Money Politics Comes to City Council Campaign

In an Oakland election season where candidates have attacked mayoral frontrunner Don Perata about the influence of money in city politics, campaign finance debates are now trickling down to the City Council level.

The latest salvos come from three of the seven candidates vying to replace District 4’s Jean Quan, who has represented the Montclair, Laurel and Dimond neighborhoods on City Council since 2003. Quan, who is running for mayor, has made the sharpest criticisms of Perata’s campaign spending. Now, it’s the candidates looking to replace Quan on City Council that are crying foul in the days leading up to the Nov. 2 election.

On Oct. 27, Libby Schaaf’s District 4 campaign sent out a press release singling out approximately $44,000 worth of campaign mailings that the Rental Housing Association of Northern Alameda County PAC sent on behalf of her opponent, Jill Broadhurst. Schaaf described these mailers as an attempt by Joe O’Donohue, a San Francisco developer who wants to build a condominium near Oakland’s Lake Merritt, to sway the election.

“It’s unfortunate that outside interests, and in particular a single San Francisco developer, are trying to influence our elections in Oakland,” Schaaf said.

O’Donohue’s $44,000 independent expenditure endorsing Broadhurst means that District 4 Council candidates no longer have to abide by campaign spending limits set by the Oakland Campaign Reform Law (OCRA). Schaaf, who criticized the mailers, said she intends to abide by the pledge that candidates made to spend less than $116,000 in the campaign. She has raised $102,000 from donors, and will receive $14,000 in matching funding from the city for abiding by OCRA spending limits.

“I look forward to continuing to run a positive, issue-based campaign that focuses on Oaklanders, and the issues that matter to them,” added Schaaf.

Broadhurst will not receive $20,000 in public financing since she has already spent more than $20,000 of her own money in the campaign. But she criticized Schaaf and other candidates for accepting public campaign money at a time when Oakland faces serious budget shortfalls. She characterized her decision to bypass matching city funding and to finance her campaign through private donations, including her own, as a sign of fiscal responsibility.

“I cannot in good conscience take taxpayer-funded money to pay for my campaign while police officers are being laid off, roads are crumbling, and we are reducing hours at our libraries,” Broadhurst explained.

Schaaf disputed Broadhurst’s characterization of public funding, describing it instead as a “clean elections practice” that organizations like the League of Women Voters have supported. Schaaf pointed out that all 440 of her campaign donors have contributed less than $700 each.

Meanwhile, another candidate has criticized Schaaf as the beneficiary of financial support from an outside source. District 4 candidate Ralph Kanz, a former chair of the Oakland Public Ethics Commission, criticized the mailer Alameda County Central Democratic Committee (ACCDC) sent to voters featuring former Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown endorsing Schaaf. According to Kanz, the mailer did not include a notice providing certain information about who has paid for it, a requirement under Oakland law.

“I believe it is imperative for everyone to follow campaign laws,” Kanz declared. “Without this required information, the voters are denied a transparent and ethical election process.”

Kanz said it’s possible that the ACCDC mailer violated state election laws as well. The California Secretary of State has not received a “late filing” from the ACCDC regarding the campaign mailer supporting Schaaf. Kanz said that it’s possible that the ACCDC sent its filings to Oakland’s City Clerk and Secretary of State by fax on Oct. 29, but if not, it would represent another campaign violation.

“It’s ironic that two days after Ms. Schaaf condemned an opponent [Broadhurst] who received the benefit of a legally reported independent expenditure, she has benefited from a mailer that violates OCRA and possibly state law as well,” said Kanz. “I will be filing complaints concerning any and all violations surrounding this mailer.”

Schaaf responded that she had not seen the mailer, but that she was expecting the Democratic Party to communicate its endorsement of her to its members—registered Democrats—something that she says is allowed under campaign finance laws.

“Organizations are allowed to make communications to their members, which are not counted as an independent expenditure,” she said. “ If an organization like the California Nurses Association—which also endorsed me—wanted to communicate that to their union members, they would be allowed to do that.”

City Council elections have an additional wrinkle this year, as Oakland votes for the first time under the ranked-choice voting system. Voters in District 4 will be able to rank their top three choices among the seven candidates, and it’s almost certain no candidate will receive a majority in the first tally of votes. It will likely come down to counting voters’ second or third choices for the District 4 seat, and it could take several days to determine the winner.

Native Plant Sale

The Friends of Sausal Creek (FOSC) will hold its fall Native Plant Sale on Sunday, October 24, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. at the Joaquin Miller Park Native Plant Nursery. A flyer can be downloaded here.

Native plant experts will be available all day to help shoppers pick appropriate plants for their specific planting areas. This year’s plant sale will feature workshops and live music throughout the day to celebrate completion of the nursery’s expanded shady propagation and growing area and new teaching circle.

11:00  Native Bees and Your Garden with Jennifer Smith

12:00  Native Bird Connections:  Live Owls and Raptors of the Watershed!

12:30  Gardening with Native Plants

1:00    Keeping Urban Chickens with Thomas Kriese

1:30    Growing and Propagating Native Plants with Karen Paulsell

There will also be tables to visit, including Alameda County Master Gardeners to answer your gardening questions and “The Spider Chick” Linda Erickson with awesome live arachnids, plus face painting for the kids. Live music will be provided by Harlan James Bluegrass Band and Juke Joint Johnny. This year’s sale is an event not to be missed! Bring your family, neighbors, and friends…and, if possible, a cardboard box to get your plants safely home with you.

Douglas Iris

For more information, please visit the website, email, or call (510) 501-3672. To volunteer to help before or during the sale, contact or call (510) 325-9006.

The nursery is located in Joaquin Miller Park on Sanborn Road. From Highway 13, go east on Joaquin Miller Road. Turn left on Sanborn and park near the community center. Follow signs to the nursery, about 1/4 mile.

Book Sale and Village Family Fun

In this time of serious budget cuts, the Friends of the Montclair Library have probably never been more important.

The Friends help pay for physical improvements to the library, things like benches, bookdrops, and general upkeep. Here’s your chance to help the helpers, and pick up some new (to you) reading material. They are having a booksale at the library on Saturday from 10am to 3pm. Books range from $0.50 to $2. The selection is wide range of books you ACTUALLY want, including children’s books, classics, and what the Friends call Book Club Books. Think bestsellers only a couple of years old.

On Sunday, the Montclair Village Association hosts its Family Fun Festival 12pm – 5pm in Montclair Park. There’ll be music, food, drink, and plenty of fun for the kids.

Vandals Hit Oakland Firestorm Garden

This unpleasant piece of news just arrived from Susan Piper.

Just two weeks before the 19th anniversary of the 1991 Oakland Hills Firestorm, vandals cut 8 bronze branches off of the metal sculpture in the Oakland Firestorm Garden dedicated to the victims and survivors of what was at the time the worst urban disaster in US history. On October 21, 1991, 25 people died and 3500 homes were destroyed as a result of a firestorm on that hot, windy day.

“This is like dancing on the grave of the fire victims,” said Gordon Piper, chair of the Oakland Landscape Committee who raised the funds and coordinated the volunteers who installed the garden in 1993. The sculpture depicts the scorched trees and new growth that graced the fire zone in the years following the disaster.

“This isn’t the first time that vandals have removed the branches. But their greed is a desecration of the spirit and meaning of the sculpture and garden,” said Piper

The Oakland Landscape Committee is accepting donations to cover the cost of fabricating new custom designed branches to the sculpture, which was designed by Gail Fredell.  Checks should be made payable  to Friends of Oakland Park and Recreation and sent to 33 Hiller Drive, Oakland, CA 94618.”

Village Hardware Store Moving?

We’ve heard some sad news about the possibility of a business departing the village.

It seems that Montclair Village Hardware will very likely leave Mountain Boulevard for a new location.  While the owner wants to wait until next week to talk about a possible move, it sounds like parking is an issue. So is the relatively small size of the store, and then, of course, there’s the rent. This would be a minor blow for the mix of shops in the neighborhood. The next closest hardware store is on Park Boulevard.