Letters to the editor
Got something to say about what you’ve read here or a burning local issue? The Island is now accepting Letters to the Editor. If you wish to submit a letter, e-mail it to us with your full name (and a phone number for verification purposes) to email@example.com. Deadline is noon on Thursday for Friday’s Letters post, and our letters publication policy is in the sidebar to your right.
Regarding “Island Talkback: For your consideration … ranked choice voting,” October 22:
I am a member of the Albany Charter Review Committee interested in RCV. I appreciate the conversation about RCV here. What is your perspective now that RCV results are available?
Looking at the Oakland and San Leandro versus Alameda mayoral election results, it seems that having a mayor elected with RCV is preferable to a plurality mayor. I don’t know anything about the mayoral election dynamic in Alameda, though. Perhaps the majority is happy with the recent 37 percent result?
Like Alameda, RCV to elect the Albany Council would mean its application to multi-seat elections. Counting such an election adds another step to each elimination round, as shown in the two minute-plus video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lNxwMdI8OWw. This is the system used by Cambridge, Mass. since around 1940 to elect its nine-member council.
You may notice in the video that multi-seat RCV gives each voter one vote just like single-seat RCV. This may seem undemocratic at first, but why should we have more than one vote? In a representative democracy we are each seeking to elect one person to represent us. By giving us as many votes as seats, our current system tells us it is reasonable for each of us to gather all the representation to ourselves. This comes at the expense of our neighbors’ representation though, which is undemocratic and reduces diversity on the Council. And the latter isn’t about political correctness. It is why democracy works (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/physics/wisdom-crowds.html).
As to the A, B, C example given above, I note that C had 30 percent to B’s 25 percent in the first round. RCV elects candidates that elicit both passionate and broad support, both of which are necessary qualities in a leader. In other words, RCV holds it is reasonable B was eliminated because B had the smallest share of passionate supporters. Of course, supporters of C could have strategically ranked B first, but they would have to know this was more likely to help B, their also ran, than C, their heart’s desire. This requires a level of knowledge that few if any would have before, rather than after, the election.
As to approval voting, it would be better than plurality, where the candidate that gets the most votes wins irrespective of any threshold. In practice though approval voting would tend to plurality, which as mentioned is undemocratic. Consider that many voters don’t use all the votes available to them in Albany’s and Alameda’s current council races, preferring to bullet vote for their favorite candidates, and this is when the number of votes available is limited to the number of seats. Approval voting asks voters to go further and vote for even more candidates than seats.
Thanks for considering the thoughts of an out-of-towner. Of course, if multi-seat RCV is to go forward it is more likely if many cities in Alameda County ask for it, just like San Leandro, Berkeley and Oakland asked for single-seat RCV years ago.
Alamedans must stand together in 2011
My name is Amy Garcia. In February 2011, my husband and I will have called Alameda home for thirteen years. We own a home and shop locally. We eat dim sum on Webster, go to the movies on Park Street, choose Pagano’s over Home Depot, Scott’s over Zappos, and Alameda Towne Centre over Target. Our family sees local physicians for health care, and our oldest son attends an Alameda public school.
Most Alamedans know where we stand. Our schools are in desperate trouble thanks to devastating state budget cuts, and it’s time for us to step up. On November 30, our school board will vote on a new parcel tax structure and amount to replace Measures A and H, which expire in 2013. The new parcel tax will appear on the ballot in March 2011, and we’ll need a two-thirds majority of Alameda voters to pass it.
Like so many Alamedans, I worked hard on the Measure E campaign. To those who opposed it: I listened to your objections, as did my fellow E supporters, the district, and the board. Now we’ll have a new and improved tax. With unanimous support from the board and a united push from city leaders, business owners, parents, grandparents, neighbors, and friends, we can give our kids and teachers the educational funding they deserve. I believe this parcel tax can bring us together more than any previous campaign has driven us apart.
If you have kids or know kids in Alameda’s public schools, own a business or home here, or simply enjoy the perks of small-town living, you are a stakeholder in our community, and we need your support. Alameda was recently voted one of the 100 Best Communities for Young People. A big part of being a great town is having great schools—excellent local schools with strong academic programs that families will actively seek out as Alameda grows in the 21st century.
Year after year, the State of California has failed our children, but I believe in 2011, the city of Alameda will not.
Is it a good idea for an Alameda Sunshine Task Force member to write a local political gossip column? It seems to me that John Knox White is simply using City Hall Confidential to promote his political objectives, not to enlighten the public.
For example, in his November 5th column White claims to have “obtained e-mails” that showed that polls conducted before the election just so happened to conform to his own interpretation of the election results. Readers are meant to accept his interpretation, without knowing the source or reliability of the information, and without access to the actual poll results.
In the same column and a previous one, White presents his slant on Ann Marie Gallant’s tenure as City Manager of Desert Hot Springs. It goes something like this: Gallant came to town, caused trouble, and resigned abruptly, leaving a mess in her wake.
However, after searching the online archives of the Press-Enterprise, the major paper in Riverside County, I could not find anything that indicated wrongdoing on Gallant’s part.
The terms of Gallant’s separation agreement prevent both her and city officials from saying what led to her departure in August 2007. The two former council members who wrote to the Alameda City Council regarding their concerns about Gallant lost their seats in the December 2007 election. Both of these council members had been controversial well before Gallant’s arrival. Henry Hohenstein was already under investigation by the FPPC, and Mary Stephens, also the subject of several investigations, had already been forced to resign her job as an accountant for a developer doing business with the city. They had been the subjects of a recall effort that failed to get enough signatures to qualify in January 2006, several months before Gallant started her position. I could not find any indication that they had been at odds with Gallant during her tenure.
Based on publicly available information, my take on the situation in Desert Hot Springs goes like this: the small city was in trouble long before Gallant arrived, she managed to prevent bankruptcy through layoffs and other cost-cutting measures, and she may have had disagreements with the mayor and others regarding some of the city’s many development deals. The city has had at least seven city managers (including interim managers) since it emerged from a bankruptcy that lasted from late 2001 to 2004. I think that it’s quite a stretch to blame Desert Hot Springs’ troubles on Gallant, but I can also see why some who remain there might want to.
Why should we believe that tidbits acquired confidentially and published selectively, with interpretation supplied by the confidant, are somehow more valid than publicly available information? The purpose of the proposed Sunshine Ordinance is to make the actions of local government more transparent by making more information available to the public. Let’s hope that the ordinance works as it should, and provides at least a partial antidote to vicious political gossip.