Tensions mount in Measure E battle
Jenny Turcinovic becomes visibly upset when she describes the day a few weeks back that a couple walked into her Webster Street business and began cursing out her 15-year-old son for the No on E sign the family had placed, at their landlord’s request, in their shop window.
Her son was nearly in tears, she said, when he called her from the family’s Aria Supermarket & Bakery to describe the confrontation, one of several the family experienced in the short time the sign was up.
“I told the landlord, ‘I’m going to take it off. I can’t take it anymore,’ ” Turcinovic said, adding that she would find other, less public, ways to support the No on E campaign. “Showing the finger to a 15-year-old boy – it’s ridiculous.”
The episode was the latest outrage in a political contest that has been bitter and deeply personal, even by Alameda standards. In addition to the encounters at Turcinovic’s shop, some supporters of the tax have threatened to boycott shops whose owners oppose it.
(The Island spoke with the owners of a shop and a restaurant on Webster whose businesses bore No on E signs. They said they had not had the same confrontations that Aria had experienced. One restaurant owner said she complied with a request from supporters of the tax to take her No on E sign down.)
Yes on E campaign spokesman John Knox White, who said the campaign doesn’t endorse the attacks and who has publicly spoken out against a boycott, said opponents of the plan have engaged in personal attacks against supporters.
He pointed to a YouTube video paid for by the Committee Against Measure E which claims the tax is being pushed by wealthy East End and Gold Coast residents seeking to protect their own interests and has been taken by some to imply that supporters are racist, and to a Google map created by an opponent of the tax that pinpoints supporters’ home addresses.
“It speaks to the paucity of the arguments that they have,” Knox White said.
Former school board trustee David Forbes was active on three previous school parcel tax campaigns, and he ran the Measure C school bond campaign in 2004. None of those campaigns got as nasty as the race for Measure E has, he said.
“There were certainly people who felt strongly. But there were not the ad hominem attacks,” Forbes, who was featured in the opponents’ video, said. “That’s the difference with this campaign.”
Doug Biggs said he and several other Measure E supporters who were featured in the video are actually West End residents. Biggs runs the Alameda Point Collaborative, which provides housing and services for formerly homeless families.
“Alameda’s always been good at bringing it into the gutter,” Biggs said. Still, he said, he has been able to debate other hot button issues – like SunCal’s Alameda Point ballot measure – without things getting personal.
David Howard, who created the video and map, denied calling anyone a racist, as some who were featured in the video have charged. But he was quick to list the percentage of white students in the three schools called out in the video. He accused the school district of “exploit(ing) the race and class divide in Alameda” by threatening to close schools.
“The map shows that it’s largely the same patronage network of parents and activist community members in wealthy Alameda neighborhoods who organize and push for these parcel taxes time and time again,” Howard said in a statement released to The Island. “It looks to me that these parents are simply trying to protect a privilege that they enjoy – small, elementary schools that produce high test scores – at the expense of everyone else in the community.”
Supporters of the tax have said the schools need the money to replace millions of dollars in lost state funding. And they said that if Measure E fails, schools all over the Island could close.
But Biggs, who acknowledged the tax won’t solve all the issues the school district is facing, said that calling people out makes it harder for the community to come back together once the electoral battle over Measure E is decided.
“By taking it in this direction, it takes out the opportunity of coming to compromise,” he said. “It takes out the opportunity to have a thoughtful discussion on the issue.”