THE SUNDAY COLUMN | California’s 17th Congressional District is quite possibly the single most important seat in Congress. The land of Apple, Google, Facebook, Cisco, Tesla and just about every other startup fueling the new economy today is located in this area, yet the linkage between these ideas and products and government are non-existent in the minds of voters and political watchers.
Instead, Rep. Mike Honda is sitting on a goldmine in Silicon Valley and doesn’t seem to know it. It’s akin to being the owner of the New York Yankees and fielding the team with low-priced minor league free-agents and rookies. Honda’s inability to connect Silicon Valley to Washington may be part of the tech culture’s aversion to taking a role in government, but the likable, former Japanese American internment camp survivo is of another time—not of this century, and therefore, not built to move America’s leading high tech companies forward. Like it or not, the Googles and Apples of the world and the inheritors of their visions will employ this nation and government involvement will necessitate it growing even larger than any of them envisioned.
Ro Khanna, Rep. Mike Honda
When Honda, only re-elected last November, rolled out endorsements from President Obama and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this week, it revealed an enormous amount of weakness on his part. Honda’s next election isn’t until 2014, for crissakes, and there are no known official candidates declaring a run at him. Of course, Ro Khanna, the former Obama appointee to the Commerce Department, is a likely and strong challenger, if he chooses to face Honda, instead of Rep. Eric Swalwell and State Sen. Ellen Corbett in the East Bay’s 15th Congressional District.
Honda’s seat is far better suited for Khanna, also the author of a well-received book touting the America’s future through manufacturing, than the 15th where its future is still middling between weaning itself away its former glory as an industrial base and high tech manufacturing and green technologies, it hopes to be one day. The East Bay is also in a state of flux as power moves slowly, but undeniably, from Oakland to the Tri Valley and Fremont. The Tri Valley may not connect with Khanna, although there are many who will privately tell you they wish Khanna would challenge Swalwell and Corbett out of nothing but sheer spite for either politician. However, it is unlikely to happen.
Khanna may or may not be running for Honda’s seat, but Honda’s is surely giving away the secret by his actions. Ironically, the best way for Khanna to beat Honda is borrow a bit from Swalwell’s successful campaign against Pete Stark last fall, specifically, the meme of generational divide between the two men. In fact, if you remove Stark’s infamous propensity for aggressive language, what you have left over is Honda. A likable progressive focused on one noble issue. (Stark: health care. Honda: education).
If the young ideologues who dreamed up Google once putted around Silicon Valley in a reliable Honda, it may be time for them to go wild and start driving a Cama-Ro. As we saw with Swalwell, if a candidate can forcefully and honestly peg the long-time incumbent as out-of-touch, it undeniably resonates with voters. In Khanna’s case there is no doubt he represents Google and the 21st Century with its endless possibilities, while Honda represents Encyclopedia Britannica and the destructive 20th Century. Such a matchup does not bode well for Honda, and with his panicky thrashing of water this week with two notable, but, at this point, needless endorsements, it seems like he is struggling at seeing the writing on the wall (well, not literally a wall, but one you might find on Facebook.)
“Now, this is Nate Miley talking and you may not agree with me and I really don’t care if you agree with me or not.” – Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, during a board meeting Jan. 29, addressing critics in Oakland who say they need less cops, not more.
The Week That Was and Will Be
The Oakland Police Department’s chronic inability to comply with the terms of a decade-old court order to clean up its ranks continued this week with Independent Monitor Robert Warshaw’s quarterly report, which detailed the OPD is regressing in its compliance. The report also chided the OPD’s accountability among managers and supervisors along with its reporting of police misconduct. Warshaw wrote Oakland police officers pointed their guns at five residents without cause, including a baby.
As noted above, the South Bay’s Rep. Mike Honda trotted out endorsements for his 2014 campaign from President Obama and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
Fremont Assemblyman Bob Wieckowski was in the news twice this week. He offered a bill that would allow Alameda County yet another exemption to raise a transportation tax measure in the foreseeable future. Wieckowski was successful two years ago with gaining a similar exemption, but Measure B1, lost by an excruciating 700 votes last November.
Wieckowski appears to have also lost control of his Assembly Democratic delegation, at least, for the time being. Winners of the opposing slate of assembly convention delegates to Wieckowski’s won 9 of 12 seats last month. This week, came reports Wieckowski is asking the Democratic Party for a re-vote, saying over 40 people last Jan. 12 were no-democrats or decline to state voters. Cleary against the party’s bylaws, but the winners contend it was Wieckowski’s staff that actually brought the non-dems!
Hayward Mayor Michael Sweeney may be looking to take a different angle for getting residents involved with improving the city’s dreadful school district. During a State of the City address, Sweeney said if Hayward’s Academic Performance Index (API) scores just raised from the current slot as the worst in Alameda County to the middle of the pack, it might represent an increase of $100,000 home prices and wipe away Hayward’s structural deficit.
As we roar into February, the first week will littered with council meetings in all parts of the county, but look further ahead to next week with a load of controversial issues. San Leandro takes public comment on possible medical cannabis dispensaries, while the Board of Supervisors deals with an attack of drone critics on Valentine’s Day.
Colorlines takes a look at Ryan Coogler, the writer and director of “Fruitvale,” the highly-acclaimed darling of the Sundance Film Festival. The film details the last day of Oscar Grant’s life before he was killed New Year’s morning by a BART police officer. (Colorlines, Jan. 28.)
Is Sandre Swanson, Oakland new deputy mayor, in a holding pattern until he likely runs for State Senate in 2016? In the meantime, he may be betting his chances on Mayor Jean Quan success over the next two years. (East Bay Express, Jan. 23.)
The New Republic, itsself reinvigorated by a new owner, says California’s revived economy is being steered by progressive in the Legislature. (New Republic, Jan. 28).