ILLUSTRATION/Steven Tavares PHOTO/Matt Santos

SUNDAY COLUMN | Linda Lye, the whip-smart attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union was ecstatic. Walking out the Alameda County Administration Building last Valentine’s Day, Lye had just tweeted her followers, “I heart Richard Valle.” No, she didn’t love Valle for his thick, perpetually well-trimmed white mustache, Lye, like a growing number of county residents are starting to realize what many in south county already know, Richard Valle is the East Bay’s new progressive patron saint.

Valle speaking to voters last November
in Union City. PHOTO/Matt Santos

In the past three months, Valle, who was election to the seat he was appointed last year after the resignation of Nadia Lockyer, has been at the forefront of the two of the most contentious issues in the local progressive community, both emanating from the office of Alameda County Sheriff Gregory Ahern.

One involves drones hovering over the East Bay and, the other, undocumented immigrants being held in county jails for extended periods of time. In both case, Valle has been easily most vocal progressive voice on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors and possibly the only politician in the region willing to stand up to the stubborn and increasingly authoritarian Ahern.

During a county public protection committee meeting last February Ahern detailed his desire to purchase drones for Alameda County. Valle, though, was not buying it and expressed great doubt whether privacy afforded to residents will be protected by the use of drones spying in the East Bay skies. Of course, comments like these is what facilitated Lye’s amorous tweet afterwards.

However, what makes Valle wholly unique in these parts is both his opposition and support seems based on his own moral beliefs system and devoid of scoring political points or corny grandstanding. Even when the bullying Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty attempted to coax him into a public fight last month, you could also most witness Valle entering into his own personal Zen. There’s a reason for that. Valle is a practicing Buddhist and often speaks of his leadership in terms of harmony with the universe. During his campaign last year against former Assemblywoman Mary Hayashi, he seemingly told a group of voters he had never killed a fly. “You can’t take a life unless you can replace it,” he said.

Last month, following a spate of incidents in the Hayward area involving undocumented residents being detained by the sheriff and held for extending periods of time under the federal Secure Communities program, Valle singlehandedly drew up a resolution asking the sheriff to relent. In one memorable sequence, Valle asks for respect towards the area’s undocumented residents.

“They have families. They have families in our schools. They work in our hotel and our restaurants. They work as care-givers,” said Valle. “Some of them are my neighbors and friends and a lot of them have fear of Secure Communities because they don’t want to get swooped up in that net.”

The dazzling scene of a politician standing up for the needy appeared to have caught the cynical Haggerty off guard and he unloaded on Valle for rocking the boat and cracking the board’s façade of comity. Supervisor Wilma Chan, another solid liberal, agreed with Valle and the resolution passed even as Haggerty condescendingly called it just a worthless piece of paper. “The sheriff can do whatever he wants,” Haggerty said, and that is exactly what worries Valle and many others in the county.

The only other politician south of Oakland who consistently stood for the progressive values of helping the poor, children and minorities as he fought off the right was Pete Stark. He’s gone now, but a vacuum was created. In just a short time, though, a new warrior for the left has taken his seat on the left hand side of Rep. Barbara Lee.

“If you don’t take it down, I’m going to burn it down.”
Scott Haggerty, Alameda County supervisor, May 9, during a public protection hearing in regards to the Golden State Warriors flag flying over San Francisco City Hall. Although, Haggerty made the statement in jest to San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar, no doubt he meant it.

We can’t keep changing quarterbacks, coaches every other week or year or every two years. We’re gonna be just like the Oakland Raiders, in last place.”
Noel Gallo, Oakland council member, May 10, telling NBC Bay Area, the recent spate of changes at the command of the Oakland Police Department is creating instability in the city.

The Week That Was
>>>2 OPD chiefs resign: What a wild week in Oakland. In just two days starting last Wednesday, a succession of three police chiefs came and went. Howard Jordan resignation followed the demotion of Anthony Toribio and Mayor Jean Quan named Sean Whent interim chief on Friday. There is a growing belief the major shakeup at OPD was facilitated by the new compliance director Thomas Frazier, who was in town this week following a scathing report on Jordan’s handling of Occupy Oakland in 2011. Frazier also slammed the department’s inability to investigation police misconduct.

>>>America’s Cup crewman dies in the bay: Two-time Olympic medalist Andrew Simpson, a crewman for Sweden’s America’s Cup entrant, Artemis Racing, which is based in Alameda, died while the team was testing a new 72-foot catamaran in the bay. The speedy, some say dangerous iteration of the America’s Cup boat, was just delivered to the team’s headquarters in Alameda earlier this week. Reports say the boat may have broken up in the water and trapping the 35-year-old Simpson underwater.

>>>Pot dispensaries can be zoned by cities: The California State Supreme Court found local municipalities have the right to create zoning restrictions for medical cannabis dispensaries within their cities limits. For some East Bay cities, like Hayward, for instance, the ruling will likely reaffirm what it has already been doing as an opponent of dispensaries. However, neighboring San Leandro is in a gray area. Although it had once followed Hayward’s lead on the issue, its mayor and some council members have begun to lead the city in the opposite direction. The ruling, this week, will certainly embolden the opposition in San Leandro and make this a likely hot-button political issue next election season.

>>>Haggerty sued: Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty was sued in Alameda County Superior Court by his former chief of staff. In the suit, Chris Gray, asks for $110,000 in annual salary and reinstatement of his job. In addition, Gray, who was Haggerty’s right hand man for 16 years, unleashed a barrage of very serious allegations against his former boss, including kickbacks, shady lands deals with county assets, forcing his staff to work on his re-election campaign on the taxpayers’ dime and an accusation Haggerty asked Alameda County sheriffs to cover up evidence that he was arrested across the bay.

>>>AB 180 to Assembly floor: Oakland Assemblyman Rob Bonta’s bill that could one day allow Oakland the right to ban handguns passed committee this week. AB 180 would create an exception from state law allowing Oakland to enact its own gun laws. Gun advocates say, if one jurisdiction is allowed the consideration, more will follow and infringe on the rights of lawful gun users. The bill may not have legs, but many are getting the feeling Bonta is using the high-profile gun control issue, among many issues, to burnish a run for much bigger position in the state’s Democratic hierarchy.

>>>Fruitvale Station trailer debuts: Fruitvale Station, the highly-acclaimed film about the final day of Oscar Grant, the Hayward man who was killed by a BART police officer on New Year’s morning 2008, is coming to theaters later this summer. In the meantime, a trailer for the film starring Michael B. Jordan and Oscar winner Octavia Spencer, debuted this week. Watch it here.

Tweet of the Week
“Anybody else notice the name of the new Acting Deputy Chief in charge of Internal Affairs is Outlaw? #oakland #excitingcity”
-@dto510, tweeting May 10, following the major shakeup of leadership at the Oakland Police Department this week.

Best Reads
>>>Glenn Greenwald writes a belated love letter to Rep. Barbara Lee over her Sept. 14, 2001 speech against the authorization of military force that led to the Iraq War. (The Guardian, May 7). 

>>>If the state Republican Party is to ever have a chance, it’s going to come from the ideas of Ruben Barrales and GROW Elect. Here may be the Democrat’s weak spot: ”There are signs of tension among California’s Democrats: between the wealthy whites, who largely represent coastal areas, and poorer, inland Latinos. Latino lawmakers have backed several recent regulatory and education-reform measures, often setting them against members of their own party or their union backers.” (The Economist, May 4).

>>>Exhibit A for why the Bay Area’s corporate media does not have your back: How did they miss the most important part of the scathing Frazier reports against the Oakland Police Department’s top brass? Ali Winston details how some of the most notorious police misconduct cases could be soon revisited. (East Bay Express, May 8).

Voice of the People
“Hey Gray, how long have you known that this was going on with Haggerty before your conscience kicked in?..”
Anonymous, commenting May 10 about Scott Haggerty’s former chief of staff, Chris Gray, suing him this week and alleging corruption on “Fired Chief Of Staff Accuses Alameda County Supervisor Of Major Corruption.”