Another Step Toward a Recall Changing ALCO Ballot Measure; Price Recall Effort Closing in on $1 MM; Police Commission on Shaky Brown Act Ground w/Teleconferencing Move; Gaza Ceasefire Reso on Way to Council

Another Step Toward a Recall Changing ALCO Ballot Measure; Price Recall Effort Closing in on $1 MM; Police Commission on Shaky Brown Act Ground w/Teleconferencing Move; Gaza Ceasefire Reso on Way to Council

Delay on Recall-Changing Ballot Measure as BOS Votes For Alternate Version Which Requires Second Reading

Yet another pause has been added to an Alameda County Board of Supervisors [BOS] proposed ballot measure that would, if passed in March by voters, delete the County’s century old archaic text on local Recalls and replace it with language synching recalls with state law. A new, almost identical, version of the legislation was introduced at Tuesday’s meeting and passed with three affirmative votes while the original version, which passed on first reading weeks ago, was voted down. This means that by law the clock on the second reading for the legislation starts all over again and the legislation won’t get a chance at final passage until late November.

The original ballot measure legislation that was passed by the BOS last month on first reading kept the language on recalls of appointed officers, which would have maintained the incongruity in the charter with state law, according to statements made by ALCO Counsel Donna Ziegler at last Tuesday's meeting. That text has been deleted from the new version of the legislation that passed on first reading last Tuesday, removing the disparity between the Charter and state law. The ALCO charter specifically allows appointed members to be recalled, but state rules do not.

The meeting was punctuated by the advent of a letter threatening suit over the proposed legislation by the litigious Alameda County Taxpayers Association [ACTA]. Ziegler advised BOS to adjourn into closed session to discuss the letter after she warned it could be seen as an official notice of suit requiring a response. The BOS took up the ballot measure legislation upon returning from closed session.

Miley and Haubert Change Their Minds

The failure of the original ballot measure version on Tuesday followed a unanimous vote for it on first reading on October 24, in which Nate Miley and David Haubert both argued for the necessity of changing the charter language as soon as possible. During that deliberation, Haubert argued that in either case—given the gaps in the charter language—the County would probably be sued for pursuing the Charter’s many unconstitutional dictates or, when ignoring them, failing to abide by the Charter.

When that original legislation came back for the necessary second reading on October 31, Supervisor Lena Tam argued that there was confusion and misinterpretation of the process and the public needed more time to understand what was being proposed. Tam moved to continue the vote until the next BOS meeting on November 14th, last Tuesday, to give Counsel Ziegler time to publish an FAQ around the measure. The FAQ can be found here.

In between the 10/31 meeting and last Tuesday, both Haubert and Miley apparently changed their minds about placing a charter-changing measure on March’s ballot. On Tuesday, Miley argued that the focus on the Charter's unconstitutional procedures was a good faith attempt to bring harmony with state law, but in the attempt the process had created confusion, although he implied some of the confusion was stoked by members of the public exploiting the process.

“Just by the fact that raising some of those points the electorate could get confused with both those things that are meritorious as well as those things that are not meritorious. Moving this item forward as a charter amendment in March would be a disservice at this point in time.” Miley said.

Regardless, even as he opposed both sets of legislation, Miley acknowledged that the current recall would have serious problems in meeting charter timelines, noting that in addition to a much larger electorate, current laws that require multiple language ballots and absentee voting didn't exist when the Charter's short deadlines for signature certification and ballot publication were created nearly a century ago.

Haubert also reversed his vote. Haubert acknowledged the many problems with the Charter rules, but argued that passing a ballot measure with the “specter of a current recall” would harm all parties in the current process.

“I have often said there’s never a wrong time to do the right thing. Well, I think we’ve found it. I don’t know if it's fair to recall petitioners or the target of the recall that all of this confusion is happening,” Haubert said.

Both Miley and Haubert also suggested that a March ballot measure would likely fail, ruining the chance to fix what they both agreed were the serious problems in the Charter recall process.

Carson, Márquez and Tam Largely in Agreement on March 5th Ballot

Carson, along with Márquez and Tam continued to support the placement of a ballot measure fix to the charter recall on the March 5th ballot. In his arguments, Carson referred to “the mess” of the charter’s recall rules. Carson also noted that the BOS should have taken the issue up earlier, but the fact that ALCO hadn’t had a recall in at least the past thirty years—and possibly never has—caused the issues to remain obscured. Carson agreed there was confusion around the proposed Charter changes, but dismissed claims that the confusion would be dispelled by delaying a ballot measure.

“I don’t know if we would have less confusion if it was on a March ballot, or November ballot of 2024, 2026, there would be confusion at any point in time,” Carson said.

Márquez echoed Carson’s concerns with due diligence. She said after having been made aware of the Charter’s failings on recalls, there was nothing to do but to act as quickly as possible to correct them.

“I think that once I became aware of this issue, given that I was appointed to this body, I have a responsibility to do a corrective action. We know that we are not aligned with the state of California, we have some provisions in our Charter that are unconstitutional,” Márquez said.

Two Split Votes Hinge on Tam

Tam was the deciding vote on both outcomes, voting no on the second reading of the original version along with Miley and Haubert, but voting yes on the alternate version with Supervisors Keith Carson and Elisa Márquez. Tam said she backed a March 5th ballot measure, but preferred text that removes appointed officials in the alternate version over the original.

“Our department heads, most of them, are not elected, they are not answerable to the voters, they are answerable to the Board of Supervisors. If the Board of Supervisors is displeased with their work because of how they responded to the electorate, we have the authority to call for their dismissal, but we should not let them be subjected to the will of the voters when they are not elected officials,” Tam said.

Recall Backers Continue to Oppose Measure

A little over a dozen supporters of the recall rallied in front of the building before the meeting, spoke during public comment before the item was taken up and held up signs calling for the recall of Price—speakers included the Price Recall "SAFE" campaign Treasurer Carl Chan and its Principal Officer Brenda Grisham. Grisham and Chan said they oppose the measure, Grisham continued to suggest the BOS was protecting Price.

"We went by an agreement in September that we would go by the County code, that is what we plan on doing...we are going to recall Pamela Price, you can interfere all you want to but in the end you're going to have to deal with the citizens of Alameda County that elected you to have their best interests at heart," Grisham said.

DA Recall Effort on its Way to Million Dollar Mark as Price Defense Gears Up

The largest aggregator of funding for the ALCO DA recall effort, “Reviving the Bay Area” [RBA]—originally founded as a multi-purpose campaign finance committee by local real estate speculator and Farallon Capital principal Philip Dreyfuss, altered its campaign finance status to “primary” committee this week. The committee also changed its name from Reviving the Bay Area to Supporters of Recall Pamela Price. Issac Abid, who was formerly an assistant treasurer has now assumed the role of principal officer, while Dreyfuss is now listed as the Assistant Treasurer.

Because RBA was only a general purpose committee until this week, it had fewer reporting requirements than the SAFE committee, which, as a primary-focused committee funding the recall of Price, was required to report quarterly in 2023. RBA now shares those requirements, but apparently may not have to file any reports until April unless the Recall effort is successful. It's not known what's prompted the change in the type of committee—the change may have been compelled to satisfy legal requirements after the committee has spent most of its money only on the recall and no other county matters.

Despite the changes, the committee has continued its regular transfers of big cash sums to SAFE, functioning as the literal ATM for the recall effort. RBA has contributed $578K to SAFE since October—nearly quadruple the cash SAFE reported raising by itself through September 30 [$164K]. Together, the two committees have raised and, potentially spent, $742K*. That could be higher now, as SAFE has continued to raise and spend money after its last reporting period.

It’s still unclear how close SAFE is to gathering the approximately 73K valid signatures it needs to trigger a recall. Public comments by the principles of SAFE claim they are very close to reaching the required number of signatures. Legally, all of the petitions for signature gathering must bear the highest donors at the top of the signature sheet—that has read “Reviving the Bay Area” until now, but will now read, “Supporters of Recall Pamela Price”.

The movement to defend Price has also ramped up. This week, supporters of Price officially launched “Protect the Win”, with a kick off event on Friday, in which Price herself spoke to supporters. The campaign has been slow to start, perhaps waiting to see how the recall effort pans out—the finance campaign of the same name, lists only one officer—the auditor at the company hired to oversee finances as an officer, CJ & Associates. Protect the Win began raising funds in mid-September, per the report that runs to September 30. The same auditor from CJ & A, is also listed as the primary officer in Price’s 2018 mayoral campaign finance campaign, as well as Price’s 2028 re-election finance committee. As of that date, Protect the Win had raised around $15K—$5K of that came from the Real Justice PAC, an organization focused on election of “progressive” District Attorneys that formerly supported George Gascon’s campaign in Los Angeles.

Rap artist and local entrepreneur Mr. Fab [Stanley Cox], Walter Riley and Danny Glover have all stated their support for the campaign; Riley spoke at Friday’s event. For now, the campaign seems to focus specifically on the signature gathering process.

*RBA donated $48K worth of in-kind services to SAFE as well, per SAFE's most recent report.

Oakland Police Commission’s Questionable Moves on Teleconferencing May Violate Brown Act

Oakland Police Commissioner Angela Jackson-Castain was allowed to call in and participate remotely for an Oakland Police Commission [OPC] meeting Thursday [11/16] in what appears to have been a violation of the state's Brown Act, which governs the conduct of meetings for public bodies like the OPC.

As reported by the Oakland Observer, for months alternate Oakland Police Commissioner Angela Jackson-Castain has been absent from OPC meetings following her failure to win a Selection Panel appointment for a permanent seat on the body. Jackson-Castain, it was revealed during the selection process, lives a significant portion of her life in the United Kingdom—but Jackson-Castain assumed the OPC role during Covid, when it was legally possible to use Zoom to participate in Brown Acted city meetings, regardless of the location of the official. Post-covid legal changes have made using Zoom to officially attend and participate in meetings much more difficult and involved.

The Covid-era meeting participation structure sunset in March. A California official’s ability to participate by Zoom without divulging their location is now possible only under a separate law, AB 2449, and requires a just cause rationale, such as a communicable illness, board/council related travel or a family emergency—and even meeting these requirements, only a handful of such teleconferencing opportunities are available for each official yearly. Notwithstanding those limitations, Oakland Police Commission isn’t eligible to use teleconferencing under AB 2449 because it is only available to bodies that, unlike the Police Commission, allow the public to participate via teleconferencing for public comment.

Jackson-Castain Elevated Despite Record Absences, Living Abroad

After Commissioner Rudy Howell resigned from the body in October, Police Commissioners made the unusual move to elevate Jackson-Castain to replace Howell, despite Jackson-Castain’s at least 17 unexcused absences in 2023. Commissioner Ordaz introduced Jackson-Castain's elevation. Jackson-Castain was not present at the meeting.

After Jackson-Castain was elevated, the OPC was left with no alternate commissioners—Mayor Sheng Thao had not appointed an alternate after the previous Mayoral selection alternate Karely Ordaz’s term ended*. Thus, a former candidate for the full seat, Ricardo Garcia-Acosta, was selected by the Selection Panel to replace Jackson-Castain as alternate. All selections must be ratified by the City Council and Council was urged to schedule a special meeting to confirm the appointment of Garcia-Acosta, with the argument that the Police Commission would not be able to achieve quorum otherwise Thursday—Garcia Acosta was appointed at a special Council meeting only days before Thursday’s Police Commission meeting.

At Thursday’s meeting, Jackson-Castain was read in as present for the first time in nearly six months, utilizing, according to Chair Marsha Peterson’s comments at the beginning of the meeting, what appear to be Brown Act teleconferencing rules. Jackson-Castain’s participation via Brown Act teleconferencing rules, however, could not legally count towards establishing quorum, and with Commissioner Jesse Hsieh absent, Garcia-Acosta was still required to be temporarily elevated to full commissioner to achieve quorum.

One of the primary reasons new Covid-era laws were created for teleconferencing in the first place was because the Brown Act teleconferencing rules require the site location of each council or board member remote broadcasting be made public—and that the site itself be accessible to the public. The public must also be allowed to use audio visual equipment to address the body from the remote site.

OPC May Have Violated Brown Act Requirements that Public be Informed, Allowed to Use Teleconferencing Site

The potential danger in allowing meetings in an official’s house was the main issue that required the Covid–era teleconferencing rules that removed the site location requirements. But the fact that officials were not likely enthused about inviting thousands of people to their homes every meeting was probably another. The public access requirements make the Brown Act rules unwieldy and they are rarely used.

In utilizing the Brown Act teleconferencing option, the OPC was required to list the physical address of Jackson-Castain’s broadcast site on the agenda, and, as mentioned, she would have been required to allow any member of the public to enter the site and also broadcast from the location during public comment periods. But Jackson-Castain’s address location was not provided—only the postal code for a location in Leeds, Great Britain was listed on the agenda.

By contrast, a future Oakland City Council meeting's agendized teleconferencing notice has the entire address for Council Member Janani Ramachandran, who will be using the teleconferencing option. The agenda also notifies the public that the Council member's location must be accessible to the public, and provide the means for the public to observe the meting and comment on agenda items.

A request for more information about Brown Act teleconferencing guidelines and how they would apply to a situation like Jackson-Castain’s from the Oakland City Attorney [OCA] was not directly answered. But in response the OCA did provide this publication several documents from the City Attorney’s office that were said to contain answers. These included a City Attorney issued FAQ on teleconferencing after the revised rules.

According to these documents, it seems the Police Commission potentially violated the Brown Act in its use of teleconferencing.

From "The Brown Act: Open Meetings For Legislative Bodies"

The Oakland Observer requested confirmation that the Police Commission intended to rely solely on legacy Brown Act teleconferencing rules from Chair Peterson, but has not received a response by press time. More on this story as it develops.

*Ordaz applied for a permanent selection panel appointed position to the Commission as her term as Mayoral alternate wound down, and was chosen by the Selection Panel to assume a community-based seat for a new term thereafter.

Special Meeting Scheduled for 11/27 Will Deliberate Oakland Ceasefire Resolution

A special City Council meeting has been scheduled for next Monday, 11/27, to deliberate a ceasefire resolution proposed by CM Carroll Fife. The resolution has no co-sponsors. The resolution, titled, "Resolution Affirming Oakland's Love Life Commitment and Support for the Congressional and Worldwide Calls for an Immediate Ceasefire in Gaza "calls for a ceasefire in the Israel attack on Gaza, as well as the release of all hostages and restoration of vital goods, health care and critical services to Gaza. The resolution would also forward the resolution to various California and national key officials.

The resolution also acknowledges

"the current crisis takes place within a long history and affirms that, for a pathway to lasting peace and justice to be developed, the root causes of the crisis need to be addressed"

The move follows a previous brush with crafting a resolution brought by ceasefire advocates weeks ago. Advocates were rebuffed at that time, but were given assurances by Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas that she would do her best to make such a resolution a reality. Advocates continued to work behind the scenes with Bas, Fife, and other CMs the Oakland Observer has learned, to help craft and motivate the resolution. Sources with direct knowledge told this publication last week that two potential resolutions were running on separate tracks due to Brown Act requirements that prevent more than four council members from being in contact with one another at the same time. However, only one resolution has emerged, and with only Fife's on paper support.

Fife's resolution references Congress member Cori Bush's congressional proposal for a ceasefire resolution introduced nearly a month ago. By the time the resolution is introduced next Monday, three weeks will have passed since advocates initially urged Oakland Council to pass a resolution with urgency. Calls in Congress for a ceasefire resolution have spread and may beat Oakland's "progressive" City Council to backing a ceasefire.