Making Democracy Work

VOTER September 2013

LWVO Fall Kickoff on September 18

Back to School 2013 with Oakland Unified

The League of Women Voters of Oakland is pleased to announce its Fall Kickoff Program for Wednesday, September 18, entitled "Back to School 2013: The OUSD Spells Out Where It Is Headed." Invited guest speakers include Dr. Gary Yee, acting superintendent of the Oakland Unified School District, and David Kakishiba, president of the Oakland Unified School District Board of Directors.

Please join us in Oakland City Hall Hearing Room 2 from 6 to 8 p.m. to hear how data from the School Quality Reviews have identified progress and challenges to the goals of the current OUSD strategic plan, "Community Schools, Thriving Students." Also hear how the OUSD administration and board are providing oversight for accountability regarding those goals.

Oakland Unified Superintendent Tony Smith Resigns

After working for four years for the Oakland Unified School District as superintendent, Dr. Tony Smith announced his resignation in April. He cited his need to move his young family to Chicago to be near his wife's seriously ill father.

While at the helm of Oakland's schools, Smith crafted the district's current five-year strategic plan known as "Community Schools, Thriving Students," now beginning its third year of implementation. (Please visit OUSD's special website for more information.) During his tenure as OUSD's superintendent this strategic plan has been embraced by students, parents, teachers, administrators, and community stakeholders. Via its implementation OUSD has retained its status as the most improved school district in California every year. However there is still much to be done to improve education for Oakland's students.

The LWVO Education Committee is monitoring the selection of Smith's replacement and offers the following report: In May, the school board appointed its own District 4 director, Dr. Gary Yee, to serve as acting superintendent for one year following Smith's departure in June 2013. (Note that school board districts include the same geographic areas as Oakland City Council districts. Thus Yee has been representing District 4, represented on City Council by Libby Schaaf.) Yee has stated that he intends to continue implementation of Smith's strategic plan in all its initiatives and focuses. Meanwhile, during June, the OUSD board interviewed nine candidates deemed eligible -- out of 12 declared -- to fill Yee's board seat. This highly contested selection process is evidence that education issues in Oakland are heating up. The six remaining school board members voted for Anne Campbell-Washington to fill the District 4 position. Stay tuned.
- Jane Klein

President's Message

The long, lovely, lazy days of summer are almost over, and it seems they were not lazy at all -- at least not for the League. Your Action Committee has been working with the Oakland Votes Coalition to ensure that the redistricting of City Council and School Board districts is a fair and transparent process open to public input -- see below for the latest.
Plan Bay Area, a comprehensive program for region-wide development, housing, and transportation planning, was adopted by the Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, with strong support from the Bay Area League -- learn more.

LWVO is getting involved with local ballot measures. We signed the ballot argument for the mail-in reauthorization of the Fire Prevention Assessment District coming this fall. We began meeting with and providing input to council members and administrators as they prepare for renewal/revision of Measure Y (Violence Prevention) in November 2014. Look for more information and advocacy on this critical measure in future VOTERs and LWVO programs.

LWVO continued to advocate for the Public Ethics Commission story below working for open, transparent, fair, and ethical city government.

Nationally we were proud to see the League at the forefront of the fight to protect voting rights, while the State League supported "clean money in politics" initiatives.

LWVO used social media (PLEASE "friend" us on Facebook) and e-mail blasts (coming to you as "News from LWV Oakland") to mobilize LWVO members and friends to take action by contacting legislators and spreading word of our activities.

After a busy summer, we will kick off September with a bang. The state of Oakland schools is always on everyone's mind: come to our September 18 kickoff and hear what OUSD plans for the year. Then a September 25 Hot Topics discussion "details below" will focus on a new statewide project to bring civics education back to the schools, and we are honored that State League President Jenny Waggoner will be there.

Remember that membership is the lifeblood of the League: bring friends or neighbors to these events and encourage them to join.

- Katherine Gavzy

Hot Topic for Wednesday, September 25: Civics Education

Because of the dire condition of civics education in our public schools, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye and State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson established the California Task Force on K-12 Civic Learning. Come hear what Jennifer Waggoner, president of the League of Women Voters of California and a task force member, has to say on the issue. We will meet in the boardroom of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce at 475 14th Street (Oakland City Center at Broadway and 14th) on Wednesday, September 25 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The chamber's vice president, Paul Junge, will also speak.

Redistricting Update

Oakland is finally on its way to redistricting for the City Council and Board of Education. The city administrator's initial recommendation to the City Council was to look at population and to make only minor adjustments to achieve numbers nearly equal in all districts. However, LWVO and others told the council that it is obligated to look at the entire city and to consider additional criteria in order to meet the requirements of the Voting Rights Act and to overcome the effects of gerrymandering. The council approved seven criteria, including compactness and respect for communities of interest.

In place since June is a process to provide information and gather Oaklanders' views on how the seven districts should be reconfigured. The process is spelled out on the city website,, where you will find how to register your concerns and draw your own map. Several proposed maps have already been submitted; you can comment on these and/or build your own based on one you almost like.

Three informational meetings took place in July, and four are scheduled for early September. Plan to attend at least one. Work with your neighbors to see where you think your neighborhood belongs in the overall scheme.

LWVO has joined with Urban Strategies Council, Oakland Rising, and ACCE in the Oakland Votes Coalition to spread the word about the importance of redistricting and to encourage participation in the process. Go to for information and resources.

Contact LWVO Action chair Mary Bergan (532-1856; if you can assist in the League's efforts to bring about a redistricting plan that makes all Oakland residents feel well represented.

- Mary Bergan

City of Oakland Redistricting Meeting Schedule

Thursday, Sept. 5
6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
Public Workshop/Forum Cesar Chavez Education Center
2825 International Boulevard
Saturday, Sept. 7
10 a.m. - 12 p.m.
Public Workshop/Forum Frick Middle School
2845 64th Avenue
Saturday, Sept. 7
2 - 4 p.m.
Public Workshop/Forum Oakland Public Library Main Branch
125 14th Street
Sunday, September 8
3 - 5 p.m.
Public Workshop/Forum Claremont Middle School
5750 College Avenue
Thursday, October 3
10:45 a.m.
Rules and Legislation
Committee Meeting
Oakland City Hall Council Chambers
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Tuesday, October 15
6:30 p.m.
Council Hearing on Plan Selection
Review of District Alternatives
Oakland City Hall Council Chambers
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Tuesday, November 5
6:30 p.m.
First Council Hearing on
Redistricting Ordinance
Oakland City Hall Council Chambers
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza
Tuesday, November 19
6:30 p.m.
Final Council Hearing and Adoption of
Redistricting Ordinance
Oakland City Hall Council Chambers
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza [end table

Spotlight on Public Ethics Commission

The recent Alameda County Grand Jury report on "disfunctionality in Oakland City Government" caused quite a stir. The excitement focused on the issue of censuring councilmembers, but the report also criticized the Public Ethics Commission's lack of enforcement authority. The PEC was established by a voterapproved amendment to the city charter in 1996 (largely inspired by LWVO) in order to ensure "fairness, openness, honesty, and integrity" in city government. It can assess penalties for violations of the Sunshine Ordinance (open government) and of fair campaign financing rules, and it is expected to "educate citizens and city staff on ethics-related issues," but it has no enforcement power over ethical conduct. In fact, many people think that the existing "Code of Conduct" for councilmembers is not an ethical code at all, and definitely not an ordinance, but rather a compendium of vague generalities that is intrinsically unenforceable. At its July meeting the commissioners decided to send a letter to the council expressing the need for an ethics ordinance that would give the Public Ethics Commission the capacity and authority to administer punishment for ethics violations. LWVO has affirmed our support for this move. A few of our members have been attending the PEC meetings regularly, but we need more people there: the hardworking and dedicated citizen volunteers on the commission need to see that the public is behind them. The PEC meets the first Monday of every month at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall Hearing Room 1. Visit their website ( and check out the video of the middle school student lecturing Oakland politicians on ethical behavior!

- Katherine Gavzy

Renew Your League Membership!

LWVO springs into action this month with programs your membership supports. Our strength is in our members' participation and the dues they pay to fund our work. We have a full plate this year, including community forums, registration drives, education studies, continued monitoring of Oakland redistricting, strengthening the Public Ethics Commission, and supporting Plan Bay Area.

Our ability to serve depends upon your annual renewal. Our membership year is July 1 to June 30, so if you have not yet done so, please send in your renewal as soon as possible. Send a check, or use Pay Pal on our website if that is easier for you. Thanks to those of you who have already renewed and thanks in advance to all of you who are renewing now. Renewal details and an interest survey are at Members who renew by December 1 and complete the survey will automatically be entered into a raffle with exciting prizes, including gift certificates and a ticket to our 2014 Luncheon.

New Members

Sarah Diefendorf
Rita M. Dougherty
Michael Kilian
Shelly Levinthal
Anna Mathei
Phyllis White

Full addresses are in the paper VOTER.

LWVO Annual Meeting Held June 15

The 2013 LWVO Annual Meeting was held on the evening of June 15 at Faz Restaurant in Downtown Oakland.

As part of the proceedings, LWVO President Katherine Gavzy presented Michelle Taylor Abney with a citation upon her recent retirement as the City Attorney's Open Government Coordinator. She worked to maintain open government and transparency in the City Attorney's office and as staff support for the Public Ethics Commission.

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Robert Wasserman / Bob Stewart / Michelle Taylor Abney (right)

Robert Wasserman -- chairman of Strategic Policy Partnership, LLC and a public safety consultant for the City of Oakland -- delivered the event's keynote address, with supporting remarks from his associate Bob Stewart. He spoke about ensuring public safety in Oakland and what community groups can do. He said that Oakland could be a truly great city, with all it has to offer, if it controls crime and violence. The vast majority of crimes in Oakland are committed by the same very small group of people, he said; statistics show that most crimes are committed by a tiny percent of the population. The key is to get the police out into the communities and keep up communication between the people and the police. He recommended having representatives from neighborhood groups take part in training at police academies, not just with instructors from the force, and he also spoke about Ceasefire and CompStat.

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LWV Oakland 2013-2014 Board

- LWVO, with photos by Lee Aurich

Plan Bay Area Adopted

After midnight at the end of a marathon joint meeting that began on July 18, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Association of Bay Area Governments approved Plan Bay Area, an integrated transportation and landuse strategy through 2040. This marks the nine-county region's first plan that consolidates policies for transportation, housing, and open space into one document. The plan also meets the target of a 15 percent per capita reduction in greenhouse gas emissions within the Bay Area by 2030, as required under Senate Bill 375.

For decades, the League of Women Voters of the Bay Area has supported comprehensive planning of this sort for the region. The plan focuses future regional growth within priority development areas (PDAs), which are neighborhoods within walking distance of frequent transit service. These areas are expected to accommodate 79 percent of new housing and 63 percent of new jobs by 2040. Because we particularly supported a plan that provided incentives for affordable housing and funding for transit, we were pleased that final amendments required a stronger emphasis for provision of local transit service, and linked local grant funding to performance in providing affordable housing together with antidisplacement measures. Some grant funding is also provided for open space protection.

This round of planning, which began three years ago, included varied opportunities for public participation, but also was marked by vocal opposition by Tea Party members and others who showed up en masse at hearings. (See also discussion of public participation in the latest Bay Area Monitor at Letters of support for Plan Bay Area from the League of Women Voters of the Bay Area and from eight of the 20 local Leagues in the Bay Area may be viewed at

- Linda Craig, LWVBA

Second Annual Delilah Beasley Tea on September 15

Progressive Oakland Women for Empowerment & Reform cordially invites you to celebrate change agents in community leadership at the Second Annual Delilah Beasley Tea on Sunday, September 15 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Pardee Home Museum Gardens at 672 11th Street in Oakland. Please join us for an assortment of teas, pastries, and savories, along with chamber music and entertainment in a beautiful garden setting. At the event, we will honor Cora M. Tellez, CEO and President of Sterling HSA, and Kimberley L. Phillips, Mills College Provost and Dean of the Faculty.

The cost is $15 per person, $5 for students, and free to children under 12. Reservations are required; call (510) 444-2159 or e-mail to RSVP.

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