Steele’s Surprising Announcement

Retiring Alameda County Supervisor Gail Steele surprised the local cognoscenti Monday when she broke her policy of not offering endorsements to local politician and announced her backing of Liz Figueroa to replace her on the board over challenger Nadia Lockyer. Here is text of Steele’s statement:

As Alameda County Supervisor, and for 26 years as an elected official, I have adhered to my policy of not endorsing. However, with excessive dollars and smear campaign, I must reverse myself. The person who takes my seat is entitled to disagree with my priorities, I would hope that ethics and value of community would be present.

Most of our county clients suffer from poverty, difficult family matters, or both. This in turn affects their mental health, health care, personal safety or family safety. If one is privileged with unlimited wealth and a need to exploit others’ misfortunes–where does non-judgmental caring develop in sorting out county finances and program priorities?

County government is no picnic, for sure. Of all levels of government, decisions of the Board of Supervisors make the most direct impact on people’s health, safety, and economic stability. It takes courage and experience to prioritize needs, as critical funding dries up. This is especially hard when cooperation on difficult issues becomes extremely painful. The Board of Supervisors can be a lonely and frustrating place, with no secure way to reach agreements that satisfy everyone.

I want to make sure Alameda County’s most vulnerable residents are protected. They need an experienced leader who knows their community, understands their needs, and who has fought alongside other leaders on important issues to make sure that policies and solutions get implemented.

I know candidates need money to get their message out to voters. But I have never believed in raising large amounts of money for a war chest. I felt large amounts of cash spent on a campaign is a waste of money that should go to community groups and issues rather than campaign mailers. My three campaigns each raised $30,000 – $40,000. Each time I succeeded against competent, strong opponents who outspent me 2-1 or 3-1, not 18-1.

Over $1 million dollars has already been raised and spent by one candidate to replace me on the Board of Supervisors. I am completely disheartened and troubled by this excessive expenditure to win an elected office, when our county has so many needs. When money is allowed to shape the future of elected government, proven community leadership loses out.

A person who truly comes from the community and has worked in the community does not need that amount of money to win an election. A person who is committed to public service will build name recognition and earn the reputation of getting the job done. Support should come from people working toward a common goal, motivated by principles, not money.

Liz Figueroa has represented District Two residents in the State Senate and Assembly. She is the only candidate in this race who truly is from this community and has given back to it. Liz’s knowledge and experience in healthcare, consumer protection, job development for displaced workers, and other difficult issues, will be an asset on the Board of Supervisors and to the county’s residents. Liz has the ability to face the daunting task of protecting our vulnerable populations within tight budget constraints. Liz will not need to learn the community; she already knows it and the issues facing it. Liz has demonstrated the staying power our county needs.