protected Bikeway Family

Yes on Measure BB–funding bikes a LOT

BB-Transporation Sales Tax YES, YES YES. Would have liked to have seen even more aggressive ways to reduce car congestion but it’s a start. Hope it won’t mean extending BART to Livermore though.
N- Parcel tax of $120 annually for high school retention, job training YES
Z- $ for police, fire and emergency response, no increase in taxes, oversight committee YES with reservations (want police to aggressively implement court ordered reforms and quit paying themselves huge amounts of overtime)
CC, DD, EE and FF YES especially FF which raises the minimum wage in Oakland to $12.25 an hour
City Auditor: Brenda Roberts, an excellent choice and so much better than Len Rafael who is a perpetual candidate (ran for Council District 1 last time around)
Council Race District 2 Abel Guillen (Express endorsed)
Council Race District 4 Anne Campbell Washington (Express endorsed)
Council Race District 6 Shereda Nosakhare (anyone but Desley Brooks)
Yes On Measure D-Stop Big Soda
Mayor-Tom Butt (beat back Chevron)
Councilmember: Jovanka Beckles (open lesbian who has been hate speech target)

About Karen Hester

Karen Hester is a community activist and events coordinator who lives in North Oakland in Temescal Creek Cohousing. Her event productions website is She lives and breathes the fight to stop more billboards in Oakland and started

View all posts by Karen Hester

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