Donna Brazile at Obama fundraiser in Oakland

Tomorrow is President Barack Obama’s 50th birthday…

…and like any U.S. politician might, he’s turned it into a fundraising event spanning the entire nation.

He’s attending fundraisers in Chicago today, including a concert with Chicago natives Herbie Hancock and Jennifer Hudson and the Chicago rock band OK Go. Meanwhile, surrogates have fanned out to headline events today in cities from coast to coast: Robert Gibbs in Boston, David Plouffe in Tampa, David Axelrod in Los Angeles, and so on.

In Oakland, Democratic strategist and CNN commentator Donna Brazile is scheduled to join California Attorney General Kamala Harris and Oakland Mayor Jean Quan for a 5:30 p.m. event organized by the East Bay Young Democrats at The New Parish, 579 18th St. Tickets started at $25, but apparently have sold out.

The Republican National Committee is, of course, not amused.

“It’s time for the Obama Administration to focus on putting Americans back to work and protecting future generations, instead of worrying about his reelection,” RNC spokesman Ryan Mahoney said. “President Obama said he was going to pivot to job creation but instead of focusing on the millions of unemployed Americans, the first thing he does is a fundraiser to save his own job. The 2012 election will hinge on the economy and President Obama will need every penny earned to cover-up his failed leadership on everything from the debt ceiling to jobs. With Americans struggling with 9.2 percent unemployment, no amount of fundraising cash can erase this president’s leadership and economic failures.”


LAO, local officials face off on redevelopment plan

Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, Union City Mayor Mark Green, Livermore Mayor Marshall Kamena, Emeryville Mayor Nora Davis, Concord Vice Mayor Ron Leone and other Bay Area elected officials will gather with business, affordable housing and labor leaders tomorrow in Oakland in opposition to Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal to eliminate California’s local redevelopment agencies and use their money to help close the state’s gaping budget deficit.

Brown proposes to end the redevelopment agencies, while giving local governments more power to promote economic development themselves by amending the state constitution so that local voters can approve tax increases and general obligation bonds by a 55 percent majority rather than the two-thirds required now.

Those planning tomorrow’s press event insist this is the kind of state raids of local funds that voters oppose, and will bring little benefit to the state while destroying hundreds of thousands of jobs – including an estimated 29,000 in the East Bay – and billions in local economic activity.

But as these local officials – acting as part of a coalition of local governments and business groups – take their complaints to the street, the nonpartisan Legislative Analyst’s Office released a report today saying Brown’s plan is the way to go, shifting responsibility for local economic development to local governments with a level of transparency that’s been lacking with the redevelopment agencies:

Given the significant policy shortcomings of California’s redevelopment program, we agree with the Governor’s proposal to end it and to offer local governments alternative tools to finance economic development. Under this approach, cities and counties would have incentives to consider the full range of costs and benefits of economic development proposals.

In contrast with the administration’s proposal, however, we think revenues freed up from the dissolution of redevelopment should be treated as what they are: property taxes. Doing so avoids further complicating the state’s K–14 financing system or providing disproportionate benefits to K–14 districts in those counties where redevelopment was used extensively. Treating the revenues as property taxes also phases out the state’s ongoing costs for this program and provides an ongoing budget solution for the state.

Ordinarily, we would recommend that the state phase out this program over several years or longer to minimize the disruption an abrupt ending likely would engender. Given the state’s extraordinary fiscal difficulties, however, the Legislature will need to weigh the effect of this disruption in comparison with other major and urgent changes that the state would need to make if this budget solution were not adopted.


State buildings, UC costs, Jean Quan on ‘TWINC’

I was on KQED’s “This Week in Northern California” last night to discuss the plan to sell and then lease back state buildings in order to raise quick cash to help close our budget gap. Other topics included UC tuition hikes and San Francisco’s governmental tumult, and Belva Davis interviewed Oakland Mayor-Elect Jean Quan.


Inside Don Perata’s mayoral election defeat

So former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata – who entered Oakland’s mayoral race with big-time name recognition and fundraising prowess, and who outspent all his rivals enormously – lost the race to City Councilmember Jean Quan. He conceded this morning.

This was Oakland’s first foray into ranked-choice voting, and there were 10 candidates in the field. Perata held the lead in every elimination round until the last, when City Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan was cut and her supporters’ second and third choices broke almost three-to-one in Quan’s favor, catapulting her past Perata to win.

In the end, Perata’s somewhat polarizing personality and past may have proved to be his undoing, as many had predicted could happen. People tend to either love him or hate him, with not many in between; those who love him were quick to name him their top choice, and the rest were much less likely to write him in somewhere below.

John Whitehurst, a longtime Perata consultant who was one of three paid by the mayoral campaign, was still shaking his head later Thursday, and basically said his only mistake was not attacking Quan and Kaplan more.

“It’s still hard for me to swallow the fact that we won by 11,000 votes, 10 percent of the vote, and the person that won the election lost in 80 percent of the precincts,” he said.

But Perata didn’t “win” by 11,000 votes – he finished that far ahead in the first round, putting him nowhere close to the 50 percent mark he’d have had to exceed to win outright.

“The purpose of the ranked-choice voting was to make the campaigns shorter, less expensive and less negative and all three turned out to be completely false,” Whitehurst complained, saying that all the new method accomplished was to turn the election into an episode of the reality television show “Survivor,” in which candidates had to build alliances to outlast their rivals.

“Hindsight is always 20-20, and if I were to run the election again, I would’ve gone negative on Jean and negative on Rebecca the way that they went negative on Don,” he continued, noting none of Perata’s campaign literature attacked his rivals.

He acknowledged there were direct mail pieces sent out by independent expenditure committees that attacked Quan, but he said that of a dozen mailings that Quan sent out, 10 attacked Perata in some way.

“We invested a ton of money in field operations,” Whitehurst said. “Jean pretty hypocritically today said hers was a grassroots campaign, but she didn’t have a grassroots campaign, she put out 12 pieces of mail of which 10 were negative.”

Some might find it hard to see how Perata – who outspent Quan by far – was more “grassroots” than Quan, who had a smaller bankroll but still had a substantial number of volunteers pounding the pavement for her. Asked why Perata was paying three different consultants for the same campaign, Whitehurst replied he was only paid about $1,000 per month.

“I was cheaper for that campaign than a basic field organizer was, so don’t go there,” he said. “A campaign that does not have organizers is not a serious grassroots campaign.”

Whitehurst said he believes this outcome will sour Oakland’s electorate on ranked-choice voting. “This is the first time that instant-runoff voting has produced this result. It happened in San Francisco too, and I think you might see people taking another look at the system now that, in three elections, the first place winner didn’t win the race.”

“I think less than 5 percent of the people understand ranked-choice voting; walk outside the office and ask somebody how it works, I don’t think they’ll know,” he charged. “Choosing a leader is not about a game of ‘Survivor’ on TV, y’know? It’s just not.”


Kaplan wins youths’ mock Oakland mayoral vote

My colleague, Katy Murphy, covered an Oakland youth candidate forum and mock election featuring three of the top four Oakland mayoral candidates; she posted this video to her excellent blog, The Education Report, but we thought all you political junkies might enjoy it too:


Perata launches first TV ad of mayoral campaign

Former state Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata over the weekend launched the first television ad of the Oakland mayoral campaign:

Perata campaign spokesman Rhys Williams wouldn’t discuss the ad buy’s size: “We don’t disclose strategy to other campaigns – directly or via press – but it will be on air enough for all Oaklanders to have an opportunity to see it.”

Meanwhile, mayoral candidate and Oakland Councilwoman Jean Quan – whom a poll last week showed running a close second to Perata – is busy pounding the pavement (and getting her purse snatched) as well as putting a lot of direct mail in the field.

One recent mailer, a “Meet Jean Quan” piece, is a positive piece touting her record and promising to cut the mayor’s salary by 25 percent, make no back-room deals, be accessible to the public, support local schools with a volunteerism drive and get more police officers out from behind desks and onto the streets.

The other recent mailer, “Which way, Oakland?”, goes negative on Perata, noting that he was the subject of a years-long FBI investigation, helped engineer the Raiders deal that cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars, paid his son with campaign funds and has collected a tidy sum as a consultant to the state prison guards union.

That piece latter directs readers to www.notdon.org, a “Anybody But Perata for Mayor of Oakland” site that says it’s “an independent website not affiliated with any political officeholder or candidate or political campaign.” The site is run by Jesse Douglas Allen-Taylor, an Oakland-based columnist perhaps best known for his work in the now-defunct UrbanView newspaper and then in the Berkeley Daily Planet; he also runs the “How Very Jerry” website collecting about 75 pieces he wrote about Jerry Brown’s Oakland mayoral administration.