A Great Week For Accountability In Alameda County

SUNDAY COLUMN | There is no need to rehash the specifics of the horrendous 2012 political year in Alameda County. But, last Thursday was a great day for accountability with the release of a scathing audit forcefully coming down on Oakland Councilmembers Desley Brooks and Larry Reid alleging wholesale violations of city non-interference laws. In addition, Alameda County Judge Paul Seeman finally resigned from the bench ending a bizarre episode including accusations he bilked an elderly neighbor out of thousands of dollars. Seeman’s affair showed the local judiciary was impotent since it claimed no power to jettison Seeman, but he did what is right for the county on his own.

The situation with Brooks and Reid is more complicated before true comeuppance can be achieved. Both will fight hard against the allegation laid out by Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby (a new hero for the people?) while it is unclear who can remove the duo if proven true. Unfortunately, comments this week by Oakland Council President Pat Kernighan show the prospect of even censure may be difficult, although, the council members dirty laundry will be aired in chambers sometime in the next month, she said. Then there is Ruby’s decision to forward the allegations to Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, another whose relationship over the years with accountability has also been strained, especially when it comes to throwing the books at public officials and police officers.

There’s no indication to all this will all go down, but know this: the days of public officials in Alameda County ruling the region like a fiefdom are over. The types of wrongdoing, however, have not changed, and some get caught and some don’t. The difference is the citizens are well past tired of the antics and willing push for changes or make the changes on their own at the ballot boxes. Residents in Oakland must keep this issue from being swept under the rug and ignore subterfuge like the report having racist intent. We live in a region of uncommon diversity, however, every race and gender has many common denominators, including having a few bad apples.

“There is a general culture of interference within the City.”
Courtney Ruby, Oakland city auditor, Mar. 21, in a report alleging 14 violations of the city charter by two council members.

The Week That Was

Gay pride flag to be flown over
San Leandro City Hall next week.

>>>Aside from the fireworks in Oakland, the City Council also faulted over $400,000 in general fund dollars used for the thriving First Friday monthly street fair. Councilmember Desley Brooks said the city administrator had no authority to approve an expenditure that was initially meant for private security to respond to the Occupy Oakland movement.

>>>The 10-year anniversary of ground force in Iraq came this week with Rep. Barbara Lee criticizing the Bush adminstration’s hubris for entering a war of our choosing. Lee, has significant cred on this issue. She was the only soul on Capitol Hill in the days after 9/11 to vote against the authorization for military force.

>>>A day after an article in The Citizen reporting Rep. Keith Ellison, a co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus would lean on East Bay Rep. Eric Swalwell to fully support Progressives, the Minnesota congressman switched course and called the rookie rep “a friend.” Nevertheless, Ellison’s previous comments had East Bay Democrats in titters.

>>>From the Department of Ridiculous, South Bay Rep. Mike Honda released internal polling showing him leading undeclared candidate Ro Khanna by 52 points. Although, most believe Khanna is a likely opponent, the bold, somewhat obsessive move by Honda, follows endorsements from President Obama and Nancy Pelosi. Is Honda merely doing due diligence or running scared?

>>>In San Leandro, a gay pride flag will fly over City Hall in the next week for support same-sex marriage. The council approved the symbolic gesture led by Mayor Stephen Cassidy. However, the mayor known for his critical comments over the years to city employee unions took it on the chin with a labor-friendly new contract with city police officer’s union.

Tweet of the Week
“Kevin Grant on getting CA Peace Prize: “The last time I got a document with this many ‘whereas’ it was my federal indictment.”
-@OLcitycouncil, reporting from Mar. 19 Oakland City Council meeting as community leader Kevin Grant received an award for his work with city youth.

Best Reads
>>>City reports are frequently unreadable, but the Oakland City Auditor’s report on non-interference allegations is bold and an enlightened read.

>>>How young, rich people are ruining everything. (East Bay Express, Mar. 20)